SEM-35 are fairly easy (and cheap) to come by in my neighborhood. I got mine from an online surplus store for only 35 euros. But what fun you get for your money!
I bought a tele-mic and 2.5m whip antenna with the set. Also, I took out the battery holder and replaced it with a 230V AC power supply. Now I can just plug it in and switch it on.
Built quality is superb. It should be watertight even, although the rubber seals are showing their age so I'm not leaving it out in the rain.
The Realistic PRO-44 is one of those basic hand scanners with which the market sometimes seems flooded. Bought mine because it was so cheap I couldn't resist, but sold it not long after because I had no real need for it. Would I recommend it? Not really, unless you're on a really tight budget.
The AOR AR-2000 is a very nice, well built scanner. Comes with 1000 memory channels and covers all bands from 500 kHz up to 1.3 GHz. Sensitivity isn't super, but very usable nevertheless. Used it as a backup receiver for a couple of months, very satisfied.
The UBC9000 was my 2nd scanner, the first was a Realistic PRO-2006. The UBC9000 was a big improvement, having alpha tags, a tuning dial and lots of memory. But the best thing about the rig where its big knobs. You can operate this scanner with your gloves on if you need to.
I sold the receiver because it smelled heavily of tobacco smoke. Now I have the UBC785, also a lovely receiver. But the small knobs sometimes make me wonder if I'm using a mobile phone instead of a radio scanner...
Being a scanner from the 1980's, the word 'vintage' definitely does apply. I bought my UBC100XLT at a flee market for 2 euros. The owner couldn't tell me if it was working or not, but for 2 euros I'm not going to be picky.
Well, it is still working okay, except for the batteries. The NiCd cells (AA) are leaking and beyond repair. Guess for the time being I'll just have to use the UBC100 connected to a wall socket.
Sensitivity is quite good, considering the age of the rig. Also, 100 memory channels is very nice. For a handheld receiver, it is large. Quite a bit larger than more recent receivers. But I do like the solid feel when handling it. The volume and squelch knobs are a bit on the small side though.
I took a look at the inside of the receiver. It looks like it just came out of the factory. I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever open this example. If you plan to add a discriminator output to the UBC100, that's not a problem. The IF stage is easy accessible. Only thing is you have to connect your output to a SMD chip, to it will take a steady hand on the soldering iron.
All in all, not bad for 2 euros!
This review was written by Bob WB8B and is placed here by permission.
This review of the Icom IC-7700 is essentially a benchmark comparison to my Icom IC-775DSP, which has served me well as the main rig for the last 10 years. My objective is to point out some of the main characteristics that I have observed on the IC-7700. Please note that there are many other apparent qualities of the IC-7700 in regards to phone and digital modes of operation but which go beyond the scope of this review and commentary.
I’ve been an avid, all band, CW DXer for 22 years with emphasis on 160mtrs while also operating in the CQWW-CW, ARLDX-CW, and other contests. I am not a phone op, and am as rare on phone as P5 North Korea is on all the bands, so my review may not help those who favor operating phone. Previously owned rigs include Icom IC-735, 746, 751, 751A, 765, and 775DSP along with a short term in-shack usage of an IC-781 and Yaesu FT-1000MP.
Sometimes we hams fall victim to a “wow” trap when we first get a new rig, just dying to put a review out instead of waiting a while and then giving a more non-biased observation once the new rig’s been in the shack for a while. Before a rig review, it’s nice to hear that the new owner gave some time and attention in performing real A-B comparisons to old shack benchmarks that have been used to for many years. Since I perform testing, validation, and benchmarking of electrical and mechanical components as a test engineer, and am analytical by nature, I can easily state things like I see them and give a non-biased observation even though it was a lot of ‘my’ hard earned money spent.
The IC-7700 was put to the test against my old IC-775DSP that has the stock cascaded 500 Hz CW filters for the 9 MHz and 455 kHz, and an optional 250 Hz filter by Inrad for the 455 kHz I.F. Please note, there is one CW filter spot empty on the IC-775 which is the place holder for another 250 Hz filter in the 9 MHz I.F. The high pass and low pass receive audio filters were set on the IC-7700 to match the widest settings of those in the IC-775 during my observations.
