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Yaesu MARK V / FT-1000MP
HF Transceiver

 

(Updated December 11,2001)

Introduced at the Dayton 2000 Hamvention, the new Yaesu Mark V/FT-1000MP transceiver is squarely aimed at the high performance contest and DX crowd. Combining the best of the venerable FT-1000D with the DSP and computer glitz of the mid-priced FT-1000MP, the Mark V is Yaesu's attempt to dominate the "elite class" market for the next decade. After swearing that I would never get rid of my beloved FT-1000D, I finally succumbed to temptation and shelled out $3269 (plust tax) for the basic Mark V and another $900 for optional filters. This is not a cheap radio! Here are some impressions. (Update note: In late 2001, Yaesu dropped the price about $500. )

What first catches your eye about the new Mark V is the top heatsink, which is an integral part of the cabinet. Yaesu claims the heatsink has 250% greater cooling power than the rear-mounted heatsink on the FT-1000D. Like the FT-1000D, the Mark V runs 200+ watts output. Whereas the FT-1000D used bipolar power transistors, the Mark V uses a pair of Phillips BLF147 power MOSFETS. A special "Class A" mode reduces power output to 75 watts, and reduces IMD (distortion) to lower than -50db, which bests any ham transceiver ever made.

Yaesu Mark V/FT1000MP Transceiver

Yaesu FP-29 Power Supply

There's good news and bad news about the FP-29 external switching power supply The good news is that the FP-29, which provides 30V @15A and 13.8V@3A is included at no additional charge. The bad news is that the FP-29 has an irritating bottom-mounted fan (see below) which runs all the time. Though much quieter than the fan on Icom switchers, it's still audible in a quiet room. On the plus side, Yaesu provides a 2 meter long interconnecting cable, so the supply can be hidden behind the desk. Note that the FP-29 only runs on 120VAC; there's no provision for 240VAC. (Update note: this statement is in error; the FP-29 can be configured for 240V operation. Early units required removing the bottom cover to reconfigure for 240V.)

FP-29 Fan

The unusual top-mounted heatsink (right) is cooled by a novel "paddle-wheel" internal fan (below). The fan is thermostatically controlled and doesn't run all the time.

Heatsink Fan

Mark V Heatsink

Filter Slots for Main Receiver

Plan on spending about $900 if you want to load up your Mark V with optional filters. The main receiver takes up to five optional filters for the 2nd and 3rd IF, and the sub-receiver holds one optional filter. The Mark V uses a combination of crystal and (Collins) mechanical filters. The three filters at the bottom of the photo are supplied (the blue one is a Collins 10 pole SSB filter --the FT1000MP uses an 8-pole filter.), while a 250 Hz optional filter is at the upper right. A nice new feature: the bandwidth of the DSP filtering (in the ssb mode only) is automatically interlocked to the bandwidth of the selected analog filters, even when using the "width" vernier.

Out of the Box: My first challenge with the radio was installing two plug-in optional filters. I couldn't figure out how to take the cabinet off! The instructions in the manual were wrong (probably not updated from the FT-1000MP). (Update note: Recent version of the manual now describe the correct procedure.) In short, the cabinet is in four pieces, with 23 screws of three different types. Although it was easy to plug in the filters once I got the cabinet apart, it was then a challenge putting everything back together. Two tiny screws recess into the narrow space between the heatsink fins; nursing them back into their holes required a bright light and pair of curved tweezers. My advice: ask the dealer to install the filters for you. The blue Collins 500 Hz sub-receiver filter is shown in the below photo, to the right of the TCXO oscillator module.

Side View showing sub-receiver

Initializing the software for the selected filters was also confusing. More about this problem, below.

Thin AC Cord for FP-29 Power Supply

How's the Quality? I am generally pleased with the radio's workmanship. It seems nicely engineered and layed out. Circuit boards use a combination of surface-mount and through-hole components. The top-firing internal speaker is larger than normal (3.5 in.) and sounds very good. Curiously, the thin little AC line cord (left) seems underrated for a rig that draws nearly 500 watts. I also didn't care for the cheezy interconnecting cable between the FP-29 and the radio. It uses molex-type connectors on each end of individual wires (a black sleeve holds the bundle together), with no strain-relief on the wires. Seems like for four grand, you would get a nice cable with molded connectors.

