Tuesday 12 May 2020

FT3 vs D74


That is the question I see posted so often in forums and groups. Do you go for the Yaesu FT3D or the Kenwood TH-D74? Well I actually chose the D74 and then later added the FT3, so I'm in the fortunate position to be able to compare both of them side by side AND compare DSTAR with FUSION.

Let me say right from the start that this is no technical test and there'll be no oscilloscopes involved, 😂 - it's just plain old amateur me and my very amateur opinions. You will have your opinions and I will respect them, so please respect mine 😉

The D74 is probably the most expensive Amateur HT every made. I fully appreciate that not many people can afford (or even want) to spend £600 (at launch) on a handheld transceiver, but secondhand units are now becoming available for £400+ (usually with valuable accessories), making them a
 very desirable radio.

It's an awesome bit of kit and it just oozes quality! Kenwood's cutting-edge piece of portable technology is the first to incorporate APRS and DSTAR.

In the US markets, the D74 is a tri-bander with 144/220/430MHz coverage, but here in Europe we don't get the 220. It has a wideband, multimode receiver covering 0.1 to 524MHz.

Operating modes include CW, LSB, USB, AM, FM, WFM and DSTAR of course. Being able to listen to HF stations on SIDEBAND is a MASSIVE PLUS to me and I now struggle to take a portable HT out with me that doesn't have this facility. 

Just a couple of months ago I was sat in the lounge playing with the D74 when I heard a station calling on 20M. I had previously been sat in the shack with an expensive base station and an EFHW complaining that the band was dead, and here I was now, sat on the couch with a little hand held and a ferrite rod, picking up a station (IZ6BXV) some 1800km away! I returned to the shack and got the caller in my log. Don't get me wrong, the HF receiver is no TS-990 lol, but if you're out and about on the hillsides, you're going to have some listening fun that wouldn't be available to you if you took the FT3.

The D74  turns out to be a superb Airband Scanner too and is very sensitive. The memory-scan speed is fast enough not to miss any juicy transmissions and the only downside of using the D74 at air shows/ports is that it's an awfully expensive thing to risk dropping/losing when your mind is on so many other things. I suggest you buy a leather case and shoulder-strap! Obviously, the radio allows you to listen to both Civil & Military airband transmissions, AM & HF. How cool is that?

The APRS facility is fully featured - probably the most comprehensive available and the built-in GPS is super fast at locking on to satellites even indoors. The only bug-bear for me is that the GPS icon flashes when it's locked on and is solid when it has not acquired a lock. A bit counter-intuitive!

The radio has built-in Bluetooth and it works pretty well with a variety of devices for TX/RX, but it goes one (or two) steps further by allowing you to Read/Write memories with the FREE Kenwood software MCP-D74 and even for controlling the radio via the FREE Kenwood software ARFC-D74


ARFC-D74 free software

MCP-D74 free software

In fact, you can even use the popular HDSDR software with the D74's IF OUT to get yourself a panadapter and waterfall (albeit a narrower bandwidth than you may be used to). Now that is fantastic if you fancy taking a little radio and laptop/tablet away on holiday for some serious SWLing. 

Both the D74 and the FT3D come with a USB lead but the BIG DIFFERENCE is that the one which comes with the FT3D does not allow you to connect to your PC for running any software other than firmware updating.

In fact, in order to do something as simple as editing your radio memories via a PC, you  have to purchase a £70 lead!!!! That is shocking and Yaesu should hang their heads in shame!

At the end of the day, one of the biggest deciding factors for buying one of these radios is going to be whether you are a DSTAR fan or a C4FM fan. 

I was interested in both modes but having experienced them side by side, I find DSTAR slightly more user-friendly and easier to obtain a connection and maintain it. Also, I find DSTAR audio more pleasant to listen to and more intelligible. In all fairness to the Fusion System though, the audio could be improved if everyone used the Voice Wide mode instead of keep using Narrow 😵

And the digital audio of the D74 is exceptionally good - you just know when someone's using a 74 - it sounds that good. The radio includes an equaliser not only for RX but also for TX. Kenwood have this reputation as the Kings Of Audio and it's well deserved. 

