Tag Archives: Icom

Which would you choose as a first radio–the Icom IC-7300 or Xiegu G90?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who writes:

This came to me from a friend; he is curious about choosing between the Xiegu G90 and the Icom IC-7300 for his first rig. He has money to buy the Icom which is $999 right now after rebates, but wants to know if he is really getting twice the radio for the Icom, vs the Xiegu, or are there other good reasons to get the 2016-introduced Icom, vs the newly introduced Xiegu.

Maybe this can be a posting to ask your readers? Greatly appreciate it.

Thanks very much
Paul

Thank you for passing along the question, Paul.

While I almost consider this to be an “apples to oranges” question, let’s approach this from a couple of different operator perspectives and truly explore the decision.

I like both radios for different reasons, but first, I’ll tell you what my decision would be if I were in in his shoes…

The Icom IC-7300 SDR transceiver

I would choose the Icom IC-7300

While the Icom IC-7300 does cost twice the amount of a Xiegu G90, it’s a much more versatile transceiver. There are almost too many IC-7300 features to list here, so I’ll mention a few that immediately come to mind, focusing on features the G90 lacks.

For one thing, the IC-7300 is a 100 watt radio, thus the max rated power output is five times that of the Xiegu G90.

The IC-7300 doesn’t require an external sound card for digital modes. Simply plug the radio into you PC with a USB cable, and with your favorite application (like WSJT), you can operate any number of digital modes. (I found configuring the G90 for digital modes to be a bit frustrating.)

The IC-7300 also covers the 6 meter band–the G90 tops out at 10 meters.

The IC-7300 has useful features for contests and field operation like:

  • voice and CW memory keyers with beacon mode,
  • native transmit and received audio recording,
  • a large touch screen display to quickly enter frequencies and adjust settings,
  • audio EQ on both transmit and receive,
  • a built-in bail
  • notch filters and Icom’s twin passband tuning

Again, by no means is this a comprehensive list–just some of the features that come to mind.

As a first rig, the IC-7300 can take you into any aspect or mode of the HF band your friend cares to explore. It must be one of the most popular HF radios on the market right now, so there’s also a massive user and knowledge base out there on the web.

The IC-7300 also has better transmitter specs, producing a cleaner signal than the G90, especially in CW (the G90 is known to produce key clicks and not recommended for use with an amplifier). It also can handle close-in signals better than the G90 and has a higher dynamic range. Overall, it has better specs than the G90.

For a more detailed look at the IC-7300, check out my full review.

Why one might choose the Xiegu G90 over the Icom IC-7300

The Xiegu G90 with upgraded encoder

Let’s get an an obvious point out of the way first: the G90 costs half that ($450) of the IC-7300 (generally $900-1,100). This could leave your friend with even more money to invest in an antenna. As I’ve said so many times before, a radio is only as good as its antenna!

If your friend plans to operate primarily in the field, the Xiegu G90 is much more portable option. The G90 is very compact and weighs a fraction of the IC-7300. The G90 also draws less current in receive mode, so is much kinder on a battery. It also has built-in side extensions to protect the front and back panels while being transported.

The Xiegu G90 has a detachable face plate which would come in handy for mobile installations (although, admittedly, there are a number of better mobile transceivers on the market).

My full review of the Xiegu G90 is in this month’s issue (Aug 2020) of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. It’s nearly a 4,000 word review so is one of the longer ones I’ve produced. If your friend wants to make a decision soon, he/she might purchase this issue to fully explore this rig.

Another option: Yaesu FT-891 and LDG Z-11 Pro 2 external antenna tuner combo

If your friend is seriously considering the Xiegu G90, then I have to assume he/she has portable operation in mind.

Making this assumption, I would also suggest they check out the Yaesu FT-891. Like the IC-7300, it has a full 100 watts output and also covers the 6 meter band. Like the G90, the front panel can be separated from the radio body for easy mobile installation.

Although I have never reviewed the FT-891 (although I plan to before the end of the year), the radio has an almost cult-like following among SWLing Post readers. It’s also a favorite rig of Parks On The Air (POTA) activators because of its 100W output, relatively compact footprint, and great audio characteristics. The G90 and IC-7300 both are based on SDR architecture, the FT-891 is a triple conversion superheterodyne general coverage receiver.

Unlike the IC-7300 and G90, however, the FT-891 lacks an internal antenna tuner (ATU) and I’m guessing your friend wants one based on the fact both the G90 and IC-7300 have one.

