Her are some quick thoughts on the FT-950 HF radio. A fellow ham was looking at a used one and he was not happy with issues he had with his Icom 746 so he asked what I thought. After I hung up I thought that there was blog post here that is more geared to the owner of FT-950. Most mid range radios have roofing filters that are too wide and become marketing gimmicks whereas Elecraft got it right the first time by not skimping on quality here. However for many hams that dont need hiogh performance radios the Roofing Filter issue is dead to them.
Audio Peaking Filter or APF
This feature actually enhances the sound of CW by providing a very narrow audio bandwidth, in many cases enhancing the sound of the CW. There are no adjustments for the APF. You either turn it on or turn it off.
To active the APF feature you push the CONT button for a few seconds
Roofing Filter – R.FIL
It does provide some slight improvement and it is best to leave it in the 3khz position. The problem with the filter is that it has a very wide bandwidth of about 7khz at the -3db point and I think around 20khz @-60db. That negates have a tight roof of 3Khz. You really need to add a third party roofing filter to really take advantage of what the roofing filter is expected to do.
DSP – Bandwidth
The 950 really shines over the older yaesu DSP technology on the 857/897 which is over ten years old anyways. This control allows one to dial up or down the bandwidth. I use the narrow SSB mostly in contest work and for CW I prefer the 250Hz bandwidth. Of course no ringing. Use APF for CW mode
Noise Blanker – NB
Noise blanker at times can be effective to reduce noise pulses but due to the way the NB works on many radios it does alter the audio to a strangeness sounding audio at times. It is what it is….tell the neighbours to shutoff the LED lights and Plasma TVs instead.
Dynamic Noise Reduction – DNR
Ok this is not for pulse type noise because we have NB for that. DNR is a tool to help with reducing band or random noise on SSB signals. You need to adjust the DNR level using the 072 RGEN DNR menu. Rotate the VFO-b knob to the level that you find the most pleasant. Sometimes level 5 is good and sometimes you need level 10. I find it handy for nets or just listening in on traffic. I don’t really use it during contests too much but for DX signals at times it can make an improvement.
POWER ON/OFF Issues
You must turn the radio on and off using the front panel power button. DO NOT leave it on and use your external power supply to turn it on and off. The radio has been known to blow some SMD components. Its an easy fix and apparently newer serial numbers had this problem fixed with more rugged diodes.
Squelch Control – Really?
Really? This could have been the power output control that is missing and needs to be changed in the menu. However, assign the power output to the C.S. button instead. Not to offend my JARL friends who belong to the 10M FM club who argue that johnny-san is wrong we need squelch on the front of the radio.
CW Zero Beat
A great feature to dial in a cw signal quickly before adjusting the bandwidth to a narrow. I like 700Hz as the tone. I think default was 800Hz.
Well it has 2 and beware that the memories remembers the antenna jack. Antenna 1 is 6m only so don’t be a fool like I did and was so upset I had could not get any luck with 6m. I realized later that I had a Drake low pass filter in line and of course it attenuated everything over 30Mhz. Duuuhhhh!. Run that 6m antenna direct to the jack with no LPF since TV analog is not an issue for TVI anymore.
Its more of a pruner to adjust swr from around 5:1 and below. Its noisy like a squirrel with its foot caught in a mousetrap but it works ok. I prefer to use LDG if I need to match a 12-foot ladder onto 40m but most of my HF antennas are pretty resonant so no worries there. I doubt anyone should use a long wire many go with a W3EDP design instead.
Its still relay based so it’s a clacker box so yeah not a CW operators dream machine (Go Ten-Te cor Elecraft for buttery QSK) but for the casual operator its fine.
HRD guys will love this connector. I don’t use computers for ham radio.
For DX spotting, Contests and just basic hamming it is really useful. I miss the real dual receivers on the FT-1000MP though but the ergonomics of it was an attraction to me.
It scores very well in the Sherwood Tests (even better with the right roofing filter) and has become a DX/Contest main stay in many shacks. I really think its better than the FT-1200 and offers better value.