Yaesu Rotor Controller Repairs & Upgrades

A project that had been on my shack’s list of things to do for quite some time was to replace the burned out bulbs in my rotor controllers and apply a couple upgrades while I had them open. Currently the station here has two rotors and controllers.  The first is a Yaesu G-1000DXA that I bought used from Jack, W1WEF, and is installed on the tower under the Hexbeam. The other is a G-450A, which was originally purchased for the Hexbeam, but now turns the 40-2CD that goes up on an AB-577 tower during contest season.  Both of the boxes needed their hard-wired bulbs replaced  (I prefer the soft glow of an incandescent bulb over the available LED mods) and I needed to add the rotor maps that I had purchased from CQMaps.

I had also been on the lookout for a low-cost computer interface that would allow me to adjust the controller’s azimuthal angle directly from the logging software instead of reaching over to push and hold down the switches on the face of the box.  I had previously looked into the interface sold by Idiom Press (now Hamsupply.com), but they had received some negative feedback regarding their customer service before they sold their company and they only had an interface for the G-1000DXA. Lucky for me, Scott, W4PA, announced just before Dayton that Vibroplex is now the US distributor for Easy-Rotor-Control (ERC), a German company making a rotor interface that I’d heard good things about.  A year or so ago I had looked into ordering one directly from ERC, but didn’t want to deal with international shipping.  Now that Vibroplex was carrying them, ordering would be simple and when I went to Dayton last May, I picked up an interface for each of the controllers.

If you’ve never opened up a Yaesu controller to replace a bulb, the process can be somewhat of a pain, but I’ve opened up both of these boxes to do repairs in the past, and after the first time, it becomes much easier.  I had also previously purchased the rotor map insert for the G1000DXA, but had installed it in the G-450A as a test for James, N4EGA @ CQMaps to help him determine if he needed to create a different version for each controller model.  It did fit, but needed some adjustments, so I left it in until James had finished coming up with the new version for the G-450A.

Scope of Work

  • Replace bulbs in both controllers
  • Move map insert from G-450A to G-1000DXA and add new insert into G-450A
  • Build and install computer interface in the G-450A and plug in interface for G-1000DXA
  • Configure interfaces for both N1MM and DXLabs logging software

Getting the parts

I already had bulbs that I had purchased in the past.  They cost nearly nothing, so it makes sense to order a dozen even if you only need one.  This will give you plenty of replacements and a couple extra so you can be the club hero when a friend needs a replacement.


CQMaps does a great job packaging their items.  Lots of bending protection and the rotor inserts are small enough to fit in the smallest PO Box without folding the envelope.

IMG_0355 IMG_0357

I didn’t get a picture of the ERC packaging, but they are put together nicely in a resealable bag with all necessary parts and instructions and software on a CD.

Here’s a couple photos of the pre-assembled interface for the G-1000DXA that connects directly to the 6 Pin DIN on the back of the controller.

IMG_0393 IMG_0395

And here is a photo of the parts for the G-450A controller laid out for inventory before assembly.


Solder smoke and poking holes in sheet metal

The most time intensive part of the project is building and installing the interface for the G-450, so I’ll focus on that first.

Building the kit was quite easy and it could easily be done in one evening. For me, it did take a while, but only because I was out of practice and was having trouble carving out the time to work on it. I did run into some difficulties with the instructions, but that probably had more to do with my inability (as a true ham) to read about all of those pesky little details. When I saw large red blocks over parts of the PCB in the documentation, to me that means “DO NOT INSTALL THESE PARTS.” But after reading a little more closely, it actually means “THESE PARTS HAVE DIRECTIONALITY.”  So the directions weren’t bad, they just required reading.

Here’s the build after my first session.

And here is the board with all parts minus the chips and with 12V applied for the first test, which consists of taking a couple voltage measurements on the board. IMG_0316

Finally the chips are inserted and the USB cable from the computer is connected.  Once the computer recognizes the device and assigns a COM port, you’re ready to finish the final testing process.  Testing software is included with the kit and it is as simple as clicking the button labeled “Test.” Once you hear all three relays click, you know everything is working properly. WARNING: There is a longer pause for the third relay to click (break delay), so don’t panic while you wait for what will seem like an eternity.

