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Hardware Review

The object of many DXers' covetousness. Now discontinued, Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V remains an excellent competitor face to the latest high-end transceivers.

The Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V transceiver (I)

At Dayton 2000 Hamvention, while Kenwood introduced shyly and under plastic cover its new "no name" model (the future TS-2000), Yaesu introduced loud and clear its "elite-class" Model FT-1000MP Mark-V HF multimodes transceiver.

It was in fact a 1996 vintage, when Vertex Standard, alias Yaesu, introduced FT-1000 and FT-1000MP, but this new model seemed to show new powerful functions, mainly in the field of DSP.

Many hams wondered what happened to previous Mark I, II, III, and IV ? Had we "lost" or forgotten the previous models ? In fact theu never existed ! Yaesu brochure states that "Mark-V" qualifies the 5 major features of the new model : the Mark-V shows a higher RF power of 200 W PEP, a class-A amplification SSB mode (75 W), an interlocked digital/analog bandwidth tracking system (IDBT), a variable front-end filter preselector (VRF) and enhanced ergonomics (mainly the multi-function shuttle jog dial).

Amateurs already knew the Yaesu FT-1000MP, from which it does not much differs at first sight, at least visually as we can see below, and wondered whether this new transceiver was a simple upgrade of the previous model or a true technology improvement.

With a retail price of $4200 in the first months (and a street price near $3000 or 4000), was Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V worth its price, both compared to the previous model, and also to its competitors ? If we can answer "Yes, it was" to these questions, there are some chance that we find it again here and there in ham shacks.

Yaesu FT-1000 (1996)

Yaesu FT-1000MP (1996)

Without prolong the suspens, I can tell you that the answer is definitely... "Yes, it was", and continue to be. Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V looks like globally to the original FT-1000, including to the "MP" version. But like a car, the Mark-V can be defined as a special serie, offering a more powerful engine and new features. Indeed, the Mark-V upgrades one step forward the all arsenal of receivers, DSP and other anti-QRM filters that we usually find on the other high-end transceivers sold by Yaesu and its competitors... Proof of its success, four years after its introduction its street price had not changed ! Today, on the second hand market, we can find this transceiver below $1000 or 1000 with the mic (2011).

So I decided to test this transceiver at home and to friends using other type of antennas and accessories to get a complete impression of performances of this transceiver in the field, in all working conditions that we could usually meet. The only thing that I had not the opportunity to test was its behaviour in DX-pedition, but according to what we hear on bands, we can already say that it is a big competitor very appreciated. But I needed to forge my own opinion. Here are my commentaries.

First out of the box impression

To be franck I didn't really selected Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V for its design, what we will discuss below, but first of all for its performances and many controls. It is indeed what we all require in buying a high-end transceiver : a great performer with all useful controls, lights and menu settings within reach. If in addition it could be fine that should be of course a plus, all the more that I like the new design of some of its competitors.

Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark-V is quite impressive. Its sizes (WHD) are 406 x 135 x 348 mm (16 x 5.3 x 13.7") and its weight is 14 kg (31 lbs.). Twice as heavy and 60% wider as a mid-range transceiver (e.g. Kenwood TS-570D), once placed on a desk, it used almost the same space as a kW-class linear amplifier and you have still to complete the installation with its external power supply (FP-29) and its speaker (SP-8).

Hopefully the FT-1000MP Mark-V "Field" version offers a built-in AC power supply that already solve one of these problems. Even if it operates at "only" 100 W PEP it works on either from 117/240 V AC mains, or from 13.8 V DC mobile/portable power. The "Field" is thus better suited to a small shack, to DX-peditions or a Field Day than the classic Mark-V. But in both cases this transceiver is imposing.

The Mark-V comes with adjustable feet that you can turn to the right to lift the transceiver of about 1 cm over the desk. In my humble opinion Yaesu might double this height to improve the access to the all serie of buttons aligned at the bottom of the front panel. This is not mandatory but that could offer still more comfort. The alternative is to place the transceiver higher on your shelf. 

