Giuseppe compares the Icom IC-R8600 with the IC-705

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Fisoni, who reached out a few weeks ago noting that he was very impressed with the Icom IC-705‘s receiver performance even compared with his Icom IC-R8600 wideband receiver.

I asked Giuseppe if he would perhaps write up a short informal report to share here on the SWLing Post. He just sent me the following notes:


Hi Thomas,

[…]Consider this more of a qualitative comparison – just S meter readings with a few brief notes.

My overall impression is that the IC-705 is a fantastic SW receiver, as you’ve already made clear on all your posts. In most cases, it holds up well against the IC-R8600, and even performs better in some cases. I have some notes below, which you are welcome to share with your readers if you’d like. For a while I also had two IC-705s in my hands, so I even got to test “replicas” with the 705 (there was no major difference but it was still fun to do).

A few things about my comparisons:
1. All tests were done using a 50’ long wire antenna (house to tree) with an un-un.
2. The IC-R8600 was operated using an ICOM AC adaptor (creating a disadvantage), while the IC-705 was run on battery. However, I tried to only compare stations where the noise floors were comparable and the 8600 didn’t have any RFI.
3. I tried my best to normalize the RF gains on each radio, but this became somewhat difficult. I’m not sure if they are on the same scale (i.e. does 80% RF gain mean the same thing on both radios?). Also, I very quickly noticed that turning up the RF gain on the 8600 only increased the S meter reading and apparent noise floor on the waterfall spectrum, but it did not actually make the audible signal or noise audibly stronger. This was especially true from 50% and up on the RF gain. In contrast, the RF gain on the 705 operated as you’d expect – the more you turned it up, the higher the gain on the signal (and noise), evenly across 0-100%.

Test #1

2021.02.08
0211 UTC
3,330 kHz CHU

IC-705: weak signal but audible, S6
IC-R8600: no signal!

Winner: clearly 705. Shocked the 8600 couldn’t pick up CHU!

Test #2

2021.02.08
0219 UTC
3,215 kHz WWCR Nashville

IC-705: S9+20
IC-R8600: S9+20 to S9+40.

Winner: Tie – although the 8600 had a stronger signal on the S meter, it didn’t really sound any better than the S9+20 on the 705.

Test #3

2021.02.18
1958 UTC
9,690 kHz Radio Espana Exterior

IC-705: S9 to S9+10
IC-R8600: S9+20

Winner: Another tie – the stronger signal didn’t make much of a difference. The 8600 only sounded slightly better because of its speaker, not the receiver, so I’m calling it a tie.

Test #4

2021.02.18
2001 UTC
10,000 kHZ WWV

IC-705: S3, very weak
IC-R8600: S7 to S9 but high atmospheric noise

Winner: 8600

Test #5

2021.02.18
2006 UTC
11,820 kHz Radio Riyadh

IC-705: S1, barely detectable
IC-R8600: S5 to S7, intelligibility unstable

Winner: 8600

Test #6

2021.02.18
2012 UTC
15,000 kHz WWV

IC-705: S3 to S5
IC-R8600: S9, slightly clearer and crisper tones

Winner: 8600, but not by much

Test #7

2021.02.18
2015 UTC
15,580 kHz VOA Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana

IC-705: S1 to S3, in and out with fading
IC-R8600: S9, much more stable signal

Winner: 8600

Test #8

2021.02.19
00016 UTC
7,780 kHz WRMI Slovakia International

IC-705: S9 solid, stable signal
IC-R8600: S9, same

Winner: Tie

Test #8

2021.02.18
0022 UTC
6,604 kHz USB Gander VOLMET

IC-705: S5 to S7
IC-R8600: S9

Winner: Tie, no real difference

Test #9

2021.04.09
2335 UTC
11,940 kHz Radio Exterior Espana

IC-705: S5 to S9 solid signal with some fading
IC-R8600: S9

Winner: Tie – no obvious difference

Test #10

2344 UTC
9,420 kHz Helliniki Radiophonia, Greece

IC-705: S9 +20. Excellent signal
IC-R8600: S9+ 20-30. Excellent signal

Winner: Again, a tie. But the wonderful Greek music reminds you again how much better the speaker is on the 8600.

Overall

Here’s the important thing: even though in most cases the IC-R8600 pulled in a much higher S meter reading, it often didn’t matter unless the difference between the two radios was a lot. In cases where it mattered, I could have turned up the RF gain or preamp on the 705 to match the signal on the 8600 (unless it was really weak on the 705), but I was trying to avoid that for the sake of having some baseline for comparison. How comparable are RF gain levels across ICOM radios?

