Accessibility evaluation of Yaesu FT 2000.
I have wanted to evaluate the FT2000 for some time. My good friend Rob G0WSC has been using the FT 2000 for about four years, and whilst Rob is sighted, it became obvious that once initially set up, the Menu seldom needed to be accessed again. In terms of accessibility, the main challenge for a blind operator using the FT 2000 is the lack of a voice synthesiser. Therefore, obtaining the frequency and mode information requires a connection between the radio and a PC. This evaluation is therefore slightly different from the ‘stand alone’ reviews I have conducted previously, as it is indeed possible to use an apparently inaccessible radio with no voice output, if a computer can be operated.
On paper, the FT2000 is an interesting radio. Even for a blind operator, it has certain features that make it worth investigating, even without speech output. I have had the FT2000 here on the bench for a couple of days only, and so this accessibility review can only really be my impressions on the radio, and I would encourage any blind amateur to do more research and check out my very superficial observations.
The radio is physically large, measuring 410 x 135 x 350 mm and weighing 15 kg. It covers 160m to 6m. I evaluated the 100W version, and there is also a 200W model. The version I tested has an internal PSU and the radio is plugged directly into the mains.
For its price point, I believe the FT2000 is currently the most inexpensive radio with separate receivers. The sub receiver must be on the same band as the main receiver, but it is possible to monitor different signals in each ear, using stereo headphones. As I have mentioned in previous evaluations, my usual operating practice is working DX, and this inevitably involves working on Split frequencies. I personally gain great benefit by listening to the DX station transmitting in my left ear, whilst I am looking for a pattern in his RX frequency range, listening with my right ear.
As previously mentioned, this radio will need to be initially setup using the menu system. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet, including e-mail user groups, and many people have published information on their personal Menu setup. It is almost inevitable that a blind operator will need sighted assistance for this initial phase.
I connected the FT2000 to my PC via the RS-232 CAT port, and used my logging program and screen reader to speak the frequency and mode. The physical connection was made using a standard serial cable, connecting to a USB adaptor plugged into the PC. I simply unplugged my usual radio and swapped cables. For some reason, I expected the FT2000 to need a special interface cable, but this was not the case. All this was very straightforward.
As the radio is physically large, my initial impression of the front panel was of an overwhelming mass of controls. There are lots and lots of buttons and knobs, But it doesn’t take long to start understanding the radio’s layout. The radio is turned on by using a button at the top left corner, and the VOX button is conveniently positioned here too. There is a line of buttons on the left hand side positioned horizontally below the display. This row contains the dedicated buttons for Monitor ,Processor, AGC, Noise Blanker, attenuator and filter functions. These buttons are long and thin, and have the same beep regardless of whether you are turning the function on or off. There are differently shaped buttons at the end of the row to select A and B receivers. Below these buttons are two horizontal rows of large knobs of the concentric inner and outer type. These contain RF Power , Mike Gain, VOX Delay, Manual Notch ,and the RF and AF gain for the Main and Sub receivers.
Below and running along the bottom edge, are 8 buttons for transmitting any pre-recorded voice and CW messages.
To the right of the knobs are two further columns of buttons. The first column contains buttons for choosing the mode, and I was pleased to find individual buttons for USB and LSB selection. To the right again is another column of buttons containing the Split, and the TXW button, allowing you to quickly hear the Sub receiver signals.
The main VFO tuning dial is to the right of the previously described controls, and approximately in the centre of the front panel. Each revolution of the VFO moves 10khz, but I would imagine this can be changed in the Menu.
To the right of the main VFO are more buttons for controlling the Main and Sub receivers, the main numeric keypad, the Sub receiver VFO, the Clarifier knob, and the filter adjustment knobs.
It soon became obvious, there is literally a button or a knob for every common function. For a blind operator this is terrific. There is seldom a need to enter the Menu system, but there are a lot of controls to remember!
A brief note on the buttons. All of the buttons are hard plastic, and not the rubber type that drag on the finger tips as you slide your fingers around the operating area. The long thin buttons running under the display on the left hand side are very easy to use, but I found some of the other buttons were quite tricky to orientate myself around, because of their unusual shape. These buttons are not flat, but the tops are tilted, and with a slight concave curve. The buttons are closer to the fascia at the top and thicken slightly at the bottom. In the case of the numeric keypad, the buttons are quite noticeably concave, with the button being thicker at the top and bottom, and being recessed across the middle. This actually makes tactile manipulation more awkward. As you move your hands over the keypad, instead of feeling a block of 12 flat buttons, instead, you have lots of peaks and troughs to negotiate. Until you get totally familiar with the keypad, it is easy to mistake the space between the buttons, as a button itself. There was no tactile pip on the 5.
The keypad uses the Triple Stacking method for band changes, meaning, pressing the number three will cycle you through three different stored frequencies on 40m.
Direct keypad entry of a frequency was straightforward.
I have very little experience of using Yaesu radios, and this is mainly due to the range generally lacking a voice synthesiser. I was therefore new to some of the concepts on the FT2000. For instance, when you are tuning for 0 beat on a CW signal, the Yaesu will give you a visual indication to show you are on the exact frequency, and fortunately, there is also an audio indication. A button press will produce a 700 Hz tone, allowing you to tune, and match the incoming signal to the generated tone.
A maximum power limit can be set when tuning. This works for both the internal and an external ATU. Limiting the tuning power to 20 watts while keeping the TX power at 100 watts is very useful.
Having established the FT 2000 was relatively easy to use, I wanted to make sure I could easily use the split facility and the sub receiver. With a radio of this complexity there are several ways of being able to work split. Sighted operators may well find they never need to use the split function at all, as the Clarifier itself allows an adjustment over 10 kHz! But, from my own personal experience, I like to be able to put in a definite frequency, so I don’t need to keep checking the voice output.
If you are wearing stereo headphones, in the standard set up, you will hear the main receiver in both years. If you press the TXW button, you will hear the sub receiver in both years. A menu setting allows you to hear both receivers at once, the main receiver in your left ear, and the sub receiver in your right ear. As the menu is inaccessible, I am assured the ‘Dual Watch’ function can be assigned to the programmable CS button. I did not actually try assigning the CS button on this borrowed radio, so this is something to make sure of yourself.
If you want to set the split very rapidly, there is a single button option to set the split to a 5khz high shift. This default can be adjusted. But, I think the most straightforward way of setting the Split frequency at say 3kHz up, is to press A=B, to make the Sub receiver equal the Main. Then press A/B and press the microphone Up button three times, this sets the frequency on the Sub receiver. Then press A/B again to return to the Main, and finally the Split button. You are now ready for Split operation with a shift of three kHz.
A press of the TXW button gives a double beep if Split is on, and the Split frequency was immediately shown on the PC. The signal on the sub receiver is heard.
In summary, the FT2000 can be satisfactorily used by a blind operator, but for independent operation needs to be connected to a PC via CAT. Every common function has a dedicated button or knob, meaning the inaccessible menu is not required in daily use.