I see there are many here using the FT-818/817. I am in the market for a multi band qrp rig for mostly cw but if I have option to use ssb that is a plus. My questions are, is it nice to operate on cw and does it have a decent internal keyer? Is it functional without the narrow cw filter as these seem hard to get? Any other points you may want to throw in. Thnx I realize there are more modern feature rich qrp rigs available now but they are also double the.price too.
I have over 1000 activations mainly using an FT817 on SSB/FM. I did have a KX2 for a time but I live in Scotland and the KX2 did not survive our varied climate. I have no experience with CW but I recommend the FT817 for robust quality and longevity.
I owned a 817ND 4 years ago.
The rig works great, but is not the better plattform for CW mode if you don’t install narrow filter (300 or 500).
I remember the change after install the filter.
The problem will be found a narrow filter. I think it is discontinued, almost in Spain It is impossible get one.
There are other options, like IC-705 or KX2, but both cost about double price than 818.
I have an FT817ND that I used to use on CW. The filter is too wide so I have a Sotabeams audio DSP filter which works really well but is an extra thing to carry and plug in. This was part of the motivation for homebrewing my two SOTA transceivers which is all I use for HF SOTA now.
Hi, the 817/818 is a TANK.
Before buying any filter you can play with the CLAR and RIT and use the best filters ever: Your ears and brain.
But well, for improving these natural filters is necessary practice, Practice and PRACTICE.
I have the FT-817 (2001 model) and whilst it’s a great radio, I feel that it is now rather long in the tooth.
The keyer is OK, but there’s no features beyond the usual speed change /ratio/ paddle sense. There’s no keyer timing options (Iambic A, B etc) you’re stuck with default. There’s no keyer memories, so without an external keyer, you have to send CQs by yourself.
By modern standards, the radio is power hungry, although modern batteries makes that less of an issue (although the internal battery is worse than useless, the aftermarket ones aren’t much better).
The RX is fine with a filter, but it’s not pleasant without.
If CW was the mode of choice, I wouldn’t choose an FT-817/8, I’d get a dedicated CW rig probably, like an MTR or Venus SW-3B etc.
If you want to do all modes, then the FT817/8 is a viable choice, but again, it’s old tech and doesn’t include speech processing on TX or luxuries such as antenna tuners etc.
I guess an external audio filter might be useful in the absence of a narrow filter, something like a NESCAF filter (https://www.newenglandqrp.org/nescaf/) or if thd budget allows, a SOTAbeams Wolfwave or similar.
I’ve enjoyed owning my FT817 and I’ll never sell it, but it rarely gets used these days.
Thanks everyone for the input. I have considered something like the Venus SW-3b. I have a line on a used KX3 but I’m having a hard time with the cost. All I do is portable operating so it would certainly get use. The cost as in taking that much expense into the field.
I really like my FT-818, but if I were to do it over I would secure a CW filter before I purchased the rig. I did multiple activations with mine using no CW filter and it worked alright, but the adjacent signals were distracting to me at times. I was able to trade my SSB filter for a 500hz CW filter and it’s a huge improvement for my operation.
It’s nice to have the 2m/70cm all mode, as well.
Edited to add: I operate with a straight key in the field and at home, for what it’s worth.
73 de Jonathan “JB”
JP3PPL is right, the FT817/818 is a tank, its robustness outweighs any perceived deficiency in the age of its design. Once when I was activating G/DC-007 a rock about the size of my head was dislodged from the rim of the shelter and landed on my FT817, the rig did not shift in frequency and the only damage was a small scratch in the paint. I doubt if the KX2 or 3 would have survived that impact!
My FT817 has and still is a great radio for QRP portable ops. I have used one for several years portable and on SOTA VKFF. It’s my go to test radio for any antenna testing or tuning activity as well. My latest use for the FT817 is portable / VKFF SOTA digital modes using the SCU17 interface to a small laptop it gives me a extra couple modes along with CW SSB to make a score on any activation. I was lucky to get a CW filter for mine 2nd hand but It works fine without the filter and I have the SOTABEAMS Speech compressor to push the audio a little bit harder on SSB.
Ian vk5cz …
The FT817 is a “do it all” radio. Being an old VHF OP I originally bought the 817 for the 6/2/432 bands only…HF was a don’t care when I bought the radio.
Then I found SOTA …and with the 817/818 (I have both) I can operate all bands on the Traditional Modes from 160 Meters thru 432 MHz…which for me is a big deal. Can’t do that with any other radio.
Old technology, but the radio is indeed a TANK…The weight is not an issue at all for me…2 lbs is not a problem.
I have the 500 Hz CW filter with mine.
I own two 818’s that I pair together for satellite QSOs (AMSAT grid chasing/roving as well as SOTA activations) and break apart and hike with a single one for HF-only SOTA activations. Or, if I’m doing both sats and HF on a summit this is what it looks like:
If you take the above image and place it on my desk at home it’s also the rig I chase SOTA with, just with a different keyer and a power supply.
All that to say: it’s a great radio that is reliable, well-built, and through many activations and several trips to the park for satellite grid chasing, the only problem I’ve ever had was the front/rear antenna relay in one of them developed a slight tendency to get stuck but would eventually fix itself. I need to send it off to be looked at eventually lol.
Say what you will about having to bring a separate tuner for random wire setups but I can’t recommend it highly enough!
I have the 817/ND and now also the SW-3B. I use mainly CW but sometimes SSB or FM on 2m/70cm or 50MHz. It is nice to have all the bands and modes on a single portable radio. The only issue is the power consumpion (you need a big battery pack for long activations). Now for activations the SW-3B is very very light and saves much power so you can use very light batteries. In CW I don’t feel big differences with 817 or my old IC765. I don’t need a DSP in activation, my ears and my brain are sufficient and on the summits the QRM/QRN is quite inhexistant. Buy the 817/818 with no problems and also the SW-3B. The total amount will be less than for a single KX2/KX3!
