A Repair Saga with Yaesu USA

Recently, I had a disappointing, but odd experience with Yaesu USA, in regard to a warranty repair request for a FTDX-3000D transceiver.  In April 2015, I purchased a new FTDX-3000D from Amateur Electronic Supply, my third.  The first one I owned worked perfect, but was sold. The second arrived from AES with a bad pixel on the screen, which was subsequently replaced. The replacement seem to work fine, until I attempted to use the ALC circuit in December 2015 to control the RF drive to a Yaesu Quadra System amplifier. Whenever, I attempted to use the ALC circuit during SSB, I would receive reports of mild distortion on my audio signal.

I wrote an Eham review in regard to that experience, I have posted that review below.  In summary, based on that experience,  I believe I have purchased my last piece of amateur gear from Yaesu.


"I recently concluded a failed effort to have Yaesu USA perform a repair under warranty. The problem, when using a FTDX-3000D transceiver with my Yaesu Quadra amplifier. The SSB audio would distort, whenever the ALC line was connected to control drive to the amplifier. Testing with several other transceivers did not duplicate the problem at my station. Using the FTDX-3000 at another station that also has a Quadra, the problem was present there as well. Transmitting into a dummy load, also showed the issue was present. In December 2015, I contacted Tim Factor, Service Manager at Yaesu USA, for assistance. When I described the problem, he immediately suggested that excessive mic gain was the cause of the issue. Based on his suggestion, I tried all manner of settings, but I could not resolve the issue.

Upon my insistence, I sent the radio to Yaesu USA for warranty repair. Yaesu service was able to duplicate the problem on the bench. Yet, Mr. Factor would not acknowledge there is a defect with the radio. Rather, he was adamant, that excessive mic gain was still the cause. I was told, no repair was necessary, and I was instructed that when the radio was returned, to set the mic gain no higher than "11" and I should only use the stock MH-31 hand microphone. As far as Yaesu was concerned, the issue was resolved. I asked if they checked other modes as well, to ensure there was no issue with any of the other modes? He admitted they had not, and indicated no intention to do so, because I only mentioned a problem with SSB. It was clear, Mr. Factor really had no genuine interest in finding the actual root cause of the problem.

The radio was returned to me without any repair attempt by Yaesu. I set the mic gain to "11" as suggested by Tim Factor. However, what I quickly discovered, with the mic gain set so low, the radio would not drive the Quadra to full output. Thus, there is little to no ALC voltage being generated, so it only temporary masks the issue. When I increased the mic gain to achieve adequate drive, the problem returned. Rather than fix the issue while the radio was under warranty. Apparently, Mr. Factor thought he found a simple trick to circumvent the issue.

I had previously owned another FTDX-3000D, that I used with the same Quadra Amplifier, and did not have any issues with distortion. The usual mic gain setting for my voice is 18, which gives an ALC reading of about 60% of full ALC meter scale deflection. I spoke to a number of other hams using the FTDX-3000D and the Yaesu Quadra, and none of them are required to have the mic gain set so low, or use the stock microphone, and none of them have experienced a similar issue with distortion. I also shared this information with Mr. Factor, but he ignored that information, and was still persistent that excessive microphone gain was the cause of the problem. I concluded what I already suspected. The FTDX-3000D I own has a unresolved defect within the ALC circuit.

Dissatisfied with the repair effort, I sent a follow up email to Mr. Factor and Mikio Maruya, Vice President of Customer Service, notifying them the problem was still present, and asked if they had any further interest in resolving the issue under warranty. However, neither of these individuals responded to my request. In frustration and a due to a lack of response. I gave up, and assumed that Yaesu had no intention of honoring the warranty on my new radio or performing the repair.

Then something odd happened. A few months later at the end of April 2016, I was contacted by Wesley Gray of Yaesu Customer Service, asking if I still had the problem. He made a few suggestions of using ferite beads to resolve the issue, as he suggested it could be RFI related to my station. However, it seemed he was completely ignoring or wasn't aware that, Yaesu service had already duplicated the issue on the bench, so it wasn't location specific. He asked for a few more facts about the problem, which I provided, and said he would speak to his supervisor about the issue and would get back to me. I felt elated and redeemed, and foolishly believed that Mr. Gray was interested in helping me resolve this issue. A few weeks passed, and I had not heard anything from Mr. Gray. So I began sending him emails about every other week. However, despite emails asking for status and the courtesy of a response, I haven't had a response from anyone at Yaesu USA. Yesterday, I sent Mr. Gray a final email, asking for status. Yet again, he has choose to ignore my message.

