Author Post

VK4ABW, Gary

Fri May 30 2008, 02:11AM
Review of the IC7700

The IC7700 slots in nicely between the IC756pro3 and the IC7800 for price and features, and is the same size as an IC7800 with many features carried over to keep you busy for a long time. The owners manual is very comprehensive, logically indexed and includes plenty of schematics and data command tables. Step by step instructions are laid out which take you from the basics of getting on air through to programming the in-depth functions for contesting and data modes.

Although I was highly tempted to jump straight in and just turn the radio on and play, I was glad that I took the time to read the manual before powering it up. Owners of the Pro3 will easily adapt to the IC7700 functions, but the placement of the memory, VFO and up and down buttons will take some time to get used to. The ergonomics of all the controls is very good and well laid out, and will not tire you even whilst using the two available data modes.

As mentioned in a previous review, many of the control functions have been carried over from the Pro3 and owners will be very familiar with accessing these features. ICOM has implemented several menus within this radio which can be accessed via either of the two set buttons below the main display (dependant of which menu you want). Also, ICOM has gone several steps further with these menus giving you an enormous amount of flexibility in controlling the display and many other features. A few examples are: different spectrum display width, speed and colour for each amateur band; separate bass and treble settings for RX and TX on each mode; plus more selectable memory scans than the Pro3. You also soon discover that this radio comes with voice scanning abilities too. No longer do you have to put up with those un-modulated carriers halting the scan.

You can also be assured that the published specifications of the IC7700 will be met or exceeded by a fair margin. Owners of this radio also receive a test report from an independent source detailing exactly what your radio specifications are, and not just some batch or production run guesstimate. I was particularly impressed with my 7700 delivering a +44dbm 3rd Intercept point, 112db Receiver dynamic range and 0.09uv sensitivity on several bands (including 50MHz).

And now, onto some of the nitty gritty stuff. The IC7700 in my opinion has not been designed as a portable radio. Although there is nothing stopping you taking it portable, the 37 kilo weight, +400mm width and depth and 240volt requirement might slow you down a bit. Apart from that, this radio would perform very well by itself with its +200 watts output on all bands and in-built ATU. This radio is recommended as a 2 person lift!

After testing the radio over a one week period, the following became very clear. The display glass is not friendly to white surfaces near the radio during the day. If you have a white or light coloured bench, then I would recommend moving the radio up 1 shelf, or placing a light absorbent mat, etc in front of the radio. Although the display is clearly visible from all angles, it will reflect light if there is too much present. In direct comparison with the Pro3, the Pro3 display appears to have more contrast (white on a black background) despite playing with all the settings on both radios.

The audio quality of IC7700 is absolutely superb on both receive and transmit. From listening to AM broadcast stations and then digging through the noise for weak CW or SSB/PSK stations, this radio shines. The individual settings available for each mode, 3 selectable roofing filters, and variable IF width / shift and two shape filters lets you tailor this radio to your hearing perfectly. After numerous on-air tests, 99% of stations commented that the transmit audio sounded very powerful and natural. Only 1 station commented that the audio sounded nasally, but this was put down to local atmospheric conditions. Also, the Noise Reduction works a treat and is on a par with the Pro3, but the Noise Blanker on the IC7700 absolutely leaves the Pro3 in the dust. The variable width and depth settings will blank out almost every kind of PLI, ignition noise and even some of those nasty radar noises on the bottom end of HF. I referred back to my Pro3 many times and after using the IC7700 for a week, Im sure that the NB on the Pro3 does very little in comparison. The volume control on the IC7700 increases the audio level throughout the whole range in a very smooth and predictable manner and bears none of the horrible traits experienced with other brand radios where the volume suddenly comes on very loud.

Transmitting at full power on all bands available seems effortless and with just a hint of fan noise the radio remains very quiet. Monitoring facilities are available on the display to keep a watchful eye on the temperature and voltage at the finals, but Mr ICOM has done his homework here. I did a fair amount of tuning up over the weekend with +200 watts FM and the temperature remained very stable the whole time.

