The Icom IC-705 is about to achieve ‘Holy Grail’ status

In 2019, shortly after Icom announced the Icom IC-705, I speculated that this rig might be a contender for “Holy Grail” status.

I must admit…the more I use this radio, the more I love it. It is a proper Swiss Army Knife of a radio. Even though I’ve owned and operated it for a few months, I still haven’t explored all that it can do, and I keep finding features I love.

Case in point

Yesterday, I upgraded my IC-705’s firmware. Unlike other devices I’ve been evaluating recently, IC-705 firmware updates aren’t fixing numerous bugs and issues, rather they’re adding more functionality.

After completing the upgrade, I hooked the ‘705 up to my main antenna and worked a few Parks On The Air (POTA) stations off of the supplied battery pack (instead of a power supply). While I worked on other projects in the shack, I checked the POTA spots and work a few stations with a whopping 5 watts of output power.

After a couple hours on the air (mostly listening), the internal battery pack still had a good 60-70% capacity.

At one point, I tried a little daytime mediumwave DXing and cruised past 630 kHz which some of you might already know is the home of one of my favorite hometown radio stations, WAIZ.

From my home, WAIZ is a tough catch, so it was weak, but I could hear it.

This reminded me that I had made a recording of WAIZ with the IC-705 when in my hometown earlier this month.

Normally, I pull the MicroSD card out of the IC-705–which almost requires needle nose pliers and is one of my few complaints about this rig–and view the files on my PC or MacBook, but I was curious if perhaps the IC-705 software had a built-in file display.

Of course it does!

Simply press the MENU button, then the RECORD button on the touch screen, and you’ll see the following selections:

Press “Play Files” and you then see a list of folders organized by date:

Click on a folder and you’ll see a list of recordings made that day:

Here’s the genius bit for those of us who like to archive broadcast recordings…the IC-705 embeds the following meta data:

  • Date of recording
  • Start time of recording
  • Recording length
  • Frequency
  • Mode

These are some of the most important pieces of information I use to index my audio recordings and the IC-705 does this automatically.  In fact, if you allow the IC-705 to gather its time information from the internal GPS, the time stamp will be incredibly accurate.

The only thing I add to the file name after export is the broadcaster name/station callsign.

If that wasn’t enough, if you touch one of the recording files, the IC-705 will open it in an audio player:

The built-in player displays the meta data, and even includes a number of controls like fast-forward, rewind, skip to next or previous file. and pause.

I’m sure this is the same audio player found in the IC-7300, IC-R8600 and other late-model Icom SDR rigs. But in a portable battery powered transceiver? This is a genius feature.

As I type this post I’m listening to the audio from the WAIZ file shown above. I can imagine when I’m able to travel again (post-pandemic), how useful this will for one-bag air travel.

(If you’d like to listen to WAIZ, check out these ‘705 recordings.)

Not only is the IC-705 a QRP transceiver and wideband multi-mode general coverage receiver, but it’s a recorder and audio player with a built-in front-facing speaker. I can set this transceiver at my hotel bedside and listen to recordings I made in the field earlier that day or week.

Keep in mind that the IC-705 is an expensive radio–certainly one of the most pricey QRP radios ever produced at $1,300 US (at time of posting although I’m sure we’ll start seeing lower pricing this year). But if you’re an SWL and ham, you’ll find the IC-705 is the most versatile portable transceiver on the market. If you’re an SWL only, you can disable the transmit on the IC-705 and essentially have a portable battery-powered SDR receiver with built-in audio recording and playback with color touch screen spectrum and waterfall display.

Despite the price, this is Holy Grail territory in my book.

Icom IC-705 Review

If you subscribe to The Spectrum Monitor magazine, you’ll be able to read my (4,000 word!) review of the IC-705 in the upcoming February 2021 issue.

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26 thoughts on “The Icom IC-705 is about to achieve ‘Holy Grail’ status

  1. Tom

    Love what I see about the 705. Will buy one this year. Then I hope Icom will make their next offering a 7310:
    All features of IC-705
    Separate HF/VHF-UHF antenna connections
    Ability to monitor VHF/UHF while working HF
    100 W power
    Desktop configuration (All connections at rear except phones and mic)
    Makes sense, no?

    Reply
  2. Matt Todd

    I have a 7300, which seems to be the big brother to this radio. Recording is one of the most useful and my favorite features. I have every qso I’ve made with the radio recorded which is handy to listen back if I messed up a callsign. I’ve also used it to put together a video or two of my POTA activation. Along with the recorder function is a the voice keyer. This saves my voice so much when doing POTA from continuously calling CQ POTA. And of course like you mentioned its great for recording broadcasts and other interesting things one comes across.

