N9EWO Review :
 ICOM IC-7300 SDR HF / 50 MHz Transceiver


The excellent ICOM IC-7300 is the FIRST "stand alone" Amateur Radio Transceiver that uses true "direct sampling" SDR technology PLUS also includes an internal antenna tuner and 100 watts RF output. Super fast "Real Time" spectrum display, no lagging "doggy" ones here. (N9EWO Photo)


Model : ICOM IC-7300
FCC OET ID :
AFJ376500
Country Of Manufacture : Japan (Osaka)
HM-219 Hand Microphone : China
OPC-1457 DC Power Cable : Japan
Firmware Versions Tested : 1.12, 1.13, 1.14
Serial Number (approx.) of Test Sample : 0202xxx

Optional Accessories Tested
ICOM SM-30 Desk Microphone : China
"SWL-Remotes" R75 IR Remote : USA (discontinued)


N9EWO's Review on the Icom IC-7300 SDR HF / 50 MHz Transceiver (for SWL Use)

Another Different Kind Of A Report Here........

We are going to have a look at it here, but more for use
monitoring general SW / HF broadcasting stations. So if you are looking for a detailed report with "amateur radio" TX / RX use, you will have to look elsewhere. However, will cover a few topics on the transmit side as well. You will see reference to the Icom IC-7600 transceiver , Japan Radio Co. NRD-545 DSP receiver , 2 samples of Icom IC-R9000 HF-VHF-UHF Wide Band receiver (on HF), and the Watkins Johnson WJ-8711A receiver that I have owned or used over the years in the review below.

The Icom IC-7300's "receive" frequency coverage is from 30 hz to 74.800 MHz. We did not test any performance above 30 MHz nor below 500 kHz (Long Wave).

You are not a Amateur Radio Operator, eh ???

I have heard of a MANY Icom IC-7600, IC-756 PRO , IC-756 PRO II and III's being sold to people that will NEVER transmit on it. Yes..."Short Wave Listeners". With manufactures curtailing tabletop "receiver" production, my gut feeling is this will be on the increase. You can usually get a better deal with more features in a Ham transceiver and the now total lack of tabletop receivers these days. Well not entirely as it is not all red roses for "SW Broadcast Monitoring" when say compared to a JRC NRD-545 (lack of sync detection to name one), But I'm sure many HF transceivers have been sold to non-hams, like it or not.

So What's The Draw For a SWL Type To The IC-7300 ? / Direct Sampling - Not a DSP Hybrid

What are the pluses to the Icom IC-7300 to a medium wave / short wave listener ? I would say the first on the list is it being a "Direct Sampling" Software Defined Receiver design. That’s right….no traditional mixer and IF stages. Right from the antenna input there are 15 bandpass filters then to a 14 bit analog to digital converter, after that there is a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). Use of a TI TMS320C6745 DSP after that which makes sense being this is standalone SDR device.
 
As Adam VA7OJ said: “The IC-7300 is not a "hybrid". One looking at the simplified block diagram is all it takes. It is a fully-architected direct-sampling / DUC SDR, in which the baseband port of the FPGA is connected to an internal DSP complex rather than an external PC. By converting the baseband to a 36 kHz "pseudo-IF", Icom have made a very clever move, which has enabled them to use their well-proven DSP hardware platform and code libraries.”

Additional Pluses on the "Short Wave Listener" List :

- Low distortion and hiss free audio (super crisp and clean) with bass and treble adjustments for each mode.
- Proper AM mode bandwidths for SWL use, right up to a nice WIDE 10 kHz one when conditions warrant.
- Icom's proper choices of tuning KNOB steps and how selected.
- Low current consumption + COOL operation with no fan operation in receive ONLY mode.

- Built in digital "off air" audio recorder that is most usable for SWL use (unlike IC-7600 and IC-756PRO models).
- Front mounted SD card slot (unlike the rear mounted and difficult to access CF card found in the IC-R9500).

- Just as it is for amateur use, EXCELLENT super fast "Spectrum Scope" that can be tweaked for user preference (up to a 1 MHz total swath).
- LCD Backlight uses LED's for Greatly Improved Display Reliability (no CCFL tubes).

- Very good (optical encoder) tuning knob that is wobble free and generally smooth operating.
- Provided tilt bail that gives proper angle in use that also includes tabletop / anti-slide protection (+ rubberish tube on bail and real rubber rear feet).
- No use of "wobbly" rubber like buttons (as used with the Icom IC-7200, IC-718 Transceivers and the IC-R75 receiver).
- Medium Wave "Bypass Attenuator" feature (selectable in the menus...no more hardware modifications required).
- Rugged metal outer cabinet (not using plastic top and bottom outer covers that the IC-7200 has).
- High "Q" 15 RF Bandpass Filters.
- TCXO included as standard (+- 0.5 PPM)
- Superb Phase Noise Characteristics (advertised as a 15 db improvement over the IC-7200 at 1 kHz separation)   

 
Radio’s Cardboard Internal Packing “So-So”
 
Transceiver arrives in a “double wall” sturdy cardboard box. It is in the usual Icom “sealed with tape” fashion style, which is OK. One can easily detect if it’s a truly brand new unit this way.
 
Just as it was with the IC-7200 (that we owned previously), the actual transceiver is held into place (in the carton) by a couple of thick cardboard cut out pieces (see photo below). We felt that this is a bit inadequate, as these cardboard cut out pieces were allowing the set to slop around a bit due to a somewhat loose fit. Additionally these left and right inserts in our case were noticed to be semi crunched once removed from the radios body, so PROPER reuse will be a bit difficult. This is the same way the IC-7200 model was packed.
 
But overall it gets the job done being the radio is not that heavy.


Icom's IC-7300 and it's somewhat wimpy cardboard internal packing.  (N9EWO Photo Edit)
     
Small Lightweight Cabinet / Steel Outer Shell / Dust Duty
 
The Icom IC-7300 HF transceiver is housed in an attractive steel outer cabinet with an internal thicker die cast chassis that also creates the unpainted rear panel. Size in inches: 9.45 x 3.7 x 9.37 and its weight at a light 9.26 pounds (4.2kg). A very good pop-down tilt bail is included and has a rubbery-plastic protection tube that saves the desktop and helps to keep the lightweight box from sliding around in use. There are also 2 bottom rear REAL RUBBER feet (not hard plastic) to also aid with any sliding around issues.
 