73 Claudio IX1IHR
I use a FT817ND since 2016 for SOTA and I like this machine.
Like Claudio wrote:
And it’s really robust.
Last year I remembered my (limited) CW skills from former times and activated also this way. Fortunately I’ve got the last CW filter (500 Hz) from a local dealer. It’s pleasant doing CW with the TRX. I don’t miss a memory for CQ. It was discussed here some time ago. If someone isn’t good in CW and using a memory for CQ, the op on the other side may get the wrong impression about the skills.
And my 4 Ah LiFePo is good for some hours of activation.
I have two 817s, both the original model, not ND. I started SOTA in 2013 using the 817.
I now use them mainly as transverter drivers, but have also used one recently on HF where I wanted one rig to operate on 2m ssb as well as HF ssb/cw. I have a Pico Keyer that I carry in the bag with the 817 and that allows for simple speed adjustments and some canned messages for CQ etc.
They are a pretty reliable radio, if treated well. If you try using them into a mismatched antenna the final amplifier can be broken in some situations, just like any radio would. An external ATU is essential unless you always use resonant antennas with a reasonably good impedance of around 50 ohms at the bottom of the feedline. The Elecraft T1 is a good wide range automatic ATU for this power level and the LDG models all work well too though they are larger than the T1. But a home made tuning unit may be all you need, depending on the bands used. There are many designs available on the web. All much cheaper than commercially made ATUS. You don’t really need automation, it’s just a luxury.
I have a CW filter 500hz in mine and that is essential on crowded bands. An audio filter is a second best option, but as Collins no longer manufactures any mechanical filters, there will be no new IF filters available - ever, unless Yaesu has a secret cache of them for the 818. Beware the sellers on auction sites offering “narrow filters” that are actually wider than the stock ceramic filter and with a dubious shape factor. There is no benefit to using a 2.8 khz filter, unless we all do. Wider signals, wider receiver bandwidth, what’s to like about that (some may differ, ok no probs). When you make a marginal dx contact and can onlly just hear the other guy, you do not care about his audio quality at the top end of the speech spectrum, if you can hear the signal report that’s all you need. Narrower bandwidths are better for communications, down to about 2.1 khz which is what the renowned Collins S-line and KWM2 used.
The main drawback to the aged design of the 817 series is the power consumption. Approximately 400 mA on receive, slightly more with the rear antenna socket relay engaged, Compare this with 200-220mA for the KX series. You spend more time on receive than on transmit so it makes a difference to the battery life, though a 2AH battery can power an 817/8 for at least 2 hours with heavy transmit usage. And compare that again with the power requirements of the specialist cw rigs like the QCX series and the MTRs, which draw less than 100 ma on receive and a bit less than an amp on transmit - but are hf cw only. Compromises and tradeoffs…
The 817 radios are designed to work at all power levels up to 5w on a 9.6v power source. Supplying any more is pointless as the extra voltage is washed off with voltage regulators, other than for the final amplifier. This makes it ideal for a 3s LIPO battery, which starts off at over 12v fully charged, but then takes a long time before it gets to 10v. Power levels are set by software gain settings in the tx IF and regulated by an ALC system.
And on the topic of power, Elecraft watts don’t go any further than Yaesu watts, 5 watts from either radio produces the same reading on a power meter or an S meter at the other end. 10 watts is only 3db more than 5w and nothing in the ads can beat that fact. I’ve made trans-Pacific and Australia-UK contacts on an 817 at 5w. It’s slightly easier using a bit more power, 10 or 15w from the KX3.
In the end, you cannot buy the ultimate ideal best radio because it doesn’t exist. And it won’t be the last radio you buy for SOTA. A used 817 is a very good deal and starter rig that may well last you for at least one MG award if not more! In 10 years we will still be using FT817s unless crucial spare parts become unavailable.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA
I agree with you 100% Andrew. I myself have driven many qso with the 817 very successfully.
But the availability of the CW filter is a real problem. Incidentally, for all conventionally designed trx. Without a 500Hz filter, access to telegraphy is made very difficult, especially for beginners. It would be a pity if someone were prevented from learning telegraphy in this way.
I can understand that Yaesu is sticking to the outdated but semi-genuine concept with the current 818. But without a factory-installed filter or a reliable source for it, the device is unfortunately not a real all-mode device.
I’m not so sure about that. Sixty years ago many SWLs learned CW using old military receivers that were drifty and as wide as the proverbial barn door, things like the TCS, R1155, PCR available in huge numbers, but despite that they managed OK. Without a narrow filter you just have to learn to home in on the pitch of the wanted signal and mentally tune out all the others. Of course if you are one of the 5% of the population that suffer from amusia (tone deafness) you would have a problem!
Totally agree with you.
817/818 without CW filter to start on CW os not the better option.
I remember in 2017 when I was rookie on CW mode, I owned a 817 and a Tentec R4030 and I was much more comfortable with Tentec than 817 with filter.
Later I installed narrow 500hz filter and the world opened up to me…
I can’t understand why Yaesu sells SSB filters bit not CW…
They sure would if they could. I assume that there hasn’t been a manufacturer for a long time and that stocks have been used up.
But, stimulated by this discussion, I looked for it on ebay.de 15 minutes ago and successfully bought one. Hope, it’s fine. My radio friend Ingo was very happy that he now has his 818 complete.
I suspect that the SSB filters in the older military TXR without current SDR technology are still in use worldwide. And the production is still worthwhile.
That begs the question. In which area besides ours is cw still used?