N9EWO Reviews :
Yaesu FT- 450D
HF / 6 Meter DSP Transceiver

Yaesu FT- 991A
HF / 6 / 2  Meter / 70 cm  DSP Transceiver
(middle of page)


The discontinued Yaesu FT-450D HF / 6 Meter Transceiver.
Nice affordable Transceiver for Amateur use, but understand the caveats.
Receiver performance is actually good, however the fair to poor ergonomics,
hissy receive audio and fan noise just in receive mode make a sour outcome for SWL use.
(N9EWO Photo)

Model Tested : Yaesu FT-450D
Country of Manufacture : Japan (Tokyo)
MH-31A8J Hand Microphone : China
Firmware Version Tested : V 02.27
Serial Number (approx.) of Test Sample : 5N200xxxx (manufactured in Dec 2015)

Optional Accessory Tested :
MH-67A8J Hand Microphone : China


N9EWO's Review : YAESU FT-450D HF / 6 Meter Transceiver

Discontinued Model

You will see reference in this report with comparisons made to the Icom IC-7600 and Icom IC-7200 previously owned. Nor do we currently own a FT-450D as this report was typed. We also talk about the Yaesu VR-5000 Wide band receiver for some comparisons, my full review is available here. Our IC-7600 review can be found here.

This report will be more on the side of the fence as for monitoring general SW / HF broadcasting stations. So if you are looking for a more detailed report with "amateur radio" TX / RX use, you will have to look elsewhere. However, I will cover a few topics on the TX side of the fence as well (microphones for one).


Nice Solid Cabinet / Differences over old 450 Model / 1 PPM TCXO Included / No Spaghetti Bowl Of Wires - DC Power Cable Another Story

The Yaesu FT-450D HF Transceiver is the updated model to the original FT-450. The “D” model includes the internal automatic antenna tuner; different larger (and metal) knobs and 2 flip down feet that give a small rise to the front. However it’s still a far cry from what it should be and just like with the Yaesu VR-5000 receiver. But being the rear mounted jacks are close to the bottom of the cabinet, I can see what they did this. Also added are backlit buttons, more CW bandwidths, and a different included hand mic which is the MH-31A8J and it fits in the hand MUCH better over the previous MH-67A8J (more on this later).

It features a 1 PPM TCXO for excellent stability and we found it to be rock on frequency out of the box and stayed there. However the Icom IC-7200's includes a .5 PPM TXCO (much better) as stock.

Black cabinet is the typical Yaesu “sandy” paint finish, just like with the later VR-5000 production samples. But it’s a nice solid steel one, unlike the plastic top and bottom covers on the Icom IC-7200. Excellent, but is a bit of a pain to clean dust off of it (again just like with the VR-5000 receiver).

Size in inches is smaller 9” Width x 3.3” High x 8.5” Depth (without knobs), weight is 8.8 pounds (4.0 kg). It features a solid aluminum (inner) die-cast chassis. The DSP section is located behind the front panel PC board (vertically) also involved in the die cast part of the chassis. In comparison the Icom IC-7200 weight is 12.1 pounds and has no internal tuner. 

The DSP being used in the FT-450D is the 2003 "Analog Devices" Blackfin 400 Mhz ADSP-BF531SBST.

We have the FM mode in the FT-450D, which is missing in the Icom IC-7200.

The included internal antenna tuner worked adequately for our modest Comet H-422 dipole antenna for touching it up. Yes, it’s a bit noisy while it does it thing, but normal for a relay tuner of this type. Sorry, while it can be used for receive too (changed in the menus from default), one would have to transmit on it first to tune it. So for in a SWL only mode, it’s of no use. Of course the Icom IC-7200 lacks any internal antenna tuner.

Something not usually noted for Yaesu. There is NOT the usual barrage of single loose white wires all over the place in the FT-450D. It’s a much more neat and tidy affair (more use of ribbon cables, which can have it’s own bug-a-boo’s).

Speaking of loose wires, why does Yaesu continue to include "loose" DC power cables (that is the + and - wires are not attached together). This turns into a huge rats nest in short order and drives me crazy !! 

Sensitivity / DSP Selectivity / IF Shift

Receiver in the FT-450D is just as good as any other set we have tested even being a dual conversion design. Not anemic, and is what it should be. This is of course with the IPO setting OFF (so the preamp is ON). Yaesu makes this confusing to us with receiver preamp operation as IPO. With the IPO ON (pre amp OFF) the sensitivity goes down way down of course. There is also a desirable 20-db attenuator, which cuts the sensitivity down more for super strong signals. By the way we never heard the receiver overload in normal testing, so the dynamic range appears to be decent.

There is a full time 20-db attenuator when tuning the MW band, but we found sensitivity to be pretty decent anyway (but please note I’m not a MW DX person).