S9+30dB and greater CW signals were hunted down on all bands with an emphasis on 80/160mtrs. I frequently looked for the perfect recipe for receiver comparisons by searching for those situations where a very weak DX signals fell within 100-200 Hz of those bigger S9+30dB and greater signals. These are the basic metrics (in my opinion) in a receiver that can make or brake getting that weak one in the log while fighting big signal QRM.
What I had found was that both rigs performed almost equally when the filter bandwidth of the IC-7700 was set to the same 250 Hz bandwidth of the IC-775 narrow filter. If the IC-7700 had the shape of the filter set to “soft”, the IC-775 did a better job; but when the IC-7700 had the shape of the filter set to “sharp”, the IC-7700 was slightly more selective. To get the interfering CW signal out the IC-775 pass band, you had to be 200 Hz or greater from the QRM signal, while the IC-7700 could give you an additional 100-125 Hz of playground next to that big signal. The IC-7700 can also go down to a bandwidth of only 50 Hz; this is where the upper hand comes in. I discovered that the IC-7700 is more capable in selectivity verses the IC-775. These observations included repeated deep scrutiny of the weak signals to make sure the classic desense issue was not evident as typically found in older generation DSP only rigs where close in signals became severely desensitized due to poor blocking dynamic range. I found no audible attenuation from filtering of even the weakest signals, even on the higher 10-15mtr bands where the noise floor was very low and quiet with preamp2 engaged. My consensus is that the IC-7700 has more capability in selectivity due to these selectable narrower bandwidths down to 50 Hz, but without noticeable receiver desense. However, the horse race could get tight if I were to opt for one of those 125 Hz, 455 kHz IF, CW 8-pole filters by Inrad to place inside the IC-775DSP.
Many hours were spent comparing the IC-7700 to the IC-775 on the higher 10-20mtr bands in search of the weakest signals. What I had found was that the receiver sensitivity of each rig was practically equally sensitive. This was also the case even on the noisiest of bands including 80/160mtrs in the late evenings while pulling out the weakest signals I could find. The comparisons were done with the receiver preamps in the OFF, preamp1 and preamp2 settings. More emphasis was placed on comparing preamp2 of both rigs on the high bands 10-20mtrs. It was a draw between the two receivers by my ears.
One feature on the IC-7700 is the choice of 15, 6 and 3 kHz roofing filters in the filter menu. These filters allow for high values in close in blocking dynamic range to fight against very strong close by signals. To actually hear a difference between the 3 selectable filters, the very strong interfering signal or signal(s) must be somewhere between 6 to 20 kHz or so from your receive center frequency to observe any differences between the filter selections. I aggressively toggled between the three bandwidths during a couple of contests that including many loud stateside signals on 20 and 40mtrs. I honestly did not hear much difference between the three roofing filters. This may have been due to the strongest signals on the bands only making it up around S9 +35dB, and far from 50 to 60 over S9 where various test lab characterizations of the receiver have been done which verified the integrity of the roofing filters performance. A run down to the local AM broadcast band here in the Detroit area provided a myriad of 40-60 over S9 signals to experiment with. I noted a small difference in selectivity when attempting to pull in weak AM signal carriers 10 kHz away from 60 over S9 local station signals. These filters do work, but don’t expect them to jump out at you and act like conventional optional SSB or AM filters with deep skirts.
When operating the IC-7700, initially it was not apparent that you can turn off the AGC, something that I had overlooked and only found out literally the next day after submitting my initial review (I apologize on my part). Turning off the AGC is not achievable via the AGC button, nor is it even selectable as a pre-setting in the AGC set up menu, but via the AGC VR button by holding it in for 1 second. For that matter, the feature can easily be missed even after many rounds through the 200 plus page owners manual. I had initially figured that you just can’t turn off the AGC and did not pursue the matter any further since it had a decently fast AGC attack setting anyway selectable down to 100ms. The AGC is fast enough to help copy those weak signals within frequent large signal transients and static crashes. After getting used to the IC-7700 faster AGC response, I never realized how extremely slow the IC-775 AGC circuit really was!
