Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Icom Radio?

I subscribe to a number of Yahoo Groups devoted to amateur radio. A couple of evenings ago, I received two message posts: one from a group for the Icom IC-7600 and one for the Icom IC-7700. A new Yahoo Group has been created around a supposed new Icom radio that will debut in a few days at the Tokyo Hamfair. This radio apparently supports HF, VHF, UHF, and has options for a D-Star board, and a 23-cm module. At this time the radio's model number is the IC-9100. Someone on the new Yahoo Group indicated that he was told that Icom would be retiring the IC-746Pro and the IC-910H. Perhaps this radio is the replacement. I have nothing more to mention now, since details are few and far between. It wouldn't surprise me that more information will be coming in over the weekend. The Tokyo Hamfair is August 22nd and 23rd.

Ned, N8OIF

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Gearing Up For Field Day

As I start to write this, the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) Field Day event is a little less than three weeks away. I always look forward to participating. This year is no different. Whether I get on the radio a little or a lot, I will enjoy the time spent with fellow amateur radio operators.

Field Day is two things. It is a demonstration of ham radio operator's abilities to set up their stations and make contacts in abnormal situations or less than ideal conditions, and is also a contest. Although those are the two main aspects of Field Day it also can serve the purpose of introducing the public to amateur radio.

For me, Field Day can also serve as an excuse to buy more equipment for my station. I haven't closely studied a calendar, but typically Field Day occurs six weeks after the Dayton Hamvention. It is around those two events where quite a bit of my amateur radio equipment purchases occur. This year there were several things that I purchased, or will purchase before Field Day arrives. For this year the main thing to purchase was a set of W3NQN bandpass filters. Based on some of my experience from last year's Field Day, I can tell you that transmissions from one station can get into another radio. One of the main station's at last year's Field Day was the 40-meter station. Rob, KB8UEY, was making contacts on his Kenwood TS-120S while Brad, W8NCI, was logging for him. I was on my Yaesu FT-897D trying to make contacts on 15-meters and I discovered that 15 and 10-meters were somewhat open. However, every time Rob keyed up on 40-meters, I wouldn't be able to copy stations on 15-meters. Hopefully the W3NQN filters will take care of that. They are rated to 200 watts, and we typically never run more than 100 watts. They also present about 0.3 dB of insertion loss, so hopefully each station that uses one (and I hope they all do) will see little if any impact to their ability to copy stations, while stations on higher bands will be able to copy their own contacts. The whole issue arises in the first place because no transmitter is perfect and specifically no stage in a radio transmitter is perfectly linear. If it were, there would be no 3rd-order, 5th-order, 7th-order and so on products created in the radio. It is these "harmonics" and general front end overload that cause the problems [note: if I am incorrect please let me know.] Another item that I plan to purchase before Field Day is the Byonics Micro-Trak All-in-One. This is an APRS tracker. It features a microcontroller functioning as a TNC, a 10-watt transmitter, and a high-sensitivity GPS receiver in a watertight Pelican case. Although someone else will likely be demonstrating a complete APRS station, I'll be able to transmit my position to the APRS network.

The other things that I am buying before Field Day mainly pertain to my sleeping arrangements. I enjoy staying at Field Day for the entire duration. That way I can stay up late, then get some sleep, and wake up early the next day, and thereby maximize the time I spend at the Field Day location. It has been several years (four, I think), since I slept in a tent. For the past two year's I have slept in a sleeping bag on the concrete floor of the picnic shelter that we use. It's not impossible to sleep that way, but it is not terribly fun either. Before that I slept in my car. That's not fun either because it is cramped, the seat doesn't fully recline, and the mercury-vapor (or high-pressure sodium) lights from the parking lot next to the shelter are bright. The last tent that I used belonged to a friend, but it is a huge family tent and definitely takes two people to set it up. I'm planning to get a smaller tent that hopefully I can set up on my own, or with just a little help.

