N9EWO Review :
HF / 6 Meter DSP Transceiver
Optional Accessory Tested :
MH-67A8J Hand Microphone : China
N9EWO's Review : YAESU FT-450D HF / 6 Meter Transceiver
You will see reference in this report with comparisons made to the Icom IC-7600 and discontinued 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).
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
Yaesu gives just a few selected ones. 3 for SSB, 3 for FM, 3 for CW and
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
AM bandwidths available (certainly above 8 kHz) being our main interest
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
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
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 noise mix is a real issue. The Icom IC-7200 has none of this nonsense.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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
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).
“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.
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.
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
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 the 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).
c N9EWO, all rights reserved
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Links and References (subject to change without notice) :
Yaesu FT-450 Technical Supplement (Service Manual)
Icom IC-7200 Service Manual
Icom IC-7600 Service Manual
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