There once was a time when I thought Yaesu gear and their service was very good. It appears, those days are gone. I've purchased a significant amount of gear from Yaesu over the past 25 years, including a new FTDX-9000MP. One would think, that Yaesu would be interested in helping a loyal customer and retaining their customer base. However, I think I've learned my lesson about buying products from Yaesu. Based on this experience, it's highly doubtful that any future purchases will bear the Yaesu name. BUYER BEWARE!"



A Collins 30S-1 Amplifier

I recently acquired a vintage Collins 30S-1 console type HF amplifier. I've been considering one for quite some time, but due to it's 160 pound shipping weight, that made purchasing one outside of my area prohibitive. Fortunately, a few weeks ago, one was listed for sale near my home. Therefore, I decided to purchase that amplifier while I had the opportunity.

Several of my ham radio friends own a Collins 30S-1, and are very pleased with them. The 30S-1, I purchased is in good operating condition.  Cosmetically, the amplifier is in good condition for it's age. It's been updated with new capacitors, diodes, and a Peter Dahl filament transformer.  However, there are a few issues that require attention before I place the amplifier into the operating position.

The first issue, the front panel has two push switches, OFF and ON, and an indicator light for ready to operate condition. However, the off switch has been replaced with a generic switch.  It works, but I would prefer to have a switch or a set of switches that are closer in appearance to the original.  The original switches are no longer available, but there are similar switches available from Newark Electronics, manufactured by EAO.  I found the following information on the website of Al Waschka.

Newark #             EAO #                                                         Description 
50F8257         31.121.025                     Series 31 Rectangular Switch, Snap Action, Momentary 
50F8263         31.040.005                     Series 31 Rectangular Indicator 
50F8264         31.901.2                         Series 31 Rectangular Lens, Red 
NS/Order        31.901.0                         Series 31 Rectangular Lens, Black 
NS/Order        31.963.1                         Bulb, 14V 
50F8269         02.905                            Lens Removal Tool 
50F8270         02.906                            Lamp Removal Tool 
50F8273         01.927                            Series 31 Rectangular Protection Guard


The second issue is more critical.  Mr. Warren Brune, designed the amplifier for Collins in the late 1950's. To protect the 4CX-1000 tetrode tube from over heating. A mechanical method was utilized using a normally closed, heated bi-metal sensor, that is connected in series with the interlock circuit.  A 250 volt/2 watt 500 ohm potentiometer is used in series with the 120 Volt supply for the heating circuit, to vary the temperature of the sensor, thus setting the activation threshold for when the sensor will open to protect the tube.

When I purchased the amplifier, the seller indicated the previous owner had deactivated the tube protection circuit, because one lead on the temperature potentiometer was arcing the 120 Volt AC supply to ground.  I plan to replace the potentiometer.  I was amazed to find the same part with the exact same part number was still available.

The final issue (I hope), the three minute HV timer has been deactivated as well, more than likely a quick fix, perhaps after the timer tube failed.  I may build a simple solid state equivalent to interrupt any depression of the HV ON switch for three minutes.

Hopefully, I'll have the repairs completed soon and can give it a through shakedown.

73'











 

A new amplifier

Sometimes, things just don't always work out according to plan. As an amateur, I've heard so many times on the air, "once I get this item in my station, it will be complete, and there will never be any reason to make any changes."  LOL, if I only had a dollar for each time I heard that short lived statement.

I thought a Alpha 8410 I purchased, would be perfect for my station. However, that idea was short lived at AB4D.  My "great deal" 8410 arrived with a lot of issues, including weak tubes, that could only produce about 1250 watts. I was able to repair all of the issues, except the tubes.  I liked the 8410, but discovered manual tune just wasn't for my style of operating.  I like to jump from band to band quite often, seeking DX station to work.  Instead of purchasing new tubes, I found the amplifier a new home. In the process, I earned a small amount to cover the parts and repair work I had performed. The new owner installed a fresh set of 4CX1500b tubes and is very happy with the amplifier.

