Guide to programming cables¶
- Table of contents
- Guide to programming cables
- Radio Specific Information
- Alinco Radios
- Icom Radios
- Kenwood Radios
- Q-MAC Radios
- Wouxun Radios
- Yaesu Radios
This page is a collection of user submitted information on radio programming cables. Note: as this is user-submitted content, the recommendations and opinions here are not necessarily shared by Dan and other primary CHIRP contributors.
Cable Buying Advice¶
In some cases, the manufacturer of your radio produces the highest quality cable for programming. However, these are usually the most expensive and are not always the most convenient (because of a lack of USB, etc). The exception to this are the very low cost USB cables that come with many Chinese radios that use a counterfeit Prolific USB to serial chip that has a number of driver problems with recent versions of Microsoft Windows. These cables generally work ok with Linux.
Third party cables are available for most radios with a range of costs and quality. The low cost cables use counterfeit Prolific USB chips. If you use Microsoft Windows, finding the right driver and keeping it working can be quite a chore. Saving $10-15 on a cable might cost you a good bit of time and frustration trying to get it all to work.
Cables that use only a 9-pin serial connection take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. With such a cable, you can choose your own (or try many) USB adapters to get a working setup. In reality, this is a much safer option as you only have to find a solid USB adapter once, and you can use it with many cables. The KeySpan USA-19HS is a very solid USB adapter that has many benefits and is not sold under another name, nor does it use a variety of chips as do many other cables. The Siig USB to Serial cable is another good option. Anything with a REAL Prolific or FTDI chip should be fine as well.
How to figure out which cable to buy¶
Recommendations for purchasing a USB radio programming cable:
- Avoid USB programming cables that appear to be based on the Prolific PL-2303 USB chip. This is the chip that has been cloned/counterfeited in the Chinese cables. The early clones were fairly unreliable. Because of the counterfeiting, Prolific has taken the step of making their newest drivers attempt to detect the counterfeit chips and refuse to work with them. Recent versions of Microsoft Windows (7 and later) will automatically update to the latest Prolific driver. This can make a cable stop working at some point after it is installed. Look at the driver instructions for references to PL-2303. Also another clue is that there will be many different drivers listed to try if one doesn't work.
- Cables based on the FTDI USB chip are recommended. FTDI makes a high quality USB to serial chip that has a good, working driver built in to many operating systems. The FTDI chip can add $10-15 to the cost of a USB programming cable, but will save time and frustration with driver issues. Look for cables that specifically mention FTDI. Another clue is that the cables are advertised to work with Windows 7 64-bit. Some of the 3rd party cable manufacturers, such as BlueMax49ers and Valley Enterprises, have switched to using only the FTDI chip after having too many problems with the Prolific clones.
- RT Systems cables are a good option for use with CHIRP. While not the least expensive option, RT Systems cables are high quality USB programming cables that are based on the FTDI chip. They also have excellent customer support. Previous reports that these cables may not work with CHIRP, because they didn't install with a generic serial port number (e.g. COM3), appear to be outdated. According to Rod at RT Systems, their cables install with a serial port number, and will work with any software, including CHIRP, that can communicate with a serial port. The only exception was an early version of their USB-59. Just be certain to follow the instructions supplied with the cable: Download and install the driver from http://www.rtsystems.us/drivers, then plug in the cable and give Windows time to complete the setup. We have verified proper operation of 3 RT Systems cable types with CHIRP using Windows 10. The earlier concerns are discussed in FTDI OEM Cables.
- Note: For some radios such as Yaesu, the RT Systems cable and software are sold alongside the radio as if they were made by the manufacturer rather than a 3rd party. A number of ham radio dealers don't make it easy to distinguish that the software and cable are actually from a 3rd party.
- If you can't tell what chip the cable uses, look for a different cable.
