The inclusion of a graphical user interface in most of today’s radios has simplified programing, while providing a host of features when compared to the 1970s radios on which I learned to fly. Their evolution has made the hand-held link to our aircraft more robust and intuitive, while keeping prices competitive.
The switch to 2.4 GHz stands out as the biggest advancement in radios during my time as an RC pilot. I became an early adopter with the Spektrum DX6, which did away with frequency conflicts and allowed for a neater radio installation without long antennas on the aircraft. A short time later, the DX7 and its Model Match feature, ensured we didn’t put our aircraft at risk by flying with our radio set to the wrong model.
Further evolution of the Spektrum line brought advancements such as DSMX, which added frequency agility over DSM2, and the addition of an SD card slot, which allows for easy software upgrades and to share and store additional model settings.
Now the Spektrum DX9 continues the trend by incorporating innovative features such as voice notification and alerts, a 250 onboard model memory, and wireless trainer capability!
The DX9 is comfortable to hold and has ergonomics similar to the DX8 and DX18. Its antenna and carry handle are slightly more streamlined and work as a dual-diversity antenna. The handle works as a horizontal array in conjunction with the main antenna, known as the vertical array. This provides a more durable unit and resolves the age-old question of how you should orient your antenna!
Rubber nonslip pads on the back of the transmitter provide a nice grip for thumbs fliers and pinch fliers will find them to be a nice place to rest your pinky fingers.
The array of switches, knobs, and sliders provide a multitude of options and each one can be assigned to any function you desire. The transmitter has good stick tension, but if it is not to your liking adjustments are easily made without needing to remove the rear of the case. Two rubber plugs conceal the throttle-spring adjustment, depending on which mode you’re flying, and gimbal stick-tension adjustments are made by removing the rear grips.
A flip of the power switch and the Spektrum LED and backlit LCD display come to life. The region setting and your name, if you entered it, are momentarily displayed while the system boots up.
The backlit main display provides the model memory number and model name in the top left, the transmitter charge level and voltage in the top right, as well as timer and a model memory timer and all the trim settings.
The radio is powered by a 2S 2,000 mAh Li-Ion battery and the included wall charger can be used to charge the battery without having to take it out of the radio! A larger 4,000 mAh LiPo battery is a separately available upgrade.
Before using the transmitter, you should register it online to receive immediate access to firmware updates as well as email notifications if any further updates become available.
When I receive a new radio, I try to program in a model without reading the manual to get an idea of how intuitive it is. With the DX9, I successfully programmed a basic four-channel model—the E-flite Edge 540QQ 280—without peeking inside the manual.
I didn’t even need to program the Edge because its setup is available for download. It is one of more than 40 aircraft files that are available on the Horizon Hobby website. When using these files, confirm that all controls are operating in the proper direction with the recommended amount of control throw. I have used the files for two models, of which one required adjustments.
Manually programming a model yourself starts with System Setup, which can be accessed either by holding the clear and back buttons while powering the radio, or by selecting System Setup in the Function List. The latter is a new edition and keeps you from having to reboot the radio. When using this function you will receive a caution screen notifying you that the radio frequency signal will be disabled if you proceed. The selected model should be turned off or restrained.
This menu provides access to settings that are normally used to set up a model for the first time and may be changed later. Functions such as Model Select, Model Type, Model Name, Aircraft Type, Flight Mode Setup, Spoken Flight Mode, Channel Assign, Model Utilities, and Telemetry are found here.
Preflight Setup is an ingenious option that is also found within the System Setup menu. The Preflight Setup option enables you to program a preflight checklist that appears each time you power on the transmitter or when you select a new model memory.
You can set up as many as six items on your checklist from 20 items preloaded into the programming. Some of the available options include fuel tank full, air in retracts, and flight battery charged. As does the Model Match feature, the Preflight Setup provides another level of security to help to ensure nothing is overlooked before flight.
A Bind option is also available in the menu, which enables you to bind a transmitter and receiver without powering off the transmitter.
The System Settings menu is another option that may be regularly accessed. It consists of four screens: System Settings, Extra Settings, Serial Number, and Calibrate. This is where you will find the version of the software running on the DX9 as well as the serial number of the transmitter which is required for registration.
If you experience issues inputting your transmitter serial number during online registration, you can export your serial number onto the included SD card. Eject the SD card and access it from your computer and open the file with a text editor, copy the serial number, and paste it into the webpage.
The Function List, accessed by pushing the roller, provides access to settings such as Dual Rates, Exponential, Mixing, Timer, Range Test, and Telemetry. To use Telemetry, connect either a Spektrum TM1000 or TM1100 (not included) to monitor telemetry data in real time (depending on what sensors are used) and record telemetry data to the SD card for postflight review.
An exciting feature found in the Function List is the Sequencer. As stated in the manual, “The Sequencer menu option provides this-then-that mixing with a time delay. Two different sequences (S1 through S2) are available to control 2 functions each (A and B), in 2 timing directions (forward or reverse). Sequences appear throughout function screens as assignable switches.”
