26 December 2022

No One Radio Can Do It All

Last month I attended a Georgia AUXCOMM class, and one of the key take-aways (for me) was always knowing what your communications capabilities are. I own too many a lot of radios, and it's been a few years since I did a feature comparison. My question was, which radio I currently own offers the broadest range of capabilities; a true shack-in-a-box. 

While nothing fit the bill 100%, I was only slightly surprised when the winner emerged - the Icom IC-7100. Sadly, this incredibly capable radio was taken out of production by Icom a few months ago. I can only hope there's a replacement already waiting in the wings, and Icom's only holding back on shipping them because the northern sea lanes between Japan and the port of Los Angeles are still choked with dangerous icebergs.

It should be no surprise that the Icom IC-705 is the runner-up. That little radio is just begging to be up-sized. I'm hoping it's the up-sized version that's being held up by the icebergs

Other radios on the list have their own unique capabilities, which is why I hang onto them. The Icom IC-7200 is a no-frills, built like a bulldozer HF rig. All it does is HF, but it'll do it all day, every day, for months on end. The KX2 may not look like it does much, but what it does it does better than any other radio on the market. It's an amazing piece of technology to behold - and you can behold it in the palm of just one hand, with room left over.

Given my current stable of radios, what would I grab going out the door for a SHTF situation? Well, it wouldn't be just one radio. I'd need at least three. Based on the combination of requirements I anticipate - both HF voice and digital, using a variety of modes, the ability to do wide band TX (the 'MARS mod'), the ability to do ALE scanning and HF chat using either Vara Chat or JS8CALL, the choices came down to:
  • IC-7200
  • IC-705
  • ID-52
Some of you are surely yelling, "you're letting your inner Icom fanboy leak out!". No, and yes. In the past I've been a Yaesu fanboy, a Ten-Tec fanboy, a Hammarlund fanboy, even a cheap Chinese radio fanboy. I'm still an Elecraft fanboy. For a long time I didn't particularly like Icom products. I thought they were over-polished and over-priced; slick toys that didn't offer anything better than the competition, but at a higher price. In my mind I was paying extra for the Icom badge. It took a few years of struggling with Yaesu's configuration settings on several of their HF radios to appreciate Icom's well developed and mature interface and settings libraries that spans much of their product line. Icom radios are easy to set up for digital or voice operations, share operating principles across all of their modern rigs - HF and UHF/VHF, and share Icom-developed apps like the RS-BA1 wi-fi rig control package, the RS-MS1A Bluetooth rig control package, and the ST-4001A picture utility program. While none of these packages will win any awards for world-class features or functionality, they are solid apps that allow different Icom rigs to be operated through a shared interface, and to share data across platforms, mostly via DSTAR. 

The IC-705 and the ID-52 (and the ID-51) go even further and share battery packs. This means I only have to worry about one type of battery pack and charger for two different radio models. 

You may ask, "why not the IC-7100, if it's so capable?". Truthfully, it was initially in the mix as I was writing this post, but then I figured I'd need to scan ALE channels using either Ion2G or MARS ALE, and the 7100 can't do that. Only the IC-7200 (with the quiet scan mod) or the IC-7300 can do that. The IC-7300 would seem the next logical choice, but I wanted a 100 watt HF rig that could run continuous duty cycles on digital modes like Vara Chat, and the IC-7200 with its better cooling arrangement just seems a better candidate.

By grabbing these three specific radios I'll have all the coverage I need for voice and digital comms, with redundancy. One hundred watts of HF voice and digital, a 10 watt backup, and a 5 watt hand held. The IC-7200 is a high duty cycle radio that can do voice, digital and ALE scanning, The IC-705 provides an advanced SDR capability on HF, Gen3 DSTAR capability and wideband receive. The ID-52 provides handheld UHF/VHF dual watch voice and Gen3 DSTAR capability. Bases covered.

So remember, in today's market there's not one single radio that can do it all, from any vendor. If you need to relocate for any reason - your own house is damaged or destroyed, or you are deploying to provide comms support for a disaster - you'll need a mix of radios to cover all the requirements. 

Yes, there's a point to all this. It's called Winter Field Day 2023. 

W8BYH out

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