Tuesday 9 May 2023

YAESU FTM500DE Mini Review


Yaesu's new FlagShip C4FM Mobile is a 50W C4FM/FM 144/430MHz Dual Band Digital Transceiver. 

I'll be honest - I had no intention of buying this radio when it was announced in February 2023 - I was perfectly happy with my FTM300. The 300 is a superb Fusion radio and has more C4FM capabilities than the discontinued 400 and even the "Flagship Fusion" 991A.

But in my little shack I had two Fusion rigs - the 300 and the FTM7250 (the latter was removed from my truck because I just never used it mobile) and it bothered me that it was one too many. I decided I needed to sell the 7250 but then I figured "If you're going down to a single radio, it might as well be the very latest - the 500". So I sold the older rigs and ordered the new one.

PRICE 😮 Everyone seems to be obsessed with the price of the 500 as though it’s the only expensive radio in the world! Well let me tell you - they’re all expensive!! Here in the UK they’re just over £600 which is no different to the cost of the aging ID-5100. The big difference is the FTM-500 has the very latest and greatest technology inside it. 

It doesn't offer a massive amount more than the FTM300, because as I've said previously, the 300 really is a very good radio and it offers superb value for money at less than £400.

The first thing that grabs you about the 500 is the "big" VFO which I do quite like. In all the marketing images, you are led to believe that this new radio is bigger all over, but the truth is - the main body is virtually the same. The screen is bigger on the 500 and is a "touch" screen and the (detachable) front panel is taller and much deeper to accommodate the piped speaker output. And it's a really good output too - no need for an external speaker with this baby! Click HERE to review what's new from Yaesu.

The screen is a joy! It’s hi-res and has accurate touch functionality. I'm aware that some people think you need a huge screen to be able to use a radio, but then the same people whip out text messages on their phones with absolute ease!

Thankfully, some bright spark came up with the idea of providing a TILT function which allows you to tilt the head unit (and therefore the screen) upwards for easy viewing. Brilliant!

Someone said to me that the 500 has lots more physical buttons than the 300, but in reality, the 500 only has 1 extra button. Pressing the FUNC button brings up a quick-menu which can be altered to suit your own personal preferences. I altered mine so that I have quick access to the Clock/Timer display, as seen below…

The user-interface (as far as I'm concerned) has become very Icom-like and that's a great thing! There's a lot of "Press what you want to change". So if you want to input a new frequency, hold your finger on the displayed frequency and a keypad will open up to allow you to type in the figure you want. Simple and effective. You can also press the VFO dial to do the same and you can even do it from the DTMF Mic too.

Want to change Mode? Just press the Mode icon onscreen! Want to change from VFO to MEM? Yeh, you guessed it - just press VFO onscreen. You get the picture.

On the left you have two small dials which control the Volume and Squelch of the receivers. On the opposite side you have another two dials - the top one is the main FUNCtion dial for controlling menus, etc and the bottom one is for controlling the sub-vfo. Obviously, the great big dial controls the main VFO.

Having two independent receivers means that you can, of course, monitor and listen to two independent signals. That's VHF/VHF, VHF/UHF, VHF/C4FM, UHF/UHF, UHF/C4FM, AM/VHF. AM/UHF, AM/C4FM, AM/AM, C4FM/C4FM.

That's a lot of options! And one thing that I particularly like is the ability to force AM mode! What do I mean?? Well some radios have AM mode purely for the AirBand and as soon as you move away from that specific band, it switches over to FM.

With the FTM-500 you can force it to switch to AM receive. An example of when you might want to do this is the Marine Band. Normally, you'd choose say 156MHz and be stuck in FM mode, but with this radio you can go to the RX MODE menu and change it to AM, then save the frequency/mode to a Memory Slot and it will store that configuration, which is great if you want to include it in a Scan. Needless to say, AM is RX only!

Note : there is no Crossband Repeat function in C4FM! Analogue yes, but not digital - the C4FM protocol prohibits it.

PGM is another great facility. With it, you can choose up to 5 frequencies and it will present a screen with a 5-section BandScope. You rotate the dial to choose one of these frequencies to actually use and then watch the bandscope for any signs of activities on the other four frequencies.

So you could be listening to an interesting C4FM QSO on CQ-UK through your HotSpot(1), while you wait for your buddy to come onto the local C4FM NWFG repeater(2), while keeping an eye out for activity on 2M(3) and 70cm(4) whilst watching for Marine life 😂 on 156MHz(5).

