First Impressions of the Icom IC-7300 HF + 6M Transceiver

I have been having a great time at Orlando Hamcation that this year features the ARRL National Convention.  One of the highlights was getting a first hand look at the brand new Icom IC-7300.  Icom had a demonstration model on display that was shipped from Japan just for this show.  As far as I know, it’s the one and only IC-7300 on display in the USA at this time.  This radio has generated a lot of interest on the Internet since it was announced.  Many in attendance in the big crowd on Friday made a bee-line for the Icom booth to get a first look at the IC-7300.  FCC approval is pending, and the radio is expected to be in production and available for sale by the end of March, 2016.

Icom IC-7300 At 2016 Orlando Hamcation

Icom IC-7300 At 2016 Orlando Hamcation

I had a little bit of time at the show to take a look at the radio.  It is the perfect size for a ham shack or a portable operation.  The big 4.3 inch LCD color touch screen is bright, crisp and clear.  The many features of this radio activated by a simple touch of the screen were fast and responsive, and the menus are intuitive and very easy to navigate.  A long press of buttons and certain touch screen functions bring up secondary controls that are also easy to navigate and operate.  This is not a full review, but I found the entire front panel to be well laid out with good ergonomics in mind.

The IC-7300 weighs just under 10 pounds, with dimensions of 9.45 x 3.7 x 9.37 inches.  It includes an SD card slot on the front, and connections for USB, antenna, external tuner (although it has a built in auto tuner), key, ALC, accessory, CI-V, speaker and others.  As I stood and played with the rig, I thought how great it would be on the desk, but also how perfect it would be for portable operation for Field Day, NPOTA, and other similar activities.

Of course, one of the great features of this radio is the big real-time spectrum scope with waterfall.  It also has a great  real-time audio scope.  These scopes look fantastic on the 4.3 inch TFT LCD screen.  One great feature of the scope is the ability to use your finger to touch and tune to a signal displayed on the scope.  This feature is responsive and quick.

Icom in the brochure for the IC-7300 touts the great receiver in this radio.  The specs indicate a RF direct sampling system with 15 discreet band pass filters, with “class leading RMDR and phase noise characteristics”.  Icom also states that the IC-7300 has a new “IP+” function that greatly improves 3rd order intercept performance.  All of the hams I spoke with at the Icom booth were very excited about the potential for this receiver, but there was no signal connected to the radio at the booth to hear how good it really performs.

Fortunately, after the show was completed for the day, Will (AA4WJ) and I were able to take the IC-7300 with us in order to test it out on an antenna.  We did not use the transmit functions on the radio, but were able to test out the receiver at my campsite with a Budipole antenna on 40 meters.  Following are the short videos we took as we listened to the radio and worked through some of its many features and functions.  Unfortunately, time would not permit us to video all of the menus and features, but we hit the highlights.  The audio you hear is from the radio’s internal speaker.  From our quick run through, I came away with the opinion that the receiver lives up to the expectations I have heard from many hams.  I’m very excited about this new addition to the Icom lineup and look forward to having one in the shack.

Enjoy the videos.  A big thanks to Ray Novak, N9JA and Will Jourdain, AA4WJ of Icom America for allowing me to test out this great radio.

73,  Bill, AB4BJ

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Quick Guide for Uploading NPOTA Log to LOTW

Print

I have been having a lot of fun participating in the National Parks on the Air (“NPOTA”)event sponsored by ARRL.  This event runs for all of 2016 and features hams and groups activating numerous parks, trails, historic sites, monuments and other sites managed by the National Park Service, which is celebrating its centennial this year.  Since the event began on January 1, it has seen huge participation and activations of many NPS sites.  The high excitement level currently being seen for this event suggests that there will be many activations of the more than 400 sites throughout all of 2016.

For those that are participating and want to receive credit for activating a certain NPS unit, or those who want to receive credit for working  – “chasing” – the activations, ARRL’s Logbook of the World (“LOTW”) is the only way to officially receive this credit.  ARRL is offering certificates for activator and chasers, but you have to use LOTW to log your contacts to be eligible for these certificates.

