The following article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:
The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers
by Thomas (K4SWL)
Last April, our family went on a camping trip at New River State Park in Ashe County, North Carolina; we had an absolutely brilliant time.
Naturally, as with any camping trip or extended travel, I’d put a lot of thought into choosing the portable transceiver and field kit to take along.
The great thing about camping at a state park is that I can “activate” that park via the “Parks On The Air” (POTA) or “Worldwide Flora and Fauna” (WWFF) programs pretty much anytime: early morning, late afternoon, or even in a late shift well into the night. Or, of course, all of the above. Since my activation site is also where I’m eating and sleeping, my radio usually gets heavy use.
Before leaving on that April camping trip, I knew what radio I wanted to operate the bulk of the time: my Yaesu FT-817ND. For a lot of reasons which I’ll delve into later, I think the FT-817ND (or its latest iteration, the FT-818ND) is an amazing QRP field radio.
Despite unstable propagation and a little campground QRM that moved in over the weekend––no doubt from a neighboring RV, chock full of noisy switching power supplies––I found the FT-817ND activation to be a most enjoyable experience. I posted a few field reports and activation videos from my New River activations on QRPer.com.
The thing is, each time I publish a field report using the FT-817ND, I receive a string of questions from subscribers and readers. Questions such as…
- Should I buy a new FT-818 or a used FT-817?
- Why do you like the FT-817ND so much?
- What’s the difference between the 817 and 818?
- How does the FT-817/818 compare with _____ radio?
Most queries, however, are a version of this comment from reader David:
“We have such a wide array of QRP rigs available to us these days, I’m curious what brings you back to the Yaesu for activations? It’s bigger than our more modern radios, with no ATU and more current draw. I’m just wondering if there is something that you find it does particularly well, or if it’s just ‘because I like to use it,’ which to me is an entirely valid reason, too! My 897 served me well, as does my 891; I’ve had Yaesu handhelds forever, so I’m certainly a fan. I don’t own an 817/8 but they have a devoted following so I just wanted to get your perspective on it.”
Or as another subscriber distilled the question:
“Why choose a legacy design like the 817/818 when newer QRP transceivers have better overall field specs and features?”
Of course, these types of questions are simple enough when it comes to asking, but when it comes to answering, much more complex.
Of course, as I said in my recent TSM article about choosing a field radio, one’s love of a particular radio is by definition quite subjective, and this certainly applies to my response…we all have our own personal preferences. But behind these preferences are objective facts, such as product’s unique features, specifications, and form factor; let’s take a look at these.
The FT-817/818 is definitely unique
While we must acknowledge that the FT-817/818 series lacks some of the advanced and field-friendly features of more modern field rigs, it has qualities that make it a bit of a unicorn on the market, bringing repeat owners, like myself, back to the platform.
Let’s take a closer look at these unique qualities, starting with frequency range.
No doubt one of the strongest selling points of the FT-817/818 line is the wide frequency coverage. It can operate from 160 – 10 meters, 6 meters, 2 meters, and even 70 cm. Check out the transmit frequency range of the FT-817ND and 818ND (note that the early 817 non-ND models lack 60M):
- TX 1.8 MHz – 29.7 MHz
- TX (5.3320 MHz/ 5.3480 MHz/ 5.3585 MHz/ 5.3730 MHz/ 5.4050MHz)
- TX 50 MHz – 54 MHz
- TX 144 MHz – 148 MHz
- TX 430 MHz – 450 MHz (Amateur Bands only)
I should also note that it also sports a general coverage receiver, and I’ve enjoyed many hours of shortwave broadcast listening with my FT-817ND. With it, you can listen to the FM broadcast band, AIR band, and loads of public service frequencies. Here’s the receiver range:
- RX 100 kHz – 33 MHz
- RX 33 MHz – 56 MHz
- RX 76 MHz – 108 MHz
- RX 108 MHz – 154 MHz
- RX 420 MHz – 470 MHz
Other than the Icom IC-705 (a nearly $1400 radio at time of publishing) I know of no other QRP field transceivers with a frequency range this wide.
With the FT-817/818, you can operate on all of the most popular ham radio bands.
In addition, the 817/818 can operate in SSB, CW, AM, FM, and in digital modes, albeit with no internal sound card for the latter.
With the exception of the IC-705, I know of no other QRP HF field transceiver that provides the operator access to, for example, 2M and 70cm single sidebands; I find these bands are great fun to use during VHF/UHF contests and events like Field Day.
