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I'm just getting into amateur radio, so just starting to gather the things I want/need. I'm only really interested in CW, and almost exclusively on HF.

I'm looking into a mobile/portable setup which I can take in my camper van, and potentially in a rucsac.

After research I'm looking at a used FT-817ND.

To what extent is an additional filter/dsp solution beneficial? I'm thinking of something like the wolfwave by sotabeams.

Is this a nice-to-have, or a definite recommendation?

I'm very new to even receiving, but my experience playing around with the IF and Notch filters on my base station rig, trying to focus in on weaker signals suggests that some extra DSP might be beneficial, so perhaps even more so with a portable antenna? I'm also not sure how good the IF filtering is on the 817ND, or how easy it is to use.

My question is partly motivated by whether this would be a better bet than eschewing the extra filter/dsp and going for a new 818ND.

If the this approach is considered a firm recommendation, I'd happily go with an older rig for now and upgrade later. I guess I could also use the filter at home.

Sadly I think I won't be able to stretch to both a new rig and the wolfwave!

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  • $\begingroup$ You're probably overthinking the features. Your needs will change as you get on the air and learn what you like most. I started with the FT-100, an HF-70cm predecessor to the FT-857, and it was a great choice as I could try a bit of everything - HF, FM repeaters, but also meteor scatter, sstv, digital modes, CW. It's apparently a compromise on HF and the bigger HF-only rigs are better and definitely easier to operate, but I didn't get deep enough that it mattered very much. $\endgroup$
    – tomnexus
    Jul 22, 2022 at 13:49

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The Wolfwave is $275. Yikes! And it's just an audio filter. It's an accessory that's a nice-to-have, and an extra gadget to carry in your backpack.

In short, you can get by without extreme narrow filtering by choosing your operating times and staying away from contest weekends. You would use the 2.2 KHz SSB filter that comes with either the FT-817 or FT-818. It is doable if you're just starting out.

Both the '817 and '818 rigs come with 2.2 KHz SSB and 6 KHz AM filters as standard. The '818 is only a minor upgrade to the '817. Used narrow filters go for a lot of money in most rigs and can be hard to find, that route may not be worth it in the end. Used filters for my ICOM IC-718 run about 170 dollars. It appears both the '817 and '818 take the same filters and they are hard to find these days. I'm looking at them on eBay for 120 - $200.

You might find a used FT-817 with a CW filter already installed. That said, and being an old ham since 1963, IF crystal or mechanical, or the newer DSP IF filtering is always better than end stage audio filtering, IMHO. I worked a lot of QRP in my day, with and without extreme filtering. The brain is a marvelous filter for CW. And if you're working CW, you're not going to have a lot of time to fiddle with a bunch of knobs on a Wolfwave. If you must go with the Yaesu, I'd go with the newer '818 and hope to find a narrow filter. End result might be an outlay of $800 though.

Other options:

An Elecraft KX2, at about $950, is a beautiful QRP rig, and true DSP to boot, but looks to be about 300 dollars more than the stock '818. It doesn't appear to be available at the moment.

Also check out the Xeigu radios, the G90, X5105, and new X6100. They are true DSP radios with DSP filtering, affordable, and small enough for backpacking. One of these might be your ticket.

WE7W

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In my experience, I found that a short piece of 3" plastic pipe elbow placed on the speaker makes a dandy filter for cw. If the radio has a DSP filter, even better!

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Well congrats on joining the hobby, and more congrats with the use of CW (my favorite mode also).

If you are going to be operating from somewhere 'rare'... then 100% you will need a decent filter (the smallest/tightest that $$$$ can buy).

But if you are operating from CA/TX (i.e. a place with a large Ham community) then you will be less sought after, and therefore not be in 'pile-up' situations too much. In this case a tight filter is not needed as much.

In both circumstances you will find being the 'DX' in a 'Pile-up' very difficult using a QRP rig. As bad behaved/stupid stations will stamp on your signal.

I personally would not buy a 'wolf-wave' but use that $275 towards the purchase price of the radio.

I use an Elecraft KX-3 for Cw/QRP - the KX2 is also an excellent choice; Both new being more expensive that the IC-705 which itself is more than a FT817/818.

Which is best ... I am afraid is a decision only you can make.

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