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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.
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AD5VM Rating: 3/5 Jul 20, 2011 17:20 Send this review to a friend
Needed some work  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just got it in the mail today so this review is based solely on "out of box functionality" I couldn't get the battery cover to go on with a battery installed... at all! After removing the electrical tape (only from the ribbon cable, not the pcb) I was able to just get it closed but its about to bust at the seams!
The contrast was terrible! I could only 'barely' read it when looking straight on and not at all from any kind of angle. I installed a small 10k trimmer and was able to set it to a satisfactory level (I took it out an measured the resistance, 4.3k looked best to me) Maybe I'll look for a fixed resistor.
I was unable to adjust the level control or the PLL. Looking in the two holes on the back, I was only able to see the edge of the trimmer housings, could not even see the place where the screwdriver goes. I had to drill out the holes to 1/4 inch! and now I can just barely get a tiny jewelers screwdriver in the slot, I should have just drilled two more holes...
Anyway after all that it seems to work great but I've only tried it on computer generated code, but it coppied 100% even at 50wpm.
Seems like a great gizmo but dang... I'd be happy to pay a couple extra bucks for something that didn't need to be fixed. Having said all that, I am very very thankful for MFJ and I hope they continue making all these wonderful accessories for us. Id rather live in a world with MFJ and their questionable QC than a world with no MFJ at all. That would be awful!
N3NXD Rating: 5/5 Apr 4, 2011 16:01 Send this review to a friend
Great unit for the money.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased mine at the Charlotte Hamfest 2010. I really got the bug to understand the varying band conditions that this reader has to work thru. I read many good, and not so good reviews. I found mine is quite sucessful, despite some bad QRN,QRM band conditions. The following is for using the built-in mic pickup.
There are 2 recessed pots underneath. One is for input level, I left mine on high, fully clockwise, for best results. The other pot, PPL frequency. Here is the trick. The human ear hearing process differs person to person. This could hold true for individual mfj 461 units. I have found that tuning the PPL Frequency control allows the unit to sync with varying tones within the band conditions. Using the variable bandpass control on my Icom 718, to center the wanted siganl from neighboring signals. There is a point of adjustment of the PPL frequency control that allows that perfect sweet-spot to sync with the radio speaker thru much bad band conditions. I have found that to lower the background static to a lower frequency rumble, and adjusting RF gain of the radio to furthur reduce static, is sucessful. Higher frequency static crashing confuses the reader. There is obviously a point where you will lose your PPL sync, due to too much attenuation. If you minutely adjust the PPL pot after you have adjusted your radio, you will be surprised how much copy that can occur with weaker CW, on congested bands. It will take practice, and patience. Make sure your rig has been adjusted to rumble the static, instead of frying it. Set and forget. Use the radio controls thereafter.
Relative to the battery compartment tightness, I carefully peeled the foam from beneath where the battery sat. Be careful!! the foam was over a ribbon cable that is folded on itself. Do not use a tool that could poke into that ribbon. My fingernail worked just fine. I then replaced with a layer of friction tape, then vinyl tape. More workable for changing battery, and being able to close lid.
PA1FJ Rating: 4/5 Jan 15, 2011 07:57 Send this review to a friend
Very good,afther little mod.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
My display contrast was to heavy, i have ad the R5 and made it 10K, and it's now very good!
PA3BTN Rating: 4/5 Sep 4, 2010 00:06 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good decoder!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
It is well known that installing the battery of the '461 is a tedious job, if possible at all. Furthermore, this CW Reader is 'deaf': its ‘ear’ needs hi level signals and the same is true for its direct audio input socket. Having said that, I think that the ‘461 is a very good product. It syncs very rapidly to new code signals and it accepts a large enough bandwidth of audio signals which makes tuning in very easy. I greatly enhanced the use of the ‘461 by introducing a ‘hearing aid’, that is, combining it with the MFJ-382 Amplified Speaker which I purchased at a fair for a few bucks lately. I laid the ‘382 on its side, mounted the ‘461 on top and connected the ‘382 output to the ‘461 input jacket, creating a small, very sensitive and accurate code reader. On with the fun!
N6RLS Rating: 5/5 Aug 17, 2010 11:45 Send this review to a friend
Works as advertised - great accessory!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Got mine (13 Aug 2010) at HRO Oakland... took it home and tuned a local Beacon signal to test it - perfect copy of W6CF/B in Berkeley. It definitely works better if you feed a wired signal into its audio input jack, but it is handy to have the mic there for "quick & dirty" application to a sudden Morse signal.

The only adjustment I made to it was to lower the frequency "window" a bit. It is supposed to be centered on 700Hz but mine seemed to be centered on more like 750 or 775 or so. Easy to adjust and center the sweet frequency spot where you like, within its 500-1000Hz range.

Another revewier mentioned the tight squeeze for the 9V battery... that's true - it is a very tight fit and makes the battery cover somewhat hard to close, but not impossible.