Real DSP available bandwidths are much more limited when compared to the Icom IC-7200. Instead of having a near continuous slew of bandwidths, Yaesu gives just a few selected ones. 3 for SSB, 3 for FM, 3 for CW and 3 for AM modes. 2 for FM modes. Mind you were well chosen and a nice 9 kHz one for us SWL types. That is one 1 kHz wider over than what the 7200 gives (8 kHz) for a maximum AM receive bandwidth. Yes, we still like to have wide AM bandwidths available (certainly above 8 kHz) being our main interest is still monitoring the HF bands. No nifty 3 preset bandwidth selector as in the Icom IC-7200.

FT-450D Available Bandwidths
SSB :   1.8 kHz / 2.4 kHz  / 3.0 kHz
CW :    300 Hz  / 500 Hz  / 2.4 kHz
Data :  300 Hz  / 2.4 kHz  / 3.0 kHz
AM :    3.0 kHz / 6.0 kHz  / 9.0 kHz
FM :    2.5 kHz / 5.0 kHz

There is a lone single IF Shift control and operates as it should. Thank goodness it’s has it’s own dedicated control. In comparison the Icom IC-7200 features a Dual PBT control. The FT-450D is using a dual conversion design whereas the IC-7200 is triple conversion.        

Using Real TAC switches / LED Backlight and Buttons

Pushbuttons are of a rubber variety and all have good tactile response. All are backlit, which makes for easy viewing. Good news is underneath are REAL separate TAC switches being used. With the Icom IC-7200, they make use of rubber buttons as well. However here the contacts are being made with a carbon coating on the rear of the actual rubber and pressed up against the raw PC board. Yes, just like in a $ 2.98 TV remote control at the dollar store. So Yaesu did it right here even at this price point.

Excellent LCD negative type display using LED backlighting and the brightness and contrast are both adjustable in the menus. We found the defaults to be the best settings. Very good nice LARGE numeric digits and all other icons were easily seen even with my ever-deceasing vision.

The weighted main tuning knob is of a smaller size, but did not find this to be a drawback after some use. It even uses a set-screw for attachment to the optical encoder. Icom can’t even do that in the much more expensive IC-7600 transceiver (believe it or not Icom is using a “push on” type main tuning knob with the IC-7600).

Clean Reception / However Noises In The Background / AGC

Receive audio quality is extremely clean and distortion is near non-existent (all modes).  However there is a certain amount of audio amp hiss that is disconcerting. Try turning down the volume down fully and the hiss shines it’s ugly head through. No amount of fiddling with the DSP adjustments improved this (this is issue is with the audio amplifier side of it). To make this bug even worse the rear-mounted sleeve-bearing fan operates full time in the FT-450D, yes even on receive. So between the 2 of those nasties, makes for noticeable background noise on any received signal and was a BIG turn off to me with the transceiver.

Fan is not that noticeable on receive I will admit (but again mixed with the hissy RX audio amp trait adds to the equation and a major issue with me). On transmit at any time or if the set gets hot enough when in extended transmit use then back to receive, the fan speed-noise increases to very high to near unacceptable to our ears. If one tries to make use desk mic along side of the rig, it’s going to be a hard mix. Best to use this rig with a hand microphone ONLY !!  

The real downside running the fan is in just receive “full time” even at this low rate  (when transmit is NEVER to be used) is there is a certain amount of room dust being sucked through it continuously and in time will be a dusty mess internally. Of course with all of this air being more around it's DEAD COLD in receive and pretty cool in transmit (unless you really push the duty cycle).

I still stick to my guns on this: A radio (receiver or transceiver) where just in receive mode with no transmit ever enacted should NEVER have a fan running. I call that just bad engineering (even more so if it get hot in just receive).

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m VERY SENSITIVE and subjective to this type of noise with any radio (I use radios like this in a base / home situation only...not mobile) . Many probably don’t hear anything and so be it. But let it be known that for those who are like me…this fan noise is a real issue.  The Icom IC-7200 and IC-7300 have none of this fan nonsense on just receive only use. 

AGC has 3 settings: Fast Slow and even Off. A variable RF gain control is provided, but shares the control with the Squelch. Unlike Icom which does a RF gain and squelch combination, Yaesu does one or the other. Default is RF gain and Squelch on FM, but can be changed in the Menu’s.          

Busy Encoder / Ease Of Use

Ergonomics are a mixed bag. First there is no direct keyboard entry. This alone makes for tuning around much more difficult. The lone sub encoder (DSP-SEL knob) gets used heavily, not only for a faster way to get around a band but to adjust the DSP functions AND for adjustments of the 62 menu items (yes 62). Its a push in “enter” type of MECHANICAL encoder, but has no excessive rotational play either (has some from side to side however) and it has a good feel in use.

There is an EXT MNU in the Menu’s (where else) that allows one to cut the 62 menus down to 16 of the more used ones and this does help on the Menu Madness greatly.

Accessing the DSP functions (Contour, Notch, DNR, Width) is another experience in pain. For example, to adjust the Width (that’s actually bandwidth), one presses the DSP button 4 TIMES to order to access WIDTH setting (then spin the DSP-SEL knob).

Another Example: Adjusting the RF POWER output.

