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Reviews Categories | Digital Multi-mode decoders | MFJ-461 Morse Code Reader Help


Reviews Summary for MFJ-461 Morse Code Reader
MFJ-461 Morse Code Reader Reviews: 54 Average rating: 3.3/5 MSRP: $79.95
Description: Place this tiny pocket size MFJ Morse Code Reader near your receiver's speaker. Then watch Morse code signals turn into solid text messages as they scroll across an LCD display. No cables to hook-up, no computer, no interface, no other equipment needed.
Product is in production.
More info: http://www.mfjenterprises.com/products.php?prodid=MFJ-461
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N8KAN Rating: 5/5 Jun 9, 2015 22:24 Send this review to a friend
Not for appliance operators. No miracle. Just tech.  Time owned: more than 12 months
If you have the time and patience to set it up correctly, which requires not only reading but comprehending the instructions, the 461 works fine.
I only use it with a cable to the audio input, using a Y-splitter for it and the outboard speaker. I set the 461's audio level just barely below maximum, which allows using a lower speaker volume. This can result in audio overload of the 461 if volume is cranked up for noisy areas. Keep a tiny screwdriver handy.
The trick is to tune the PLL for the center of the sidetone on the rig you are using. I used W1AW's CW practice sessions, slowly (very slowly) turning the PLL control back and forth, noting the two points where the displayed content turned to gibberish. This process takes most of the setup time, since the 461 has to restabilize to recover from gibberish mode. I then set the control halfway between those two points.
Yes, the holes were not perfectly aligned with the pots. After two minutes of subjecting the case to careful and gradual X-Acto blade action, the holes are no longer circular but control access is fine. There was no need to open the case for this.
My home station is subject to horrific QRN and QRM. I keep the 461 running by using heavy filtering, chaining an analog SCAF to a DSP. Using very narrow bandwidth on the DSP, e.g. 60 Hz on the Timewave 599zx, the sidetone sounds odd but the 461's decoding is much more reliable. When using a borrowed cubical quad on Field Day, the quad's noise immunity makes filters unnecessary, in which case the 461 alone provides copy as clear as the sender makes it.
Found the LCD dificult to read, so I replaced the display with a Powertip PC1602G-P2 16x2 Character LCD Display (4 of em on ebay for $20 - others are for robotics kits). This made necessary some slight enlarging of the display opening in the case front (more X-Acto duty). It has a green LED backlight intended for 4.2VDC, so I put a 1/8 watt 1K resistor in series with the 9V supply. With the tiny resistor resting at the edge of the display, I found case fit was improved by scraping off a tiny bit of plastic from the inside of the case front where the resistor ends up. The illumination is low enough to minimize the load on the battery, but perfectly readable in all light conditions at any angle. The characters are slightly smaller than the original display, mainly narrower, which presents no problems in reading it. Had to be careful with the ribbon cable. Between desoldering from the original display and reinstalling in the new one, I accidentally broke off a couple of the wire ends, and had to re-strip the cable (lightly score across with X-Acto & straightedge, slit either side of wire, pull off with needle nose) and more carefully attach. There was plenty of cable to allow for the 1/8-inch or so shorter run.
Yes, the ears and brain are far better instruments. Since mine have yet to get up to speed, I like to use the 461 for the 40 wpm whizkidz on Field Day.
The performance of my 461 is better than my AEA MBA Reader, though the MBA's blue fluorescent display is truly beautiful.
 
K3SFK Rating: 4/5 Feb 8, 2015 19:43 Send this review to a friend
Second try works better!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
2/8/2015: I tried to use this code reader several times but to no avail. Results were terrible. And yes, the 9volt battery compartment is too small. I put it away for several months.
Last week I purchased a special screw driver to more readily make the difficult adjustments and took more time to understand the directions. After some effort and patience, I easily participated in an Emcomm code net at 16-25 wpm using the code reader. It works well enough that I can fill in the few missing letters and understand the QSO. Yes, the volume on the speaker must be turned up to 'medium' and the code tone must be regulated to light up the red light on the MFJ unit. It simply works and I am thankful for it since my code is rusty and no Emcomm net is sending at 5-8 wpm in our unit. Lastly, I tried hooking the cable from the transceiver directly into the MFJ reader, but instead of working better, it did not seem to work as well as the speaker. Summary: use a screw driver that fits the unit perfectly (Sears?) and take time to read-follow the MFJ instructions carefully.
 
