Review Yaesu FTM-400DR

While the use of D-Star appears to be stable or slightly declining, DMR-based radios are becoming increasingly popular. Most DMR Tier 2 radios sold are made by either Hytera or by Motorola. Apart from sending text messages, both brands are largely compatible. The Tier 2 standard offers two time slots.

DMR Tier 1 (no time slots, FDMA) is another system, generally much cheaper, but all radios available to date are mono band. It didn’t come as a surprise that there was a lot of interest in the Yaesu FTM-400DR, the model which replaces the analog FTM-350. Contrary to the Chinese offerings this Yaesu is dual band, and does 50 Watts on both bands. There are four modes available.

V/D mode is Voice and Data communication in the same time frame. Stable and reliable digital voice and data communications are maintained by using extraordinarily strong error correction capabilities. This mode will be the basic mode of C4FM FDMA Digital HAM radio.

Voice FR mode uses the full rate of data capacity for voice. This mode enables you to transfer clear, high quality voice data.

Data FR mode uses the full bandwidth for transferring data. This mode enables you to transfer large amounts of data, text messages, images, and voice memo data with double the speed of V/D mode.

Analog FM mode is effective when weak signals causes audio to drop out in the digital mode, and enables communication up to just above noise level.

Christopher K6OZY picked one up and started playing with the radio. This review is from his hand, talk to him if you have any questions. You can find his e-mail address on his QRZ.COM page.

Yaesu FTM400DR

Yaesu FTM-400DR

I own many FTM-350ARs and have not had any real complaint with them. When Yaesu discontinued it in favor of the 400DR, I was looking forward to it to add the radio into my car with its snazzy touch screen. I figured the $699 premium was going to be everything the FTM-350AR was plus digital, plus a touch screen, plus an SD card input. plus.. plus plus.. etc. Boy was I wrong.

I saw pictures of it last year, and it didn’t make a showing at Dayton this year when I visited, which was very disappointing. I snagged the manual months ago when the FCC certification process kicked off so I could glimpse at it while waiting fro the radio to hit the stores. It looked promising. Finally they landed at HRO and I started to compare it to the 350AR.

Hardware Changes
First off, they made some huge changes to the hardware I do not like. The microphone can’t be attached to the control head. There is also no speaker, mic or ptt on the head like the 350AR. This reduces the cable from an RJ45 to an RJ11. I do not like this change. The only positive is that the control head is about half the weight.

The FTM-400DR is missing the Line In connector also. Uh oh… I didn’t like where this was going.

They did not supply the typical audio L/R splitter like they did with the FTM-350AR & FTM-10R radios. This made me thinking: perhaps they had no plan for it. Sure enough, the menu item that was listed in the FCC manual under [TX/RX -> Audio, choice #1] “Mix / Separate” was missing in the radio and release manual. This is horrible. I like splitting the audio out for VFO separation.

The touch screen is resistive, which isn’t surprising. Its accuracy is pretty low. It’s easy to mistype when trying to enter APRS messages.

Other things MIA

1. There is no FM Broadcast receiver. Really? Every Yaesu radio has had one.. even the $130 VX-3R..

2. X-Band repeat was REMOVED. FCC manual menu [CONFIG Item 19] XBand Repeater listed it. I checked the release manual, and it’s missing indeed. The radio has no option, config settings stop at 18. WTF!?!

Wires is back called “Wires-X” and is easily activated by holding the mode button a bit too long, again pissing everyone off on every repeater.

The Digital Part
Now lets talk about the digital part. A friend bought one too so we were able to compare it to D-Star. In “DN” (Digi Normal) mode, 6.25Khz is used for voice, 6.25Khz is used for GPS data and call sign information. The audio sounds so similar to my D-Star ID-51a, but a bit clearer. I’d say MotoTRBO quality. Simplex tests showed that it was quite good at low signal reception.

The radio in “Auto” mode would try digital as long as it could, then gracefully switch over to analog FM when it ultimately could not get enough signal. Every time someone would PTT, their callsign appears and distance in miles (or km) is shown on the screen. If you had the Navi Screen, it would show their relative location to you, but I couldn’t save the location or even chose to navigate to them. I may not fully know how to do that yet, and that may be an issue on my part.

Digital modes only work on VFO A.

The mode setting is GLOBAL and not per memory channel. This means it is SUPER easy to accidentally blast the local repeater with C4FM Digital if you didn’t check before you key.

You can change the digital mode to “VW” (Voice Wide). This allocates all 12.5Khz to voice. Only the call sign is sent, and no GPS data. The audio quality is VERY good in this setting. I wish we could get this audio out of 6.25khz channels too. Codec2 perhaps?