  1. Push and hold the "F" (function) button for second.
  2. Rotate to find RF POWER selection in the menu
  3. Push in the DSP-SEL knob
  4. Adjust the power level desired (rotate knob)
  5. Push the DSP-SEL knob in again
  6. Press and hold "F" AGAIN for a second to exit.

Now mind you that goes easier once you do it a few times ..but really Yaesu for at least adjusting RF POWER !!! There should be a dedicated button for RF Power on the front panel. There is a way to program one button for certain “selected” function (the CS button), but alas RF Power is not one of them.

True, the Icom IC-7200 RF POWER adjustments are also located within the menus, but are much easier to access and control.

UPDATE : Gust ON6KE informs us that with the last released firmware 02.44,  "RF POWER" was added to the "SELDIAL" list. This helps greatly.

No Auto Notch / Contour Control & DNR Disappointing / Excellent Manual ECSS Tuning / Tuning Steps 

There is no Auto Notch function to be found on the FT-450D. A silly oversight but perhaps due to limitations of the DSP hardware that could be the reason why they left it out ? While we found the manual notch to work OK, but was not a stellar performer either. Yes, you guessed it was another pain to make it happen or turn off.

We also found the Contour feature to be a joke. Nothing more than a fancy tone control of sorts to our ears. We found leaving if off was better. Sorry for those who love the feature, but we did not find it of any use.

Digital Noise Reduction (DNR), was useful but no way did it work as well as the one found in the Icom IC-7200 and IC-7600 transceivers (Icom wins here, no contest). But at the price point this can be expected.

Manual ECSS reception is excellent. Great audio (aside from the hiss) and 1 Hz tuning steps makes for a killer combination here. Manual ECSS is where one zero beats an AM mode signal in SSB mode for better interference rejection and lower distortion. The sour limitation is the maximum SSB bandwidth of 3 kHz (wider is better here of course). Mind you this set did a much better with ECSS than the Icom IC-7600 test sample, where we experienced popping and other nasty noises (see my review here).  

Speaking of tuning steps, it has a fast button, which selects half the available steps (hz) using with the main "optical" tuning knob. The DSP-SEL knob is used for the other half (kHz). A bit strange in our testing but gets the job done. You are NOT able to do 1 or 5 kHz steps with the main tuning knob and that was a HUGE drawback to us for SWL use.

Operating Mode    MAIN DIAL     DSP-SEL (kHz) Knob           
LSB/USB/CW        1/10/20 hz      1.0/2.5/5
AM                         100/200 hz      2.5/5.0/9.0/10.0/12.5/25.0
FM                          100/200 hz     5.0/6.25/10.0/15/20.0/25.0/50.0
DATA                      1/10/20 hz     1.0/2.2/5.0

RF SSB Output “100 Watts”, but do NOT count on the internal meter

We tested the FT-450D’s SSB RF output power on TWO EXTERNAL RF power Meters known to be 100% accurate (with and without using a dummy load) and WAS found to be putting out the proper 100 watts of RF output (yes even on SSB modes). Actually it was measured at 105 watts overall on SSB and CW, slightly less on 10 meters. With SSB modes the power output meter on the transceiver itself was inaccurate in our testing. Only showing about 70~75 watts when it is actually at the proper 100 watts output. IMPORTANT NOTE: We found In CW and Data modes the internal meter was more accurate at the higher readings. Oddly at lower power settings (<50 watts) the internal meter indication becomes more accurate with SSB readings.

This topic has been coved elsewhere around the Internet over the years, with no real solid facts given. Now you know.

It's not all bad news with the metering. The S-meter readings appear to be unusually accurate. Also gives SWR and ALC indications.

Digital Recorder / 500 Memories / 60 Meter Presets

There is a built in 20 second “off air” digital recorder. It works well enough and not degrading the audio much at all. However 20 seconds maximum time is not too useful for SWL. For amateur radio use it is more of a plus.

500 memory channels are provided. Also can be divided into 12 memory groups. The 60-meter frequencies are permanently entered in special extra memory channels (and you cannot change any part of these including the bandwidth), but display of these are in the offset realm and not the actual frequency (but don’t worry are proper). 

Microphone Madness

The FT-450D includes the MH-31A8J model hand microphone. It uses a dynamic element. If one uses the flat (default) MIC EQ setting it sounds muddy and muffled. With the MIC EQ setting of the FT-450D at the number 4 (high boost), we found this setting to “greatly” improve the sound quality of the microphone. So this one needs to be adjusted out of the box. We found the tone switch on the rear of the case does not to do anything for audio quality. It does use a nice micro switch PTT and fits in the hand superbly. Also includes “up-fast-down” buttons and those can be programmed for other limited functions if desired (same list as the CS button).         

Some have purchased the MH-67A8J model hand microphone separate (this mic came with the original FT-450 models). We tested one of these with the test sample FT-450D and it does give for slightly better SSB tone response at “flat” (or number 4 as well) MIC EQ setting. It uses an electret condenser mic element. A lower cost TAC type switch is used for keying it case is MUCH larger round and clumsier in the hand when compared to the MH-31A8J. No “up-fast-down” buttons either. However in OUR testing, we found the MH-31A8J (at # 4 MIC EQ setting) to drive the transceiver RF output slightly better, but the MH-67A8J does give for slightly better audio punch.

