Winlink through VARA-FM on Yaesu FT-818 - not connecting, no signal

Trying to work Winlink through VARA-FM on Yaesu FT-818, but having problems.

Telnet works fine.

I’m trying to send my email message via radio through the closest VARA-FM station, which is 9 km (5.6 mi) away.

VARA-FM makes two short transmissions, during which the dials look like this:

Then the following “failure connecting” error pops up:

Ping gives a “no signal” error:

The VARA-FM settings are as follows:

Windows settings as follows:

Radio Mode set to DIG and frequency set to the 145.300 required by the selected channel. Relevant Radio settings are:
#14 CAT RATE = 38400
#24 DIG DISP = 0 Hz
#25 DIG MIC = 65
#27 DIG SHIFT = 0 Hz
#46 SSB MIC =50

So, is 9 km just too far away for VARA-FM?

Or is something wrong with my settings?

You have gone through a lot of setup to get to this point. Are you using these cables from the Digirig to your radio:

Yaesu FT-8xx Cables Build – digirig

I cannot comment on the radio settings other than some of these look like they are for SSB, not FM mode. I do not know the details of your radio, but maybe Digirig can use COM5 to pull PTT for you if you do not find good settings.

Does the leftmost VU meter in Vara FM modem window show -20 to -9 db levels when not transmitting?

When you press “start” in Winlink, does your radio transmit? If so, are there audio tones on the transmission? If you don’t have an HT handy to monitor, you can use some techniques in Denis’s troubleshooting guide to isolate the problem:

Troubleshooting Digital Modes – digirig

73 Constrainted

  1. Yes, I’m using the Yaesu FT-8xx Cables and the Digirig-to-Computer cables purchased from Digirig.

  2. Putting radio in FM for VARA-“FM” - actually, I never thought of that! Just tried it. But, unfortunately, it didn’t make any difference. Same error. FYI, options for menu item #26 are:

  3. VU Meter shows -67 to -69 dB (i.e. 9 o’clock position at the full left) with radio off, -20 dB (i.e. 12 o’clock) with radio on in DIG mode, and -2 dB with radio on in FM mode (clocked fully to the right in the red zone). (Aside: what is this? What does VU stand for?) FWIW, TX Delay and S/N have no hands on their dials and show nothing regardless of what is happening.

  4. I just now checked with a scanner, and did indeed get a burst of something during the transmit time, so I can safely say that yes something is coming out of the antenna.

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Thanks for your response. You know your way around your FT-818, Vara FM modem and Windows sound control.

Volume Unit on a meter.

The other dial indicators on the Vara FM modem come into play when you are autotuning and making session connections. You will see.

Thanks for checking with the scanner. We are certain you are putting the radio in transmit. The remaining question is audio.

I am not familiar with your radio. If you are willing, consider setting:

  1. the mode to FM.
  2. Digirig microphone level to zero
  3. check the standby Vara FM VU meter level
  4. consider monitoring the Digirig microphone by setting its Properties → Listen setting “on.”
  5. if the standby VU level is in the green, use Vara FM modem to try an AutoTune or a Ping. (If you can’t get it in the green, we can use the attenuator on the Digirig.)
  6. Listen for the warbling of Vara audio on your scanner and on your computer audio.
  7. Take the actions recommended by the results of AutoTune and Ping.
  8. Try a Winlink Vara FM session.

73 Constrainted

Here’s another thread about Digirig with Yaesu FT-8xx;

73 Constrainted

I know this my seem too simple but does the station you are transmitting to use a tone. If so do you have it set up on transmit or receive or both? With everything you have already done sometimes it’s the little things that bite us.


RMS Winlink stations use simplex, no tone, in my experience in the US. I have used Winlink through a 2m repeater to another Winlink P2P station, but Oldie has not described this situation.

73 Constrainted

I agree but I have seen tones and I have seen tones added where they shouldn’t be as well. Just saying that sometimes it’s the simple things that bite us.



Search for Config Instructions for Yaesu FT 857 and Winlink. Maybe there will be something in there that will help.