On top of the cabinet there are a pretty large amount of air fan intake vent slots (plus this is for the internal speaker output). These vent holes are back a bit from the front panel, which is good news. Over the years (topic has been discussed around the Internet) that in the case of the more expensive Icom IC-7600, the air intake vent holes are much closer to the front and the LCD. What happens here is dust starts to collect in-between the actual display and protective screen cover and over time can make for a real eyesore (and a royal pain to clean out).
 
Internal cooling fan runs MUCH more in the IC-7600 being it cycles on/off even in just receive mode. Where as the IC-7300 fan does not come on at all in just receive use (more later on this). In any event it’s improved to see the PA air holes moved back a bit and the possibility of any dust LCD infiltration reduced. Additionally the IC-7300’s fan is located on the rear panel, whereas the IC-7600’s fan is internal is placed right behind the front panel, this could also help with the dust bug  ?
 
All knobs have a good feel and all buttons use traditional tac switches. No soft plastic “rubber feeling” buttons are used. There is the typical “Icom” slight rotational play with the AF and RF gain controls and even a bit more with the Dual PBT and MULTI encoder controls. But is nothing excessive. Most of the front panel pushbuttons are flush or near flush with the cabinet.
 
The main “metal” tuning knob has rubber track and uses an actual set screw for attachment to its optical encoder. This beats out the more expensive IC-7600, where here it is just a “push on” variety knob (believe it or not). The only down side here is we feel it is a bit on the shallow side (should have been a bit beefier, that is sticks out just a bit more).
 
We enjoyed seeing a nice separate RED transmit LED included on the IC-7300 (GREEN in receive). Not just some TX indicator icon on the LCD.


With the top fan intake vents somewhat back from the front bezel, plus the fan being rear mounted (and runs MUCH less and never in just receive use), this hopefully will eliminate any dust infiltration issues that can plague the older IC-7600 model LCD in time ?? (N9EWO Photo)
 
Super Spectrum Scope Display / LED Backlighting / Can See the Weaker Signals
 
"Spectrum Scope" Display that allows for viewing of a chunk of the HF spectrum up to 1 MHZ Max (+/- 500 kHz). This is a huge improvement to the older IC-756 PRO, PRO II and PRO III models that only did 200 kHz max. Even the IC-7600 is limited to 500 kHz Max. No it's not as wide as the expensive Icom IC-R9500 super receiver, but is not a big loss. Works very well and helps from missing signals as you zip across the bands with the knob. The BIG improvement is the scope is super SUPER fast scanning and no hesitation jerky looking display. There are 3 different speed settings of the spectrum scope, but why anyone would want to slow this down is a good question ?
 
Being it is only a 4.3 inch screen, it is a bit tight for what needs to be displayed. We found the waterfall was NOT in OUR desires, so we turned it off to provide a greater viewing area of the actual spectrum scope. Even if one turns off the waterfall screen in the normal display mode, access is still easily done by just hitting the EXPD/SET button on the touch screen. 
 
As is the normal for Icom here, the IC-7300’s spectrum scope still allows for the 2 different types of tuning. One type where the center of the tuned frequency moves with the dial and the other and way where the scope stays fixed and you tune a red marker across the screen. The desired tuned segments are adjusted in the menu's (very easy to do). Of course the defaults are in the Amateur Radio bands. Scope sensitivity is excellent , plus with the bottom grass noise being totally absent that existed with older models (including the Icom IC-R9500).
 
There is an “Audio Scope” function. We did not find this feature to be that useful. More of a gee-whiz thing for me, I can live without this one.
 
One can change the colors of the display "scope" (personally I like green), as well as the waterfall colors. Also a timed background "ghost" display will indicate what have been received until you tune again with the knob or when it resets (this can be turned off). This spectrum scope is active full time and no receiver muting.
 
We changed to no-fill part of the spectrum display to make it look more “old school” (to no fill at all) and have provided my PDF instructions here on what I did to make that happen.  

The IC-7300 will not have a problem with CRT burn or CCFL “Florescent Tube” backlight failures as it uses LED Backlighting. Its resolution is also improved over the IC-7600 LCD (even being a smaller size screen). So it’s very sharp and extremely "W-I-D-E" viewable even being small.
 
Icom Transceiver Display Sizes and Resolution
IC-7300 : 4.3 inches (RayStar RFE430H) 480 x 272
IC-7600 : 5.8 inches (EPSON L5S30853P00) 400 x 240
 
Again, we found the sensitivity of the spectrum scope to be excellent as well. I can see very weak signals on the scope (with no local noise present…..and that is very important). Is the FIRST Icom set with a spectrum display I have been able to do this with. This is even comparing to the very expensive IC-R9500 receiver (my review click here). I’m sure many will dispute this, but I have used many of Icom’s sets now with a spectrum scope and this has been a treat here on the test sample. I have my own desirable old school "Spectrum Scope" settings, please download my single page PDF document below. Please keep in mind that I do NOT care for waterfall display (but that is me of course).

N9EWO ICOM IC-7300 "SPECTRUM SCOPE" Adjustments (Download Here, PDF File)


Improved "Spectrum Scope" settings for the ICOM IC-7300 (in our view). The waterfall just eats away at the limited space available (not a desirable feature for us). Adjusting the "Center Type Display" to "Carrier Point Center (ABS Freq)", will give for proper "centered" showing of AM signals on the scope and will also show frequency on the bottom scale in "center" mode which is a very desirable setting. See my PDF document, download here. (N9EWO Photo)
 
Touch Screen and the IR “R75 SWL-Remote” / Stylus - Screen Protectors NOT
 
OK, lets get it out of the way that I’m NOT a fan of touch screens being used with a stand alone Receiver or Transceiver. Mind you I NEVER touch a set with dirty hands / fingers. But even with that in mind, greasy and fingerprint smearing is still going to be an issue anyway. I also strongly do NOT believe in any use of those stylus pens (popular for tablets and smart phones - rubber tip or not) with the IC-7300. That tip constantly slamming against the LCD sure can't do it any good.