One other note, we used the NOR and HIGH “MIC LEVEL” settings in our tests. Did not seem to make much difference between the two (use NOR and that is default).

The FT-450D does include a microphone compressor circuit, but there are no adjustments and only works in NOR an HIGH mic level settings. Icom IC-7200 includes a honest compressor adjustment (so be it the menu’s).

On the plus side, at least Yaesu includes most usable hand microphone in the box and doesn't require any modifications (unlike with some Icom microphones).

Yaesu FT-450D Computer Connection / FREE Software (that is good)

Will NOT be held responsible for any information that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !

Just as it was on the tested Yaesu VR-5000 receiver, the FT-450D uses a SERIAL MALE DB-9 connector for connection to a computer. Yes, you will need a FEMALE to FEMALE DB-9 cable for connection. However unlike the VR-5000, a Null Model adapter (or cable) is NOT used, so it’s straight thru connection here. Be sure with any connections to a computer, be sure and change the CAT serial port baud rate on the FT-450D to 9600 (default is 4800), as well as the program to use 9600 baud. Most computer serial port cards default at 9600 (so that SHOULD be good to go…but you need to check that). If all is not at a equal setting and of course the right COM Port selected …none of the software is going to work !!

Please Note : This serial connection is also used for firmware updates. No additional boxes or other tricks are required.

NOTE: The PC Software programs covered here work with the D version (as well with the older versions). Operation verified using Microsoft “Windows 7” 32 and 64 Bit and XP Pro. Was not tested with any other Windows Operating System. Again be sure and use the SERIAL PORT baud rate at 9600. We used a REAL serial port on the host computer for these tests (USB to serial converters were NOT used, you are on your own if you TRY to use one of these with the FT-450D).

PCC-450D “Yaesu's Simple Control Software”
Gives a close GUI of the actual set and you poke at the controls on the screen. Displays the 1 hz digit which is not available on the set itself.

FREE450
Simple memory management program for the FT-450. Written by Bob Freeth G4HFQ. Only allows for Frequency and Mode entry. One will have to go back and touch those up after use.  Be sure and download a template file BEFORE any entry into the program is attempted. But it works good.

FTBCAT
A CAT control program for Yaesu radios also by Bob Freeth G4HFQ : FRG-100, FT-450, FT-817, FT-847, FT-857, FT-897, FT-920, FT-1000MP MkV, VR-5000. Features a scan screen display (spectrum scope of sorts). 12 “Quick Set” memory channels for favorite frequencies.    

A Worthy Transceiver for Amateur Use / Good Bang for the Ham Buck / Now Discontinued

General receiver performance is good, but with the fair to poor ergonomics, fan noise and receive audio hiss issues, we feel the Yaesu FT-450D is best suited only for Amateur radio use. Here it is a good value. Having the internal tuner is a great feature to have in such a small package and at a affordable price. As we type this report there is no equal in the new marketplace.

However as a SWL set, it was just not pleasant experience for that purpose to us.

In our view, all around a used Icom IC-7200 is a much better “transceiver” for SWL use even with IT'S own bugs (and staying in the same price bracket). With maybe a transmit session on the Ham bands once in awhile (or not). The FT-450D is also a discontinued model (so has to be the used market if you desire one).

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 3.8

Discontinued Model


Poor Grounding in FT 991/A : Tuner causes high SWR warning after tuning


N9EWO Review :
Yaesu FT- 991A
HF / 6 / 2  Meter / 70 cm DSP Transceiver


The Yaesu FT-991A HF / VHF / UHF "All Mode" DSP Transceiver.
Decent shack in a box amateur transceiver but has seen some major issues over it's life on the market.
As with the FT-450D tested above, it is a mixed bag for SWL use (but at least has no receive audio amplifier hiss).
We also had a chance to test a earlier FT-991 model as well (comparisons as given in the review below).
(N9EWO Photo)


This report will be more on the side of the fence as for monitoring general SW / HF broadcasting stations. So if you are looking for a more detailed report with "amateur radio" TX / RX use, you will have to look elsewhere. However, I will cover a few comments on the TX operation side of the fence as well.