Additionally, you can press the SCAN button to make the radio SCAN all five frequencies and stop on any one of them when there's activity. There's all sorts of ways of using it I guess.

MAG Memory Auto Grouping - a feature which allows you to scan through all the memories by frequency group - scan all the VHF or the UHF or the AIR or C4FM stored memories.  There are 1104 memories available!

All these things are real easy to figure out - it all feels quite intuitive, like an Icom. I think it's what Yaesu refer to as their latest E2O (Easy To Operate) system. Up to now, I haven't had to refer to the Manual at all. It's intuitive enough to figure out by simply "having a go".

Sadly, there is no software available for programming the memories at the time of writing. This is a bit disappointing but I've heard that Yaesu may be releasing one soon. In the meantime, RT SYSTEMS have been a little more pro-active and have got their software ready and available for download.

Personally, I don't feel the urge to buy any software for the FTM-500 because it's pretty darned easy to input memories by hand. You simply set the frequency, the mode, the repeater shift and tone (where required) and then press the MW button. Done! If I had hundreds of frequencies to store, I'd consider the RTS software, but I don't.

Even if I was to store all the local Repeaters and local AirBand channels, it would still only amount about 30 memories, so it's not worth bothering with software for me.

AESS - Acoustic Enhanced Speaker System that's Yaesu's method of controlling the way that the FTM500 sounds. The radio has a 6W speaker in the front panel and a 3W speaker in the base unit. You can play with the volume and tone balance between the front and rear to reach a ‘sound’ which best suits your hearing and audio preferences. At factory settings I'd say that overall, the audio is a little "thin".

Using the AESS system, you can adjust the equalizer so that one (or both) speakers have more bass (other options are available including phase adjustment) but you need to be aware that using this system will effectively mute the sub-vfo's audio. Yes, you heard right - the AESS feature gives you something but also takes something away! The fact is, there are only two audio paths and the AESS system wants to use both of them to allow you to tailor the sound of the Main VFO.

Now some people might start kicking off about that and I know of one guy who actually sent his radio back to the store because he actually thought his radio was broken 😂.  It doesn't bother me too much. The fact is, you cannot realistically listen to two signals at the same time. I'd prefer to have a more comfortable and pleasing audio than being able to listen to dual conversations.

Having said that, some might think it quite ridiculous that a Dual Receiver can't dual-receive. I get that. But this little alleged "flaw" only effects you if you seriously want to listen to the audio of both receivers at the same time. Both receivers obviously continue to function with AESS active, but you have to switch between VFO-A and VFO-B to hear them.

I'm guessing that in a mobile situation, no one's going to give a rat's ass about audio fidelity when you're blasting down the highway at 70mph. You'll not need AESS and will be perfectly happy with the FTM500's clear, bright and punchy sound (not to mention the 9W output). AESS is an option at the end of the day - switch it on when it suits you, switch it off when it doesn't.

POWER OUTPUT of the FTM-500D is 50W/25W/5W which I find quite annoying. As a UK Foundation License holder, I am limited to 10W which means that on this radio I am actually limited to 5W - no more, no less. This isn't unique to the 500 of course - it's the same on many other Yaesu radios.

I did once write to Yaesu UK about it and they told me that I could send the radio to their workshops and they would probably be able to adjust the lowest setting to 10W. I didn't bother because I didn't want to lose the 5W setting too 😡

Is it really so difficult to make these radios with more output settings such as 50/25/10/5/1W?? Or even variable from 1 to 50 on a dial?? 

Luckily, I'm strictly a QRP man and 5W is fine by me 90% of the time. In fact, this radio will spend the vast majority of its life in my shack running Wires-X in Direct Mode with 0W output. Only a few times a year will I take it out in the field and want to use my 10W limit.

SDCARD - Like the FTM300, the 500 can accommodate a 32Gb micro sdcard and on there you can back up all your settings and memories. The radio's built-in QSO RECORDER uses the sdcard to store all your recordings. You can record both RX and TX which is a fabulous feature that I've enjoyed on my Icoms for a few years now. 