Indeed, I’m sure there’s a large percentage of operators who only use the 817/818 for VHF and UHF SSB and FM operation. Many operators purchase two FT-817/818s for full duplex satellite work. In fact, I’m one of those operators!
BNC and SO-239 antenna inputs
Very few QRP transceivers sport two different switchable antenna input options…in fact, I’m struggling to think of even one commercially-produced QRP transceiver that does.
The ‘817/818 allows the operator to choose either an SO-239 connection on the back of the radio, or a front-mounted BNC input. The two antenna inputs are toggled via a menu setting.
I switch between the two antenna inputs constantly even though I’m primarily an HF operator. Most of my QRP antennas use BNC connections, but I do have a few Chameleon Antennas and even an MFJ-1984LP end-fed half-wave that uses PL-259/SO-239 connections instead. My LDG Z-100 Plus ATU also has SO-239 ports.
With the FT-817/818, there’s no need to remember to bring a PL-259-to-BNC adapter or vice versa. It can accept both.
I should add that the front panel BNC was a stroke of genius on the part of Yaesu. Since its earliest days, the FT-817 has had significant appeal to satellite and HF manpack ops just because of this unique feature.
While the 817/818 isn’t weatherproof like the lab599 Discovery TX-500, and while it meets no mil spec rating of which I’m aware, it is incredibly rugged and well built.
Out of the box, you immediately notice that the top-mounted mode/band buttons are well protected and the back connections are protected by chassis protrusions on both sides of the radio.The body of the radio is metal (I assume aluminum or an alloy), and not hard plastic like the IC-705.
The front panel knobs are about the only thing that may need protection, say, in the event of dropping the radio. Fortunately, there are numerous commercially-available and even 3D-printed side rails and cages that can protect the 817/818 beautifully without compromising front panel ergonomics. All of my buddies who take their 817/818s to the field have side rails installed. Indeed, both of my FT-817NDs were purchased used, and both came with side rail packages.
I’m personally a big fan of the Portable Zero side rails because they also add an excellent fold-out bail under the radio. The design is very clever as the rails expand outward in a way that allows full access to the front panel knobs. There are also built-in side-attachment points for connecting a shoulder strap.
With the side rails installed, I really feel like the ‘817 is nearly military-tough.
If you want to take it to the extreme, consider the Armoloq TPA-817 B cage, which not only fully encloses the transceiver, but also as Amoloq notes, “allow(s) relocation of all rear inputs, minus power and ACC connection, to the front of the radio, provide(s) standoff at the rear of the radio for permanent cable attachment, and also provide(s) protection when used in the field.”
The TPA-817 B essentially rugged-izes all of the rig’s connection points, protecting it from all sides; it’s also a brilliant platform for converting the 817/818 into a manpack.
If you own the 817/818 and don’t have a cage or side rail system installed, I would encourage you to look at the massive number of options available on the market or as DIY projects.
CW operators should note that the FT-817/818 sports full break-in CW operation. Yes, it uses a mechanical relay that clicks (I actually like the mechanical relay feedback, no problem for me), but you can clearly hear between sent elements, as you should when operating full break-in. The QSK is cleaner and more responsive than what you might find in many modern SDR field transceivers, especially those with relays (like the G90, X5105, X6100, TX-500, and LD-11/ALT-512).
Solid front end
While the FT-817 isn’t “contest grade” by any means, the front end is solid. I’ve never experienced overloading and have successfully used this wee rig during Field Day and contests. Few other sub $800 radios have a front end this robust.
Brilliant third-party add-ons
Having been on the market for more than two decades, there are loads of third-party add-ons out there: you’ll readily find not only side rails but DSP filters, bails, antenna mounts, buddy boards (check out G7UHN’s version), ATUs, packs, antennas…you name it!
Since the ham radio community has had twenty years to hack and modify the FT-817/818, there’s almost an unlimited number of mods out there!
Internal battery pack
While the FT-817/818 series radios lack an internal ATU option, they all feature an internal battery pack. Using the internal battery pack will only yield about 2.5 watts, but I’ve completed numerous activations using just the pack.
Extra NiMH packs are widely available on the market and can be purchased for about $20-25. You can also use a AA battery holder pack with the FT-817/818! There’s even a Windcamp Li-Ion rechargeable battery that provides enough voltage for 5 – 6 watt operating.
