FT950 and shack update by Clive Maby G4NAQ

Here are some notes from my recent experiences following an upgrade of the Kenwood TS870 to the Yaesu FT950. Prior to purchasing the 950 I undertook a good look at the market and the actual cost of equipment now appears to have created a large void in the market. There appear to be acceptable transceivers for 95% of us and then a ridiculous hike in price for what can only be termed elitist transceivers and for most of us this increase is hard to justify.  The most noticeable change since my 870 purchase has been the significant improvement in DSP technology which was very basic when I bought the 870 and compared to previous transceivers created a rather different audio quality which was not liked by all.  The area of least improvement has been the continued use of legacy RS232 serial ports or proprietary ports, it would be nice for all to have moved toward USB (which itself is moving on now) or even network enabled Ethernet connections but these are still few are far between. It’s now at the point you cannot buy a new PC or laptop with an RS232 port on so USB is the only option or a plug in card if you have space for it. In addition to the transceiver I also wished to change my logging software DX4WIN and MixW which were looking rather dated and developed with more of a Windows 3.1 style interface.

I decided based on a number of factors to go for the 950. My reasoning was based on budget, features which were of use to me, reviews and finally speaking to someone locally who owned a 950.  I subscribed to the FT950 group on Yahoo and found lots of useful information which helped me make the decision. To my amazement the last criteria was not achievable in the Bristol area speaking to anyone at club or asking around.

So after phoning around all the usual suppliers and reading some very suspect reviews about supplier with no stock & taking weeks to supply equipment I purchased the following.

  • Yaesu FT950
  • Yaesu SP2000
  • Heil Proset 6

In addition I selected

  • Yaesu SCU-17 USB interface
  • Ham Radio Deluxe v5.24 which provided logging, some data modes and CAT control.

All the above I wished to interface into a Windows 7 PC and has subsequently been upgraded to Windows 10.

Everything arrived promptly and worked on power up. The only settings I have made to the 950 related to the COM port interface, use of the Heil headset (from the Heil support site) and data modes based on recommendations from the Yahoo group.

My first annoyance came in the form of the recommended SP2000 speaker which whilst being the same colour as the 950 does not actually match the transceiver as can be seen from the photo below !  The speaker has fixed feet and sits square on the desk whilst the best I can get the 950 to sit next to it is by raising the front feet. 

New shack configuration

Having spent a lot of pain years ago working with USB to RS232 interfaces I was hoping this would now be painless.  I went to eBay and found an adapter stated as being for the FT950 and it worked for a while but then started to have random issues connecting to the 950 or the connection would drop during use.  Following some research I unearthed that I should have avoided any interface using the Prolific chipset and gone for FTDI based device.  This led me to purchase an interface from G4ZLP which now works perfectly.

After playing around with a few devices I then had the pain of removing COM ports that were installed as part of the various RS232 interfaces which I experimented with along the way, this is actually easier than it looks if you want to get back to having COM3,4 rather than COM7, Here is how to do it.

  • Launch a command prompt with elevated admin privileges (i.e. Right click on the Command Prompt icon and “run as administrator”)
  • Enter the following command “set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1”, this forces the device manager to show devices which are installed but currently invisible
  • Enter the following command to start Device Manager -  “start devmgmt.msc”
  • From the view menu select to “show hidden devices”

Any rogue COM ports you can now right click and uninstall thus releasing the COM port for further use

You may be thinking why doesn’t the “show hidden devices” option do this? without following the above sequence you will need to plug in each device and then uninstall it as the devices are ghosted when not plugged in.

2nd June 2013 update

  • I decided to address the issue with the non-matching speaker and this was just a case of removing the plastic feed and putting some felt pads in their place, speaker and radio height are now the same !
  • MARS/CAP modification. These are the instructions I found on another site. The mod worked fine & I did not do a reset as per the penultimate step...
    • WRITE DOWN ALL OF YOUR SETTINGS IN THE MENU SYSTEM ON PAPER because all of these settings will be lost after 'CPU Reset'
    • Remove all 18 screws from the base case
    • Locate the control board (right front corner) you will see 9 jumpers, marker 1 through 9. add a solder bridge to pad number 5
    • Reassemble the radio
    • Do a Full Reset by holding the "FAST" and  "LOCK" buttons in while pushing the "POWER" switch to ON
    • The TX range is now 1.8-30Mhz and 50-54Mhz.