Shortwave listening with the Yaesu FT-817, FT-817ND, or FT-818–?

I recently re-acquired a Yaesu FT-817ND general coverage QRP transceiver. I wrote a post with some info about this radio and how it came into my possession over at QRPer.com, if you’re interested.

My question here: Have any folks in the SWLing Post community ever used the FT-817 or FT-818 series transceivers for serious shortwave broadcast listening?

I originally owned a first production run FT-817 back in 2000 when I lived in the UK. I did quite a bit of SWLing with it then, but I never compared it with other radios. I do recall feeling it was a very capable general coverage transceiver, though, and remember logging a number of broadcasters (although I can’t seem to find those logs these days). Of course, propagation was quite a bit better back then, too!

Please comment if you use or have used the FT-817/818 for shortwave listening!

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32 thoughts on “Shortwave listening with the Yaesu FT-817, FT-817ND, or FT-818–?

  1. Daniel Diniz

    I use a lot mine 817nd for QRP in 10m with Loop.Magnetica Alex Lool. Did work US, Euro and even Japan from Brazil.
    Its a very capable receiver for SWL, I use with Wondeloop Magnetic Loop and is very sensitive. Need a good external speaker or headphones.
    73s de PU5NSA Daniel

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Upgrading my Yaesu FT-817 transceiver with the G7UHN rev2 Buddy board | The SWLing Post

  3. Steve Allen, KZ4TN

    FT-817ND vs Belka-DX
    Last night I took the FT-817ND to bed and tuned up the lower HF band using the same end fed antenna and tuner I have been using with my Belka-DX. Atmospheric conditions were consistent over the last few weeks. Long story short, I have to say that head to head, the Belka-DX wins for casual SWL from a basic antenna system.
    As I am now sitting in the shack listening to the FT-817ND connected to a 250 Ft broadside doublet through an ATU and the audio passing through a SOTABeams DSP audio filter, the FT-817ND’s receiving performance rivals any desk-top amateur radio transceiver I have operated over the last twenty plus years.
    The FT-817(ND) is what it is, a compact multi-mode transceiver that covers the most used amateur radio spectrum (HF, VHF, UHF). It’s receive frequency range is impressive. It’s limited power output is a requirement of it’s physical size. I find it most dis ingenuous of people who complain that it lacks an internal ATU, or it’s power output is lacking, or it doesn’t contain a sound card for digital modes. It is what it is, don’t buy one if you if you find it lacking in any of your needs. Would I contest with it….(mostly) no. Would I operate it for POTA or SOTA…absolutely. Yaesu hit a home run when they designed and released the FT-817(ND).

    Reply
  4. Steve Allen

    Late to the comments but, I just bought a used pair of FT-817NDs. I owned one around 10 years ago for portable operating but found the 5W output limiting, although my best SSB DX was Belgium operating portable from the NEARFEST Hamfest in NH. I currently have it paired with a SOTABeams DSP module filter that I built (see November 2020 QST for details). The addition of this excellent DSP audio filter with the FT-817 turns it into a very selective receiver, even in AM mode. The cost of the DSP filter and enclosure from SOTABeams, or their stateside distributor DX Engineering, is much less than the cost of a Collins mechanical filter, that’s if you can even find one. I am using a small midrange 3.5 inch speaker that I installed into an off-shore cheap USB all in one audio player, that I cut the guts out of and installed a premium midrange speaker. This combo as is great for SWL. The FT-817 is a welcome addition to my radio collection. I like it because it does a little bit of everything good enough.
    Steve, KZ4TN

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Thanks, Steve,

      I did manage to find a used Collins 500 Hz filter for my 817ND, but I’m still planning to grab the SOTABeams DSP board as well since I think it works even with a mechanical filter in place.

      Sounds like you’re optimizing your 817 setup!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
  5. Kevin W8KJ

    this is one of the best radios I have owned in the past.=it covers all hf bands and a small footprint to boot. mine was an 817 with a added collins cw filter !! regret ever selling this little rig

    I dont think an optional cw filter either direct or aftermarket is available for the 818. can someone confirm this for me?
    i worked dx, sats, repeaters, etc…

    Reply
    1. Al

      Bought an FT-818 in Sept 2020 and found a collins YC122CN 300Hz CW filter at DX Engineering pricey but you can’t find them anywhere else

      Reply
  6. Barry G. Kery

    A friend of mine was a ham radio sales person. He carried his 817 with him and used it for SWL’g when on the road. It is a great radio for that. You can use a wall wart to power the radio if you do not transimt. I thought of getting an IC705 for a one radio do all. QRP, repeater work, D Star and SWL’g. I am still thinking of doing it. I am just waiting for a price drop or finding one at a FAIR price used.
    Barry

    Reply
  7. Henry Nunn

    I used mine quite a bit to listen, and make contacts on 10m when the band was hot. The best was Cameroon on 5w, and a random wire! The receiver is great, and filters work well. Then the final blew out. Alas, it sits in a closet, waiting to be repaired.
    DE, kd4jzz

    Reply
  8. Ivan Dubinsky

    It will work in a pinch for SWLing but the AM selectivity is too wide for listening on the shortwave broadcast bands. With the typical 5 kHz spacing on those bands, you’ll often hear annoying heterodynes from strong adjacent stations. This can be alleviated by listening in SSB mode, choosing either USB or LSB to avoid interference. For serious listening, I prefer using my Drake R8B or Icom R-75 or even the receiver in my Kenwood TS-890S xcvr which is superb. For potability, though, if you’re out in the field, the ‘817 will do the job.