I think the FT-817/818 has some of the best audio you’ll ever find in a portable field transceiver. The top-mounted speaker can pump out a great deal of volume when needed.
At roughly 450mA, the 817/818 has higher current drain in receive mode than many modern QRP transceivers. No doubt much of that drain is devoted to audio amplification, which might not be such a bad thing.
If you buy a new Yaesu FT-818ND, it will set you back roughly $630-660 US.
The new package is pretty complete. It comes with an MH-31A8J Hand mic, SBR-32MH Ni-MH 1900 mAh battery, FBA-28 battery case (for 8 x AA cells), PA-48B AC wall charger, YHA-63 whip antenna for 50/144/430 MHz, E-DC-6 DC cable and shoulder strap.
The price is competitive, considering you get all that with this radio.
Very affordable used
The FT-817/818 series market longevity no doubt indicates the fact this model has been a cash cow for Yaesu/Vertex over the years. Lots of units produced means there are loads of units floating around out there on the used market.
I purchased both of my Yaesu FT-817ND rigs used. I paid $450 for my first FT-817ND package, which included a narrow SSB filter, and $350 for my second. Both came with the original boxes and all original material. Both also included aftermarket side rail systems.
These may sound like exceptional prices, but only recently I’ve noticed ads on QTH.com with similar pricing. In fact I recently saw one FT-817ND being sold for $450 that even included a Collins narrow CW filter.
FT-817ND or FT-818ND?
I’ve received numerous questions from readers asking if they should buy a new FT-818ND for $650, or a used FT-817ND for $400-500?
The units are quite similar in feature set and performance. Indeed, at the Dayton Hamvention shortly after the FT-818ND was introduced, the Yaesu rep told me that they would have kept the same model name/number, but there just were enough design changes they were forced to give it a new designator.
There are three main advantages of choosing the 818ND over the 817ND:
- Power output increased from a maximum of 5 to 6 watts
- Built-in TCXO-9 high-stability oscillator (only an option in 817 models)
- Higher-capacity SBR-32MH 9.6 Volt 1900 mAh NiMH battery pack included
If you feel those are worthy upgrades, buy a FT-818ND used or new. If you’re primarily an HF operator, however, I’m not sure if it would be worth the extra expense, especially if you can score a good deal on a used FT-817ND.
I should note here that I’ve exempted the original non-ND FT-817 model from this post. I made this choice because that model is now a little long in the tooth, and many of the earlier rigs were prone to blow their finals (I was one of the FT-817 early adopters who dealt with this issue). Unless modified, the non-ND model also lacks 60 meters, which I consider to be a particularly useful––perhaps even requisite––QRP HF band. That said, I know ops who have their original FT-817 (non-ND) and have never experienced a single problem, so the choice is with the operator.
Any downsides to the 817/818?
When compared with late model QRP field transceivers, the FT-817/818 does have a few cons:
- Current power consumption in receive (450 mA or 250 mA squelched) is higher than comparable models
- No internal ATU option
- Ergonomics leave something to be desired
- No CW or voice message memory keying
- No internal sound card for easy digital mode operation
- Only one narrow filter option on stock radio (compared to variable filters on many modern SDR transceivers)
Keep in mind that many of the bullet points above were not common features in other radios when the FT-817 was first introduced: very few field portable radios had an internal ATU, very few general coverage radios had a current number below 450 mA, and none had internal sound cards.
On the topic of narrow filters, I’d argue this is the biggest “gotcha” of the 817/818, especially if you’re a CW operator: it’s often difficult to find the original Yaesu Collins or even third-party narrow (500/300 Hz) mechanical filters. They’re no longer produced, so the only hope is to find one on the used market.
That said, I assembled my own filter by purchasing a filter board from Artur (SP6AB) and soldering a Collins filter sourced on eBay to the board. It cost me a total of $125 US, which is much lower than the current prices of a used YF-122C.
For instructions on assembling your own narrow CW filter, check out this how-to guide.
In all honesty, I don’t consider any of the cons above to be a deal-breaker.
An affordable workhorse!
I’ve received a few negative comments over the past two years from hams who believe I should abandon the FT-817/818ND, since I have “better” modern transceivers in my arsenal. Many of these ops, I believe, are primarily digital mode enthusiasts. Since the FT-817/818 is a definitely a little more power hungry, has an output of 5-6 watts max, and lacks an internal sound card, I can see why one of the modern SDR transceivers might have more appeal.