Country of Origin  : Japan
        MH-31 Hand Microphone (Dynamic) : China

Serial Number of Test Samples :
FT-991 : Not documented (manufactured in 2015)
FT-991A : 8F2101xx (manufactured in April 2018)

Test Antenna's (outdoor) :
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)

N9EWO's Review on the Yaesu FT-991A HF / VHF / UHF Transceiver

PRO:
- Excellent sensitivity that includes 10 and 20 db preamps (see con).
- Decent performing DSP bandwidth filtering (see con).
- Excellent dynamic range at test location / antenna's.
- Beautiful 3.5 inch color touch TFT LCD.
- Decent real time spectrum scope with selectable waterfall display.
- Triple conversion design that Includes a 3 kHz roofing filter as stock.
- LED lighted buttons have excellent tactile response that also use real tac buttons (underneath it's rubberized outer ones).
- 0.5 PPM TCXO Included as stock for rock solid stability.
- Good ECSS performance (see con).
- Silky smooth optical main tuning encoder (see con).
- Wobble free solid volume, RF gain control and MULTI encoder (see con).
- Two VFO's (see con).
- Punchy "Hiss Free" full range audio quality that includes menu accessed high and low cut off adjustments.
- 24 Hour format clock that displays full time in right hand corner of LCD.
- LCD touch sensitivity much Improved over original FT-991 model.
- VHF/UHF sensitivity improved over non A version.
- Memory channels Include alpha tags (see con).
- Accurate bar type S-meter.
- 12 db receiver attenuator button.
- Built in C4FM digital "Fusion" mode that also operates on HF.
- Decent tilt stand that also Includes good desk surface protection.
- USB connection provides it's own sound card and CAT control.
- Carrying handle included as stock.
- Two good no cost (donation supported) after market PC software programs available.

  
CON:
- Generally sour ergonomics.
- Limited SSB bandwidths.
- Only TWO FIXED AM bandwidths of 6 and 9 kHz available.
- AGC adjustment is fixed in AM mode.
- Medium Wave band and below suffers the dreaded band attenuator (can be somewhat restored, see text).
- Limited front end filtering (only has THREE ranges between 1.7 and 30 MHz, see text).
- Receiver current consumption about DOUBLE over the Icom IC-7300.
- Low quality fuse holders (with the FT-991A test sample one fuse holder failed).
- Yaesu's use of undesirable loose power cables continue (see text).
- Annoying NOISY Internal variable speed fan operates in receive ONLY operation (cycling is possible but rarely happens).
- As with most receivers / transceiver , external speaker use is REQUIRED to archive decent audio quality.
- Only 99 memory channels.
- Minimum tuning step is 5 hz (is 1 hz with the FT-450D), so ECSS listening suffers slightly (see text).
- It and the earlier FT-991 are well known for HF PA final and internal antenna tuner failures.
- Confusing A and B VFO indication.
- 1 and 5 kHz (and above) tuning steps are not available with main knob.
- Typical Yaesu sandy cabinet paint is a bit of a dust collector and not so easy to clean.
- Less robust modular microphone jack.
- No proper "Line Audio" output jack (see text)
- No receive preamps on VHF or UHF bands.
- Main tuning knob is of the "Push On" variety (uses no set screws).
- Clarifier control rotates extremely stiff.
- Included MH-31 hand microphone is excessively bassy on HF (PROPER EQ adjustments can fix this, see text).


Compact Solid "Shack in the Box"

Amateur radio folks call the FT-991A a "Shack in the Box". It is a ALL MODE transceiver the covers all of the Amateur Radio bands in the HF spectrum plus 6 meters at 100 watts RF output power. Plus 2 meter (144 to 148 MHz in the USA) and 430 to 450 MHz in the 70 cm band both up to 50 watts. Yaesu FUSION (C4FM digital) is available on all bands including HF. Size is at approx. 10.0 x 3.2 x 9.0 inches (253 x 80 x 229 mm) which is similar to the FT-450D reviewed above. In fact it uses the same optional MMB-90 mobile mounting bracket. The FT-991A weight is about 1 pound (0.45 kg) heavier at 9.46 pounds (4.3 kg).

Uses a triple "super-het" (up-conversion 1st IF) receiver scheme, with the last being DSP using a Texas Instruments TMS320C6746. Decent extremely solid Japanese build quality and no excessive internal "mess-O-wires" that run haphazardly all over the place. Die cast metal chassis , but of course this is here for the transmit side.

Yaesu's Included DC Power Cable and Low Grade Fuses Holders

TWO "bug-a-boo's" that involve the included DC power cable. Yaesu continues to keep the positive and negative cables loose. So they can and do get tangled into a rats nest very easily.

Our test sample was only lightly used by the previous owner and as we powered it up for the first time was "Dead on Arrival". Turned out one of the fuse holders lost connection and actually was semi melted (internally). So a trip to the auto parts store for some decent 30 amp in-line fuse holders. Fixed using proper SOLDERED bare type butt connectors and double layer of heat shrink tubing on each connection. After talking with a friend after my experience here, he too had this same identical issue with his Yaesu HF transceiver fuse holders (it was the same type cable). So this is not a isolated happening.


Frequency Coverage / Near Unacceptable Internal Fan Operation For SWL Use !

Shortwave HF receiver coverage starts at 50 kHz and continuous right up to 56 MHz. VHF is from 118 to 164 MHz. UHF is from 420 to 470 MHz.

The rear-mounted sleeve-bearing fan operates full time in the FT-450D, yes even on just receive only use. In the case with the FT-991A the Panasonic BALL BEARING variable speed fan can cycle on and off. But it has to be in a very COLD (ambient) temperature room. You might as well say it operates 100% full time in most cases. Even in just receive ONLY operation (takes about 20 to 30 minutes on from cold start) and is still very annoying for SWL use !

