Yaesu FTDX10 in CW contest

Earlier this month I decided to put my IC-7610 aside and give the FTDX10 a good go in a contest. It was Oceania DX Contest and I opted to run SO 20m HP category. 24 hours of CW madness.

Conditions were excellent, but not as good as in SSB leg a week earlier.

One thing I love about this radio is how good its receiver is. The roofing filters did a great job, 300 Hz is amazing, albeit a bit too narrow for contest when running CQ. Too many stations tend to be off beat a bit and 500-600 Hz works best for me.

I was able to hear weak stations quite easily right next to a big signal and only once I had to ask someone to QSY as the station was close – within 100 Hz of my frequency.

Talking about the off beat stations, I had to use the Clarifier (RIT) quite a bit to pick them. I never liked the way the RIT is implemented on this radio. The CLAR RX and TX buttons are in the right place, but using the MPVD ring (multi purpose VFO outer dial) is not a good idea. A few times in contest the CLAR RX was off and moving the MPVD moved me way off my frequency. Very frustrating.

Another issue I experienced is the universally hated placement of the AF/RF knobs. With 90% of humans being righthanded Yaesu for some reason decided to place AF/RF control to the left of the main VFO dial. Wrong on every level. What frustrated me the most is that I could not effectively use RF gain while running big pile-ups.

What’s the deal here? It’s a really big deal. When the pile up becomes too big, and you can’t work split, you turn off the AGC and work the RF gain manually, turning it up and down all the time. This way you isolate the strongest signals and can still comfortably run a 200 QSO/hr even though many signals blend in. With AGC off and manual use of the RF gain, it feels like you have 1-2 calls at a time, not 20 or 50.

On the other hand, use of Shift and Width knobs was excellent. It’s at the right spot, easily accessible and easy to reset by a push of a button … well, knob. If only Yaesu placed the AF/RF gain to the bottom right of the radio and Notch/APF to the opposite side, this radio would be a much better toy.

Now for the big issue, a show-stopper when it comes to competitive contesting with this radio – the use of pretty much anything while transmitting is a no go.

When FTDX10 is transmitting, the only things you can do is turn knobs, VFO and MPVD. The only buttons that work are CLAR RX and TX. You can’t turn on the NB or DNR, you can’t press FINE, you can’t even turn on the Notch or APF filters by pressing the keys, but you can activate them by turning the respective knobs.

While this is not that much of an issue, the real problem is in the touchscreen functionality. The only one function you can use while transmitting is to touch the S-meter and change what it displays.

You can’t turn on or off the ATT or IPO, you can’t change the roofing filter, you can’t change or turn off AGC, you can’t change any of the settings in the FUNC menu, except the one that is already selected and is available via FUNC knob.

When running a fast pile-up (150+ QSO/hr), you can’t just stop transmitting to press FUNC, select something and then adjust it, or change the AGC to OFF, or turn on the AMP1, etc. You do these things while sending CQ or the exchange to someone, and then are ready for the incoming avalanche of calls, but you can’t do any of it on this radio.

I also noticed that the dot-dash ratio is not necessarily correct. When I key the radio at CW Weight at 3.0 it doesn’t sound right, the dashes are too short. Comparing it to N1MM keyer, I get the same at about 3.3 setting on the radio.

For basic contest participation, small runs, S&P, this radio is fine. But if you want to go in even remotely seriously don’t hold your breath.

All in all, the issues I wrote about in my FTDX10 Deep Dive Review are still there and some of them are particularly obvious in competitive contesting.

I was considering upgrading to FT101MP, but it also seems so be suffering from the same issues as this radio. I guess for now my IC-7610 will remain on the desk with occasional use of FTDX10… until Kenwood makes a move.