It works, now what?

So now we get to the part I’m not so great at: fabrication.  I never take enough time and I never have the right tools to line things up and cut sheet metal.  So while the installation wasn’t pretty, it was relatively easy to install since the measurements are well documented in the manual.

Marking the case for drilling

Screwing down the board

View from the back. Good thing no one will ever see it!IMG_0363

The final stage of the board installation is making the connections from the interface to different locations in the controller box.  Two of these locations required tapping a single wire with pinned connectors on each end and no solder points.  I decided to just cut the wire and make a three way soldered connection and clean it all up with some heat shrink tubing.



The other connections were to the left and right switches and it was very easy to solder the new, additional wires to the existing solder blobs.

Don’t close up that box yet!

I still needed to change out the bulb and insert the new map.  The procedure is exactly the same for both controllers with the exception of a couple screws.  One very important screw is in the center of the direction needle in the G-450A that doesn’t exist in the G-1000DXA.  James has done a great job documenting the procedure for both the G-450A and the G-1000DXA at CQMaps.

The incandescent bulbs in both controllers are soldered in place with a piece of adhesive reflective foil wrapped around it to help focus light across the dial.  You have to carefully peel back the foil and de-solder the bulb. Once you have the bad bulb removed, you can just twist the leads of the new bulb across the contacts on the controller and attach with a little solder.  There are also some online retailers that sell LED mod kits or you could make your own, but as I mentioned earlier, I prefer the soft incandescent glow that the original bulb gives off.

Here you can see the foil has already been removed (sometimes you can get one side to stay on) and the bad bulb needs to be removed.  It’s very easy to de-solder this by warming up the solder on each lead while applying a little pressure on the bulb to remove the leads from the solder blob.

Here is a shot of the bulb completely removed.


Here I’ve twisted the leads of the new bulb around the old solder joints and will solder them in the exact same spot.

Now that the bulb is in place and the foil has been put back, I can tackle the map insert.   Here I have removed the screws holding the faceplate on and the direction indicator.  The key on the G-450A is to remove the tiny screw in the middle of the indicator BEFORE trying to remove the indicator.  This does not exist on the G-1000DXA.IMG_0388

The other trick to this mod is to make sure to not lose the very small, very hard to see plastic washers that live between the plastic dial face and the back of the dial.  They are small, bounce like crazy, and very hard to see on the floor!

Configuring the software

So once I finished putting the boxes back together, it was time to calibrate the interfaces and setup N1MM and DXLabs to control the rotors. Calibration was very simple and consisted of opening up the ERC software and starting the process. The software provides step-by-step instructions, which involve manually turning the rotor as far as it will go one direction and clicking a button, then turning it all the way in the other direction and clicking a button.  Once this is finished, you can close it and configure the logging software.  I have two logging programs that I use regularly: DXLabs Suite for daily logging and N1MM Logger+ for contest logging.


If I had only one rotor to control, I could have configured the rotor control directly in the DXView software within DXLabs, but since I wanted to be able to control both rotors in the program, I have to use a separate rotor control program.  It just so happens that the N1MMRotor software that comes with N1MM can be used in stand-alone mode by DXView to control both rotors.  Configuration of N1MMRotor is as easy as going to Tools>Setup Rotors and then choosing the COM port and rotor model.  Once this is done, you open DXView’s configuration panel and go to the Rotator Control tab.  In my case, I checked “Enabled”, choose “N1MM Current” under the Model section and then chose the corresponding COM Port for the rotor that has antennas for each band.  Now when I want to use rotor control with DXLabs, I start up N1MMRotor and DXView. You can create a shortcut to N1MMRotor in your taskbar or on the desktop to make it easier to find and open. This is all well documented on the DXLabs wiki.