This feature could be used to assign a gear switch that can open gear doors, lower the gear, then close the doors. In reverse, gear doors open, the gear retracts, and the gear doors close.
The DX9 fully supports all three model types, airplane, helicopter, and glider with 10 airplane wing types, six airplane tail types, five sailplane wing types, three sailplane tail types, and seven swashplate types for helicopters.
Talk to Me
One of the most exciting features of the new DX9 radio is its ability to tell you important information that may or may not be displayed on the LCD screen. More than 300 words, numbers, and phrases can be used for alerts and notifications. The available languages include English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German.
I downloaded and installed a sound file update (version 1.02). The sound files and firmware updates are easily downloaded to the SD card and installed.
The volume of the voice alerts and notifications can be adjusted from the Main screen. To change the volume, press the back button and then turn the scroll wheel left or right to adjust the volume level. When satisfied with the volume, press the scroll wheel to save the selection. The level is preset at 50% and adjustments are in 10% increments. I found I liked 70% which allowed me to hear the radio indoors or out.
The first time my radio spoke to me was during the bind process. It told me it was binding, the protocol (DSM2 or DSMX), the frame rate (11 or 22 ms), and when binding was complete.
The next time was during programming, when I set up sound events such as different rates. I also programmed the timer on the Edge for 5 minutes in countdown mode with a voice notification at every minute, when 30 seconds remained, and for a countdown at 10 seconds. I wanted the radio to do a lot of talking while I was at the field.
On my first radio test, I was the only one on the flightline and when the female voice alerted me that I had 4 minutes remaining, it actually startled me. My surroundings were quiet and I was focused on aerobatic flying. I wasn’t bothered by the alerts after that, but it is something to remember the first time you use the radio.
Voice alerts are available in the System menu to warn the pilot about occurrences such as the throttle stick not being at its lowest position, or the retract switch being set to up. The Spoken Flight Mode Setup is also in the System menu. This allows you to assign custom names to the Flight Mode positions. Flight Mode names can be 20 characters including spaces.
Included in the Function List is the Custom Voice Setup. The submenu allows for voice notification of a switch change or a sequence of alerts using the Stepping Events option. The available words and phrases are vast and can require much scrolling to see all of the options. Each time you select a voice notification, the list starts at the beginning, so setting up notifications for triple rates required moving through the selections three times.
The time it takes to program these is worth the effort, because it allows pilots to keep their eyes on the aircraft while hearing necessary information. You’ll not have to guess if you flipped the correct switch or need to look away from at the screen for the timer or telemetry information.
The DX9 has cut the cord by allowing a DSM2 or DSMX computer radio to be bound to the DX9 as the slave radio. Noncomputer radios can still be used via a trainer cord.
Wireless Training allows two different modes of operation: Programmable Master and Pilot Link. In Programmable Master mode, the incoming signals are unaffected by transmitter settings and are forwarded unchanged to the model.
When using Pilot Link mode, incoming signals are treated as though they were stick movements on your transmitter so any rate settings, exponential, etc. will be applied. Pilot Link mode only applies to the first four channels. Channels five and higher are still in the Programmable Master mode.
Spektrum radios have always impressed me with their ease of programing and handy labeling of receivers, taking the guesswork out of radio setup. Beyond that the Model Match feature provides an added measure of safety, while the ability to download and share model setups provides simplicity.
The Spektrum DX9 incorporates new features such as voice notifications, 250-model memory, and wireless training functionality. Add to that the large number of receiver options, telemetry gear, and BNF aircraft available, and it’s clearly a capable and versatile radio.
Your investment will not soon become obsolete. Spektrum AirWare software updates and a promise of a forward-programing feature will allow you to enjoy a new generation of Spektrum components that can be programmed directly through the DX9.
Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Input power: 7.4-volt, 2,000 mAh Li-Ion
Display: 192 x 96 backlit LCD screen
Number of channels: 9
Frame rate: 11 or 22 ms
Run time: up to 10 hours
• Nine fully proportional channels.
• User-configurable switch and stick assignment.
• Voice alerts—transmitter can speak to the user in five languages.
• Wireless trainer system with model match—instructors can work with multiple students without having to rebind to each student’s transmitter.
• Transmitter stores as many as 250 models and populates the model list only with models the user has configured.
• Direct system menu access—it is unnecessary to power off the transmitter to access the key system menu.
• SD card support for backing up files, BNF setups, and firmware updates.
• Spektrum DX9 transmitter
• Global power supply
• 2,000 mAh Li-Ion transmitter battery
• 128 MB SD card
• Neck strap
• Decal sheet
• Voice alarms and notifications.
• Model setup files can be downloaded and imported.
• Intuitive programming.
• Several telemetry options.
• Swappable and assignable switches.
• Included Li-Ion battery can be charged in the radio.
• Receiver not included.