Real downside running the fan is in just receive “full time” even at a low fan speed (when transmit is NEVER to be used) is there is a certain amount of room dust being sucked through it continuously and in time will be a dusty mess internally.

I still stick to my guns on this: A radio (receiver or transceiver) where just in receive mode with no transmit ever enacted should NEVER have a fan running. I call that just bad engineering (even more so if it gets super hot in just receive and the fan operating).

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m VERY SENSITIVE and subjective to this type of noise with any radio (I use radios like this in a base / home situation only...not mobile) . Many probably don’t hear anything and so be it. But let it be known that for those who are like me…this fan noise is a real issue. The Icom IC-7300 has none of this fan nonsense with receive only use (but to be fair the cooling fan does operate in receive only mode with the Icom IC-7610, information as per Rob Sherwood NC0B). 

3.5 inch TFT Color Touch LCD Get the Job Done / Better Screen Touch Sensitivity Over FT-991 / Spectrum Scope

It's full color 3.5 inch TFT LCD touch display is beautiful to look at and while not as sharp as more modern models, gets the job done nicely. Good news is the touch sensitivity has been improved greatly over the FT-991. Before one had to hit the LCD fairly hard to make it work with the non-A version.

From viewing the service manual the LCD manufacture model number is UMSH-8489MD-1T. Our research points to the manufacture being the Taiwanese "Microtips Technology" (most likely a custom made touch display to Yaesu's specifications ?).

The A version of this transceiver adds a "real time" spectrum scope (with waterfall) and we found it to be very useful even if not up to the standards of the IC-7300's. With the non A version it was just one sweep and that was it. Total spectrum widths are 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 kHz. One can change the color of the fill in the menus.

"Push On" Tuning Knob Decent / Ditto for other Front Panel Controls

The FT-991A's main tuning knob has a tension adjustment that works good. It has a spinner hole but is fixed. That is the spinner does not rotate unlike the Icom's IC-7300 spinner hole that does and help speed things up a bit, plus more smooth operation.

It is attached to the optical encoder shaft using the "push on" (spring clip) method. That is there is no set screws involved. Good news it's it gets the job done with no noticeable added wobble or play. Icom also used a push on type knob with the classic IC-7600. But in the case of this Icom set, there was a slight wobble to it with the test sample (click here for our IC-7600 review). Thank goodness Icom stopped doing it this way at least with the IC-7300 (main tuning knob indeed uses a set screw).

Volume, RF gain controls are decent with no slop or play. MULTI encoder (lower left of the tuning knob, mechanical type) is also pleasing with nice soft detents with zero rotational or side to side play (no CLACKY encoder used here). "Clar / VFO B" control is difficult to rotate, but was most likely designed this way to prevent accidental  adjustment.

Difficult Ergonomics / Usual SLOW Yaesu Tuning Scheme

Ergonomics are a mixed bag. It's not straight forward and takes a bit of use figuring it all out. The owners manual usually gets you there but not after some head scratching. So if you have been using Icom radios and are not acquainted with Yaesu''s way of doing things, it's going to take some adjustment time to learn the ropes.

Tuning steps are a step backwards from the FT-450D above. The FT-991/A's finest tuning step is 5 hz, where as with the FT-450D it can do ultra fine 1 hz steps. For SWL ECSS mode listening this is course a disconcerting burp. However and strangely we were unable to make the 5 hz step to work in testing (perhaps we had something not properly selected ?)

The FAST button (as indicated on the front panel when activated) selects two available steps (hz) using with the main "optical" tuning knob. The MULTI knob is used for the other half (kHz). A bit strange in our testing but gets the job done with it's speedy and ultra smooth encoder and spinner hole. As it goes with most Yaesu HF transceivers you are NOT able to do 1 or 5 kHz steps with the main tuning knob and is still a HUGE disappointment for SWL use. The extremely free wheeling optical encoder helps with this, but still a bit poky going (Icom's way of doing this rules here).

Operating Mode   MAIN DIAL (Slow / Fast)      MULTI Encoder (kHz)         
LSB/USB               5 or 10 hz / 100 hz                1.0/2.5/5
AM                         5 or 10 hz / 100 hz                2.5/5.0/9.0/10.0/12.5/25.0
FM                         100 hz / 1 kHz                        5.0/6.25/10.0/12.5/15/20.0/25.0

Limited Front End Filtering / No Spurious Signals

While this does not appear to hamper overall receiver performance to any extent. However for the record the FT-991 and FT-991A only use THREE HF bandpass filters in the front end. In comparison the ICOM IC-7300 transceiver uses FIFTEEN High Q type bandpass filters and the ICOM IC-R8600 receiver uses ELEVEN High Q type bandpass filters in the HF spectrum. No obvious spurious signals were detected in testing. Not even in the long wave band (very good). WWVB on 60 kHz was easily receivable with the 55 foot long wire antenna.