But frankly, the word that keeps coming up in my mind to describe the 817/818 series is a “workhorse.” And it truly is. It’s a rugged little radio that’s always at-the-ready to hit the field and give you all of the performance you’ll need to activate that summit, island, or park.
For the CW op? With an optional narrow CW filter and an external memory keyer (like my Ultra-PK keyer kit) it’s easily one of my favorite CW rigs.
And if you’re an SSB op, you’re likely to love the FT-817/818, as well. Keep in mind that 5-6 watts SSB is proper QRP, but you’ll save so much money buying a used rig, you could easily purchase a small portable amp to give you more punch if needed.
If you’re into emcomm or prepping, the FT-817/818 is a brilliant choice, due to its overall ruggedness, reliability, and versatility. Very few rigs give you the frequency range, modes, and antenna options as the FT-817/818.
Again, with the numerous third-party add-ons, you can mod your 817/818 to your heart’s content!
If you’ve been thinking about full-duplex satellite work on the cheap? Consider buying two FT-817/818s, used. Indeed, sometimes you can land an excellent deal on one of the early 817s with blown finals. In full duplex satellite work, the second radio is only used as a receiver. Same if you’d like to do a little shortwave listening–finals aren’t even necessary! That said, the finals can be replaced by a repair technician fairly inexpensively.
One more thing I’ll add because it’s always a consideration when I buy a radio: having been on the market so long, “parts” radios have become ubiquitous. If Yaesu stops producing the FT-818 due to a component becoming obsolete, you can easily purchase quite inexpensively a non-functioning “parts” radio to cannibalize.
If you’ve been thinking about buying an affordable field radio, I’d encourage you to consider building a field radio kit around the Yaesu FT-817/818. The receiver and noise floor are much better than that of the comparably priced Xiegu X5105 and X6100. You’ll be giving up a few modern features, but investing in a radio that will serve you well over the long haul.
No doubt, it’s the 817/818’s versatility and reliability that has given it such exceptional market longevity.
Parting words for Yaesu
We’re all looking at you, Yaesu! I think my fellow operators would agree: we would all love to see a replacement for the FT-818ND, one with features to compete with modern field rigs while not compromising on performance, size, and ruggedness.
Listen to your customers, and design another such radio that’ll knock it out of the ball park for another twenty years!
49 thoughts on “The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers”
My first QRP radio was the Yaesu FT-817, the original. I bought it used, and paid a fair price for it, I loved it, and usually used it in my Jeep, atop a mountain.
I still love the radio, I just need to dust it off. My KX2 fills most of my dance card.
This is a very compressive review. And I noted the lack of 500Hrz filters… I happen to have collins uninstalled somewhere in my spares.
The front BNC delivers more power than the rear antenna port, so I opted to use that one most often.
Plugged into my Jeep’s DC, I didn’t worry much about power draw. It was easy to take along.
I put rails on it, and had the bHi filter installed… which was installed incorrectly. (I think it may be some errant solder)(I need Vlado to look at it).
Smaller compact radios come along, and I’ll likely buy/build those whose field utility, and function entice me enough.
But when they’re set aside, I usually try to sell them, or give the away. I won’t do that with the Yaesu.
An FT-817 and a Jeep would pair beautifully! 🙂
And I hear you about the KX2. It’s such an amazing radio, frankly, it could do all of your radio work. But having the Ft-817 as an option from time-to-time is a very good thing!
Excellent article Thomas and I agree with all your observations and findings.
I bought my FT-817(non ND) 20 yrs ago and it has been a literal workhorse for me over 2 decades of portable operation. For the past year I’ve been using this rig in conjunction with the CQHam TB box and case.
About 5 yrs ago I purchased another brand new FT-817 but this time the ND model. Rumours were swirling that production of the 817 would soon be halted and there was no promise at that time for a replacement. I still own that brand new FT-817ND, unused in the factory box and doubt I’ll ever part with it.
You shouldn’t ever part with it. It’s a keeper! Thank you for sharing that.
The original non-ND 817 was my first HF rig over 20 years ago and I still own it but rarely use it. The finals died and were replaced with the newer more reliable board. It was fun to use when I was a SSB op; I took it out to the field and made a lot of contacts (even DX during the last solar max).
Then I became a CW operator and needed a rig with more CW-friendly features. I will probably sell it and buy a QCX now.