Kenwood TH-D74  &  Yaesu FT3D

On the subject of  audio, let me tell you that there's a world of difference between the D74 and the FT3's speaker. The 74 wins hands down!! I've read a few stories where people actually sent their FT3 back to the store after hearing the audio output and I understand why. 

And even with both radios plugged into their OEM speaker-mics, Kenwood wins again - easily! In addition to sounding better, the Kenwood speaker-mic also has a handy rotary volume control where the Yaesu doesn't. Why use a speaker-mic in the first place if the D74's internal speaker is so good? - because it's good to get some separation between the radio and head/body and it feels so much more natural to operate with a fist mic. Plus, on windy days, you can comfortably hold the speaker-mic up against your ear.

The FT3 is wide and stumpy, and although I don't particularly like the D74's shape and size, it feels better in the hand. The negative thing about Kenwood's handheld is that you're always worried about dropping it because of its value.

The (2.2Ah) batterylife on the Yaesu seems to be significantly better than the (1.8Ah) Kenwood, so I ended up buying a spare battery for the 74 - a negative for the Kenwood. 

This is beginning to sound like I'm an FT3D Basher. I'm not. I paid strong money for this radio and I'm not here to slag it. It's a beautiful radio with a gorgeous, colour touch-screen (although the fact that it's recessed makes some menu options awkward to select) and superb VHF/UHF performance. At the time of writing, it's Yaesu's flagship HT and is the perfect portable for C4FM users. It's also about two thirds of the price of the D74 which is very significant!

But money aside, the D74 is the clear winner as far as I'm concerned. It just does everything so well and so easily. It has so many features and facilities which suit me and of course, it has that HF SSB/CW receiver. The FT3D has much wider RX coverage but it's all above 500MHz where I never venture. I prefer that the D74 actually goes lower down.

The D74 feels great in your hand, looks good, has a high resolution screen, richly featured APRS, fast GPS, superb audio (including adjustable TX/RX filters) and much much more. 

I have no reachable DSTAR/C4FM Repeaters in my area so I am not biased in favour due to accessibility. I actually use an OpenSpot2 for both radios (although I have a DVAP dongle for the Kenwood too).

I think I may sell my FT3D because I just don't use it enough. I LOVE how Kenwood provide everything you need from the get-go including fully functioning cables, drivers and software (memory-management and control). 

Having said that, one of the Radio Clubs I joined has just been granted permission to build a 70cm Fusion Repeater, so I'll wait to see if I'm in the catchment area before selling. If I can join my pals and others easily and without any problems, then hey, it'll be a keeper!

Kenwood D74 Quick Review

Yaesu FT3D Quick Review

The TH-D74 is, in my opinion, the best HT ever built. A true classic! It started to hit the UK stores in 2017 and five years later, no one has surpassed it. Even Icom's very latest HT, the ID-52E lacks the D74's feature set. 

Sadly, the D74's life has ended prematurely due to the fire in Japan's biggest semiconductor factory. For the same reason, Yaesu and Icom were forced to stop making some of their radios too. I believe that the D74 will become a collector's item in the not too distant future - if you own one, look after it!

UPDATE 1 : Since writing this post, my local radio club has erected its C4FM repeater  I will probably keep hold of my FT3D though, because I've got an SCU-39 cable-kit CHEAP so I can connect it to Wires-X on my PC, so the FT3D has won a stay of execution LOL. I also use it at my caravan with the OpenSpot4. 

Since writing this post, the NWFG have expanded C4FM coverage significantly and have encouraged people to use VW which really makes a difference to the audio. I spend much more time on Fusion than I did before and I now have a DSTAR/C4FM 50/50 split in terms of usage.

UPDATE 2 : October 2023 : Kenwood have announced the imminent arrival of the 74's replacement radio, the TH-D75. It looks very similar to the 74 but has some new features. Will I upgrade? No, the 74 will always have a place in my shack.

Key Features...

2m/70cm Dual-Band Digital Handheld Transceiver providing reliable 5W RF power output in a light weight, compact design. Even in its amazingly small size for a full-featured 144/440 MHz HT, enjoy analog FM and digital C4FM voice quality with 700mW of audio power. 