The LDG Z-11 Pro 2 ATU

No problem! The Yaesu FT-891 is one of the best bang-for-buck transceivers on the market. The price at time of posting is $609 after rebates. That leaves room to purchase a benchmark portable HF+6 meter antenna tuner. I personally love the LDG Z-11 Pro 2 which would only set them back $169. I’ve owned one of the predecessors of this ATU for nearly a decade. It’s located outdoors, in an enclosure and serves as a remote antenna tuner for my multi-band sky loop. It has operated flawlessly through seasonal temperature extremes and powered by a 15 year old  12V gel cell battery that is charged off of a 5 watt PV panel and Micro M+ charge controller.

The FT-891 and Z11 Pro 2 ATU combo would total $778 which is a nice compromise between the $1,000 IC-7300 and $450 G90.

If your friend wanted a more compact option than the IC-7300, and better specs and more power output than the G90, this FT-891/Z-11 Pro 2 combo would be hard to beat.

Don’t Forget Antennas and Power

As I mentioned before, do your friend a favor and remind him/her to set aside a budget for an antenna.

If you build your own wire antenna, you can create an amazing one for $50 or so in quality ladder line and wire–at least, that’s about what I put into my sky loop antenna. Retailers like Universal Radio, HRO, and Gigaparts stock quality pre-made wire antennas that cost a bit more, but are pre-tuned, durable and very easy to deploy. The type of antenna you can install is totally dependent on the environment around your home, access to your radio room, and any local interference you might need to mitigate.

Of course, all of the radios mentioned above need a DC power supply. There are many on the market from lightweight switching power supplies to heavy linear supplies.

I would not choose one of the cheapest ones you can find because switching power supplies especially can inject noise. I’m a big fan of the Powerwerx SS-30DV which will typically cost around $110 at ham radio retailers (although, at present, it’s one of the many items out-of-stock due to the Covid-19 pandemic). It hits the sweet spot for me and is a little workhorse!

What do you think?

As I always say: radios are a personal choice. Specifications and features make for convenient points of comparison, but often choices are made based on a user’s own needs and operating style.

Between the Xiegu G90 and Icom IC-7300, which would you choose as a first rig? Can you think of a better compromise?  Please comment!


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How would an Icom IC-705 compare with the Xiegu G90?

Xiegu G90 with remote head detached.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who asks:

How does the Icom compare with the Xiegu G90, besides lack of a built-in antenna tuner, and having lower transmit power, and a better screen?

Good question, Paul.

The G90 is a great radio for sure and has better specs and features than I would expect from a $450 transceiver. I’ve taken it on a number of portable field operations and love it. My full review of the G90 will appear in the August 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor.

Keep in mind that at time of posting (July 21, 2020) no one has really reviewed and compared the performance of a production run IC-705 with any other radio as of yet. I will purchase an IC-705 for review as soon as they start shipping in the US, but I don’t expect to be able to do that until September or October at best. So we can’t really speak about performance at this point.

What makes the IC-705 unique in the portable radio market is the number of features it will sport.

Here’s a short list of features the Icom IC-705 has that the Xiegu G90 does not have:

  • Attachable battery pack
  • Lower current drain in receive per Icom specifications
  • CW memory keyer with beacon mode
  • Voice memory keyer with beacon mode
  • D-Star mode with built-in WiFi to connect to Internet/hotspot
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in TX/RX recording
  • Broader receive range: 0.030–199.999 and 400.000–470.000 MHz
  • Multi-mode 6M/2M/70CM TX and RX
  • Touch screen display that is customizable
  • Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Native to digital modes–no external sound card interface needed
  • Frequency stability less than 0.5 +/- ppm in VHF/UHF, making it ideal to drive an amplifier for demanding tasks like EME

The Xiegu G90 actually has a few features that the Icom IC-705 will not:

  • Built-in (very effective) automatic antenna tuner
  • Antenna analyzer function
  • 20 watts of output power (the IC-705 has a max output power of 10 watts using an external 13.8V battery source)
  • 10.8 kHz AM bandwidth (the IC-705 maxes out at 6 kHz per specs)
  • Detachable faceplate which will likely make mounting it mobile even a little easier than the IC-705 (although in truth both transceivers are very compact and should be easy to mount)
  • Side panels that protect the front faceplate and rear connections

At the end of the day, though, the Xiegu G90 is an excellent little budget transceiver. It’s feature-rich compared with other transceivers in this price bracket, but basic compared with the IC-705 or Elecraft KX3 or KX2.

The Icom IC-705 will have a retail cost well over two times that of the G90 but will sport features that no other QRP transceiver has up to this point. In fact, the list of features above is only a sampling.

If none of the unique features of the IC-705 appeal or apply to you and your operating style, save a little money and grab the G90. Or consider spending a bit more for an Elecraft KX2.