You certainly could, but I’ll admit: I think the 817 is a fine CW machine when it has a narrow filter. I love the QSK.
A thorough analysis of the FT-817/818. I have read everything I could find, watched every YT video, every Yaesu document that pertains to these radios, and continue to do so. Now that I’m a FT-818 owner (in fact it’s the only HF radio I own) I’m like the new car owner who reads every positive review of the car they just bought to confirm in their own mind, their purchase. No regrets here! The FT-818 has performed very well for me, especially since it gave me a foundation for how ham radios work, how to make contacts, on both SSB and FT8, antennas that work with it, etc. I take it on my Bruce Trail hikes (POTA park VE-5628) and operate portable, and it serves as my QTH rig, as well. Delving into QRP radio has been an excellent way to be introduced to HF. I’m not sure I will ever move on from the FT-818! Thanks for confirming, in my mind, my radio choice!
You chose well, Rod! That radio will serve you for decades to come!
Thomas, I agree with your findings; I have both an FT-817 and FT-818, the 817 I’ve had for so long that I can’t remember when I bought it, and the 818 is only a couple of years old but the two radios enable me to get on the linear satellites.
They are very capable radios, and my ventures back into QRP CW this year have proved to me that I they can provide all the fun, and sweat, that I need from a radio right now. But for me the capability is matched by the price which helped me to buy the second.
I’m not taken by the IC-705 even though I like the idea of owning an Icom, but I would certainly look hard at any offering that Yaseu made to replace the 818 with a smaller and more modern design.
That said, there’s a KX-2 on the way here so it may be a while before anything hits me with the wow factor needed to make me part with my money.
72, Ciemon G0TRT
That’s just brilliant, Ciemon. And with that 817/818 pair you can do full duplex SSB sat work which, as you point out, gives them much utility.
You’re going to love the KX2 as well. It’s one of the best trail radios ever made.
Very interesting . Useful
I bought a FT817 in 2004, but used it little until I started doing POTA a few years ago. It is excellent rig.
I have moved to the IC705 and X6100, but hard to beat the FT817 although had to get a Collins CW filter.
I have not used the VHF/UHF feature for mainly like working HF CW, but as Thomas said is good to have a 2m/440 SSB/CW rig.
I am on my 3rd PA in the FT817, first one died due to storing with batteries that drained and then the PA killed itself. 2nd one I used a manual tuner and the rig could not handle long transmissions while tuning the tuner. I then went to a LDG Z817 auto tuner.
I am sure there are many out there looking for an advanced FT817/8 from Yaesu, but seems sales are good so little reason for them to change.
Of all the good QRP rigs on the market I would not sway anyone from the FT817/8.
73, ron, n9ee
“Reader David” thanks you for this excellent overview, Thomas!
I can’t help but think that 2023 will be The Year Of The New Yaesu QRP Field Radio. The 81X line has served so well for so many years but I feel like the lack of any easily-accessible CW filtering options might be what pushes it over the edge, what with so many QRP field operators focusing on CW. We have work-arounds for ATUs, power options, etc., but CW taking a hit compared with the other excellent choices available these days might be the final straw.
With Icom, Elecraft and to an extent Xiegu providing updated multimode gear, and Yaesu having rolled out a new entry-level HF rig this year, I’m hoping they’re focusing on a new field rig for announcement some time around Dayton, 2023. They pride themselves on putting out pretty rugged HTs so I just can’t see them walking away from the field rig area.
A love child of the 818 and 891 might be on the way – let’s hope!
I really, REALLY, want to see the next FT-81X radio in 2023. I hope Yaesu is working on something. Whatever the next model is, it has a very tough act to follow.
I have a kx2 and an 818 and a 705
My 818 is used for satellite uplink and also bad weather or winter sota.
The FT817 just has that feel, that vibe…. I made a video a few years back defending it:
After some time out of the hobby I’m getting back a bit and find myself once again gravitating towards that little wonder box… Cheers F4VUZ (formerly DH7LM)
Wow, where to even begin ?
I have to wholeheartedly endorse just about every word of the article, most particularly the part about being a workhorse! There is nothing quite like an 817 for being everything ham radio in one box. As I was driving this morning I was thinking about setting up an 817 in a permanent “radio bag” for the car specifically because of that feature, so that if an opportunity for an activation, or the need for emcomm response came without warning, I would have a radio at hand.