Too original heat sink

The cabinet is metallic, four screws are placed on each side, with a special body covering the front panel. If the transceiver is not fit into a piece of furniture, the top left corner of the cabinet shows a large heat sink in shape of T which cooling fins are quite apparent and even impressive seen from the rear side. It is a pity to spoil the design of an equipment of this class because of a heat sink that most of its competitors succeeded to hide.

Of course Yaesu insists on the utility of this original design that improves cooling while transmitting. This heat sink is indeed mandatory to dissipate the heat generated by the four Philips BLF147 power MOSFETs installed in push-pull that develop 300 W (150 W x 2) for 200 W of RF. This little 3 dB more of power is appreciated mainly when used in conjunction with a directive antenna. This is probably a subjective feeling as in practice this additional power represents less that 1 S-point on your correspondent S-meter.

A control panel and display designed in the late 80's

The front panel assembly does not give to this transceiver a modern look, although it looks of course un bit more modern compared to RTX of the previous generation, hopefully ! It shows an undefined color, mid black mid gray or mid greenish mid bluish depending on the light, where a black anodized or charcoal color should have been more pleasant. The display is rectracted off the front panel and protected under a sort or arch, and its digital display even doesn't use the LCD technology as most of its competitors but simple fluorescent discharge units.

These three features give to this model an old fashion look, and it is austere when compared to other transceivers, to name Kenwood TS-2000 or ICOM IC-756PROIII that are more aesthetic and "in the move". Of course this is a subjective matter, but having always much appreciated fine objects, this transceiver looks a bit outmoded. "Normal" will say historians, this model was probably designed in the end of the 1980's to be released in 1996...

In my opinion this is a negative point that I hope Yaesu designers will correct in the future in creating transceivers more "good looking" to please all hams who install their equipment on tidy shelfs or in their living room once retired, HI ! It seems that Yaesu received the message : their FT-DX9000 shows a better design.

The rear side of FT-1000MP Mark-V cannot be more complete with about 20 possible connections : it includes the power jack for the external PSU FP-29, a jack for the optional external DSP speaker SP-8, a 7-pin DIN connector for BAND DATA I/O associated to the ALC connector for a linear amplifier, three jacks for additional interfaces (DVS-2 for a vocal synthetizer, Packet and RTTY), and two keyers inputs at 3 contacts (straight key and paddle). 

In addition you will find a DB9M serial interface for a CAT connection, a connector for a PTT accessory (Push-To-Talk foot switch), a patch (for SSTV), an AF out (for a weather FAX decoder or a recorder), a 13.8V plug, a TX ground plug, a TRV plug for the optional transverter working on 10 m associated to the VHF antenna I/O (RX ANT), and last but not least 2 antenna PL female connectors and two other jacks for a receive antenna.

The serial interface can be connected to another rig via a cross-wired cable or to a computer via a straight cable. All this connectic and much more is explained in the fully documented Operating manual that also lists all possible adjustements and menu settings but none of the parts or semiconductor data. 

The front panel

The digital display

As I told previously one of the reason for which the Mark-V looks outmoded is caused by the display which is rectracted off the front panel, to the inside of the cabinet, but worse because its fluorescent display doesn't take advantage of the LCD technology. This is a first negative point and a drawback because like on many home products using fluorescent digital display, under low contrast or under the light of the shack the inactive fluorescent segments stay visible as we can see it on the next picture taken in a shack under good light. An LCD display should have prevent such a reading problem, hence its use in most recent models sold by Kenwood and ICOM to name a few competitors. Yaesu has already improved the contrast of its display since the first FT-1000 but the result if far to be on par with the fine display of an LCD.

We can hopefully adjust the display brightness using the Menu option 3-4 (briGHt). Different other options of Menu 3 allow also to configure the bar graphs of the other meters.

This module is a multi-function display provides not only the usual S-meter up to S+60 dB and the frequency-meter (the main VFO and the Sub VFO) but also, like many other rigs, other meters, mutually exclusives like a IC/SWR-, ALC/COMP- or VCC/MIC-meter, completed with an Antenna tuner status, a VFO/Memory status and other useful information such as the Clarifier Offset (RIT). Some of these meters are customized via one of the options of Menu 3.

