Sunday, 1 December 2013

Turnigy 9X firmware upgrade

The Turnigy 9X 8ch RC transmitter is ridiculously cheap. $60 for a programmable 8ch! That's about 1/10th the price of comparable name brand transmitters.

But there's a catch (of course). The stock firmware or operating software is also ridiculous and there is no manual. There is this !manual but that was surely written as a joke. Here's an example explaining Mixes…

"Mix purpose to accuse of form to get rid of little mistake of organism, make it is it can take the heart conveniently even more to have not to handle. The very wanton one mixes accusing of among the channel."

You can sort of work out how to do some model programming by trial and error or by searching YouTube but to me most of it's functions were very quirky or a total mystery.

Now here's the exciting bit. Some brainiac called Thus rewrote the firmware completely (th9x) and made it available online and open source. The 9X was reborn and is now a fully configurable brilliant transmitter.

To load, or "flash", the new firmware you need to add some electronics to the 9X insides. You can do that very cheaply by soldering wires to 6 tiny pads on the main board and connecting a cheap programmer board, or it's much easier to pop in the solderless Smartieparts board. That's what I did along with the essential LCD backlight.

Open source coders are continually developing what started as th9X making improvements along the way. er9X, gruvin9X and openTX are some of the recent iterations.

er9X / eepe and Mac

The first version I tried was er9X with it's accompanying program epee both written by Erez Raviv (initials ER). Eepe handles the flashing process and allows backing up and editing of your model setups on your Mac.

Problem is...development of the mac version of epee stopped in early 2012 and it's no longer fully compatible with the current er9X.

You can still use epee to upgrade to er9X and have a brilliant transmitter but you can't save your model setups from the transmitter back onto your mac. Eepe for Mac no longer understands the eprom file generated by the current er9X. However there is an alternative.

openTX / companion 9X and Mac

Further investigation revealed that openTX (formerly called open9X) and the associated program companion9X are the more recent cousins of er9X and epee, and are fully mac compatible.

First you need to download and install companion9X. Go to the companion9X google code page and find the file called companion9x_1.51_Mac_Full_Setup.dmg

That's all you need, ignore references to AVRDUDE or drivers or compiling, they are not relevant.

UPDATE: Actually I'm wrong here. AVRDUDE is required for the 9X to talk to your mac and is automatically loaded with companion9X (up to v1.51).

Once companion9X is installed and working on your mac click on Preferences and you can select which flavour of the openTX firmware to download.

My selections are -
Firmware - openTX for 9X board
Default stick mode - Mode 2
Default channel order - AETR
Tick boxes - sp22

sp22 refers to "Smartieparts Board version 2.2" and the transmitter LCD backlight. If you have the backlight installed it will work in reverse from v2.2 onwards, OFF instead of ON, unless you check this box. I have the version 2.4 Smartieparts board.

You can experiment with the other choices but they are not as important.

The resulting downloaded firmware file will be named something like this

Flashing the 9X firmware 

Now it's a simple matter of connecting your transmitter to your computer via the new USB port provided by the Smartieparts board. Open companion9X, turn on the transmitter, and click the flaming transmitter icon.

Click "Load Firmware" to choose the firmware version you just downloaded, hold your breath and click Burn to TX.

Your Turnigy 9X screen will go blank, you might see a Bad eeprom data message, click any button, and eventually you will see the openTX splash screen. Breathe again, your RC life will never be the same.

In openTX you now have the 8 actual channels on your 8 channel receiver plus 8 more virtual channels. The sticks, all 7 switches, 3 pots and 4 trim switches are configurable to do what ever you want. The possibilities are endless.

To learn how to setup your models in openTX I highly recommend Richard Mrazek's open9X tutorial. His er9X videos are totally relevant too. Don't be put off by his Czech accent, he is brilliant and funny. I don't trust any tutorials without a Czech accent now.


  1. eepe is fully updated for the MAC to support recent revisions of er9x.

  2. Thanks for the update Michael. Good info.

  3. Thanks Michael, I'm going to give this a go today, I wasn't sure how or what to tick in the firmware setup. You've just cleared that up for now, brilliant.

    Much Appreciated! Regards Ivor