There are a few reputable manufacturers of 3rd party cables that are known to be high-quality in the community. If you're looking for a cable, check the following:
Making your own cables¶
It is possible to build your own radio programming cable. Most radios use a serial interface for programming, however the voltage levels used varies. RS-232 Serial ports used voltage variations of up to -15Vdc to +15Vdc which was good for older equipment and long cable runs. Modern low voltage electronics tends to use signalling levels of 0-5Vdc, or 0-3.3Vdc. Be sure you know what voltage levels your radio expects before connecting anything. RS-232 voltage levels can damage your radio if it is expecting to see a max of 3.3Vdc or 5Vdc. Older radios with built-in TNCs or those otherwise designed to connect directly to a computer use RS-232 voltages. However these radios are becoming more and more rare. Most modern radios have a low voltage port connected directly to the radio's microcontroller for cloning and memory programming. Research "voltage level converters" for how to convert between the different types of signalling.
USB Serial cables that provide RS-232 ports usually include both a USB to low-voltage serial chip and a level converter. However, bare USB to serial adapters are available that provide 0-5Vdc or 0-3.3Vdc signalling from a number of companies targeted at microcontroller programmming and other do-it-yourself hobby/electronics activities. Building a USB programming cable for your radio can be as easy as selecting the appropriate USB adapter with the right voltage for your radio and soldering on the proper cable.
There is quite a bit of information available on building cables for most radios on the internet. Instructions with schematics can often be found in the mailing lists, Yahoo, Google (or other) Group, forums that are specifically for the users of each radio. Some of the plans have been linked below in the radio specific section.
When using some touch screen laptops (for example the HP 430 series), you may not be able to use the USB cable to program the radio consistently. This is because the power management system in this line of laptops turns off USB devices when it does not detect data flow. Unfortunately, radio programming does not flow a lot of data, so the system shuts down the port thinking it's not being used. It does not "wake up" again properly.
Plug in your USB Programming cable. Go to "Device Manager" and find your way to the "Ports" item, then the "
Radio Specific Information¶
All (to my knowledge) Alinco radios use a three-pin 1/8" plug with a TTL converter in the 9-pin housing. This is identical to the Icom OPC-478 cable.
The UV-3R uses a Prolific USB-to-serial chip, but users report that in Windows, you must use drivers from http://409shop.com. It works out of the box on Linux.
The PLUS model of the UV-3R uses a Kenwood/Wouxun cable (same as the UV-5R) instead of the original single plug cable used by the UV-3R and UV-3R Mark II. All models (thus far) of the UV-3R use the same software.
Build your own cable:
- "Miklor Site's Baofeng DIY":http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Technical.php#progcable
The UV-4X is a rebadged UV-3R Mark II and uses the single connector cable. The radios themselves are made by "Vero Telecom":http://www.verotelecom.com/
The UV-5R is made by TYT, uses a Kenwood/Wouxun cable, and does not use the same protocol as the UV-3R models.
Build your own cable:
- "Miklor Site's Baofeng DIY":http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Technical.php#progcable
The following links are outdated, and we haven't yet found replacements for them; the Highfieldfs Amateur Radio Club in Cardiff UK is now at http://highfields-arc.com, but apparently their cable pages are gone.
Instructions for building your own OPC-478 / OPC-552 / CI-V cables can be found here: http://highfields-arc.co.uk/constructors/other/opc478.htm Circuits are shown for both an RS-232 version with a level-converter as well as a "USB version":http://highfields-arc.co.uk/constructors/other/opc478.htm#usb using an inexpensive USB module.
Nearly all of these radios use an OPC-478 (or similar) cable, which plugs into the speaker jack of the radio. The housing of the 9-pin connector has TTL conversion logic, which can be home-built but it is typically easier to buy one pre-made. Note that some of the mobile D-STAR radios can also use their data connection for programming, which uses RS-232 signalling and requires no conversion hardware. Models that can do this include the IC-2820H, ID-880H, and ID-80.
IC-91AD, IC-92AD, ID-1¶
These radios operate in "live" mode and require a full-duplex RS-232 serial cable connection. For the IC-91AD, the OPC-1529 cable is used (and can be easily built).
The 92AD uses a moisture-proof custom bayonet connection at the top of the radio, which is only available from Icom (OPC-1799) and only with their RS-92 programming software. Note that the OPC-1797 adapter cable will not allow you to use an OPC-478 programming cable with this radio.
The ID-1 is programmed via its integrated USB connection.
For some reason, this radio doesn't use the standard three-conductor plug on the OPC-478. The cable for the Yaesu VX-7 actually works perfectly though.
