Data mode communication on the Yaesu FT-817

Setting up the Yaesu FT-817 and SignaLink for data mode communication

Data mode communication is a lot of fun due to it's pleasant pace and QRP (low power) performance. There is no voice communication involved, everything is done via text making data mode QSO's (contacts) a great way to learn basic radio etiquette. 

Setting up for data modes can be a bit daunting initially. This guide will take you through the steps required to setup and configure the FT-817 and Tigertronics SignaLink sound card for data mode communication. This guide may also be useful to users of other equipment.

Data mode communication on the FT-817
Data mode communication on the Yaesu FT-817

Hardware and software required for data mode communication

In this guide the following items are used:

  • HRD-Ham Radio Deluxe
  • Signalink USB (order with SLUSB6PM For 6-pin mini DIN Data / Accessory Port Connector)
  • CAT lead
  • Window PC
  • Yaesu FT-817 radio
  • HF antenna

Configure the SignaLink before connecting

Before connecting up, do ensure that your SignaLink is properly configured, this will involve taking the unit apart. It should have come with clear instructions on how to do this , alternatively go to the Tigertronics web-site for help.


There are four socket head screws on the front of the unit to remove, this allows you access to the configuration socket. Configuration is no problem and should not be too difficult to do. New units are supplied with precut link wires which work just fine, alternatively there are pre-configured adapters available which will slot right in and eliminates the need for link wires.

SignaLink configuration FT-817

Connecting up the FT-817 and SignLink

The connections below assumes the FT-817 speaker is active, there is no need to connect the audio output directly to your PC if you do not want to do this as the received audio is also fed to the PC via the SignaLink sound card. An audio link from the 3.5mm radio jack can be fed directly into a speaker or PC if desired, but this will be independent of the HRD software and not required.

Setting up the FT-817 and SignaLink for data mode comunication
FT-817 and SignaLink connections for data modes

Configure your PC to work with the SignaLink sound card

Now this is where it can get confusing. The thing to remember is that you are adding a second sound card to your PC. All FT-817 communication will be fed through the SignLink sound card to the HRD software, leaving the original PC sound card alone.  All the HRD output will be fed back through the SignaLink to the FT-817.

You will need to setup your SignaLink sound card as described here:

Setting up the FT-817

Switch on the FT-817 and check your settings as shown below:

Menu settings:

  1. Enter menu mode: Press and hold 'F'
  2. Menu 07-Set to correct antenna position
  3. Menu 52-Extend: ON
  4. Menu:26-Digital Mode set to: USER-U
  5. Menu 45- Set to: RF-GAIN
  6. Menu 51-VOX Gain set to: 1
  7. Press and hold 'F' (two beeps)

General settings:

  1. Press 'F' momentarily
  2. Power MTRalc (press center button B to change)
  3. Set receive mode to DIG (use MODE buttons on top of radio)

Fire up HRD and load DM780

  1. Fire up HRD and open the DM780 module
  2. Click on Options, then select SoundCard
  3. Make sure the HRD is configured to use the SignaLink sound card (not the PC sound card):
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Getting ready for a QSO

  1. Select your desired frequency (at the bottom of the screen), 20 m is a good starting point
  2. Ensure the radio is set the DIG mode (use MODE buttons on the top of the radio)
  3. Your screen should look something like this:
Setting up the Yaesu FT-817 for data mode comunication
Setting up the Yaesu FT-817 for data mode comunication

Trim the transmit and receive levels on the SignaLink

  1. Adjust the RX knob on the SignaLink so the waterfall displays good clear data streams. The FT-817 volume knob should have no effect.
  2. When transmitting, adjust the TX knob on the SignLink so that the FT817 bar shows just a few transmission bars (ALxxx). See image on the right.
  3. That's it. You should now be ready to make that first CQ call.