I really missed the automatic tuning aspect of the Alpha 9500 I once owned, but didn't particularly like the expensive 8877 tube it used or the constant retuning during operation.  Once again, I was on the hunt for a legal limit amplifier to augment my station.  A new amplifier had to meet the following criteria; automatic tuning; uses a reasonably priced tube complement that is still in production; has a good reputation and support network; and is 100% duty cycle at legal limit.  I could only find one manufacturer that builds an amplifier which met all my criteria, OM Power of Slovakia.

I read many reviews about OM Power amplifiers, and the majority were very favorable. OM Power has been building amplifiers for over 10 years. There are many OM amplifiers in service that work flawlessly, performing battle in contest stations around the world, and working in harsh environments encountered at DXP's, at remote places across the globe. OM Power offers two automatic versions, the 2500A, and a 4KW+ beast, designated the 4000A.  Both use the Chinese FU-728F triode tube, a rugged Chinese military version of the Eimac 4CX1500b, but has a higher filament voltage requirement. They currently sell for about $300 each plus shipping from China. 

The 2500A and the 4000A both fit my criteria.  I spoke to a few individuals, and decided to purchase the OM Power 4000A, as the cost was not much more than the 2500A, It has so much overhead capacity. I expect the tubes should last for many years.  I look forward to adding the amplifier to my station. I am told, the auto tune feature works very well. It certainly will loaf along at legal limit, and become a welcomed addition to my station. I recently wrote a review about my short term use of the OM Power 4000A. That can be viewed here under my call of AB4D.

73



An IF Based Panadapter for the FTDX-1200

Recently, I've been contacted by several individuals regarding my installation of an IF out connection for a Yaesu FTDX-1200, utilizing the G4HUP PAT board.  A key building block to achieve a working IF based SDR Panadapter.  Similar to a FTDX-9000 I previously modified, the FTDX-1200 does not come from Yaesu with a factory installed IF out jack.

Both the FTDX-9000 and the FTDX-1200 share the same IF frequency of 40.455 MHz. The correct G4HUP PAT board to purchase for the 1200 installation is the model PAT50M (G4HUP PAT board). If someone is not accustomed to working with small surface mount components. I highly recommend ordering the assembled version, and also an installation kit from Dave, G4HUP.  The installation kit contains all the parts necessary to install the PAT board into the transceiver.

The addition of an IF out jack on the FTDX-1200 is not too difficult.  Unlike the FTDX-9000, it is not necessary to remove any circuit boards or dissemble the radio beyond removing the cabinet.  The installation is straight forward, and only requires a wire to be soldered between the PAT board to one leg of a relay, a wire soldered to a test point to provide DC power to the PAT board during receive, and a convenient ground connection to the PAT.  The last connections are the two ends of a length of Teflon coax between the PAT board and a rear mounted SMA socket.  All connections are made on the component side of the transceiver's main board.

First, remove both halves of the cabinet and set them aside. Next, I recommend that the chassis is carefully drilled, and prepared to receive the rear mounted SMA connector.  I found a convenient spot on the FTDX-1200 near one of the rear corners of the chassis.  However, before you mark the spot to drill the hole.  Ensure the planned location for the connector and hardware, will clear the circuit board, and any protrusions that are inside the chassis.  During drilling, it's handy to have a friend vacuum the loose aluminum shavings, to prevent them from accumulating inside the radio.

Once the chassis is prepped to accept the SMA connector.  I recommend to refrain from installing it until after the PAT board is installed, and the Teflon coax has been installed onto the SMA connector. It's just easier to attach the coax while the connector is on the bench.

The first connection between the PAT board and the radio is for the IF tap. The connection location in the FTDX-1200 is on relay RL1007.  A small wire will be soldered from Pin 3 on RL1007 to the PAT board. The PAT board is marked "IN" on one end. There are three solder pads on that end of the board. The pad in the center is where the IF TAP wire will be soldered to the PAT board.  Dave G4HUP, highly recommends using the small wire from the kit to make that connection, and to use double sided tape supplied in the kit to place the PAT board as close as possible to the IF connection in the radio. There are metal shields on the circuit board that are close to RL1007. The shields make a good solid base to secure the PAT board in the radio. Just ensure the PAT board will not short out against the shields. I found that using a thicker material (Velcro) worked just as well to secure the board. It also provides a bit of spacing between the shield and the PAT board to prevent any short circuits.

