I was reading QRZ and saw an FT-950 for sale, $1000. Better yet, it was for sale by a local ham (from PGH area). Even better, he would actually deliver the radio. Ok, how could I not bite on that? The radio is still under warranty [was purchased in new in January].
I called Gary up, arranged a time, and collected the necessary funds. Gary K3WOW and Jerry K3FKI showed up with the FT-950 in tow. Wow, what a beautiful rig. I hadn’t seen one close up and personal before. Much larger than the tiny FT-100 that I have been used to for the past 10+ years.
Gary offered to stick around and hook it up so that he could demonstrate that it would work. Well, I was in a hurry to play so I declined and told them I’m confident it would work just fine. They left. I proceeded to re-arrange my desk and hook up the FT-950.
Except for the fact that I couldn’t hook up headphones or keyers [because the FT-950 takes 1/4″ jacks and my headphones/keyers were using 1/4″ and I didn’t have adapters] and I couldn’t hook up the CAT interface (didn’t have a straight-thru serial cable, only a few null modem cables), I got everything else hooked up.
I fired this sucker up and the first thing I noticed is how quiet the bands were. This thing has a lot of buttons and a ton of menu options, very few which I knew what to do with. But after messing around a while and realizing the signals were strong when I tuned around, I came to the realization that the receiver on this radio is a magnitude quieter in my location.
Today I got the needed 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapters and a serial cable, and now the FT-950 is completely controllable via HRD and also is working just fine with N1MM [for contesting].
Last night, with the QRN from the storms coming through, the SSB signals on 20/40/80/160 were amazingly copyable. On my FT-100 I never bothered to listen to SSB on 160m or even 80m because I just couldn’t pull out a voice from the noise. On the FT-950, using the same antenna, I had absolutely no trouble hearing beautiful SSB audio from stations on 160/80/40m. My antenna is a shortened 40m antenna and is extremely poor for 160 reception and not very good for 80 either. But with this radio there were stations all over the place, easily copied on SSB. I love it. I may actually want to work SSB now, whereas before I had no desire because of the poor performance on the FT-100.
I’m sure that comparing the FT-100 to the FT-950 is apples to oranges, and I’m sure that those of you owning $3000+ radios will say that an FT-950 can’t compare to one of them. You may very well be right. But I have only worked with two radios to make a comparison, and this FT-950 opens up a whole new world for me.
Between the multiple IPO and ATT settings, it seems to be very easy to limit the typical band noise, leaving just the signals popping out. I haven’t even delved into the notch, contour, and width functions, or anything else in the menus. I’m just using it as it was configured when I received it and am extremely happy with it thus far.
I’ll try to give a proper review after a few weeks.