LCD CLEANING NOTE : With the radio turned OFF, we CAREFULLY use a CLEAN MOIST
screen cleaning cloth made for LCD TV screens when it needs to be dealt with, which is not too often. We use decent warm temperature (not HOT) "TAP WATER" (nothing else). Also NOT dripping wet but not dry either, squeeze out as much water as you can from the cloth BEFORE. Using a very "light touch" is also the very important word here. We just let it AIR DRY (which is not much) after with NO additional cloth usage to help to dry it. Of course if you do this "wrong" could lead to water where you do not want it for LCD or other serious damage......"so you have been officially warned" !!

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !

Some have added a smart phone screen protector to prevent scratches and other nastiness. But is this a good idea ? Five reasons why for me why it’s NOT.
 
1. This is going to cloud the screen a bit (I say….NO matter what the screen protector manufacture hype is).
2. It's a major chore to get it PROPERLY installed (good luck getting this looking 100% decent).
3. Stress created on the LCD pressing this into place (and removing). Read the warnings in your IC-7300 owners manual.
4. Possibility it could make the touch sensitivity a bit less (or MUCH less) ? As covered in the  owners manual.
5.
Wear on it's "resistive type" touch screen is not going to make ANY difference if you have a screen protector on it or not.
  
So I choose NOT to make use of a screen protector and being I’m a very picky-careful dude….it has not been a problem for ME and part of the reason why is next.
 
To help with fewer pokes on the LCD touch screen we added a really cool IR remote control device that allows basic operation of the Icom IC-7300 via a universal TV remote control. This “R75 SWL-Remotes” model was originally to be used with the Icom IC-R75 receiver but also works with other newer Icom receivers / transceivers as well via the CI-V "Remote" jack. Just connect the included CI-V cable between a very small black control box and the transceiver. Next plug in the (also included) very small ANALOG 9-volt wall wart 120 vac power supply into the jack on the remote box. Program any universal remote control for a Sony TV's and that is it after a few setting changes on the IC-7300 (as given below).
 
There is bit of a learning curve and we have provided a 2 page information sheet in PDF format (download here) , includes larger fonts for bulletin board use. Not all functions are valid as the IC-R75 is a little different of course. My document helps iron that out.
 
This IR remote will NOT allow for any control of the spectrum scope functions (among others). However most of the basic functions are including, control the sets volume as well as muting it (one not even available on the set), tune up and down the band or zip through your memory channels. Adjust the bandwidths, AGC, PBT, Tuning Steps and even for entering the memory channels and much more. Also you have direct keyboard entry that is more straight forward and faster than on the sets touch screen. Yes, this USA made product is a bit pricey but it also allows for remote operation across the room.

NOTE : Do NOT confuse the proper R75 model with the more generic version that is for older Icom models (example : volume or muting control is not supported for the older sets with this generic model).


R75 "SWL-Remotes" device (left) works great with the Icom IC-7300. The Sony RM-EZ4 Remote Control (right) is recommended. It's simple and big buttons. Our 2 Page information sheet goes over the most useful functions with the IC-7300 (download here).

Low cost SONY RM-EZ4 "Big Button" remote works well with this device. You do not want a remote with lots of buttons or functions (it will make it much more confusing to use). The Volume and Channel buttons are a bit on the stiff side and not the best placement on the RM-EZ4, but it gets the job done nicely. Also good that it uses 2 AA batteries for longer life (not the less desirable AAA type) and a LED that comes on when a button is pressed. Any universal remote will do the trick , just programed to work with Sony TV's. But the simpler the remote the better.
 
NOTE : I no longer make use of alkaline batteries due to the high (likely in time) possibility of leakage. The use of the "low-self discharge" type (or called pre-charged) AA rechargeable nickel-metal hydride cells works fine with most IR remotes (including the Sony as indicated above) and near eliminates this possibility of leakage. An alternative would be the use of non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries (these have a much less chance of leakage over alkaline types as well).
 
Settings using the “R75 SWL-Remote” with the Icom IC-7300 (using the default settings in the remote device) :

1. Change the port "baud rate" to 19200 in the IC-7300 menu’s (don’t use auto).
2. Change the "address" to 5A (from the 94h default) also in the IC-7300.

It can be a bit finicky operation at first use; especially if you punch the remote buttons a bit too fast and you get the blinking timeout indication (this is a bit dependent on the remote model used). There are timing settings on the remote that may help here, but I have not attempted those as this report was typed. Not a real drawback in anyway here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE :
This "SWL-Remotes" product has been discontinued and no longer available. One will have to hunt on the used market now and will not be easy as it was not a widely sold product.
 
Ergonomics Good / Metering
 
Even with the Touch Screen nastiness in the mix, overall ergonomics are good. But in our view not as pleasant as if real buttons were in use. Again direct keyboard entry is much easier to archive using the IR remote as covered above. Band stacking register function screen (and the direct frequency entry as a second tier is here too) is toggled by hitting the MHz digits on the touch sceen LCD.
 
Metering is displayed using bar graphs. Not as cool looking as with the IC-7600, but gets the job done and the S-Meter readings appear to be most accurate. Some reports have indicated that lower S-meter readings are anemic, with our "real use" test I have not found this to be a valid issue.
 
Temperature indication of the RF final section continues to be an unmarked affair. Too bad they could not put a few numbers on this bar to improve the accuracy. Ditto for the voltage indication.
 
One cool feature is the "SWR Graph" (Menu > SWR). This allows you to get an idea how your SWR curve is across any given amateur band. Takes a bit to make happen (plus you need to set up the step etc), but is well worth the effort.       
 
”Cool Operator” / Fan Does NOT operate in Just Receive Use
 
As commented earlier, the IC-7300 is one cool operating radio in receive ONLY use. Might sound like a "no big deal", but his this is not the normal for Icom with newer current models. Unlike the IC-7600, the fan never operates in just receive only use with the IC-7300. The IC-7600’s (and IC-7410 as well among others) fan cycles in just receive mode after awhile is is most annoying when being used as a SWL set. This relates on room temperature on how much the fan will run in these transceivers.

