After many weeks of anticipation, Yaesu’s newest transceiver, the FT-991 ‘shack in a box’ has finally arrived…from those nice people at Martin Lynch and Sons. I like it very much indeed…and thought you might enjoy a ‘first impressions’ review of the Yaesu FT-991. It isn’t a technical assessment, but rather a hands-on mini review.
What’s in the box?
Well, apart from the radio, not a lot. You get the FT-991 itself, MH31 microphone, plus a manual, Yaesu map, DC lead and a spare fuse. Oh, and the warranty card.
Connect up and switch on
Maybe I’m a bit old fashioned, but I like to start without the manual. The FT-991 is very straightforward…plug in the microphone, connect the DC power (making sure you get the leads the right way round), plug in an antenna or two and press the power button. The TFT colour screen lit up, no smoke escaped, and I was rewarded with noises on the 40m band.
A few minutes checking what each button did when pressed briefly and for a second or so, allowed me to quickly use most of the functions on the radio. Note: I didn’t have to spend ages tweaking menu settings…it worked right out of the box. The TFT display is clear and bright (you can change the colour and brightness), the knobs feel pretty solid and the few buttons are sensibly located.
Some people remark that the FT-991 is a replacement for the FT-847…I think it’s more for the recently discontinued FT-897. It doesn’t feel as ‘chunky’ as the FT-897 so I’m not sure the military will use this one.
I know some people like to spend hours playing with equaliser settings to get their audio just right…you can do this with the FT-991…but I just flicked the microphone switch to position ‘2’. I tried the radio on various bands, HF and VHF, and received reports of excellent quality and that it sounded ‘just like me’.
Receive audio is equally as good. The internal speaker works well but I did connect mine to an external PMR type speaker. Audio quality is truly excellent with plenty of volume available.
What do all the buttons do?
For this, you will have to read the manual…but you can work most things out by just playing with the radio for half an hour or so. You can download the manual from the Yaesu USA website before you buy the radio.
What do I like about the FT-991?
Frankly, I think it’s a great radio. It does so many things really well. Do remember that this is not an FTDX9000D…nor does it have the associated price tag. Unless you’re a dedicated contester then I can thoroughly recommend the FT-991 if you’re looking for a radio that does pretty much everything you’ll ever need. There are menus…but they are easier to navigate than on the FT-897 due to the TFT colour screen. You get 100W on HF and 50MHz with 50W available on the VHF and UHF bands.
Here are some of the features I really liked:
- Audio quality was excellent on transmit and receive
- Passband shift and variable bandwidth were very effective, as was the automatic notch filter. There is a manual notch for CW and data modes.
- The DSP Digital Noise Reduction system is one of the best I’ve ever used – it really can pull a weak signal from the band noise and eliminate that noise on a stronger signal.
- AGC is smooth and works really well – none of the pumping you get with other radios.
- Weak signals on a crowded band can be copied well…and there are dual roofing filters to help too.
- Great resolution on the TFT colour display…although the ‘sweep’ display is not quite as useful as I’d hoped. On continuous sweep, it is great for monitoring band conditions however.
- You can easily adjust the drag on the main VFO knob.
- All four main ‘function’ buttons on the TFT display can be programmed to any ‘M List’ option.
- Easy navigation of the various menu settings and all functionality.
- The internal and included antenna tuner.
- A quiet cooling fan which wasn’t on all the time.
What didn’t I like?
- When in single VFO mode, the ‘A/B’ button swaps the contents of the two VFO’s. It would be nice to have some indication of the swap, apart from the change in frequency.
- The ‘A=B’ button is easy to catch inadvertently…very annoying when you’re using one frequency and occasionally checking another. I think a one second press, before the equalising occurs, might be better.
The back of the radio
For most of the world standard SO-239 connectors are the order of the day, one for HF and 50MHz and the other for VHF/UHF. However, in the UK we benefit from an ‘N’ type socket for the VHF/UHF antenna connector. There are mini-DIN connectors for a tuner and linear, plus data. External speaker and remote/ALC connections are 3.5mm jack plugs and a 9 pin D-plug provides GPS and CAT connectivity.
Yaesu have also included USB connectivity on the FT-991. Great for remote PC control with Ham Radio Deluxe…and for installing any firmware updates as they are released.
In response to the ICOM IC-7300 I presume, Yaesu released the FT-991A. The main difference between it and the original FT-991, is the ability to have the spectrum monitor running at the same time as transmitting and receiving. Personally, I think this is a ‘must have’, so if you can find a good FT-991A, I’d get that instead of the original FT-991. However, you will pay more for it, so if cost is an issue and you find a really mint FT-991, then maybe you can live without the spectrum scope being available all the time.
The original FT-991 had a design fault…when running lower power levels, the PA stage would often overheat and burn out; I believe it went into oscillation and quickly died.
I understand the issue was resolved in the later ‘A’ version, but if you’re buying an original FT-991, ask for proof that the PA stage has been sorted by Yaesu. I don’t believe they do it for free anymore.
I’m not a CW operator yet, but there are a plethora of built in features; CW reception is however excellent.
I haven’t tried data modes with the radio yet, but again, the features are there for when I get time.
The FT-991 includes C4FM operation, Yaesu’s new digital format. So far I’ve had one QSO with another C4FM radio and it seems very good indeed.
All in all, this is a very nice piece of kit and I think Yaesu have done a great job. If you get the chance, try one at your local dealer…I know ML&S have them readily available on demonstration. You might just end up taking one home with you…although at the time of writing this, there was a huge waiting list. I hope you’ve found this brief review helpful…but as always, the decision to buy is yours.
I’m very pleased I bought mine 🙂