There are always things that I can't purchase in time because I haven't saved up for them. This year I will not be able to get a new hard drive for my laptop in time to try some of the digital modes during Field Day. I will also miss the opportunity to try another radio at Field Day. I've made the decision to trade my Yaesu FT-897D for an Icom IC-7000. Of course, both radios meet the criteria for being small radios, but the IC-7000 seems like it would be better suited to the digital modes that I enjoy on HF with its IF-DSP filtering. I am also trading up on my sound card interface, but I will be making that purchase after Field Day. I have decided to buy the MicroHAM Micro Keyer II (MK2) after I saw them at the Dayton Hamvention. The MK2 acts as a complete hub for audio and CAT control. I will sell my two Tigertronics SignaLink USBs. They are great performers, but the MK2 should simplify my station somewhat, and doesn't rely on VOX circuitry to key up the radio. By next year, I should have a complete digital (and phone) station running at Field Day with the computer running the sound card modes and also performing logging. I also want to add a straight key to my station. I'm currently looking at the Vibroplex Straight Key Deluxe.

I also have a few preparations before Field Day. I try to work off of a checklist, and right now as of three weeks out, that checklist is still growing. I've spent the past couple of evenings working on the video that I shot at last year's Field Day. Yes, 49 weeks later. Basically, my delay was due to forgetting to work on them and prepare them for Youtube, but also in trying to find suitable encoding parameters for Field Day. My previous attempts resulting in terrible videos. I am now pleased with the results, and I will be sure to save my encoding parameters in a preset in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0. I will have more to say about the videos in an upcoming post. As I have been preparing the 2008 Field Day videos, I have noticed that the white balance could be much improved. It's much easier to correct the color balance up front rather than trying to correct it in "post". I decided not to worry about it for the 2008 videos, but this year I will take my Lastolite EZYbalance foldup gray/white card over to Field Day and white-balance each scene. I also realized that I am running low on MiniDV tapes for my Sony DCR-VX2000 camcorder and will pick up some in the next three weeks. Finally, I will be taking along my pocket Olympus digital recorder or my Edirol R-09HR recorder in order to record the ARRL Bulletin. I'll have to see if there is any Field Day rule that prohibits recording, but if there is not the digital recorder will allow me to record the Bulletin, and play it back as often as necessary to achieve 100% copy. It's worth 100 points.

So, I will keep working on my checklist, and will slowly pack the items that need to go to Field Day. Of course, after that weekend has come and gone, I will post a blog entry about my experiences and lessons learned, and I will try to quickly get my photos and videos posted.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dayton Hamvention 2009 Debrief

Well, the Hamvention has been over for about a week. I thought that I would write a post about my impressions from this year's show. For the first time in several years, I attended all three days. Usually, I just attend Friday and Saturday. For a couple of reasons, I decided to also go Sunday. One of the reasons was that I wanted to sit in on one of the forums, the D-Star forum. The other reason was that I was asked to take a two-hour shift at the West Central Ohio Amateur Radio Association's (WCOARA) flea market space in order to help sell items. Between those two items, I knew that I had lost about a half day, so I tacked on Sunday.

I was staying at the house of a friend of a friend in the south-Dayton suburb of Kettering. My one friend and I drove from Columbus on Thursday evening to stay at her house. Staying there was quite convenient and meant that we did not have to wake up at some ridiculous hour in order to get to the show by the time it opened. We were able to wake up at a reasonable time and grab some breakfast on the way up to Trotwood to park at the old Salem Mall.

The bus rides were uneventful and were always available when we were ready. For the past several years, I have bought both the Hamvention tickets and the all-weekend bus pass. Buying the tickets, and especially the all-weekend pass, saves a little time and a little money.