WU6X Rating: 2/5 Dec 7, 2014 17:23 Send this review to a friend
Poor Value/Cost  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
For the price, this little box should perform way better. I tuned it with a signal generator to match my radio CW side tone so I could "spot" receive CW signals, and it still provided only intermittent decode. Even with the sensitivity all the way up, it must be placed 1-inch away from the speaker with volume set uncomfortably loud. Battery compartment too small for standard 9v. Sorry MFJ ... this box needs a design upgrade. It may work well on the test bench, but not in practical application.
 
OZ1LQO Rating: 2/5 Jun 9, 2014 07:47 Send this review to a friend
Marginal  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'll rate it '2' because it does the job, but you can't really expect wonders from a small box like this. If you want to decode your own transmissions when doing TX practice, it's probably fine. It needs a high S/N, so as an assistant to real time QSO use, it's of less use.
Looking inside, it's built with a classic XR2211 tone decoder, then a 4MHz PIC-16 to do the actual decoding. The box was made before the emergence of smartphones - today you might just as well get an(y) app for the same purpose and it'll do a better job.
I got mine about 10y back, it's been in a drawer ever since - well until now: I just took it apart and plan to use the casing and the display along with an Arduino Nano and an old GPS module to make a small UTC clock for the shack ;-)

Best 73
 
HB9KL Rating: 0/5 Mar 20, 2014 03:36 Send this review to a friend
A waste of money  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The battery compartment is far to small. It was impossible to close the cover.
Decoding is useless. You better use your own brain.
I can't understand how MFJ can sell such a rubbish.
 
M0GNA Rating: 4/5 Nov 25, 2013 05:15 Send this review to a friend
It works OK.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Its not a bad little decoder as long as the signal is fairly clear,the nice thing is its size,you can put into your shirt pocket.Its a great aid for learning the code but will never better the old lug-holes.The price is a bit steep if buying new but if you come across one at you hamfest going cheap snap it up and have some fun with it.For a gadget its size its great.
 
WU1V Rating: 4/5 Sep 1, 2013 06:22 Send this review to a friend
Good product with caveats  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is not a miracle producer, so if you are a poor CW receiver then brush up on your receiving skills on the air, because this unit will not replace skillful CW receiving. I am very pleased with this product, though I already can receive CW at up to 25 WPM. When the high-power DX stations start sending CQ and callsign over 30 WPM my aging ears fail me and I have to listen repeatedly to get their callsign right, if at all. So this unit can really pick up super fast CW, providing there is no QRM nearby or band noise. Band noise, when at a certain level, causes this unit to read a series of E's and T's instead of code. Also, the unit does not compensate for sloppy sending, and it is not good at deciphering code sent by bugs. It works best when RST is close to 599 and minimum QRN and QRM, especially good when the sender is using a keyer or paddles. I'm good at CW but this is a nice aid that helps me in certain difficult situations. I don't use it for routine CW copying though. I rely on my ears and experience for that. I didn't have any trouble installing the 9V battery that some reviewers reported. One other complaint, the LED display is very dark and you'll need to tilt the unit just right and have a lamp aimed at the unit to read the display. It's annoying but I called MFJ and they didn't have a solution to this problem. With all these caveats and concerns, I still like the unit for the help it gives me. I gave it 4 stars since I'm not TOTALLY happy with it even given its shortcomings.
 
KD8RNO Rating: 1/5 Jul 1, 2013 14:30 Send this review to a friend
Don't be tempted  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I was tempted to purchase this figuring it would be easy to use, and would benefit my SWL CW listening. Don't sucker yourself in buying this cute magic little box. I think you have to be a magician to use it. Straight forward operation doesn't happen with this.
 
KD2DTJ Rating: 0/5 May 15, 2013 17:31 Send this review to a friend
Terrible product  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This item is terrible, as you must adjust the Input level and the PLL frequency on the reader using tiny little plastic screws on the back that are easy to strip out. I was able to make it work at 20 WPM on the test files at the W1AW test files, but was never able to make it work with my Grundig shortwave in the 40 meter band. A waste of money!
 
W8GND Rating: 5/5 Jun 17, 2012 06:52 Send this review to a friend
Dandy Reader  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had mine for about 6 years. I use it mainly to copy my sending, but if I hear a really strong signal it does the job completely.

Alas, after all this time, the display isn't working, so I'll have to get another one. But it's still sending stuff out to the computer!

73 Jerry W8GND
 
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