Contesting with New Gear – Yaesu FT-950, Expert SPE Amp and Ten-Tec Omni-VII

What CQ WW contesting I did from the W9EVT/WI9DX Shack on Washington Island WI-001L was partly on W9EVT’s newest gear.

Paired up were a new Array Solutions SPE Expert Solid-State Amp and Ten-Tec Omni-VII Transceiver.

SPE Expert Amp
Ten-Tec Omni-VII Transceiver

I really enjoyed this combination and after some on-air assistance from Hector AD4C it was a combo performing to the tee!  This is a combo I could live with very easily.

New to the shack and running barefoot was a Yaesu FT-950 Transceiver.

Yaesu FT-950 Transceiver

In many ways the FT-950 is the “Little Brother” of the FT-2000 that lives two rigs below it in the console. After using the FT-2000 it was very intuitive to use and is able to use most of the same accessories.

Now for impressions:

FT-950 – The “Boy Robin” to the FT-2000’s “Batman” persona. Very easy to use and definitely a world-class intermediate level radio offering expandability with a DMU Data Management Unit, mU Tuning Units and standard Yaesu accessories.  The FT-950 is at a fantastic price point for its value, specially given the weakness of the US Dollar against world currencies.  A Shack Built around the FT-950 certainly could be competitive contesting and DXing.  On the down side is the relative expense of the DMU & mU units against the base FT-950.  Many of the FT-2000 pluses and minuses I’ve written about before carry over with the FT-950.  That Yaesu shipped the unit requiring very non-standard and unobtainable DIN-10 plugs to run a linear is a marketing oversight and should have been caught by the FT-950’s Beta-Testers.

Expert SPE 1K-FA Amp is really neat package putting a Kilowatt Solid State Amp, an Antenna Tuner, a Four Antenna/Two Radio Smart Switch, a Frequency Counter and a Digital Watt Meter in one package.  Intuitive to use, we had the amp up and running very quickly.  It does NOT require much drive from the exciter to put out significant watts, so take care when you first fire one up.  We had it tripping out at first. On the downside the DXcase is not very serious, specially given the weight of the Amp.  The lack of a printed “Getting Started” and a printed Owner’s Manual (it is on a disk) seems an oversight on a nearly $4000 amp.  I’m waiting for Array Solutions to advise when my Amp will be in, as W9EVT and I swapped places in the amp order que as the timing wasn’t good for my hobby-fund when the first shipments of amps came in.

Omni-VII looks to be my next transceiver.  I was really taken with the radio and envision running a pair of them in the shack.  Teamed with the Expert SPE amp and using the Ten-Tec 708 Microphone the recordings of my audio AD4C played back were exactly what I had in my mind I wanted to sound like.  In many ways I found the Omni-VII to be what I would imagine if my Jupiter “grew up” into a serious contest rig.  I’m not certain if the Omni-VII’s simplicity vs. the Ten-Tec Orion-II isn’t a better balance for an Amateur like myself.  I’m going to have to do some serious A/B testing between the two to eventually decide.

As always George W9EVT hospitality was only exceeded by his wife Susan’s (better not call her W9EVT’s XYL, even though I understand she attended the W9DXCC Functions this year!).

I’ve promised a couple amateurs who emailed and left comments to write up their “Ham Hotel” with Greengate Farm having the fantastic stand-alone shack matched by lovely guesthouse type accommodations in either the Applehouse, The Cabin or The Apartment, so expect more on the Greengate “Ham Hotel” soon.

Off to dream about a shack upgrade with an Omni-VII and an Expert SPE amp in the mix…..



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3 thoughts on “Contesting with New Gear – Yaesu FT-950, Expert SPE Amp and Ten-Tec Omni-VII

  1. Hector says:

    Dear Steve,thanks for mention my little help to improve your good audio,I was searching info about the new FT-950 and suddenly droped in this site.Merry xmas and a happier 2008.

  2. k9zw says:

    Please note that apparently the SPE Expert 1K-FA amp is currently not available in North America. As of November 15th 2007 Array Solutions and SPE went their separate ways.

    More on this in a post in the next week or so.



  3. f5mpn says:

    A very interesting site is informed well, a discovery for me. Good continuation, for your activity.

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