This year, I arrived at Hara Arena with two purchases already in mind. I had no idea if either item would be available, but as it turned out both were. Some people might call it impulsive but I bought my first item within ten minutes of Friday's opening. I bought the new Icom ID-880H dual-band mobile radio. This radio only does one band at a time, but it also incorporates D-Star. I bought this radio at R & L Electronics right inside the main arena. I don't think it was an impulsive purchase, because I had researched this radio for about three months before making that purchase. The prices I had seen on that radio from the ham radio retailers before the show was right about $500. I paid $481, which included the 6.75% that R & L Electronics collected on behalf of the State of Ohio. My next purchase was a little while later (maybe an hour later). I've been wanting a new set of CW paddles. Now that purchase may be considered impulsive. I'm not currently a CW operator, but the Begali Signature paddle that I bought is a work of art and is a high-precision piece of equipment. I do want to learn the code because I would like to try some weak signal VHF and UHF contacts, and ultimately I would like to work the microwaves. It is also nice to have a set of paddles for those who may operate my station whether that is at home or Field Day.

With my purchases out the way, I started checking out all of the exhibits. I spend most of my time indoors looking at the commercial exhibits and I am not that interested in the flea market sales. The main things that I was interested in looking at were the new Icom IC-7600 HF/6m rig, and also looking at anything D-Star. I did those things and more. All along the way, I had my Canon EOS-5D digital SLR and was taking quite a few pictures.

I'll have more to post about the IC-7600. I spent about 15 to 20 minutes talking to one of the Icom representatives about this radio. As far as D-Star is concerned, there were a few exhibits that pertained mainly to D-Star. Icom has a booth in "Audio Alley" that seems to be mainly concentrated on their D-Star capable radios. The group had a booth along with a fully functioning UHF D-Star repeater that was also connected to the gateway. Dan Smith had his D-RATS exhibit in the main arena. D-RATS uses the digital data capabilities of D-Star radios to send files, short messages, emails and so on to another similar equipped station.

I thought that the Hamvention attendance was down a little bit. Other than the initial rush to get in the arena when the doors first opened on Friday, I thought that it was fairly easy to get around, and I was walking around with a backpack, camera bag, and a digital SLR. I also noticed that there seemed to be fewer exhibitors; not by a whole lot, as Hamvention still occupies the entire Hara Arena. I also noticed that the flea market was a little more sparse than I remember it. I haven't attended Hamvention on Sunday for quite a while, and I have noticed that in years past some people would abandon their flea market spaces on Saturday if sales weren't good. The flea market was emptying out quite well Sunday morning.