And now, that beautiful big spectrum display. Again Mr ICOM has lifted the bar by producing an 800 x 400 pixel TFT display that displays everything you could want without appearing cluttered. The display shares many of the Pro3 features, displaying IF filters, AGC, dual time, RIT, last memory channel, various digital / bar graph meters and mode status. All these are displayed large enough for you to sit back comfortably and not have to squint. I can easily make out the frequency display from up to 30 feet away! The display also inherited some of the features from the IC7800, with 7 span widths available. From as little as +/- 2.5 KHz through to a whopping +/-250 KHz, guarantees that you will not miss any of the action. Another great feature (which the Pro3 would have benefited from) is the fixed spectrum setting, which allows you to monitor a whole amateur band from edge to edge at a glance, whilst simultaneously tuning the receiver across or outside of that band. The spectrum edges can be individually tailored for each amateur band too. Also, the screen saver function uses the Windows affect where the whole screen rotates and flips over, bouncing from corner to corner thus preventing any burn in effect. The screensaver can be stopped by merely tapping any button or control.

A lot of thought has gone into the memory settings and again Mr ICOM has lifted the bar several notches. Four memories are available for CW TX, four for SSB/FM TX, eight for RTTY TX, eight for PSK TX, and up to 20 for recording voice etc. All receive recordings can be stored onto a plug-in USB drive, or sent to your PC via direct Ethernet, RS232 or via the accessory sockets on the rear of the radio. Another great feature is the ability to directly edit memory contents using a plug-in USB keyboard. Keying the radio for digital modes can also be performed by using the F12 key on your keyboard, allowing text to be pre-loaded onto the screen before transmitting and using the filters on the digital modes has to be experienced to be believed! I made several PSK contacts with just 30 watts trickling out and the receiver bandwidth was cranked down to an incredible 50Hz. The spectrum scope, RTTY and PSK windows can all be frozen by using the hold button, which allows you to catch fast scrolling text, etc. There is even a miniature screen to the side of the data text windows which displays a waterfall spectrum, BFO frequency, a bar indicator for RTTY and the usual rotating bar inside a circle for PSK/QPSK. Its all too easy with this radio and no PC is required.

A new feature available with the built-in voice recorder is the ability to capture up to 30 seconds of previous audio! Yes, you can comfortably sit in your chair listening to a rare station calling CQ DX and then tap the record button when he is finished without missing a thing. The maximum length of any recorded audio file is 30 seconds, so naturally if you let the recorder go longer, the beginning of the recording is over-written. All recorded files store the frequency, mode, date/time and duration too.

As per the Pro3, there are 99 standard memories and 2 band edge memories available with up to 10 character alpha/numeric labels being attached to each memory. The IC7700 also goes one step further by providing three banks of memory scan along with the usual VFO scan and band scan features. You can store all your favourite calling frequencies, beacons, repeaters, TV indicators each with individual filter settings, etc and be able to select any bank of memories you want, or just scan the lot.

Another great feature is the ability for this radio to be programmed to turn on and off with a pre-set memory being loaded. You might say that this is rather plain, but when you delve further into it and realise that the IC7700 can turn on and off at different times and for different durations each day of the week, you begin to realise the full potential available. There is also the standard feature of turn on and then sleep available. The voice synthesiser is standard and can announce signal level and frequency and if held for 1 second announces the mode as well. You can also set a voice announcement for each mode change.

And last but least the available antenna selections. There are four SO239 connectors, plus two BNC connectors on the back of the IC7700. Antenna selection is easily facilitated through 1 button which allows you to program all antenna ports individually. Tapping the button cycles through the four SO connectors but then holding the button for 1 second allows you to enter the program screen. From here, setting up each band with an appropriate antenna can be easily performed. You can also change antennas on the fly by tapping the antenna button if you choose, which takes it temporarily out of memory status. However, if you change band and then return to the previous band, the radio remembers which antenna should be used. This is similar in operation to the Pro3, but gives you the added flexibility of 4 antenna choices.

Well, thats about it for now. There are many more features like tone scanning, four separate digital SSB modes for use with PCs etc, but this is meant to be a review and not a short novel. I still havent had the opportunity to test out the fantastic 0.09uv sensitivity but plugged into my 4 x 6m13el yagi's on 50MHz (picture on QRZ.com under my call), Im sure that it will perform like a trooper. With the firmware being updateable via Internet or USB stick, who knows what the IC7700 will be capable of in the future.


[ Edited Fri May 30 2008, 02:47AM ]
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