In the first few weeks of this event, we have seen a little confusion regarding the proper way for activators to upload their activation logs to LOTW with the appropriate park information.  Without the park information in their uploaded logs, they will not receive activator credit, and the stations they worked will not receive chaser credit.  I have now activated two locations (and plan to activate more), and went through the process of figuring out the proper way to “sign and upload” the logs for these activations.  Following is a brief tutorial of the way to do this.  This assumes you have already registered with LOTW and I will not cover that process here.  If you have not registered, go to the LOTW site and sign up today!

Once you have registered with LOTW and received your LOTW certificate assigned to your call sign, you will install TQSL version 2.2 (the current version) on your computer.  You can then use TQSL to manually enter log data, or you can interface it with many popular logging programs.   Once you have this completed, you will be ready to upload logs to LOTW.

So, let’s assume you have activated a NPS site for NPOTA and have 500 log entries to upload to LOTW.  How do you do this in such a way to ensure you receive credit for the activation?  Following are the steps to do this.

First, with your logging software, make sure you have saved the log file in ADIF format.  Your logging software help files will tell you how to do this.  If you have created a paper log for your activation you will have to manually type each entry into a logging program or directly into TQSL.  The TQSL help files will show you how to manually enter your log entries (I strongly suggest that you use a logging program to enter you log data in the field as you go.  It will save you a lot of time and trouble).

Next, after you have saved your log to ADIF format on your computer, open the TQSL program.  You will be greeted with this screen (click on the images for a larger format).

TQSL1

We are now interested in creating a STATION LOCATION for the park you activated.  From the main screen, click on the “STATION LOCATIONS” tab.

TQSL2

Here, you will see all of your previously created locations on the left, and option buttons on the right.  You want to select the top button on the right to CREATE A NEW STATION LOCATION.

TQSL3

Above is the ADD STATION LOCATION box that opened after you selected “create a new station location”.  In this box you will see various options, but you are not required to fill in any of this at this time (your call should be pre-filled).  You can fill in these other fields if you wish.  Click NEXT at the bottom of the screen.

TQSL4

The screen above is where you will include the park information that is critical for NPOTA activation and chaser credit (NOTE:  Only the activator has to do this.  If you are a chaser, you do not have to sign your log with park information.  The credit is solely derived from the activator’s log).  On the screen above, use the dropdown boxes to select state, county and park.  Note that once you select state, only the counties in that state will be selectable.  Likewise, only the parks in that state will be available for you to select.

TQSL5

Above is an example of a completed screen with state, county and park information.  After you have completed this, click NEXT at the bottom of the screen.

TQSL6

The final screen in the creation of the new station location will show you the location you just created (along with others) and will allow you to create a unique name for the new location.  I suggest that you create a name that will identify the location by park location or designator so you will select the correct station location when you are ready to sign and upload your log to LOTW.  Click FINISH and your new station location with park designator is complete!

Now that you have this new station location with park information, how do you use it to upload your log to LOTW?

TQSL1

Back at the main TQSL screen, above, you will see two options to get your log interfaced with the new station location you just created.  First, you can select “SIGN A LOG AND UPLOAD IT AUTOMATICALLY TO LOTW”.  This will allow you to select your ADIF file, sign it with the new location and upload it at that time to LOTW.  Second, you can select “SIGN A LOG AND SAVE IT FOR UPLOADING LATER”.  This allows you to select your ADIF log file and sign it with the new station location for uploading later when you are logged into the LOTW site on with your browser.  Whichever option you choose, you will next see the following box.

TQSL7

Here, you will select your new station location with park information.  This will then sign and create your LOTW log with the park information appended.  If you chose the option to save this log for later upload to LOTW, it will create a file with a “tq8” extension on your computer.  That is the file you will later choose to upload to LOTW (assuming you did not choose the first option to upload at that time).

