[ Home | Links | VK FAQ | Feedback ]

Icom Amateur Radio Equipment

Last updated: May-09

Since the 1970s Icom has been a major force in radio communications equipment.

While many users of Icom know the brand, some may not realise what a wide range of equipment they actually make. HF and VHF/UHF ham radio transceivers, high power amplifiers, UHF cb radio, HF and VHF marine radios, air band radios, general purpose shortwave receivers or wide band VHF/UHF/SHF receivers.

Icom equipment sells successfully on classifieds sites, on Ebay and other auction sites and in private advertisements.

ICOM HF equipment

While earlier HF ham radio transceivers (IC701/710, IC720, IC740 and IC745) had mixed success, they were recognised as innovative and significant. Even in their earlier models they used phase locked loop LO generators, very slow tuning rates, excellent filter options for narrow bandwidth modes, multi-memory control systems, passband tuning, compact size, all in fully solid state design. I don't think there has ever been a tube in any ICOM radio. To my surprise, in May 07 someone listed for sale on Ebay Australia an Icom 700T and 700R combination - apparently the first HF Icom radios - and the transmitter did have tubes in the output stages! I had never heard of those models before then. They must have been released in Japan and exported privately.

ICOM produced the IC701 in about 1977. This was from memory the first all solid state HF transceiver at the 100 watt power level offered to the amateur market. This radio incorporated dual digital VFOs, sideband change without changing carrier frequency, 160m through to 10m. It was substantially more compact than the hybrid options then marketed by its major competitors and was a major breakthrough, despite having "amateur bands only" frequency range, no memory channels and having 100 Hz tuning increments. The digital tuning dial operated a light chopper which could detect the direction the dial was being turned (ie. clockwise or anticlockwise, tuning the radio up or down in frequency). This method was also used in the IC245 2m radio but a digital tuning dial had not been seen on amateur hf gear before.

ICOM followed the IC701 with the IC720, which included memory channels, the 10, 18 and 24 MHz bands, a general coverage receiver and other changes. Then the IC740 and 745 added more features like noise blankers with variable pulse width (for the woodpecker OHR interference experienced on some HF bands). Perhaps the end of that series was the IC751/A which was the most successful model and included all of the most successful features of its predecessors.

In the 80s and 90s Icom released some remarkable new radios. Base stations with many features including higher power, dual receivers, RF speech processors, multiple filtering options at the 3rd and 4th IF and inbuilt power supplies appeared in radios like the IC761/765, IC780/1. The IC781 had a CRT included to display all the parameters of the radio, including filter and preamp selections, the frequency of both receivers, memory channel numbers etc. The CRT could display the output of a TNC if you were using this rather amazing radio for packet or amtor/pactor modes. In 2005, many years after its release in the late 80s, I found an IC781 at the W1AW station in Newington CT, USA. There it was described by the station manager as one of his favourites. I operated that radio on 18 MHz and it was a very nice radio to use, no doubt about it.

The IC736 introduced the "HF + 6m" trend which continued in many ICOM models. It was a well proportioned base station for HF and 6 metres, with 100w output on all bands. I still have one and it is really a delight to use. With an inbuilt power supply and antenna tuner, it is an excellent package for base station use. I have taken mine on a few field days though - simplifying the equipment list and providing home station comfort for the keen 6m of HF operator.

The IC746 followed, being similar to the IC736 features. It included the 2 metre band but omitted the internal power supply in a more compact shape. It also included IF DSP filtering and noise reduction. The one I owned around 97-99 was superb on all bands.

The IC756 series has had three releases, the PRO, PRO II and PRO III being progressive upgrades of the basic design, which boasts superior receiver performance and extensive DSP functions.

VHF FM and Multimode Radios

My first ICOM radio was an IC22A crystal controlled 2m FM radio. As a model this was a minor change from the earlier IC22. It had 22 crystal controlled channels and gained a good reputation for reliability. It produced 10 watts on the 2m FM band. The IC21A base station for 2m FM was essentially an IC22A in an inbuilt mains power supply but still had the same 22 channel crystal control. An optional external synthesised VFO the DV21 allowed keyboard entry of operating frequency. As these radios relied on crystals for frequency control, the introduction and expansion of FM repeater channels in the 70s triggered some owners to buy additional crystals but many wished to be free of the need to add crystals whenever a new channel was required.

ICOM introduced the IC22S synthesised FM mobile transceiver in the mid 70s and it became one of the most popular and successful 2m FM radios in Australia. While still limited to 22 or so channels, each could be programmed for any desired frequency within the 2m band, using a matrix of diodes to select the divide ratio for the synthesiser. As these radios aged they tended to display problems in their synthesiser boards but I found I could fix all of those problems by merely resoldering the synth boards, focussing mainly on the through-board connections (vias).