I wanted an FT-817 from the moment I first saw one and bought an ND from a local retailer as soon as I had cash to spare, and since then I have bought two more at various hamfests. Size and versatility were the main considerations, with a lingering trace of youthful fascination with the cigarette -case transceiver (with worldwide communication capability!) carried by agents of U. N. C. L. E.
Finally, what a wonderful thing it would be if David’s thoughts about a newer and even better successor to the 817/818 came true in 2023!
Having a dedicated FT-817 radio bag makes a lot of sense! It would truly be ideal for that and could serve you on so many bands.
Thank you so much for the comment, Phil!
Fifty years ago,it would have taken a full rack of equipment to get the coverage in this rig. Some HF transceiver, transverters for the three VHF/UHF bands, and a general coverage receiver.
In fact, there was nothing like it even when the FT-817 was originally introduced.
I still have my original 817 (and all the accessories, well nearly all!), it was my first QRP rig, later augmented by an IC703 for base use. Both still get used. The 817 is an amazing rig, the 818 I’m sure even better. Still the best “Swiss army knife” of rigs. The 817 was what got me into QRP and ultimately led me to this website and associated videos. I’m now a QRP addict with a number of other rigs, but still await the mythical unicorn, the “819”. C4FM, filters, decent battery and a colour waterfall display, plus all the toys from the 817/818!
And, by the way, I’m sure you realize by now that there’s no cure for the QRP Addict. 🙂
K4SWL / M0CYI
Alright, 81X owners – the $64 question (well, actually, the $649 question) – knowing what you do now, with our other radios available, no CW filters easily available for the 818, etc. – would you purchase one today? Speaking as someone who has a KX2, QCX Mini 20M, an X6100, an 891. . . there’s just something about that utilitarian 818 that might not be the flashiest or newest or shiniest but it just does what it needs to do. In a relatively bulletproof fashion.
Help talk me out of getting one 🙂 . . . .
I did, even though I own a KX1, KX2, TX500, IC7300, and so on. I bought the 818 to use in a manpack role like Gaston’s pics showed above.
The main draw for me, aside from manpack form factor, is the fact that it’s all band, all mode. There are no other all band, all mode rigs in production.
Yes, Gaston’s set up is very appealing. I have the TPA-817 frame as well on my second 817ND.
David, if you’re a lover of QRP transceivers in general, it doesn’t get much better. Coming from someone who has a KX3, KX2, KX1, K1 and two K2s I built, plus QCX’s, HB1B, PFR3b and a whole set of MFJ Cubs……my original FT-817 and new FT817ND will be a “forever” rig. So, the answer is Yes! Lol…enjoy
Talk you out of getting one? You’re in the wrong place! Ha ha!
Absolutely, I would recommend a new one today. Again, it’s pretty easy (still) to assemble a compatible narrow filter. Just order the filter and board, then solder them together and install. Here are the instructions.
I, too, love the utilitarian look of the 817/818. 🙂
Alright alright. I surrender.
An 818 is arriving Wednesday 🙂
🙂 Oh dear. I’m such an enabler!
You’ll really enjoy it.
Educator, not enabler.
Although the SP4 paddles, yeah, that’s on you lol. I love the CWMorse paddles for “throw in the bag” portability but I’ve always wished they were a touch stiffer. Really looking forward to checking these out.
For the KX2 I have the Begali Adventure key which is a beautiful integrated piece of kit for the Elecraft (although a bit persnickety for adjustment, and pricey too!) but I confess I really like the KXPD2 paddles, as clunky as they might feel compared with “high end” paddles. I think the SP4s will be a nice match for the 818.
Fantastic timing as well, as I have been wrestling with whether to get an 818 or a 705 (first). I have been digging thru previous posts on both rigs and had nearly settled on the 818 as my first QRP rig. I am not yet code proficient, so I’ll be focused on ssb and digital. The 705 and KX2 bring a lot of great features to the table, but for my first portable rig the 818’s price, durability, and access to warranty/repair service are decisive factors.
And frankly? If you find a good deal on a used 818, you could turn around and sell it in a year for nearly the same price if you decided to got he IC-705 route.
Don’t get me wrong: the 705 is an AMAZING rig. Just double the price of the 818. With the 818, you would need an external sound card to make the most of the digital modes. The IC-705 has one built-in.
Excellent review! As much as I am indifferent to Yaesu in general and to 857’s older brother in particular, I am so delighted with the feelings that 817 evokes! I only regret that Icom does not have a similar model – a younger brother in the form of a reduced copy of 706.