How about new features? Look closely at the right photo and you'll see "VRF" and "IDBT" on each side of the tuning knob, underneath the TX and RX LEDs. The VRF "Variable RF" button activates a manually-tuned front-end preselector, which one tweaks for maximum signal, just like us old-timers used to do on radios from previous eras. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mark V Display

IDBT stands for "interlocked digital bandwidth tracking system," which sets the radio's DSP bandwidth to that used by the cascaded crystal and mechanical filters. What's neat about this feature is that it automatically corrects for adjustments in the IF shift and IF width controls. The feature can be toggled on or off by a button to the right of the tuning knob. Note that this feature only works in the SSB mode; on CW, one uses the audio peak filter instead.

Rough Edges: The Mark V isn't without blemishes, many attributed to its being brand new on the market. Some of these result from Operating Manual errors (such as the cabinet removal instructions, noted above), some from inappropriate default menu settings, and a few from quirky design choices. ( I received an email from Yaesu promising to fix the manual problems in subsequent editions.) (Update note: Yaesu kept their promise; recent editions have corrected the problems.)Although frustrating, none of these problems in my opinion are deal-breakers.

I spent considerable time figuring out the filter selection options. Some menu names are unclear and occasionally wrong. For example, "OFF" in the SSB normal filter menu (5-0) means that the 2.4 kHz SSB filters are both ON, and the manual misidentified filter menu (5-2) as "CW normal filter," whereas it was really "CW Narrow 2."

The manual incorrectly labels the choices of menu items 7-7 (EDSP Enhanced Modulation and Demodulation) (Update note: these now corrected). This menu item turns on or off the DSP filtering for several modes. Also, the default setting for CW reception was ON and this choice caused me considerable grief until I changed it. The default setting evidently sets the 4th IF DSP bandwidth for "normal" CW reception to 2.0 kHz. This is fine if the optional 2.0 kHz filters are installed, but if they aren't then the DSP bandwidth doesn't match the bandwidth of the supplied 2.4 kHz filters. This mismatch means that strong CW signals outside the 2.0 kHz DSP bandwidth can capture the AGC, wiping out the weak signal you're trying to listen to. Deactivating the DSP for this mode solved the problem, but until I figured out the solution, I was almost ready to ask for my money back.

Be sure and check with Yaesu before using INRAD filters with non-standard SSB bandwidths, non-standard filters might confuse the IDBT synchronization with the DSP. This won't be a problem with CW filters, since the IDBT isn't activated on CW.

A few of the other default settings seem poorly chosen. For instance, the default dropout time for semi-break-in CW is set to zero, leading to a lot of relay-clicking. I eventually set the delay to .35 seconds. The sidetone level adjustment is inconveniently located on the rear panel and must be turned nearly to zero to get the tone down to a reasonable volume. Similarly, the default "beep" volume (which sounds when any button is pressed) is way too loud, with the adjustment awkwardly hidden on the radio's underside. (Curiously, the beep frequency is a menu adjustment, as if anyone cared about customizing their beep's tone.)

Shortly after I received it, my radio developed a minor service problem with autotuner. I wiggled the wires going to the tuner board, which appeared to fix the problem. After a week or so, however, the problem recurred, and the radio had to be returned to Yaesu for warranty repair. This problem is probably unique to my radio. (Update note: problem turned out to be a poorly seated connector on the tuner board and a loose ground connection.)

I've had two Mark V owners report to me that their radios seem sensitive to RF feedback, caused by high SWRs. The symptom is that the radio locks itself into the transmit mode, with the only recourse being to kill the AC power. I have also had this symptom appear with my Mark V, but very rarely.

On-the-Air at Last! To get a feel for the new rig, I tried it side-by-side (see photo below) with an Icom IC-756PRO and a 15-year-old Signal/One Milspec 1030. First, let me dispell any notions you might have that radios were better in the "good old days." The top-of-the-line Signal/One just didn't cut it, receiver-wise. Compared to either the Yaesu or Icom, the Signal/One sounded noisier on the bands, the noise blanker didn't measure up to the others, the selectivity wasn't as good, and it sure wasn't as convenient to use. However, in the Signal/One's defense, people liked its rf-processed transmit audio better than the processed audio on the other rigs.

How does the Mark V stack up against the IC-756PRO? Keep in mind that I wasn't pushing the radios to their limits, as one might do in a pileup on 160m CW or a multi-multi contest operation. These are impressions, not detailed technical comparisons.