I later owned an IC501 six metre band multimode rig, which used a PLL vfo locked to an HF VFO to allow it to use single conversion to a 10.7 MHz IF. A very nice rig to use and I wish I hadn't sold it! This radio was later superseded by the IC551 (10w) and IC551D (80w) models which were fully synthesised, with digital vfo readout.

The VHF/UHF multimode radios IC271A/H and IC471A/H were very successful radios and earned reputations for being reliable and having solid receivers that were hard to shake even nearby high power paging transmitters and other amateur signals. I have successfully used an IC271H on 144.2 MHz SSB within 50 metres of a repeater operating about 3 MHz higher. This is remarkable performance for amateur equipment and one which many other radio types do not match. The IC275H also performs well under the same conditions and I have more recently used an IC910H from the same site with good results.

The satellite capable IC820 (144/432 MHz) produced about 40w and 35w on the 144 and 432 Mhz bands. The IC821 offered similar features but a quite different model the IC970 also had two optional bands, being 1296 MHz and 2300 MHz, a first and so far the only one of the main manufacturers to produce anything capable of operating on the 13 cm band. The IC970 remains quite rare.

The ICOM 910H has been very well received by the amateur VHF/UHF buyers. This comes as a 144/432 MHz radio with 100w and 75w output on those bands. An optional added module adds 1296 MHz to the radio, making it a very useful radio for either a home or a portable station. It also has satellite mode and can receive on one band while transmitting on another.

By adding the 23cm module to the IC910H, you get a three band VHF/UHF radio which is ideal for home or field day operation, giving those three useful bands in one reasonably compact package. I have recently added the DSP module to my IC910H and have found that in some conditions the DSP filtering gives quite a good improvement in readability of weak signals.

ICOM Mobiles

I started using an IC706 in 2004 in a mobile installation. This has to be one of the most successful Icom radios. While the menu system takes a little time to learn, it is a good compromise between the complex front panel with multi-function controls that would otherwise have been necessary, and the limitations on functionality that would have been necessary if the designer had been limited to six control knobs and a VFO. There are no hidden buttons in odd places and once the panel layout is learned sufficiently, the radio is quite easy to use while mobile. I have worked Japan from southern Australia on six metres from the car using an IC706. I later upgraded to an IC706 MkIIg, which provides increased power output on 144 MHz plus 20w on the 430-450 MHz band.

The successor to the IC706 is the IC7000 which is about the same size as the 706 but has a colour LCD /TFT display and can show television programs if you have the right model for your country. One owner remarked that he had tuned his IC7000 to a local tv station and drove along listening to the morning news. It was so like being at home that when a commercial break came on, he almost opened the car door to go out to the kitchen.

A hint to IC706 and possibly IC7000 users, get to know how the Memo pad works. It is a re-usable set of channels you have saved using the MPW key. As you save each new frequency, a new position is used in a rotating list of 8 channels. When you press the MPR (recall) button, the current position in the circle is displayed. Press it again, you get the frequency in next position. If you press it 8 times, you effectively rotate through the 8 memories. This can be used to store your 8 favourite frequencies, making mobile frequency changes easy and safe. It also makes the process of recording a new memory frequency very easy. Use it the same way you use the "clipboard" in Microsoft Windows software. It solves the problem of saving a new memory channel based on an existing memory channel, where you want to retain the original frequency and the new one. It is easy to accidentally lose the new frequency by moving to a different memory channel. By using the MPW key (memo pad write) you retain that frequency in the memo pad stack. To save it in a memory position, you just need to move the memory selector around to the channel number you want, then recall the frequency from the Memo Pad using MPR (memo pad recall). Once you have the saved frequency displayed, use MW (memory write) to save that frequency. Make sure you hold MW long enough to get a double beep indicating you have saved successfully. To do all this means you need to use a judicious combination of the M and G series menus, selected by the Display button. I must admit I don't understand the coding of the three menus (M, G, S) but once you find out how to use them, they are all very handy options.

Buying used Icom equipment

My Icom at Ebay page lists radios currently for sale at Ebay Australia. The ebay search facility for this listing is not sufficiently selective to avoid ads that use the word Icom but are not actually Icom radio equipment. However it gives you a quick view of what's currently being offered for sale there.

You can also find Icom radios for sale at vkham.com's classifieds. You can use the advanced search option to list the Icom ads, or simply list the last 1 or 2 days of all ads.