IC-705 pros/cons take aways for me:

    • High level of portability and ability to operate on battery
    • Has desktop-like features and controls
    • Ability to use tripod or custom stand offers custom ergonomics (I found it easier to look at and interact with than the 8600, which has a lower angle of display)
    • All-in-one package: SWR + HF/VHF/UHF transceiver
    • Built-in audio speaker leaves a lot to be desired, definitely not desktop receiver audio quality
    • No stereo headphone jack

My verdict

I am quite impressed with the IC-705! I am looking to downsize my radios and these comparisons have convinced me that the 705 can really check a lot of boxes for what I am looking for in a radio. I think it really offers a lot in a small footprint, which I find very impressive. So, since I have no use in monitoring anything above UHF, I will be looking to sell the IC-R8600, even though it is also a very great radio.

All the best,
Giuseppe


Fascinating report, Giuseppe! Thank you so much for taking the time to perform these comparisons and sharing them with us.

Like you, I believe the IC-705 could replace a number of my other radios. I originally purchased it for my review and planned to sell it after, but quickly realized there’s no way I’m selling it. In fact, it could convince me to sell other radios it effectively makes redundant.

For SWLs who have limited space for a listening post in their home and who like to take their radio to the field, the IC-705 is a no-brainer. It’s an investment at $1,300 US, but I believe it’s a quality rig and certainly an outstanding, feature-packed unit.

I’ve found that the IC-705’s performance on HF and Mediumwave is truly DX-grade. I imagine its FM performance is as well.

It’s funny that you mention the IC-705 front-facing speaker as a con, because I often tout it as a pro. Thing is, I’m most often comparing the IC-705 with other field-portable QRP transceivers. Compared with them, the IC-705 speaker is amazing.  But compared to the IC-R8600 or, say, a Drake R8B or SW8? Yeah, I agree with you 100%–it’s just not in the same league with those tabletop receivers. Of course, you can port out the audio to a better speaker if needed. (Indeed, the IC-705 even has built-in Bluetooth!)

Thanks again for sharing your notes with us, Giuseppe!

Spread the radio love

8 thoughts on “Giuseppe compares the Icom IC-R8600 with the IC-705

  1. zhuyi

    Dear Giuseppe,

    i am zhuyi from China. I read your article ?Giuseppe compares the Icom IC-R8600 with the IC-705??and I am so inspired with your device review article. Would you mind my transfering your article to wechat (weixin) public account is ??????ID: ham_cn? ? I will mark out the author and source if you do. thank you !

    Zhuyi BG5WKP

    Reply
    1. Giuseppe Fisoni

      Hi Zhuyi,

      of course! As long as you link it back to the original SWLing URL, totally fine by me. Please write back if you find anyone who also has both radios, would be interesting to see their experiences.

      – Giuseppe

      Reply
  2. ThaDood

    Did he try and do tests 20MHz and above? With such marginal conditions today, weak 10M beacon, WWV on 25MHz, 10M FM repeaters, 2M SSB / CW, etc. Longwave would be neat to try. I’d like to see if there’s a difference on 60kHz with WWVB, between the two rigs. Still, a very interesting test. Just my take.

    Reply
    1. Giuseppe Fisoni

      hi ThaDood,

      I didn’t do any real tests above 20MHz. All I can say is that 2M local repeaters were not significantly different, including 70cm D-STAR. Earlier in the winter I was able routinely to pick up 60kHz WWVB on the 8600 several times (and confirmed with QSL cards), but since I received the 705 a few months ago, atmospheric conditions have not been great here and I haven’t been able to pick it up on either radio. What I didn’t say in the post above is that the 705 seems to be better for NDBs, but I couldn’t always rule out RFI on the 8600 as the culprit. Still, I got the feeling that it might be better than the 8600.

      -Giuseppe

      Reply
  3. Peter L

    Clearly, Stereo reception on the FM Broadcast band, or lack thereof, is not a big issue on this radio (see lack of stereo headphone jack above) … but does the same hold true for a Bluetooth connection?

    Between what I learned at the Winter SWL vFest and reports like these, that IC-R8600 that had my name on it looks less and less likely to appear here at N5UWY. The fact that I am a ham and at least semi-active on D-STAR is not helping the case for the ‘8600 (it does receive D-STAR at least). 🙂

    Thank you, Giuseppe!

    Reply
  4. Mark David

    Thanks for report Giuseppe.
    Regarding CHU, they transmit with carrier and one sideband only (emission type H3E). The lower sideband is suppressed.
    Could that explain why the 8600 was not hearing it? (if in fact you had the 8600 set to LSB?)
    -Mark

    Reply
    1. Giuseppe

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t have the 8600 set to LSB, I usually listen to CHU on AM or USB. I even triple checked that I had the antenna plugged in the right socket : )

      I can’t explain it other than sometimes I’ve noticed odd (and inconsistent) differences between the radios with weaker signals.

      Would be interesting to hear if someone else out there with an 8600 has had similar experiences.

      -Giuseppe

      Reply

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