Monday 25 April 2022

CHEAP SHACK-IN-A-BOX : FT-857D

YAESU FT-857D

I recently purchased a static caravan holiday home and I had every intention of taking my ICOM IC-705 with me each weekend. And then I thought it would be very convenient if I could leave a radio stored in the caravan permanently, to save lugging one backwards and forwards. And besides, the more times you have to transfer kit in that way, the more likely you are to leave something behind
.

So with that in mind, I searched for a mint second-hand transceiver. My first thought was to buy an old FT-100 or FT-817, figuring that they would be real cheap, but OMG how wrong was I? There were some right old dogs on sale for crazy prices. I can't believe how much people were asking for radios that could be approaching their 20th birthday 😲

And then I spotted an advert for a beautifully mint FT-857D at £495 - that was more like it! 

The Yaesu FT-857D has never appealed to me previously - I always preferred the 817/818, but I must admit that now I've handled one in the flesh, it's pretty compact and not a great deal bigger or heavier than its little brother - it's only around 6"x9". And when you consider that this is a 100W radio, that's pretty impressive!


The radio covers HF, 6M, 2M and 70cm, all modes, all bands. It can provide 100W on HF, 50W on VHF and 20W on UHF. It has a detachable head unit and although it's small in size, it has a nice, large VFO knob. The unit feels very well built (just like the FT-818) and the controls don't feel sloppy or loose.

Operation of the 857 could never be described as intuitive - it's just not. You have to invest time in learning your way around things. There aren't many buttons but there are many menus! Luckily for me, I'm totally familiar with it all, since I've previously had an FT-818 and put the time in. But lets not get carried away - it’s not rocket science!! Operation of the radio can be made simpler by switching the standard microphone for a DTMF mic with multiple buttons for direct frequency input and other functions - a very worthwhile purchase (I already had one).

Sensitivity and selectivity of this little marvel is pretty good. The truth is, when you're out and about at high vantage points with a good antenna, sensitivity becomes much less important anyway, but happily, my 857 even works well at low levels.

NICKY NOOK, FOREST OF BOWLAND
Perfect spot for walking, dogs and radio!

The FT-857D is going to be based at my holiday home in Scorton and will probably never stray further than the local high-spot (Nicky Nook) which is a great place to operate from. Signals are very easy to pick up there and you don't need the best radio in the world to enjoy your day.

My antenna of choice for the 857 is SotaBeams BandSpringer Midi using one of their telescopic masts. It's a fabulous antenna with great band coverage. 

I'll probably leave my AlexLoop HamPack at the caravan too - it's very discreet and shouldn't attract any attention if I want to operate from the caravan. I'll put a Diamond X30 up on the roof for local VHF/UHF chat.

The FT-857D has 32 preset screen-colours and you can adjust these further if you can be bothered. Contrast and brightness are also fully adjustable. Personally I like the Light Blue and the usual Amber-Red. Some people think you can adjust the colours of the backlit buttons, but you can’t.

The screen is far better than the 818 I was used to, so overall I’m very happy with it. Needless to say, it looks ancient next to the 705, but once you’ve got the colour and contrast to your liking, it’s very easy to live with. There’s also a simple spectrum scope on the 857.

Audio on this radio from the built-in speaker is pretty good and it’s loud enough even in noisy outdoor environments. Things are improved further with an external speaker (which is fine at home but I can’t be bothered with one if I’m going outdoors - in which case I’ll throw a pair of headphones in my rucksack).

The 857D  has useful DSP filters built-in which are very handy and work quite well. There’s also space inside for a further two Collins filters to improve selectivity, but they’re quite expensive and poor value for money as far as I’m concerned.

The VHF & UHF performance is excellent and it’s good to be able to use SSB on these bands. It’s a very flexible radio and an absolute bargain at this price.

To go with the radio, I needed a cheap ATU and thankfully, my mate Carl offered me an LDG AT-200 for free!! I couldn’t accept it for free, so I gave him a few quid and was very pleased with it. It interfaces perfectly with the FT-857D using a simple 3.5mm to 3.5mm jack-plug lead. This is perfect for use at the caravan, but I I’ll use my Elecraft T1 for outdoor activities.


 

So overall I am really pleased with the FT-857D. If I’d only needed HF then I would definitely have opted for an FT-891 because I think that’s a great HF receiver with amazing DSP, but I wanted a complete one-box solution and the 857 gives me that.

A friend of mine was selling his Yaesu ATAS-120A, so I thought I’d give it go. It turned out to be a wise move, performing really well at the caravan park. Of course it’s designed to work specifically with the 857 and 897. 

THE NOISE LEVELS AT THE CARAVAN PARK WERE INCREDIBLY LOW!

The ATAS-120A simply plugs into the FT-857D and then you adjust Menu #85 to choose ATAS HF or one of the other options and then save that setting by holding the Function button.

When you first connect the ATAS-120A, you will see the word "INIT" on your screen when you press the TUN button. Leave it for a minute to initialise, then it will change to "ATAS". You are now ready to use the antenna. 

To tune the antenna, just hold down the TUN button for a couple of seconds and you will see (and probably hear) the antenna moving up and down until it finds a match below 2:1. You will also see the changes on your radio's SWR indicator.

Occasionally, these antennas get confused and stop working - usually when you've changed bands. All you have to do is go back into Menu #85, switch it OFF and then back on again so it re-initialises.

Don't forget that this is not an all-band antenna! It covers 7MHz, 14MHz, 21MHz, 28MHz and 50MHz.  It is also capable of operating on 144 and 430MHz but not very efficiently. And if you're not using it on the roof of a car/truck, then be sure to connect a couple of radials for each band.

Negatives of the FT-857D?? The only real negative is the lack of internal batteries like in the 817/818, but then the size would have increased considerably.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.


UPDATE : Added an external meter!

I was chatting with a mate of mine and he mentioned he had an external meter for sale - an LDG FTL Meter which was designed specifically for the Yaesu FT-8XX range, so I bought it. A  lot more readable than the FT-857 meter :-)




4 comments:

VE9KK said...

Good morning Tom, some time ago I had the 857 and it was in my car. With the detachable front face it was very handy as it did not take up much space. As for the LDG 200pro I use one right now and found it to work great. Enjoy the caravan and the summer radio time there.
73,
Mike
VE9KK

MadDogMcQ said...

Thanks Mike :-)

Vladimir said...

Спасибо за интересные фото и публикации!

MadDogMcQ said...

Всегда пожалуйста. 73, M7MCQ