Setting up N1MM Logger+ is even simpler if you’re already using N1MMRotor with DXView and the process is well documented on the N1MM Wiki. If you’re using N1MMRotor with DXView, close the program and then open up N1MM.  Configuration is done in Config> Configure Ports, Mode Control, Audio, Other…>Antenna Tab.  There you configure which bands are associated with which rotor.

So, how is it?

One of the common themes I hear in the various “improve your contest score” talks that I’ve attended is to simplify your station and make it easier to control in “Hour 48.”  Another thing I learned early on working in IT is that the less you take your hands off the keyboard, the better.  Adding these interfaces for the rotor controllers is a really nice feature that helps meet both of those goals. Being able to choose a hot key in the logging software allows me to get the antenna headed in the right direction while keeping my focus on working the station I’m trying to put in the log. These affordable controllers work great and the kit version for the G-450 was an easy build.  The rotor maps were also a nice addition.  Having a Great Circle Map on the rotor isn’t essential if you already know where to point your antennas, but they do look really nice and are customized to be centered on your location.  If you are thinking of trying any of these mods and have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!


Blog Challenge

At Dayton this year, I was fortunate enough to spend some time catching up with my friend Brad, WF7T, on life and of course various topics surrounding Amateur Radio.  One subject that came up was the importance of keeping blogs up-to-date.  Why is it so incredibly hard to do this? I mean it’s supposed to be fun right?  My only obligation is to write about stuff I find fun and exciting and make a few funny comments to tie it all together.  The idea is that it encourages others to do the same, so we can all learn from each other. So Brad and I challenged each other to get back in the groove of blogging about Amateur Radio projects we’re working on and here is my first attempt post-Dayton.  Our original goal was a post per week, but it will probably be every two weeks until I can get in a groove or find some less time consuming subjects to discuss.

Here are a couple drafts I have in the works and I should have one posted by the end of the week.

  • Dayton Review
  • How I Learned Code
  • Yaesu Rotor Controller Repairs and Upgrades

I just finished the rotor controller project and took notes and photos along the way, so that should be nice and juicy.  Dayton is quickly slipping away, so we’ll see if it comes to fruition. The code post is a bit selfish as I’ve wanted to write out the steps I took to learn morse code, so I can easily just post a link on the monthly “what’s the best way to learn code?” post I run into on the web.

If you have a stale Amateur Radio (or any) blog out there, I encourage you to join Brad and me in this challenge and let’s start putting some fresh content out there.

More soon.

73, Matt W1MSW

2016 – And we’re back!

And no, this isn’t an April Fools joke…

Isn’t it incredible how many Amateur Radio blogs have a post from months to years back mentioning how long it’s been since the last post and how the writer hopes to be better about posting updates.  Or maybe that’s just blogging in general.   Either way, I’m back!

Since my last post over 2 years ago, I left my job to work at the American Radio Relay League as the Contest Branch Manager and worked there for a little over a year before leaving HQ and returning to my previous position in IT.  I really enjoyed my time at HQ, but the 120 mile round trip commute was getting to be too much and I wanted to spend more time with my family.  Another side effect was that I was losing my desire to participate in contests.  By the time I was finished with work, the idea of jumping on the radio to operate for 36+ hours just wasn’t appealing.  Luckily, the condition wasn’t permanent and as of 2016 ARRL DX CW, I’m back and loving contesting again.

Lots of radio projects are planned for this summer including making progress on the the tower project referenced in the last post.  I will be updating my statistics and “stuff for sale” pages as well.  Another goal is to post thoughts on contesting that I regularly see questions about on Reddit and Facebook.  Then I can reference a page I’ve written here rather than write a new response each time.

Looking forward to posting more photos and thoughts soon.

73, W1MSW

Tower Project – The Beginnings

Since we moved to our home in Fall of 2011, I’ve been collecting  parts for what I hope will eventually be a tower with stacked beams on top.  Not having the kind of cash required to buy all new equipment, I drove all over New England picking up pieces here and there as good deals came up. Being a member of YCCC is helpful as members regularly list used equipment for sale on the club mailing list at very reasonable prices.


