[UPDATE: Read the full IC-7300 review–along with listener survey results–by clicking here.]
In the past, receiver shoot-outs in which I’ve provided sample audio for “blind” comparison––meaning, the listener does not know which audio sample is associated with which radio––have produced particularly positive feedback from Post readers.
So I’ve decided to do this for the new Icom IC-7300 transceiver. I’ve pitted the ‘7300 against a benchmark receiver: the WinRadio Excalibur.
I have a number of SDRs (software defined radios) in the shack at the moment, but I picked the Excalibur because it’s the closest in price ($900 US) to the IC-7300 ($1500) as compared to my Elad FDM-S2 ($520) or the TitanSDR Pro ($2500).
Recording notes and disclaimers
Both the WinRadio Excalibur and the Icom IC-7300 offer native digital audio recording (nice touch, Icom!). The Excalibur simply records the AF to a file on my PC’s hard drive, while the IC-7300 records the audio to an SD card which I can later transfer to my PC.
I’ve been using the Excalibur since 2012, so I’m very familiar with its recording feature. I was not, however, familiar with the IC-7300’s digital recorder, so prior to making recordings, I checked to make sure its recorded audio was a fair representation of its live audio. To my ear, the IC-7300 recorded audio was nearly identical to that of the live audio, so I used the 7300’s internal recorder rather than one of my external recorders.
Both receivers shared my large outdoor omni-directional horizontal delta loop antenna for each test.
To keep the comparison on as equal footing as possible, the receivers shared the same antenna through my Elad ASA15 antenna splitter amplifier. Though the ASA15 has both 12dB amplification and –15dB attenuation, I employed neither.
The ASA15 allowed me to make the following recordings simultaneously.
In each case, I tried to set up both radios using the same filter widths, gain, AGC settings, and (as much as possible), audio level. I didn’t engage a noise-reduction feature on either rig.
Note: the only exception to the radios’ equal treatment was in the AM mode recordings, in which I used the WinRadio’s AM Sync (AMS) mode. Why? Frankly speaking, 99% of the time during which I use the Excalibur, I do employ its AMS mode as its AM mode often sounds “hot” and over-driven when band conditions are as noisy, as they were last night.
The IC-7300 does not have AM synchronous detection (AMS mode), but I felt it compared very favorably to the Excalibur in AMS mode. The IC-7300 would have easily beat the Excalibur in this test had I only used the Excalibur’s AM mode. In the end, as a shortwave listener, the goal is to compare the total capabilities of broadcast performance between the two receivers (thus using sync mode if available, to maximize broadcast listening performance).
At the end of this post, I have an embedded a survey in which you can vote for the sample recordings you like best. Each recording is clearly labeled to denote that it’s either from “Radio A” or “Radio B” (I had my wife draw names from a hat to determine which radio would be labeled as A or B).
Since there are quite a few recordings, I’d suggest jotting down your notes separately before completing the survey.
Or, alternately, you can open the survey in a separate window by clicking here.
And now…here’s the recordings.
Ham Radio Band recordings
The following recordings were made on the 40 meter ham radio band yesterday evening. Both radios have the same filter width: 250 Hz in CW, 3 kHz in SSB.
Weak Signal CW (40 meter band)
Weak/Strong SSB QSO (40 meter band)
Shortwave Broadcast recordings
The following recordings were made on the 31 meter broadcast band yesterday evening. Both radios have the same filter width: 9 kHz and 8.2 kHz.
Weak Shortwave AM (Radio Bandeirantes 31 meter band)
Strong Shortwave AM (Radio Romania International, French 31 Meter Band)
Mediumwave Broadcast recordings
Note that the following mediumwave recordings were made during the morning hours (grayline). The strong station is the closest AM broadcaster to my home; it’s not a blow-torch “Class A” type station, merely the closest local broadcaster.
In the “weak” sample, I tuned to 630 kHz, where multiple broadcasters could be heard on frequency––but one was dominant.
Both radios are set to a filter width of 9.0 kHz.
Strong Mediumwave AM (1010 kHz)
Weak Mediumwave AM (630 kHz)
We want to hear from you!
Use the form below to vote for the recordings you prefer in each section.
I’ll close voting at 12:00 UTC on Thursday April 21, 2016. Thank you in advance for your participation in this survey!
And the winner is…not announced yet?
I’m going to put the results in the forthcoming IC-7300 review. I may actually sneak in one more quick survey before then, with a focus specifically on SSB and CW and another comp receiver.
I listened with some Sennheiser closed stereo headphones which should contribute little coloration or filtering to the recorded audio. Some comparisons were pretty close to call while others (like weak station MW) were like comparing night to day. I selected four A’s and two B’s (not in that order). I evaluated received signal and audio quality. Anyway, in my mind and ears real radios use tubes. I’d rather listen to a strong SW or MW station on a Zenith Trans-Oceanic B600 than either of these.
I am mighty tempted by the IC-7300 but my KX3 is my dream super radio for now.
Winradio – urgh for looks, reminds me of a plastic flip flop, sorry.
Looks are only skin deep though, it’s what’s under the bonnet that counts!
Radio A sounds the best (by far, in one or two cases) until the final comparison. I’ll be interested in learning which is which!
Thomas. The choice is (a) A nice looking Icom radio that would like good on the table, it has controls and a display. (b) An ugly tin box to be hidden out of sight and controlled with a computer giving no radio “feel” to enjoy.
This is not a competition! I will vote for the Icom without even listening to the results, I do not care if the tin box has any technical advantage. Listening to amateurs talking about their Icom purchase they are really thrilled with it. Prove beyond doubt that the tin box is better but that will not mean that the Icom is a poor radio ! Sorry Thomas but for me there is no contest to take part in !!!!!
Ha! I understand. Frankly, I like the best of both worlds (SDRs and tabletops with knobs/dials). I suppose that’s the appeal of the IC-7300. It’s a little bit of both! That spectrum display is pretty amazing and large enough to be useful.