The control panel is completed with no less than 40 additional lights, red, orange or green, activated as soon as you switch on some specific mode (USB, CW, etc), devices (Tuner, Antenna A or B, CAT, etc) and features like Split, Lock, Dual receive, etc. Completed with all lights associated to controls knobs you can practically use the Mark-V in the dark while keeping your marks.

A plethora of buttons and knobs

Like many high-end transceivers, the FT-1000MP Mark-V doesn't go against the rule and displays a plethora of knobs and buttons or all kinds : 92 are at your disposal ! There are small and large ones, to turn or to depress, not to forget the tens of LED and hundreds options in the Menu accessible via FAST and ENT, on which we will come back a bit later.

Each button you pressed releases a "beep" at 880 Hz that can be enabled or disabled via the Menu option 4-1 (bEEP). If you enable it, its default volume (unusually loud) can be adjusted using a control located... in a hole on the underside of the transceiver ! This is the first of a long list of illogical ways that Yaesu engineers found to adjust a setting somewhat useful. Hopefully if we can say, the frequency of this beep can be adjusted between 220-7040 Hz via the Menu option 4-2 (bEEP-F) in combination with a slight rotation of the Sub VFO-B to display "bEEP-tun" and the Main VFO-A to adjust the tonality. Pfff ! Recognize that this could be a bit more practice.

Beside the plethora of controls, aligned on the left most part of the front panel and somewhat below the large power switch are placed the usual stereo and mono headphones jack ( 6mm or mini-jack), the key (straight or paddle) and the microphone entry (desktop or hand-held model).

The double VFO

Below the extended display screen, the front panel shows two tuning knobs : the main VFO-A a bit shifted to the left of the center and the Sub VFO-B on the right part of the panel. Personally I should have replaced the Sub VFO with a bandscope or a large LCD screen showing the Menu options or a DSP filtering instead of using so much place for a single knob. This second VFO can be disabled via the Menu option 7-8 (Sub-rcvr). 

However most amateurs use this Sub VFO during pile-ups when the operator works in split where it offers a great comfort. It helps also in listening simultaneously another frequency in waiting for example to make a QSO on the main VFO when the operator works with a list or to wait for hole in the traffic, etc.

What VFO tuning knob to use ? The left or the right one ? Why not both ?! The Mark-V provides smart buttons to prevent any mistake in "mixing" both VFOs.

But how can we listen to two frequencies with only one radio do you maybe wonder ? In fact Yaesu engineers can't do either... They "cheat" in installing under the lid two independent receivers, each coming with its own IF filter(s) and AGC loops, so that you can listen to two frequencies on the same band simultaneously without interaction ! 

In playing with the RX and TX LED buttons located just above each VFO you enable or disable each receiver or transmitter, while the DUAL blue button (located below at right of the main VFO tuning knob) switches to the double receiver. 

You can also synchronize both VFOs in enabling the LOCK button on the Sub VFO-B located at its right which highlights the light TRACK on the display. The audio levels for the two receivers may be adjusted independently too.

If you work with headphones you can customize the mixing of audio via Menu option 4-8 (HEAdPHon). Select either "Mono" (the audo of both VFOs are combined and mix on your two ears), "Stereo1" (the audio of both VFOs are partly combined), or "Stereo2" (audio of VFO A in the left ear, the one of VFO B in the right ear). Between you and me, I don't really understand how can we listen to two QSOs simultaneously... But come back to our main VFO.

The main VFO tuning knob is very ergonomic, of a good diameter, the rubber ring is large and its pattern is not very deep what is a good thing to prevent the accumulation of dust. This knob constitutes one of the improvements of the previous model. The main VFO-A tuning knob is associated to a concentric ring, what Yaesu calls a "shuttle jog dial" offering two new selectors : a VRF button on the left side of the ring, standing for variable RF front-end filter and an IDBT button on the right side of the ring, standing for interlocking digital bandwidth tracking system. Due to their position at the rear of the main knob, you need to play with the ring a few times to appreciate its utility. Placed in an usual position, this is indeed a feature that requests some habit. So don't worry if during a few weeks you do not appreciate it; once used to play with it you can probably no more work without it. But what are the role of these additional buttons ?

Next chapter

The Yaesu war plan against RFI

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