So with that caveat, I'll first state the obvious. . . In terms of overall features the IC-756PRO wins out handily over the Mark V. With 6 meter coverage, lovely color display, bandscope, wide choice of filter bandwidths, and umpty-up menus, the Icom has nearly every bell and whistle imaginable. It also costs about a kilobuck less than a loaded Mark V. It's obviously a great value.

Yaesu Mark V,  Icom 756-Pro, and Signal/One Milspec 1030

But features don't tell the whole story! Although the Mark V doesn't do as much as the 756PRO, what it does, it does brilliantly. For instance, I checked the s-meter sensitivity on 160m, 20m, and 10m on both radios with my HP-8640 signal generator. An S-9 signal is supposed to be 50 uV. However, S-9 on the Icom wandered between 72uV and 96uV on the three bands (no preamp). An S-9 on the Mark V (no preamp) was exactly 50uV on all three bands -- a minor accomplishment, admittedly, but a sign that the designers paid close attention to detail.

In A-B comparisons, the audio on the Mark V always sounded better -- crisper, and without any of the tell-tale hollowness of DSP processing. CW signals on the Icom sounded a bit mushy.

The Mark V was also a clear winner in selectivity tests. In fact, I've never before heard a receiver that seemed almost to have no "skirts" on its filters. CW signals just vanished abruptly when they toppled over the filter's edge, leaving behind only a few key clicks. The Yaesu's combination of crystal filtering at the 2nd and 3rd IFs, and DSP filtering at the 4th IF certainly seems to work. You're paying top dollars for all that selectivity, but the results are remarkable.

In these tests, I noted that the DSP-based Icom filters seemed to have broader skirts on the wider bandwidths. In one strong-signal test, I injected a 100,000 uV signal into both radios at 28.600 MHz and looked at the rolloff of their 2.4 kHz filters. This kind of test introduces a large amount of "hash" near the signal frequency. On the Yaesu, the signal dropped from full strength (about S9+60db) into this backgraund hash in about 200 Hz. On the Icom, it took nearly 700 Hz for the signal to drop into the hash.

I then tuned the receiver to 28.500 MHz, 100kHz away from the 100,000 uV signal. When I switched the signal on and off, I could hear just a barely perceptible increase in the background noise on the Yaesu. In contrast, the hash in the Icom jumped 20 db above its noise floor when the signal switched on. In essence, the huge signal 100 kHz away didn't cause the Yaesu to bat an eye, but it would have completely obliterated any weak signals on the Icom.

I preferred the tuning of the Mark V over the Icom. The large main tuning knob is a joy. (It's larger than the knob on the FT-1000MP; in fact, it's the same diameter as the tuning knob on the Collins 75A4.) The knob is significantly larger than the 756PRO's knob, and it turns with a velvety feel that is outstanding. The Yaesu's sub-receiver is also better than Icom's. It's truly a separate dual-conversion receiver, with its own filters and tuning knob. The noise blankers and DSP noise filters worked equally well on both radios.

If I had to sum up the two radios, I'd say that the IC-756PRO is a Cadillac and the Mark V/FT1000MP is a Porsche. They're both fine rigs, but intended for different drivers. For just crusin' around the bands or hanging out with the gang on 3865 kHz, the Icom would do just fine. It's not only a pleasure to use, but lots of fun. However, for full-bore competition in the CQ World-Wide DX Contest, or digging weak signals out of a pileup, I'd take the Yaesu in a heartbeat.

How does the Mark V compare to the FT-1000D? Although I can't do a technical analysis, I can make some operating comparisons between the two radios, since I owned a "D" for 8 years. First, let me just note that the "feel" of the two radios is similar. If you're a "D" owner, you won't have difficulty adjusting to the Mark V. However, as shown on the photo (right) and described below, the Mark V has many operating features that the FT-1000D lacks, as well as somewhat different panel layout. 

Mark V Front Panel

For example, the Mark V has S-meters for both the main and the sub-receiver, and both of these have a peak-hold option. Only the Mark V has "shuttle-jog" tuning, which lets one rapidly change frequency with one hand. One can select different tuning rates on the Mark V, and there's also a handy "fast tune" button below the main tuning knob. The "D" lacks these features.