Of course with any transmit use the rear-mounted fan operates anytime the PTT is engaged. Here it is a bit on the noisier side with the IC-7300, but not as bad as with a December 2015 made test sample of the Yaesu FT-450D (arf !). Desk microphone operations are not too bad for any excessive fan noise (with the Yaesu FT-450D….it’s quite too noisy for desk microphones at all). As you can tell, I’m quite sensitive to ANY excessive fan noise in transmit, or ANY fan operation in just receive use. I still strongly feel that a ham transceivers fan should NEVER operate in just a receive only operation. The Icom IC-7300 fits the bill excellently (and rare with a Amateur Radio transceiver also as being used for a SWL set).
 
One can just look at the actual tested current measurements and understand why the IC-7600 fan runs with much more heat being produced in just receive.
 
ICOM IC-7300 at 13.8 volts
Receive Current : 836 ma +/- 20ma
Transmit Current  (Full Power) : Approx 17.9 Amps
 
ICOM IC-7600 at 13.8 volts
Receive Current : 2.7 Amps +/- 50ma
Transmit Current (Full Power): Approx. 18.8 Amps
 
HM-219 Hand Microphone / Tight Microphone Connector
 
The included HM-219 “Chinese Made” hand microphone is a real aural treat. Gone are the muffled ills that plagued the older “Chinese versions” of the HM-36 that was included with the IC-7200 and IC-7600 transceivers (and many other Icom models, but I see reports around that the HM-36 issues has FINALLY been fixed ?). Of course one can tweak the mic’s frequency response in the menu’s to the operators liking.
 
For some reason (and as reported elsewhere around the internet), the included HM-219 hand microphone’s 8 pin foster connector inserted very difficult into the transceivers socket. We took a old 8 pin socket out of the junk box and worked the plug in and out for awhile and fixed that in short order (did it this way not to stress the socket on the transceiver).  
 
Using the optional Icom SM-30 desk microphone with the IC-7300 we also received excellent audio reports (just it was with our IC-7200 and IC-7600 test samples). Keep in mind that there are no UP-DOWN buttons on the SM-30.
 
Proper “Tuning Knob” Steps / Other Tuning Knob Details
 
In the case of most current production Yaesu HF transceivers, the “Tuning Knob” steps are extremely limited to just 10 or 100 hz steps in SSB modes and 100 hz and 1 KHz in AM or FM modes.  In the case of the FT-450D this is even slower going (see my full FT-450D review here for those details). Yes…it can be a real “wrist wrecker” if you wish to move fast using the main tuning knob.
 
As it is with all current Icom HF transceivers, the IC-7300 has many more programmable steps for the “Tuning Knob”. So I can make it exactly proper to our desires for normal operation, which is 1 kHz for SSB, 5 kHz for SW Broadcast and 10 kHz for MW Broadcast (or can be 9 kHz outside North America). Better yet, each mode stores it’s own setting. Icom does this right here…no contest in our view. Selecting a faster or slower temporary “tuning knob” step is a breeze as it is with all current Icom HF sets. Yes, it can tune and display down to 1 Hz as well.
 
Tuning Knob optical encoder had a very good feel with no bearing slop (downright zero). However it is not as silky smooth as the one found in the vintage JRC NRD-545 receiver. But that one is hard to beat. From viewing the service manual, we see that it is using an actual setscrew for attachment to the encoder shaft. This is a huge plus over the more expensive IC-7600 model that uses a push on type tuning knob and of course allows for a not as stable situation. It’s a “push on knob” with the IC-7600 and has some slight wobble if you properly check it out.
 
It does share the same sour trait as with the IC-7600 in regards to tuning knob friction adjustment. First there are only 3 selections available. To make matters even worse, it’s very difficult to make happen. That is it’s hard to move the little lever under the knob to adjust with it's 3 clicks.
 
The little MULTI knob located to the upper left of the main knob, we feel was very well thought out. It allows the user to easily adjust the RF Power, Mic Gain, Compressor Level (not in AM) and the Monitor level all in seconds and with no crazy sub-sub menus. RF power can also be more precisely adjusted vs. the IC-7600 too being it’s a digital adjustment and not using a variable control. You can easily and exactly return to a previous setting just using the control, not just in the ballpark or having to using a RF power meter.     
 
Proper Bandwidth Choices / SSB Selections Could Be Wider / Manual ECSS Excellent
 
For a mix of SWL and Amateur use, the Icom IC-7300 is near excellent when it comes to available bandwidths. For AM mode the user has continuously variable bandwidths from 200 Hz to 10.0 kHz available (in 200 Hz steps). Of course we love the excellent 10.0 kHz one when conditions warrant.  For SSB modes its from 50 Hz to 500 Hz (50 Hz steps) and 600 Hz to 3.6 kHz (100 Hz Steps). As usual for Icom with current production models, the widest SSB is limited at 3.6 kHz. This is a bit lacking especially for manual ECSS use. We would have like to seen this to least 5 kHz (or even greater). Of course we have the 3-bandwidth presets that add to the excellent ergonomics as well.
 
Speaking of manual ECSS performance (using SSB modes at zero beat of a AM signal), it’s absolutely stellar. Not only do we have a STOCK +/- 0.5 PPM TCXO for excellent stability, it’s clean sound (zero distortion, zero DSP artifacts) and performance is just excellent. We experienced none of the bugs that plagued OUR IC-7600 test sample with manual ECSS use. A side note, with our test sample the display was DEAD ON out of the box (this can be tweaked in the Menu’s if necessary).
 
Of course no Synchronous Detection (with Icom striking out every time then they did try this circuit in radio....so I guess better not), but the excellent ECSS helps here greatly. Again, it’s a pity the receive bandwidths are limited to 3.6 KHz maximum on SSB modes. Unlike the WJ-8711A where one can cheat using the CW mode to gain wider SSB bandwidths for improved manual ECSS use (up to 16 kHz in fact), the IC-7300’s available CW bandwidths are identical to SSB. It's worth repeating that in the AM mode Icom allows up to 10 kHz bandwidth. Of course this is excellent news as a MW / SW broadcast receiver.
 
