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Reviews Categories | Ham Radio education & exam prep materials | MFJ-418 Morse Code Tutor Help

Reviews Summary for MFJ-418 Morse Code Tutor
MFJ-418 Morse Code Tutor Reviews: 48 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $79.95
Description: Pocket sized, computerized (hey that rhymes!) gadget for learning CW. Made in Mississippi, USA.
Product is in production.
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W9ZIM Rating: 4/5 Apr 3, 2017 07:23 Send this review to a friend
It helped me get my General ticket  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought this years ago back when learning CW was necessary to access the HF bands, and my goal was to learn it just well enough to pass the 5WPM code test that was required at the time. The MFJ-418 Code Tutor was a valuable tool in that respect. I don't have any miracle stories about how I went from no code to head copying 50WPM in a matter of weeks, but I did learn Morse code enough to get a General class license, and I have retained my knowledge to some extent although I never used it in practice.

The MFJ-418 is easy to use and small enough to fit unobtrusively in your pocket. The built in speaker on my unit is loud and clear, and I regularly used it while driving around town to "drill" the dits and dots into my head. It supports Farnsworth which, in theory, forces you to learn the sound of each letter rather than trying to count the dots and dashes, and it can send code at any speed which makes it more flexible than pre-recorded material. You can learn letters, numbers, and symbols in groups, learn complete words, or practice copying randomly generated QSOs. Everything you need to learn Morse code is right there in the palm of your hand.

The build quality is not as good as I would expect considering the asking price (there's a reason MFJ is known as "Mighty Fine Junk"), but my unit has held up and works as well today as the day I bought it. It's made of reasonably sturdy plastic, but the halves don't mate together perfectly and there is a small gap between them that has a bit of flex. It doesn't affect the operation in the least, but it also doesn't feel like a quality piece of gear.

Honestly, I'm not sure a standalone code tutor still has a place in today's world when many people can get the same functionality with a smart phone app, but the MFJ-418 does its thing, and it does it well enough.
K2BEW Rating: 4/5 Nov 14, 2014 07:22 Send this review to a friend
Great, but still not a five star rating.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Yep, The battery still does not fit! Bought new Nov 2014. The design on this has not changed since it was introduced in 1996.
The cause of the battery not fitting is easy enough to figure out and fix. There is a ribbon cable inside folded over that bulges into the battery box. I opened it up, took off the electrical tape over the cable and carefully refolded it a bit further up the cable so it lays a bit flatter. (do this at your own risk you could break a solder connection if not careful) It is (Again!) a matter of MFG quality control, they donít try batteries in them before they leave the factory. Although even after adjustment it is still tight, and they really should redesign the case with a bigger battery box. a costumer should not have to "fix" something brand new out of the box! After adjustment I could take the battery cover on and off with the battery inside. Loss of star in rating for this! While in there I did a fix to the poor speaker that I read about on a blog. Take electrical tape and put a "window" of thin strips of tape on the inside of the cover around the holes for the speaker, so that the backside of the tape will come in contact the the edges of the speaker when it is back in the case. This takes up the space between the speaker and the case and gets rid of the "buzz", it sounds much better afterwards.
As far as use, this part is a 5 star rating. It is easy to use and set up and works great. I am using the custom menu to learn CW with the Koch method and putting in more letters as I learn them, and I am coinciding that along with Nu-Morse Professional lessons. A great way to learn, practice with Nu-Morse at home and take the Morse Tutor with me out around town and listen during downtime reinforcing what I learn in Nu-Morse. Finally, as others have mentioned, the LED screen is dark, I think because this as a 1996 design! It really needs to be updated with a back lit LED and a bigger case, as already mentioned. Come on MFJ it is 2014!, the technology is way past when you first introduced this, please come out with an updated version. If radio makers sold the same radio designs from 1996 they would be out of business.
73, Tom, K2BEW
N7ISS Rating: 5/5 Sep 10, 2014 20:34 Send this review to a friend
The Best  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I could never get much above 5 wpm. Because I learned cw at this speed. With the 418 you can set any speed you want. I read much on line as to how the military taught cw and saw that they start at 13 wpm. I did the same with the MFJ unit and in no time had that down. I hook it up in the car and listen during my work commute. This is the best way to learn, EVER....
VE2AKS Rating: 4/5 Jun 27, 2014 04:48 Send this review to a friend
Good CW trainer a bit limited however  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Great little tool to learn your CW, quite simple to use if you look beyond the build "quality" (I used an exacto to be able to slide the volume button).

The custom characters sets you define stay in memory between power cycles. The only little drawback there is that you are limited to 16 characters at a time due to the LCD width. Also no predefined progression sequences ("K M" then "K M R", etc), you must define your own ones but this brings flexibility to your own learning pace. No regrets to have spent a few extra bucks for the LCD, this is barely mandatory for something like this....

I tested the device against a CW decoder on my smartphone and it can decode it. A detail of importance: no clicks, the sound is "smooth".
VA3PCJ Rating: 4/5 Jul 28, 2013 23:14 Send this review to a friend
Good but wish the word selection to be more extensive...  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a unique product. Although it requires patience and persistence, it has been of great help in improving my ability to read CW. It is easy to use and it performs as described. The audio is good with minimal background noise and the codes are played with a perfect fist. The use of Farnsworth is a big plus and the simulation of QSOs, albeit repetitive is one of the best I have seen around. My only complain is about its limited word vocabulary, as after a few months many of the words start being easy to guess just after a few initial characters are played. The selection of words is not exactly random but it seems to support the claim that not two sessions are exactly the same. It would be nice if the user could adjust the delay between the moment that the character is played in the audio and when it shows up in the display, as well as being able to set the number of times that each word, callsign or group of characters is to be repeated after being played once. A major plus is its portability and the possibility of using earplugs or earphones. The additional pouch is strongly recommended to prevent damage but mostly because the unit could then be carried attached to the belt.
NASSAU Rating: 4/5 Jan 24, 2013 00:01 Send this review to a friend
Exactly what I need  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Interested to learn CW as part of yearning to get on the air as a ham-radio-wannabe (no callsign yet, based in the UK), I use PC-based software such as G4FON's excellent Koch tutor. But being tied to a PC to gain tuitioin and proficiency is not ideal, especially as I travel frequently with my job.

