Digital Modes and the Macbook

14 August 2016.

The task is to set the Macbook up for digital modes .

  1. fldigi -3.23.14-ao3
  2. wsjt-x v1.6.0  – jt65  

Radios to be set-up

  1. Yaesu FT-857D  and the
  2. Kenwood TS-590

Kenwood TS-590SG Cable and Software Requirements

The Kenwood has only the USB connection the computer. We already have a working straight through standard cable. This cable needs to be of top quality to avoid RFI issues.

Device driver is needed for USB support  from Silicon Labs – this one: “CP210x VCP Mac OSX Drivers”.

This download was straightforward and installation successful.

Yaesu FT-857D Cable and Software Requirements
The 857 requires separate  CAT and  Data (audio) cables which go through separate USB devices :



FT857d Data Cable

system_profiler SPAudioDataType

Audio Cable: I have an audio cable for the FT857  – mini-din to stdin/stdout.

This device is plug and play – when you plug it in, OSX immediately recognizes it and assigns a device to it.  I’m not familiar with audio devices … to learn a bit more from OSX  system_profiler SPAudioDataType



This device driver file downloaded directly, which I unzipped and ran.  The interactive installation mpkg program ran without errors on my Macbook OSX Yosemite.


wsjt-x: Macbook to Kenwood  TS-590SG:  Issue: the program works on receive. When the program starts, one or two transmissions may be possible, but then the program loses its connection to the USB output stream and switches to the internal speaker on the laptop instead.  WSJT-X at times loses the USB input and output device. It’s noticeable on transmit because the sound comes out of the PC instead of the radio despite the TX being keyed correctly (No rf output because no modulation.)  The program may or may not produce error indications of the radio configuration (device driver selection).

wsjt-x: general: Rig Failure condition is triggered by tuning with the Yt100.     If the program is killed then restarted, the devices are OK.

wsjt-x: Macbook to ft-856. Able to transmit with dig gain set to 6 ( set to 2 for fldigi)  80 W and showing power.  However the waterfall behavior for the selected frequency shows an unfamiliar very narrow bandwidth waterfall indicator at the top of the waterfall and not the normal wide jt65  transmit bandwidth indicator on the waterfall.   Rig Failure condition occurs after transmission.  Sometimes a test restores the CAT control, sometimes not. The YT100 also does not seem to act normally on restart (no led flash on start).

fldigi: Macbook to Kenswood TS590SG :  fldigi works well using the USB cable for both audio and rig control.  Testing on 8/14/16 shows the program works fine and the CW mode also works.

fldigi: Macbook to FT-857D  – RT Systems USB-62 cable work with fldigi.

Macbook fldigi configuration:  
Used “RigCat”.  RigCat requires a definition file – found one on the web. To download on the osx command line…
curl “” -o “FT857.xml

You will want this file in the same dir structure as your fldigi system files.  I have mine in ~/Desktop/fldigi — not a best practice, just where it is…

FT857 Hookup: Make the cable connections first including CAT and Data ports first, then  power on the FT-857.  Do not make any cable connections to the FT-857 while it is powered on, including CAT and DATA ports.

The YT-100 must power up and be working normally for the USB-62 cable and USB adapter to work correctly.  If all goes well OSX will see the USB-62 cable and lock in the device driver for it.  If the light on the YT-100 blinks red continuously, the YT-100 power on check has failed.  Power off  the FT-897 then power on.  That seems to work for me.

YT-100 tuner hookup. The CAT port on the FT-857 is plugged into the YT-100.  For CAT control the USB-62 cable is plugged into the “Computer” port on the YT-100 and FLDIGI needs to be configured for 4800 baud.   The FLDIGI device  will be  /dev/cu.usbserial-RTXW2VYO  

With the Sabrent AU-EMAC usb external stereo sound adapter plugged in, fldigi Audio configuration – Devices – PortAudio  Capture and Playback devices will be able to see and use USB Audio.

The Sabent  packaging says “Note – For Mac users, you may need to reset the audio input and output on your computer.”   I think this means the following but I’m not 100% sure:  From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, then click Sound.  Select USB Audio Device for input and output.   The USB Audio device shows up as soon as you plug in the Sabent usb stereo adapter.  Superficially it seems to be a mini-sound card, but it requires no device driver – it is plug and play with OSX.

More Mac strangeness:  On the “Sound” menu, there is also a selection called “Use Audio Port For: ” Sound input, and Sound Output.  If you click one, it changes both Input and Output so this configuration option seems to make no sense.  It appears to be a loose end from the time when ancestral Macbooks had physical line-in jacks.

Make sure FLDIGI has cat control which is indicated by FLDIGI showing the correct frequency on the FT-857.  You may have to goto the  Fldigi Configuration – Rig menu and press <Initialize> to get CAT control.  If the frequency indicator in Fldigi tracks the radio, the PTT / transmit should be working too.  CAT control is half the battle.  The other half is Data – which means audio from the rig is reaching the “mic” line-in on the Mac, and transmit audio is reaching the rig to modulate the RF and make power.   Here’s where audio output levels from the Mac become the next phase of setup for digital operation.  Generally we want to set audio levels for minimal ALC action on transmit and still produce good modulation for maximum transmit power.

Digital Mode on the FT857D —  Set the mode to digital.  CAT and data work with fldigi but operation on wsjt-x is buggy.  In WSJT the system behaves like there is an RF issue.  FLDIGI seems much less susceptible.   Experienced  an occasional beep during digital transmit.  CAT cable position and audio data cable position showed symptom when coiled up neatly next to the FT857 and which cleared when cables were spread out .

DATA Port Hookup
Data cable to Data port on 857.  Insert the Sabent AU-EMAC plugs into Mac USB port ( you must use the USB extender cable because the adapter is too wide for two USB devices to fit at the same time).  The mic and speaker plugs from the data cable plug into the AU-EMAC ports.

Test setup on dummy load:  Connect FT-857D / YT-100 antenna jack to the dummy load for transmit testing. With a dummy load there is no worry about antenna tuning.  Radiation does occur but will be minimized as a dummy load is a terrible antenna.

Issues: It took a number of tries to get the port-audio from the Macbook to hook directly to the FT-857.   Problem: I can hear the transmitted digital signal audio from the Macbook, meaning the port-audio is not being redirected to the USB.   STATUS = got this to work but need a TTP for it!     Unlike the TS-590SG there is not audible monitor on the FT-857.  I’m using the TS-590 since the FT-857S is connected to a dummy load.   The SDR is probably even better — we’ll try that next time.






~ by marksun on August 15, 2016.

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