That’s it!  You have now created a station location for your activation and have successfully uploaded it to LOTW.  You, as activator,  and all of the chasers you worked will receive credit for that NPS unit in the NPOTA event.

There is a very good Activator Guide provided by ARRL.  Check it our for more helpful information.

There’s also a You Tube video explaining this process, so check it out.

Have fun with NPOTA in 2016.  I look forward to working many of you during the event!

npotahat2

73,

Bill

AB4BJ

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Audio Settings for the Icom IC-7851 and the Electro-Voice RE27 N/D Microphone

ElectroVoice RE27 and Icom IC-7851

ElectroVoice RE27 and Icom IC-7851

In my initial impressions of the IC-7851, I indicated that setting up the transmit audio settings for use with my Electro-Voice RE27 N/D microphone had not been very difficult and that I was receiving very good audio reports with this combination.  In this post, I’ll explain how I set this up, and include some images.  As I have mentioned in other posts in this blog about audio set up (most recently where I interfaced the RE27 with the TS-990 I used for two years), your mileage may vary depending on your voice characteristics and other factors.  Don’t hesitate to play with these settings and get honest critique from fellow hams on the air.  I’ve found that using the monitor function on any radio never really gives you a true picture of how you sound, so enlist others on the air to help you.  I should also point out that there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to transmit audio.  The best settings for rag chewing will be a far cry from what works best when you are trying to bust a DX pileup.  So, know your voice and your intended application when setting up your transmit audio.  Tinkering, after all, is at the heart of amateur radio!

While I do work DX from time to time, I spend most of my operating hours talking to fellow hams or checking into nets.  I therefore rarely strive to have the “piercing” audio that some DX operators use.  When I do want to have a bit more punch, I will increase compression, narrow the bandwidth and eliminate bass, but this is the exception to how I normally operate.  This description of my settings is therefore probably not suited for a DX contest or similar application.  I have found that my settings generate very good reports from fellow hams who have told me that I have very “pleasing audio” and that “it sounds like you do in person”.

One more thing before we get into the settings.  Don’t eat your microphone!  A lot of hams believe that they must also touch the mic with their mouths when transmitting.  This can result in distorted audio and an RF burn if you have that problem in your shack, so remember to keep a respectable distance from your mic when transmitting.  I try to be at least two inches back when using my RE27.

I believe that any time you are setting up your transmit audio you must start with the mic gain and the ALC.  In fact, I constantly check to make sure that I am not exceeding the ALC zone on my meter.

IC-7851 ALC Meter

IC-7851 ALC Meter

Adjusting your ALC should be quick and easy.  Using a dummy load talk into your mic and adjust the mic gain so that you do not exceed the red ALC zone.  I have mine adjusted to peak at the end of the zone, but never exceed it.  For me, the mic gain setting is at the center (or twelve o’clock) to achieve this with the RE27.

IC-7851 Mic Gain Control

IC-7851 Mic Gain Control

After your gain is adjusted to peak, but not overdrive, your ALC, move on to the comp setting.  I run with the compression on and adjusted to the center (12 o’clock) position.  Again, your mileage may vary, but I have received very good reports with the compression on at this level.  Try it both ways and see what other hams say about your audio on transmit, but this setting with my mic did not produce any harshness in my transmitted audio.

IC-7851 Compression Indicator

IC-7851 Compression Indicator

The compression control is at the bottom of the radio.

IC-7851 Compression Control

IC-7851 Compression Control

You may have noticed that the compression indicator, above, also shows your transmit bandwidth (TBW) setting.  I run mine “wide” for this setup, but the 7851 allows you to choose narrow and midrange as well.  You might want to consider narrow for DX pileup work.  The good news is that all three TBW settings are adjustable in the settings for the 7851, so play with these and find the range that makes your audio sound the best.