I agree, my friend.
In fact, I actually wish that manufacturers would stick to the more simple/utilitarian design of the FT-817/818. At least have one option in their line up like this. Touch screens and color spectrum displays are amazing to be sure, but I’m personally not a fan of them for CW work in the field. I prefer keeping things simple.
Excellent review, very thorough and honest as always. I have owned the original 817 since it first came out and have taken it around the country on business trips, family trips and portable ops. It has been an excellent radio for me, doing everything I need. I also bought the One Big Punch speech processor add-on for the microphone and the Collins mechanical SSB filter. I also bought the LDG Z-11 auto tuner which is still working just fine too. Besides travel, I have used it portable as a contest radio in the Sweepstakes contest with a hamstick on a painter’s pole in the backyard.
I also have an Elecraft KX2 and an Icom IC-705. Despite having plenty of QRP radios, I also bought a new 818ND just to have in case the 817 ever pooped out or somehow was damaged beyond repair.
I like to keep the 817 on my nightstand and listen to nets, ragchewers, weather spotters, late ending football games, early morning 75 meter DX stations or whatever else is on the bands late at night/early in the morning. I have recently bought the DigiRig interface to use for digital modes with the 817 or 818 and find that it is a nice accessory at a great price.
The 705 is a more polished product, the KX2 has the built-in tuner, but I use the 817 every day while the others sit in their travel packs waiting to travel. If I could only have one radio it would be a tossup between the 705 and the 818, but one can buy two FT-818’s for the cost of one IC-705. I could be happy with either.
Excellent comments and observations, Tim! Thank you for sharing.
Very nice article, Thomas! I’m one of the many who have owned multiple 817’s, sold them and missed them so much I had to buy another.
I’ve owned dozens of different ham rigs over the years, but no other radio has given me the satisfaction and joy the 817 has. What this rig will do with a decent HF antenna attached is beyond belief.
72 from VE3TWM.
Whew! I’m glad I’m not alone! 🙂
For the past 10 months, my FT-818 has been my intro to HF radio on my own. I barely had the chance to operate my undergraduate school club station and ineffectively drifted with an HT and 2m mobile (not owning a mobile to drive around with it in) before buying the 818 mid-pandemic. Since I started with a mediocre antenna, little expertise, and no direction, it took me until setting up to hunt POTA starting the new year of 2022 to kick things off. Then, with your advice in particular, I’ve been able to flesh out the kit (mostly antenna and antenna mounting) for POTA, WWFF, SOTA, and contesting. Three indoor EFHW antenna radiators just rolled my off successful participation in Sweepstakes SSB, as a Q station of course. (I was emulating a very small alligator, to extend the usual pejorative term for my local noise level for operating) Having a 2kHz filter was probably a bump in the right direction, though.
Of course, this enthusiasm also means a KX3+PX3 is in my imminent future. That is absolutely not to say that the 818 is to be ignored or sold! It won’t necessarily come out as often, but I would like to push on its VHF/UHF capabilities in the future for sure. And, as the potential for using CW continues to haunt me in park activations, I’ll be considering that opportunity for the rig as well.
72 (turn down the finals a bit, as necessary),
One reason to buy the 817 818 is it has a really good reciever. Even better with the filter of your choice. Once in a while out operating cw this little rigs reciever will amaze me pulling in a weak dx signal like a big rig!
Thomas, Your support for the FT-817ND/818ND is spot on. I am lucky enough to also own a KX3/PX3 combo, which I prefer but when I travel in bad weather or challenging terrain, and need a more rugged, and frankly expendable, field radio it is the rig that goes with me. Thank you for the service your information provides hobby enthusiasts. 73
I feel the exact same way Mike; my KX3/PX3 is never taken out in the same wx condx as one of my 817’s . Twenty years and counting with my original 817 and never a hiccup.
I was lucky enough buy a CW filter recently but they are difficult to find now.
The 817 and 817nd can output 5w with an internal battery, you just need to toggle through the power settings until the power indicator starts blinking.
The Elecraft K2 with the KAT2 tuner option has two antenna inputs, both BNC. It’s a kit, so that may not meet your criterion of “commercially available”, plus it’s currently backordered. The K2 is reasonably plentiful used, and most of the ones that show up have the antenna tuner.
Will it do FM on 10m? I have not been able to find this question answered anywhere. Thanks.
Yes! I’ve confirmed that it does.