Location of RL1007 in the FTDX-1200 (white/grey cube)...




Component side board layout, showing tap point on RL1007.  The connection is made right to the third leg from the left on RL-1007 (facing the front of the radio).




The next connections are to provide DC power and DC ground to the PAT board.  Towards the bottom edge in the middle of the PAT board, there are two solder pads. The one closest to the bottom is for ground and the one above it is for DC power.

The technical supplement for the FTDX-1200, indicates there is an RX9 line that terminates on the main board at TP1002.  A connection to TP1002 will provide 9 volts DC to the PAT board during receive. The ground wire from the PAT board can be soldered to any convenient DC ground point.

  
Location Area of TP1002 on the main board...

Component side board layout, showing DC positive RX9 point on the main board (TP1002).  (Facing the front of the radio).




The final connections are made using the Teflon coax provided in the installation kit, between the PAT board "OUT" and the rear SMA connector. If not already done, solder the coax center conductor to the center pin of the SMA connector, and the shield to the outer body.  Install the SMA connector in the rear chassis hole that should have been previously prepared.  Carefully route the coax through the chassis up to the PAT board.

Leaving a generous amount of slack coax between the PAT board and the SMA connector. Cut the coax and solder the center conductor of the coax to the middle "OUT" solder pad on the PAT board, and the shield can be connected to either one of the solder pads above or below the center pad as shown below.




The PAT board installation should be complete. Double check all connections, and reassemble the radio. In regard to the SDR radio. Myself and several other hams I know, have had good experience using the RTL dongles from Nooelec. They seem to be higher quality than the run of the mill Ebay/Amazon RTL dongles.  I certainly have not experienced some of the issues and poor performance noted by others using the generic RTL 2832 devices available on Amazon and Ebay.



73 de AB4D.    



Station updates

I recently decided to make some equipment and antenna changes at station AB4D.

I had several transceivers and an amplifier that I had owned for many years, but were no longer used. Therefore, I decided to sell off some of that equipment.  A FT-1000D, a FT-840, and a Alpha 9500 amplifier were removed from service and sold.  The new owner of the FT-1000D was very pleased to obtain that transceiver, describing it as a treasure, and it certainly was in pristine condition.

Based on the sale, I planned to replace the Alpha 9500 amplifier with a manual amplifier. I was fortunate enough to find a used late model Alpha 8410 for sale at a great price. That amplifier uses a pair of 4CX-1000 transmit tubes. Eventually, I will replace those with a pair of 4CX-1500B metal tetrodes.  


A few years ago, I changed from using a microphone push to talk switch, to a dual channel foot switch for both transceiver and amplifier T/R switching control.  At first, I used a Heil FS-2 foot switch. However, after a year of use, it was beginning to show it's weakness, as operation became erratic. Another issue that always bothered me, was the weight of the FS-2.  The Heil foot switch is light weight made of stamped steel with a rubber pad.  During operating, I was constantly chasing the foot pedal, because it constantly crept under the desk.  To help remedy the situation, I changed to a commercial style foot switch that is used for industrial equipment control.  The new switch is a Linemaster Clipper 636S foot control pedal.  The Linemaster 636S is made of cast steel, offers dual adjustable internal switches, and weighs a sturdy 2.25 pounds. I find the Linemaster 636S foot pedal to be a significant improvement over the Heil FS-2.



I decided to try out a new inverted V antenna for the 75/80 meter band. I read many reviews, but the double bazooka design was one that seemed to have most of the positive comments. One model in particular, the antenna manufactured by IAC Antenna, had very good reviews.   I ordered one, and had the antenna in my possession in about a week. Construction appears to be very good. Unlike many of the antennas offered for sale that uses re-purposed plumbing pipes in their construction. The IAC antenna uses a molded UV protected plastic center insulated that encompasses the two radiating elements and the feed line connector.  The antenna uses Belden RG-58 and heavy 300 ohm twin lead in it's construction. I installed the antenna as an inverted V, center supported on a 72 foot tower.  On the air testing indicates that the DB antenna works comparable to a 160 meter full wave loop@35 feet off the ground.  In some cases the each antenna was either leading or lagging, at certain times depending on band conditions.  The major advantage of the DB antenna is the considerable bandwidth. Relying on the internal SWR meter within a Yaesu FTDX-9000MP, the 1.5:1 bandwidth of the DB antenna covers 3.700 to 4.000 MHz.

