Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dave Zantow (N9EWO) and Larry W who both note that the IC-7200 has been discontinued once again by Icom. Universal Radio has even listed it as discontinued on their website and doesn’t appear to have any in new inventory.
I consider the IC-7200 to be one of the best general coverage transceivers for broadcast listening under $1,000 US. Used IC-7200s can be found for excellent prices–I’ve seen many at hamfests for $650 (like new) and much less.
Spotted at a local hamfest earlier this year: The IC-7200
The Yaesu FT-890: One of many general coverage HF transceivers spotted in the 2017 Hamvention flea market.
Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Joe, who writes:
I’ve been practicing for my Technician ham radio license here in the US and am ready for the test. I’m already looking at HF transceivers even though I don’t have my General license yet.
Here’s what’s important to me:
I will still do a lot of SW DX
Something that has at least decent audio
Something that isn’t too too huge; though I’m a little flexible on size
I need something that has a receiver that handles weak DX well
I’d be comfortable spending $500 any day all day no problem. Anything higher than that and I’d really have to think it’s an investment in my radio future.
Thanks for your question, Joe, and allowing me to post it here for comment as this is one I’m frequently asked.
First of all, congratulations on studying for and taking your ham radio license exam! I’m a ham and absolutely love the radio privileges my license provides.
At the same time, I’m still more of an SWL than a ham–meaning, I spend way more time chasing SWL DX than doing on-air ham operations.
With that said, I always seek radios that will serve me well as both a ham and SWL, if possible.
My humble advice
If we stick with your $500 budget strictly, then we’re certainly looking at used transceivers. That’s okay–there are many good ones on the market!
I posted the following review of general coverage transceivers a few years ago. The info in it is still very much accurate in the used market. I would suggest you give it a good review as it goes into more detail about the ins and outs of your first transceiver and the importance of leaving budget to purchase a good power supply:
Comparing the size of the Elecraft KX3 (top) and KX2 (bottom) at Elecraft’s Dayton Hamvention booth.
You can find the KX3 used for $700-900 (depending on options). The bare-bones model of the KX2 can be purchased new from Elecraft for $749.
Of course, something to keep in mind about the Elecraft KX series transceiver is that output power is limited to 12-15 watts. Some of the general coverage transceivers mentioned in our review have a much higher 100 watt output power.
Additionally, the audio fidelity (via the internal speaker) is not as good as many other general coverage transceivers. Audio amplification is not as powerful, because both transceivers are designed to operate on a small battery pack (a major plus in my world because I love field-portable rigs).
Since I do 90% of my radio work with headphones, audio amplification is not a problem for me and I’m quite please with both KX line transceivers. Many KX series owners purchase external amplified speakers to improve audio.
New, the IC-7200 is about $879 US, but they can be found used closer to the $650 – 750 mark. A very good value in my book. In fact, I’m very tempted to buy one as my 100 watt “shack and field” rig. It’s way more user-friendly on Field Day than my Elecraft K2/100 and, in many ways, a better option than purchasing an Elecraft amp for my KX3/KX2.
Any other good suggestions?
The Kenwood TS-480SAT is full-featured, small, and has a detachable face plate. A very good general coverage transceiver.
Just FYI. Yes, the Icom IC-7200 is “Back in Production”
” The Icom IC-7200 HF DSP Transceiver is back in production once again (at least for now). Unknown if any part / design changes had to be made to make this possible ? Let’s hope they are using better quality Chinese fans ?? We TRIED 2 brand new samples near the end of the last run and it’s internal “Dual Mini Chinese Fans” BOTH squealed like a pig.[…]”
See my news page for the latest info on this (among other latest happenings including a bit more on the Sangean 909X saga).
I believe the Icom IC-7200 has one of the best general coverage receivers on the market under $1000. I pointed this out in my General Coverage Transceiver review from 2014. I should hope that ham radio clubs might take note about the re-introduction of the IC-7200 and consider purchasing it over the less expensive IC-718 for Field Day or club station use. I’m no fan of the IC-718 as it’s a miserable performer in RF-rich environments like Field Day and radio contests.
