New rigs at Dayton

A design philosophy that was suggested to me is fewer knobs the better.
Switches select and you only need (in theory) one knob for amounts.

I probably would not go that extreme, but three is plenty, providing they have multi-function.

Display technology is there, but think of OLEDS in sunlight. Fortunately, most manufacturers are aware of that problem.

I would really like to see someone use the display technology used on Kindles and the like. I am sure that would work well.

I think there is still a sizable market, which Elecraft or anybody else for that matter is not addressing. Maybe it will take someone within SOTA to actually get it right.


You just described the new Elecraft KX2.


You could go further than that…

… a (small) brick with an antenna connector is all you need (well, maybe a socket for a key and external power). All control and audio in/out can be handled by the portable computer with a great display that’s already in your pocket and probably gets updated to an even better one every couple of years.

Really that should have been done by now, but it hasn’t either :confused:

That sounds like the joint Austrian / German radio societies “New Radio” concept (Android phone + SDR radio) from last years Ham Radio event at Friedrichshafen, the report in June’s CQ DL magazine is that progress is slow however.

I’m not complaining as we are seeing more new radios at the moment than we have seen for a long time, so it seems the Amateur Radio market is still big enough to attract new developments from the commercial radio manufacturers.


:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
I agree with that. It seems really uninspired if a main selling feature of a brand new rig is its improved usability due to 16 knobs and buttons. While in today’s cars all the many features of the multimedia system, navigational system and the car info system can be controlled by using just one knob.

So why not using just one knob and if this single control element would even be detachable like the magnetic rotary knobs of modern kitchen stoves, nothing gets stuck when pulling the rig in and out of the backpack.

This would have even the advantage if you lost your magnetic rotary knob during a SOTA activation you just take the knob of your xyl’s kitchen stove for the next SOTA tour :wink:

73 Stephan, DM1LE

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I’m with Andy on this one. I dislike touch-screen control and multi-function knobs … especially the latter. It’s far too easy to make some unintended change because the multi-function knob is in the wrong “mode”. On many occasions, I have moved my frequency by about 50 kHz on the FT857 when trying to change the keyer speed! And that’s just one example of the dire consequences of multi-function.

As for touch-screen … I want a transceiver, not a computer!

Walt (G3NYY)

The trouble with that is touch screens and my fingers are NOT good friends! With both the phone and my tablet, they get an instruction from my finger and they do as they dam’ well please! I could see myself launching that setup over the nearest cliff in sheer frustration!


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Ah but there’s really no difference these days Walt. It’s the same thing.

What you do get to choose is the user interface. i.e. knobs and switches or touch screens (or both). This is clearly why FlexRadio have introduced the Maestro - to allow you to buy their radios and choose to use your PC or operate it with a “normal” UI based on a box with knobs and switches.

Similarly the EE MBR-1 looks like a “radio” but is in essence a PC in a box.

…and then there’s the new Icom 7300… I could go on.

73 Marc G0AZS

I actually don’t particularly think touch screen is suitable for /p, I didn’t suggest that Walt. Although a smart phone controlled brick would be cool to see.

In essence all modern radios have some form of computer to control the synthesizer, filter select. Most radios nowadays have IF DSP at some level. So really you won’t escape the computer unless you use an FT101 or similar !

If your display entirely changes as a result of a knob function change, and you still make the error, I put that down to simply not reading the display correctly.

UI design is difficult to get right. I could describe one in words a system, and it could relate to a unpleasant experience that someone else has had with another radios UI. Second to that you won’t please everyone one with a design.

I think generally though, most amateurs prefer less-is-more
That is probably one of the factors of why the MTR radios are so popular.


There is a fundamental issue here when it comes to radio controls. Are the controls required just to operate the set or is operating the controls part of the pleasure of using the radio. The 817 tuning knob is badly weighted and lacks feel. When you are portable, with gloves, it is very difficult to use. Many of us will have experienced the joy of tuning and searching for signals using sets with excellent controls. The tuning feel (even if tracking was a pain) of an AR88 or RA17 was great. Some amateur transceivers had splendid feel to the controls.

It’s like the gear shift on a car. It’s something entirely functional but it can be made to feel exquisite. I’ve had the pleasure of driving plenty of cars were this is true. For example, the old Ford 4 speed box in Cortina Mk III & IV was a joy. Whereas the operation of 5sp Ferrari gearbox ( 1982 308GTB, 1983 308GTS) was nasty. But not as bad as a 1982 Ferrari 512BB which basically was unusable until the box has warmed. Here were supercars that felt and operated worse than base models. The gear change in my Audi, along with all the buttons, have a resoundingly good feel. This is what is completely brain-damaged about using touch controls in a car. I can be traveling at high speed reach out to the audio controls, feel for the button and press it without taking my eyes off the road. To use touch controls you have to look for the button before pressing it.

The controls on the 817 are not good for people with bear sized paws like me and it’s far too cramped. But a small soft detent would make the tuning more usable. The alternative is the KX3 style of arrangement but that massively increases the volume of the unit.

