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Reviews Categories | Keyers & CW Keyboards | MFJ-495 MEMORY KEYER Help

Reviews Summary for MFJ-495 MEMORY KEYER
MFJ-495 MEMORY KEYER Reviews: 12 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $159.95
Description: A full-featured memory keyer with LCD display to set fuctions and show sending message. It keys CW from a paddle, a keyboard and a serial computer interface. It has 32 message memories, over 8000 characters.
Product is in production.
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N4UP Rating: 3/5 Jul 3, 2016 11:44 Send this review to a friend
Second Review Downgrade  Time owned: more than 12 months
My first review was four years ago and detailed problems with the first one. I bought a second one ( for a second rig ) and MFJ replaced the first one, and it worked. Then I bought two more. Why? Because I LOVE this keyer but they have reliability problems. Soooo. Of the five MFJ-495 keyers I have had in four years --- one failed right out of the box, one developed a sticky F-key and subsequently has NO OUTPUT, and another just has NO OUTPUT. Yes, I know there is a menu item to turn the output ON or OFF. For the two non-usable keyers, the OUTPUT is set to ON, but there is NO output, meaning they are only useful for practice or demonstration. They WILL NOT work with any radio.

So, what to do now? Buy two more ( one for my mobile setup and one as a spare )!! And hope that they work. I use the two active MFJ keyers each with a Vibroplex Vibro-keyer AND with terminal program to load the ( four useful ) memories.

Okay then. WHEN they work, they work WELL. Only complaint besides reliability is that switching between memory sets is a hassle. Four memories are easy to access ( four buttons, four memories ). More than that, forget it, too clumsy. Easier-faster-better to use software for "messages" than trying to switch back and forth between the "extra" memories.
W4NNF Rating: 4/5 May 19, 2016 15:43 Send this review to a friend
Great keyer...if only it had a DECENT MANUAL!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The manual is, in fact the only reason I down checked this fine keyer from a 5 to a 4...more on that in a bit.

I decided that after all these years of using straight keys and bugs I wanted a keyboard keyer. After a little research, the MFJ-495 seemed to be The One. Modest price, and while some hams are skittish of Mighty Fine Junk, I've frankly always had good luck with 'em--not that getting a new piece of their gear working initially is always a picnic for one reason or another. As I was to find out once again.

A shout-out here to the good boys and girls of HRO. I ordered on a Thursday afternoon and the keyer, shipped from the Atlanta store, was on my doorstep Friday afternoon. What more can you ask?

The 495 was well packed, double boxed, with the package containing the keyer and...a sheet of paper instructing you to go online and download the manual, "Your manual is now online!" I'm supposed to be happy about that, MFJ? Oh, well. I printed off the stack of pages and stapled them together. I know money has to be saved, but a two or three page printed Quick Start Guide could be provided and a good one could, it turned out, have saved me a couple of hours of grief.

What does the MFJ look like? Like most of their products, it's pretty proletarian in appearance and build quality. OTOH, sitting next to my LDG tuner, I can't say it looks any worse than that. Certainly not like a piece of fancy Japanese gear, but OK. The buttons and pots on the front panel (speed and sidetone volume) seemed of decent quality.

How about the display? The LCD, a green one, is on the smallish side, but is tolerable for me. Mine, like all the recent ones, is backlit, which is a good thing. I can't imagine trying to decipher it if it weren't.

Before going on the air, I thought I'd get to know the keyer. To do that I'd have to round up a 12vdc power supply and a keyboard. What you need for power is a simple 12v wall-wart of reasonable quality and capable of outputting at least 500mils. Everybody probably has a bunch of these things lying around the shack. To use the keyer with a keyboard (you can use a paddle or connect it to a computer and use a terminal program too) you need a keyboard, naturally, and said keyboard has to have an AT style connector. You can buy one from MFJ, but most of us have an old PC keyboard or two somewheres. I did.

Hooked up the keyboard and messed around. Everything seemed to work as it should, and I was able to record messages and play them back with the keyboard function keys. One thing stumped me, though. How to do prosigns?

If you want to send AR, for example, you can't have a space between characters, and mashing a and then r will just not work. There was a method described in the manual for using the alt-key to make prosigns, but that seemed like a pain. Why couldn't a punctuation key send AR, or SK or whatever? Some playing with the keyboard revealed that the punctuation keys do provide prosigns. +, for example, is AR. But this is nowhere specified in the instruction manual.

