Category Archives: Scanners

Icom IC-R8600 pricing and availability

The new Icom IC-8600 at the 2017 Hamvention

At the 2017 Hamvention, I spent a little time checking out Icom’s latest wideband communications receiver: the IC-R8600. Check out the photos above and below.

The IC-8600 Back Panel

I spoke with Icom North America at Hamvention–the representative told me the MSRP of the IC-R8600 would be about $2,999 US, but that retail pricing would be lower.

Universal Radio now has the IC-R8600 in stock with a retail price of $2599 US. HRO has the IC-R8600 in stock as well and selling for the same price.

No doubt, at this price point, the ‘8600 is not ideally placed to compete with other receivers and SDRs. I do, however, believe this product will do well with government sales. No doubt, it should deliver benchmark performance (at least one would expect benchmark). Icom has offered to send me an IC-R8600 on loan for a review–it is tempting to see how it might stack up against some of my SDR arsenal.

I’m very curious Post readers: assuming benchmark performance, how many of you would purchase the IC-R8600 at $2,599 US? Please comment!

2017 Hamvention photos: Saturday Flea Market

While looking through photos I had backed up on my laptop, I discovered a set I took at the Hamvention Flea Market on Saturday morning (May 20, 2017). I’ve gotten tremendous positive feedback from the photos I posted of Hamvention Setup, the Friday Flea Market and Inside Exhibits, so I thought I’d post these as well.

Below, you’ll find 84 additional flea market photos. Click on the thumbnail to expand each photo. I’ve tried to include price tags when possible. I’m sure some of these items are also featured in my Friday flea market photo album. Enjoy:

The versatile Kenwood TH-F6A

In reply to my recent post about the Yaesu VX-3R, SWLing Post reader Tha Dood comments:

[The Yaesu VX-3R] is a neat little HT, but the Kenwood TH-F6A is way more versatile.

How? Full 5W on 2m, 222MHz, and 440MHz, and will RX 150KHz to 1.3GHz in AM, FM, FM wide, NBFM, USB, LSB, and CW. All that in a size of a pack of cigs. Yes, it will overload easily, but something that wide banded and this small, I kind of expected that.

However, want to hear what your wireless FM innercom sounds like on 175KHz? You can do that. Want to hear what your 222.1MHz transverter sounds like on SSB? You can do that. Need to tune-in to local AM / FM radio when power goes out? You can do that. Want to listen to CB CH19 truckers gripe about traffic conditions? You can do that. Want to listen to aircraft traffic at an air show? You can do that. You want to monitor 6M 50.125MHz USB to hear when that band opens? You can do that.

No, it doesn’t have D-Star, DMR, Fusion, or even SW’s DRM, but analog-wise this HT is so versatile, what else is out there like it?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the TH-F6A!

A couple more things I like about the TH-F6A:

  • it meets MIL-STD 810 C/D/E standards for resistance to vibration, shock, humidity and light rain
  • It has a dedicated number keypad for direct frequency entry (something, sadly, the VX-3R lacks)

I’ll put the TH-F6A on my “wish list” this year and perhaps give it a thorough review. (Perhaps Santa Claus is listening!?)

Here’s a snapshot of TH-F6 pricing at time of posting:

Yaesu VX-3R: Monitoring ATC over a cup of coffee

While I have a number of amateur radio handheld radios, one of my favorites is the recently-discontinued Yaesu VX-3R.

Saturday morning, I took my father to the his local regional airport’s café (KHKY). It’s a frequent stop when I’m in town visiting.

While sipping coffee, talking with friends and watching GA aircraft land and take off, I tuned to the airport’s tower. It was a pretty busy morning air traffic-wise and it was fun to monitor communications from our table with a view of the runway.

While the little VX-3R lacks the power output of larger HTs, and doesn’t include digital modes like D-Star or DMR, it is dual-band (2M/70cm) and its wideband receiver covers the shortwave, FM and MW broadcast bands in a pinch. Best of all, the VX-3R is amazingly portable.

I take the VX-3R everywhere in my compact EDC (Everyday Carry) pack:

My Everyday Carry (EDC) pack, loaded with all of the essentials.

I’ve used this little radio while traveling (hitting local repeaters and even simplex), I’ve monitored live air support during a local forest fire, and, on a moment’s notice, even caught an ARISS contact.

