Monday, 20 September 2021

YAESU FT-891 & FC-50

 

YAESU FT-891 REVIEW

This is a quick review of a new radio which I bought (Sep 2021). It's a really nice 160-6M mobile with a built-in 3kHz Roofing Filter and a nice set of (32bit) DSP tools to dig out the weak signals and make them intelligible. It's very compact and weighs under 2 kilos despite housing a 100W amplifier.

NOW PLEASE BEAR IN MIND that this is no technical review - it's just a lowly M7 Operator talking about a radio. I don't have a degree in electronics and my oscilliscope is currently out of order 😂. Too many people get their knickers in a twist if you say anything negative about their beloved radio. And before you go spending money on a new radio, always consider investing in a better antenna first.

When this radio was due to be launched, many people though that it was going to be a replacement for the FT-857 Shack-In-A-Box - maybe even an SDR - but the truth was, Yaesu wanted to keep making the 857 because there was still plenty of demand for it. The '91 was aimed at a different buyer altogether - someone who wanted a more specialist HF mobile rig - a more up-to-date Triple Superhet with modern DSP.

Some hams have enough spare money to buy a 100W radio to keep in the shack and another one to keep in their Truck or Field Box.  Others can't afford multiple radios and need a single radio to meet all their HF needs and this could be it. The FT-891 is a superb radio for the budget-conscious operator - it probably can't be bettered in terms of performance at this price level. Price-wise, the closest thing to the 891 is the FT-450 which is much older technology and lacks the sophistication of the 891.

The radio design features a detachable head-unit, allowing you to hide the base unit somewhere convenient and have the head-unit in a convenient location (eg on your vehicle's dashboard or centre-console). Needless to say, you'll need a "Separation Kit" to do that, which costs extra.

I've always fancied an 891 but other things (radios) kept getting in the way. Eventually, I got one, along with some accessories.

Separation Kit YSK-891

As soon as the 891 arrived, I started to look for a matching FC-50 ATU. Searches revealed limited options; there's not many of these around right now, but eventually I found one in stock.


The FT-891 is a fabulous radio, but it’s even better with its matching ATU! 


Once I got the gear into the shack, I set about doing the hateful job of updating the firmware. There was an update for the main unit and another for the DSP, but the LCD didn't require anything. It's important to install the proper drivers from the YAESU website before plugging a USB cable between the radio and computer. Read the FirmWare Installation Guide very carefully before proceeding.

With the FT-891 running the very latest firmware, I plugged it in and performed a quick radio test on 40M & 20M with a Special Event Station 3Z20UR and received good reports both times using low power into an EFHW. For this first test, I actually hooked the radio up to my MFJ993B tuner because it was already setup on the shelf.

Having confirmed that the radio was performing as it should, I loaded HAM RADIO DELUXE V670269 and configured it for the 891. It performed flawlessly and so I spent a few minutes creating a new layout.

 

Spending more time playing around with the rig, I discovered that I wasn't totally happy with the audio from its speaker, so I plugged in an external speaker and there was very little improvement. I was starting to think that the radio sounded a bit tiring! 

YAESU FT-891
And then I remembered to do what I'm always telling others to do - TURN DOWN THE RF GAIN!! Once I'd remembered my own advice, the radio's audio changed dramatically from being loud, noisy and annoying, to being pleasant to listen to - matching its reputation. The (mono) speaker socket at the back of the radio is further supplemented by a socket on the side of the front panel. This extra socket can be used with a speaker or a pair of stereo headphones (not a headset though).

The FT-891 is a very highly specified radio with internals similar to the FT-DX3000 and it's amazing how they crammed so much into such a small package. Needless to say, there has to be compromises with such a small rig and this does, of course, mean that there's not many physical buttons available. Instead, you have to go into the menus - and there are lots of them! Thankfully, the big screen (relative to the older FT-8nn radios) makes the menus easy to read.

Having previously owned an FT-818 and an FT-897, I'm used to the Yaesu menu system and I don't struggle with it at all. Most of the time I set everything up and it stays the same anyway! There are 3 customisable buttons on the front of the radio and that's enough most of the time. All the buttons on the 891 are illuminated by the way👍.

It puzzled me to find that there is an unused button on the radio which could have been assigned to a frequently used task. Perhaps they’ll do something with a future update.

FT-891 & FC-50 Rear View

Just a minute ago I was listening to someone on 14.285MHz and someone else started up a QSO on 14.286MHz. Using the tools built into the FT-891, I was easily able to remove the interfering signal. Moments later I was listening to a guy on 40M with a pile-up and he was doing his very best to pick out the callsign of a distant station. I too was struggling to hear him, but with a bit of the 891's DNR and a -400Hz shift, the callsign came easily. None of this is new of course when you're sat in your shack with access to full-size base stations, but it's good to see such a wide range of tools in something at this size and this price!