YAESU FT-991A HF Bandpass Filters (information as taken from the service manual)
- 1.7 to 9.9 MHz
- 9.9 to 20.9 MHz
- 20.9 to 30.0 MHz

Sensitivity / 2 HF Preamps  / Selectivity / Stability

Receiver in the FT-991A is just as good as the Icom IC-7300 in our testing. This is of course with the IPO setting OFF (so the preamp is ON).Yaesu continues to make this confusing with receiver preamp operation as IPO. With the IPO ON (pre amp OFF) the sensitivity goes down way down of course.

We have TWO receiver preamps. Sherwood tested the FT-991 Preamps at 12 and 23 db (vs. only one 20 db preamp in the FT-450D). As a common sense rule one should NOT make use of any preamps say below 14 MHz (unless using extremely short antenna's / mobile use).

Only time we ever heard any overloading was with a local 1kw MW station (with preamp 2 on) with our 55 foot (17 meter) long wire antenna. Dynamic range was excellent with our antenna's / location.

Just as with the FT-450D, DSP available bandwidths are much more limited when compared to the Icom IC-7300 and all other Icom Transceivers / Receivers. Instead of having a near continuous slew of bandwidths, Yaesu still only gives us selected ones with the FT-991A, but is many more over the FT-450D (see chart below). A few more wider SSB bandwidths (say up to at least 4.0 KHz) would have been desirable for enhanced ECSS mode listening.

AM mode is restricted to 6 or 9 kHz bandwidths (this is one LESS over the FT-450D). Well at least Yaesu gave users a nice WIDE 9 kHz bandwidth for us SWL types. That is one 1 kHz narrower than what the Icom IC-7300 allows (10 kHz) for a maximum AM receive bandwidth. Yes, we still like to have wide AM bandwidths available (certainly above 8 kHz). No nifty 3 preset bandwidth selector as with the Icom IC-7300 however.

FT-991A Available Bandwidths
SSB :   somewhat continuous from 1.8 to 3.2 kHz (steps vary)
CW :    somewhat continuous from 500 hz to 3.0 kHz (steps vary)
AM :    6.0 kHz or 9.0 kHz
FM :    9.0 kHz  or 16.0 kHz

Yaesu included with the FT-991A (as STOCK) a 0.5 PPM TCXO for rock stable operation. The FT-450D TXCO is at less stellar 1.0 PPM. So a bit of an improvement here.

Dreaded Medium Wave Band Attenuator

As with most Yaesu HF transceivers we have the nasty MW band (and below) attenuation. It kicks in at 1700 kHz and below. Unknown what the attenuation leval is , but our guess is around 25 db ? Preamp 2 works on MW to recover about half of the loss (NOTE : Preamp1 does not function below 1800 kHz). In comparison the Icom IC-7300 has menu toggle to bypass this MW and below attenuation.

Accrate S-Meter / Power Output / Contour and DNR Still Both Disappointments

Unlike with the FT-450D, the FT-991A's bar graph meter is most accurate for RF power output as well as for signal strength measurements. The built in meter can also give SWR, DC voltage and current readings while in Transmit as well as ALC and audio compression feedback.

Just as with the FT-450D we still found the Contour feature to be a joke in our view. Nothing more than a dismal tone control of sorts to our ears. We found leaving if off was better. Sorry for those who love the feature, but we did not find it of any use.

Digital Noise Reduction (DNR), was sort of useful but no way did it work well enough to say it's decent (some have said it works better on higher settings....not to me it does) !

Overall Audio Quality / External Speaker Highly Recommended / No Proper Fixed Line Out Jack ?

General audio quality is much more full (no bass cut off) over the Icom IC-7300. Makes for pleasant SWL / Broadcast receiver. However as it is with most tabletop HF transceivers / receivers a properly selected external speaker is most required. While the audio recovery is not up to the more flat sounding IC-7300, our test standard 2 WAY Realistic Minimus 7 or 77 speakers worked extremely well with the FT-991A in our testing (the increased high end while still having good low end was a huge plus). There are high and low end cut off adjustments located in the menu's.

The BIG improvement with the FT-991A's audio is it totally lacks the very annoying HISSY trait that plagues the FT-450D. 


There is no dedicated fixed Line Audio Output (well at least not easily accessible). It appears that the optional CT-39 packet cable MIGHT give us the PROPER "Line Output", but we have not tested this at the time this report was assembled (may update this information at a later date).

RF Gain / Attenuator / AGC Settings Do Not Operate In AM Mode

AGC time constant has 5 settings: Auto, Fast, Mid, Slow even OFF (press and hold the AGC button for a second to toggle OFF). A variable separate RF gain control is provided, and works well. Downside is the AGC setting does NOT operate in the AM mode (is fixed at the SLOW setting).

There is a very handy 12 db RF attenuator provided.


Auto and Manual Notch / Only 99 Memory Channels / Really Has 2 VFO's

Unlike the with the FT-450D above we have a excellent digital automatic notch as well as a manually adjusted one. Both work well. Ditto for Pass Band Tuning (PBT).