In the meantime, Frandy – N1FJ loaned me his AB577 tower and we put that up in the woods with the DXEngineering Hexbeam that I had up at on an eave mount at the last QTH.  It worked very well for a temp setup and kept me on the air for the next year.


Last fall I finally had enough parts to put up 50ft of ROHN 25G. I had also picked up a TH6-DXX tribander and 40-2CD monobander, but with two tower sections above the last house bracket, I wasn’t willing to put either or both of those large(r) antennas up yet.  So we split the project into two stages.  Stage 1 would involve putting up the 50ft of tower bracketed to the house at two points with the hexbeam on top. Stage 2 is slated for Spring 2014 when we will add 2-3 more sections of tower using guys to support the upper sections, which will handle the wind load of the two large beams stacked on top.

So began Stage 1 and as with any tower project, the first step was to determine the location.


Then dig a hole.


Order some ready mix.


And start mixing, pouring and floating!

(KK1W & N1FJ getting just the right mix)


(N1FJ on trowel)

Thanks to Jim – KK1W, Frandy – N1FJ and Marty-W1MJB for helping with the back breaking work.

After about a month of curing and more prep work, I was ready to complete Stage 1.  KK1W and N1FJ arrived Saturday morning and worked as ground crew as I climbed up the tower (any tower) for the first time.  I had a nasty cold that weekend and after putting up a couple sections and the second house bracket, I was out of energy and not feeling safe on the tower.  We agreed to try it again the next day.  Sunday was much better and after over four hours on the tower we had finished the installation and everything was working as planned.

During some of the slow times while I was fiddling with bolts and a drift pin fitting sections together, Jim took advantage and got some great photos and video with his quadcopter.

Are you my mother?




The tower with the Hexbeam works very well.  No problem working DX around the world on all bands (see 2013 contest stats). Between this project and helping Jose – N4BAA take down his towers at his MA QTH, I learned a lot about tower work. However, I think spent way too much time researching (more like obsessing) on the best way to execute the project before I got started.  Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have “just get it done” friends who have are experienced in these types of projects and who were there to lend a hand and give me a kick in the pants when I came up against the unknown. Thanks guys!

As soon as warmer weather arrives this spring Stage 2 will begin and the larger beams will go up.  When that’s finished, we’ll be done with new tower work here and move on to finding solutions for the low bands– probably an inverted L that combines 80 and 160.

More soon!

Matt – W1MSW

2014 Station Goals

Since we moved to the new QTH just over 2 years ago, I’ve been collecting parts and equipment with a rough goal in mind for the eventual evolution of the station.  I finally realized my equipment goals and how they all connect are a little fuzzy and deserve sorting out.  First I came up with a quick diagram of the existing station. Nothing spectacular, but a good baseline to have documented.

W1MSW Existing Station

Then I came up with a diagram of what I hope the station will eventually be with a quick inventory of what I have and what I still need.


My next task is to come up with a corresponding spreadsheet of the equipment I still need to procure and the associated costs.  I’m dreading it, but in the long run it’s always good to have the harsh budgetary realities down on paper so you know what you’re up against.

The KK1L antenna switch is getting closer to being a reality.  With the help of N1FJ and his drill press, I now have the control box ready to go and can finish that half of the project.  I also ordered the remaining parts for the relay switch, but unfortunately the relays are back-ordered from Mouser until March.  Still plenty to do before I can install it, so not too big of a deal.

Station demarc and behind the wall panel for organization is also in progress.  If the weather stays nice, I may start poking some holes in the side of the house so I can move the cables from the window to the demarc, which will look nicer and give us some energy savings.  I have the window sealed up well, but it will never be as good as having it completely shut.

Not to get all 75 meters or anything, but I’ve been under the weather and dealing with some health issues.  This has put a bit of a damper on operating, but hopefully answers are coming and we can get a move on making these goals into realities. More images and posts as we make progress here.

Matt – W1MSW