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 the 500-600 Hz width works best for me.

I was able to hear weak stations quite easily right next to big ones and only once I had to ask someone to QSY as the station came too 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 the 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 the 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. They’re in the right place, 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 the Notch/APF knob 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 the 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 is displayed.

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 the 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 stop to turn off the AGC, turn on the AMP1, etc. You do these things while sending CQ or while sending the exchange to someone, and then you are ready for what’s to come once you go on receive. You can’t do any of it on this radio.

For basic contest participation, small runs, S&P, this radio is fine. However, if you want to go into any contest half-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 FT-DX101MP, but it seems so be suffering from the same issues as this radio. I guess my IC-7610 will remain on the desk for now, with occasional use of FTDX10… until Kenwood makes a move.