Good luck,

Rick, K7RCR

  1. Done.
  2. Done.
  3. Vara-FM VU meter reads 9 o’clock position (effectively zero) which is in the yellow. Playing with the sliders for levels in Windows’ “Digirig Properties” screen makes no difference to anything at all.
  1. I would if I could, but can’t find any setting in this regard… Have scanner at hand, set to 145.030 which is the frequency of this gateway or whatever you call it that I’m trying to connect to, so if I’m transmitting, I should pick it up there.

Despite the VU meter not being in the green, I nonetheless tried the AutoTune feature within VARA > Settings > Soundcard, and it sent it’s 10 little test tones, the radio’s red Transmit button came on, but I heard nothing on the scanner. Error message was “no signal”.

My problem is that I don’t know what any of these settings and things ARE, so it’s all random gibberish to me… I feel like I need to go back to school for a computer science degree!

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Didn’t find anything useful to me in there. They seem to be having a CAT vs PTT issue which (I don’t think for the moment) that I have. Also, they’re aiming for WSJT-X rather than Winlink and “I’m not there yet”. But good to keep in mind for if/when I do try that software.

Tone does not appear as a column in the “VARA-FM” channel selector screen. Where would that be found?

My whole problem probably is something quite simple, but I’m really not very technically oriented and apologize for seeming thick here, but I’m totally stumped and don’t know what to do.

Thanks for the document, but it raises some further questions for mode.

I had initially set it up for DIG mode (see my original post on top), but was not able to connect and Ping gave “no signal” error.

Then switched mode to FM on advice of Constrainted further up in this thread, but got same error.

Have just now tried PKT mode as per that document, but again, same “no signal” error.

Something is transmitting, as my scanner picks up some signal when the transmit light is red–but it is not warbling tones or “fax machine noises” it is just loud static.

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The COM port “bits per second” was set to 9600. Just changed it to 38400 to match the radio’s CAT rate on the theory that it was a good idea, but it made no difference sadly. Here is the screenshot:

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Thanks for walking through those steps. It may not seem like it, but you are probably very close.

Since the radio goes into transmit, PTT is not your problem. The problem is audio out (no warbling sound) and audio in (VU meter shows level too low.)

Troubleshooting Digital Modes – digirig

As this gude explains, if you have a pair of earbuds, you can plug them into the audio port of the Digirig while the Vara FM modem is outputting audio to confirm it is there.

73 Constrainted

I don’t have earbuds or headphones, but I have the sound set to go out through the computer’s speakers. When I tune around on the radio, I can hear other things the radio is picking up through the computer speaker. When Winkink-VARA transmits, though, there is no sound other than the white noise static that the scanner picks up.

In Windows, in Settings > Manage Sound Devices > Output Devices, there is a way of testing the output device. The test for speakers gives a little chime, but there is no sound when I press TEST for the Digirig. But then, I don’t know if that’s an appropriate test for that device.

The current Windows popups for Digirig Properties give speakers at 50% and microphone at 5%. I’ve done a ping with all sorts of slider settings, and they don’t seem to have any effect.

Do you have any idea what Mode setting I should be using? I’ve tried DIG, FM, and PKT and none of them make any difference: exact same behaviour and a “no signal” error.

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OK, thanks for this information. I think you are getting closer to the solution.

I am not familiar with these tests, although I run Win11 OS.

OK. This is extreme, but consider making the Digirig devices the system default for audio in and audio out, for the time you are testing the Digirig + + Vara Modem + FT-818 setup. You can monitor with the scanner. Then, return to normal when you are done.

This is only for troubleshooting, and not the correct way to run digital modes. You do not want the other devices on the computer like browsers, mail clients, music players, etc. sending sound to the Digirig and the radio.

I think we have to have confidence that Vara FM audio is getting to your rig. Then you can try those settings each in turn.

73 Constrainted

Should we combine this thread with this other one about COM ports on Windows 10?

73 Constrainted

I’m thinking not. That issue had to do with a dud Digirig. Now that I have the new Digirig, the computer finds the COM port fine. This thread is about settings problems. Both started by me, but separate issues.

That’s a bummer. I thought there might be something in there that might help. I have never even put hands on an 818 so I don’t think there is anything else I can do to help.

Good luck,

Rick, K7RCR