You can use the keyer with your computer by hooking the PC (or MAC or whatever) to it with a standard DB-9 serial cable and communicating with the keyer with a terminal program--like we used to use with phone modems. I tried it (with good old HyperTerminal, which I copied off an XP machine that lives out in the shack). Seemed to do fine, but I believed I'd prefer just using a keyboard with it.

OK, time to get it on the air. You'll need to provide a cable to key your transmitter, one with a phono plug on the keyer end and a phone plug, natch, for the transceiver end. I made one up in a couple of minutes and thought I was ready to go.

Alright, moment of truth...set the rig (an IC7200) up for CW, turned on the keyer, pressed the "V" key...and...the rig resolutely stayed in receive.

I double checked the cable. Good. Rechecked the settings in the Icom (which I usually use on fone). Good. Opened up the 495; all the jumpers seemed to be in the positions indicated in the manual. For the hell of it, I set the jumpers for grid block keying, and the rig immediately went into xmit with continuous key down. Hmmm...

So, I thought and I thought and I looked and I looked. Was it time to dig in? Where was my logic analyzer anyway? Was I ready to call MFJ and suffer through telephone support hell? Then I had a thought. The keyer is really a little computer. The manual mentioned that if it didn't work right, you should do a reset.

I accessed the setup menus with the front panel pushbuttons, and on my way to the reset menu, I came upon "KEYING OUTPUT"...which was set to OFF(!). I set it to on. Pushed that V key, the rig went into xmit, and all was well. Except I was POed. Two hours sweating over the thing and the problem was one lousy menu setting. Why would they have it default to off? That seems counterintuitive to me, but if there's a reason for that, why wouldn't they mention on page one of the manual that before using the 495 on the air, you must enable keyer output? This setting is described in the instructions, but they don't say that the default is "off." Sheesh.

I sat down, sent out a CQ (via stored message), and had a nice QSO with a nice feller in California, which served to calm me down a little.

What is the bottom line now that I have the 495 working? Sweet. Millions of options, most of which I will never use. A great price $169.00 with HROs discount (and free shipping). I am coming to love this thing. BUT...the manual is poor, beyond the hiccups I've mentioned here. Very poor. Which is a darned shame since the keyer it self is just so freaking good.
N4YX Rating: 5/5 Apr 5, 2014 06:39 Send this review to a friend
Top Notch  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've used one of these for many years. Installed the MFJ supplied back-lit LCD upgrade to top it off. I think the only feature it's lacking (that I like) is auto character spacing when using iambic paddles. Works beautifully with a Keyboard.
W8NLZ Rating: 4/5 Mar 17, 2011 18:11 Send this review to a friend
Love it ... after installing lighted display  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As others have written, with the non illuminated display the unit is a bit of a turkey, had to prop it up at 30 degrees just to read the display. Called Jimmy at MFJ and ordered parts kit to install lighted display. Once modified, I simply love the keyer. I use it both with keyboard and paddle. I like the fact that it decodes and displays my manual keying so I can see what i actually sent! The MJF 495 has good internal software and about every programmable option you could want. Lots of macro storage. Very thorough manual.

The update modification itself is a bit tricky due to a 14 pin ribbon cable you have to desolder and remove (without lifting any pads), I got help from a seasoned technician. If I had to do it again, I would send unit back to MFJ and let them do it. But once done, I am extremely pleased with unit. And -contrary to expectations - I find it is well built. I expect it to last me for years.
AA3EJ Rating: 5/5 Jan 21, 2010 10:25 Send this review to a friend
Great with lighted Display!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I received my MFJ495 keyer about 2 months ago and it worked FB keying my Orion 2 and later with my Omni 6+ with no problems. RF shielding ..FB!
Sent it back to Jimmy at MFJ and he installed a lighted LCD screen which has black characters on a back-lit green screen's FB!!..
I recommend having MFJ add the 2x16 line lighted screen p/n# 354-1604. It's all SMT and small components inside!. You can now monitor both the outgoing and your typing buffer FB!!..Be sure to read the manual, it's packed with features...
73's Dave, aa3ej
WA4ONV Rating: 3/5 Dec 19, 2007 15:16 Send this review to a friend
Keyer Froze Up...!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this keyer from RL Electronics and had it for 2 days and it worked like a charm. Last night for some unknown reason in the middle of a QSO, it just froze up on me. I tried performing all of the resets and Factory resets to no avail. I contacted MFJ and after trying a few differant things, The Tech just advised me to pack it up and sent it back to RL Electronics for an exchange. RL just contacted me and advised that MFJ has a back order on this keyer of about 3 to 6 weeks. I just went ahead and told them to credit my credit card and I'll stick to my trustworthy MFJ-492X.
W5CPT Rating: 5/5 Apr 11, 2007 16:59 Send this review to a friend
Works well  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I replaced my MFJ-452 with the 495 when the former died mid-QSO. When I took it out the box and hooked it up, it keyed the rig immediately. The manual says it is set for direct keying by default. I figured I would check before I boxed it up to send it back. Sure enough it was set for Grid Block.