There haven’t been too many instances where my AC line noise has been terrible enough where I really needed to run the NB feature hard on the IC-7700. There was an instance where I had the classic AC line insulator arcing interference at an S4-S7 signal on 10-17mtrs. This line interference was a little more random and rough in sound than usual, and the IC-775 was having an issue getting rid of all of it, which is usually not the case. A-B comparisons between the two rigs at that time revealed the IC-7700 did a lot nicer job at getting rid of that particular AC line noise. Please note however, the IC-7700 noise blanker is not a “smoking gun” by my standards (none of them are). The IC-7700 still suffers from the problem that every rig I have ever operated has, and that is the NB blanker will fall apart even with adjacent, moderately strong signals, even with the front end preamp in the off position. As an example; 10 meters with no signals on the band and a high level of line noise. Enable the noise blanker and it’s gone, even at the lowest NB level setting and depth. However, get one station calling CQ on the band within 50 kHz and an S4 or greater signal and you will hear a splatter sound from that calling station up and down the band. I think this NB anomaly is one symptom we will never see go away in a receiver.
CW SIDE TONE MONI ADJUSTMENT:
I’m not sure why the IC-7700 manual makes a pictorial reference to the front panel “MONI” control adjustment for the CW side tone, because this control does not function in CW mode. There is a CW side tone level adjustment in one of the set menus for adjustment of the side tone output level, but the “MONI” adjustment on the rigs face does not apply. Most other Icoms I have had in the past included an external “MONI” adjustment without going into a menu. This may, or may not be an issue to other CW ops, but I do find myself adjusting the side tone in the SET menu semi-frequently depending on the level of shack ambient noise.
AF GAIN / SPEAKER:
The first impression I had of the IC-7700 receive audio with the built in speaker was not too good. The internal speaker requires a high level of AF gain setting to obtain a decent level of audio out. However, the internal speaker did produce fairly decent fidelity when listening to some AM broadcast stations in 10 kHz bandwidth. It didn’t take long though to hook up my commercial Motorola communications speaker which improved the audio level greatly. The IC-775 suffers similarly with its internal speaker and I recall even my old IC-765 was the same regards to level output. Many of Icom HF transceivers have been plagued with this issue after the IC-751A era. My old IC-751A will throw you out of the room with just its internal speaker and the AF gain at less than 10-11 o’clock! The IC-7700 has half the volume output at the same setting with its internal speaker. The question is; what happened to Icoms audio output level over the years?
DIGITAL MODES / USB KEYBOARD:
The IC-7700 accepts a USB keyboard to function on PSK and RTTY, along with sending of the four CW memory keyer memories via the keyboard F1-F4 keys (with firmware v1.10). With the ability of the IC-7700 to do both RTTY/PSK31 with its internal modem, it baffles me as to why it couldn’t also include provisions to send CW via the keyboard. I seriously doubt this could have added much, if anything, to the cost of the rig! Keyboard CW with the IC-7700 would have been a very nice feature for us CW ops! Hopefully this is something that could be added in the future with a simple firmware upgrade.
7” COLOR TFT LCD DISPLAY:
I am quite pleased with the brightness and contrast capability of the IC-7700 LCD display. My shack includes a nearby outside window with a moderate level of incoming outdoor light at a 60-90 degree angle from the radios. The display has contrast and brightness settings on the front with a menu setting “pre-adjustment” for the brightness level. I am the type that doesn’t need or want an enormous level of brightness on any kind of display such as a computer monitor or TV screen, so there really aren’t any issues here on the IC-7700. I’ve been content with leaving both brightness control levels down all the way with just a bit of contrast. There’s been just a few times when direct sunlight is close to the operating that desk I’ve turned the brightness up to 40 to 50% and the contrast up a little to compensate. Nice job on the display!
AUTOMATIC TRACKING RF PRESELECTOR:
For those who first operate an IC-7700, you may ask yourself the same question I did regarding the digital preselector. “Does this thing work, or just make a bunch of clicking noises when you dial around the bands making you think it’s doing something?” This automatic preselector adds selectivity ahead of the 1st mixer. It reduces IMD from strong signals near the received frequency. My first verification of the preselector’s integrity was when I was calling CQ on 30mtrs at 200 watts on the IC-775, while tuning around on 15-20mtrs with the IC-7700 with a yagi on the same tower. I definitely detected the infamous IMD noise quite familiar at any field day site or during a contest station with a multiple transmitters going on different bands. When I first heard the interference, the first thing I thought of was to engage this auto preselector feature and see what happens! Well, it worked! The interference from the 200w transmitter at on an antenna on the same tower disappeared! Please note however that under typical, casual, operating environments, where there are no pile-ups, no super big signals or contests going on, you may not even know this feature works. When you do need it though, it is very impressive!