C4FM has reached a very mature stage now and it's well implemented in the FTM500 with the ability to monitor two C4FM signals in Dual Receive. When it comes to Wires-X though, I was initially very annoyed to see that the 500 uses a new computer interface cable called the SCU-58 at a cost of £70 😡😡😡

Before buying one, I decided to try my SCU-20 and boom, it worked fine 😃. I think the SCU-58 might only be marginally different in that it's guaranteed to be compatible with Windows11. Well I use Win10 so that doesn't matter to me. I have heard rumours that the SCU-20 will also work with Windows 11, so it's worth trying your old SCU-20 before forking out £70.  To me, these C4FM radios should all come with computer leads included, like they used to years ago with the FTM400!

The only bugbear that I have with using Wires-X with a Yaesu radio is that you are locked into digital mode and cannot use the radio for anything else. For example, right now I'm connected to Wires-X on my PC using PDN DIRECT mode and there's no way for me to also monitor eg the 2M Call frequency 😩 Yes, I can switch back to analogue, but that's not the same.

BLUETOOTH is built into the 500 and it works very well. I was able to connect the Yaesu BT-10 headset without any issues at all and even my Apple AirPod Pros worked. RX and TX.

APRS is available on the FTM500 and the built-in 66-ch GPS provides the positional data. You are also able to connect an external GPS. I have not really experimented with APRS yet, so I cannot provide any useful information on how well it's implemented here. What I can tell you is that APRS occupies the biggest part of the radio's menu system by far! 

A point of interest is that the Yaesu's built-in TNC's are not accessible externally - not on this radio, nor on the 300 or even the 400. I don't know why Yaesu lock down their TNC when others like Kenwood (my D74 for example) provide external access via cable and bluetooth.

SSM-85D The FTM500D is supplied with the latest programmable DTMF microphone which fits really well in the hand and has a host of useful features which make the radio even easier to operate. I think this is my favourite mic of all time. It looks good and functions well. Audio reports have been very complimentary so far. 

Is some of this sounding a tad negative??

It's certainly not meant to be! I absolutely love this new radio and I'm so very pleased that I upgraded from the already fabulous 300 (which IMHO was an upgrade from my old 400).

So what are the actual differences between the 500, 400 and 300? Let's take a look.

Bear in mind that the 400 design is now about 10 years old and the main reason for its popularity is its screen size. It has the largest screen of all Yaesu's fusion mobiles (about an inch bigger than the 500) and suit's those people who's eyesight is perhaps not what it used to be. The 300 is relatively new and offers the biggest bang for the buck but it has a much smaller non-touch screen.

FTM500 benefits over 300...

  1. AESS
  2. Two Mic-input locations
  3. Tilting Head
  4. Larger knobs with click-detents
  5. Customisable Favourite List
  6. Larger, Higher-Res Screen
  7. Touch Screen
  8. Touch & Go function
  9. Search & Go Function
  10. Onscreen Function-Select

FTM500 benefits over 400...

  1. C4FM available on both VFOs
  2. AESS
  3. E2OV4
  4. Built-in BlueTooth
  5. QSO Recorder
  6. Two Mic-input locations
  7. Latest programmable DTMF Mic
  8. Two Speaker Output Jacks (A&B) on Body
  9. Headphone Socket on Head Unit
  10. Speakers in both head and body
  11. Tilting Head
  12. Head can be mounted to body
  13. Larger knobs with click-detents
  14. Customisable Favourite List
  15. 16-Character Long Alpha-Tags
  16. Ability to store more parameters into memories
  17. MAG Function
  18. PMG Function
  19. Touch & Go function
  20. Search & Go Function

So should you sell your 300/400 and upgrade to a 500? Not if you're happy with what you've got. If your current radio does everything you want, then it's a bit daft to change it, but if you are buying your first Fusion mobile and want the absolute best available, then you're going to need the FTM-500D.

Yes it's expensive, but so too is every other brand new top-of-the-range radio. The launch-price will probably drop in a few months, so it might make more sense to upgrade then - especially if you've got one of the first 400's which is 'knocking on a bit'.

If my FTM300 had been my only Fusion radio, I would definitely have kept it, but I also had a redundant FTM7250, so selling them both meant that I didn't have much to pay in order to move up to the 500.

I'm very pleased with my purchase and look forward to many years of service from it. The Advanced Manual has only just been posted by Yaesu USA (there's absolutely nothing on the UK site at the time of writing), so there's a lot more to learn about this radio, so please consider this review as a "First Look". I will post updates soon.

Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

73, Tom, M7MCQ                                                                                                        ==============


UPDATE 11 May 2023

Ian (G0GVS) asked if the large VFO dial might interfere with the view of controls when mounted in a car over to one side. Here's some images showing that all dials remain visible, but one button would be hidden by the VFO (but still easy to reach).