BTW: the unit I got had software version 0435. I have no idea about what that really means - what changes have been made over the years? Also says "Copyright 2000-2004" when you hold the black button down during powerup. No changes since 2004?
AA7FV Rating: 5/5 Jun 4, 2010 07:32 Send this review to a friend
Superb support  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
An addition to my previous review:
I would like to be able to adjust the contrast of the LCD display. I contacted MFJ and had a very prompt and very helpful email exchange. Their advice:
"...the voltage divider R5-R6 on the MFJ-461 is for the LCD contrast control. Normally R5 is not needed and is not loaded (N/L). For contrast adjustment, you have two options:

1. Add a resistor of proper value on R5, or

2. Remove R6 and add a small trimpot of 10Kohm in replace of R5-R6; where one end connected to +5V, the other end connected to GND, and the wiper of the trimpot connected to R5-R6 connection point (or pin 3 of the LCD)."

I am impressed that MFJ responded so quickly to my emails, and were able to give such helpful advice. I cannot imagine many companies that would be so helpful to a customer. Full marks to MFJ for this.
KU4UV Rating: 4/5 Nov 17, 2009 02:59 Send this review to a friend
Works for me.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I purchased this code reader mainly to help me in the CWSS contest. I had reservations about purchasing the code reader, given MFJ's quality issues, but the reader worked very well during the contest. The trick with this code reader is to tune in a CW signal so that it is strong enough for the reader's LED to just blink in time with the dits and dahs of the code that is being sent. You want to feed the reader with enough audio to be able to decode a signal without over-saturating the reader. I found the reader quite useful in decoding CW signals during the contest. I found that once I had a signal pretty much zero-beat, all I had to do was increase or decrease the transceiver's volume until the reader was able to decode the CW. If you purchase the reader, I would highly recommend NOT using the built-in microphone, use the audio input jack instead. While this reader will never be able to replace the CW reader between your ears, it gets the job done. A good set of CW filters and a good receiver is also a great help. I plan on taking some white paint and marking my settings on the back of the reader when I get a chance. For the most part, you don't really have to mess with the reader's settings once you get them adjusted and are able to decode CW. I rate this reader a "4" for a few reasons. First, the battery cover is rather difficult to snap into place. I noticed there were a couple of pieces of double-sided tape placed over the electronic components on the circuit board. I guess this is to keep the case of the 9-Volt battery from accidentally shorting out the circuit board. It looks like MFJ could have simply used epoxy or some kind of hard plastic in place of this tape. It make the reader look and feel cheaply made and it makes the battery cover difficult to snap into place properly. I plan on adding some better foam rubber striping in place of this in the future when I get a chance. For now, I will leave the tape alone though. Secondly, it would have been nice to have had a backlight on the LCD display. For an $80 price tag, it would have been a nice touch to the reader. It would have been nice if MFJ would have added a backlight with a button to be able to turn the light on or off as needed. This would be a great thing to have for events such as Field Day or camping where lighting conditions might not be the best. I suppose you could add a small light bulb or LED and place it on the side of the LCD display and still be able to read the display just fine. I haven't tried this just yet, so I can't comment on that. For the most part, I am really pleased with this reader. With a few added touches, it really could be a great tool for any ham shack. Just don't expect more from the reader than it was designed to do and I think you will be happy with it. This reader will not miraculously decode a signal that is buried in QRM or a really weak signal. For good CW signals that are strong and well-keyed, this reader gets the job done.
K3DLB Rating: 5/5 Feb 27, 2009 18:58 Send this review to a friend
Works Fine. Very Pleased  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I'm very happy with the performance of this little code reader. I took it out of the package, put the battery in, turned it on and placed it next to my West Mountain Radio CLRspkr and it started reading. I haven't touched the factory settings of the input level or the PLL Frequency. And as long as it continues to work like it does I won't mess with it. I agree with the last reviewer, for what this was designed to do, it works great!
AA5IT Rating: 5/5 Sep 27, 2008 17:54 Send this review to a friend
Excellent product  Time owned: more than 12 months
For what this was designed to do it works great! I've never asked more of it than it was designed to deliver and as a result it's never let me down. Very handy and very small!
KG6TT Rating: 4/5 Dec 4, 2007 19:05 Send this review to a friend
Learn how to use it and it works pretty nicely  Time owned: more than 12 months
The key to getting this reader to do a reasonable job of decoding Morse is to make sure you are applying audio correctly. Things to consider:

1: Audio frequency of the station you want to decode. The 461 has an adjustable Phase Lock Loop circuit. You want to get this centered on the offset you are using (600Hz, 700Hz, whatever). Once that is accomplished you need to make sure your audio level is sufficient to trigger the decoder without saturating. See 2 below.

2: Audio level must be adjusted properly. The 461 has a sensitivity control which you should set so that your audio from your transceiver is just enough to give good LED indication.... once again without saturating.

3. Use direct audio input.... not the microphone!

4. Use the sharpest selectivity possible without 'ringing'.

5. Adjust the incoming signal to center the signal in the 461's passband.

6. Maintain the highest signal to noise ratio. Don't run with your RF gain at maximum unless the band is really dead. :) Learn how to set your volume control relatively high and then reduce the apparent audio level by reducing RF gain (this is how you get the best signal-to-noise radio).

These techniques work well with just about any physical Morse decoder... even TNCs.

Jerry, KG6TT
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