VFO SPLIT OPERATION with XFC BUTTON.
One small inconvenience while operating split VFO in a pile up on the IC-7700 is the type of button used for the XFC (transmit frequency check). I operate many DX pile-ups, and I use this feature literally 100% of the time when working splits. The IC-7700 XFC button is mostly flat against the surface of the face of the rig and located in the top left area of the main VFO knob. I find myself frequently using the finger on one hand to hold in the button, while using the other to tune the VFO. When using an XFC feature, I found the IC-775 more comfortable to use because the button protrudes out a little, so that just the tip of the finger can easily depress the button, while keeping the thumb and index finger free for turning the VFO knob. This allows for easy checking of the TX frequency AND control of the VFO knob at the same time with only one hand, while keeping the other hand free for things like the cw paddles, keyer controls, antenna rotor controls and etc. This may seem like a very small concern, but if you haven’t worked pile-ups in split mode that sometimes last for hours, you just won’t know. The IC-775 has an XFC button that sticks out about an eighth of an inch making it a bit easier to depress with the finger tip AND spin the VFO knob with the same hand at the same time compared to the IC-7700. A “softer touch” button requiring less depression force and protruding out a little from the face of the rig would have been nice. Again, it’s just a small inconvenience.
This is serious money for a new rig, but referencing a 1996 AES catalogue shows that $5800 today (the deal ‘I’ got, before the increase to $6500+ now) is the about the same dollar amount one could have spent (inflation adjusted) for a new Kenwood TS-950SDX, Yaesu FT-1000D, a bit more than an Icom IC-775DSP, and also 30% less money than a brand new Collins KWM-2 transceiver in 1959! The Icom IC-7700 is a very capable transceiver with a lot of bells and whistles, but at a price that many may not afford. There are other transceivers available that do a decent job for less money, but without some of the refinements contesters and DXers prefer. An analogy I use on HF rigs is that their cost could be like comparing cars to drive on a long distance trip, driving say 1000 miles a day (this is like a “contest”). Most vehicles (radios) will do the job. Most vehicles (radios) will get you there. The question is, how tired, fatigued and frustrated will you be on the way to your destination? If this happens to you, it’s possible you just don’t have a nice enough vehicle for the trip and you got what you paid for.
I agree with Icom’s marketing phrase used for the IC-7700 as “The Contesters Rig”. That’s exactly what it is and it could also be easily marketed as “The DXers Rig”. The IC-7700 has many receiver refinements and features that provide you the necessary tools and comfort required for those very long durations in the operating chair, making contacts and enjoying the bands, while not getting disappointed like you can with other rigs that provide inadequate selectivity, fatigue from a noisy receiver, and poor ergonomics. HF rigs are a hams tool to get the job done, make contacts, and have fun. ‘You’ have to ultimately be the judge and are governed by what your wallet says and what your operating preferences are. The IC-7700 may not be for you, but at least I can speak for the DXing/Contesting arena, we have a big winner in the shack and, yes, it’s a keeper!
I hope you enjoyed my review and commentary on the IC-7700. I have read many reviews by fellow hams over my 20+ years as a DXer and have accumulated a wealth of information and knowledge from them. I thank all of those who have provided such information. I thought I would return the favor and give a little back, especially for those who may be contemplating an IC-7700.
I have the VHF version, which has a frequency range from 136 to 174 MHz. I ordered it from an Asian online store and got it in the mail about 10 days later. Total cost was about 60 euros.
Sensitivity of these rigs is known to be good and I can only confirm this. It is at least as good, and maybe even better as my Uniden UBC3500XLT scanner, which cost 3 times as much.