I did spend the remaining time grabbing lunch, hanging out at the WCOARA flea market space (to rest), and looking at all of the other exhibits. One of the exhibitors that I checked out was Byonics. I hadn't thought much about checking them out, but when I arrived early at Forum Room 1 for the D-Star seminar, the APRS seminar was still going on. A representative from Byonics was one of the speakers for the APRS forum. He was talking about their various tracker options. One of those trackers caught my attention: the Micro-Track All-in-One (AIO). The is a 10-watt APRS transmitter based on the TinyTrak3 platform. I do run a APRS beacon at home (N8OIF-9) using a Kenwood TM-D710A, but the Micro Track AIO would be handy for portable operations. Recently, I helped our ARES group (the Central Ohio ARES) in providing communication support for the Tour of the Scioto River Valley bicycle tour (from Columbus, Ohio to Portsmouth on Saturday, and back to Columbus on Sunday). I know that net control for that event does use APRS, and a 10-watt tracker such as the Micro-Track AIO would be beneficial. Other exhibitors that I checked out included the big three of Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu. From what I can tell, Kenwood did not have a single new item to show. However, they had a poster that said they will be debutting a new HF rig and a new HT in 2010. I also checked out MicroHAM-USA, Buddipole, W4RT Electronics, Heil Sound, Tokyo Hy-Power, All-Ohio Scanner Club, TAPR, Amateur Radio/Video News, Radio Shack, AMSAT, West Mountain Radio, Palstar, Array Solutions, M2 Antennas, NCG Company, MFJ Enterprises, Down East Microwave, and Flexradio Systems. I'll discuss those real briefly here:
  • Icom: I mainly stopped by to check out the new radios; specifically the ID-880H mobile, the IC-80AD, and of course the IC-7600 HF/6m rig.
  • Kenwood: didn't see anything new except the announcement that I mentioned earlier.
  • Yaesu: I asked them what new items they were showing because it was not immediately apparent to me. They have three new mobiles: the FT-2900R (a 75W 2m), the FT-7900R (dual-band), and the "ultra rugged" FT-1900R 55W 2m rig. They also have a new HT: the FT-270 that they were displaying in a fish aquarium.
  • Buddipole: I mainly stopped by to check on the status of some items they debutted last year, such as the mini Buddipole rotator and controller. They said they were still working on it. They were actively promoting kits that can turn your Buddipole into a short 2m or 6m beam.
  • Palstar: I already own three Palstar items, but I wanted to look at their new Commander series of amplifiers.
  • Flexradio Systems: these software-defined radios have advanced quite a bit lately. One radio that they sell is the complete radio and computer all in one case. They were showing the PowerSDR software, and they had a copy of CW Skimmer running. They also appear to be working on a VHF/UHF SDR.
  • MFJ Enterprises: I was helping Jonnie, KD8BUP, pick out a antenna tuner for her Yaesu FT-101B HF rig.
  • Heil Sound: I didn't spend much time there. I am interested in how to allow two people to each use a headset/boomset on one radio. This scenario sometimes occurs at Field Day. You want a headset for yourself and you need one for your logger.
  • Down East Microwave: I briefly swung by their exhibit, but the crowd was fairly deep, so I kept walking.
  • NCG Company: Jonnie also needs a new dual-band antenna for her car. The mag mount on the roof with coax going through the door has had better days. I think that the coax is bad. I was looking for a trunk-lip mount and a dual-band antenna to go with it. I was able to get a couple of ideas.
  • Tokyo Hy-Power: I would like to start working weak signal VHF particularly on 2-meters. THP sells the HL-350Vdx 300W 2m amplifier that I would like to acquire within the next couple of years. I spent some time looking at that amp, and a 500W version.
  • Radio Shack: A friend of mine works there and I knew he would be working the booth on Saturday. I stopped by and ended up buying a non-ham radio item off of him: an HD-Radio made by Accurian. I brought it home and it works out pretty well.
  • W4RT Electronics: I mainly stopped by their exhibit because I knew they carried the line of LDG Electronics autotuners. I'm looking at the LDG KT-100 tuner for my Kenwood TS-2000X.
  • All-Ohio Scanner Club: It was time to renew my membership so that I could keep receiving the Scannergram. In the end though, I had spent most of my cash and I opted to renew once I got back home.
  • Array Solutions: This company carries quite an assortment of different ham radio gear. I am mainly interested in the W3NQN bandpass filters, and a new UHF coupler for my Powermaster wattmeter.
  • AMSAT: I wanted to renew my AMSAT membership, but I decided I would take care of that back home. They were demonstrating what SuitSat2 may be like. They were saying that it will probably have a CW beacon, a voice beacon, a telemetry beacon, and a transponder. It may also have batteries and a few solar panels. A "launch" date is not know. I heard beforehand that they might be demoing a complete computer-controlled satellite station (which presumably means computer control of Doppler shift and control of az-el rotors). I did not see that demo.
  • TAPR: I don't hear much out of TAPR these days. I know that they are still working on their High Performance SDR. I also thought about renewing my membership but I can do that later.
  • Amateur Radio/Video News: This group has shot different videos and produced DVDs of the various forums, seminars, and Hamvention itself. I wanted to see what they were working on this year. Their presence was noted at that D-Star Forum and at the D-Star Friday Night Event. I just visited their website. Gary Pearce (KN4AQ) shot several seminars this year at Hamvention. He is now doing the editing, but I imagine I'll buy his D-Star DVD and his SDR DVD.
  • M2 Antennas: If I want to do VHF/UHF SSB then I will need a decent beam. This company seems to produce quality products.
  • MicroHAM: I had heard of this company before, but had never paid much attention to them. Even this year, I initially just walked past their exhibit (I did slow down a little). On my second go-around on late Saturday or Sunday, I stopped by. They manufacture some very interesting equipment: items such as the Station Master Deluxe, the Micro Keyer II, and the Micro Keyer 2R and 2R+. After the show was over, I started looking at the pictures that I took of their equipment and decided to check their website to see what they were about. Now, I'm seriously thinking about buying the Micro Keyer II. It can be used with my Kenwood TS-2000X, and my Yaesu FT-897D. If I get an Icom IC-7600 down the road it can be used with that as well. All you need is a radio cable for each radio. Basically, the Micro Keyer II acts as a hub for voice, data, CAT control, and so on for the connected radio. It is connected to the computer with a USB cable. If I got this, I would probably sell my two Tigertronics Signalink USB's (those are great items; there's nothing wrong with them). The MK2 is just a more elegant approach.
  • West Mountain Radio: I only stopped by briefly. I learned after the show that they were showing a new item. This item is called the PWRGuard and acts as a undervoltage/overvoltage protection device for the load that is connected to it. This might be a good addition to the shack.
For the first time this year, I attended an after-hours event. I attended the D-Star event at the Drury Inn. Although quite a bit of it was over my head (discussions of D-Star sys admin stuff), I think that I still got enough benefit out of the rest of it, that I would attend again in the future.

