Review: Yaesu FT-991A

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by N8FVJ, May 24, 2019.

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  1. N8FVJ

    N8FVJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    This remarkable transceiver should be considered. And, if you want HF/VHF/UHF all mode coverage in one transceiver there is no alternate in this power output range and size.

    The Yaesu FT-991A is an excellent transceiver with 160 meters thru 70cm all mode band coverage. It has a built-in antenna tuner (160m thru 10m) and 100 watts output on HF plus 50 watts output on 2m & 70cm. Current draw on 2m & 70cm is 10 amps and 21 amps on HF to 6 meters at 13.8 volts DC. Size is 9" x 3.2" x 9.3" deep. Weight is 9.7lbs.

    Features included a real time Spectrum scope, multi-color Waterfall display, 32 bit DSP, 3kHz roofing filter, standard TCXO for high stability and 3.5" TFT display. USB compatible.

    The waterfall display shows active hams on the band even at low signal strength. The triple conversion (dual on FM) receiver is selective with 20 over S9 signal disappearing at 2.5kHz away. The frequency stability on VHF & UHF is excellent (way superior to the new ICOM IC-9700). The VHF/UHF receiver is as sensitive as it gets. The DNR is excellent without any 'waterfall' sounding artifacts.

    It has 156 menu items on the touch screen, but once set never needs access again. Default settings are fine on most items. I set microphone to 20, compression to 36 and used the microphone EQ for best sound using a Behringer XM8500 desk microphone ($20). It is a very simple transceiver to set up and use. The transmit audio quality is excellent. Even the hand microphone is a good performer audio wise.

    Frankly, this under $1200 transceiver is more like a $2K transceiver considering the features and receiver performance. Receiver performance is meets minimum good ratings on QST reviews. Not a contest machine with dual receiver and other attributes, but more than suitable for reliable communications under tough band conditions.
    KO4PYL, US7IGN, NQ1B and 6 others like this.
  2. ON9KVE

    ON9KVE XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Keep on dreaming....
  3. W9WQA

    W9WQA Ham Member QRZ Page

    i love it but the display is nothing like the 7300. i had one. sent it back.
  4. N8FVJ

    N8FVJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The IC-7300 is bad news in a noisy environment and many hams agree with this statement. In a noisy environment the FT-991A is not affected.
    K8JAZ, VA6ADB and KU3X like this.
  5. K6BRN

    K6BRN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have two FT-991s. They work great on HF or VHF/UHF, in any mode. Very good for IOTA or other portable ops that need to minimize equipment but be band-agile. I run one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. No (bad) issues at all. So good on VHF/UHF I just do not use my dedicated FM gear on those bands anymore. Team them up with a PowerWerx SS30DV and an EFHW-8010-2K 0r -4010 and AR-270 dual band VHF/UHF antenna and you've got a great, versatile, compact travel package that can go just about anywhere there is power.
    NQ1B and KU3X like this.
  6. PY2RAF

    PY2RAF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I was QRT from 2004-2018.

    After this 14 years hiatus, daughter grown up, with more time in my hands and greased relationship with HOA, I decided it was time to make a comeback.

    So, in Oct 2018 I made a comeback to the radio with full power, brought the FT-840 to the rural QTH and enjoyed (a lot) the HF comeback. However, the FT-840 is… Tiring: while the sturdy and constant FT-840 delivered well what it promised, the operation is definitely not comfortable: No DSP, no filters; it is tiring a day-long operation with the 840.

    This time, I wanted a good and comfortable station, without consuming much space and working on all bands: HF/VHF/UHF.

    My first contenders were the FT-857D and IC-7100.

    After consulting my company's internal ham radio list, I was really leaning toward the IC-7100. However, after pondering that with more $300 I could buy a FT-991A, and being very well aware of the horror stories of blown finals in FT-991 (and a LOT of eHam reading), I stuck to FT-991A.

    The IC-7300 was not considered because it lacks VHF/UHF coverage. And I was sorta bummed for Icom using RD70HHF (in 7100 and 7300) finals instead of RD100HHF like the 991A does.

    The equipment was bought new in November/2018.

    • ZOMG, the USB port. Both CAT and Virtual Sound Card in the same port is just GREAT: It is a breeze for digital modes, or if you want to save bucks and have your computer to equalize your audio instead of buying 3rd party gear to do your sound effects.

    • It is great to shrug at those operators that have that awful habit to tune over the active QRG – Just push the “DNF” button and poof – the annoying tuning is gone, for good.

    • The CAT command set: It got virtually all the functions of the radio covered by CAT commands. Gives plenty of headraoom to hack and interface with the radio!