I will echo the "lousy LCD" comment by others. I like a previous poster have set mine up so I can see the LCD.

I only use 8 of the memories but I can see that changing soon.

Clint - W5CPT
K1NVY Rating: 5/5 Sep 17, 2005 09:15 Send this review to a friend
nice keyboard keyer...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I received my 495 through AES/Las Vegas shortly after ordering it. I connected a "BTC 6100C" mini-keyboard (PS/2 with DIN-5 adapter) to the rear panel connector, applied 12 volts and started banging out CW through the side tone generator. The MFJ-495 was then connected to the FT1000MP MK-V and off I went on 40 CW. After first QSO, I fired up the amp and worked another station but running 700 watts output. No RF issues with the keyer or keyboard (at least on 40 meters). Programming the message buffers is very easy, you only need to read only pages 11 and 12 to use the 495 as a keyboard keyer. If you do more than that such as contesting, then more reading and programing is necessary.

Message: CTRL+Function Key > type text > press "enter" and message is saved. To replay, press Function Key and message runs. First message was: Ctrl+F1 CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy k1nvy k 'enter'. Press F1 and "CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy CQ CQ CQ de k1nvy k1nvy k" is sent. Messages are retained in memory when power is turned OFF.

The LCD display is indeed rather lame but at my station, the keyer is positioned at eye level and is easily read. Reading the two line text (out going text on top and buffered text on bottom) is OK. I can easily check the buffered text and correct typos on the bottom line as the top line is being transmitted. My old Hal CT2100 displays all text but that's on a full screen monitor.

Size is an issue at K1NVY (operating desk is just too crowded, small is IN) so the MFJ-495 was best choice for my immediate needs. I considered the K1EL keyer but with other projects in progress, I opted for a pre-built, ready to go keyer.

I recommend this unit to any CW op but you will have to consider it's mounting position for reading of the LCD display. Also, the "BTC" mini-keyboard ($19.99 at Fry's) is the size of a laptop PC keyboard and is ideal for this application. Get the PS/2 model and adapter for the DIN-5 MFJ connector.

I rated the MFJ-495 as 5.0 for MY particular operating style and needs...small size, easy to program, buffered text display, RFI free. Contesters will have to rate it according to their expectations for a contest keyer.

AA7JC Rating: 4/5 Jan 30, 2005 09:13 Send this review to a friend
Good Keyer  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this keyer at a weak moment, and it arrived a few days ago.. What I have summarized below are my first impressions. I rated it as "good" (4 out of 5) but there is not much to compare it with in it's league. So in that light, it could have been rated a 5

This keyer has some really cool and useful features.. It also has some very annoying faults.. With some mods this could be a first class device.


- Looks good

- Pulse Tune Button (BTX) on front panel - WOW..... This is a great way to safely tune up a transmitter at full power. It is configurable from 1-35% duty cycle at speeds 50-99 wpm. Default is 13% at 75wpm. Very effective combo.

- Carrier Tune Button (CTX) on front panel - Pretty handy way to check output power if you have older analog metering in your shack.

- Morse Commands (from the paddle) - This is a must in the absence of a keyboard.

- Sine Wave Side tone with *shaping*! - So sweet.

- LCD shows text as it is being typed from the paddle - Very useful.... (The K40 from K1EL does this too)

- Banner style text scrolling on the LCD - Text *moves* across screen left to right on top line of display. Seems like a minor point but it is clearly the best way to do it for easy reading.

