Thursday, April 18, 2019

After a long pause, I am working to make my ham radio blog active again.  I'm going to start with a post from the SWOT (Sidewinders on Two, a 2 meter sideband group) pages, authored by Don Ross, AC5D.  Don writes about the new Icom, which many weak signal operators are rightfully excited about.  But his take is more about ensuring that we leverage the equipment we already have, rather than just buying a lot of specialized gear.  The operator looking to move into weak signal work and having no VHF/UHF equipment would certainly see the 9700 as a viable option . . . but someone who has equipment that can be repurposed might go in a different direction.  Here are Don's thoughts - and again I offer my thanks for his allowing me to share this.

"Why I decided Against the 9700"

Like many, I have been eagerly awaiting the release and arrival of the new Icom IC-9700 multimode VHF/UHF/SHF radio with a look of using it mostly on 2m with an occasional foray onto other bands during contests, etc.  I subscribed to all of the reflectors, listened to every rumor, and had one on order from DX Engineering.  I’ve even downloaded the manuals and figured out how I was going to configure it within my station to include abstract wiring diagrams and looking at the physical positioning within what was rapidly becoming my IC-9700 shrine.
It was while doing this that I realized that I was buying the most expensive new gadget just because it was new.
The wiring diagram showed me putting dummy loads on the 23cm and 70cm antennas and my plan to use it only as a 2m rig – a $2100 2m rig that only differed from my other 2m all-modes by having a band scope and a built in sound card interface.  Yes, I know that is has an SDR architecture, but the first two reasons were the most important.  Remembering that I had a 28Mhz-to-144MHz transverter lying around from an earlier project, I started comparing the IC-9700 to the IC-7610 with a good DEMI transverter built by Q5 Signals (
As a 2m rig, the IC-9700 can monitor only one frequency at a time whereas the IC-7610, using its dual watch capability can not only watch two frequencies simultaneously but each frequency has its own band scope.  With this setup, I can run on FT-8 or MS while listening for a band opening on 144.200.  Supposedly, you can monitor a third frequency on your computer by running the HDSDR software but I have not tried it yet.  Imagine running a digital mode while listening to both 144.200 and 146.52 during one of the contests.
There is also the issue of drift with the 10MHz input on the IC-9700 being for reference only verses the lock on the IC-7610.  With 212 confirmed grids, the digital modes (MS, FT-8, and EME) have become much more important to me and the amount of drift is an issue of concern.
Not all is sweetness and light though since both radios have only one PTT line for keying an amplifier but the DEMI transverter does have a built in sequencer so I can key the transverter and have it key the amp.  The built in sequencer may have me getting a second transverter with split output lines so that I can experiment with other ways to protect those rather expensive preamplifiers.
The second area of concern is cost with an almost $1500 cost difference if buying a new IC-7610 and transverter (about $3600) verses a brand new IC-9700 (at the current $2100 which will undoubtedly go lower within a year).  But since I already own the radio and the transverter there is only the cost of sending the transverter back to Q-5 to have the input power level changed.  Even including shipping both ways along with the work, I’m only going to have about $100 “new” involved in this project.
So for me, the IC-9700 does not make a whole lot of sense – right now.  But it sure is good looking!
Don Ross, AC5D
SWOT # 2873