Its performance 'in the flesh' does not reflect its performance 'on paper'. Time and time again I've heard people loudly sing the praises of this radio despite some unfavourable measurements taken in review labs. It just goes to show that things can add up to more than the sum of all their parts. 

AUDIO :
The FT-891 has plenty of options to adjust the audio qualities of both RX and TX. Using the MONITOR function, a pair of headphones and a dummy load, it's easy to experiment with the TX settings to get the best sounding transmissions. Having said that, the default settings and standard mic sound really good! I also have an ADONIS desk-mic which  I tried with the radio and it sounds fabulous. The beauty of the Adonis is that it has a speech-compressor built-in with a rotary dial to make adjustments on the fly. Plus you can switch the mic between two radios. I have mine connected to the FT-891 and my FTM300.



On 40M, Maurits from Norway (LA3XIA) was kind enough to give me a radio-report and focused strongly on my audio using this mic. He was incredibly detailed and equally complimentary. As a fan of ESSB, he told me that he didn't think there was anything that I could do to improve it - it was that good!  He described it as "Superb"!  I also worked Matt from Florida (W1MBB) on 17M (my very first phone contact on that band). Matt was also complimentary and said my signal was very punchy but still easy to listen to. These reports were the best I've ever had - using any radio/mic combination!

DATA : 
Although the 891 has a USB port, it is only for CAT control and cannot be used for DATA modes such as FT8 because there's no built-in sound card, so you'd need to add a SignaLink or  CT39A patch lead. That's fine by me at this price and I'll update this page as soon as I've finished a comprehensive FT8 session with WSJT-X. In the meantime, here’s the settings you need to alter in the radio for DATA modes….

Yaesu FT-891 Digital Operations Settings Menu

5-6 Cat Rate: 38400 5-7 CAT TOT: 1000 msec 5-8 CAT RTS: Disable 8-1 Data Mode: PSK 8-9 Data In Select: Rear 8-10 Data PTT Select: DAKY 8-11 Data Out Level: 50 8-12 Data BFO: USB 16-03 HF Power: 10 (I’m qrp but you could go up to 30W) *Make a note of the original settings.

Some people have compared the FT-891 with the IC-7300 and personally, I think that's a bit of a silly comparison to make - they are like chalk and cheese. I've had both and I can say from direct experience that they are both superb receivers - I'm sure though that many 7300 die-hards would fail to identify their radio in a blind-test using a shared external speaker.

The 7300 is a base station and the 891 is a mobile. One's a triple superhet and the other's an SDR. One's got a large colour TFT touch-screen with panadapter and waterfall and the other has a monochrome LCD with a basic scope. One is twice as big and twice as heavy than the other. One costs almost twice as much as the other.

There's no bigger Icom fan than me, but I'd be the first to admit that I've had more success hearing weak or noisy signals with the 891 receiver and tools than with the 7300. Having said that, the 7300 looks drop dead gorgeous and has all that Icom intuitiveness and functionality.

You can't ask for a small radio for mobile work and then ask for a hundred buttons, knobs and dials. And if your "old eyes" struggle with the menu in a restaurant, they're hardly likely to do well with a screen that's 30mm high! Let's get sensible! 😀


 

I was pleased to see that you could add Alpha-Tags to the radio's memories 👍 You can also buy RT SYSTEM's programming software which not only aids the input of memories but also let's you save them to PC in case the worst should happen.

I should point out that the "RT-42" USB CABLE is a load of nonsense!! DO NOT purchase it because you'll just be paying three-times more than you'd pay for a regular USB-B lead.

-*-

The YAESU FC-50 ATU was designed specifically for the FT-891, so it looks very good when connected to it. As usual, these OEM tuners are pretty rubbish when compared to third party offerings and will be good for 'near resonant' antennas but next to useless with something like a G5RV.  The FC-50 comes with fixing plates and every cable required to connect the two devices together. All that's required in order to get up and running is a quick change to a menu-setting.

As indicated previously, the 891 had been connected up to my MFJ993B and it works fine (as you'd expect from this very expensive unit). The FC-50 gives a solid performance on 40/20/15/12/10/6. The antenna used in this test was a multi and EFHW from wireantennas.co.uk.

On antennas which are closer to resonance, it works incredibly quickly and effortlessly and is a very worthwhile addition in the shack. I've just ordered a Double-Bazooka antenna solely for 17M because I don't want to be without that band - it's something that I've just 'discovered' and wish to explore more.