Icom IC-7200 “Last Call” : It appears that the Icom IC-7200 DSP HF Transceiver is discontinued (or near of being discontinued) and dealers are now selling the last production samples. Information as via the Gigaparts (US Icom dealer) web site. If you always wanted a brand new Icom IC-7200 model , better grab it while you still can. Yes…here we go again, but the model is on the way out for sure this time. […]
Though I don’t own an IC-7200, I’m a little sad to see that it’ll no longer be produced. I’ve used one on the air before and thought it packed a lot of performance for the price. I think it’s an ideal ham radio club transceiver as it’s easy to use and has virtually no learning curve (for those who are familiar with transceivers)–a very good choice as a field day rig.
The Icom IC-7200 has an excellent general coverage receiver
Like many amateur radio operators, I became interested in HF radio because of my real passion for shortwave radio listening. During my first fifteen years as an SWL, I relied on portable receivers, in my case, the Zenith Transoceanic, Realistic DX-440, and Grundig YB 400. The Zenith was my home radio; I traveled with the DX-440 and YB400. I felt like I had the world at my fingertips.
In the mid 1990s, as an undergraduate, I decided that I would pursue my ham radio license–while on my student budget, I dreamed about upgrading to a proper tabletop receiver like a Kenwood, Icom, JRC or Drake. But when I found out the real cost of buying an HF transceiver (gasp!) I realized that all of my resources would go into a transceiver, and the receiver would just have to wait.
The Icom IC-735 general coverage transceiver
Then, as I was studying for my license in 1997, ham buddy Eric McFadden (WD8RIF) invited me over to his house to test drive his Icom IC-735 transceiver. Eric, along with another friend/elmer, Mike (K8RAT) encouraged me to look for a used IC-735 for an affordable first HF radio.
I recall very well tuning around the ham bands at Eric’s QTH and being most impressed with how the IC-735 seemed to pull signals out of the static. It was my first time ever tuning a tabletop rig, and I was instantly hooked. Later, I asked Eric if the ’735 could also tune in shortwave radio broadcasters? His energetic response: “Sure! The ‘735 is general coverage,” then demonstrated by tuning to the 31M band.
Needless to say, I was absolutely amazed by the number of stations one could hear on this ham radio transceiver. Of course, its sensitivity surpassed anything I had ever owned, especially considering that the rig was hooked up to a proper outdoor wire antenna. I realized then that a ham radio transceiver and receiver–in the same radio–were within my financial grasp.
So, what is “general coverage”––?
A ham transceiver with “general coverage” means that the receiver portion of the radio is not limited to the ham bands only; these receivers typically receive between 100 kHz and 30 MHz (i.e., the full medium and shortwave radio spectrum). Many transceivers, starting in the 1980s, employed a general coverage design as a feature of the radio. Some radios implemented general coverage receiving better than others. In most cases, there was a compromise to performance when the receiver was opened to general coverage reception, so many manufactures held to a ham-band-only platform to optimize performance where hams sought it most. Today, receiver architecture can better accommodate general coverage without compromising sensitivity and selectivity on the ham bands.
Still, in 1997, my Icom IC-735 met all of my ham radio and SWLing expectations. For years, in fact, it was my main SWLing rig. Was the IC-735 as good as a proper tabletop receiver? No. The truth is that its filters and performance were most favorable for the ham radio bands. But as I mentioned, this compromise is much less profound in current transceiver design, and general coverage is status quo.
Benefits of general coverage
Apps like Amateur Radio Exam Prep make exam practice easy and convenient
While the benefit of having a transceiver that can tune the full broadcast band may seem obvious, there are two reasons I always have at least one general coverage transceiver in my radio arsenal:
Since I like to travel and save space, a small general coverage transceiver (e.g., the Elecraft KX3) kills two birds with one (portable) stone;
If an emergency, such as a dire weather event were to occur, general coverage will allow me the ability to monitor international broadcasters and local AM (mediumwave) stations while still performing any emcomm (emergency communications) duties.