I had planned to make something from a Raspberry Pi, a Python program and LCD 2x16 screen, until I spotted the MFJ-418 in a store in Singapore. This is exactly the training tool I need.

Build quality is fine, though the volume wheel turns smoothly but at an angle that appears crooked with respect to the black plastic casing. Another concern is the force required to slide the battery cover over an installed 9v battery - I managed it and nothing broke! There is a foam pad inside above a ribbon cable to the LCD. As it is new, likely the foam is overly thick. With time, the battery is likely to seat better.

In terms of functions as a portable CW tutor, it is excellent, offering a large degree of customised features such as Koch/personal character sets, wpm speed, Farnsworth timing, and a repeat play feature: listen and copy first, then repeat and see the code (pausing as needed) to score your copy.

One small coding glitch seems to appear when defining custom character sets. I'm very much a novice, so learning 15 wpm with the classic Koch characters {m,k,r,...}. In defining the list of letters, occasionally I will get an extra number (2 or 7?) at the end of the set, although it is not selected. Removing it and selecting a 'space' character in all remaining digits of the character set solves this. Again, this is small issue.

Price point is a tad high I think, at around £90 UK list prices (same in Singapore after the exchange rate). But this pre-made item saves me the time required to learn Python and hack an LCD together (if I had more personal time, I'd do this anyway!), while coming from a well-known ham radio provider such as MFJ and their 'No Matter What' warranty that covers the MFJ-418.

For this reviewer, I can grab and go with the playing-card pack sized MFJ-418 (with internal speaker) without the hassle of a PC in tow and do that one thing to learn CW: practice, practice, practice.
W2STV Rating: 4/5 Nov 6, 2012 11:21 Send this review to a friend
A few more comments  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Well its working great still on the original 9v batery, so batt life is nice. I wante dto comment though about this thing regarding its noise output. HIgh pitch whine clearly audible in the phones or speaker is very annoying at higher volumes. Also, this thing picks up cell phone interference from 10 feet away!!! Clearly no testing was done at all with regards to interference or interfering.

So, my statements stil stand, a great device to learn the code by or practice, or listen to random code on the go. But definitely has some basic engineering issues that should be dealt with. Classic Mighty Fine Junk I guess!

W2STV Rating: 4/5 Oct 24, 2012 12:27 Send this review to a friend
Good product for the $, Great tool for learning the code!!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Bought this on a whim so I could have live random morse anywhere I went. I was hoping it could help me practice code too, but wasn't sure how well it would work in this capacity.

Once I got it, I was pleasantly surprised!! If you want to learn Morse from scratch or get back up to speed, or increase your speed, without needing a computer, this is best option out there !!! Print a copy of Zen and the Art of Radio Telegraphy, get this MFJ418 and you'll be right on your way to CW, computer free.

It's easy to set up custom character sets for playback which lets you learn Koch-style. It's easy to set up how many characters you want it to spit out at a time. (1-5) Easy to set char speed and overall speed. (ala Farnsworth) And the last piece needed to make this a truly useful morse trainer is that you can have it repeat the last session played so you can check your copy. Run for 5 mins, check your copy, try a new session, run for 5 mins, check copy on and on and on.

Now of course you can have it send QSO's, calls, random words, random characters letters only, numbs only, punctuation, etc... At any speed up to 80wpm. The pitch is also variable over a wide range, and you can set it vary the pitch or keep it constant.

Battery seems to be lasting (1x 9v batt lasting a few weeks now)

The overall quality of the unit could be a bit better. Battery barely fits. The display bezel and buttons are one step beyond (if at all) what DIY'ers make. - Typical MFJ I guess. I'm not planning on mistreating mine, so it should last. It feels solid at least.

It would be nice if you could turn on a noise source to bury the tone under noise, it would be nice to be able to somehow import text files into the thing, it would be nice if it was built better etc... BUt for what it is, it works well. It could be a bit cheaper, or be built a bit better for $80, but it's gone beyond my expectations so far so I'm a happy camper.

K3DNF Rating: 2/5 Dec 23, 2011 09:02 Send this review to a friend
ok device  Time owned: months
This product does perform like it says, and will help your CW learning curve......BUT.....did NO ONE at MFJ take one of these off the shelf and try it out?? I mean the battery compartment isn't large enough to accomodate a 9v, and close! Rubber band, or open back is the only way to use this!

Come on guys! You're so close to a really good device. Why screw it up with a total lack of quality control and lack of a simple engineering fix?
KB4MB Rating: 5/5 Dec 8, 2011 05:43 Send this review to a friend
People have to lighten up...  Time owned: more than 12 months
This thing works great! Really helps give you a semi-random QSO experience. Yeah, the display isn't great, but you really should be LISTENING and then just double-checking. If anything, the display angle helps you from cheating :)

Sure, some of the QSO's are a little weird in how it pulls in the random words.. Also, some of the QSO phrasing is "older" than what is used today, but honestly nobody is making anything like this, and until someone makes a freeware app for a smartphone, all you have is this for an on-the-go random code generator to help you build your speed.

I plug mine into the car while I drive and practice that way. I assume I will be using this little guy a long time in my ham career.
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