Two independent receivers support true dual-band operation (V+V, U+U, V+U, U+V), plus C4FM digital voice and data with the A and B receivers, C4FM and C4FM standby. The FT3DR has an eye-catching full color high-resolution TFT LCD touch display which highlights the frequencies of both operational bands. With ease of use in mind, three-in-one touch-keys at the bottom of the display access mode change, direct frequency entry and the function menu. 

The high visibility color display enables the advanced features of the new High-Resolution Band Scope. Monitor up to 79 channels centered on the current VFO frequency in real time. Bluetooth is built-in! The FT3DR features voice activated transmission (VOX) to enjoy hands-free operation with the optional Yaesu Bluetooth Headset, model SSM-BT10, which is also equipped with a PTT button for standard operation. 

All of features of System Fusion II are in the FT3DR C4FM Digital HT; Automatic Mode Select (AMS), Digital Group ID (DG-ID) operation, Smart Navigation functions and more...

-Transmit Frequency Range (USA): 144 – 148 MHz, 430 – 450 MHz 
-Wide-range RX coverage with continuous reception from 500 kHz to 999.99 MHz (A Band)/ 108 MHz to 580 MHz (B Band) 
-Simultaneous AM/FM broadcast Reception while monitoring two frequency channels 
-Built-in High-Sensitivity 66 channel GPS receiver and APRS Data modem (1200/9600bps) 
-Built-in On/Off Timer, Automatic Power Off (APO) and Time-out Timer (TOT) 
-2,200mAh High-Capacity Li-ion Battery Pack (SBR-14LI) as standard 
-Individually selectable power levels by band to save battery power; 5W, 2.5W, 1W and 0.3W 
-micro SD Card Slot supports Voice Recording Function; received and transmitted audio saved as files 
-WiRES-X Portable Digital Node Function support 
-CAM (Club Channel Activity Monitor) Function 
-IPX5 Rating Water Protection 
-Dimensions (WHD): 2.44 x 3.94 x 1.28 inches without knobs and antenna 
-Weight: 9.95 oz. (282g) with battery pack

Key Features...

Compatible with the APRS communication protocol, which allows real-time two-way data transmission by using packet communications. This stand-alone device provides enjoyment of communications that make use of a variety of features, including sharing of local and GPS positional information and message exchange.

Compatible with D-STAR, the amateur radio communications network that has both voice and data modes. Both local and international communications are possible through diverse operations including simplex communications, single repeater relay communications and inter-repeater gateway communications.

* Wideband and multimode reception.
* Built-in IF filter for comfortable reception
* IF output mode
* High-performance DSP voice processing.
* Tough weatherproofing meeting IP54/55 standards
* Easily understandable pop-up screens
* Built-in GPS

Receiver Sensitivity - Main & Sub Bands
Amateur Band
FM / NFM 144 MHz Band-A: 0.18 / 0.22 uV
FM / NFM 144 MHz Band-B: 0.19 / 0.24 uV
FM / NFM 430 MHz Band-A: 0.18 / 0.22 uV
FM / NFM 430 MHz Band-A: 0.20 / 0.25 uV
DV PN9 / GMSK 4.8 kbps, BER 1% 144 MHz Band-A: 0.20 uV / 0.22 uV
DV PN9 / GMSK 4.8 kbps, BER 1% 430 MHz Band-B: 0.22 uV / 0.24 uV
SSB 10 dB S/N Band-A: 0.16 uV
AM 10 dB S/N Band-B: 0.50 uV

RX 0.1 - 524 MHz 


144-146MHz, 430-440MHz

5W - 2W - 0.5W - 0.05W



TX - 4 Bands
RX - 5 Bands

Yes - to internal SD Card

W x H x D
with KNB-75L: 56.0 x 119.8 x 33.9 mm
with KNB-74L: 56.0 x 119.8 x 29.3 mm
with KBP-9: 56.0 x 119.8 x 36.0 mm
- Projections not included -

with KNB-75L: 345 g (w/ antenna, belt clip)
with KNB-74L: 315 g (w/ antenna, belt clip)
with KBP-9: 360 g (w/ antenna, belt clip, AAAx6 battery)

DC-IN: DC 11.0 - 15.9 V (STD: DC 13.8V)
BATT: DC 6.0 - 9.6 V (STD: DC 7.4V)

Yes - IP54/55

Thanks for the visit! Please feel free to comment on your opinion of the FT3D or TH-D74


Unknown said...