Filter selection on the Mark V is as convenient as on the FT-1000D, and this is not as easy an accomplishment as you might think. On the "D" one just pushes a button for the desired filter. On the Mark V, there are filter choices for both the 2nd and 3rd IF. Rather than having two rows of buttons for each IF, the Mark V lets the user preconfigure the filter selections for each mode. Then you press one of only three buttons -- "normal," "narrow-1" and "narrow-2" -- for the desired mode-specific configuration. In other words, "narrow-1" for ssb gives one configuration, while "narrow-1" for the CW or AM modes selects different combinations. Some hams prefer the added flexibility of being able to independently choose the filters for each IF (as on the 1000MP), but I prefer the convenience of the Mark V's scheme

The Mark V has many nifty little features. To go "split" just push the red TX LED above the selected VFO, and the transmitter instantly changes to the other VFO. If you push the green RX LED on either receiver, that receiver mutes itself, and the LED flashes as an indication. No more fumbling for knobs when the phone rings.

The Mark V's noise blanker is superior to that in the "D." (I always thought the NB in my "D" was the Achilles heel of the radio.) Although a NB always introduces distortion with strong nearby signals, this is less of a problem with the Mark V's blanker than with others.

Notch filtering in the Mark V is better than in the FT-1000D, thanks to its combination of a manual IF notch and a DSP-based autonotch. The duo is very effective, and the manual IF notch lets you null a strong carrier which otherwise could capture the AGC. The autonotch is very effective at nulling out tuner-uppers.

The Mark V has built-in DSP noise filters. The NR circuit is quite flexible, with different "contours" for different kinds of noise. The Mark V's NR filter is at least as effective, and maybe more so, than the NIR-12 outboard DSP filter I used on my FT-1000D.

The Mark V also lets you use the DSP to configure the TX audio to enhance your voice characteristics. This is a plus for me, since my voice is very soft.

Another feature I like is the Mark V's twin headphone jacks, one a 1/4 inch jack, the other a 1/8 inch mini-stereo jack. Separate trimmers compensate for different headphone efficiencies, so simultaneous listeners won't fight over the volume control. (One negative: I don't like the sub-receiver audio control on the MarkV: it's too small and hard to reach.) The Mark V also lets you toggle between two separate antennas (as well as a receive-only antenna).

How important are all these extra features? It depends. Many hams are turned off by frill-loaded radios, layers of menus, and computer glitz. What they want is a straightforward rig with great perfomance. If that's you, then the FT-1000D is your right choice.

Other hams, like yours truly, may want to try something new and different but don't want to sacrifice performance to get it. On paper, the Mark V seems to offer the best of both the "D" and the "MP", plus some nice new features. In six months, I'll know if I made the right decision. So far, I've not been disappointed. (Update note: see comments at end.)

The bottom line: QST has now reviewed the Mark V (November 2000) and confirmed my subjective impression that this radio sets a new standard for strong-signal-handling performance. With filters galore (crystal, mechanical, audio, and DSP) and tuned preselectors, the Mark V is the radio to beat for contesting and top-band dxing. In terms of most important areas of receiver performance, QST rates it the best receiver ever tested. Feature-wise, the Mark V is comparable to many other modern transceivers. The controls are intuitive and straightforward and the DSP, NB, NR, etc., work well. (I do wish there was more flexibility in the AGC choices; it would be nice to have the time constants selectable by menu.) However, Yaesu is clearly not banking on glitz to sell this radio. The Mark V will sink or swim on the basis of its core receiver performance. Because of its incredible selectivity and crunch-proof design, I predict the "big gun" power users will jump on this radio as eagerly as they did on the FT-1000D, nearly ten years ago.

Update Note (December 2001): Now that a year has passed since I wrote this review, I have had many inquiries about whether I still like my Mark V and am pleased with my choice? The answer is a definite YES. I am continually amazed by the receiver, which is clearly better than any I've ever used. This fact became evident once again during this past weekend's 160 meter contest.

Aside from the early problem with the tuner, described above, my Mark V has been 100% reliable. One positive development in the past year is that the price of the Mark V has dropped significantly, along with the price of other Japanese rigs. I thought the Mark V was a good value when I bought it for about $3300 (not so, the optional filters, which seem quite expensive to me), but now I think it's a steal!

Incidentally, I've still got my ICOM 756PRO. I still believe it's a good general purpose rig, but now I only use it on six meters, where the bandscope is very useful to see band openings.