Tag Archives: IC-R8600

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!

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Icom IC-R8600 added to Sherwood’s Receiver Test Data Table

Icom IC-R8600

Rob Sherwood, at Sherwood Engineering, has now published test results of the Icom IC-R8600 wideband receiver. The IC-R8600 is (impressively) second from the top of the list sorted by third-order dynamic range narrow spaced if phase noise limited:

Click here to view the full list at Sherwood Engineering.

Click here to check out Dan Robinson’s recent review and benchmark receiver comparisons with the IC-R8600.

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Download the ARRL review of the Icom IC-R8600

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who notes that the recent ARRL review of the Icom IC-R8600 is available as a free download via Icom America.

Click here to download (PDF).

Note that Dave continuously updates his own review of the IC-R8600 as well.

Thanks for the tip, Dave!

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Dave reviews the Icom IC-R8600

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO) who writes:

Just FYI. My Icom IC-R8600 “Wide Band” Receiver Review is now available. Mind you this is subject to more updates than usual at least for awhile. For any questions, yes please send them along.

http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/icr8600.html

“The excellent ICOM IC-R8600 “Wide Band” SDR communications receiver. Direct Sampling SDR below 30 Mhz. Hybrid Superhet / SDR above 30 Mhz. It is NOT just a IC-7300 “receiver” section with VHF / UHF Coverage added on (however overall HF receiver performance is similar). In our view the best receiver Icom has produced to date (“Wide Band” or not). One MUST remember this is NOT a “scanner” type receiver, so no Trunking etc. Audio quality while very good, we detected some minor harshness and or spurious gremlins that we could not put a handle on in the AM / FM and WFM modes (with all 3 test speakers, Firmware 1.10, see text) ?? This was not an issue at all with the IC-7300 Transceiver cousin, but it has much less dynamic (flat) audio in comparison.”

Many thanks, Dave! Post readers, please bookmark Dave’s IC-R8600 page for all updates.

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Follow Dave Zantow for Icom IC-R8600 updates and evaluation

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who writes

Have a few IC-R8600 “first observations” posted on the test sample we now have here.

It looks much better in person than in the photos (very nice).

It is also a bit smaller than the IC-7300.

http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/news.html

Thanks, Dave!

I’ll follow Dave’s updates for sure as he’s a thorough and top-notch reviewer.

To give you an idea of what Dave’s evaluated so far, check out some of his initial impressions:

A few “first” IC-R8600 observations (latest 1.10 firmware) :

  • General size is slightly smaller than the IC-7300 SDR HF Transceiver.
  • With the IC-R8600 having a near 2 AMP current draw, does make for very warm operation after a few hours on (that is over double current requirement of what the IC-7300 uses in receive.) It does NOT make use of any cooling fans…whew good news here ! The receiver requires an external power supply, and I REQUIRE my regulated linear power supplies NOT to run HOT with any continuous operation (I would never use a noisy switching supply with it , but that’s my choice). I say the minimum size to use is the Astron RS-12A. While this may seem overkill, we tried a smaller RS-7A and after being on for 2 hours it’s lone pass transistor was too hot to touch which is totally unacceptable to N9EWO’s standards. The RS-12A has 2 pass transistors and a larger heatsink (and thankfully still no fan to create room noise). We have NOT tested a RS-12A with the IC-R8600 to verify this, but should be the one to try (I say don’t go with a lower current model) ???
  • S-AM modes (AM Synchronous Detector) sadly works the same as in the IC-R9500. In other words, it does NOT help with AM mode fading distortion (adjacent interference help only). So another Icom receiver with very poor “Sync” performance. We can HOPE for improvement on this with later firmware update, but I would not hold my breath ?? Yeah, one can use manual ECSS (zero beat in SSB modes) which does excellent, but SSB modes have limited top bandwidth of 3.6 KHz as all Icom’s do.
  • It’s top mounted Internal speaker is surprisingly good for it’s size. Tone control has much larger “Bass” range over the IC-7300 (excellent). Super clean audio as with the IC-7300. Connected to a classic Realistic “Minimius 77” 2 way speaker sounds stunning.
  • Tuning knob is of a “clicky” type (detents) out of the box. Good news , there is to way select a “smooth” feeling knob by moving the 3 position slider adjustment on the bottom of the knob (it’s not so easy to do however). So it goes from left to right : smooth loose – smooth tight – clicky. It has some rotational play in the “clicky” mode (but so does the IC-R9500’s knob in “clicky ” mode), but overall it feels good and this knob scheme was well done.
  • FMBC reception has a strange ACG pumping trait. Of course on the FMW mode the AGC and decay rate are not adjustable.
  • Uses no (or fewer) relays with it’s front end filters at least on SW. The “click and clack” when tuning around with the IC-7300 in the SWBC bands does not exist with the IC-R8600 (uses didoes ??). When we can locate a schematic will tell the whole story here (NOTE : No schematics are included with the set).

I’m really curious to see how the IC-R8600 stacks up to the IC-7300 on the HF bands. Looking forward to your updates, Dave!

Check Dave’s radio page regularly for updates.

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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!

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Video: Icom IC-R8600 sync detector in action

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who shares the following:

For your listening pleasure. Here is the best video yet showing the Icom IC-R8600’s Sync Detector in use.

Sounds like Icom “finally” got the Sync Detector performance right with the R8600. Appears to greatly reduce fading distortion, where as with the expensive IC-R9500 it does not help much with fading distortion (if at all).

Click here to view on YouTube.

Good news indeed !!

I agree, Dave. This is most promising indeed!

I look forward to checking out the IC-R8600 at the Dayton Hamvention this year.

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