I spent most of today (Saturday) at the Dayton Hamvention. I got there a bit after it opened and I left a bit before it closed. Needless to say, and for anyone that has gone to Hamvention I am sure you can relate, it was a packed full day!
While I was there I was able to see a couple of the new HF radi0s on the market. One of the bigger topics/items on my “to do/get” list was to get some time with the FTdx-5000. I was glad to see Yaesu not only had one on display hooked up, not in a glass case, but there were TWO of them on display! Awesome!
Some areas that I payed attention to with my “test drive” were: filter selection, menu surfing, overall feel – knobs, buttons, and fit/finish. To be up front with my experience – Hamvention, or any other convention for that matter, is NOT a good place to take a good test drive. To put it in perspective it would be like taking a sports car for a test drive in downtown Chicago in rush hour. It is impossible to get a true experience with radios – there is just too many people, too much noise (from the thousands of people there), and too much RF floating around. I guess if you want to see how a radio will do in a crappy RF environment it would be a good place, but I for one have a hard time being satisfied with spinning the knobs on a radio at Hamvention. It is just too busy of a place.
My very first area was the roofing filtering. This is a key area of the radio to me. The two stage down conversion receiver combined with the narrow roofing filters (600 and 300Hz in addition to the usual 15, 6, and 3kHz) is FABULUS! I have a 300Hz filter in my FT-857D and love it. Lots of people think that is too narrow for CW because it makes finding stations harder. However, I think it is just about right – it lets me narrow down the pass band to the station I want to listen to while still allowing a relatively easy ability to tune the band.
On the FTdx-5000 I opened up the IF-DSP filter as wide as it would go. Then I scrolled through the roofing filters and let them work their magic – independent of the IF-DSP filtering. I tell you what – this ability should be spread around and worked in to all radios. It is a really neat feeling knowing that the pass band is being chopped down mechanically, not digitally sampled and modified. DSP may be able to narrow the audio pass band but no matter how good the DSP is in a conventional radio it will never truly “cut out” adjacent noise and signals. They are just “hidden”. The roofing filters do just that – it is like taking a pair of scissors and cropping a picture rather than trying to erase the edges. I really wish I could have experienced the performance of the filters in a better suited operational setting and do an A/B comparison to some other radios, as well as simply play with the wider roofing filters coupled with the IF-DSP filtering.
On to the feel of the radio. It is a very high quality feel. Plain and simple. It is a big box radio, not as big as the FTdx-9000 but bigger than the FT-2000. It is heavy, in comparison to most radios, but for its size the weight feels about right. It isn’t overly heavy and I think it could be moved around. The buttons are very good quality as are the knobs.
My opinion is the knob on the FTdx-9000 is too big and heavy. It does in fact have the flywheel affect – spin it fast and try to stop it. For my hands it is just too big. After playing with an FT-2000 I think that size knob is much more to my liking in ergonomics. The FTdx-5000’s main tuning knob is slightly bigger but still fits my hands just fine. It is very smooth and also has the flywheel affect like the FTdx-9000, but it doesn’t have as much weight behind it. Maybe it is the smaller diameter too, but when you stop the knob it doesn’t pull much. It will spin very well if you want it to spin though.
As for the other knobs – the feel and qualiy are about like the FTdx-9000’s. The grip is the same. For a radio of this stature they match very well.
Some comments about the SM-5000 monitor – I have heard a lot of people say they don’t like them. The speed is slow and they are generally disappointed with them. I did take this in to consideration while test driving and I can see where the display wouldn’t be quite what everyone is looking for. However, I think the monitor shouldn’t be discounted all that much. It is still a useful tool for surfing the bands and gives you something to look at. No, it isn’t an SDR-IQ interface and display. If you want that level of performance – go buy an SDR-IQ and run it through your computer as a panadapter.
If you are wanting a general spectrum scope and a matching accessory to your radio the SM-5000 is still a very good option in my opinion. It would suit my operating. Maybe that is because I have never had a radio with a spectrum scope, though – which there are a lot of people out there in the same boat.
All the talk about the SM-5000 aside, I must say I am disappointed that the DMU-2000 was continued on with the FTdx-5000. I think the DMU-2000 is lacking in performance for what it is. I wish Yaesu had put some engineering in to the DMU to improve it. Or, maybe get away from the DMU in the conventional sense and re-build it utilizing the 9mHz IF-out as would the SDR-IQ. The quality of display that the DMU offers is really not up to par with the competition – Icom and now Elecraft with the P3 panadapter. It is behind the times and Yaesu needs to put a little effort here.
Yaesu also has a new amp – the VL-2000:
Now, a change of pace – the new Kenwood TS-590.
This is an interesting beast. They really couldn’t talk about it too much and, quite frankly, I am VERY surprised they had this one on live display (minus an antenna) instead of in a glass case. It is a prototype. Kenwood has been lacking in the HF department for quite some time. With the ending of the TS-950 and TS-870 radios Kenwood has dropped off the HF radar. The TS-570 was a good radio for a long time but I think the TS-450 and TS-2000 are limiting Kenwood’s competition in the “performance” HF arena. After having a TS-2000 as a main station radio for 7 or 8 years myself I can tell you it is not a great HF radio. It is a fantastic “do everything” radio, but as the saying goes it is a “jack of all trades and a master of none”. It is a better VHF/UHF radio than HF in my opinion.
The TS-590 has the potential to turn the tides here. From what the Kenwood rep stated that I spoke with the direct competitive rig the 590 is going up against is the Elecraft K3. Wow.
Now, I don’t want to knock Kenwood in their brave endeavour, however they are up against some STIFF competition. The K3 is an opponent with CREDENTIALS. It may have the best receiver ever created in the Amateur radio realm. For Kenwood to come out of “hiding” in HF to step up to the top of the food chain is a pretty big risk. I do hope the performance of the TS-590 is really that good. I believe Kenwood is capable of it given their legacy, I just don’t have the highest of confidence in them to pull it off. Lets see what Kenwood does here and maybe they will surprise me!
The last item on the list – my Elecraft purchase. I was going to buy a KX1. I had really set my mind on one. However, after speaking with several people and evaluating what I would be using the radio for vs. what it is capable of I decided to go with a K2. I got the SSB and 160m kits as well. My plan is to keep it as a QRP rig and get an amp. This way I have the ultimate in versatility/utility – I won’t have a QRP-only rig and I won’t have a 100W box to lug around all the time. If I have the ability to power it at 100w the addition of an amp to the gear won’t matter anyway. If I had a 100w box I couldn’t go back the other way and drop the additional weight and add space in the case for batteries.
I had called on Friday to see if they had any K2 stock left. After some investigation it turned out they had one left and were willing to set it aside. So I went in to pick it up today and it was gone! Apparently, one of the guys at the booth hid it and someone else found it not knowing. So – whoever got the last K2 late on Friday or first thing this morning got my kit HIHI. Thats OK, one is going out Monday and I got the better deal.
All in all I had a good time and was able to do/get just about everything I set out to. The bad part is I wore myself out and still am not feeling well. I think I have a cold coming on so I will just use tomorrow to get some relaxation time in before going back to work on Monday.