       
73 de AB4D




    

A Panadapter using HDSDR and a RTL 2832U dongle.


In relation to the modification I recently performed to a FTDX-9000MP, adding a dedicated IF out port to support a computer panadapter.  A software package and SDR receiver is also required to complete a working panadapter system.  In researching the subject, I noted that many amateur stations have acquired a sufficient panadapter using the program HDSDR, and a simple RTL 2832U SDR USB dongle.  I decided to utilize that same method as well, and have been pleased with the results.

In addition, I also use Ham Radio Deluxe version 6.2, as my main rig control and logging program.  In my station, HDSDR serves as the panadapter display program, and slaves the SDR receiver's frequency to the main VFO of the FTDX-9000.  The below information and settings in HDSDR are in relation to the HRD/HDSDR combination. There are some minor differences in the settings for HDSDR, when HRD is not used, but I have not noted those settings.

HARDWARE:

To complete the hardware, I purchased an RTL 2832 SDR receiver from the company Nooelec, RTL Dongle.  It includes a 0.5 ppm TCXO and the newer 820T tuner.  That combination has proven to be adequate, and the particular dongle I purchased, also included a well made aluminum enclosure to assist with shielding.  Additionally, I ordered cables with the required connectors, to ensure I was able to connect the RTL SDR between the radio and the computer.

HDSDR/RTL Dongle Drivers:

Once the hardware is in place.  HDSDR and the correct driver for the RTL 2832U SDR receiver must be downloaded. To install the driver and HDSDR, follow the instructions provided on the HDSDR Hardware page for the RTL dongle, Instructions RTLSDR.  The basic instructions should get the SDR receiver communicating with HDSDR.

Settings:

Once HDSDR is installed and the RTL SDR receiver is functioning, several settings need to be adjusted to ensure proper operation.  Below are the current settings in HDSDR I am using in my station to provide a panadapter for a Yaesu FTDX-9000MP.  Some of the settings may be specific to my station, because as noted above, I also uses Ham Radio Deluxe as the main logging and transceiver control program. HRD handshakes with HDSDR to provide the panadapter tracking. Some settings, such as the soundcard and bandwidth, may be dependent on the individual station's computer.

First, to the right of the Tune frequency display on the main GUI for HDSDR, there is a button labeled ExtIO.  Depressing that button, causes a small box to appear, and displays information about the device in use.  If the device driver was installed correctly, it should show a RTL2832 as the "Device".  In my station, the sample rate was automatically selected as 2.4 Mpbs, as was the Buffer Size (16kB).  In the lower right corner of the ExtIO pop up box, there are three check boxes. The boxes labeled RTL AGC and Offset Tuning should be checked and the Tuner AGC box should remain unchecked.

The other operational settings are adjusted by using the buttons located on the left bottom corner of the screen. Those buttons activate sub-categories and menus as follows:

Sound Card Selection (F5)
RX Input (from Radio): Line In (IDT High Definition Audio)
RX Output (to Speaker): Speakers/Headphones (IDT High Definition Audio)

Bandwidth (F6)
Input: 2400000
Output: 12000

Settings listed in the subcategories and menus under Options (F7) should be set as follows:

Select Input:  Generic RTL 2832U and MME 16 Bit Drivers, should be selected.


Visualizations:  The settings in this sub-menu default with eight options selected as shown.


Input Channel Mode for RX: I Left / Q Right, should be selected.

Output Channel Mode for RX: AF to Both Channels, should be selected.


Clicking Input Channel for Calibration for RX, brings a pop up box as shown below, the setting for Mode: located in the top right corner should be changed to AUTO. All other settings are kept at default.




Swap I and Q Channel for RX Input, should be checked.

Misc Options: Normal Process Priority (default), should be checked.

