Those who have followed this website for a long time know that I’m a Spektrum guy. The reason is that I long ago bought a very expensive radio, a DX18, for flying RC airplanes and helicopters. When I got into quadcopters, I purchased a Taranis X9D on recommendation from several friends and used it for the first few months of my flying. One afternoon after chopping up the antennas of an X4R, I decided to try sticking a Spektrum satellite into my quadcopter to try out my DX18 with my miniquad. To this day I don’t know what it was, but the flights I had that afternoon were a revelation. Things just “clicked”. I was able to weave in and out of trees and obstacles like I had not been able to before. Since then, I’ve gone back to the Taranis every once in awhile. I can’t say that I totally lose all skill and fly significantly worse, but I have always come away a little disappointed. I never really could definitively figure out why. Until very recently.
Turns out one of the big reasons for this revelation is that the gimbals in my Taranis X9D were garbage. I had suspected this, but I could not prove it until I plopped down the cash to buy an upgraded set of M9 hall effect gimbals that FrSky has recently started selling. These things are truly awesome. They are the best improvement to my FrSky control system since I moved from PPM to SBus. Along with a new TBS Crossfire system (part of the reason I bought the gimbals in the first place – review & guide coming soon), they may very well be the driving force behind me taking the plunge into flying FrSky full-time.
Bottom line: if you are flying with an older Taranis X9D without upgraded gimbals, you grab some now.
Taranis X9D M9 Hall Effect Gimbal Installation Guide
You can pick up hall effect gimbals from almost any retailer who sells FrSky gear. Some retailers sell the gimbals in a package of two, others sell them individually. Make sure you get two of them! Here are some options from retailers who sponsor our site:
M9 or M9-R?
FrSky is currently selling two variants of the M9 Hall Effect gimbals. The original is the standard M9 gimbals. The M9-R is a new development that comes in red and features an increased throw distance on the throttle axis for “better precision”. In this article, I only test the standard M9 gimbals, but if the idea of increased stick throw appeals to you, you may want to consider the M9-R.
I’m going to spend the rest of this article outlining the installation process for the hall effect gimbals. If you’ve built a miniquad, you have the tools and expertise to install these gimbals. Since you’re breaking your radio open anyways, you might even consider doing an antenna mod along the way.
Opening up your Taranis
The first step in the gimbal installation will be splitting your Taranis in half. Don’t let the sound of this put you off – it is far less invasive than you might think. The Taranis is built to be worked on and is easily disassembled.
Start by removing the battery:
Next, remove the six phillips screws holding the two case halves together. With these removed, it should be easy to pull the case apart:
Note that two ribbon cables connect the front and rear case halves. For the installation of the hall effect gimbals, it will not be necessary to remove these cables. You might also notice that some of the switches that are sandwiched by the two case halves will come flopping out. Don’t worry about that, just keep track of the switches and make sure you put them back in place when you re-assemble the radio.
Once you’ve split the case, you can put it back together loosely to start removing the existing gimbals. This is done by removing four screws in a square around each gimbal from the front of the radio:
With these screws removed, when you open the case back up, the gimbals should simply fall out of the case. Unplug the gimbals from the radio’s PCB and throw them where they belong – in the trash! (Note: You don’t need to worry about marking which connectors go where, all of the connectors in this installation will only go in one place).
M9 Hall Effect Gimbal Configuration
Before installing your new gimbals, we need to configure them first. If you’ve played with them at all, you’ve no doubt noticed that both gimbals have a centering spring that makes them behave like the roll/pitch stick. If you’re like me, you want the throttle stick to not have any centering tendencies.
There are a few ways to get rid of the throttle centering. The proper way to do it is to insert one of the screws that came with the M9 Gimbal installation kit into a dedicated retention hole in the gimbal. This process is covered by Oscar Liang in his article on the same subject. (Search for “adjustments for throttle stick”).
Being the impulsive guy I am, I decided to try to figure this out myself without consulting any manuals. The solution I came up with was to remove the spring that centers the throttle stick altogether:
This works just fine, but you will need to keep track of the spring if you ever want to turn the throttle stick back into a roll/pitch stick. I expect I’ll never have this need so I’m not worrying about it.
The one other thing you’ll need to do is adjust all of the gimbals for ratchet and friction. Each gimbal has two metallic bars running up and down it with a screw at one end of the bar:
The bar with the divet bent into the middle of it adjusts the ratchet. This gives movement of the stick a tactile “bumpy” feel most of us are familiar with on the throttle stick. It allows you to make small, incremental changes to the stick, but impedes smooth movement of the stick. I like this ratchety feel for flying RC airplanes, but think it is overall unnecessary for rotorcraft, including quadcopters. If you want it, you’ll want to screw the ratchet adjustment screw in to add it.
The other bar adjusts the friction of the stick. This controls how loose the stick is. An extremely loose stick will float around a lot, giving unstable, jerky flight. Likewise, a stick that is too stiff will be difficult to move precisely. Similar to the ratcheting adjustment, you will torque the adjustment screw down to increase stick stiffness. I recommend you play with various levels of adjustment and how it affects the feel of the sticks until you find the right “feel” for your tastes.
M9 Hall Effect Gimbal Installation
With the gimbals configured to your liking, it is time to install them in the radio. This process is just the reverse of the removal you completed earlier. Install the gimbals into their sockets (make sure the throttle-adjusted gimbal goes in the throttle socket). Plug the wires for each gimbal into their appropriate slots. The gimbals and wires should only go in one way, but here is a picture to guide you if you need help:
With the gimbals installed, screw them into place with the 4 screws per on the front of the radio housing:
Next, you’ll close up the case halves. Make sure you put all the switches in their proper locations before doing this – they can fall out pretty easily. Put the six screws back into the back of the radio case and re-install the battery.
M9 Hall Effect Gimbal Calibration
The last step is to calibrate the gimbals. Turn on the radio and long press the “Menu” button. Use the “Page” key to access the last menu page labeled “Calibration”. Press “Enter” to start, then follow the on-screen directions to calibrate your new sticks.
That’s it – you’re done. Go out and fly and enjoy your “brand new” radio with improved stick response and accuracy!