A few notes, I own both radios and a DMR one as well (anytone 878)
Where I live D-Star is basically DEAD, the closest repeater I can bring up, requires hooking up a Diamond x510 base antenna to the HT, and the gateway on that repeater keeps crashing, so no real experience on d-star, where I live fusion is real popular, and is actually really easy to operate for me.

Now, I don't know about your comment about the display on the D74 being "touchscreen" my d74 does not have that function, unless there is a hidden menu for this capability which I have not found.

On the D74, it is a great radio, wonder to have full access to the TNC in it. But you pay for that in the higher cost of the d74.

As for programing the ft3, You can use the a MicroSD card and the free software from their website, yes it is a bummer they did not provide the USB/TTL cable with it, but I guess since they were trying to save money somewhere.

My primary use for these radios (D74, FT3, D878) is for their bluetooth capability, to use with my Cardo SHO-1 set in my helmet.
For MC use on analogue, the Anytone D878 plus, is the winner in my book, with the remote bluetooth PTT button.

Now the D74, is nice for packet type work with it's full featured TNC, which is nice to have.

And the FT3, is my carry around radio for digital, as like I stated before, Fusion works well where I live. DMR is 2nd, and D-Star is non-existant unless you go to some extremes, like a high gain base antenna...

Thank for the article - DE AD7NY

MadDogMcQ said...

Hi Jonathan and thank you for visiting the blog and contributing - it's appreciated. With regard to the "touchscreen" you are of course correct - that was me with a head full of phrases, lol. I've edited the post now.

I'm pleased that you have good C4FM activity locally - it makes a big difference when you can use RF instead of relying on an internet connection and a hotspot.

I think maybe one of the Fusion issues for me is that I DO have to go through an OpenSpot and I think maybe there are too many modes of operation which make it result in flaky operation for me. I can be having a great chat on C4FM and then all of a sudden it goes pear-shaped and more knowledgable operators tell me that it's because of cross-moding. If everyone was using the same mode on a portal, things would run smoother?

Anyway, we all have to deal with our local issues and operate accordingly.

Again, many thanks for your visit.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

RandyGC said...

Thanks for the link for the ARFC-D74 software. I'd missed that somehow when grabbing software from the Kenwood site. I may not use it much the way I operate, but it's always good to have another tool in the kit.

I've had my D74 for a couple of years now and still haven't found anything to complain about. The only change I would make would be to replace D-Star with DMR as that is becoming more active in EMCOMM in my area, and I don't have much interest in D-Star or Fusion as such.

Being in the US, the 220 is handy in my area as some of the repeaters are linked to 2M repeaters, allowing me to access multiple repeaters in a small space at net control during a public service or ARES event wile avoiding intermod.

Nice write up. I'll be poking around the blof to see what else you have.


Randy KA0AZS

MadDogMcQ said...

Hey Randy, your visit is very much appreciated buddy. Take care and stay safe.

73, Tom, M7MCQ

Peyton Bass said...

Very helpful and interesting information. However, I am a bit confused. You stated the D74 is a Superb Airband Scanner, but looking at the Kenwood website the Specs don't show the AM Airband available for RX. Did I miss something?

MadDogMcQ said...

Hi and thanks for visiting the blog. Yes, the TH-D74E covers the airband and even has the 8.33 Step. The 74'd wideband receiver is only available on the B-Band though.

Regards, Tom, M7MCQ.

MadDogMcQ said...

Band A: TX 144-146, 430-440 MHz, RX 136-174, 410-470 MHz (FM, NFM, DV)
Band B: RX 0.1 - 524 MHz (FM, NFM, WFM, AM, SSB, CW)