    Reply
  9. Anil

    The FT-817ND is a remarkably capable receiver given its size and vintage. Especially on the lower bands and Medium Wave it is a stellar performer which offers better performance than most SW portables.

    Reply
  10. Davide

    I use it when I need to tune in ECSS mode. But with an external speaker. The internal one is so tiny and its audio performance is fair. In ECSS is a great rx. However, the bands are today almost empty so interferences from adiacent channel is rare and my FRG7 is sufficient for dxing. 73 Davide IW2NZR

    Reply
  11. DL4NO

    The FT-817 is an amazing ham radio transceiver, especially for its size and frequnecy range. If you are an OM, you certainly can als use it as a general-purpose receiver. But for the only task of a receiver it is no good choice:

    * too heavy
    * too power hungry
    * too small display
    * menu system with lots of options that swamp an SWL
    * needs an external antenna with a low-impedance output
    * not enough filter bandwidths
    * bad audio for BCL (which is OK for a radio amateur)
    * no SDR
    * too expensive as a sole receiver

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      All good points. I do think the FT-817/818–especially when it was first released–was one of the most capable portable transceivers on the market.

      Reply
  12. Klaus G7RTI

    I use it occasionally to listen to local FM station – the filter is to narrow to give a good sound. Mainly used as HF transceiver, I bought it when VHF licencees could go onto HF (about 2004/5?) for the first time and made many contacts even at 5w (I also tweaked it to 10w!). It’s now a back-up if my FT840 dies.

    Reply
  13. Bill

    I have the plain FT-817, and it is currently sitting in a closet. I’m not a fan of the postage stamp display, the menus and tiny buttons. Having said all that, what I do like about it is the versatility. I view the 817 as the Swiss Army Knife of radios. It excels at no tasks but is handy to have around and would be great in an emergency. That’s why I still have mine. The 817 has been around for a surprisingly long time and most of the current generation easily outperform it thanks to advances in technology. As a SWLING receiver it is certainly adequate. It is certainly sensitive enough. Having two switchable antenna ports is kind of an interesting feature. One could switch between horizontal and vertical antennas or antenna directivity for example. One great thing about the Yaesu is that it has been around so long that there is a robust aftermarket of accessories for it. A DSP external speaker might be a nice add on but not really necessary. I’m of the opinion that the FT-817 series is a credible all purpose ham station in a small package. Not a contest station for sure, but a “fun” station ideal for a vacation cabin or a “minimalist” general purpose station that just might keep the spouse “happy” or at least more tolerant of the hobby.

    Reply
  14. Guido LU8EQ

    Hi, I do enjoy SWLing with my 817nd. A good external speaker is a must. The radio is awesome, with a very capable receiver, nice AM bandwidth and once you plug an external speaker you will find a whole new experience. Nothing fancy, just a big passive speaker is ok. The rig already has a nice AF amplifier. 73 de Guido, LU8EQ

    Reply
    1. Miloslav Hudec

      Yaesu FT 818 (817) jako RX nic moc. Nemá na vstupu žádné filtry. Používám Yaesu FT 891. Špi?kový KV RX s trojí konverzí a DSP. Na vstupu si p?epíná propusti. Umož?uje vážnou práci nejen na KV rozsahu, ale i na SV a DV.

      Reply
  15. Rob

    My FT-817nd works fine for the job, but it’s nothing special. When out backpacking I’ll frequently take a break from making ham contacts to SWL. No DSP is a real drawback. Overall, I’d say it’s a little better than my Tecsun PL-660 for SWLing.

    Reply
  16. Mark

    I use it on a regular basis for recording Shortwave Radiogram. Mine has the Windcamp battery making it a handy sized package.

    I generally have the RF/SQL control configured for RF only, and following a tip I picked up somewhere on the internet about receiver noise, turn down the RF gain and let the ALC pick up the slack.

    Like yours, I’ve replaced the stock speaker with a mylar one, and have been quite happy with the results.

    Reply
    1. Clint Gouveia

      I have indeed David and it’s a brilliant receiever for DX! There are a few reception videos on Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. 73s, Clint

      Reply
    2. Thomas Post author

      Yes, thank you for the tip! Maybe with a little prodding, we can get Clint to make a post for us highlighting some of his recordings and comments about the FT-817’s performance? 🙂

      Reply

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