I ordered a PC cable (RS-232) with my PX-888 and the package comes with a CD with drivers for all current portable devices. I installed the software on my Windows 7 computer and all works perfectly. Usability of the software is not great, but it does the job well enough. I've programmed my local repeaters and some mariphone channels. With 1750Hz tone and DCS you should be able to use just about every repeater currently in use. I live about 50km from my 2m repeater, and I'm able to push it open most of the time. In the garden I do have to find a spot without too much trees in the way. I can live with that.
One more thing, to activate alpha tags, hold down the MENU key while switching on the unit. That should have been in the manual...
I bought my PRO-2010 at a street sale for only 2 euros. And 2 euros is about it's maximum value, I think. The volume knob makes a scratching noise when turned, that will need some work. Beyond that, it seems in decent order considering it's age.
The scanner has a nice vacuum fluorescent display, blue. Direct frequency entry is handy. Programming is a bit clumsy, like all Realistic scanners I've seen so far.
All in all, it should function well as standby receiver, or with additional discriminator output, as text-message receiver.
The FT-450 is my first HF tranceiver. I also considered the Yaesu FT-857 and FT-897 and the Icom IC-703. I finally went for the FT-450 because I like the fact that it has IF-DSP, HF and 6m (I don't really care about 2m and 70cm) and it does 100W. The Icom only does 10W and I think is more a vacation/mobile rig. The FT-857 is nice, but the buttons are so tiny that you're almost forced to use some sort of computer control software. The FT-897 is also very nice, it has 2m and 70cm as a bonus. But it doesn't have IF-DSP and it's quite a bit more expensive than the FT-450.
Before the FT-450 I've had several receivers, like the Yaesu FRG-7000, FRG-7700 and Kenwood R-2000. As I said the FT-450 is my first tranceiver, but as a receiver it also performs very well. My previous rigs where all quite vintage. The FRG-7000 even featured 3 pre-selector knobs to tune the thing. As you can imagine, the FT-450 is a pleasant and stable rig to work with compared to my former receivers. I don't have to re-tune every 30 seconds any more, I like that :)
Some have commented on the small knobs. They are a bit small, true. But I haven't had any problems in that respect. Tuning is easy enough. Managing the 500 memory channels is more of a challenge. Entering a frequency into memory is strait forward, but to add an alpha tag requires going deep into the menus and is not intuitive. Every time I need to programm a tag I need to get out the manual. For this I have rated the ergonomics only 3/5.
The display is sometimes no so easy to read. The contrast between when items are 'on' or 'off' in the display isn't that great because the 'off' items also light up slightly. I finally managed to get it fairly good by turning the contrast all the way up and the brightness almost zero. If Yaesu manages to fix this, I'll rate build quality 5/5, now I'm going to go for 4/5.
The FT-450 is a decent rig with IF-DSP that actually works, even the DSP noise blanker is usefull. Being able to set Width, Notch and Contour filters comes in handy when trying to hear just that small signal next to all the clutter. I haven't regretted going for this rig!
I've had the UBC60 for some months. As a scanner it's very basic. It has only 10 memory channels and the scanning speed of 10 channels/sec isn't much either.
Being a Uniden scanner, the UBC60 suffers from the known user flaws: no (easy) way to switch between AM and FM or tuning steps. You're stuck to the schema programmed into the receiver.
But I had mine equipped with a discriminator output and hooked up to a laptop. As it is basically always tuned to the same (few) frequencies, the weak points don't really bother me. Also, these rigs can be bought for less than a pint of beer, which makes up for something :)
I've owned an MVT-7100 for a few months. I bought it cheap because it was completely deaf, turned out to be a broken antenna soldering (as I hoped and expected). Within 15 minutes I had the rig working again. But this is one of the weaker points of the 7100, they seem to be suffering from mechanical failures from time to time. Not really surprising considering their age.
The 7100 is an excellent VHF/UHF receiver. It also covers HF down to 530 kHz, but accurately tuning to a CW or SSB transmission is beyond the reach of the rig.
Programming the 1000 channels of the 7100 is quite strait forward. The 7100 does not support alpha tags, so you have to remember / guess what you're listening to. Scanning speed is also quite acceptable, and even a notch better than my more modern Icom IC R-5.