    • The RX: When comparing with my FT-840, the 991A was able to get some signals that were slightly faint on 840 with more clarity (even without using DSPs or amplifiers).

    • VERY EASY to tap the IF stage (all it takes is pulling a U.FL connector)

    • Backlit buttons - A breeze to operate in dark rooms / night operation.

    • Two independent CAT ports – One in the USB port, other in the DB-9 RS-232 port, completely independent so you can avoid the Virtual Serial Splitter Port
    • The first time I operated the 991A in HF, it was *refreshing*. The DSP shovels off a good lot of the background QRM, ensuring a very comfortable operation. Some may complaint of waterish/bubblish noise – Those will happen with a low signal-to-noise ratio: Well, no hay milagro: It’s a DSP, not a signal maker. Scored a big one, it is of help and make your reception way less tiring with medium-to-low signals.

    • I use the notch filter a lot, when working in FT-8 and remove that neighboring QRO station – Works GREAT. Just wish they could have provided a second notch too.

    • Very capable DSP, with selectable wide and narrow band receiving, as well the interested bandwidth

    • No provisions for FM broadcast - This in my opinion is a great design choice, because the bandpass filters just shapes out the FM BC range, resulting in a quieter operation in VHF band.

    • The Scope - While first I sort of frowned at the spectrum analyzer, this is actually very useful: Works real good and have a maximum 1 MHz BW, 500 kHz to each side from the center frequency. Good to find action when you are not in the mood to turn on the computer and panadapter.

    • The overall radio project - I have reviewed the schematics when working my Panadapter project and so far I have not found any component that is out of production - This is a recent and well thought PCB & component selection project.

    • The Antenna Tuner: Works fine, works good!

    • The SWR meter: Also works for 2M and 70 cm! GOOD to know and keep your radio in a safe operative envelope.

    • The reports: Ham radio operators have this ONLY vanity, actually what makes us spend the gross of our QSJ: They want to be well heard and hear back complimentary reports. I have got a lot ;-)

    • Yaesu Support: I was answered on every question that I sent them. /me tips his hat at Rodger.
    • Dual watch. My tiny VX-8 can do it, puzzled how hard it could be to implement in a large and more powerful radio.

    • Configurable Needle display - Hey cmon, it would not be that hard to implement. The bargraph is great, but the being able to select the software-needle meter would be heck of a classy touch. I know you can do it Yaesu, because FTDX-1200 does implement it – and it’s the same processor (and source code).

    • A TX timer - It would be a useful feature, especially when using repeaters - So you could monitor for how long have you been on the air and avoid the long TXs and sudden find out that the repeater went TOT and you lost half of your QSO :p. In the end, I built mine.

    • No FM equalizer - The Equalizer works only for SSB and AM

    • No VHF/UHF attenuator

    • A general temperature monitor – Shame on you again, Yaesu – I do see a THRM pin traveling to the CPU.

    • Configurable Touch Buttons - While you can configure the bottom-low row of buttons, well, these are 4 buttons: It would not cost a limb to make a menu screen with the 6 configurable buttons.

    • APO - Auto Power Off after some time idle

    • Password-protect – My VX-8 also has it.

    • 220 MHz - Though RD70HUF2 is not suited for 220 MHz, we could provide lower power output (like other radios does) for this band.
    • The display. The bezel surrounding the display is The. Exact. Size. of the display – if you look top-down angle, you can’t read what is on the top lines – The time, the channel name, the memory number/VFO mode, etc. It should have some bleed so actually the screen is comfortably seen on all angles. Please give some space to the screen on next products.

    • The power cable - My FT-840 power cable is bonded together as parallel cable. This goddamn 991A power cable is not bonded and it entangles very easily. Cmon Yaesu, you have been CHEAP here. Not nice. Tackled it by adding isolation tape after some spacing and keeps the cables together.

    • The touch panel - This is a membrane touch, not the real deal like your cellphone

    • The rear antenna connectors - It seems that Yaesu sources the connectors in some other manufacturer, it is definitely not a AMP connector. Mine had quality issues as it was poorly machined and I could not attach my antenna. Had to go to maintenance right away after I got the radio.
    • WHAT THE F THAT VFO B. It is a weird implementation and while in the schematics there's VFO B RX LED, you never enter RX VFO B. It is a weird and very poorly implemented solution; Yaesu could have emulated a VFO B by software and this is just. plain. ugly. badly. thought. and. badly. Implemented.
      You could have done it better, developer.

    • Memories:
      • 100 memories - WHAAAAT?!! My VX-8 is capable of 999 memories!