    Reply
  3. Jim

    Does anyone consider the 705 to have really “hot” medium wave reception? I currently have a FT-891 which is very good, but I would consider getting something better for portable MW DXing.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      So I’ve yet to *really* dive into mediumwave, but I can tell you that it performs better on MW than any other general coverage transceiver I’ve ever owned.

      Reply
    2. 13dka

      I don’t know if I’d consider it particularly “hot” on MW compared to regular portables known to be very sensitive there but OTOH the excellent sensivity of the 705 seems to be tapering off only a few kHz above the lower coverage edge (30kHz), so it doesn’t have the reduced sensitivity ham TRX with general coverage often exhibit on MW. That bein said, I caught my first transatlantic DX stations ever with the 705 in November last year. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Lou

    Most recent Icom rigs and receivers use this system.

    IMHO, this is why the R-30 is one of the best signal stalking receivers while foot mobile. Bluetooth controlled with a very good iOS app, excellent receiver, and great battery life. I can put it in a backpack and walk around without drawing attention.

    Just wish it did DMR but it has been fantastic at digging up info not found on Radio Reference or elsewhere.

    Reply
    1. John

      Completely agree and being a recent convert to the Bluetooth thing was impressed my IC-R30 immediately connected to my Bluetooth earphones/headphones. I’ve yet to get my Bluetooth “compatible” Yaesu and Kenwood handhelds to connect to anything.

      Reply
  5. Ed

    Does the Icom IC-705 audio recorder/player allow audio pre-recorded audio files to be transmitted? Such a feature may be useful for contesting and for other things…

    -Ed

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Actually, the ‘7300 has become THE benchmark for high-performance, full-featured, affordable transceivers. It must be the most popular radio Icom has ever produced. What I love about the IC-705 is that’s it’s like a QRP IC-7300 with so many more features that are useful in the field and for experimentation.

      Reply
        1. Thomas Post author

          It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been accused of being an enabler, Steve. 🙂 [You know you want one. All the cool kids have them!] Hi hi!

          Cheers,
          Thomas
          K4SWL

          Reply
  6. Blob

    Only thing missing from this post is the signature of who wrote it.
    Based on the quality of the post, I am guessing: Tom.

    Thanx, Tom.

    -Bob

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      It is, Bob! I’m trying to find a new theme for the site this year–one that will allow me to move the author link and date to the top of the post.

      Reply
  7. David

    I think the best feature of the recent firmware update is the spectrum scope scroll option. I am using my 705 mainly as a general coverage receiver and can now have in effect a continuous scope without the out of range message popping up. Before I would have to use centre mode and didn’t like how the waterfall trace got dragged across the screen.

    Reply
  8. John B

    All things being equal, for off-grid use in making ham radio QSOs, I’d choose a non-screen, non-uP radio. That screen “bling” is just consuming power in looking pretty much of the time. Internal antenna tuner? Yes, that’s actually quite handy in field use to avoid dragging around another box and another jumper.

    Something like a Elecraft K1 has all the function without the eye candy as an actual CW ham radio appliance.

    Reply
  9. 13dka

    It’s even better than that, Thomas: Navigating your recordings with the keys on the touch screen is nice but even nicer with selecting files with the rotary knob and the VFO knob acting as a “jog wheel” to move the playhead through the file. 🙂

    Reply
    1. 13dka

      Argh…comment section formatting… “MULIT”-rotary knob that is change the file, VFO to skip/jog within the file.

      @andew (grayhat) :Unlike the 7300 it doesn’t have that 200Hz bass rolloff. Instead it has a variable LPF/HPF plus Bass/Treble controls….for each mode independently. The variable LPF is the weapon of choice to mitigate any “digital harshness” some people believe to hear on those radios. For my ears this is ideal with the filter widened to the full 10kHz it offers in AM. The built in speaker is small and sounds OK but of course it’s not a bass wonder. On headphones or external speaker – bliss.

      Reply
      1. 13dka

        Forgot to add, pressing the Multi button selects a folder to browse and a file for playback, it also pauses, continues or restarts playback. The exit button stops playback and takes you one level back to the file or folder selection. The point is, once you got the hang of it, searching through your recordings is incredibly fast and convenient, much better than with stylus. 🙂

        Reply
  10. Andrew (grayhat)

    well, Thomas, sounds like you just found a new favourite rig 🙂 the only “negative point” if you allow me to call it so, is the lack of an internal automatic ATU, that would probably make it the “perfect” portable since one won’t have to carry a separate ATU and could just throw at it whatever field antenna is available

    A question; how is the audio for BC listening ?

    Reply
    1. John

      The IC-705 is a QRP rig.
      Isn’t the whole point of such a rig to use a resonant, or near resonant, antenna to maximize your output.
      I don’t see the lack of an antenna tuner as a deficiency, I think the IC-705 is an incredible QRP rig and well done Icom and their engineers.

      Reply

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