The FT-450D features 500 memory channels. However with the FT-991A it ONLY has 99 regular memory channels plus nine band edge memories and five Quick Memory Band (QMB) memories. One can place 20 memories in group for easier access. With the FT-991 being able to also do VHF and UHF frequencies, having only 99 memory channels is woefully inadequate !

A 12 character "Alpha Tag" can be placed on every memory channel.


VFO operation is not indicted on the front panel correctly. It indeed has 2 VFO's and operate properly, but the front panel VFO indicator continues to display A with either one in use.

Included MH-31 Hand Microphone is too bassy (Stock Adjustments)

The first nasty observation with the FT-991 / 991A was with it's included MH-31 dynamic hand microphone (just as with the FT-450D we reviewed above). As MANY have pointed out already, the MH-31 mic audio is excessively bassy without any EQ adjustments that these transceivers feature.

User suggested settings of it's more versatile but much more confusing microphone EQ settings (vs. the simple EQ provided on the FT-450D) can be found around the internet on You Tube and eham. Too bad that we found near ALL of these internet settings to be totally unacceptable to ME after extensive testing. However ones provided by Zygmunt Szumski SP5ELA were the ONLY useful ones to our ears ! Menu location numbers are for the FT-991 in his information, so we have rewritten this for the A version (are slightly different) and have developed a PDF document (click here). These settings should also be useful for other Yaesu HF transceivers and microphones that use the same scheme.

Two FREE Windows Software Programs

We see 2 free (donation based) PC WINDOWS software programs for the FT-991 / FT-991A "Memory Management" available. Of course the proper USB driver is required to be loaded beforehand.

WARNING : We say stay well away from any Chirp programs !

First one is called "FTRestore" developed by VK2BYI. Allows upload, download and compare memory channels and menu settings in the Yaesu FTDX1200, FTDX3000, FTDX5000, FT-891 and FT-991/FT-991A model transceivers. Very simple and gets the job done. We would like to see a larger font size offered for those who do not have so perfect vision and also a insert function including a way to move a entry up or down in the list. Also please note that one MUST have the radio connected and ON for the program to function.
Windows Vista thru 10 (plus requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.1).

Second one has been developed by F6ECN and called "Application memory management for FT-991 & FT-991A". This one is a bit more involved but allows for more parameters to be stored. Downside is some parts of the program show up in French (example : Program errors) . For Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 , 32 and 64-bit version. Expect to spend a time learning to make it work.

Tainted Past (Both Models)

Yaesu has had a nasty history with internal antenna tuners over the years with bad PC board grounds (not that Yaesu would ever admit to it). So the bugs are intermittent and serious drop outs with internal antenna operation with the FT-991 / FT-991A and FT-DX101 transceivers that can lead to PA final failures. See the PDF and You Tube videos below (links subject to change).

https://www.qsl.net/vu2msy/homebrew/FT-991A-Tuner-Issue-how-to-fix.pdf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHqtnYtiiSc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSTgZmBJvoI

It's a easily fixed issue provided one catches it early (when its FIRST lacking the PC board grounding, i.e: weird SWR. SOMETIMES if can be fixed by just tightening up the HF tuner board screws). Otherwise if left operating with weird operation can mess up the relay contacts in the tuner after awhile (then the tuner board has to be replaced) also this could lead to HF PA final failures ? Yes you would think Yaesu would address the bad INTERMITTENT grounding issues with the internal antenna tuners on the problem HF rigs over the MANY YEARS !

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !

Excellent Amateur Radio Transceiver  / Better Over the FT-450D for SWL Use.......however

Just as with the FT-450D, general receiver performance is very good to excellent, but with the fair to poor ergonomics, extremely annoying fan noise and limited MAIN tuning knob steps we feel the Yaesu FT-991A is again best suited ONLY as a amateur radio TRANSCEIVER. Mind you it makes for a good casual broadcast MW / SWL set, but for die-hard (and for only that purpose) it still is not a pleasant experience to us.

In our view, all around a used Icom IC-7200 or better yet a Icom IC-7300 (see our review click here) is a much better “transceiver” for SWL use even with IT'S own bugs and flat receive audio quality (and staying in the same price bracket). With maybe a transmit session on the Ham bands once in awhile (or not). IF you do not mind the excessive fan noise using it in receive only use and or poky fastest MAIN tuning knob speed, THEN a FT-991A might be more suited for YOU as a broadcast MW / SW listening set !


Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 2.4


Links for Additional Yaesu FT-991A Information (All subject to change without notice)
Poor Grounding in FT 991/A : Tuner causes high SWR warning after tuning
Yaesu FT-991A Amateur Radio Transceiver Articles Trove from PY2RAF
Yaesu FT-991A Improved HF SSB TX Equalizer settings with MH-31 Hand Microphone
Sherwood Engineering Test Numbers on the FT-991

You Tube Video's
N4HNH : FTdx10 & FT-991A SSB Receiver Comparison
N4HNH
: Yaesu FT-991A vs ICOM IC-7300 pulling out weak SSB signals
N4HNH : IC-7300 vs FT-991A vs FTdx5000MP (SSB mode)

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