The FCC manual showed options for not sending GPS data out with your voice while transmitting. This option has been removed from the release manual and radio. If you use digital, you send your location, unless you disable the GPS entirely or override it with a static location.

The “Group Monitor” feature is the “GM” button on the radio face. It is like a digital “hive mind” mode that has all the radios in your area automatically exchange location data while using the same channel for voice. You see your radio chirp out data automatically every now and then and you can request a sync for all stations on demand. This seems neat, but again, if your fat finger hits it by accident while on a local repeater, you then begin blasting it with modem chirps every 5 seconds until you realize what you did.

The SD card only saves config settings for backup and a GPS crumb trail. There is no way to use it to program the radio from your PC and then import it into the radio.

APRS makes a clicking noise out of the speaker every received packet even if volume is fully down on VFO B. You have to enable APRS mute to get rid of the click. BTW, there is no APRS user guide in the box. The main manual keeps referring you to downloading the APRS users guide online, yet Yaesu’s website only lists the sales brochure. Really?

Scanning. Another chronic problem that existed on the FTM-350AR which I was hoping of being fixed was Banks. Neither radio has a memory bank system, and have 500 memories for each side of the radio separated from each other. This means scanning on this radio is completely impossible. You can only mark channels as “Skip” and scan all, or set it to only scan memories marked included. There are no banks or Hyper Memories like the VX-8 or FT-8800/8900 etc radios.

Conclusion
Until (unless) Yaesu can address these issues in the firmware, I am not keeping this radio. This is a significant step down from the FTM-350AR. I’ll call them and give them a chance to explain themselves, but I fully expect no one at USA Yaesu to have any answers or even to have played with the radio yet.

I’m very disappointed.

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16 comments on “Review Yaesu FTM-400DR

  1. Capable hardware shipped with crippled shitty software you cant modify.
    Sounds like this radio is another argument for SDR.

    >6.25Khz is used for GPS data and call sign information

    Hilarious.

  2. I think you may have got muddled in paragraph 2? “DMR Tier 1 (no time slots, FDMA) is another system”

    DMR is the two-timeslot TDMA standard using a whole 12.5kHz channel 50% (e.g.MotoTRBO) and Tier 1 is for licence free digital PMR446.
    dPMR/NXDN is the 100% duty cycle FDMA standard (e.g. Icom IDAS) where dPMR is 6.25 and NXDN is either 12.5 or 6.25

    DMR: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_mobile_radio
    dPMR: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DPMR
    NXDN: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NXDN

    If this Yaesu is “12.5 kHz C4FM/FDMA” then that suggests it’s NXDN.
    73

    • It isn’t that simple anymore. While technically correct, Wikipedia is not up-to-date. There are now many DMR products which do not support 2 time slots, but aren’t compatible with dPMR either (other vocoder).

      Best known examples are the Kirisun hand helds and the Hora mobiles.

  3. It does have cross band. It is not in the operation manual.
    FTM-400DR Cross Band Repeat:
    Initial setting

    · Set [A] band, [B] band in different band VHF/UHF or UHF/VHF.
    · Turn the APRS MODEM setting OFF.
    · Set signaling in CTCSS or DCS, as desired possible [A] band, [B] band individual treatment setting.
    · Start Cross Band Repeat mode movement while pushing the DISP + F + GM key when I do power supply ON.
    · During Cross Band Repeat mode, it becomes a mode for exclusive use of the analog.
    · The cancellation of Cross Band Repeat mode, while pushing the DISP + F + GM key when I do power supply ON.
    · There is no setting of the CW ID transmission in Cross Band Repeat mode.

    ·

  4. I would be more than happy to take it off your hands. Even though it was disappointing. It does have the features I use on a a day to day basis. Let’s be honest there’s no perfect radio right? ?

  5. G1YPQ….Well I also have upgraded from a Yaesu FTM-350 and my findings are much better receive, GPS included, fantastic display, who honestly listens to broadcast radio on there mobile radio, I can highly recommend the purchase of this radio to anyone who has an interest in aprs, with the addition of an alternative digital mode, The new Kenwood TMD-710 with no digital mode costing more than this radio, I have a TM-D710 for my main digipeat station at home and happy with it, I also play digital on the MotoTrbo system, Oh and my FTM-400 cross band repeats out of the box…….I have to press found no faults or issues with this radio, and so pleased with my purchase I am thinking of getting a second one for the shack, There are at least 5 Hams in close proximity to me who have purchased this radio with no complaints only praise…….

