FT-891: is it that bad?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by WB2WIK, May 22, 2017.

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  1. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    But this radio performs VERY well, in my experience (and I actually own the radio, unlike many commenters here). It actually out-performs my IC-7300, in the city, due to its far superior noise reduction, a trickle-down from the FTDX series.

    The spectral purity was an issue mentioned. It was also mentioned by the test engineer that if you run it at 50w (30w digital) or under drive power, you won't have any troubles with spectral purity or phase noise. So, if you amp it, probably best to have it be an amp that drives at 50w or less.


    As for myself, I bought it mainly to be an SSB mountaintop and office rig. I try to operate around 40w, to conserve battery. Local friends have not noticed any noise issues with my signal, and now that I have EQ'd the typical Yaesu MH-31b for DX, I am getting great reports.

    I don't think this would be my rig, if I were a digital modes person (which I am not). There are far better choices. In any case, it seems my digital modes friends are typically running at far less than even 50w (more like 5 to 10w). Absolutely zero noise issues to worry about, at those levels -- nada. Even in very close proximity.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  2. KF5KCA

    KF5KCA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have read through this thread and there are multiple comments about better rigs at better price points and there being better rigs for digital modes. Could someone enlighten me what better all-mode portable (non QRP) rigs are out there today (currently selling new) at under $630 or rigs in a similar price band with comparable features that are also good with digital modes? I guess the X108g comes to mind, but I would rather not go there at this point and it is QRP'ish anyways.

    I did entertain Elecraft for a while, but they are somewhat price prohibitive and/or QRP. The FT-857d looks OK, but also does not have an internal audio interface, is more expensive, no DSP, no roofing filter and getting a bit long in the tooth. I also do not need or want VHF/UHF in an HF rig.

    Any pointers to some great gear are greatly appreciated!


    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  3. W8BYH

    W8BYH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    To be honest the 891 does have some issues. For me the #1 issue is digital modes. It would be fine if mine worked OK with a SignalLink - I can accept the lack of a sound card interface if the digital operating modes were otherwise robust. But I and several others have noted a number of issues with the radio when running it in digital modes. In particular, the radio has a tendency to lock up. Some say it's RF, some say it's a SignalLink issue, some say it's an easy to fix firmware issue. Who knows. In my case only doing a full factory reset fixed the issue, but it happened every time I tried using the 891 in digital modes.

    The factory documentation is also a little weak. Take note of the number of users who had no idea there was a stereo output jack on the control head. It is not well addressed at all in the manual.

    BUT - if you are looking for a strong performer on HF voice and (so I've been told) CW the 891 is a terrific radio. By now mine has been semi-retired, replaced by a much more capable (and also MUCH more expensive) tabletop, but I hold the 891 in reserve for field use.

    I'm eagerly waiting for Yaesu to release an 891 version 2 (or an 891A in Yaesu's normal parlance) that incorporates a sound card interface and cleans up some of the relatively minor issues noted in the ARRL review. If they release that rig I'm prepared to sell my 891 at a loss and head straight for the upgraded model (and for the record, I have NO idea if Yaesu is even thinking about this - it's all just me dreaming).

  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Kenwood TS-480S is a bit better in several respects, but about $200 more expensive: http://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-006922

    It does include a built-in (standard, not optional) automatic antenna tuner which is worth close to $200, so this is a fairly reasonable comparison.

    The Yaesu FT-450D might be another option to look at, although I like the 480S better. The 450D is also a "good deal," brand new, and does include a built-in ATU.

    If it were me, and it's not, I'd go for something more sophisticated and larger, but used, to keep the cost down but the features up. Hard to beat a second-hand TS-850SAT which might be in that approximate price range and would blow away any of these three in most respects, but it's not nearly as small, light or portable...better choice for home station use.
    N5WVR likes this.
  5. KF5KCA

    KF5KCA Ham Member QRZ Page


    Appreciate the feedback. I had a TS-480SAT and while it was certainly a great radio, neither it nor the FT-450d really qualify for me as portable. I am looking for portable more in the sense of something I can take on a hike in a backpack with an antenna and battery (not portable in the sense of "I can move it from one end of the shack to the other" ;)).


  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Problem with "portable" and "battery operated" is you need a really big battery to run 100W PEP output power unless all your transmissions are less than 15 seconds long.

    Portable/battery operated relegates us to rigs in the 5-15W power class. Of all those, the Elecraft KX3 is undoubtedly the best there is.

    I have an FT-817ND and it's cool, but not great at anything and actually a bit of a battery power hog. Its internal batteries don't last long if you actually do any operating, and it's only 5W PEP max.

    A 14AH battery won't run a 100W rig. So, unless you don't mind a really heavy backpack, the 100W rigs are probably out.
    K8AI likes this.
  7. KF5KCA

    KF5KCA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Agree that you cannot run a rig for extended times at 100W. But, you can certainly run a 100W rig for a decent amount of time on RX and sufficient amount of time on TX using some of the more weight efficient LiFePo4 batteries (20Ah@5.4 lbs) when limiting yourself to 20-25W output power. In addition, if assisted with a solar charger you can extend your operating time even further. Also, I do not want to rag chew for hours while portable and am looking more for SOTA type hiking and camping application.

    But again, the point of my original post was to find out what folks were referring to when they state that there are more capable rigs than the FT-891 out there for under $630. Given that the FT-891 is clearly positioned as a mobile/portable solution and not a desktop radio, I would love to know what these solution are and not compare it to 50lbs desktop rigs.

    I was on the brink of going with an Elecraft KX2, but even its price point is a bit off when compared to the FT-891. In addition it is limited to 10W, which will make it great for CW, but not necessarily SSB voice.

    I have not seen any other radios (than the FT-891) so far that are in current production and have the following feature set:
    1. Under $650
    2. Small mobile/portable HF form factor
    3. All band (at least 10m-160m)
    4. Capable of at least 25W (preferrably 50W)
    5. Support for digital modes
    6. DSP

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  8. WD4IGX

    WD4IGX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It seems to be a pretty capable radio overall for the combination of price and portability. Sacrifice either of those and you can get something better, either by getting something that works better but is less portable or that costs more money.

    "You get what you pay for" still seems to apply. Pretty remarkable in some ways given the combination of price and size, if you really need that combination.
  9. KF5KCA

    KF5KCA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, let's put it this way. I do not want to sacrifice portability as it would fundamentally change how I am planning to use the radio. I am more open to be flexible on price. But even if I were flexible on bullet #1 on my list I do not see any option on the market right now (outside of the FT-857d). The only other options are the FT-817nd, KX2 or KX3, which are all QRP rigs- great radios, but not something I am interested in right now.

    That is why I was so interested in folks mentioning that there are better options than the FT-891 at a lower price- just don't see that. I actually do not see any options for an all mode portable rig capable of 25W in the market right now, except for the FT-891!

    Thanks and 73,

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  10. WD4IGX

    WD4IGX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Not at a lower price, I'd agree. At a higher price there'd be the 857D and the Icom IC-7100.

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