The Yaesu FT-840 HF Transceiver
Enjoy a simple-to-operate full-featured HF rig.
by Arnie Johnson N1BAC
As we all probably know by now, there are hams who want all the push-buttons, lights, and knobs they can get, and there are those who are intimidated by all those controls and lights. For those of you who are among the intimidated, I’ve found a great rig for you. I had a chance to play with a radio that is very straightforward and easy to use, and offers nine bands and a general coverage receiver: the Yaesu FT-840 HF transceiver.
Now, don’t get me wrong—just because a radio doesn’t have a bunch of buttons to in-sea the frequency and bands doesn’t mean that it isn’t capable of frequency memorization and interfacing with a computer This radio performs a lot of great functions.
The package as it came to me consisted of three boxes; the FT-840 HF transceiver, the optional FP-800 power supply/speaker, and the FC-10 automatic antenna tuner. All were well-packaged, and the contents were well-protected. Hooking everything up was very straightforward.
The Front Panel
I was very happy to see that the FT-840 is a somewhat small radio, approximately 4″ (H) x 9-1/4″ (W) x 12″ (D), counting connectors, and very easy to put in your car without asking your wife or friends to sit in the back seat while you put the radio in the front. The front of the radio is not very imposing, just straightforward: 28 well-labeled buttons, seven knobs, frequency/mode read-out, an S/PO/ALC meter, mike connector and ‘phones jack.
The first group of buttons on the left side of the panel control power meter choice (PO or ALC), MOX (manual transmitter activation), attenuation, mike processor, AGC, noise blanker, SSB. CW, AM, FM, and frequency lock. Others on the right side control functions of the A & B VFOs and memories, split, tuning speed, choice of ham/general receive, and changing of bands. The last button group manages the automatic antenna tuner (if used), memory choice, scanning, and clarifier on/off.
Centered under the large, well-lit and easy-to-read frequency/mode read-out is the main tuning knob which has a very nice touch of movement. Knobs on the left are inner/outer knobs for microphone input level for SSB & AM transmission and RF power output in all modes. The other inner/outer knob set is AF, which adjusts the volume of the receiver, and Squelch, which sets the signal threshold at which the receiver audio is muted in all modes. The last two knobs, on the right, control the Clarifier offset frequency up to +/- 1.25 kHz, or optional 2.5 kHz, and the IF passband center frequency from the displayed frequency in modes other than AM and FM.
All the controls are well-labeled and easy to see. The large read-out shows the receive/transmit frequency, modes, memory channel used and whether you have tuned off that frequency, antenna tuner operation and high SWR, clarifier use, scanning selected, FM +/- offset and CTCSS tone use, frequency lock in use, fast tuning, VFO choice, general coverage receiver in use, split frequency selected, squelch open, and transmitter in operation.
The Back Panel
But there’s more to a radio than just the front paneL The radio can’t do much for you unless the signal can make it out to the antenna. Turning the radio around to hook up the antenna provides a view of the some of the rest of the controls/connections that continue to make this radio what it is.
There are only three set-and -forget controls on the back; speech processor compression, CW semi-break-in timing control, and CW sidetone level. Also on the back are connectors for antenna coax, the power connector, 200mA/13.5 VDC output, CW keyer, constant-level receiver audio output for use with a packet TNC or other terminal unit, external ALC, external Push-To-Talk, external speaker, a 6-pin mini DIN input/output jack for external computer control, a 5-pin mini DIN jack for the FC-800 external automatic antenna tuner, a 8-pin mini DIN jack for the FC-10 external automatic antenna tuner, and an 8-pin jack to output control signals for the FL-7000 linear or FC-1000 ATU.
One more feature that needs to be mentioned is the grill on the back, which hides the internal thermally-switched fan that allows full transmitter output without any rear panel protrusions.
Hookup is very straightforward. The MH-1 B8 hand-held microphone, providing up/down frequency changes and speed of changes, connects easily to the front panel. The frequency change buttons on the mike can also be used to start and stop receiver scanning.
The radio comes with a double-fused DC cable and plug to hook to your own 13,5-V DC power supply or automobile eleo trical system, but I used the provided FP-800 power supply/speaker Lastly, I hooked up the FC-10 Full Auto-matte Antenna Tuner. Again very easy: Hook your antenna coax to the ANT connector, the coax jumper between the TRANSMITTER connector and the radio connector, and the controller cable from the CONTROL connector to the 8-pin DIN jack labeled TUNER 2 (for the FC-10 tuner) on the back of the radio. Don’t force the connectors—make sure that the pins line up before inserting and that you are inserting the 8-pin male connector into the 8-pin female receptacle, not the 5-pin labeled TUNER 1 (for the FC-800 tuner).
Yaesu developed the FT-840 to be a high-performance transceiver that provides up to 100 watts transmitter output power on all HF amateur radio bands in CW, SSBr and FM modes, and up to 25 watts carrier in AM. The receiver tunes all frequencies between 100 kHz and 30 MHz in 10-Hz steps.