Double Bazooka for 17M

SUMMARY :

This really is a cracking radio and I don't think it can possibly be touched £ for £. That's the long and short of it. Should you buy one?? Well you should definitely consider it if you want a mobile which gives fabulous HF performance with no bells, whistles, smoke or mirrors. It's got some superb noise-reduction tools and is easy to operate once you get the knack of Yaesu's Menu System - and let's face it - people have been coping perfectly well with the 817, 818, 857 and 897 for many, many years! This is a radio that you can truly be happy with for many years - sat at home in your shack as a base station or outdoors on a Field Day or even POTA/SOTA!

What you shouldn't do is compare it to other radios that have bugger-all to do with it. Just ask yourself what else is available on the market for £680.

Thanks for visiting the blog - feel free to leave a comment below.

Take care, 73, Tom, M7MCQ.

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

FT-891

The FT-891 offers up to 100 watts of HF/6m output power with efficient dual internal fans, coupled with Yaesu's legendary receiver design,triple conversation with a 1st IF frequency of 69.450MHz for really outstanding performance.

  • 3KHz roofing filter equipped as standard
  • Detachable front panel for convenient mounting and operation
  • Large dot matrix LCD display with quick spectrum scope
  • Specifically designed external antenna tuner FC-50 (optional)
  • Ease of operation
  • Large diameter main tuning dial  with torque adjustment
  • Pop-up menu for quick and easy operation
  • Multi-Function knob
  • Large transmit/receive indicator
  • 3  x  programmable front panel function keys
  • Up to 100 watts output power

The FT-891 provides a stable 100 W (25 W AM) high power output. High reliability is assured by the transmitter careful circuit design with efficient thermostatically-controlled dual internal fans and the diecast chassis.

FT-891 Real IF DSP provides effective and optimized QRM rejection
The 32 but high speed floating point DSP (max 3000 MIPS) provides effective cancellation/reduction (DNR) of the random noise that is frequently frustrating in the HF frequencies. Also the AUTO NOTHC (DNF) automatically eliminates the dominant beat tone. The CONTOUR and the APF are very effective receiver noise reduction tools in the HF bands operations. The YAESU original DSP QRM and noise reduction functions are provided.


  • Frequency Range: Tx: 1.8 - 54 MHz (Amateur Bands) Rx: 30 KHz - 56 MHz

  • Channel Step: 2/5/10 Hz (SSB, CW), 10/100 Hz (AM,FM)

  • Frequency Stability: +/- 0.5 ppm 14 °F to + 122 °F (-10 °C to +50 °C)

  • Modes of Emission: A1A (CW), A3E (AM), J3E (LSB, USB), F3E (FM)

  • Impedance: 50 Ohms, unbalanced

  • Supply Voltage: 13.8VDC +/- 15%, negative ground

  • Current Consumption: Rx: 2.0 A (Signal Present) Tx: 23 A

  • Operating Tempature Range: 14 °F to ° +122 °F (-10 °C to +50 °C)

  • Case Size (WxHxD): 6.1 x 2.0 x 8.6 (155 x 52 x 218 mm) w/o Knobs

  • Weight (Approx.): 4.18 lb (1.9 kg)

  • Output Power: 100W  SSB/CW/FM  (AM: 25W)

  • Circuit Type: SSB/CW/AM: Triple-conversion Super-heterodyne

  • Intermediate Frequencies: 1st: 69.450 MHz / 2nd: 450 KHz

  • Maximum AF Output: 2.5 W 4 ohms with 10% THD

  • Audio output Impedance: 4 to 16 Ohms (8 Ohms nominal)

  • Sensitivity: SSB/CW  0.158uV (1.8 /30 MHz), 0.125uV (50 /54 MHz)

Just a quickie to help out anyone who has suffered the same issue as me. I switched the FT-891 on tonight and found a problem - the FT-891 was stuck at the logo screen. It wouldn't progress beyond the startup screen and none of the buttons worked.

I tried the Vulcan Nerve Pinch ( F, CLAR then PWR) but it made no difference.

The FT-891 stuck at the start-up screen is a USB issue! Simply disconnect the USB lead from the back of the radio and try again. 73, Tom, M7MCQ.


My ft-891 is stuck on the yaesu screen

My ft-891 won't go beyond the start-up screen

My ft-891 won't start up


1 comment:

  1. Very nice review Tom. I'm a big Icom fan as well. The only Yaesu I have is my tiny FT-817ND. I have to admit this small radio receives very well although there are no special filters in it. I would love to test a FT-891 some time, have heard more good things about the receiver. 73, Bas

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