Now I have to wait almost another year for Hamvention to return. I'll probably attend all three days again next year, and I may even create my own Four Days in May (the actual FDIM is devoted to QRP operation). I'm thinking about attending Contest University next year. I really don't consider myself a contester, but I've heard that you can learn quite a bit at Contest University about operating techniques and station strategies.

I may have more to write about Hamvention in the not-too-distant future.

UPDATE: For those of you who attended Hamvention and picked up a program booklet: Did someone forget to include the list of exhibitors? I like to plan my visit, and it's hard to do without that. I did notice that a website was tracking inside exhibitors this year. I'll have to visit that website before next year's show.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mobile Radio

I'm thinking about buying a new mobile radio. I owned several mobile radios in the past. I probably started out with the Kenwood TM-741A. This radio came standard with the 2-meter and 70-cm bands. I added a 220-MHz band unit to it, because at that time I lived in Dayton, Ohio, and 220-Mhz activity was fairly common. I never installed that radio in the car, although I operated from the car with it from time to time. I was probably getting the power from the cigarette lighter jack. I had three separate glass-mount antennas on the car for 2-meters, 220-MHz, and 70-cm, plus I had a glass-mount cellular antenna on the car as well. I kept that radio for quite some time, but did not continue to use it. Then sometime after moving to Columbus in 1996, I bought a Kenwood TM-V7A. This was a dual-band radio with a bluish-colored LCD display. I had a friend help me install it. We routed the power from the battery through the firewall to the radio, which we mounted to the bottom of a slide-out ash tray, which I wasn't using anyway. Coax cables to the antennas were routed along the lower door "raceways" or whatever you want to call them. I can't remember but I suspect that the V7A had only one RF output, therefore I was probably using a duplexer to feed energy to the two separate antennas. I traded that car (a 1984 Toyota Corolla) in for a new 2003 Corolla. I have never installed a radio in that car. A half-dozen years or so ago at the Dayton Hamvention, I bought a Kenwood TM-D700A. This is a dual-band radio that features APRS operation. I had ever intention of installing it in the car, but I never got around to it. It stayed in its original box. A couple of years ago I sold it on Ebay for probably 90% of what I paid for it.

Now I currently have a Kenwood TM-D710A and an Icom IC-2820H. The D710A just like the D700A features APRS. The Icom IC-2820H is a dual-band radio and I have the DV chip installed in order to operate D-Star. I'm actually using those radios fairly regularly from the home QTH as base radios.

