I added the FTDX 3000 to my station in order to use it differently than most users will; my setup uses the transmit portion of the radio as usual, but utilizes the IF output on the rear deck to replace most of the receive capability with an SDR on the IF, and my SdrDx software working with the SDR. This works as planned, and so I am well satisfied with the radio in my installation. I get a far superior receive capability to any traditional radio on the market at any price including the very best from Yaesu, Kenwood and ICOM, *plus* the radio’s own capabilities as a medium quality second receiver in-band if I want that. I did my research, I got what I asked for, and I am happy as a clam. Also, confirmation bias, lol. But…
I can’t recommend the radio very highly for “normal” use; there are simply too many problems for a radio in this price range if you use it as you are expected to.
First of all, the spectrum display: It is terrible. It is too small. What little it does show, it shows incorrectly – just little “lumps” that do not even come close to representing the spectral activity actually going on. It’s way, way too slow – updates are jerky and there’s zero sense of modulation matching the display. There’s no waterfall for RF (though there is for audio… curious.) Outside of the ham bands, there’s no fixed capability, only tuning/tracking so the spectrum is always sliding around as you tune, no choice. In the ham bands, it’ll lock down and is much easier to see, although since what is on it is mostly nonsense… well, you get the idea.
In my situation, since an SDR plus SdrDx gives me fine-grained, high speed, and very accurate spectrum and waterfall displays for both RF and audio, I really don’t use the radio’s spectrum display and always leave the 8 buttons up that cover it. But I can’t believe that anyone who has even a hint of what a spectrum should look like would be anything but bitterly disapointed with this tiny, slow and inaccurate attempt at an old-school panadaptor.
Next, there are some really odd UI issues. There’s no readily available SSB RF output level control until you go menu mining. When you’re using it (for instance, to adjust drive to a linear), the VFO B knob can only be used to adjust power, which in turn means you can’t adjust the TX clarifier, which in turn means you can’t politely hop a little off frequency unless you carefully do that before you open the menu to adjust power.
Also, you can customize exactly one button to take you to the menu item of your choice, so choose wisely, grasshopper. Although to be fair, if you hold down some of the controls for a few seconds, it does take you right to the relevant menu item. That’s very convenient.
If you’re looking at a RTTY signal being demodulated, the knob that serves to set the RX clarifier or memory channel is taken over (again), and you can’t change either setting.
The USB port is a half hearted effort, not done in any way that could be generally ultilized; instead, there is a Windows-only USB driver that you must install without the radio attached, because if Windows sees that radio first, it’ll install the wrong driver — the reason that happens is because the USB hardware in the radio is being used in a non-standard way. Another consequence of this is that Linux and OSX will also need special drivers — but Yaesu hasn’t bothered to provide them, or to describe what needs to be done by third parties in order to make the system work. So with those OS’s, you’re back to the wacky 8-pin to serial connector CAT cable, and of course, most PC designs, regardless of OS, no longer have serial ports, so NOW you need a USB-to-serial converter. Oy. Just… Oy. That’s just what you need in your hamshack: adaptors and cable dongles. Keeps your noise blanker from being bored, I suppose.
The antenna tuner is… ok, there’s just one word for it, it’s *clueless*. You can tune to 14.180 mhz and tune; it’ll rattle and bang like an old model T while it steps all those relays in and out figuring out where it should be. Ok. Then tune to 14.186 mhz and tune; it’ll do the same thing. Really? Well, maybe. But THEN you can tune right between those two spots at 14.183 and it’ll do it AGAIN. It has no awareness at all of its own settings, and starts every tuneup from a state of no clue. Rattle, bang, wear and tear. Every time. Really, Yaesu? Really?
The receiver… it’s ok, not great. The AGC maxes out at 4 seconds, but feels more like one second when set there. This thing decays *fast*. It needs to go to ten seconds at least, although that might be 20 the way the thing acts — it’s just way too fast when you want it to be slow. The noise blankers (wide, narrow) aren’t very good. They work sometimes, not others, nothing special. The DSP filtering… I found it to be vague and not particularly effective. Quite aside from the fact that you have to go menu mining to change from one DSP setting to the next, there’s really no sense of what kind of setting to use where, it’s just some numbers that make it do different things, none of which seem to be particularly useful as compared to DSP systems that let you provide a noise sample and then drive a spectrally separated set of noise gates based on the sample profile. Is such a design too complex for ham gear? Perhaps. But this isn’t even close to the same performance, and I find that calling it DSP noise reduction creates a false impression of what serious DSP filtering can do.
When you select narrow IF, IF width works in some demodulator modes, but not others. If you’re interested in SW or BCB DXing, this is going to bite you.
While the RTTY demodulator works pretty well (aside from locking up important controls for other things), the CW demodulator is terrible. People with strong signals and very clean fists come through as random garbage. Useless.
Having said that, there are some things I really like. The IF output is great. The ability to automatically switch between RX and TX antennas is also great. The design is very pretty; it looks great sitting there on the desk. Reports on transmit audio quality are very good (it’ll go sort-of wideband to 3 khz, or several other settings that would be good if you’re trying to put max power into readability instead of fidelity.) The knobs are nice and the unit feels good to operate. It’s a reasonable size, and runs off 13.8 DC, which makes it a good emergency or field radio. The rendering of the meter(s) and on-LCD controls is high quality, I’d even call them fun to look at. When doing a good bit of transmitting, it stays pretty cool, and it’s not noisy as far as fans go.
Still, unless you plan to take direct advantage of that IF output with an SDR as I have, which basically renders most of the receiving circuitry and controls irrelevant, I can’t recommend the radio. It needs attention from Yaesu; lots of small irritations, and the big one, that tiny, terrible bandscope. Now, if this was a $1000 radio, I’d be much more forgiving. But at well over twice that… no. It should have been better. With a decent UI design, it *would* have been better. Starting with throwing the entire bandscope design right in the trash and starting over using SDR technology.