HT Programming for the Absolute
Plus and example using a very popular 2 meter
Programming the Yaesu VX-170
Charles P. Cohen
I recently bought a Yaesu
VX-170 - a "basic" 2m handie-talkie (or handheld transceiver, or
just HT). Even though it's "basic", the instruction manual is 82
pages long, written very densely, and each key has two or three
functions (most of which aren't labelled).
I've been watching a VX-170
group on Yahoo!, and noted that many people who had recently passed
their Technician exams found that manual to be incomprehensible.
It's not that any individual section is difficult to understand. But
the manual is "feature-oriented" - it tells you what the
rig can do. It's not 'user-function oriented" - it doesn't tell the
new owner how to use the rig's features to accomplish the basic task
that most people want to perform with a VX-170:
"How can I program my VX-170 to use my local 2m
This article tries to
answer that question. Readers who are comfortable with their HT's
can stop reading here. This article really is basic, and you already know
everything I'm going to write.
But novice readers who own
other brands and models of HT's may find the rest of this article
useful. I've tried to distinguish the general principles and
operations (which every HT uses) from the keystrokes needed to
perform them (which are specific to the VX-170).
Like many other things in
life, it's only "simple" after you've done it a few times. And it
takes longer to describe, than to do.
Repeater Basics in One Paragraph
A repeater receives signals
broadcast by a HT on one frequency, and re-transmits them
simultaneously on another frequency. The re-transmitted signal is
much stronger than the HT signal that was received. The repeater is
usually located in the highest spot available, so its "line-of-sight
coverage" is much larger than the HT's line-of-sight coverage. The
effect is to give the HT much more power, and much more range, than
it has on its own.
You Need to Know about the Repeater
There are three things you
need to know about your local repeater:
Its frequency. By convention, the "repeater
frequency" is the frequency the repeater transmits on. Therefore, it's the frequency the HT
And the repeater's "receive frequency" is the HT's "transmit
Its shift ("split" or "separation" in the ARRL
Handbook). The shift is the difference in frequency between the
repeater's transmit frequency, and its receive frequency. By
convention, the shift is positive (e.g. "+600") if the repeater's receive
frequency is higher than its transmit frequency. [And
thinking backwards, the shift is positive if the HT's
transmit frequency is
higher than its receive frequency.]
Its tone, if it needs one.
Some repeaters are "open" - they re-transmit every signal they
receive. Other repeaters are "tone activated" - they only
re-transmit signals which have a sub-audible "tone" added to them by
the HT. "Sub-audible" means that it's outside the HT's voice
passband - the tones are between 67 and 254 Hz. You can get the
tone frequency from the repeater's owner, or one of its users. There
are other ways of activating repeaters, but "tone" is the most
common. It's formally called CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch
use a real Vancouver repeater as an example. Its description is:
VE7RBY . . . . 145.350. . .(-600). . . . 127.3t
That means it transmits on 145.350 MHz
(therefore, your HT must receive on 145.350 MHz. And it receives 600 kHz
down, on 144.750 MHz (therefore, your HT must transmit
on 144.750 MHz).
The HT must transmit a tone
of 127.3 Hz - otherwise, the repeater won't turn on.
Most 2m repeaters in the US
follow a bandplan. The standard shift is 600 kHz, and it's +600 or
-600 depending on which sub-band the repeater frequency falls into.
The VX-170 (and most other HT's) "know" the standard bandplan, and
have a "default shift" setting that gives a correct shift, if the
repeater follows the bandplan.
You Need to Know About Your HT
You don't need a full understanding of the manual
to program the HT for your local repeater. But you need to know how
to do these things:
1. Put the HT into "VFO Mode". In that mode, the
HT can be tuned to any frequency, and isn't limited to programmed
the HT receive frequency (in VFO mode).
the repeater shift (frequency in kHz, and direction (+/-)).
the tone, if needed.
"VFO Mode" settings in a HT memory slot.
a name (like "VE7RBY") to the memory slot.
It doesn't matter what
brand or model of HT you have, the requirements are the same.
Step-by-Step Instructions (Refer to picture of the VX-170 keypad
below and your manual)
If you don't have a manual, see the
download links below.
Closeup of Yaesu VX-170 keypad
Now we're ready for the details
The "conceptual" steps are in black, and should work for most HT's.
The VX-170-specific keystroke instructions are in blue.
Put the HT into VFO mode.
Press the "VFO"
Tune the HT to the repeater's transmit (listed)
frequency. For the VX-170, since there's a
numeric keypad, we'll use it. Without the keypad, we'd use the DIAL
knob or UP/DOWN buttons to tune the radio.
Enter the frequency using the
keypad, without the leading "1". So
"145.350" should be keyboarded as 4 5 3 5 0 .
repeater shift, if necessary. For our sample repeater, the shift
magnitude is the standard 600 kHz, and the direction matches the
bandplan. So no action is needed on the VX-170. For "non-standard"
repeaters, you will have to set the shift and direction using the
Press "F", then "4/RPT" to access
the repeater shift direction menu item. Set it to match the
repeater. Press "PTT" to save the
Press "F", then "0/SET" to access
the menu. Rotate the DIAL knob to get menu item "SHIFT". Press "F"
momentarily. Rotate the DIAL knob to select the new repeater shift
magnitude. Press "PTT" to save the
Set the tone.
Press "F", then "1/SQ TYP" to
select the Squelch Type menu item. Use the DIAL knob to select TONE
(or another squelch mode, if the repeater doesn't use CTCSS tones).
Press "PTT" to save the value.
Press "F", then "2/CODE" to
select the Tone Frequency list. Use the DIAL knob to select the
correct frequency. Press "PTT" to save the
If you have
an antenna connected, and you're in range of the repeater, you can
test your work.
Press the "PTT" switch. The repeater
should hear you, and turn on for a few seconds. And you should hear
it - the green light on the VX-170 (or whatever light shows that
your HT is receiving
a signal) should turn on for a few
You might even want to
"This is XX9XXX, monitoring"
(which is the VHF equivalent of
"CQ"), and see if anyone answers.
When you press the "PTT" switch, you
should see the frequency display change to the HT's
(the repeater's receive frequency).
Now that the
HT is set up to talk to the repeater, you should save the setup in
one of the HT's memories for easy recall. The memories slots are
Press and hold "F" for one
second. If you don't accept the default memory slot, use the DIAL
knob to select a different slot (you have ten seconds). Press "F"
again to store the settings into memory.
For your sanity, you should
assign a name (or "tag") to the numbered memory slot. Use a
meaningful name like "VE7RBY" or "MT MCK" (for Mount McKinley). The
keystrokes to do that vary widely among HT's.
Put the VX-170 into Memory Mode
by pressing the "MR" key. Rotate the DIAL knob to select the memory
location you just stored into.
Enter a label for the memory –
the instructions are on pg 31 of the VX-170
Press the "PTT" switch to save
If you want to program the HT for
another repeater, you must start at the beginning, and go back into
You should be on the air now.
Welcome to ham radio.
Yaesu VX-170 Operating
Manual Download from Yaesu (Pdf file,
This article kindly provided to us with
the permission of:
Charles P. Cohen VA7CPC