CatTouch – A Review

My CatMeter _ FT-710

An Important Message From Chris Day, the man who designs, makes and sells the CatTouch and other CatX products. I will say only purchase you products from Chris directly via his web site at https://www.catknobz.com

You may be interested to learn there is a chap called ‘Larry Grant’ trying to sell CatTouch & CatKnobz on Facebook groups. I have no record of any sale to him and there is no way he can produce these products as I am the only person with the source code & design details. So it is just another of the many scams out there.

About 6 weeks ago I saw a nice, shiny gadget online for sale called a CatTouch made by a guy called Chris Day down in New Zealand. Predictably I couldn’t resist so I bought one. at $130 (about £100) + $20 postage I felt it was well worth it.

What dose this little box of trick do I hear you ask. In short, it displays a whole pile of meters on it’s main screen from my Yaesu FT-710 all at the same time via the CAT interface. Additionally you can use it to switch on and off other features of the radio such as noise filters/blanker NOTCH filters and other things that would otherwise involves digging into the radios menu system. But mainly I wanted it for the multiple meter display.

About 2 weeks after ordering the CatTouch there was a knock on the door and the nice post lady handed me a small box with an NZ post mark on it. My toy had arrived! I immediately unboxed it, placed the cable and meter on the desk and noticed that the connector was an RS-232 serial port and not an 8 pin Mini DIN as required by my radio. A quick e-mail to Chris down in NZ and a conformation came straight back confirming that I had been an “idiot 1st class” and ordered the wrong CatMeter. A few more e-mails exchanged hands, options were offered on how to solve the problem and the CatTouch I had was posted back to NZ and at the same time the correct version of the CatTouch was posted out by Chris therefore eliminating any delays waiting for my CatTouch turning up in NZ before posting the new one out. All I had to do was pay the postage both ways.

I’m going to say here and now that Chris was amazing. He could have waited for my return unit to arrive in NZ before sending out the replacement CatTouch but he didn’t, he was positive and proactive and clearly wanted to get things moving so I will say a MASSIVE “thank you” to him here and now.

So, onto what I think about the meter. . . . . .I like it. It looks good, it’s well made and hooked up to my FT-710 in isolation it works exactly how it should do. All the displays work and it’s quick and easy to switch from one display to another using the on screen buttons along the bottom. Using the onscreen buttons down the right hand side allows the changing of settings within the radio.

But as good as the CatTouch is in isolation, I don’t think many people these days use their radios in isolation. For me I have my radio linked to my computer and subsequently various software programs that talk to the radio via the CAT interface and this is when “niggles” start to creep in.

First of all, like many thousands of people I run the WSJT-X software to work FT8. It seems that the CatTouch and WSJT-X software fight each other for access to the CAT interface even though WSJT-X used the USB port and CAT1, and the CatMeter uses the linear/Tuner port on CAT3 . This kills off the WSJT-X software. The “fix” or “work around” is to either set the CAT poling from 1 second to 10 seconds in WSJT-X. This dose help a little bit and it reduces the number of WSJT-X software crashes but it doesn’t stop them completely and at the same time it almost completely stops the WSJT-X software from working.

Alternatively, you can dump WSJT-X altogether and use something called MHSV which stops the problem in the first place. This is OK, but I have the WSJT-X software setup to connect to my logging software automatically. I will need to look into weather it’s possible to link the MHSV software into my logging software but that’s a project for another day.

For now the only real solution for this CAT conflict problem is to disconnect my CatTouch completely when running WSJT-X software and working FT8. A little disappointing but not a showstopper.

I’ve also noticed that I get CAT interface problems when running my logging software Log4OM just on it’s own (without WSJT-X software). It’s not as bad as with WSJT-X but it’s clear there is a conflict going on with Log4OM dropping and reconnection the CAT connect to the radio for a second or 2 and then reconnecting. Again, not a show stopper in any way what so ever.

Other than the CAT problems the only other thing is something that I find across the amateur radio world. A lack of comprehensive documentation. I understand that like many of the independent suppliers to the amateur radio world Chris is small one man organisations and he can not possibly work to the same levels as the big manufactures like Icom and Yaesu but sometimes it would just be nice to be able to download something more comprehensive than a single A4 sheet PDF. I also accept that he like many other people like him are doing their absolute best so this is not a criticism of his workmanship and skill.

In conclusion, would I recommend anyone buying a CatTouch? Absolutely I would. But be advised, you need to be willing to have to work around little “niggles” on the Yaesu FT-710 to get it working with your individual setup. also note that you DO NOT get this CAT problem if you are using the Yaesu FT991, FT991A, FTdx10, FTdx101D & FTdx101MP so all is good with the and WSJT-X.

Update On the CatTouch and the Yaesu FT-710 and WSJT-X From Chris Day

CAT issue is only with the FT-710. The heart of the issue is actually two fold:

When the FT710 was released, CAT3 was actually not usable but has slowly improved with each Yaesu firmware release. FT991, FT991A, FTdx10, FTdx101D & FTdx101MP do not have any issues running CatTouch & WSJTX.

WSJT-X uses a library called HAMLIB to communicate with transceivers. The error that WSJT-X throws up relates to FT-710 responding to a CAT command with a question mark (?). This in turn throws up an error with the HAMLIB library which is not caught and handled correctly by WSJT-X. If you know someone who does C coding, they can independently verify this for you.

Thank y0u Chris for getting in touch and letting me know this information.