These radios use a two-pronged cable that plugs into the microphone and speaker jacks simultaneously. Note: many Chinese radios such as the Wouxun, and Baofeng UV-5R use the same two prong cable as these Kenwoods.
Build your own cables:
- "Miklor Site's Baofeng DIY":http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Technical.php#progcable (The UV-5R cable will work for these Kenwood)
TH-D7, TH-D7A, TH-D7Ag¶
These radios use a three-pin 3/32" plug directly wired to an RS-232 port (easily home-built).
This radio uses a regular serial cable (Female-Female) to the 9-pin connector on the front of the radio.
This radio uses a RS-232 cable (officially, PG-5G) directly cabled to a eight-pin Mini-DIN connector marked "PC" on the back of the radio. No level converter is required, so this can be easily home-made with the right connectors.
The civilian radios (HF-90A, HF-90E, HF-90H) have a male 8-pin microphone connector. The serial cable pinout is as follows.
Radio (8-pin mic) — PC (DE9) Data In (2) — TXD (3) Data Out (3) — RXD (2) Ground (6) — GND (5)
According to the technical manual, these radios were designed to "achieve compatibility with IBM PC Clone RS232C ports".
They are not compatible with TTL-level serial adapters like FTDI etc. However, there are some USB-serial adapters that produce the expected voltage levels: the Tripp-Lite/Keyspan USA-19HS is known to work, as are some Prolific PL2303 adapters.
The KG-UVD1P and KG-UV2D, KG-UV3D, KG-UV6D radios use the same cable as the Kenwood TH-F6A and TH-K2A listed above. The connection consists of a 3.5 mm and a 2.5 mm 3-conductor phone plug (TRS). It is a 5 Volt (TTL) serial interface, with Ground and TXD (fKrom Radio) on the sleeve and ring of the 2.5mm connector. RXD (to radio)is on the sleeve of the 3.5 mm plug.
Build your own:
- "Miklor Site's Baofeng DIY":http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Technical.php#progcable (The Wouxun uses the same cable as the Baofeng UV-5R)
Note: A number of ham radio dealers sell the RT System's software alongside the radios. This gives the false impression that the software and cable are from Yaesu rather than a 3rd party which is a bit misleading. However, previous reports that RT Systems cables will not work with CHIRP without additional configuration appear to be outdated. We have successfully used the RT Systems USB-57A cable to program a VX-5R with CHIRP on Windows 10 without issues. See the comments about RT Systems above.
VX-2R, VX-3R, VX-5R, VX-6R, VX-7R, FT-60R¶
These handhelds use the same type of cable, which is a four-pin TRRS connector and a TTL voltage converter in the 9-pin housing.
The VX-8R and VX-8DR both use a moisture-proof multi-pin screw-on connector at the top of the housing. It is recommended that you find a third-party programming cable for this radio. This radio expects 3.3Vdc signalling. Using a 5Vdc adapter could possibly damage the radio. Note the VX-8G radio with the built-in GPS, uses an entirely different serial connection, see below
NOTE: RT System's cable will NOT work with CHiRP under Windows or Mac OS without some additional driver or chip configuration. See FTDI OEM Cables.
Build your own:
- "VK4GOL's instructions":http://users.tpg.com.au/vk4go1/vx8-2.htm. Uses FTDI modules to build a serial cable.
- VX-8 Connectors: RT Systems sells a DIY cable with the correct proprietary end for the VX-8 without the USB serial adapter for a very reasonable price. Note: it is not waterproof or moisture resistant, like
The VX-8GR uses a three-conductor 3/32" plug directly to an RS-232 port. This is the same cable that Kenwood APRS radios use for the GPS connection, and almost the same as the Icom OPC-1529 type data cable, except that a null modem adapter must be used to switch the TX and RX pins.
FT-7800, FT-7900, FT-8800, FT-8900¶
These radios use a 6-pin mini-DIN plug and a TTL converter in the 9-pin housing.
These radios use the Yaesu SCU-35 cable. It is a USB-to-serial cable with a Prolific PL2303 USB-to-serial ship. It is supported by the unmodified drivers USB in Windows and Linux. The cable uses 3.3 V voltage levels and is a two-wire cable, with GND on one wire and TxD and RxD wired together on the other wire. It plugs into the radio's "MIC" jack using a 2.5mm TRS plug.