This week, I decided it might make sense to purchase another VX-3R to carry in the glove compartment of my truck. Since I already know my way around this radio, and since I already have the software and programming cable through RT Systems--it seems to make sense.

I checked the price at Universal Radio only to find the following notice:

AVAILABILITY UPDATE:
This model is being discontinued. We expect one more shipment in late February which will fill our back-orders.  We are not accepting additional orders at this time.

DX Engineering, Ham Radio Outlet and GigaParts also show no stock.

I feel like $139 was a bargain for this versatile amateur HT.

Late last night, a “New Open Box” unit appeared on eBay for $119 shipped. The seller had 100% positive feedback, so I snagged it.

If you’re interested in the VX-3R, your best bet will be to check with radio retailers like Universal Radio and Ham Radio Outlet for used/demo units.

Of course, you might also follow a VX-3R search on eBay.

Post readers: Any other VX-3R owners in our community? Any other fans of monitoring ATC/aviation traffic?

March 2-4, 2017: Join us for the 30th (!!!) NASWA Winter SWL Fest!

Broadcasting a live performance of the Shortwave Shindig at the 2015 Winter SWL Fest.

Every year, I look forward to the only event I know that brings together both my avid interest in radio and my loyal radio-listening friends: the Winter SWL Fest. This is the one place where, among the 125-plus attendees, you can talk freely about all aspects of the shortwave hobby without any need of explanation as to why you find radio so fascinating. As a result, over the course of the eight years I’ve attended the ‘Fest, it has begun to feel less like a technical hobbyists convention and more like a (most enjoyable) family reunion.

The DoubleTree hotel where the Winter SWL Fest is held. Notice anything unique about the top floor of this hotel?

This year, the Winter SWL Fest is celebrating its 30th (!!!) Anniversary. The ‘Fest organizers have added an extra day to the convention making it a special three day event.

Here’s the description from the Winter SWL Fest website:

The Winter SWL Fest is a conference of radio hobbyists of all stripes, from DC to daylight. Every year scores of hobbyists descend on the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburbs for a weekend of camaraderie. The Fest is sponsored by NASWA, the North American Shortwave Association, but it covers much more than just shortwave; mediumwave (AM), scanning, satellite TV, and pirate broadcasting are among the other topics that the Fest covers. Whether you’ve been to every Fest (all 29, starting with the first year at the fabled Pink & Purple Room of the Fiesta Motor Inn) or this year’s will be your first, you’re sure to find a welcome from your fellow hobbyists.

For 2017, the 30th Annual (!!) Winter SWL Fest will have three days of sessions where you can learn about the latest developments in the radio listening hobbies, but there’s so much more going on. There’s a silent auction that takes place, where you’re bound to find something of interest. There’s the Hospitality Suite, where attendees partake of tuning oil and other treats and engage in spirited conversations. There is the closing Banquet, with after-dinner remarks by a luminary from the field, often one of the many broadcasters who attend the Fest, followed by the raffle, where you could win one or more of the dozens of prizes, ranging from pens from stations up to top-notch communications receivers. And of course, the infamous midnight ride of Pancho Villa that closes things out every year.

Early registration fees are available through the month of January, as an incentive to register early. We strongly urge you to do so as fees will increase for those registering January 28th and later.

Hotel Registration: The Doubletree Guest Suites offers a special $109 rate (single or double) that includes a full breakfast buffet. Reservations may be made by phone at +1-610-834-8300 or 800-222-8733 or online here; click on Special Rates and enter the group code NAS. If at all possible, please reserve hotel rooms using our group code, so we can maintain proper credit and keep costs down.

Fest Registration: A paper reservation form may be downloaded here; you may also register online via PayPal here.

Your hosts, Richard Cuff and John Figliozzi, work throughout the year to ensure that attendees have a great time over the weekend, and by all accounts, they succeed stunningly. How else could this event have lasted for 30 years (egad) and draw people from around the world to southeastern Pennsylvania? Won’t you join us?

This year, the grand prize at the Winter SWL Fest is the new Icom IC-7300 transceiver (which also happens to be an exceptional general coverage HF receiver).

If you can make a pilgrimage to Plymouth Meeting, PA, please do so. I think you’ll enjoy the diversity of programs and people who attend. I’ll be there along with a number of regular SWLing Post contributors. It’s a great time to exchange stories and ideas in person.

I always leave the Winter SWL Fest energized about a new aspect of our radio hobby. I think you will too.

Click here to register for the Winter SWL Fest online.