Another advantage to owning a proper HF transceiver is that, if you currently do not hold an amateur radio license, this may just be the push you need to get your ticket! All you’ll need to do is take two multiple choice tests (Technician and General) to unlock the full potential of your HF transceiver, and you’ll soon enjoy hamming it up with the rest of us.
Cons of general coverage
As I mentioned, general coverage transceivers can present something of a compromise in performance; after all, the rig’s main duty is to perform on the ham bands. Here are a few compromises to be aware of:
With a few exceptions, purchasing a ham transceiver is pricier than purchasing a comparable dedicated broadcast receiver
AM filters are often much narrower than broadcast receiver filters
In many radios, you may be faced with a choice of optimizing filter selections for ham radio use (SSB or CW) or broadcast use (wide AM filters, etc.)
Older general coverage transceivers (circa 1980s and 90s) may have somewhat compromised ham band receive performance
Some general coverage transceivers may actually lack AM mode. All broadcast reception will basically be tuned via SSB (or better known as ECSS)
General coverage transceivers typically lack synchronous detection
Another consideration: while anyone can purchase a general coverage ham radio transceiver, until you hold an amateur radio license with HF privileges, you cannot legally transmit using your radio. I doubt that any readers would consider doing this intentionally, but again your radio is designed to transmit, so this could be done accidently especially if you’re not familiar with transceiver functions. Transmitting unintentionally can have more than legal repercussions: 1) if you transmit with a mis-match between your transmitter and antenna, you could harm the finals in your transceiver; 2) you could damage your radio and/or antenna if using a receive-only antenna (like a mag loop); and 3) you could even receive RF burn. To avoid this, and make it foolproof, search the web for modifications to temporarily disable “transmit” on your radio if indeed you never intend to transmit.
A note about power supplies
My trusty Astron Power Supply
Unlike stand-alone receivers, most general coverage transceivers require an external DC power supply. If you do not have a power supply, you will need to fit this into your budget. Power supplies can be costly, but also an investment in longevity. With a little knowledge up front, you can be selective and save on your power supply purchase. As I have been using the same power supply (an Astron RS-35A) since 1997, I turned to my friend Fred Osterman, president and owner of Universal Radio, for suggestions on power supplies currently in production.
Fred pointed out that if your only goal is to power a transceiver for the receive function, there is no need to invest in an expensive power supply. He suggests a reliable, regulated power supply, such as their popular $35 (US) Pyramid PS-4KX: at 3.5 amps; indeed, the PS-4KX will be more than enough power for any transceiver in receive mode.
Of course, if you plan to transmit at full power–and unless you have a QRP radio–you will need a power supply that can handle the load. For this purpose, Fred suggests two excellent options:
Again, I’ve had my trusty Astron RS-35A since 1997, so once you’ve invested in a good power supply, you should be all set for many years–and radios–to come.
My old 1 amp regulated laptop power supply is more than adequate for SWLing on the Elecraft KX3
Transceivers: Good bets for $1,600 US or less
There are dozens of general coverage transceivers currently on the amateur radio market. Indeed, I don’t believe there are any rigs now in production that do not have a general coverage receiver, or at least the option to add it. Prices vary greatly, but I will assume that most SWLs that are considering the leap into amateur radio will want a radio that costs less than the price of a tabletop radio/transceiver combo. Just to keep things simple, we’ll limit our list to $1,600 US or less, beginning with the least expensive option.
Alinco DX-SR8T ($510 US)
The Alinco DX-SR8 has a detachable face plate
The DX-SR8T ($510 US) is one of the most affordable general coverage transceivers on the market. To be clear, the DX-SR8T lacks many of the frills and features of pricier rigs, but it’s a surprisingly good transceiver and, of course, general coverage shortwave receiver. Indeed, Alinco actually markets a receive-only version of this radio (the DX-R8T, $450US); it is identical in every respect to the DX-SR8T, but simply has no transmit function.