Yaesu offer a rotating RAM-BALL style mount
to make it easy to adjust the view of the FTM500


<Main Features>
- Equipped with front speaker, clear sound quality and expansive volume, AESS dual speaker system
- Overall output 9W (3W: main unit, 6W: front panel) High sound quality - Loud speaker
- New dual mobile operation The latest operating system E2O-IV (Easy to Operate-IV) with touch & go/search & go functions
・Supports C4FM digital, analog FM communication, and AM (airband reception) with excellent communication quality
・Simultaneous reception of 2 waves , C4FM/C4FM digital dual reception (digital D/D) supported
・AMS (Automatic Mode Select): FM-friendly digital with communication mode automatic selection function
・Easy and comfortable group operation with digital group ID (DG-ID)
・2.4 Inch high-definition full-color touch panel display
・Swing head mechanism that can change the angle of the control head upward by 20 degrees
・Optional spherical joint type mount kit that can change the angle of the control head up and down / left and right (SJMK-500)
・Frequently used CFL (customized function list) for easy function checking, setting changes, and customization -
Memory auto grouping (MAG) function that automatically groups memory channels by band -
VFO band skip function that displays only the bands to be used
・Memory channel VFO transfer function to move memory channel information to VFO with one touch
・One-touch scope function that instantly switches between scope operation and dual reception operation
・High-speed spectrum scope function
・16 characters (8 full-width characters) kanji supported, large capacity 1104 channel memory with tags installed
・Built-in high-precision GPS receiver, real-time GPS data Communication APRS compatible
Bluetooth wireless operation (optional headset SSM-BT10 required)
WIRES-X portable digital node function compatible
Equipped with a microSD card slot that can save voice data and memory backup
Stable 50W high output Guaranteed FACC (Funnel Air-Convection Conductor) cooling system Control
head separate operation supported

<Main specifications>
・Transmission frequency range: 144-146MHz, 430-440MHz (C4FM digital / analog FM)
・Reception frequency range:
 108-137MHz (Air Band)
 137-174MHz (144MHz HAM/VHF Band)
 400 to 480MHz (430MHz HAM/UHF Band)
 480 to 999.995MHz
Reception method: Double conversion superheterodyne method
Radio wave type: F1D, F2D, F3E, F7W
Transmission power:
 FTM-500D (50W type) 50W/25W/5W
 FTM-500DS (20W type) 20W/10W/1W
External dimensions (W x H x D):
 Body 139 x 42 x 132 mm (excluding protrusions and fans)
 Control head 156 x 64 x 58.6 mm (excluding protrusions) )
・Weight: Approx. 1.4 kg (body, control head)

E2O V4


AM Reception

6W spkr front 3W main unit

PMG func



MadDogMcQ said...

Hi Ian, thanks for the visit.

100% agree with the price comment. I bought an AOR3000A in the early 90s for around £1,000 (almost £2k in todays money). Almost cost me my marriage LOL.

Not sure about the audio in a car with the main-unit under the seat. My 500 is (and always will be) stuck in the shack. Understandably, the audio from the front only is LOUD but thin. The speaker in the main-unit sounds bassier (that's not even a word, is it) but quieter at 3W.

While I'm using it with Wires-X, it makes sense to switch on the AESS and benefit from the audio tailoring because I can't listen to anything else anyway, but during normal operation I wouldn't want to use AESS because you lose the volume control on the sub-band.

And yes, you're right - it has a variable TOT in the menus with a 10-second warning before time-out.

Yaesu must really be counting the pennies these days. A decade ago you'd get the radio, all the cables you needed, car mounting brackets, head mounting brackets and more. Now you get to pay extra for all those things :-(

LHD/RHD? Don't think it's too bad to be honest Ian. You can access all the dials all the time, but depending on location you might lose sight of one button (which you know its function anyway). You can buy a RAM BALL style mount from Yaesu if you were struggling with it though.

I'll edit the post and show a couple of side0on views of the radio.

Hope you're both well.

73, Tom.

g0vgs said...

Thanks for the additional info Tom. The best review I have seen on this radio so far. We are both fine thanks and I am starting to get out portable now and that is my main focus. All the best to you both.

73 Ian

Steve Ventura said...

Great review. I own the 500 and I like it. There is a problem with transmitted DTMF tones so many of us are waiting for a firmware update.