Icom IC-7300 main shack rig

Early spring cleaning

The spring cleaning of 2016 is early this year. Lot’s of other stuff going on, but a visit to our local HAM club last week turned things up side down. Marcus, PA2DB from the Hamshop payed a visit to our “Radio Souterain” and he did bring a demo model of the Icom IC-7300. I already had my eye on one but didn’t see the rig live yet. Of course it got quite busy when the rig was connected to an antenna in our shack. I waited a little and after a few hours (when most members went back to the bar) I got 15 minutes playtime.

First impression

First thing I noticed was the low QRM the rig picked up. In the shack there is also a Kenwood TS-870 which can give up to S9 of noise (it is a environment with a lot of industrial QRM). The IC-7300 showed S1 noise tops. And when I use the NR and NB the noise even got out of the QSO’s I was able to receive. Really impressive for such a small rig.

Fast waterfall

Second thing I noticed is the really fast waterfall. There must be quite a lot of research put in to designing the sofware and layout of the menu’s. To my surprise it took me 2 minutes to figure out the menu structure and I could find my way around the IC-7300.
And finally I noticed something else: since a long time I had fun again searching HF for stations. I could spend hours operating this little piece of genius but there where more people who wanted to play with it.

Make a decision

Back home this experience got me thinking. I looked around in the shack and I saw all the great radio’s I purchased in the last years. I owned a Elecraft K1. Never use it much. The idea was to go outside to the nearby nature parks and do some morse code. Together with the BuddiPole. But there is so less time to spend on radio, I never got to go out. I owned a TM-D710 in the shack. Great rig! But I’m really not that much of an VHF/UHF-guy. Local repeaters tire me more and more. APRS is fun but then again, I hardly ever use it.

Kenwood TH-D72

My kind of new Kenwood TH-D72 I use daily when riding my bike to work. It has been fun for a year. But the local repeater got so busy, I lost interest. I got a great HF rig, the Kenwood TS-590. For years my solid work horse. But for some reason it doesn’t get me excited anymore. It’s a great rig, don’t get me wrong. But I think I like something new.

And action!

A little voice in my ear whispered: why not selling everything? Leave the old, embrace the new! Sounds like a plan! Spring cleaning came early this year.
Thursday afternoon I photographed every item and put it on a Dutch eBay for sale. It rained e-mails and phone calls! Friday (a day later) I sold everything! Everything except the good old 590. I got a few potential buyers who come take a look next week. I think it won’t be long before it is sold too.
In the meantime my order for the IC-7300 is out. Of course placed at the Hamshop. Not yet available yet, but first shipment arriving the Netherlands is expected next week (around the 29th). I’m really excited. Fun in the hobby again!

ICOM IC-7300I follow the news about Icom’s new rig: the IC-7300 closely. Actually I’m more a Kenwood lover but there is something with the IC-7300 that I love. It’s predecessor (IC-7200) also is a interesting radio, especially for portable use (holidays etc.). My friend PH4M bought an IC-7200 a few years ago and loves it. I got the change to play with it from time to time and I start to grow a little love for Icom. But I didn’t see much use for an IC-7200 in my current shack.
Back to the IC-7300. In a certain way it’s a revolutionary radio, it’s the first of the big three (Icom, Kenwood & Yaesu) which comes with a complete digital sampled RF-path (aka SDR). Sure, it’s not the first amateur SDR-rig. We know FlexRadio has SDR’s for years now and even Elecraft has it’s KX3. But Icom is the first of the big three to come out with a fully SDR-capable rig.

I kinda like the idea of SDR. It makes the device very flexible because future updates can be feed in as software and you don’t need to do much upgrades of the hardware. And if the software (and processor) is fast enough, it will beat good old hardware in performance. Downside of most SDR’s in my opinion is the “new” look & feel of the rig itself. I don’t want a button-less box on my desk and do all the operating from my PC. I don’t like the thin display from Elecraft either. I still want my SDR-rig to be a good old box with button’s on it, but a little smaller then regular rigs. It’s cool to be able to operate the rig via PC if I want to, but not necessarily.
ICOM seems to understands this completely and build the IC-7300! I’m very curious how the rig will operate. From the various reports I found on You-tube, I got a first impression. At a price of around a 1000 euro’s it is a very interesting rig to expand my shack with. I don’t want to get rid of my beloved Kenwood TS-590 for it, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a IC-7300 next to it… According to some sources, the IC-7300 will be available in The Netherlands in January 2016 (it’s already available in Japan).
So I created a money-box to put in savings. I already have saved 100 euro’s. I figured it will take me a year to get the money for this rig. In the meantime I will follow the news closely and if someone buys a IC-7300 I hope I will be able to spend some time operate one.

second TM-D710After I bought my first Kenwood TM-D710 in 2012 I discovered this was the ideal rig for me, mobile as well as stationary. I use it primarily in the shack and took it with me in the car when went mobile. I figured it would be convenient to have a second TM-D710 main-unit in the car, then I only have switch the front panel between shack and car. In order to help me trace a second TM-D710 unit, I set a Google Alert on Kenwood TM-D710.
Forget totally about this alert until a few weeks ago I received a mail there was a new entry for my search term. I clicked it and it was an ad on a local sales site. After a short bid I got a message from it’s previous owner Rudy PD1RVM. So a long story short: a few days later my second TM-D710 arrived. It was still in it’s original box and in mint condition. After some short tests the rig seems fine and I had to determine which one to put in the car and which one stays in the shack.
I did some modifications (adding GPS to the display-unit, swapping the noisy fan of the main-unit). After some thinking I decided to use my old front-panel (with GPS-module) and the main-unit from the second TM-D710(with slightly more noisy fan) in the car. The front-panel of the second TM-D710 went to my old main-unit in the shack. No sooner said then done I tested the config in the car. Worked excellent!
But when testing the setup in the shack, it fails to connect to my weather station. That’s weird! Tried different things but nothing helps. I suspected the GPS-port on the front-panel of the second TM-D710. It had to do something to do with the port. Finally I took apart the front-panel from my old radio, connected the GPS-module to the standard Kenwood wire and connected it to the new front-panel. Indeed, also nothing.
Next step: take apart the new panel and find something blackened. But to my total surprise it wasn’t broke; there was a beautiful build in GPS-module as well! That explains a lot, when there is a GPS-module in it, the serial port is occupied from the inside. I’m never able to see any device I connect from the outside.
Tested the new front-panel in the car to see which GPS-module performed better. No doubt about it: it’s the one in the second TM-D710! It has a fix within 2 second where I had to wait at least a minute for my old GPS-module to get a fix.
Disassembled the GPS-module from my old front-panel and connected the weather-station again. Now it plays immediately.

Now I’m a proud owner of two TM-D710’s. One for mobile and one for my shack.