For any transceiver to be able to be used with a PC to decode and send
the various data modes that are available for amateur radio use some
kind of external electronic interface is required to connect the radio
to the computer.
This can be
constructing a DIY interface that connects the AF in, AF out, PTT and
Key connections on the radio to the PC's sound card and data interface,
eg RS232 serial port.
connections to the
radio easier, the ICOM IC706MK2G has dedicated sockets on the
for this purpose. There is a 6 pin mini DIN socket for connection to a
TNC for packet operation, and a 13 pin 'Accessory Socket' that allows
all the necessary connections to an external interface unit that will
be used for connection to the PC so that all the data modes
There are a
variety of external interfaces available, but the best value
ones seem to come from Tigertronics, http://www.tigertronics.com
and G4ZLP's ZLP Electronics, http://www.g4zlp.co.uk
. In this case I happened to choose the SignaLink USB sound card product. This offered me the easiest
method of connecting the Icom transceiver to a PC. The SignaLink is
supplied with a cable specifically wired for many different
transceivers and wiring diagrams are supplied for very many transceivers.
Incidentally ZLP Eletronics have recently released a new
data interface, very similar to the SignaLink USB; the "DigiMaster
The ZLP "Digi Master Data Link" has a built in USB soundcard but with
the bonus of switched socket connections for 2 radios. See http://www.g4zlp.co.uk
for more information.
I bought my
with a cable suitable for connection to the Icom IC706MK2G, of course.
What makes the process so much easier than some other products is that
there aren't lots of separate cables and plugs to hook up to the PC's
sound card input and output and the serial port. In fact the PC does
not even need a sound card. The SignaLink takes care of all that
on-board and simply connects to the PC with a single USB cable. All it
took was a few moments for Windows to identify the necessary drivers
and it was ready to configure.
are some sound card settings to take care of, but the SignaLink
instructions covered the necessary details. I do really appreciate the facility of the interface
having an internal USB sound card as this frees up the PC's own sound
card for normal duties of playing music and movies and other sounds.
The Tigertronics SignaLink SL1+
is an alternative interface that uses the sound card built into the PC
(rather than having a built in sound card connected by USB).
G4ZLP produce several similar interfaces the DigiMaster PRO+ and the DigiMaster MiniPRO
RIG CONTROL - Computer RS232 Serial Port or Computer USB Port to C-IV or CAT radio interface (TTL):
ICOM IC-706 mk2G & YAESU FT-857D / FT-897D / FT-817 RIG CONTROL INTERFACE - and most other rigs
To use rig control software, such as Ham Radio Deluxe, to control these
and other rigs a C-IV or CAT control interface (TTL) will be required. This
can connect between the radio's C-IV or CAT port and the computer's
Serial Port. This may be inconvenient since not all PC's have serial
ports, or if there is one it may be being used for some other function.
In which case it would be far more convenient to use a USB port on the
This could be accomplished by using a USB to Serial Port conversion
cable such as the excellent "US232R-10 Premium USB-Serial Converter"
. This would allow a cable such as the "Icom CI-V / CT17 / CAT Interface [ CT-17 level convertor ]" from ZLP Electronics
for ANY and ALL CI-V Icoms" or the "Yaesu CT62 CAT Interface" from ZLP Electronics
Electronics provide excellent interfaces that connect between a USB
port on the computer to the C-IV or CAT port on the transceiver. This
seems to me to be the most modern and elegant solution.
For Icom radios:
The miniature USB dongle
"USB CT17 CAT Dongle Interface" or the more substantial "DigiMaster
Single USB CT17 CAT Interface
". Based on FTDI's 232 chip for maximum
performance and reliability and powered from the PC's USB port, these
can be connected to the Icom Communication Interface-V
(CI-V) port on the IC-706mk2G using the ZLP Electronics I1 cable,
suitable for any Icom that uses the CT17 / C-IV ). (This interface can
also be used with "Y1", "Y2", and "Y3" cables for Yaesu radios.
For Yaesu radios:
The miniature USB dongle
"USB CT62 CAT Interface" or the more substantial "DigiMaster USB CT62
". Based on FTDI's 232 chip for maximum performance and
reliability and powered from the PC's USB port, these can be connected
to the FT-857D / FT-897D with the Y3 cable to the 8 pin mini-DIN data
port or alternatively with the Y4 cable to the MIC socket.
KENWOOD TS-590S - Data and Rig Control
I now also have the Kenwood TS-590s - Kenwood have very thoughtfully
included a USB interface into this transceiver. This means that one
simple USB cable connects the rig directly to the PC wich provides the
data interface AND rig control.
Before connecting the TS-590 to the PC, the Kenwood virtual COM Port driver
must be installed onto the PC (Silicon Labs C_210x USB to URT Bridge).
Once that is done the USB cable can be connected between the TS-590 and
the PC. The PC will then detect the presence of the USB sound card
within the TS-590 and install that automatically.
Once that is done any of the well known data software can be used. The rig can also be easily controlled using HRD
(Ham radio Deluxe 5) or Kenwood's own ARCP-590
rig control program.
Before it is
use any data modes it is necessary to install some software onto the PC
that will do the job. Fortunately there is a wide variety
available, much of it free to use. e.g HamScope, MultiPSK,
MMSSTV, Ham Radio Deluxe + Digimaster 780. These free programs have
been written by some extremely clever radio amateurs /
programming experts and have been very kindly offered free of charge
for others to take advantage of. Thank you!!
Of course there is also commercial paid-for software available at
various price points from reasonably priced to very expensive. e.g.
MIXW and SkySweeper.
is supplied with a CD rom containing a huge array of free data software
so this saves downloading time. I just chose the software that I needed
and installed it from the disk. I found that, as expected, each
individual software program also needed a certain amount
of configuration too.
As at August 2008 I have merely experimented with a few of these
programs. MultiPSK seems very comprehensive indeed, but has a very
daunting user interface. Hamscope is quite simple to set up and use. My
favourite so far is Digimaster 780 that I use with Ham Radio Deluxe version 5
("HRD"). Digimaster 780 is very
comprehensive and seems quite straightforward in use and has a modern
looking user interface.
That's as far as I've got so far, and I will continue persevering with
HRD / Digimaster 780 as my favoured digital modes program.
Digimaster 780 with HamRadioDeluxe: http://www.hrdsoftwarellc.com/
W1WC's Featured Software page: http://www.w1wc.com/software/
FLDigi and other software by W1HKJ & Associates
RS232 Serial Port to USB Adapter Cable:
RS232 Serial Port to USB adapter cable