- DB9 Serial Output Jack - You can capture or view the live output directly to your computer monitor.. very useful

- Dedicated Hand key/Computer RCA jack - a nice touch.. no need to multitask the keyer jack.. Plus this jack is configurable for high or low "on" states

- Audio output 3.5mm stereo phone jack - Good idea.. This allows you to pipe the side tone to where it is needed in your station..

- PTT RCA jack - Another nice touch

- Will key both positive and grid block devices. - Yes!

- Good RF immunity.. - (As tested so far)


- LCD is the worst I have ever seen.. - Where did they find it??... They should have a serious talk the purchaser!... Amazing.. You actually have to be looking at the screen straight on or from below?? .. Hmmm.. and to make matters worse, there is no backlight or contrast control.. Absolutely the WORST LCD viewing angle I have seen yet.. This affects the usability of the keyer tremendously.. I had to position the keyer in one special spot perched up high just so I could view its display.. GRRRRRR!

- Key Input jack is a 1/4 inch stereo phone jack?? - Who the heck uses 1/4 inch plugs on their paddle?... Good Grief!!..... Prepare to use an adapter.

- Keyboard connects with an old fashion 5-pin DIN connector?? - Insane!!.... Helllllo MFJ!!..... Nearly *every* keyboard made in the last several years have been outfitted with PS/2 plugs..... Again, prepare to use an adapter.

- Can't view text typed into the type ahead buffer? - Oh my gosh!......... It is hard to express how anoying this is... Do you like typing into the blind? Think about it.. What if you fat finger or think you miss spelled something.. Don't buy this keyer if you expect to use it as a keyboard sender!..... Competing with the MFJ 495 (for only $32), the K40 kit from K1EL displays the buffer nicely (you have to supply some of the parts). See:

- Must remove the top (4 screws) to change jumper for positive or grid block keyed devices. - What were they thinking?? Disassemble the keyer to get to a needed switch?!...... Technology is available that eliminates the need for a switch entirely..... This Keyer should be better. See the Jackson Harbor Press "Keyall" circuit that will key both neg and pos devices up to 500 volts (optically isolated) ....

- If you change the speed using the variable resistor knob on it's front panel, the LCD does not tell you the new speed unless you are in that "screen"......... The K1EL K40 keyer does this MUCH better. First it uses a shaft encoder with detents at every speed stop. Second, whenever you change the speed, the LCD momentarily displays the change for two seconds so you can see exactly what speed you just changed to.
W3PH Rating: 5/5 Sep 27, 2004 09:04 Send this review to a friend
Works well with both keyboard and paddles  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This my first MFJ product - ordered with trepidation because of all the MFJ horror stories, but the only hitch was that the device was backordered about 3 weeks, and it took a week to find this out.

Turns out this is a nice keyer - I've used Idiom press keyers for years (I have one of every model they've made) so I'm used to those, and using the MFJ-495 was easy once I set the emulation to Mode B.

Menus are intuitive, and I was up and running quickly.

The keyer handles modern rigs well - weight can be set to a fixed value, or can vary according to the speed control. Compensation can be set to handle rigs like the Pegasus that need it. Works well with keyboard or paddles.

Love the sinewave sidetone, and the front-panel sidetone volume control.

No problems with RFI so far - as a precaution I'm using shielded cable for power as well as paddles.

Tried it with several keyboards, and it worked with all, ranging from old AT-style keyboard to several new ones. Chose one for best keyboard feel, but functionally, they all worked.

I'd put the real score at 4.7 - there were a few minor minuses (none deal-killers):

a) keyboard plug is AT-style rather than more modern PS/2. If you provide your own keyboard, be ready for this (adapters are available).

b) no auto-character spacing - I've been using this since the WB4VVF accu-keyer days and missed it at first. Some people don't like autospacing, and I managed to adjust after a day or two.

c) the display should be backlit - as it is, it's nearly unreadable in my shack, even at eye level, and next to all the other gear with lit displays, it gives the impression that the display is broken. Fortunately, the display isn't all that important and can be mostly ignored.

d) it's a little big compared to the Idiom keyers, esp. the CMOS-4

I like it, and will probably get another for my 2nd QTH.
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