Modular circuit design employs surface-mount components on composite epoxy boards for high reliability and serviceability. Twin direct-digital synthesizers and a magnetic rotary encoder provide silent, silky-smooth tuning. Frequency accuracy and stability are assured by driving both synthesizers from a single master oscillator, and the optional TCXO-4 temperature-compensated crystal oscillator is available for enhanced +/- 2ppm stability from 0-50c C.
The FT-840 features a low-notse, high-performance receiver front end. Interference rejection is facilitated by the unique “up-down”1 conversion scheme, and includes an IF shift circuit. The optional YF-112C crystal filter can be installed to provide enhanced CW reception, and an AM-wide filter is also available for greater fidelity during broadcast reception.
A 16-bit microprocessor in the FT-840 is programmed to provide the simplest possible control interface for the operator Two independent (A/B) VFOs for each band (20 total) hold their own frequencies and mode settings.
One-hundred memories store all of this data for both VFOs, giving a total of 220 independent sets of frequency, mode, and other selections. Flexible scanning features allow ail 100 memories, or only those selected to be freely-tuned and scanned. Group scanning allows you to organize your memories into 10 groups, and only scan channels within a selected group. In addition, 10 special memories also let you limit the tuning/scanning range between their stored frequencies. Scan resume is selectable between timed or carrier-delay, and scanning speed is also adjustable.
Well, as it is said, “the proof is in the pudding.” How does it play? The tutorial suggests that you check the following switches and knob positions before any hookups: POWER & MOX switches off; MIC, RF PWR, SQL all ccw (minimum); AF 10 o’clock; CLAR off; SHIFT 12 o’clock. After hooking it all up, it is very easy to operate. When using a power supply, Yaesu suggests turning the power supply on first, then the transceiver, to avoid having voltage spikes damage the radio.
Power switch ON, display lights on, no smoke! That always makes me feel good. Normal hiss from the speaker. I started tuning around; nice feej to the tuning knob. Good signals coming from the speaker; nice audio quality.
One of the first things I decided to do was see how the automatic antenna tuner would work. I selected TUNER and the TUNER logo came on the display panel Now what? I keyed the mike and saw TX and WAIT (under the TUNER logo). I correctly assumed that this meant that I shouldn’t do anything until the tuner did its thing.
I assumed that to tune I should hit the button marked START. I glanced at the Operating Manual just to make sure. Yepl I then watched the Power Out indicator fluctuate up and down as the tuner worked and the transmitter dropped out, showing completion. I later inserted a two-needle SWR meter between the transceiver and tuner to watch the show. Quite interesting.
After using the tuner once on a band, it recalls previous settings from memory (the tuner has 31 of its own) during reception, whenever you tune to the same part of the band again. It’s fun to watch the WAIT light flash on as you tune through a band (only with TUNER selected). It even does a great job on 160 meters which some other manufacturers’ tuners do not.
I did find that the tuner didn’t reach proper tune on some frequencies using my 160 meter dipole, but could reach the tune if I worked my way up or down to the frequency, starting at a point where it would tune. No big deal, just some extra time involved.
I then tuned around and responded to several CQs. The reports of transmitter audio quality were quite good; processor audio just increased the “punch” a bit. While playing with the hand-microphone, I noticed a switch on the back labeled TONE -1 or 2. Changing the selection changed the tonal quality of my voice. Setting 2 suppressed the low frequencies in my voice. I left it in a position (1) that reports said was best for my voice. I also played with the DWN and UP scan buttons on the mike, and checked how FST affected the scan rate.
Next chore, make some memories. Is it easy or do I have to read the manual? Select an unused memory channel with the MEM DOWN/UP buttons, select your frequency, press the VFO>M button for 1/2 second (hear 2 beeps), and if s done! Is that easy or what?
I must also say something about the well-written Operating Manual. From what I can see, it has left nothing out and is not too technical. One thing that I really liked was at the start of the Operation Section. It began with a tutorial: step-by-step samples of what you can do to get started and become familiar with the equipment.
The rest of the time operating with the FT-840 was spent playing with all the knobs and buttons. No surprises! It made many contacts during its time with me and never caused any problems. I’m going to hate giving this one back! A rig like this could keep me happy for many years to come.
If you are looking for a small, quality, well-featured, all-band HF transceiver that is easy to operate, the Yaesu FT-840 HF transceiver could be a good choice for you. S3
- Two external automatic antenna tuners: the FC-10, styled to match the size and appearance of the FT-840 in the shack; and the FC-800, which can be mounted outside at the antenna feedpoint or in the trunk of your car;
- The FP-800 AC power supply with loudspeaker; •The SP-6 external loudspeaker with audio filters and the optional LL-5 phone patch;
- The MMB-20 mobile mounting bracket;
- The YH-77ST headset;
- The FM unit—747 narrowband FM reception and transmission;
- The FIF-232 CAT system interface to convert the TTL levels required by the transceiver to the RS-232C levels required by the serial port of a computer,
- The MD-1C8 desktop and MH-1B8 hand microphone;
- IF crystal filters for CW and improved AM reception.