Friday, March 29, 2019

New (for Me!) Radio Installation

Not new as in brand-new, but a new one to me.

When I got back into Amateur Radio in 1995, there were four new radios considered "Top of the Line", and they were all way out of my price range.

The Big Boys were the Kenwood TS-950SDX ($4600), The Icom IC-775DSP ($4800), the Ten-Tec Omni VI+ ($2600), and the Yaesu FT-1000D ($4000).

The following photos are courtesy of RigPix.com

The Ten-Tec was punching way above it's "price weight" performance-wise, but Ten-Tec always did that. Those radios didn't appeal to me because the fit-and-finish on them wasn't what you expected in a serious radio, and they were always built a bit flimsy. It weighed 16 pounds.




The Icom has a reputation of being a very good radio, but several of my friends had problems at the time with a variety of brand-new, right-outta-the-box, high-end, Icom radios either being DOA, or failing spectacularly in the first few months, so I tended to shy away from certain Icom radios of that time period. It weighed 37 pounds.





The Kenwood was (and still is) a spectacular radio. I have one and love it. With addition of a narrow Inrad "Roofing Filter", it can hold it's own against newer radios costing thousands of dollars. Very smooth, sweet "Kenwood Audio", and you can listen to it for hours. Even though it was sold as part of the Kenwood 950-series radios, it was a completely different design architecture than the other three 950-radios. When QST magazine reviewed it, they said it was so different than the others that they were surprised that Kenwood didn't call it the TS-960S. It weighed 51 pounds.




The Yaesu was the heavy-weight champ. These radios weigh in at 52 pounds. They will NOT slide around on your desk when you plug in your headphones! Yaesu also extensively supported all the DXpeditions of the time, supplying these radios to teams of Hams who dragged them all over the world to extremely remote locations, and ran them 24/7 for days while their operation took place. From "Arctic Cold to Tropical Heat", these radios got the snot beat out of them, and took it. Definitely a SOLID radio!




So even though I'd really like a new Flex Radio 6xxx series, or a new Kenwood TS-890, or (drooool) a Yaesu FTdx-5000, I really don't think I can justify spending $4k or more on a new radio and connect it to the compromise antennas I'm stuck with (BTW...got a 'quickie' antenna project brewing) at this location.

I already have a TS-950SDX, so why not look for a good used FT-1000D to go with it? I have comparable rigs from Hallicrafters and Drake, dating to the mid 1960's, so why not get the other 'book-end' to the Kenwood and fill out my mid 1990's collection?

Took a couple of months, but I found this one, and it's a honey.



The "CQ WW WPX SSB" contest is this weekend, so even though solar activity is bottomed-out, a major contest like this brings out all the Big Gun stations, and the bands get crowded with strong signals.

First impressions are....WoW, what a receiver! I'd forgotten what a difference it made to have IF Width and Shift controls available to zero in on a signal with. My little Elecraft K2 is quite a competent radio, but this thing just blows it in the weeds. True, they're completely different categories of radio, designed to different cost and performance parameters, so I shouldn't be surprised, but it's been so long since I've driven a truly high-end radio that I forgot how good they are at digging out a single, weak, signal when there's a much stronger signal close to it in frequency. Or in the case of a contest, an S9+ signal on either side of an S3 signal.

And keep in mind that this is an entirely ANALOG radio. It has a digital readout, digital controls, and uses Direct Digital Synthesis to generate the Local Oscillators and VFO's, but the entire signal path, from the antenna to the speaker, is analog.

No DSP (Digital Signal Processing) either Radio Frequency ("RF"), Intermediate Frequency("IF"), or Audio Frequency("AF") is used. This is where my Kenwood "cheats" a bit, by having some very good DSP at a "Low IF" point in the radio. The Kenwood also uses the DSP to detect and recover the audio, and process the transmit audio. The Yaesu is nothing but filters, oscillators, amplifiers, mixers. At no point in the signal chain does the signal get digitized, fiddled with, and then reconstituted back into analog, resulting in a different sound.

Kinda like playing a vinyl album on a turntable connected to a good amplifier and speakers vs playing a CD on a new stereo. They can both sound "good", but they also "different".

It's a classic design, done right, with quality parts, and careful attention paid to details like proper filtering, gain distribution, mixer drive levels, and low-noise oscillators.

Anyway...it's nice having a "real" radio again, even if I'm stuck with my BuddiStick for now.......

7 comments:

  1. I highly recommend the GAP Titan DX antenna...great piece of work.

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    1. I have several friends who have a Titan. They can be a PITA to get properly set-up, but work very well once you get them dialed in.

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  2. Replies
    1. Well...cosmetically it's gorgeous, but it has a few...uhhh...'issues' I'm going to have to repair.

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  3. To echo Larry Ransom, I had good luck with a GAP Titan. It got me on 80 when second best was a 40m OCFD. That was replaced with a Cushcraft MA8040V that required putting down radials and it's a bit better than the GAP, maybe half an S-unit. Maybe a full S-unit in the right conditions?

    Do you know how old that FT-1000 is? When they were produced? I'm kind of familiar with models that have letters after the number, a 1000D and a 1000MP, but not the 1000. It does seem like a high end radio, which is always good, and congrats. (52 pounds? Not sure my R-390A outweighs that!)

    I'll be the first to admit that I like the DSP features in the Icoms. My current station is actually all Icom, centered on an 8 year old IC-7600; the only Yaesu I own now is my HT, and my last Kenwood was in the late '80s. To my old ears, the noise reduction in the Icom sounds better than other radios, and I just find the radio less fatiguing to listen to for long periods.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, GAP Titans can perform quite well if they're properly installed.

      I'll have to 'decode' the s/n to see when she was built. They were first released in late 1989 (the manual copyright is 1990), and were produced through 2003, quite a long life for a 1990's Amateur Radio product.

      The 1000/1000D were the same radio. The "D" version came factory-loaded with all the crystal filters, the .5ppm TCXO, and the separate bandpass filter for the sub-receiver that allowed it to function as a completely independent 2nd receiver, allowing you to do full diversity reception.

      The FT-1000 and 1000D were Yaesu's top-of-the-line radio throughout their production life.

      The 1000MP was a completely different radio, relying on DSP to fight interference and process the audio. I had a 1000MP and I didn't care for it. When you really cranked up the DSP the audio got that weird, water, over-processed sound. And when the DSP was at 'normal' levels, it still had 'funny' audio.

      The AGC on this thing is phenomenal. I've always read about radios that you could hear and 'feel' the AGC "breathing", and this is the first one I've owned like that.

      This is the first solid-state radio I've owned that feels "alive" when you use it. I'm rather impressed with it.

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    2. @SiG - I just ran the serno through my Yaesu Secret Decoder Ring, and this radio was made in June 1994, so she's about midway through the production life.

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