If you want an incredibly feature-rich transceiver and are comfortable with a price point in excess of $1100-1200 US (estimated at time of posting), you might delay purchasing until you’ve read a few user reviews of the yet-to-be-released Icom IC-705.

Thanks for your question!


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New Icom IC-705 videos and few answers to your questions

I’ve been getting a number of inquiries from readers lately about the new, yet-to-be-released, Icom IC-705 QRP portable transceiver. Here are a few quick answers to frequent reader questions:

  • “Will you review the IC-705?” Yes, I certainly will. If the loaner unit from Icom has a long lead time, I’ll plan to purchase one from the first production run and may sell it after the review. (Only since I already have *way* too many QRP transceivers!)
  • “When will the IC-705 start shipping to customers?” That’s a tough one to answer and, of course, I have no affiliation with the manufacturer so really can’t comment. As we’ve mentioned before, IC-705 production like other products this year has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on supply chains. I do know that Icom hopes to start shipping the IC-705 within the next few months. Availability may vary based on where you live since Icom has regional market headquarters.
  • “Does the IC-705 have an internal ATU?” No, it does not. However, Icom recently announced that they will produce an antenna tuner for the IC-705 with the model number AH-705. There are no details available at time of posting, but we must assume this is an external ATU.
  • Will it ship with a battery pack, or do we have to buy it separately?” The IC-705 will include a  BP-272 Battery pack, HM-243 Speaker-microphone and OPC-2421 DC power cable.
  • With a color touch screen display, won’t the IC-705 current drain be too much for operating on a battery?” Since I’m primarily a field operator, this was one of my first questions as well. Turns out, Icom has employ some agressive techniques to make that display as efficient as possible. Check out the promising numbers from their recently-published specifications page:
  • Will the IC-705 double as a portable shortwave radio broadcast receiver?” The short answer is yes, but we have yet to actually put this general coverage transceiver to the test. What we do know is that the AM bandwidth can be widened to 6 kHz according to the specifications sheet. We also know that its receiver range is 0.030–199.999 and 400.000–470.000. The IC-705 will cover the entire AM broadcast (mediumwave) band and the entire HF/shortwave spectrum with no gaps. How sensitive the IC-705 will be outside the ham radio bands remains to be seen.
  • Will the IC-705 include the 4 meter band?” I’ve gotten this question from a number of our UK readers. The answer is no. There were conflicting reports early on, but Icom UK posted this message on May 29, 2020 noting: “We regret to inform you that contrary to our earlier messages, the 70MHz (4 Metre) band will not be included in our much anticipated IC-705 QRP SDR transceiver.

Icom IC-705 Videos

A number of YouTube channels have been posting videos of pre-production IC-705 units in operation. Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who’ve shared links to these.

Bob McCreadie (G0FGX) of TX Films via Icom UK

Ham Radio Concepts

Amateur Logic: IC-705 Minimum Current Tweaks


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New videos take a tour of Icom IC-705 features and functions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike, who writes:

Hi, Tom: Icom Japan have just published a couple videos in Japanese where and enthusiastic JH1CBX takes us on a tour of the new IC-705. Although many of us don’t speak Japanese, it’s easy to understand what she’s talking about as she tours the radio features, functions, and ports. I’ve had an IC-705 on “pre-order” for months now, so I appreciate the preview. Perhaps Icom UK or America will follow-up with some videos as well. Thanks for all you do for the shortwave and ham radio community, Tom. 73, Mike

Videos

Thank you Mike! I plan to review the IC-705 and look forward to seeing how well it works in the field.

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The Icom IC-756 Pro and the joy of buttons & controls

Last year, my friend Matt gave me his Icom IC-756 Pro transceiver.

Yep, Matt’s a very generous fellow and, trust me, one of the coolest radio guys you’ll ever meet.

Matt was in the process of moving and told me nothing would make him happier than the transceiver to go to a good home and be put on the air.  Although it’s actually rather difficult for me to accept gifts like this, I did so knowing that Matt still has some of the coolest radios on the planet. In other words, I wasn’t accepting his only HF radio!

I brought the IC-756 Pro home, attached a power cord and antenna then put it on the air.  I just wanted to check out the rig by getting to know the functions and controls much like I do when a new rig lands on my desk for evaluation and review. Thing is, I didn’t stop tuning around for well over two hours!

The IC-756 Pro reminded me how much I miss some of the larger DX or contest-grade receivers and transceivers I’ve had in my shack–most notably, the Ten-Tec OMNI VI PLUS.