Operating a radio with a new paradigm via a modern smartphone is perfectly possible whether it is any good in practice is very difficult to say.

Small size, small weight and ruggedness should be the main goals for a truly portable radio; everything else is optional. A low current draw is obviously very important, since it directly impacts battery size & weight. VHF/UHF multimode is a small niche that also has other options, that’s why I consider it a lesser priority.

As for improved ergonomics, I was thinking of maybe getting read of a few buttons unnecessary on the front panel (CLAR, HOME, V/M) and even the SQL/RF-G knob, and rearranging the rest in a practical manner. There’s always the option to use a computer/smartphone/tablet if you want extended MMI functionality.

I’ve voiced my opinion on another thread, Elecraft seems to have (again) missed the mark on ruggedness with the KX2, plus the fact that the battery is optional, offered by a third party and you need to take it out everytime you want to recharge it does not really qualify as “having Li-Ion”.


Certainly is, although I have to say the Eddystones are the best of that age. One spin of the VFO could get you from one end of the scale to the other. Yet the mechanism was the simplest of the lot. Most amusingly to me the RA17 actually uses bits of Meccano for the harmonic select tuning !

There is nothing that beats the feeling of satisfaction. Its an even better feeling when you have designed it yourself, I think that is ultimately why I choose to be an engineer.

Interesting, but as an SSB user I do nearly all my tuning with the select button, set to 1 kHz steps. That goes for the 857, too, even though the feel of the main tuner is much better. In fact you can tune any ham band the same way and only very rarely find a station that is off tune, so I guess that this is a common practice! I suspect that only CW users would make much use of the main tuner.

The epitome of tuners for me was the famous Eddystone drive, a fantastic piece of engineering that was a joy to use. I remember a friend made the G2DAF pair of separates, each with an Eddystone drive - superb feel! Ancient technology now, of course, but still remarkable.


How did they make that VFO frequency linear without using a funny shaped variable capacitor?? The film strip could have been printed to suit, but no, they got it bang on. Respect!


What other options are there for V/UHF multimode? You can add a very expensive 2 metre option to the KX3, or you can go to the FT857, or the older IC706 or FT100. Further back I suppose you could still get an FT290R I or II, and even the occasional FT790 might turn up, but realistically the FT817 is the only game in town for portable V/UHF multimode. That is why I hold the opinion that a “replacement” without V/UHF is not a replacement but something else entirely. Bearing in mind that 2 metres is the third most popular band for SOTA, a “replacement” without 2 metres is abandoning an important market.

The need for ruggedness puts a significant problem in the lap of the design engineer. Most of the weight of the FT817 and the 857 comes from the thick cast chassis. I reckon a small boulder could fall on top of the case and the rig would still work - though I wouldn’t care to prove this! The designers of the KX3 have decided that this is unnecessary and people will treat their rigs with care. They might be right, but I find the ruggedness of the 817 reassuring.

One thing to bear in mind when talking about weight is that if the activator is properly equipped for the mountains, the weight of the station will be only a small part of the weight of the pack. The 817 weighs approximately the same as a litre bottle of water for instance, and unless you are going to drink from streams (and risk liver fluke in sheep country!) you can’t cut back on water! Anybody who frequently treks above the tree line will be used to carrying loads.


I currently carry my Kenwood TS480 and they don’t seem interested in making anything smaller which is a pity as I like Kenwood rigs. It is too big and a bit too heavy at 4kg but more than most rigs. I am currently saving up for an FT817 and if the replacement doesn’t have 2m then I agree it’s not a full replacement as I want an all in one rig that’s smaller than my Kenwood and 2m ssb is a mode/band I want to try.

IC-7000, IC-7100, FT-991, FT-897, FT-847, TS-2000, IC-9100 etc. Not portable in the sense we understand it for SOTA purposes, but probably better suited than a FT-817 at most VHF/UHF multimode needs: DX, contests, satellites, transverters etc.

Sure, 2m portable is very popular, but most of those 2m activations were done on cheap, 200-gram FM radios, not multimode transceivers. Maybe Andy can help us with some database statistics, but I’d guess that cumulated 2m and 70cm SSB/CW activations won’t account for more than 5% of the total SOTA QSO’s, and a considerable part of those were probably done just because some contest was taking place. It’s not essential, it’s just a feature that gets used sometimes.

Anyway, it’s great we don’t agree on what the FT-817’s successor should be like, at least some of us will be happy when it comes out :).


You Never know yaesu may read these sort of foeumns for market research. Seen as Elecraft heavily mentions SOTA in their new KX2 rig.

No New rig when it comes out is a successor to a previous rig (at least not to start with), otherwise the stock that the companies and dealers have of the old model becomes worthless. So the FT991 is not a replacement for the FT-897 and the FT-891 is not a successor for the FT-857, at lest that is … until Yaesu dealers have cleared all their stock of FT-857 and 897 models.