      • No TX power config on memory entry: I would like to be able to configure the TX power on individual frequencies (hint: VX-8 does it)
    Over the course of my fiddling with FT-991A I also found a few firmware bugs – I have documented them in QRZ Forum, hoping Yaesu fixes them in a further release.

    The fan kicks in on-demand and responds to the equipment’s temperature. It is completely stopped (and silent) if cold enough. I do find the fan a bit noisy to my taste – And I replaced it with a quieter one. Also documented in QRZ Forum.

    There are a few items that could surely have been done better or well thought.

    The User Interface (read: Usability) is not the best one. Takes some time to master it. After you get it sorted out in your head, you will be able to have a enjoyable radio experience – But, again, will take time and tinkering. Read the manual. Explore. Be adventurous. If you FUBAR’ed, do a master reset. And no, it is not your FT-101E or TS-440.

    If you are a button and knobs person, steer clear from this equipment – Otherwise it will result in one of those disgruntled rants and reviews – and selling the radio at a loss. Be smart. Make good and well-informed decisions.

    I'm ranking it 5/5. Very satisfied with the equipment after a full year of operation.

    73 de PY2RAF.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
    WA1EDN, KD5WW and NQ1B like this.
  7. W8BYH

    W8BYH XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    In my shack I have an FT-991A and an IC-7300 sitting side-by-side. If I'm going to talk on SSB I grab the 991A mic. If I'm going to work digital modes, I use the 7300.

    Both are great radios - they really are. My statement above highlights the strengths of each radio. I get more unsolicited audio quality reports when using the 991A; Yaesu knows SSB voice, and it shows. The 7300's overwhelming strength is digital modes - it's a digital mode beast that is perhaps the easiest radio I've ever had to configure for digital.

    The FT-991A CAN work digital, and once you get the dozen or so digital settings figured out it can be a reliable digital mode radio, but Yaesu's settings options are so complex, and it's so easy to set something wrong (even for experienced operators...) that it's often not worth the hassle if you have another digital option. That said, I DO regularly run my 991A on digital for HF and VHF Winlink. But, I would not dare touch any of the digital settings to try to run anything else! Getting it to work with JS8CALL has been utter frustration and I finally had to give up and just let the rig control interface for HRD handle the FT-991A-to-JS8CALL interface (a really slick configuration trick that the JS8CALL developer built into the software). At the end of the day, if I want a drama-free digital experience I just slide over to the IC-7300.

    On the flip side, the IC-7300 is something of a soul-less appliance; a rectangular box with an SDR inside and a few knobs and a touch panel on the outside. That's it. Now, a VERY WELL designed and implemented soul-less box that handles everything like a champ, but as it sits in front of you it has kind of a 'meh' appeal.

    The FT-991A is a bit like an Italian sports car; great to look at, gets you down the road with style, handles great, and can be a bit fussy to live with. But at the end of the day it makes you smile. However, unlike an Italian sports car, the FT-991A is dead-solid reliable.

    Can I recommend the FT-991A as a 'shack-in-the-box' solution? Yes! With the exception of the digital modes complexity/frustration this is an otherwise great radio. Knowing what I know today, if I could only keep one of these two HF radios, it would be the IC-7300 that went on the auction block.

    G7UNF, KO4PYL, K8JAZ and 5 others like this.
  8. KU3X

    KU3X Ham Member QRZ Page

    I used the settings, in the manual, that Yaesu suggests for working DX. I've gotten the exact same unsolicited audio reports.

    The function menu is a pain. Having to go through up to 10 screens just to turn on the NB is a pain. I don't think this area was well thought out.
    I was on the fence for a long time before I purchased my 991A, but I am so glad that I finally bought it. I'd actually like to get another one to use in my Van.

  9. VK2CRB

    VK2CRB Ham Member QRZ Page

    So you like a colour screen, only, and that makes the RX to be brilliant ??????????? What University have you been in studying RF? If I may ask ?
  10. VK2CRB

    VK2CRB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have one, in the box, and I am North italian living in australia. This week I purchased FT-2000D in ultra inmaculate conditon. I love it. Yes, it is 2007 production and a different cattle of fish, but what an animal. I am still thinking in selling the Ft 991A, and believe me, if Yaesu puts bricks in a box I will buy them. I am a Yaesu guy always. Never liked ICOM, never. But at the end of the day..........................the true specs speaks by themselves. I am reading here a guy that is concerned with the nice colour screen of the IC 7300. I really do not want to be rude, but what the F. is this madness ? I have an old Kenwood TS 930S and is a brilliant machine..........besides the problems. And the receiver may not have DSP. I sometime do not understand humans.
    G7UNF, K8JAZ, K8PG and 2 others like this.

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