For the past few years, with the exception of radios I test and evaluate, I’ve been operating exclusively from the shack with my Elecraft KX3. The KX3 is a fine rig and the ergonomics are well thought-though, but larger rigs (like the IC-756 Pro (II and III), Elecraft K3s, Kenrwood TS-890s, Yaesu FT-DX101, etc. etc.) have a sizeable front panel space that allows for more controls and a larger display. Evidently, I had been missing that.

There’s a reason why we see larger radios being used on DXpeditions even though cargo capacity is often at a premium: performance aside, spacious front panes and informative displays make it easier for radio ops to make quick adjustments without having to reference a manual. You learn how to manipulate the notch, filters, passband, RF gain, split, etc. and muscle memory takes over.

I’m sure this is why SWL DXers like our friend Dan Robinson still prefer and gravitate to commercial, rack-mounted receivers. (I would, too, if I had the room!)

As for the Icom IC-756 Pro, I’ve got it set up to to be my dedicated SSB and digital modes transceiver. I’ll also plan to play a little CW once I find the quarter inch adapter for my key! I haven’t really tested the ‘756 Pro’s performance on the broadcast bands because I have so many dedicated receivers for SWLing and MW DXing in the shack.

The IC-756 Pro is an oldie, but goodie: a very capable transceiver, and a proud resident of SWLing Post HQ.

Not sure if you’ll read this post, Matt, but thank you once again. I’m truly enjoying this rig!

Post Readers: What’s your favorite “big” rig? Please comment with details!

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Radios that may not be benchmark, but are pure fun–!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John R Palmer, who replied to our previous post about radio regrets with a question.

John asks:

Name a piece of radio gear that for some reason, technical, emotional, design etc. that you’ve gotten more fun using than you would ever have expected based on its price, maybe more so than other much more expensive radios you’ve owned. Just a piece of gear that really hit the spot and you’ve had a blast using.

That’s a tough question indeed, John. I hope readers will chime in with their replies–I’m very curious!

So I gave this quite a bit of thought and came up with two radios–one shortwave portable and one general coverage ham radio transceiver:

The Radio Shack DX-351

In 1996, I worked for a Radio Shack corporate store in Athens, Ohio. I believe we were getting ready for the Black Friday/Christmas season and the store manager decided to go through a pile of broken items customers has returned using their extended warranty. He had accumulated quite a number of returns in a box next to his desk in the back of the store. I stayed after hours to help him organize the shelves and prepare for incoming shipments.

Most of the items in his box were physically broken, but still covered by the extended warranty (to their credit, many RS store managers were quite flexible with extended warranty returns). He pulled out a Radio Shack DX-351 from the box.

The customer returned this portable because the AM/FM/SW slider switch was broken. My manager knew I was an SWL, so asked if I wanted it. He said, “If you don’t, it goes into the trash can because we can’t re-sell it.

How could I resist?

This DX-351 was “well-loved.” I can’t remember all of the details, but the AM/FM/SW band switch could not be fixed, but I didn’t mind because the receiver was stuck on the shortwave band and the other shortwave band switch worked perfectly.

The DX-351 was a joy to use and amazingly sensitive! It wasn’t particularly selective, but it served me well for many years living, primarily, in the glove compartment of my car. If I took a road trip, a lunch break at the park, or if I was simply waiting in a parking lot to pick up my wife, I’d pull out the DX-351 and tune in the world.

The thing was pure fun to tune.

The Icom IC-735

In the world of general coverage ham radio transceivers, the Icom IC-735 would be my choice.

The IC-735 was my first ham radio transceiver. I used my hard-earned savings (from working at Radio Shack!) to buy a used unit via the now closed Burghardt Amateur Radio Center in South Dakota. My friends, Eric (WD8RIF) and Mike (K8RAT), believed a used IC-735 would serve me well. They were right!

What I really loved about the IC-735 was that it had all of the features and modes I needed. It was easy to operate and, while I couldn’t call its receiver “benchmark” by any means, it was amazingly sensitive and selective.

I logged hundreds of hours on this radio in both SSB and CW, working DX across the globe.

But I spent even more time SWLing. Turns out, the IC-735’s general coverage receiver did justice to shortwave broadcasts. The AM filter was wide enough to produce wonderful audio (especially via an external speaker or headphones). For years, the IC-735 was my go-to shortwave radio because it performed so much better than any other radios–mostly portables–I had at the time.

The IC-735 was so much fun to use.

I did eventually sell it, if memory serves, to purchase my first Elecraft K2 transceiver.

What are your choices?

So what are the radios you’ve owned that may not sport the best performance, and may not have been terribly expensive, but were pure fun to put on the air–? Perhaps you still own one? Please comment!

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