  6. another Yaesu fail … another pointless and niche DV format that is only supported by the limited vendors that *still* haven’t woken up to TDMA. dont buy this POS. Really Don’t. well, not unless you can convince yourself and other gullibles that looking backwards is the only way forward, where commercial world standards are ignored and Amateurs are thrown a sub-standard bone.. spend your bucks wiser, dstar is dying, look for better deals guys

    • Thanks for your input Scott very balanced and unbiased by an obvious user of the FTM-400, I’m sure readers will take notice of your rant, the article is a review of the radio, I work with and install commercial radio, predominantly MotoTrbo equipment and have been licensed for some 27 years.

      So yes go out and buy a commercial radio and find someone to program it to use on the very successful DMR MARC system, The big 3 have been producing ham radios for more years than I have lived and are all doing very well out of the Ham market, have you ever stood back and wondered why they have not yet produced a TDMA Radio yet, I think we would all be moaning about the cost for starters. Yaesu have produced a worthy contender in the digital market, obviously not in a mode of your choosing Scott……

      I hope someone produces a TDMA ham user friendly radio in your price bracket, maybe Baofeng if your lucky……Your opening statement another Yaesu fail, not from my facts and figures. Once again I fully support TDMA And have been very involved with our local TDMA repeater GB7TD. I enjoy digital radio and feel competition is good and all digital modes have there pros and cons, as an owner operator of the FTM-400 it has the best digital audio in full 12.5khz available today.and is selling very well hear in the UK…..

    • Hi Scott
      Some very good points validated, and an interesting reply, I’m sure DMR TDMA Will be with us soon but not before Kenwood push there next edge or rumoured d star, So for now we have Motorola, Vertex and Hytera, with promises from the cheaper Chinese suppliers and some other vendors already out there. Do you use the DMR Marc system, let’s catch up sometime. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Regards G1YPQ

      • Karl
        I own a Connect Systems CS-700 on DMR TDMA and it sure costs a lot less than the Moto, Vertex or Hytera radios. (Yes, I owned it when you posted in January of 2014.) I paid $160 for it brand new but it currently has a $180 price tag for hams. It is compatible with the Moto, Vertex and Hytera offerings. Just sayin’.

  7. Karl, it doesn’t make your ‘points’ any more valid whether you’re a cleaner or a scientist by trade, but FWIW, i was licensed back in ’53 and i remember similar arguments made for and against new modes back when. It may feel like a rant if you think i’m insulting YOUR choice of mobile radio and getting defensive, but if you think that, you’d better stop reading right away. Yaesu did however, miss a golden opportunity to really lead the market by offering us long-suffering Hams another FDMA system as the latest ‘New thing for Ham radio’ and selling it like its the new revolution, its total BS, they’re just doing another Icom with dstar – giving Hams second best again, sure they’re all hedging their bets, and its no surprise as vendor lock-in is just simple business sense, its not hard to understand, The review above seems honest and left Hans disappointed, and why ? because I’m he knows they can do much better nowadays, and they failed to deliver, its too little, too late, a HT that takes a photo? but no viewfinder, i mean, really ? how well thought out is this whole fusion crap ?
    Its typical Chinese made Yaesu, coming in at Japanese Yaesu quality prices, so count me out. The JARL were right about dstar back in the day, but times change and tech improves, and it has done. You like it, Great, sounds good ? great. find some buddies to talk with ? great. selling well in the UK ? No. its not, as my Son (also a Ham) over in the UK there knows, they’re buying cheap Chinese dPMR instead and used Moto gear if they can afford. I’ve been there last november and seen it myself. even my local Ham outlet here carries Yaesu & he’s not selling any.

    I’m tasked with migrating our local dept over to P25 phase2, as we ditch our already very expensive ASTRO gear in favor of the new TDMA system, many see this as a real no brainer (apart from the cost to the US taxpayer) even so, many other neighbors have gone Trbo already. Cost of Yaesu/Icom/Kenwood making TDMA gear expensive is nonsense, the damn Chinese are making DMR HTs for a couple hundred bucks already compared to a 2nd user dstars for $500, Moto XPR5550 (TDMA) about $400 to $500 new, Icom dstar (FDMA) $1100.. whichever way you paint it, your statement is plainly incorrect, although pricing may be different there, but its still supply and demand.

    I’m not anti FDMA, so dont get me wrong, I’ve been using ASTRO FDMA since the 90s as a federal employee, so i really do have no axe to grind, but i realize tech moves on, and I’m not in denial when i see it either, especially when the Gov & LMR world already time division multiple access was better years ago, as a Ham operator also, i would be a damn fool to go against the rest of the world and conventional wisdom dictates any company that does is either myopic or doing a huge mis-service to its customer base and insulting their intelligence. and as far as it goes, when the new tower is up, my new Trbo repeater will be online there too, so anyone buying any overpriced, oversold shiny light gimmick box will be SOL.
    message ends.
    trolls sent to /dev/null

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