Audio Issues With Baofeng Cable and VARA FM (for Winlink)

Hello! I purchased and received my first Digirig kit for the FT-891, and was able to set it up to do wsjtx modes, js8call, and winlink (Vara HF) just fine, using the FT-8xx cable. So, I purchased the Baofeng (kenwood style) cable sets in hopes to use it to do Winlink with my baofeng and radioddity GA-510 radios, using Vara FM. I am not having any success getting it to communicate with my other, working VaraFM/Winlink/FT-991A setup. I also tried this evening with a friend who was having similar issues. I don’t seem to have a driver issue, PTT works, etc - but i’m not able to make a connection in a Vara FM Peer-to-Peer session - and I don’t have any nodes close enough to try a regular winlink session. I have studied the following articles and posts [EDIT - i’m a new user so can only put 2 links in - but I have read more. I will reply with the others]:

https://groups.io/g/VARA-MODEM/topic/87641230?p=,,,20,0,0,0::recentpostdate/sticky,,,20,2,20,87641230

When I start a session, it will PTT and transmit a signal, but the signal is VERY strong on the other rig. The other rig doesn’t seem to recognize, and won’t connect. Going the other way, trying to transmit FROM the 991a rig to the baofeng rig, the baofeng rig doesn’t seem to recognize and pick up either, although the VU meter moves in Vara FM.

I feel like there must be something I’m missing. But I have tried two different radios, on two different computers, with the same result, so I don’t know what I could be missing…

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

73, N9XRY

Here are the other two articles I’ve studied and tried:

If you can hear each side on the opposite end then the issue is likely with levels - usually overdriving that causes the distortions. I would suggest starting with very low levels and increasing as needed.

  • Keep in mind that the volume knob on the HT is a factor, so go easy with that and take a note of the setting that works
  • If all the settings affecting input are at the minimum and level is still high, you can activate a hardware attenuator
  • VaraFM has lots of features to help with the levels (VU gage, Dots spread display, Auto Tuning).

If you keep having difficulties, please post a video walkthrough of the setup and connection attempts and we’ll check it out.

Denis,

Thank you so much for your reply. I will check levels again everywhere I know to check, and I will make a video walkthrough, probably tomorrow. Thanks again!!

Arthur, N9XRY

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Denis,

I went back through and made sure all the levels were as low as I could get them, and all the special features like AGC, Bass Boost, Spatial sound, etc… were off. Here are two videos… the first is trying to transmit from the digirig station to the FT-991a station, and the second is the reverse.

Let me know what you think. This is the same behavior over two different computers and two different radios. Also, can you describe the hardware attenuator you’re talking about? Is this a DIY electronics thing or something I can purchase? I’m afraid i’m not the brightest with electronics :slight_smile:

Thanks and let me know if you have any trouble with the video links.

Let’s start from the receiving on Digirig (second video). UV meter and dots chart don’t show activity.

  • In Vara sound settings make sure you have Digirig devices selected
  • On the radio, the squelch must be off
  • In Control Panel check “listen” on the recording device and you’ll be monitoring the inbound audio on computer’s speakers. It will be static between the sessions and payload during transmission

Okay, thank you!

  • In Vara sound settings, it’s USB Pnp Sound Device (both input and output) (I didn’t rename it to Digirig because I use other radios/devices)
  • Squelch is set to 0 in the radio menu
  • There is static, and then some sound that might be “payload”, not sure. VU meter dips down, which is confusing to me.

That sounds unusual. Is 991A set to FM?
Without making any changes to the radio, try a voice QSO and see if readable.

Well now I feel silly. The 991a was set to Data-USB, not FM. However, now, when I try to transmit to the DR station, nothing is heard… I changed to “Data-FM” But the “FM PKT Port Select” was set to DATA instead of USB on the 991a. I believe the 991a station is sorted now. The two can now “connect” both ways, but the connection is dropped before any further data is transmitted:

Seems like we may be back to the levels problem? The way the VU spikes after each Tx is strange.

Can you make a voice QSO between the two stations?

If I change the mode of the 991a to FM, rather than FM Data, then yes I can, both ways.

However, there is no signal transmitted out of the 991a when using VARA FM in FM mode, only in FM Data mode, where the port is set to USB (Universal Serial Bus, not Upper Side Band hahaha), rather than DATA.

Also, to test a voice QSO from the digirig station, I have to unplug the digirig from the radio - is this what you meant for me to do?

Yes, that’s what I meant.
Those green dots on baofeng screen looked healthy. I also see 991 blinking ACK which I suppose means acknowledgement. At this point the issue may be in something on the application layer of the connection. No payload?

Do you have any other stations you can try?

Unfortunately, I do not. I live way out in the country, out of range of any digipeaters or peers within 2m FM.

No idea if this information helps any, but here are the results of the Auto-tune test and Ping test in VARA FM from the 991a station to the digirig station:

Google Photos
Google Photos

Both tests from the digirig station produce “No Signal”

Understood.
Can you monitor received audio on 991 when Baofeng transmits during the failing tests? Does it sound similar to what you get on Baofeng in opposite direction during the passing test?

Hold the phone! I just switched out radios… I’ve been primarily testing with the radioddity GA-510, and I just hooked the Baofeng up instead on a whim. I had been testing with both, but for some reason this time it’s working both ways with the Baofeng! Wow. I better take pictures of all the settings now so I can duplicate…

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Honestly, I think the trouble all along was the Radioddity GA-510. Apparently it doesn’t want to play digital. When I was swapping it out with the Baofeng was when I was still having trouble with my settings on the 991a station, so it wasn’t going to work with either.

Thank you so much for your patience, and working with me on this! I’m going to buy your new Yaesu cable for my FT-2980R too :slight_smile: (just saw it came out today!)

73!!

Arthur, N9XRY

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The radio doesn’t know it is playing digital. It is just handling audio from/to digirig. There may be some level setting or maybe FM wide/narrow that messes it up on one of the HTs.

Anyway, happy to help with the troubleshooting.

Hahaha I know it doesn’t. But it’s a fact that when I swapped them out, the baofeng started working with everything else the same! I’ll check settings on the GA-510, but I’m happy :slight_smile: Have a good night!

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