IC-7851 TBW settings

IC-7851 TBW settings

After you adjust your TBW ranges to suit your operating needs, you will select wide, mid or narrow by holding for 1 second the selector adjacent to the compression/TBW indicator.  By the way, the TBW settings are accessed by pressing “set” (F-7), “level” (F-1) and scrolling down to the SSB TBW area. Once you’ve highlighted the setting you want to change, use the main VFO knob to change your settings.  Pressing DEF (F-4) will always change the settings back to default.

While you are in this part of the menu of the IC-7851, you can tweak the final setting to make your transmit audio sound great.  In addition to your TBW setting, the IC-7851 also has a simple equalizer to allow you to adjust the base and treble of your transmitted audio.  For this setup, I have mine set at Base +2 and Treble +1.  Again, your mileage may vary, but this works well for me with the RE27.

IC-7851 Base and Treble Control

IC-7851 Base and Treble Control

That’s it!  After working on all of these settings and receiving some helpful on-the-air input, I think I have achieved great sounding transmit audio with the IC-7851 and the EV RE27.

Oh, there’s one more thing if you are using the RE27.  Don’t forget that it has it’s own internal settings.  I played with these on the air with a ham friend and the settings shown in the following photo sounded best:

EV RE27 Settings

EV RE27 Settings

I hope this helps some of you get started with adjusting the audio on your IC-7851, but remember – it’s just a starting point!  Good luck and have fun with this truly first class radio.

73,

Bill – AB4BJ

P.S. Please post your experiences, settings, etc. in the comments section below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

First Impressions of the Icom IC-7851 Flagship Transceiver

ab4bj7851I’m completing my first 30 days of using the new Icom IC-7851 HF transceiver.  This new flagship entry replaced the venerable IC-7800 in the Icom HF radio lineup.  I should note that I’ve never used the 7800, so the 7851 is my first foray into the high end Icom rigs.  I’ve used a IC-7600 in the past, and most recently operated a Kenwood TS-990 for about two years (I’ve also used many other HF radios over the years, including the Flex 5000).  I can say without reservation that the 7851 has the best receiver I have ever had the pleasure of operating.  Unlike the TS-990, the IC-7851 has a very quiet receiver with noise reduction circuitry that is almost flawless.  It has been a pleasure to pull out weak signals with the 7851.  The filtering is first rate.

Using my EV RE27ND microphone, I have received universally good audio reports.  I don’t use any outboard audio processing gear, and from the start, even my “picky” ham friends told me that the transmit audio sounded very good.  I’ll post about my audio settings in the near future, although the setup was not very complicated.

ab4bjmonitorsThe built in scope is clear and responsive.  Additionally, the “dual scope” feature is unique and a welcomed addition.  With dual watch active, the user can display the main and sub band scopes simultaneously on the screen.  While the split scope is a bit small on the radio screen, it looks fantastic on the high definition output on a large monitor.

The layout of the front panel is intuitive and easy to quickly master. I felt comfortable using this radio within a couple of days removing it from the box.

These are my initial impressions, and I have more to use and experiment with.  I am looking forward to using the built in RTTY and PSK functions.  I’m also looking forward to operating the 7851 in a contest setting with crowded band conditions.

ab4bj7851card

First impressions are always important, and the 7851 did not disappoint!

73,

Bill

AB4BJ

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Control Head Mounting Solution for the Icom ID-5100

The Icom ID-5100 over the Icom IC-7100 in the ham shack

I’ve been reading a lot of online comments about the mounting options – or lack thereof – for the control head of the Icom ID-5100.  While I tend to agree that it would have been nice for Icom to include the MBA-2 control head, magnets and screws with the radio, I made my purchase knowing these items were not included.  So, given that I proceeded with eyes wide open, I’m not going to rant and rave in this post about what was not provided by Icom.  Instead, I wanted to share my experience in creating a mounting solution for the control head that I use in the ham shack and from time to time in our motorhome as we travel.