Mouse Wheel: Directions Inverted and Mode Tune, should be selected.

RF Front End + Calibration is set as shown below. These IF frequency may be specific to my SDR receiver:



Recording Settings /Schedule is set to default.

DDE to HDSDR is set as shown below:





CAT to Radio (Omni Rig) is set as shown:



All CAT to HDSDR settings are at default.











An understanding of the Sherwood List...

On a recent afternoon, I was monitoring a conversation between two amateurs on 40 meter phone. They were discussing various transceivers that are on the market, weighing which one is better.  As I followed their discussion, one of them excitedly boasted, "Well my radio, the Elecraft K3 is the best radio ever made, it really blows away all other radios costing so much more!"  The other person inquisitively asked, how did you reach that conclusion?  He responded, "I read it on the Sherwood list, only that computer radio...the Flex 6000 rates higher, which isn't a real radio. My K3 beats all the other ones costing so much more than my Elecraft!"

I laughed, first for hearing a grown man become so excited over a radio. Second, because he was so proudly making questionable claims. I thought "better for what"?  In reality, it appears he does not have an adequate understanding of the test data (Sherwood Receiver Test Data) provided by Rob Sherwood, NC0B, and the minimal implication that high narrow spaced DR3 figures have, except under exceptional demanding conditions when using CW.  I appreciate the service Rob Sherwood provides, both because it gives valuable information to the amateur community, and it serves as an independent data source beyond what is published by the ARRL/QST.

Nevertheless, I routinely hear the type of misleading discussion noted above on the amateur bands. Many times, I've heard individuals continue to incorrectly cite the implication of the data provided on the Sherwood list.  It seems, many amateurs continue to relying heavily on the specific Third-Order Dynamic Range Narrow Spaced figures. Rationalizing, whatever radio is at the top of the list, it must be there because it is so much significantly better in all aspects than anything ranked lower.

However, there are many more factors involved in determining which certain transceiver is best for the individual.  Moreover, I note that many of the transceivers that show exceptionally high narrow space DR3 numbers, do not always show an equal level of performance for wide spacing.  A transceiver with higher narrow spaced DR3 figures, although better for the reception of CW signals during crowded band conditions, does not necessary make it a better transceiver for SSB.  A transceiver that has higher wide spacing DR3 numbers, may be a better choice for someone that routinely operates phone.  I suggest reading the document, Choosing a Transceiver Far from Simple by Rob Sherwood.

Rob Sherwood and I belong to the same Yahoo group for the Kenwood TS-990S.  I have read a few of his responses to individuals seeking his advice about certain transceivers, and which one is better.  Highlighted below is a recent typical response I've read from him.  I believe it clarifies his position, and shows his opinion, that somewhat minimizes the importance of specifically high narrow spaced dynamic range figures for the transceivers presented on the table.  Except under certain operating conditions, such as CW contesting or working a CW DX pileup, the higher narrow spaced DR3 figures are not that significant for routine operation.  Hopefully, sharing his response here will give others a clear understanding, that most modern transceivers with good but lower narrow spaced DR3 figures, usually are fine for day to day operating.

NC0B -"The first thing to consider is what modes do you operate and what is the minimum performance needed for normal casual operating.  For SSB I would say 75 dB is adequate most of the time. For CW I would say 85 dB is adequate most of the time. I would guess the 1200 I tested had a roofing filter that was somewhat wider and maybe off center. In any case the DR3 was 6 dB worse on one side than the other. On SSB much of the time adjacent channel splatter from a station 3 to 5 kHz away will be worse than the dynamic range of the radio. When would one prefer really large DR3 numbers?  In a CW DX pile-up or CW contest.  Also having really good phase noise (RMDR) would be really important on Field Day or your equivalent in Europe.  The 3000 has phase noise issues on transmit. If you got a good deal on a radio and it is performing well for whatever your operating habits are, then just enjoy the radio. My two main radios are an old IC-781 with a DR3 of about 75 and a TS-990S which has an RMDR of 87 to 98. I enjoy both radios and they perform fine in the CW and SSB contests I operate. A K3S might be better, certainly on Field Day, but I prefer large radios with really good receive audio.  They suite my needs which is all that matters.

Rob
NC0B"