What I would like to do is buy the new Icom ID-880H to install in my Corolla. The ID-880H is a dual band radio but one band at a time. This radio is also D-Star ready. I don't know how much this radio will cost as it is just starting to be advertised, but I could certainly expect $550 or so. If I do decide to get this radio, I'll probably do it in two phases. In the first phase, I want to buy and install the antenna. That way I can use the antenna with my HT until I replenish my funds. The antenna that I am looking at is the Comet Antenna SBB-97 tri-band antenna. In case you are wondering why I would buy a tri-band antenna for a dual-band radio, the reason is that I am looking to the future. The SBB-97 is a 2m/70cm/23cm antenna. I've considered buying the Icom ID-1 radio. This is a $1,000 radio that is strictly 1.2GHz, but incorporates analog FM and D-Star. On the D-Star side, it has the same DV mode as other D-Star radios. DV is digital voice with low speed data. The ID-1 also has a DD mode which is a high-speed data-only mode. I initially talked myself out of this radio, saying that there is probably no one else in Columbus who operates one, and by checking out, that would appear to be correct. However, I had forgotten that I can still cross-band through the D-Star repeater and talk to those on 2-meters or 70-cm, and with the gateway, I can connect to distant D-Star repeater systems. So I will keep the option of buying the ID-1 open and buy an antenna that is appropriate. Along with the antenna, I will need a mount for it. I'm looking at Comet's trunk lip mount options. These use a short section of small-diameter coax to go past the lip of the trunk and the weather seal. Then they transition to an RG-58 type coax. As a temporary measure I can snake this coax between my fold-down rear seats to a HT that I keep in the front seat. Then I can get the ID-880H as part of the second phase. I'll likely have someone professionally install the power cable to my battery and find the way to breach the firewall. Then I will install the radio myself.

In the first phase, I can simply operate my HT by connecting directly to the antenna's coax. Also, when I buy the ID-880H, I can connect it directly to the coax. However, if I add the ID-1 1.2 GHz radio it looks like I might have to add not only a duplexer but a triplexer. Obviously a duplexer would be required because two radios would be involved, but I cannot find a duplexer that offers one port with 1.2GHz and the other port with 2-m and 70-cm together. I can find a triplexer that splits the signal from the antenna into three ports for 2-m, 70-cm, and 23-cm, but then I would need a duplexer to recombine the 2-m and 70-cm signals back together for the ID-880H. I'm currently only familiar with Comet Antenna's and Diamond's duplexer and triplexer offerings. If you are familiar with another commercial product, let me know.

One final note. Years ago I purchased a notch filter from PAR Electronics that is supposed to notch out 152-MHz where a lot of pager transmitters reside. I remember driving around Columbus with the Kenwood TM-V7A and getting quite a bit of intermod from pagers. Are these pager transmitters still around? I don't see many people wearing pagers these days, since they can send and receive text messages with their cellphones. Also, my last pager, a two-way Motorola pager, operated in the UHF bands if I am not mistaken.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Two new Icom D-Star radios

I think that I first read about them a couple of weeks ago on someone else's blog. For the most part, information was only available on Icom's Japanese website and had to be translated to English. Now Universal Radio has pages dedicated to each one. The two new radios are the ID-80AD handie-talkie and the ID-880H mobile. I wonder if these will replace the ID-91AD, and ID-800H respectively. We will find out. I also wonder if Kenwood and Yaesu will continue to stay out of the D-Star game. Naturally, I'll be looking at their exhibits at the upcoming Dayton Hamvention.

I'm happy with my Icom IC-92AD HT and my IC-2820H mobile. I have made a few contacts through the Columbus, Ohio W8DIG 2-meter repeater. The W8DIG repeater system, however, is fairly low profile and I have difficulty hitting it from home. It's usually when I am out and about that I make contacts. I am somewhat disappointed in the D-Star network as a whole. One of the prime benefits of D-Star is the ability to interlink D-Star systems. So far, it appears that many systems are not interlinked. I believe that in order to be interlinked, it has to be registered with the Trust Server. W8DIG is not currently registered. It is possible to make a contact on the D-Star repeater and have your information show up on The other problem that I am having is seeing my position information show up. I have the HM-175GPS speaker-mic, and I am fairly confident that I have the radio properly configured for sending the position information so that the APRS network can pick it up, but the IC-92AD is not showing up; only my TM-D710A station. Perhaps it is time to send an email to the W8DIG trustee to see what is going on and offer my assistance.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking for a new HF rig