N9EWO’s Bandwidths Presets Changed From Default (in kHz)
 
SSB MODE
WIDE (FIL 1) : 3.6
MID (FIL 2 ) : 2.8
NARROW (FIL 3) : 2.3
 
AM MODE
WIDE (FIL 1) : 10.0
MID (FIL 2) : 8.0
NARROW (FIL 3) : 6.0
 
As it has been with previous models, we also have the “DSP Filter Shape” adjustment for SSB and CW modes. SHARP and SOFT. We normally just leave it in the default SOFT selection for our operations (sounds the best).
 
ADC Overloading / Sensitivity  / Other Receiver Notes
 
When the receiver is hit with an extremely excessive input signal, the red OVF icon will start to flash. Unlike “dynamic range” mixer overloading that can occur with an analog superhet receiver, here it’s the ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) that gets saturated and can make the FPGA to do strange things when the OVF indicator starts to flash.
 
In our testing (with firmware 1.13) and antenna’s it took the receive PreAmp's (1 or 2) with a SUPER strong station for this OVF indicator to start to flash (or a extremely noisy band and or with local interference). Turning off the preamp's cured this overloading completely in OUR situation when it happened. However this scenario will vary greatly of course. In extreme cases it could take the attenuation function and or backing off the RF Gain control to stop it. Is this a drawback to the IC-7300 ? I say….strongly NO. Being this is a true SDR, this is the just part of the technology (at least at this price point).
 
In general being "very conservative" is the name of the game with ANY "PreAmp" use. On MW turning ON the "MW band ATT" may be REQUIRED to squash overloading depending on the frequency and antenna used (default is ON). This is especially true if one uses any active wire or active loop antenna (that is it has an internal RF amplifier).

The “IP Plus” function is advertised to improve the Intermodulation Distortion (IMD). Optimizes the Analog/Digital Converter (ADC) against the distortion when receiving a strong signal. Third-order Intercept Point (IP3) is also supposed to be improved (feature was not tested). 

In general, overall sensitivity we found to be excellent even with the preamp's off.
      
NOW does the Icom IC-7300 beat out the WJ-8711A for audio recovery / sensitivity with weak broadcast stations (using manual ECSS mode of course) ? Look for the detailed answer next (along with a MP3 audio file).

Broadcast Audio Recovery : "Side By Side" IC-7300 test vs. the WJ-8711A


"Is the Icom IC-7300 the best set around for pulling the audio (spoken words) from a VERY WEAK "broadcast" signal down in the mud using manual ECSS (zero beat SSB on a AM Signal) ?" Does it beat out the old "top dog" Watkins Johnson WJ-8711A "professional receiver" in this area ??

Was a pleasant surprise that the Icom IC-7300's manual ECSS performance is downright excellent in our testing. It's a very close horse race, however by a "very close" nose the WJ-8711A just wins in our side by side comparisons (Note : Our test WJ-8711A sample did have the internal "Preselector" option and was in use). You can have a listen to the audio file below and draw your own conclusions.  The IC-7300 is as close as we have ever come to matching the WJ-8711A for DX audio recovery with broadcasting stations (when properly adjusted). We experienced none of the ECSS bugs that plagued OUR Icom IC-7600 test sample (see that review for those details). One has to keep in mind the possible AGC clipping issues with the IC-7300, but that was a very intermittent bug in our testing and again is somewhat curable with adjustments (as with the tested firmware versions....see text below).

N9EWO MP3 Audio File Download :  "WJ-8711A vs. Icom IC-7300" Manual ECSS Mode (size 253k)

Recording Details (of file above) - Identical Settings for Both
Mode Setting : ECSS (manual) USB
Antenna: RF Systems MLB Long Wire - 55 Feet Length
PreAmp Use : ON for WJ8711A / PreAmp 2 ON for the IC-7300
Frequency : 11710 kHz
SW Broadcast Station: North Korea (on a very weak reception day)
AGC : Fast (decay settings on IC-7300 as indicated below)
No PBT or other filters on
Tone : Treble set at +3 on IC-7300
Bandwidth : 2.8 kHz
Preselector WJ-8711A : In Use

AGC / Weird AGC Clipping Issue

We have 3 preset AGC settings:  Fast, Medium and Slow. The decay rates are adjustable for each operational mode. Generally all work properly, except once in great while CERTAIN band static and local interference can swamp (clip) the AGC down even with the FAST rate selected. Turning on the "Noise Blanker" function can sometimes help iron out this bug when this happens (or sometimes not). However and most of the time in our case, this is not an issue.

Watch "You Tube" Video Here

We changed the AGC SSB and AM decay settings from the default as indicated below and this helped to tame it (in the FAST setting), but not completely either. Because this is such a rare issue we find it NOT to be of a drawback of the transceiver. We have no idea what might be going on here ?

You Tube" AGC Decay Adjustment

N9EWO’s AGC Decay Rate Changed From Default (in KHz)

SSB MODE
FAST : 0.1s
MID :  2.0s
SLOW : 6.0s

AM MODE
FAST : 0.3s
MID : 3.0s
SLOW : 7.0s

To change the AGC setting (between Fast, Med and Slow) you have to go into the "Function" Menu’s. No touch screen available adjustment here. Another situation were the IR Remote Control comes in extremely handy. 
     
Low Distortion “Hiss Free” Audio / Tone Controls / Internal Speaker

General audio quality is near excellent, especially when manual ECSS is used. Low distortion, punchy and clean with zero audio hiss and no DSP artifacts. Even the virgin AM mode is near excellent. However it was not so great as out of the box (using the defaults). We had to make a few setting changes to in the Tone Control” settings to make it sound proper (less muffled) using with our discontinued Centrios 4012000 Die Cast 2 way speaker.

Please make note that changing these settings also changes the built in SD card audio recorder audio as well (more below on that feature). It’s going to be hard to recommend any settings here, as that will vary greatly with the speaker used (but I list mine below anyway). But we found these settings to help the internal speaker as well (as limited as that one is).  

N9EWO’s “Tone Control” Settings (from Default)

SSB
RX Bass : +5
RX Treble : +2

AM
RX Bass : +5
RX Treble : +2

The TINY top firing internal speaker is a bit above average for an INTERNAL one (even has it’s own little cavity in the die cast chassis in fact). But most owners are still going to find any good large external speaker to satisfy better. External speaker jack is located on the rear panel where it should be. Unlike current Alinco HF transceivers where they have placed these on the FRONT panel. A very undesirable spot to locate a external speaker jack.

