FT-991 Hardware Upgrade Kit

Yaesu FT-991

Final update: See my upgraded FT-991 in action here.

I bought a Yaesu FT-991 transceiver last year. Shortly after that, Yaesu decided to surprise us (me) by releasing the FT-991A, for more or less the same price as I paid for the FT-991, and slashed the price of the FT-991, immediately devaluing my new purchase. Great timing.
The FT-991A version included some cool extra features such as a real-time spectrum scope, and a multi-color waterfall display. There were rumours that the “A” version included much improved DSP functionality, but, that was (is still) one of those online rumours as far as I know.

Yaesu announced they would release a hardware upgrade kit for FT-991’s which would add the FT-991A’s functionality, so I’ve been waiting to see how much this would be – thinking “surely it can’t be that much!”

If this is indeed the official upgrade kit, wow was I wrong. I found a page in the UK selling a “FT-991 Hardware Upgrade Kit”, coming in at a cool £400 GBP (around $500 USD).

The hardware kit comprises three new circuit boards (a new control unit, a new main unit, a new jack unit), and a new label.

The kit can only be fitted by our workshop.

I’m sure that part of the cost is the installation cost, since it seems to replace almost all of the radio!
In my opinion, $500 is WAY more than I would want to pay to add a real-time spectrum scope. The FT-991 is a stellar piece of kit without a real-time spectrum scope, and the latest firmware upgrades to the FT-991 have added the multi-color waterfall feature, but just not in real-time while you’re listening.

It’ll be interesting to see if this actually is the kit, since it’s not (as yet) advertised on the Yaesu website.

Update, 12th May, 2017

I contacted Yaesu directly to ask about the upgrade kit. Their response was:

I have added you to our list but will be contacting you to go over the procedure with you. But if you have any further questions that we can assist you with please feel free to let me know. Thank you for choosing YAESU USA.

I’m not really sure what they meant by contacting me to go over the procedure. I emailed them back for clarification. Hopefully I’ll find out!

That’s all for now, and if there are any more updates, I’ll post them here.

If anyone has any news on the upgrade that they would like to share, please add it in one of the comments areas below.  Thanks!

Update 15th May, 2017

Looking at some internal images of the FT-991 vs FT991A, there does appear to be an extra additional PCB, possibly two PCB’s stacked:

I learned of this difference via a thread on an Italian ham radio message board: http://www.radio-amatori.it/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=7253

The image of the FT-991A comes courtesy of Filippo, IZ5MJQ.

Now we have a couple of possibilities. According to the original find (at hamradio.co.uk) the upgrade to FT-991A consists of “a new control unit, a new main unit, a new jack unit”, whereas the photographs of the real FT-991A suggest that there are a couple of extra PCB’s required. Unfortunately, it does look like the main board is different also (see an example above), with U.FL connectors to/from the additional PCB’s. I would hope/assume that this can be done via soldering on the FT-991 main board. On top of this, there will be a firmware upgrade, and who knows what else.

If nothing appears soon, I might lose patience and do a high-impedance IF tap on my 991 and feed it to an SDR for a band scope on the shack computer…

Interesting stuff, and as always if you have anything to contribute, please do so below!

Update 5th July 2017

Still no real upgrade program from Yaesu. I would have thought that I’d hear something from them by now, but this isn’t the case. I’m really beginning to think that using an SDR like one of those from SDRPlay is the way to go. Even an pre-made Hi-Z IF tap PCB is available via HUP-RF. I’m surprised to see no mention of this being done already on the eHam review page for the IF tap PCB. Sure, you need a computer for this method, but I think most of us have a shack PC anyway. Also, using this method will yield a MUCH faster band scope than is available in the FT-991A.

To be continued…?

Update 24th July 2017

Maybe not to be continued? I spoke to the Yaesu rep at the local hamfest, and he said that Yaesu had started rolling out the update, but it does cost in the region of $400. Not worth it for me.

Currently, I use my FT-991 for 2m, 70cm FM work, C4FM work, and HF data (PSK, JT65, WSPR, etc).

I am using an ICOM IC-7300 for my main HF/50 MHz SSB voice work.

Update 23rd October 2017

Yaesu contacted me today by phone and email to see if I was still interested in upgrading my radio to a 991A. They requested my original sales invoice and my serial number, which I provided. We shall see what they say next…

Watch this space!

Update 1st November 2017

Yaesu contacted me today by phone and I arranged to have my FT-991 sent to them in Cypress, CA to have the upgrades done. The price stated to me was $330. I’ll be sending it off this weekend. I’ll update this post as things progress.

Update 16th November 2017

Yaesu in Cypress, California received my FT-991 on November 9th, and said it would take up to a week to turn around. I just called them to check on progress. They estimate completion today or tomorrow, and shipping possibly as early as today, or Monday (20th) at the latest. I’m crossing my fingers I’ll have it some time next week.

Update 22nd November 2017

See my post, here: https://www.ad5gg.com/2017/11/23/yaesu-ft-991-upgraded-to-ft-991a/

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AD5GG works in the real world as an RF design engineer. Occasionally, he posts articles on this very site. Sometimes they're even worth reading. Please feel free to comment on posts using the comment system at the end of each post, and use the discussion forum.

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6 years ago

I fill Saesu has lost many customers, me for one. Bought I-Com 7300 great radio. Don’t know what to do with FT-991 other than sale or give it to a new Ham.

Reply to  Rat
2 years ago

Oh boo hoo … I’ve nothing but Yaesu radios and the physical and electronic quality cannot be beat for the price range. Service is the same if not better than other radio vendors here in the USA. Sold everything else but kept my FT-817/FT-847 for satellites, FT-991 as a portable rig, FTM-400/FT-3DR for repeater work, FT-950 as a backup SW rig, and use my wonderful FT-dx101MP as my primary HF rig. I could not see upgrading the FT-991 for an excuse of a discontinuous spectra display. As a retired military officer and having used military grade radios in operations from aircraft to ship to shore, the FT-991A is not worth the eye-candy that most have no real use for. Again, Yaesu products are solid performers, as are their commercial brands used for maritime work. I can use the newer radio for Spook work as a hobby if so desired, but using the FT-991 for say contesting, the real-time display gives nor real advantage in my mind.

John W
John W
6 years ago

Encouraged by your October 23rd post. Please keep us updated on progress. Thanks also to Richard for sharing his experience.

6 years ago

FT-991 finally upgraded! See the post here: https://www.ad5gg.com/2017/11/23/yaesu-ft-991-upgraded-to-ft-991a/

Questions and Comments are welcome!x