All in all the 7100 can be had for fair prices these days, but you should be weary of the mechanical weaknesses. As a backup receiver it's just perfect!
I've owned my MVT-8000 about a month now. I use it as a standby receiver next to my Uniden-Bearcat UBC785XLT. While the Uniden is busy scanning (at which it is very good), the Yupi is tuned to the maritime emergency channel. When I bought the MVT-8000 I thought it would have been larger. Not many pictures on the net show its tappered share. I've read the MVT-8000 is actually the base version of the MVT-7000 portable scanner. Looking at the size of the case this does not surprise me.
Equally tiny is the keyboard. With labels printed above and below every button, it's often hard to see which button is the right one. And for a base/mobile rig, the keyboard lock isn't that usefull.
The frequency range includes to complete HF band (8-30 MHz), but the lack of SSB reception makes this effectively pointless. Also, the smallest tuning step is only 5 kHz, far too large for HF tuning. But on the VHF/UHF bands, the MVT-8000 is excellent. No regrets about buyig this scanner!
The ICOM IC-R5 is very small, it easily fits in the palm of my hand, or my coat pocket. Even with the standard, flexible, antenna it's not a problem in my inside pocket.
Programming the IC-R5 is a bit tricky. Everything has to be done with a very limited number of keys, so every key has at least 3 uses. Things like push-and-hold, push-and-push-another-button, etc. are commonplace.
The thing that I really don't like about the IC-R5 is the scanning speed. At only 15 channels/sec it is SLOW, very SLOW. ICOM should have really fixed this before shipping this receiver.
Duplex frequencies is a very nice feature of the IC-R5. This allows you to program an incoming and outgoing frequency, for instance for repeaters. Very handy. I miss this feature on many much more expensive rig.
The FRG (frog) 7000 was my first HF receiver. I had it hooked up to a very simple home-made dipole antenna on my attic. And what fun I had with it!
Because it was my first rig, I didn't really know what to expect in terms of reception quality. The FRG-7000 requires constant tuning, especially when listening to weaker stations or CW transmissions. But I did manage to hook the 7000 up to my laptop to decode CW, PSK, etc.
What made me sell the 7000 in the end was the lack of stability (the constant need for tuning) and the fuzzy 'pre-selector'. To listen to a specific frequency, you first have to set the frequency band, then set the pre-selector so that it matches the band, and then do the actual tuning. Switching frequencies requires a lot of knobs to be dialed.
All in all, I've had very much fun with the FRG-7000, but it does require some work. For some people that might just be the charm of this rig.
The UBC785XLT is, in my opinion, a super receiver / scanner. Most functions are fairly easy to use, scanning is really fast (100 channels/sec), it has ample memory capacity and it even looks slick.
I've had a BC9000 before, which is a fine scanner also. But the 785 does everything just a little bit better.
So is nothing wrong then? Well, yes there is. What I miss in the 785 is an easy option to switch modulation (AM, FM, etc.) and tuning steps (5k, 10k, 12.5k, etc.) while listening/searching. The only way to switch both settings is by going into the programming menu and set the modulation for a (programmed) channel. I've found a remote control program for Windows, UnidenCommander ( http://dx.torensma.net ) which does allow the user to switch modulation and tuning steps with an easy click of a button. But if you always want to control your scanner via the PC is questionable.
Another thing I haven't been able to find out is how to enter a frequency directly via the keyboard. What I now do is set up a search range and let the scanner search over the frequency I'm interested in. But it would be nice to be able to just punch in the frequency directly.
I've rated ergonomics only 3/5 for these 2 reasons.
And the 785 is not cheap. But I guess quality doesn't come cheap anywhere.
The FRG-7700 is not the best receiver to be had, but it performs quite okay for a rig more than 20 years old. I bought mine for about 75 euro's, which I think is great value. The optional memory module isn't installed in my rig. I also have the antenna tuner (FRT-7700), but I don't use it much.
Frequency stability is the biggest weakness in my opinion. In order to listen to a station (especially weak ones) you need to constantly keep tuning. If you don't you'll lose the station in minutes. Receiving digital modes is all but impossible because of this instability.
All in all the FRG-7700 is a basic rig which performs well considering its age. But its great fun to use and listen to!