SD Card Slot for “Off Air” Audio Recorder / Jamming In Slot / Line Output  / Speech Synthesizer Notes 

Icom’s super expensive IC-R9500 wide band receiver features a built in audio digital recorder. There are a multitude of quality settings; some are great while others at the bottom are totally useless. In the case of the IC-R9500, it records to the old standard “Compact Flash” card via a trap door located on the REAR of the set. It's NOT easily accessible as you need a screwdriver to get to it and a pair of needle nose pliers to remove it. You can read that full review here.

Well the IC-7300 also has such a feature too however it was not really meant for recoding broadcast stations (more designed for voice response audio). It records to a FRONT MOUNTED SD card, so much easier access. One can use up to a 32 GB size card. It needs to be formatted (in the transceiver) before use. This also adds a number of required folders on the card.

Of course this was an exciting part of the set to see when we first discovered it. It is still usable for capturing Broadcast audio mind you, but it does degrade it. Using our now discontinued Sony PCM-D50 PCM digital recorder via the rear mounted line output jack blows it out of the water for quality of course.

IC-7300 INTERNAL "WAV" RECORD FORMAT
128 kbps
8000 hz
16 Bit MONO

The single "lone" WAV format used here is limited at 8000 hz. So for the not so stellar quality with broadcast stations and using wider bandwidths say at 10 kHz. It’s a excellent feature to have in any event and could have been much worse as with the old Icom IC-R20 receiver.  Allows for audio capture of something off air that may have not have been without it. We tested up to a near 2 hour continuous file without any problems (but not recommended...I say best to keep a file to 1 hour maximum ??). You can play it back in the receiver along with fast forward / rewind feature. Or remove the card and easily transfer the file to the computer for playback or for conversion / archiving. It marks the recording with an excellent date and time stamp (starting at the second).

We appreciate the use of a better quality type SD card socket, that is it “clicks” into place and when also removed. IMPORTANT NOTE : When removing a SD card and the transceiver is on, one MUST “dismount” the card (located in the menus) just like with a computer.

However one issue we had in testing (and we are not alone on this), was with a San Disk 32 GB SD card (SDSDUP-032G-T46) as it jammed up in the slot. We could not click it back out. Some may say we inserted it in crooked…no No NO…that is not the case. We were able to get it out safely without any issues. When using ANY 16 GB cards (San Disk and Samsung) this issue was not there. So something with the San Disk 32 GB card we tried to use (ever so slightly thicker or ever so slightly warped ??). Have yet to find out what was going on here? But probably best to avoid the use of any 32 GB cards in the IC-7300 ? One can also store the user settings / memory channels and even a screen capture pictures on the SD card.

Also available at pin 12 of it's 13 pin DIN rear panel connector is a fixed line audio output. Level is set at default 200mv (50%), and is adjustable between 100 to 300mv's at 4.7K ohms impedance ("ACC/USB AF Output" in Connectors Menu). In our testing we found this needed to be turned up to around 90% to work properly with other external recorders (digital or analog). IMPORTANT NOTE : At 100% we detected excessive distortion more so with SSB signals. Keep in mind this also adjusts the level going to the USB cable, so if ones uses this transceiver with that function it's going to effect that as well. The Bass and Treble controls DO effect the Line Audio output , but even with "Bass" Setting at maximum +5, for our ears it was still "flat" sounding side for fidelity with broadcast stations. But has near ZERO distortion......is extremely CLEAN !!!

Pin 12 can be programmed "receive IF (12 kHz) signal output". Details covered in more detail later on this.

Please note that the included excellent "Voice Synthesizer" (speech) feature does NOT voice stamp any recording (either using the built in audio recorder OR via the Line Output jack) at default. However this is selectable in the menus so it can indeed provide that. So in the menu's find (CONNECTORS) "ACC/USB AF Beep/Speech... Output" (Default is OFF). So once toggled ON the Beep and Speech Synthesizer audio output is then put on any recording (SD card and Line Output at Pin 12). Excellent !! PLEASE NOTE : The Squelch does NOT function at the Line Output or SD Card Recorder.

One other note in regards to the SPEECH Synthesizer : The MODE SPEECH selection in the menu's ONLY turns on or off the "Mode" announcement when switching modes. It will ALWAYS give you the Mode announcement when one manually pushes the SPEECH button (there is no way to defeat that unlike the S-Meter level).

Built In Antenna Tuner – Limited Range (But OK)

The IC-7300 features a nice internal antenna tuner for transmit use. If you need to tweak your properly cut dipole etc. slightly, this should do the trick nicely. Aside from the long discontinued portable QRP  IC-703, this is the first 100-watt HF transceiver that Icom has produced that uses 100% relays with any automatic antenna tuner. So there are no motors or variable capacitors in the IC-7300 being used with it’s internal tuner. Downside is the tuning range is not going to impress anyone who needs more for a lesser antenna.   

OK….I have found a way FOR ME to get around the limited antenna tuner range with the 7300. Our Comet H-422 dipole antenna (is NOT in the V configuration which is NOT recommended, as it stresses the trap rivets) is about 3.1 SWR at 14350 kHz. Highest I can make the internal tuner work is 14300 (which for me is right at 3.0 SWR). So I tune at 14300 kHz (where it tunes fine) and is still more than enough tuned range that the SWR is only 1.3 at 14350 kHz . Radio transmits just fine with still low SWR and full output at 100 watts and the radio is not cutting back RF output.

However that is probably at the limit for operation and your mileage may vary greatly. If you have antenna’s that are anything over 3.0 SWR, then the internal tuner in the IC-7300 is not going to work. If it’s over 3.0 (and I mean 3.0 and not 3.1), it will not even try it and just drop out.

There is Emergency Mode for the tuner that will allow a greater range and deal with higher SWR, however it automatically reduces the RF power output to 50 watts. Unknown how much additional stress this places on the tuner parts either, so probably not advised to use this other than emergencies. Use an external tuner that has more range instead if you need that (or better yet improve the antenna and match).

Memory Channels / MPAD

The usual Icom memory channel layout is valid with the IC-7300, that is 99 regular channels and P1 and P2 for the scan edges. One can add a 10 characters alpha tag as well to each entry. Here the touch screen makes for extremely easy entering of the tags. 