While I have only used the DX-SR8T on a few occasions, I have spent a couple of years with the DX-R8T, and even reviewed it extensively in the SWLing Post. My DX-R8T began life as a review unit that I purchased––it was an early production unit, and even retained the transmit LED indicator found on its sibling, the DX-SR8T. Consider paying the extra $60 US for the DX-SR8T, and you’ll have a basic, full-featured transceiver.
You can purchase the IC-7200 from Universal Radio or other ham radio equipment retailers.
The Icom IC-7200 ($900 US)
The Icom IC-7200
The IC-7200 delivers a lot of performance for a sub-$1,000 price. Its general coverage receiver will rival that of the venerable R75, and its AM filter can be widened to 6 kHz. Ergonomics are better than average. Plus, it has Icom’s twin passband tuning: the IC-7200’s general coverage receiver actually tunes from 30 kHz all the way to 60 MHz. The IC-7200 is a fantastic value.
You can purchase the IC-7200 from Universal Radio or other ham radio equipment retailers.
The Elecraft KX3 ($900 kit; $1,000 factory pre-assembled)
The Elecraft KX3
The Elecraft KX3 is my general coverage transceiver of choice. There’s so much about this radio that I like: it’s nearly as compact as my portable shortwave radios, it’s a full-featured transceiver, it can operate on batteries, it has good ergonomics, and is made and supported by Elecraft, right here in the USA.
Its sensitivity and selectivity rival radios three times its price. The only negative I can point out about the KX3, in comparison with many other general coverage transceivers, is that its AM filter is limited to a width of 4.2 kHZ. When I first learned of this, I thought it would be a deal-killer for me. But I was wrong. The audio sounds much more robust and “wide” than I would ever have guessed. It’s excellent. Want more details? I made an extensive review of the Elecraft KX3 in the SWLing Post.
If you happen to be a ham looking to upgrade their transceiver for benchmark performance, you may be willing to dedicate more funds to your purchase. My buddy, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), a discriminating reviewer for the late great Passport To World Band Radio, is very pleased using his Icom IC-7600 for broadcast listening. He told me recently, “[The IC-7600 is] not perfect, of course, but does perform near excellent and also has a great display [with] a very useful spectrum scope.” Dave has a full review of the IC-7600 posted on his website.
The Ten-Tec OMNI VII
I have also been impressed with the superb broadcast reception of the Ten-Tec OMNI VII ($2,800 US), Ten-Tec Eagle ($1,800 plus wide AM filter) and Orion series transceivers. While the OMNI VII and Orion II will set you back more than $2,000, used original Orions can be found for $1,800 and even less. Ten-Tec still services all of their radios at their headquarters in Sevierville, Tennessee.
If you would like to save some money, consider searching the used market for one of the radios mentioned above. Alternatively, look for some of these select transceivers that are no longer in production, but are known to have capable general coverage receivers (do note that what follows is simply a selection, not a comprehensive list):
Keep in mind, when you purchase a quality used radio, you can get excellent value for the performance it will reward you. The flip side of this, though, is that if you purchase a radio that hasn’t been in production for over a decade, the chances of finding replacement parts become more difficult with each passing year.
With the option wide AM filter installed, the Ten-Tec Eagle makes from an amazing broadcast receiver. They are available new from Ten-Tec, but can also be found used.
If you plan on investing in a fine communications radio, it may be best to economize by investing in a good general coverage transceiver. For the prospective ham, the leap from a tabletop receiver to a fine general coverage transceiver may be less than $300. To prove my point, if an SWL planning to get a ham ticket asks about buying the venerable Icom R75, I would encourage spending $250 to get the Icom IC-7200, instead.
Indeed, with modern receiver architecture, there is little reason not to invest in a good general coverage receiver that you can also use to communicate all over the world when you get your ham ticket. And, need I add, it’s fantastic fun for the money.