FT-897d using Mic/CAT port

So, like several of us that go mobile/portable with the FT-897D (even in 2022) I have the FC-30 tuner attached to the side of the radio and it naturally uses the CAT port on the rear of the radio. To fully use the DigiRig and it’s CAT port functions I had to do the following, and this was after a LOT of searching the internet.

The FT-897 and FT-857 have a unique function that allows you to use the Mic connector as an additional CAT port. After receiving my DigiRig a few days ago I made up a special cable using an old piece of CAT-5 cable and a TRRS connector. If you aren’t sure what some of the things are I’ll be talking about let me know in a follow up post and I’ll try to clarify. I do not believe the FT-817 nor FT-818 allow CAT on the mic port. Someone will have to check me on that.

I swapped out the standard FT-8xx cable I purchased from DigiRig for my new RJ-45 type mic connector and had to make the following changes to the radio settings. Menu 19, CAT Rate to 9600. Menu 59, Mic Sel set to CAT. Note that for some input level control you may need to adjust the Menu # 37, Dig Gain for setting the Power level in TX. I have a lot of trouble keeping the ALC level tamed and still get full output power.

Set the WSJT software for the following under the radio tab:
Rig: FT-897D
Serial Port to COM5 (my particular port YMMV)
Data Bits Eight
Stop Bits One
Handshake None
DTR/RTS blank
PTT Method CAT
Transmit audio source front/Mic (I cannot change this on mine, grayed out)
Mode Data/Pkt (SUPER IMPORTANT)
Split Operation None

The Mode chosen in WSJT is very important as I was chasing my tail for almost 24 hours trying to figure out why I had no TX audio when in CAT mode for PTT. I could get VOX to work in USB or other modes but for PTT using CAT, you must have the RADIO in Packet mode, aka Digital mode. In USB or other modes it will indeed key the radio as expected but if you are not in the Data/Pkt mode, you will have NO audio from the PC into the radio unless you use VOX mode in WSJT.

One thing I did not realize is that even though I set the radio manually to Digital mode when the software would key the radio it would put it in whatever mode was selected in the software. By default this is USB so you must select “Data/Pkt” in WSJT.

After playing with the soundcard settings a while I have realized the FT-897D is very picky abut the incoming data audio levels and will quickly shoot the ALC into high gear. From my simple experimentation watching the PWR output while adjusting for various levels of ALC indication I see no gains in trying to push the output levels in WSJT higher than needed to get a bar or two of ALC indication. There are several online articles about ALC action and in the case of several discussing the FT-897D in particular the consensus seems to be that a bar or two (or even 3) of ALC indication isn’t really doing anything to drag the levels down on the 897.

You have the Digital Gain on the radios menu 37 to use as an incoming audio level control when using the data port on the back of the radio for in/out audio. I set mine to 50 and was able to make it work using the “Power” setting slider on WSJT. Also remember WSJT can remember tune vs TX levels and it will remember levels per band so you will want to set every bands tune and TX levels.

So in the end, I believe I have the radio and the software set up to work some FT8, FT4, MSK144, etc. I will be testing this combo on the air in the next few days but so far, into the dummy load, all seems to be working. I can still use the FC-30 on a multi band antenna, like my Chameleon or my 6BTV and tune, and I still have full CAT control of the frequencies, modes, etc from the laptop.

If anyone needs more detailed info or wants images of the setup, I will try to accommodate but am super busy the next few weeks. I may not get to check this forum often and in fact only really joined hoping to save folks the headaches I have had in trying to get the FT-897D, FC-30 tuner and DigiRig to all do exactly what they were designed to do.

Thanks,
Enjoy,
See you on the air
Sean
KB8JNE

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Sean, thank you for sharing the info.
When you have a moment the RJ45 cable pinout and a few pictures of the setup would be appreciated.

Hello Denis. Thanks for the great product.

Here are a few images of the setup, the CAT cable and a hand drawn bit about how it’s wired. Pretty simple really.

I picked up the TRRS connector from Universal Radio, their MINI M 4C. They still have some odd parts and since I used to work there, it was convenient and fun for me to get something from them still. Part #6535 and runs I believe $1.98. Yes, you can find these pretty cheap on Amazon as well but this is the full metal version with a nice shield and really nice spring strain relief. I did not use the strain relief sadly because the diameter of the CAT5 cable I had on hand was too big so I improvised with some heat shrink.

Please note that I found this a particularly good read on how to make a mic/CAT connection and keep both available:

Hope that helps someone down the road. What I would really love to see is perhaps a simple adapter from the 8-pin to RJ-45 connector wired just right so I could simply add it to the end of the DigiRig cable. The cables are so nice and springy. Well done. The pass through box concept in the PDF above is a great idea as well.

Note that as a new member of the forum I am limited to one uploaded image per post so I’ll have to make additional posts with other images/diagrams.

Happy Digital,
Sean
KB8JNE

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Additional info:
Here is the handwritten note on how to wire the cable:

Sean

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Last note,
And here is the final version. (Never mind the semi messy work bench):

Sean

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Also note that I was able to get WinLink aka Winlink Express Ver 1.7.1.0 (latest as of today) working.
You must start a session in Ardop Winlink mode and use the Settings, Radio tabs to set the following:
Select Radio: FT-897
USB Digital
Com 5 (my setup YMMV)
9600 baud
PTT Port to external

Now this is where I ran into an issue. I could not figure out the foo to make it work using CAT PTT so I opted for the same setup on the radio as above for FT8 except for one radio change. Set Menu 40, Digital VOX to about 80. The rest is playing with audio levels again. Note that it was easiest to simply go into the radios menu 37 and set the incoming audio level from the 50 used in FT8 above down to 6-7. For me this gave little indication of ALC action and kept the power up. The less I have to change and remember between modes and functions I use this radio for the better. As it is I am going to write up a cheat sheet on the settings to be sure I get the easiest transition from FT8 to WinLink and back.

At least this gets the radio to key, has audio flowing both directions.

The whole point of all this effort is that I plan to do some Overland camping in the future and having a good portable HF radio and good multiband antenna is something I always want to have available. Having voice, Digital and WinLink all available is a fantastic safety bonus plus it may help pass some lonely dark nights.

Last tricky bit. In Winlink some settings are nearly impossible to find. To set the audio in/out I had to find the following online. To set the soundcard you must start a session as Ardop Winlink. Go to Settings, Ardop TNC and make sure the Show ARDOP TNC screen when launched is checked. This gives you the tiny waterfall display. From there select File (not intuitive at all!) and Virtual TNC Setup. You can choose the DigiRig soundcard there. Sheesh.

Sean
KB8JNE

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One last note on all this. If I had this to do again I would order a Cat6 shielded cable with a downward angled RJ-45 connector. In the case of the FT-897D, the downward angled plug would allow the connection to exit downward and I could route the cable under the face of the radio so the cable doesn’t stick directly out from the front. This would be a better way to keep the cable routing tidy and give a shielded cable to help keep RFI from getting into that particular cable. I don’t have an RFI issue here but better safe than sorry. You can find those cables in short versions in Amazon for under $10. Add a TRRS connector and your good to go mobile/portable or at home. If you search long enough you may even find an angled connector with molded torroids for RFI suppression too.

Happy digitaling,
Sean
KB8JNE
EN80

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