MPAD feature is a new idea from Icom. Here the lone button located just to the upper right of the main tuning knob. 5 Memo Pads for quickly saving frequencies and operating modes for easy recall. However you need to drop into the main menu to recall these. You can increase this to 10 entries again selectable in the menu’s (Memopad Numbers).   

Noise Reduction / Noise Blanker / Notch Filter

Works the same in performance to the IC-7600 here on all 3 fronts. To adjust the manual notch (MN) the MULTI knob is used. This takes a bit getting used to. But for most Notch use, the Auto one works just fine (AN) even for broadcast use.

Easy Firmware Updates / Icom....how about a FULL PRINTED manual as a optional accessory ??

Firmware updates are accomplished via the SD Card and could not get any easier. One process does all the updates (Main CPU, Front CPU, DSP Program, DSP Data and the FPGA). This is in sharp contrast to Yaesu’s way of going about Firmware updates (ARF !!).

One of course needs to follow instructions and understand them TOTALLY before it is attempted. When one gets to the final screen: “Do You Wish To Start The Firmware Update”, be sure and tap and HOLD on the YES icon for at least 1 second otherwise it will not start it. This one is very easy to miss in the manual (but it is indicated properly).

Speaking of the owner’s manual, there is only a Basic “printed” one included with the transceiver (printed on a newsprint quality paper). The full 173-page manual is included (PDF format) with the included CD. Not as nice as including a full printed one of course (and one can print that out if desired). A pity that Icom does not offer the full printed manual AT LEAST as an optional accessory (maybe even in a 3 ring binder or holes pre-punched for that use).    

Miscellaneous Feature Notes

Real Time Clock. IC-7300 has an excellent built in clock and is displayed in the upper right hand corner of the LCD. The chassis also contains a soldered in place ML414H micro lithium-ion battery so it backs up the clock settings for a short period (say during power failures). How long this backup battery operates before it dies was not tested (1.0 mah capacity rating).    

Screen Saver. Can be set for OFF, 15, 30 or 60 (default) minutes. We left this set at the default 60 minutes and feel that should be used in normal operations. It totally shuts the backlight off if the time elapses with no control or knob being touched (has no moving display like with the IC-7600). When the screen saver is in operation, the green power LED flashes.

DRM 12 kHz output (not tested). From page 12-1 in the basic manual : "You can change the pin 12 setting in the “ACC / USB Output Select” item on the CONNECTORS set screen. If the pin is set to IF, the transceiver outputs a 12 kHz IF signal from [ACC]. In that case, you can listen to the DRM broadcast with the application software receiver that is installed into your PC.". This of course this would be the free DREAM software. 

Headphone Jack is using the smaller 1/8 inch size. This is a plastic type jack being used here. Some I’m sure will not prefer this size, but being it’s such a small footprint, I don’t find it to be a drawback. The AOR AR7030 and Yaesu VR-5000 receivers both use the smaller 1/8 jack and work fine here. Actually more suited for modern headphones, which always use this size these days anyway. It is a stereo type jack being used as well, so no adapters are required.

Screen Capture Feature. You can capture a LCD snapshot by tapping the POWER button. NOTE : This feature is NOT turned on as default. File is saved to the SD card and as a BMP or PNG type photo (selectable). See actual captured photo below.

USB Port. Just as it is with the IC-7600, there is a real USB port for direct computer connections (audio and control). Not tested for this review. As usual, it requires installation of a driver before use.

Best [affordable] Icom HF Transceiver Ever Tested for SWL use (as this report was typed)

Again we have not been able to test the IC-7300 up against the super big HF transceivers of today (Icom IC-7851, Kenwood TS-990 or any Flex / Elecraft etc.). We have no budget for that and never will.  As a SWL / Broadcast set I would rate the Icom IC-7300 above the IC-7600 and IC-R9500's for overall receiver AND spectrum display performance AND for cool and proper fan operation (and in the final tally this is extremely important to us).  For the price point it's overall performance is just stellar in our testing aside from the LCD touch screen madness that I just don't care for.

Sorry....we have not been able to test the IC-7300 up against the super big and expensive HF transceivers (Icom IC-7851 , Kenwood TS-990  or any Flex / Elecraft etc.). We have no budget for that and never will.

Dave N9EWO
c N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 5.3

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Icom IC-7300's "Screen Capture" feature at work. When switched on in the menu's (default is off), a TAP of the POWER button saves the currently viewed screen to a PNG or BMP file (also selectable in the menu's) onto the SD card. Works well however some parts are on the fuzzy side. Even as we were in the record mode the screen capture worked at the same time without a hitch. In this screen capture, we can clearly see WRNO on 7505 kHz excessively splattering 20 kHz either side (making for difficult listening to WBCQ on 7490 kHz) . (N9EWO Photo)

 

Icom IC-7300's "Screen Capture" showing the maximum size one can view the "Spectrum Scope" using the EXPD (Expanded Screen). This also takes an adjustment in the Spectrum Scope Settings Menu > Waterfall Size "Expand Screen" to Small (default is Mid). Sorry, there is no way to totally turn off the waterfall in the EXPD screen (Firmware 1.13). For more information please see my PDF document, download here.
(N9EWO Photo)

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !


Actual (external) N9EWO Measured IC-7300 RF Power Measurements
Full Power 100% Setting
Compressor: OFF / DUMMY LOAD
Internal Tuner Bypassed  / Power Supply : Yaesu FP-757HD at 13.8V  
Serial Number :  02002xxx  POWER IN WATTS
        Radio Shack 21-527 Digital Power Meter     
KHZ FREQ   RTTY
   AVG
 RTTY
 PEAK
  AM
 AVG
   AM
 PEAK
 28300     99.8  100.0   23.3   23.9
 24930   100.0  101.8   23.9   24.3
 21275   103.1  103.7   24.3   24.3
 18110   105.3  105.5   24.5   24.8
 14316   106.0  107.4   25.0   25.0
   7200   107.9  109.3   25.6   25.7
   5346.5   109.2  110.3   25.6   26.0
   3800   110.7  111.2   25.8   26.2
   1900   107.6  109.3   25.2   25.5
 
  “RF Power” Setting vs. Actual Power Out
Frequency: 7200 KHz  (radio settings as above) POWER IN WATTS
  Radio Shack 21-527 Digital Power Meter
“RF Power” Setting
  on IC-7300 (in %)
      RTTY
       AVG
        RTTY
        PEAK
          AM
         AVG
             0         0.6        0.7         0.4
             5         3.5        3.6        0.7
           10       10.3      10.3         2.0
           25       22.3      22.5        5.0
           50       53.9      54.1        12.6
           75       78.6      79.4         18.4
         100     107.9    109.3        25.6 
N9EWO's Actual Measured Power Output Tests.  As you can see at Zero "RF Power" setting our test sample still emits around .7 watts (3/4 of a watt)

***** Icom IC-7300 Links and Resources (all subject to change without notice) *****

N9EWO ICOM IC-7300 "SPECTRUM SCOPE" Adjustments (PDF Document)
Adam VA7OJ's Icom IC-7300 Test Report
"The SWLing Post" Review on the IC-7300
IC-7300 eham Reviews
IC-7300 Full Owners Manual
IC-7300 Basic Owners Manual
IC-7300 "Yahoo Groups"
IC-7300 Full Product Brochure


***** "You Tube" Video's (that we feel are worth the time) *****

In-depth with Icom's IC-7300 Transceiver (01:16:03)
Icom RS-BA1 : Installing & Setting up Remote Control for your IC-7300... (22:44)
Icom IC-7300 HF/50mhz transceiver complete review demo (26:48)
IC-7300 SWR Graph feature - demo

IC-7300 With No-Fill Spectrum
IC-7300 Feature Video from ICOM UK (18:30)
ICOM IC-7300 operation


N9EWO's Icom IC-7300 "Bug" Reports
Check Back for Updates (complied from around the internet, IC-7300 Yahoo Groups Links Require Subscription). Any item on this list does NOT mean of a major issue, as some COULD very well be invalid and or sample variations...or ?? Links provided below where report was seen. :

- "Fuzzy" Monitor Function / Some front panel buttons are totally flush with cabinet
- Increased Noise Floor when IP+ is on
- Tight Fitting 8 Pin Mic Plug with Stock Mic
- Internal Tuner Lacking (limited range)
- Hard to Adjust "Tuning Knob" Friction
- ALC SSB Power Overshoot Issue (above 30 watts with compression).....[Icom says it's not a problem]
- AGC Impulse Noise Issue (NOTE : This can be improved with adjustment of the decay rate settings, see review)
- Some 32 GB SD Cards Can Get Stuck In Slot [SanDisk & Other Brands...doesn't matter, this is NOT a "how it was inserted" situation !!]
- Intermittent Transmit Issue (SSB Mode)
- Firmware 1.14 makes OVF Too Sensitive

Unacceptable Customer Service From "Icom America" In the Past !!!

Did not have good customer service from the folks at Icom America a few years ago. I cannot say if this has changed over the years , but for the record...I must cover this one...read below.

Made a $ 1500.00 purchase of a "Brand New" Icom transceiver. It died only 18 days after being pulled out new from it's box. The dealer would not replace it being it was a bit over 2 weeks old, so off to Icom America HQ in Washington for repair it went. It returned a couple of weeks later, with it still not working correctly..but even worse...they had taken a PERFECT CONDITION "Brand New" radio and gouged up the top cover + plastic front bezel / noze piece along with the front of the tuning knob BAD !!! The tech and or other people at Icom America did not give a hoot for sure.....

This never got resolved either, only received the royal "run-a-round" a number of times, and the female service manager at this time quitting right in the middle of the affair. So as you might understand, I was very sour with Icom after this for many years.

I felt that this set should have been
REPLACED with their totally botched repair and more importantly the general destruction of a brand new set by "Icom America" from someone who could care less !! Nope, just received the cold shoulder if you know what I mean. Lets hope we NEVER have another bout like this one if service is ever to be required again ??

**** Caveat Emptor ****

*** "SWL IR Remote" for the use with the IC-7300 and other and ICOM Radios ***

(It's worth repeating) : Here is a really cool add on device that allows remote control operation of the Icom IC-7300 receiver AND most newer Icom Transceivers as well via a universal TV remote control (not included). This model originally was targeted for use with the Icom IC-R75 receiver but works great with all NEWER Icom Transceivers all via the CI-V "Remote" jack. Just connect the included CI-V cable between a very small black control box and the host radio. Next plug in the also included very small 9 volt wall wart 120 vac power supply. Program any universal remote control for Sony TV's and that is it.

You can control the sets volume as well as muting it , tune up and down the band or zip through your memory channels. Also you have direct keyboard entry that is more straight forward than on the set plus many other limited functions. Yes, it's a bit pricey but it not only allows for remote operation across the room , but also save wear and tear on the front panel. We have tested this product with the IC-7300 and is most excellent after an easy learning period (have the manual handy) .

Please DO NOT confuse this R75 model with the more Icom generic model that is also available . This one is to be avoided .

We found the simple and low cost SONY RM-EZ4 "Big Button" remote to work well with this device . You do not want a remote with lots of buttons or functions (it will make it much more confusing to use). The Volume and Channel buttons are a bit on the stiff side and not the best placement on the RM-EZ4 , but it gets the job done nicely. Also good that it uses 2 AA batteries (not the less desirable AAA type) and a LED that comes on when a button is pressed .

IMPORTANT UPDATE : This "SWL-Remotes" product has been discontinued and no longer available. One will have to hunt on the used market now and will not be easy as it was not a widely sold product.

The "SWL IR Remote" R-75 model not only works with the ICOM R-75 and other Icom receivers but also for later Icom "transceivers" including the IC : 703, 718, 7400, 746, 746Pro, 756Pro, 756ProII, 756ProIII, 7410, 7200, 7300 , 7600, 7700, 7800, 7851, 910H . Also for other Icom receivers including the IC : R10, R20 and of course the R75 (R9500 ??).  These radios have the analog controls implemented in the CI-V interface that would be operated by the R75 version. The SONY RM-EZ4 remote (right picture above) works well with the device. But please keep in mind that not all functions are supported (see my PDF chart available here, indicates the major functions with the IC-7300).


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