I'm not sure exactly why, but I am starting to get the urge to get a new HF rig. I have two radios with HF capabilities: the Kenwood TS-2000X and the Yaesu FT-897D. I never expected too much when I bought the FT-897D, but it's still a decent radio that offers HF (including general coverage receive), VHF, UHF, along with the AM and FM broadcast bands and the airband. It's also a lot easier to go portable with it than the Kenwood. I used the FT-897D at Field Day (the WC8OH, West Central Ohio Amateur Radio Association, group) and made several dozen contacts on 20, 15, and 10 meters. I thought it performed admirably. Actually, my main problem was the other transmitters getting into the front end of the 897. I plan to solve that at this year's Field Day with the purchase of W3NQN bandpass filters to put on each transmitter. Ever since I bought the TS-2000X, I have considered it my main rig, but starting last year, I started looking at other radios. I have heard several comments in the past about how great the VHF, UHF, and satellite capabilities are for the TS-2000, but those same people always stated that they believed the HF section to be only mediocre. The main radio that I started looking at last year was the Icom IC-756Pro III. From the product reviews in QST, it did seem to have better numbers in the receiver department.

I did a little bit of research on the IC-756Pro III last year, then I dropped the ball. I guess it was late last year or very early this year, I heard about Icom's upcoming IC-7600. And last week (I think it was), I learned that it had been FCC-approved and that Universal Radio was listing a price right around $4,000. That's is a good chunk of money, but doable.

My plan is to do more research on radios over the next year. However, once I set my sights on something, its too to let go. Perhaps, I will assume that I will get the IC-7600 and look for anything that might disqualify it from consideration. There are other radios out there that have similar or superior performance, but the ones for Icom that fall in that category are also even more expensive. There's Yaesu, and I'm sure that they have some great radios, but I haven't really checked them out. Kenwood, I've just about written off. It's been several years since they've released a new radio (the TS-480, I think), and that radio has similar characteristics to the TS-2000, if I am not mistaken. Ten-Tec makes fine radios, at least based on the numbers, but I do find their radios to be lacking cosmetically. There is Elecraft, also. From what I have heard, they are some of the best radios. Finally, there's Alinco, but I hardly have any familiarity with their products.

I plan to post more about my research on the Icom IC-7600. Naturally, I am looking at the receiver performance, but I also wonder if the transmitter section of the 7600 is clean. I also want to determine if it can handle high duty cycle modes such as PSK31 and RTTY at its highest power level. Normally, I turn down the power on my TS-2000 to the lowest that I think I can get away with (to still be heard on the other end), but I would like to know that I can turn up the power if necessary. I'm not that comfortable with doing that on the TS-2000. I also want to learn more the 7600's ability to do PSK31 and RTTY without the computer. My main concern there regards macros. When I'm using MixW with the TS-2000, I will use macros, but I do try to use them sparingly. I have several macros entered and ready to go, but I won't necessarily use them, unless I feel that the other station is using theirs as well. In other words, if the other station is practically going to automate the QSO, I might as well too, but if the other station wants to ragchew a little, I'll just manually type at the keyboard. Obviously, I can manually type the whole QSO at a keyboard connected to the IC-7600, but it would be nice to have the CQ macro stored, and a macro stored for answering the other station (i.e. urcall DE mycall). I've downloaded the owner's manual, and it appears that macros are supported. It doesn't call them macros, but that's what they appear to be. Anyway, there will be more research. I'll try to post regularly about what I learn about this radio.

As I wrapped up this post, I realized that I had previously mentioned looking for a new radio. At that time, I briefly mentioned the IC-7600, but I indicated that I was looking at the Icom IC-7000. I am no longer looking at that one. It's a feature packed radio, but again I would never have high expectations for it. I'll keep the FT-897D for my portable radio for now.

Ned, N8OIF