The control head for the ID-5100 is very big, so a sturdy mounting option was very important.  I also wanted the ability to move the control head around on my desk, if necessary.  As mentioned, I also wanted a quick and easy way to remove the radio and control head form the ham shack and take it on the road.  As it turns out, I found one solution that will allow me to accomplish all of the above.

At the time I pre-ordered the radio, and after a little research, I decided that I would go ahead and also pre-order the MBA-2 mounting kit.  While most hams could probably arrive at a solution without buying this kit, I decided I wanted to at least use the OEM magnets, screws and mounting plate.  For any of you who have used the ID-880H and the IC-2820, the kit for the ID-5100 is very similar, with the only difference being the larger size of the mounting plate.

The metal mounting plate included with the MBA-2 kit

After receiving my radio and MBA-2 kit, I installed the magnets with the supplied screws.  The metal mounting plate contains raised circular areas that correspond to the location of the magnets on the control head.   These raised areas prevent the control head magnets from slipping on the metal plate, thus providing a secure base for the control head.  Now, what was I going to use to hold the control head on my desk?

I decided that since I probably had enough parts lying around the ham shack it was worth the effort to look and see if I had anything that would work.  As I dug around, I remembered that at the Orlando Hamcation I had purchased a suction cup mounting arm and bean bag base to use with a handie talkie.  After looking around a bit, I found these two items.  Then it was off to see if they would work.

The bean bag base is very generic and does not have a manufacturer name on it anywhere I could find.  It is very similar, if not identical, to the Lido LM-25 that you can find at Ham Radio Outlet.  It appeared to be heavy enough to provide a stable and secure base for the large control head.

The suction cup arm I had was manufactured by Arkon, but there are many variations of this type of mount available.  I have seen several sold by Ham Radio Outlet under the Lido name, and RAM also sells a few.  Importantly, the mounting arm that I had has AMPS pattern holes on a clip-on attachment.  Arkon also sells a version of this arm that is not a “clip-on” version and that just terminates to a plastic plate with the AMPS holes pattern.

As it turned out, the Icom MBA-2 metal mounting plate had hole patterns that worked with the AMPS pattern on the mounting arm I had in the drawer.  In order to allow the MBA-2 metal plate and the plastic mounting surface of the Arkon arm to fit flush together, I used four black wire ties through each hole.  This provided a very sturdy solution without using some type of adhesive to secure the metal plate to the plastic mount.  I wanted to avoid adhesive in the event I ever changed my mind about this mounting solution.  All I have to do is snip the wire ties and the metal mounting plate is as good as new.  NOTE:  The Arkon mount I had was two pieces; a main mounting arm and a small clip-on plastic mounting head that had the AMPS pattern.  To avoid any instability, I used epoxy to adhere the two pieces of the Arkon mounting bracket together.

After completing all of the above, the next step was to adhere the Arkon arm to the bean bag base with the suction cup.  It worked perfectly, but Arkon also provides a disc with 3M adhesive for a more “permanent” solution.   After mounting the suction cup arm to the bean bag base, all that was left was attaching the control head magnets to the metal MBA-2 mounting plate at the end of the suction cup arm.  Viola!  It worked perfectly and provided an adjustable and movable solution on my operating desk.

Shortly after completing this project, we took a motorhome trip and I decided to see how this mounting solution would work on the dash.  I placed the control head and bean bag base on the dash of the motorhome, adjusted the angle with the mounting arm, and it remained in place and very stable for our entire trip.

There are probably as many ways to mount the ID-5100 control head as there are opinions about what “options” should be included with the radio, but I have found this solution to be perfect for my operating needs.

If you are interested in this type of mounting solution, the cost would be approximately $80.  The MBA-2 is available from HRO for $39.95.  The Lido LM-25 bean bag base is around $20 at HRO and the Arkon suction cup arm is less than $20 on the Arkon web site. Lido also sells a suction cup arm/mount, but I’m not sure of the configuration of the mounting holes.   You may also want to check the mounts available from RAM, as they may offer similar solutions.

Good luck with your new ID-5100!

73,

AB4BJ

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments