N9EWO Review :
Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" SDR / DSP
 Communications Receiver 


The excellent ICOM IC-R8600 "Wide Band" SDR communications receiver. Direct Sampling SDR below 30 Mhz. Hybrid Superhet / SDR above 30 Mhz. It is NOT just a IC-7300 "receiver" section with VHF / UHF Coverage added on (however overall HF receiver performance is similar). In our view the best receiver Icom has produced to date ("Wide Band" or not). One MUST remember this is NOT a "scanner" type receiver, so no Trunking etc. We detected some minor audio harshness and or spurious gremlins that we could not put a handle on in the AM / FM and WFM modes with Firmware 1.02 and 1.10 (with all 3 test speakers). Good news is with Firmware 1.20 (and above ?), this audio issue has been cleared up. This was never an bug at all with the IC-7300 Transceiver cousin, but it has much less dynamic (flat) audio in comparison.  (N9EWO Photo)

N9EWO Review : Icom IC-R8600 Wide Band SDR / DSP Communications Receiver (as Stock). Comparisons made in this report to the Icom IC-R9000, IC-7300 HF SDR Transceiver and  IC-R9500 Wide Band Receiver (all tested and or owned previously). IMPORTANT : To the dismay of some readers, this review also contains comments / views and links from other owners and information sources. We have been doing it this way since 1998 and are NOT going to change our charter to be skewed by other forces.

Important Note : We will be looking at this receiver more on the "Short Wave" HF side of the fence below 30 MHz.


Model : ICOM IC-R8600
Country Of Manufacture : Japan (Osaka)
Firmware Versions Tested : 1.02, 1.10, 1.20
Serial Number (approx.) of Test Sample : 0201xxx

Optional Accessories Tested :
"SWL-Remotes" R75 IR Remote : USA (discontinued)
CS-R8600 "Cloning Software" (Versions 1.10, 1.20) [Made in Japan]
SP-39AD External Speaker / Power Supply (Made in Japan) [Contains AD-55NS, Made In China]
Astron RS-7A, RS-12A Regulated Linear Power Supplies [Made in USA]
Various Die-Cast 2 Way Mini-Speakers (see text)

Test Antenna's :
Comet DS150S Discone Antenna (30 ft height)
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)

Receiver Coverage / Internal Digital Voice Mode Decoding

The Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" Communications Receiver coverage is from 10 kHz to 3000 MHz (less the outdated cellular blocks for USA 02 versions ) in the usual AM, AM-S, USB, LSB, CW, FM and FM Wide modes. However it also "internally" decodes a number of digital protocols : Baudot RTTY, D-STAR, NXDN, dPMR, DCR (Digital Communication Radio) and APCO P25 "Phase 1". Woefully missing is the now widely used DMR (Digital Mobile Radio), and being this not in Icom's game plan do not look for it to be included either later on (ditto for Yaesu's Fusion C4FM). But there is a I/Q baseband port provided for using external decoding devices.

It uses the same identical RayStar 4.3 inch color TFT "touch screen" display with super fast spectrum scope and waterfall display as with the IC-7300 HF Transceiver. Some may say that that it is 100% IDENTICAL to the IC-7300 for HF reception ? As we will cover in this report it indeed is in many ways, but not entirely. There are many differences other than just receiver coverage and is more suited for broadcasting listening and also includes internal digital decoding for above 30 MHz.


So What's The Draw To The IC-R8600 ? / Real Direct Sampling Up To 30 Mhz

What are the pluses to the Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" receiver ? I would say the first on the list is it being a "Direct Sampling" Software Defined Receiver design up to 30 MHz (just as with the IC-7300 HF Transceiver). That’s right….no traditional mixer and IF stages in the HF coverage. Right from the antenna input there are 11 bandpass filters then to a 14 bit analog to digital converter, after that there is a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). Above 30 MHz it does use a traditional Super Heterodyne scheme and then down conversion into the SDR.
 
- Low distortion and hiss free audio (super crisp and clean) with EXTENDED bass and treble adjustments for each mode.
- 4.3 inch color TFT "touch screen" display with super fast spectrum scope (up to 5 MHz swath) and waterfall display.

- Proper AM mode bandwidths for MW / SW Broadcast use, right up to a nice WIDE 10 kHz one when conditions warrant.
- Icom's proper choices of tuning KNOB steps and how selected.
- QUIET No Fan operation.

- Built in digital "off air" audio recorder with usable quality for MW / SW / FM Broadcast use (higher quality recording over IC-7300).
- 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 5 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 (has Click or Smooth selection).
- Provided tilt bail for proper angle that also includes tabletop / anti-slide protection (rubberish tube on bail and real rubber rear feet).
- No use of rubber like buttons (as used with the Icom IC-7200, IC-718 Transceivers, IC-R8500 and IC-R75 Receivers).
- Rugged metal outer cabinet and Die-Cast chassis.
- High "Q" 11 RF Bandpass Filters on HF, 13 for VHF and UHF.
- TCXO included as standard (+- 0.5 PPM)
- Superb Phase Noise Characteristics.
- 3 Event Timer / 120 Minute Sleep Timer.
- Ethernet Operation for remote "World Wide" use / NTP Time Server Function.
- I/Q baseband signal output port.  

 
NOTE : Less relay "clicking-clacking" vs. the IC-7300 Transceiver. With no transmit electronics in the IC-R8600 one will experience much less relay clicking as you tune around. This has to do with the transmit low pass filters / relays (as it has none). There are still relay's used in the receiver mind you, but not many. On a side note : No schematics or full block diagrams are included with the set.

     
Small Lightweight Cabinet / Steel Outer Shell
 
Icom's IC-R8600 receiver is housed in an attractive steel outer cabinet (plastic front bezel) with an internal thicker die cast chassis that also creates the semi unpainted rear panel (1/2 is a sticker of some kind ?). When compared to the IC-7300 HF transceiver (see my review here), it's tad smaller and ever so slightly heavier. 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.

Size comparisons (in inches Width x Height x Depth) :
IC-7300 :
9.45 x 3.7 x 9.37 / 9.26 pounds (4.2kg)
IC-R8600 : 8.7 x 3.5 x 9.1 / 9.50 pounds (4.3kg)
 
On top of the cabinet there is it's small internal speaker output. It's sounds decent for it's size. But of course only a external speaker will satisfy most including me (more on that later in this report).
 
There is NO internal fan used of any kind in the IC-R8600. This is of course very good news, but it does operate with a bit of heat however, more so if one operates it at 13.8 volts (15 volts ??). Yes, it does require use a external power supply and more on that topic later as well.
 
All knobs have a good feel and all buttons use traditional tac switches. Buttons do have a slight wobble, but is nothing serious. No undesirable soft plastic “rubber feeling” buttons are used. There are 3 mechanical "push in" rotary encoders used for many functions including volume. These have a softer feel over the lone one found on the IC-7300. There is the typical slight rotational play with these, but is nothing excessive.
 
Main “metal” tuning knob is a bit smaller over the IC-7300's but still has the rubberish track (and is actually a bit thicker). Not sure at the time this report was typed if it's a “push on” variety knob or uses a set screw ?? It's spinner hole is not a separate movable piece (is just a dimple in the knob). Is a "clicky" type (detents) out of the box. Good news , there is to way select a "smooth" feeling knob by moving the 3 position slider adjustment on the bottom of the knob (it's not so easy to do however). So it goes from left to right : "smooth loose - smooth tight - clicky". It has some rotational play in the "clicky" mode (but so does the IC-R9500's knob in "clicky " mode), but overall it feels good and this knob scheme was well done.

Not only can the LED back light be dimmed (we use ours at 20%, default is 50%), the other LED panel indicators can be separately dimmed which is a nice touch. The active SD card slot indicator is a blue LED just left of the slot (with the IC-7300 indicator this is on the LCD). It flashes as one accesses data to and from it. IMPORTANT NOTE : One MUST properly "Dismount" the card just like with a computer (if the set is powered on) .

There are 3 antenna inputs.
- ANT 1 is a N Type Connector that covers all ranges.
- ANT 2 is a SO-239 for up to 30 MHz.
- ANT 3 is a RCA (Phono) type jack that is a second input for up to 30 MHz.
All are selectable in programming so to make it easy if you  are using different antenna's. There is one rear RCA jack that is a spare (indicated in the manual that it is is not connected to anything).

2 power inputs are provided. One is using the 3 pin molex type style (is also used on the IC-R9500), and a nice flexible power cable is included. The other is a  EIAJ-5  Power Jack / Plug (4.3 x 6.5 x 9.5mm) type.

USA Icom dealer "Universal Radio"
stresses these important "Operational  Reminders" to IC-R8600 owners (especially for those who DID NOT read the included printed manual).

Be sure to insert the supplied "short connector" into the radio's rear panel if using Icom's AD-55NS or SP-39AD.
Do not accidentally try to insert a PL-259 connector into "Antenna Jack 1". (This is an "N" jack).


Rear Panel of the Icom IC-R8600. "AUX" is a RCA (Phono) Jack that has no internal connection.
"Meter" Jack allows for connection of a external signal strength (usually mechanical type) meter.
 Adjustment in the Menu's allow this up to 8 volts, output impedance 10K (not tested).  

Requires External Power Supply / Operation "Hot" at 13.8 Volts

With the IC-R8600 having a near 2 AMP current draw (normally at approximately 1.6 amps continuous in our testing), does make for very warm operation after a few hours on. This is over double current requirement of what the IC-7300 uses in receive. It does NOT make use of any cooling fans...very good news here ! The receiver requires an external power supply, and I REQUIRE my regulated linear power supplies NOT to run HOT with any continuous operation. I would NEVER use ANY RF noisy switching supply with it, but that's my choice. I say the minimum size to use is the Astron RS-12A model. While this may seem way overkill, we tried a smaller RS-7A and after being on for 2 hours (screen saver off so backlight on full time) it's lone rear pass transistor was too hot to touch which is totally unacceptable to N9EWO's standards. The RS-12A has 2 rear mounted pass transistors and a larger heatsink (and thankfully still no fan to create room noise). We extensively tested / compared a RS-7A vs. the RS-12A with the IC-R8600 (both at the stock 13.8 output voltage) and the RS-12A model is the PROPER linear power supply for the IC-R8600. I say do NOT go with a lesser lower current Astron model if you wish it to run to N9EWO heat standards ! It operates the receiver for extended periods with the heat sink only near hot (even at the changed 12.2 volts setting, see below).

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

The IC-R8600 runs HOT after a few hours of operation for N9EWO standards (at the marked regulated 13.8 DC volts, screen saver off) !! We ran extensive test to see if operation at a lower voltage would help to reduce cabinet heat (less internal voltage regulator burn off it has to do). The voltage input specifications are regulated 13.8 DC volts plus or minus 15%. That puts the low end at 11.73 volts, and sure enough as one goes around this voltage the receiver stops operating. I wanted to see a .5 volts (half a volt) buffer above that, so we went with a setting of 12.2 volts (adjustment made with the IC-R8600 on / as loaded to the host Astron RS-12A power supply). Good news is that this does indeed help to reduce cabinet heat. Mind you it will not make for cold operation, but we found this to help make a definite noticeable difference even if only slight (and can only help with the receivers longevity). We have not noticed any degradation of performance as this text was added at the 12.2 volt setting. Yes, it's even a bit hotter operation with the Icom AD-55NS or SP-39AD with those being at 15 volts, see additional below.

NOTE and WARNING : The Astron RS-12A host power supply has an INTERNAL voltage adjustment (between 11.0 and 15.0 volts). It's a thumb wheel trimmer pot located on the parts side of it's PC Board and is not so easy to get at. This one is for owners who have experience dealing with this kind of stuff (and have a known "accurate" digital voltmeter). If you are not, PASS THIS UP and find a friend who is that can help you if you wish to do this !!



Recommended LINEAR (Transformer) Astron RS-12A Regulated Power Supply. Click on photo for larger view.
While it may seen overkill, continuous operation of the IC-R8600 made the lesser Astron RS-7A model to run too HOT !!
We turned down the operation voltage of the RS-12A to 12.2 volts to help reduce the IC-R8600's cabinet heat (see text, photo)
The small piece of cardboard jammed in the RS-12A's top cover helped to reduce it's cabinet transformer buzz (a common trait). (N9EWO Photo)

Optional Matching "SP-39AD Power Supply - Speaker" / Why 15 Volts ??

We were able to test a sample of the optional Icom SP-39AD External Speaker / Power Supply combination. It is made in Japan and it contains inside a AD-55NS switching type power supply (made in China). Please Note : The AD-55NS "floor style" power supply is also sold separately. All metal construction (except the bezel) is solid and very attractive matching the IC-R8600 perfectly. Front speaker grill is also metal and excellent looking.  Size is 3.9 (w) x 9.5 (d) x 3.5 (w) inches, weight is 3.5 pounds. Has the same excellent  rear "real" rubber feet as does the IC-R8600 (using screws for attachment, no undesirable stick on ones are used), chrome tilt bail with table protection. So one will not have to worry about it sliding around the table nor damaging it. It includes a detachable and very flexible "2 wire" 6 foot length AC power cable. It is not polarized so can be inserted either way into the power outlet (117 VAC cable). Measured "straight wired" DC output cable is 2.1 feet long and the speaker cable comes in at 5.5 feet long. Internal speaker size is 2.5 inches large (this is the actual measurement done in testing) and has a 5 watt rating.   
 
OK, the BIG questions is : How much RF noise does the power supply generate on Medium Wave and Short Wave bands ?? Just as it is with most (if not all) switching type power supplies, our testing of the SP-39AD (AD-55NS) we indeed experienced LW / MW / SW RF noise interference (setting a portable receiver on top of it's case made it go really wacky). We used an active INDOOR MW and Tropical Band Loop antenna's (good for up to 7 MHz) in the same room and close to the receiver. On the MW band we could hear the supplies buzzy hash (touching the metal case of the speaker actually made it a tad worse). But importantly the strength of this power supply hash was "usually" lower than any received signal. Strength depended how close the loop antenna was to the SP-39AD case. Above 5 MHz using a passive 30 Foot INDOOR SW long wire across the ceiling of the room, the noise was even less of a problem (but still detected). Above approx. 30 MHz it was never much of a problem. If one uses all outdoor antennas (at a decent distance from the receiver) this noise was not much of an issue at all. By the way it made no difference what way the AC Plug was inserted into the outlet.

So if you use a indoor loop (or a indoor long wire for SW) near the SP-39AD just be sure and keep it as far as you can and should be no problem in most cases. But one must remember your situation and experiences may vary (as it goes with ANY indoor antenna use). It's not the worst switching power supply we have encountered over the years (again it's actually OK for MW / SW using outdoor antenna's). However i
n any event WE still choose to use a Linear (Transformer) Regulated Power Supply set at 12.2 volts output as covered above to rule out ANY noise issues 100% (but again that is MY choice).

Question we asked Icom America : "Why is the output of AD-55NS power supply at an excessive 15 VDC ??" The receiver operation is just fine at the cooler 12.2 volts (this is well within the + - 15% specifications at the nominal 13.8 volts). At 15 volts it also operates the IC-R8600 even a tad hotter than at 13.8 volts (as tested). As of this report being typed we have not received any answer back on this topic.

As far as the internal 2 1/2 inch speaker fares in the SP-39AD, to our ears it did NOT sound as good as the IC-R8600's internal speaker (even being it's pointed towards the user). It was no where close. Lacks ANY bass response even at the maximum + 15 Bass setting. This part of it was extremely poor in our view for any broadcast listening (however it is acceptable for voice communication use). Please see our speaker suggestions later in this report, that is if you wish to obtain the best possible "Broadcast" speaker audio quality from the receiver (the SP-39AD is not it).

If a Icom "external speaker" is a MUST HAVE for your IC-R8600, our suggestion is the larger SP-20 model (now sold as the SP-34 in a black cabinet). It's the only Icom external speaker we have ever tested to date that was decent to our ears. It's has a nice large 5 inch speaker, audio filtering, dual inputs, neat Speaker "on-off" switch with LED and a 1/4 inch headphone jack to boot. However it is quite pricey.

The SP-39AD is a very attractive matching speaker with a built in AC power supply. It may or may not live up to your expectations (that is your call and depends what type of signals you listen to).   

      
Optional Matching SP-39AD "Switching" Power Supply / Speaker.
It contains a stand alone "floor wart" AD-55NS hidden inside.
 
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 5 MHz Max (+/- 2.5 MHz). This is a huge improvement to the older IC-756 PRO, PRO II and PRO III HF Transceiver models that only did 200 kHz max. Even the IC-7600 is limited to 500 kHz Max, the IC-7300 is 1 MHz Max (+/- 500 kHz). The 1 MHz setting is the most useful "maximum" width for use on HF. It matches the normal scope mode width (with no muting) of the expensive Icom IC-R9500 super receiver for use above 30 MHz. Works better too as it unearths the weakest of signals, where the IC-R9500 weak ones are awash in it's noise floor "grass" (see my IC-R9500 review here). 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, but it gets the job done. We have an excellent "Waterfall" screen as well, something completely absent on the elder and very pricey IC-R9500. Why this was added to the IC-7600 HF transceiver later and not to the IC-R9500 has always been a great mystery ??
 
As is the normal for Icom here, the IC-R8600 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). Again we have to stress that the scope sensitivity is excellent , plus with the bottom grass noise being totally absent that existed with older models (including the Icom IC-R9500).
 
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 which we prefer to do). This spectrum scope is active full time and no receiver muting at any time.

We changed to no-fill part of the spectrum display to make it look more “old school” (to no fill at all).
Here are my improved IC-R8600 "Spectrum Scope" adjustments in PDF format.

The IC-R8600 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 / IC-R9500 LCD's (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-R8600 / 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 second (first was the IC-7300) 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 some 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 so much (but that is me of course), and that is always stil available in the EXPD screen even with my adjustments.

N9EWO ICOM IC-R8600 "SPECTRUM SCOPE" Adjustments (Download Here, PDF File)


Improved "Spectrum Scope" settings for the ICOM IC-R8600 (in our view). 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. Shown with this standard display with the  waterfall OFF. See my PDF document, download here. (N9EWO Photo)
 
Touch Screen / 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-R8600. 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
screen cleaning cloth (made for LCD TV screens) MOISTENED WITH DISTILLED WATER (when it needs to be dealt with, which is not too often). NOT dripping wet but not dry either, getting it totally wet and then 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" !!  NEVER NEVER NEVER....spray any liquids directly on to the LCD !!!

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-R8600 owners manual.
4. Possibility it could make the touch sensitivity a bit less (or MUCH less) ? As again 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 and again ALWAYS CLEAN hands / fingers….it has not been a problem for ME and part of the reason why is next.
 
The Discontinued "R-75 SWL-Remotes" Black Box

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-R8600 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-R8600 (as given below).

For those very lucky owners that have a "R-75 SWL Remote's" IR remote box, here are the commands usable with the IC-R8600 (large font for wall mounting). There are a few differences than used with the IC-7300. For one direct keyboard entry is limited to 60 MHz (as the old IC-R75 receiver coverage was and the remote controller was originally made for). These are NOT for the "Icom generic" model that "SWL Remotes" also sold (although some will be valid). PLEASE NOTE : For the most part (aside from toggling some receiver functions), it's really only useful up to 60 MHz.

IMPORTANT : Sadly this "R-75 SWL-Remotes" product has been discontinued and no longer available new. One will have to hunt on the used market now and will not be easy as it was not a widely sold product.
 
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 (sorry now discontinued). 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-R8600 (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-R8600 (Important : Using the default settings in the remote device) :

1. Change the port "baud rate" to 19200 in the IC-R8600 menu’s (don’t use auto).
2. Change the "address" to 5A (from the 94h default) also in the IC-R8600.

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.

Ergonomics Good / Metering
 
Even with the Touch Screen nastiness and limited one touch operations in the mix, overall ergonomics are good. But as it goes not as pleasant as if real buttons were in use (the IC-R9500 is better in this regard) . Again direct keyboard entry is much easier to make happen using the IR remote as covered above for the HF spectrum. One can select memory channels (once a group is selected with the up down buttons) either the main tuning knob or with  "Dial C" knob.

As far as the NORMAL Mechanical Encode usage is (Sub Menu when pushed in) :
Dial A : SCAN DELAY / Sub Menu : SCAN SPEED and PRIO INTVL
Dial B : AF GAIN / Sub Menu : BASS, TREBLE, RF GAIN, SQL
Dial C : MEMORY CHANNELS / Sub Menu : Varies with mode (normally Passband Tuning 1 / Passband Tuning 2 / VSC / Backlight setting).
Many of the Knob Sub Menu's can vary depending what mode you are in.
 
Metering is displayed using bar graphs and is selectable in the following : Standard S-Units, dbu, dbu (emf) and dbm (same as with the IC-R9500).
Readings appear to be most accurate. There is a 1/8 inch phone jack on the rear panel to add a mechanical meter (8 volts maximum), not tested. This output level (voltage) can be tweaked in the menus.
 
Not so "Cool" operation / Contains No Cooling Fan
 
As commented earlier, the IC-R8600 in our opinion operates near HOT after in operation for say 2 to 3 hours. See the earlier comments on this page to help reduce this slightly. There is no cooling fan which is actually good news as there in no annoying buzz in operation. One must NOT stack anything on or near the cabinet and give it area around it to breath (as covered in the owners manual).

One can just look at the actual tested current measurements and understand why the IC-R8600 operates VERY VERY warm to HOT (as compared to the IC-7300 in receive which operates cold in comparison) !! The real heat generator is the old IC-7600 HF Transceiver in just receive.
 
ICOM IC-R8600 at 12.2 or 13.8 volts (revised info via Rob Sherwood)
Receive Current : 1.3 Amps +/- 100ma

ICOM IC-7300 at 13.8 volts

Receive Current : 836 ma +/- 50ma

ICOM IC-7600 at 13.8 volts
Receive Current : 2.7 Amps +/- 50ma

Proper “Tuning Knob” Steps / Other Tuning Knob Details / No 1 hz Tuning With Knob / VRIT
 
With 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 receivers / transceivers, the IC-R8600 has many more programmable steps for the “Tuning Knob”. So one can adjust it exactly proper to the owners desires for normal operation, which for us 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. However the ONLY way to access 1 hz tuning was with "direct entry" using the keyboard or by using the IR Remote control (as cover earlier in this report). Even the programmable TS setting will not allow 1 hz steps. In sharp contrast the IC-7300 does allow 1 hz steps with the tuning knob (for 1 hz tuning steps the IC-7300 wins).
 
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. Nor is our test sample as smooth as the IC-7300's encoder. Again (I know we already covered this, but have I been asked a number of times on this subject...so repeating) is
a "clicky" type (detents) knob out of the box. There is to way select a "smooth" feeling knob by moving the 3 position slider adjustment on the bottom of the knob (it's not so easy to do however). So it goes from left to right : "smooth loose - smooth tight - clicky". It has some rotational play in the "clicky" mode (but so does the IC-R9500's knob in "clicky " mode), but overall it feels good and this knob scheme was well done.

There is a way to turn on a VRIT (Variable Rate Incremental Tuning) with the tuning knob. Called "Manual Dial Auto TS". That is it speeds up the tuning rate if the knob is spun fast by up to 5 times. This can be most useful depending what tuning steps are normally used.  

Proper Bandwidth Choices / SSB Selections Could Be Wider /
Useful S-AM modes (Is It a True AM Synchronous Detector ?) / Manual ECSS Excellent
 
The IC-R8600 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.

At first test we were extremely disappointed that the S-AM modes (AM Synchronous Detector) seemed be exactly the same as in the IC-R9500. In other words, it did NOT help with AM mode fading distortion. We have a bit better news on this after more testing. In S-AM (D) [double sideband], it's indeed a royal stinker with no reduction in fading distortion. When we switch to S-AM (U or L) [upper or lower sideband], we are indeed hearing much less fading distortion. Not that it does a stellar "yeoman's job" here as some distortion remains and tends to cut off the high end slightly. But "finally" Icom has at least a useful Synchronous Detector circuit to reduce most fading distortion on the LW/ MW and SW bands. We can HOPE for improvement on this with later firmware updates ? Of course one can use manual ECSS  too (that is zero beat in a SSB mode) which it does excellent with fading distortion totally gone. However the SSB modes have limited top bandwidth of 3.6 kHz as all modern Icom sets do. We experienced none of the bugs that plagued OUR IC-7600 test sample with manual ECSS use.

Important Note on the AM
Synchronous Detector : Even with the Sync being useful, just by the way it acts it does NOT appear be a "TRUE" AM Synchronous Detector being used ?? I say this as it never goes in a usual "heterodyne" sound when in a out of lock condition like true Sync will do when off tuned. The 'SYNC" light just flashes on and off with no difference to the received signal. So its not all wine and roses here, but at least you can set the bandwidth up to the maximum 10 kHz value (unlike manual ECSS which is limited to 3.6 kHz).  

Not only do we have a STOCK +/- 0.5 PPM TCXO for excellent stability, with our test sample the display was also DEAD ON out of the box right down to the 1 hz digit (this can be tweaked in the Menu’s if necessary).
   
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 / FMBC in Mono / Ref Level" UP to + 5.0 db
 
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 1.10) and antennas it took the receive PreAmp (Note : It only has one receive Preamp, not 2 as with the IC-7300) 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-R8600 ? I say….strongly NO. Being this is a true SDR, this is the just part of the technology (at least at this price point).
 
The IC-R8600 does NOT have the "MW band ATT" setting in the Menu's as with the IC-7300.

“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 "side by side" testing the overall HF receiver performance and features appear identical to the IC-7300 transceiver (PreAmp OFF). To equal the 7300's "Spectrum Scope" sensitivity it was needed to adjust the "Ref Level" UP to + 5.0 db. Again the IC-R8600 only has one RX preamp, where the IC-7300 has 2 (PreAmp 2 is rarely used except above 20 MHz for our antenna's).

See our IC-7300 page for more HF performance details (as those are indeed identical) and for the comparison to the "HF Receiver King of the Past" WJ-8711A Professional super set (including a audio file).

FMBC reception is stellar and has excellent sensitivity and selectivity (only has one fixed bandwidth in FM WIDE mode). It is in MONO only (sorry no Stereo). However it has a strange ACG pumping trait where at times the volume wonders a bit intermittently. So the volume drops up and down at certain times. Also sounds like some audio compression is going on here in it’s DSP processing (FM WIDE Mode ) ?? Of course on the FMW mode the AGC and decay rate are not adjustable. But even with this small bug, we can already tell you that it's pointing to a fantastic FM DX'ers dream set. Selectivity and sensitivity are both outstanding including stunning audio quality that has never been heard out of communications receiver (well it's not all wine and roses , we cover that later in this report). On the FMBC band PreAmp use makes for a very noticeable improvement on very weak signals. 

VHF/UHF performance is another stellar showing of the IC-R8600. Sensitivity and selectivity easily overtakes any consumer "scanner" receiver (PreAmp ON). Of course one has to keep in mind (again) that this is NOT a scanner and also cannot do any trunking functions. Even with that, scanning speed is extremely zippy and provided priority and scan delay features. For all FM modes there a well performing (but small) discriminator meter that pops up on the mid left screen. P25 decoding quality is simply first rate as is the NXDN digital decode mode also tested.


AGC / Weird AGC Clipping Issue

Three preset AGC settings are available (expect for Wide FM) :  Fast, Medium and Slow. The decay rates are adjustable for each operational mode. Generally all work properly, but just as with the IC-7300 HF 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). Unlike with the IC-7300, this AGC issue can be greatly triggered when tuning across the bands (strong to weak signals). FM Broadcast is even effected by this.

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.

IMPORTANT IC-R8600 AGC NOTE (Firmware 1.20) : This issue is actually even more noticeable with the IC-R8600 when compared to the IC-7300. At times received signals as you tune from strong to weak stations and / or strong local static burst / interference can get swamped down the AGC. One just has to wait for the volume to come back when this happens. Of course reducing the AGC decay helps this bug, but it does not cure it. Acts very strangely, but will show this trait sooner or later (a owner may not notice so much it at first). While we do not find this to be a major drawback with the IC-R8600, it is annoying. As noted above the noise blanker can help with this when local noise triggers it, but not always. Using the Noise Blanker can throw it's own issues into the ring (cross modulation).  

N9EWO’s IC-R8600 AGC Decay Rate Changed From Default

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. 
     
Audio Quality / Tone Controls / Audio Harshness Cleared Up / Internal Speaker / External Speaker Tests

General audio quality is EXCELLENT on HF especially when manual ECSS or even the Sync Detector is used (L or U). Punchy 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) and that information is below.

While the internal speaker sounds OK to our ears, for most only using a decent external speaker will satisfy (more on that also below).

The IC-R8600 has much more extended Tone controls over the IC-7300 (in fact it's a night and day difference). So of course it has MUCH more richer sound especially with a decent external speaker in use. The IC-7300 sounds TOTALLY flat in comparison (but is actually cleaner to our ears..see below).
 
In our extensive testing we unearthed some minor audio harshness and or spurious gremlins in the AM / FM or WFM modes (over HF and VHF/UHF and FMBC receiving ranges) with firmware 1.01 and 1.10. We were unable to determine what was going on here as connected to all 3 of our test speakers (see below) ? Not that this was a extremely serious issue and many may have never detected it. UPDATE : Good News....starting with Firmware 1.20 (and above ?) this general audio harshness issue has been cleared up. With the IC-7300, we NEVER detected any of this with any Firmware tested. The IC-7300 has MUCH less Bass and Treble range. Fading distortion using "S-AM (D)" with MW or SW broadcast stations is still present (as covered above).

We ran extensive tests with 3 models "well cared for" classic mini "2 way die cast speakers " with the Icom IC-R8600. The receiver's internal 2 Watt audio amplifier drove all 3 more than adequately. All of these speakers are discontinued and one will have to hunt on the used market (usually ebay). WARNING : The Minimus 7 was made from 1978 to 1992 by various contract manufactures for RadioShack (watch for degradation of the rubber surrounds on the woofers). Best to ONLY locate the latest C version that was made in Malaysia (1992) and hopefully has not been abused by previous owners (and or modified) !! In the case of ALL speakers we added 4 vinyl stick on feet (not felt).  
 
Tone Settings in the IC-R8600 (Realistic "Minimus 7" Speaker)
 
(HF Bands, Broadcast 10 KHz Bandwidth)
Treble : + 3
Bass : + 11
 
(HF Bands, Amateur 3.6 KHz Bandwidth)
Treble : + 3
Bass : + 11
 
(FM Broadcast, Fixed Bandwidth):
Treble : + 4
Bass : + 12   
 
The list of tested "Classic" Die-Cast speakers with the Icom IC-R8600 : (*- winner)
*- Realistic Minimus 7 . Cat 40-2030C  [Date Code 6A2 (June 1992), made in Malaysia. Near end of production). 4 inch woofer.
- Realistic Minimus 77. Cat  40-2054 [Date Code 9A1 (Sep 1991), made in Korea. Last production was made in Malaysia in 1992) Larger 5 inch Woofer over either 2 models.
- Centrios 4012000 Similar to the Realistic Minimus 7 in size and layout, but sound has less Bass, made in China. It’s 4 inch woofer surround is foam instead of the rubber one as in the Realistic 7’s. Was sold by “The Source” in Canada up to around the early 2010’s.
 
The clear winner here was with the Realistic Minimus 7’s Cat 40-2030C. With the larger Minimus 77’s there was just too much bass response even with the Bass control turned down. It also was not as clean sounding. Centrios 4012000 clone was good too. Not as much bass response (and different sound in general), but OK. Some have said this speaker was an identical clone speaker of the Minimus 7, that is simply is NOT TRUE in our side by side testing ! 
    
Please make note that changing the tone control settings also changes the built in SD card audio recorder audio as well (more below on that feature). We are unable to recommend any settings here, as that will vary greatly with the speaker used.


Our favorite speaker with the Icom IC-R8600 receiver is the classic Realistic (Radio Shack) "Minimus 7" Die-Cast 2 way model (40-2030C). Look out hunting on the used market as age can eat away the woofer rubber surround. Best to find a C version that was at the end of production (Malaysia 1992). It was made between 1978 and 1992 by a number of Radio Shack contractors / countries. The larger Minimus 77 model tested was excessively bassy even with reduced Bass adjustment on the receiver. (N9EWO Photo)  

SD Card Slot with Decent  “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 my full IC-R9500 review here.

Well the IC-R8600 also has such a feature too as does the IC-7300 HF transceiver. It records to it's 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 receiver when we first discovered it. PLEASE NOTE : The IC-R8600's record quality is improved over the recording rate found in the IC-7300 (it's not at the same rate as you might think), so is a better sounding performer here. Still not going to match using our outboard and discontinued Sony PCM-D50 PCM digital recorder via the rear mounted line audio output jack. The Sony of course does a better job but is more of a chore to use.

IC-R8600 INTERNAL "WAV" RECORD FORMAT
256 kbps
16000 hz
16 Bit MONO

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

The single "lone" WAV format "selection" used here is still limited at 16000 hz. 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 FAST 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 , start a new file). 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 with the IC-7300 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-R8600 and 7300 ? NOTE : We did not have this bug occur with the IC-R8600 at time of this report. One also stores the user settings / memory channels and the screen capture pictures on the SD card.

Also available on the rear panel is a standard 1/8 inch phone socket for audio "Line Output". Level is set at default 200mv (50%), and is adjustable between 100 to 300mv's at 4.7K ohms impedance (in CONNECTORS  Menu > / AF Output Level). In our testing we found this needed to be turned up to around 80% 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. Again we must stress the Bass and Treble controls DO effect the Line Audio output. This output can also be programmed "receive IF (12 kHz) signal output" (not tested).

Please note that the included excellent "Voice Synthesizer" (speech) feature does stamp the recording (either using the built in audio recorder OR via the Line Output jack). There are a couple different ways this can be selected onto the recording. In the Set menu find : FUNCTION> SPEECH>SPEECH Output for Recording (see page 11-3 in the owners manual). Excellent !!

2000 Regular Memory Channels  / CS-R8600 Programming Software
 
The IC-R8600 has 2000 regular memory channels in 100 groups (OK lets call then banks), 200 Auto Memory Write Channels, 100 Scan Skip Channels, 50 pairs of Program  scan edges. Of course that is many more over the IC-R8500 or IC-R9500. One can add a 10 characters alpha tag to each entry including one for each group. Here the touch screen makes for extremely easy entering of the tags. However having the CS-R8600 Cloning Program is a very worthwhile optional accessory even if priced a bit stiff (more on that next), we say it's a must have !!

User Tip : The "M-CH DIAL" button is used to tune a "Memory" channel (for those who do not read the owners manual, this will not be so obvious).

We tested the CS-R8600 optional "Cloning Software" with the IC-R8600 and is excellent. It's GUI is extremely well done and can even adjust the font size for not so great eyesight like the author. It has cut and paste / insert / move an entry up and down. We actually found this software to be one of the best we have EVER tested with any radio ! It also includes a Print function and that can be for all or just one Group. However one needs to make a few notes in installation and use .

N9EWO's CS-R8600 "Cloning Software" Installation Tips :
#1 : Load the USB driver (located on the CD-R) FIRST before one plugs any cables in.
#2 : Install the actual software (setup). It's takes a bit for it to complete once it gets going (so be patient).
#3 : User needs to enter the user name and serial number properly as indicated in the manual when that screen appears (serial number is more than just the serial number on the CD-R, product CD ID numbers come first). I left the "Company Name " blank (optional).
#4 : BEFORE one plugs in the USB cable (cable not included, I used the front mini-USB one), owner MUST install the new 1.20 CS-R8600 software update (that is if the owner did the 1.20 firmware update as I did). If you pass this step the program will NOT work (with firmware 1.20 installed) !!
#5 : With the USB cable connected, our host computer created interference on the HF bands, so be sure and properly disconnect the cable once the data has been transfered. Important Note : Programming files with a older version (like 1.01 or 1.02) are NOT compatible with a the latest 1.20 version. It may sort of work, but weird things can happen I guess ??  So it is very important for all CS-R8600 users to update to the latest 1.20 version and update to the latest version 1.20 IC-R8600 firmware before (USA version firmware link provided here, there are different firmware versions for USA and non-USA).  


Excellent Icom "CS-R8600" Clone (Programming) software. Click on photo for larger view. Highly recommended and about the best ergonomics you will ever find with programing software (if not the best). However is quite pricey. We tested it with Windows 7 (32 and 64 Bit versions). (N9EWO Photo)

Noise Reduction / Noise Blanker / Notch Filter

Works the same in performance to the IC-7600 here on all 3 fronts. Noise Reduction (on HF) is excellent just as it is with the IC-7300. We found that LEVEL 3 is as far one should go, no higher. 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 / Includes a FULL PRINTED manual

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 a FULL PRINTED one included (excellent). No CD-R manual is included (as with the IC-7300). 

Internal Photo's / Eric Cottrell's Peek Inside the IC-R8600

As we type this, Icom has NOT provided ANY detailed block diagrams (let alone schematics included with the receiver). If you view the IC- R8600 Fenu Review (click here), they provide a number of excellent internal photo's of the receiver. Eric Cottrell removed the cover off of his IC-R8600 and has these interesting observations.

"I noticed they are using a ported speaker (see photo below). There is a hole next to the speaker and a black plastic enclosure on the backside of the speaker. There is also 4 mounting posts on the speaker panel. Maybe there will be a future option board ? There are two populated unused connectors on the main board. I also noticed a number of places for connectors that are not populated."

"The 16 bit ADC used to digitize the RF should give excellent performance. RX-3818E is marked on Lattice chip. RX-3818 is likely a engineering or hardware identifier for the receiver, with E for Europe?"

Some of the ICs on the main board :

- Renesas R7S721001VC Main CPU ARM A9
- Spansion FL127SIF10 Serial Flash
- Micron 48LC4M16A2 4 banks of 1MBx16 SDRAM 167 MHz
- Analog Devices ADSP-21488 DSP
- TI TMS320C55 DSP Likely the Digital Voice CODEC as DVSI likes this chip.
- Altera Cyclone IV FPGA EP4CE55F2-317N (same as used in IC-7300)
- CY7C68013A-56 EZ-USB FX2LB USB 2.0 controller used for IQ
- Lattice LCMXO256C MachXO FPGA
- Linear Tech LTC2208 16 bit 130Msps ADC

- 2 x TI PCM2901E Stereo Audio CODEC w/USB Interface (one for each USB port)
- TI PCM1681 24 bit 192Ksps 8 Channel DAC
- 2 x Microchip USB2513B USB 2.0 Hub (one for each USB port)
- 4 x SiLabs CP2102 USB 2.0 to TTL UART (two for each USB port)


IC-R8600's Internal Speaker uses a ported design (plastic baffle around the speaker).
There are 4 unused mounting posts on the speaker's bracket.
Who knows if down the road Icom will make use of these posts with a new option ? (Eric Cottrell Photo)


Miscellaneous Feature Notes

Real Time Clock. IC-R8600 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 blue power LED flashes.

DRM 12 kHz output (not tested). From page 16-1 in the manual : "You can change the Line Output" jack to IF, then transceiver outputs a 12 kHz IF signal from this (and the USB). 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.

2 USB Ports. Just as it is with the IC-7600 and IC-7300, there is a real USB port for direct computer connections on the rear panel (audio and control). Not tested for this review.There is also FRONT mounted Mini USB one as well. We used this for the CS-R8600 software and worked just fine.  As usual, it requires installation of a driver before use (uses 2 COM ports).

Best Icom Receiver Ever as Tested To Date - "Wide Band" or Not  (as this report was typed)


We have not been able to test the IC-R8600 up against the super big modern HF transceivers (Icom IC-7851, Kenwood TS-990 or any Flex / Elecraft etc.). We have no budget for that and never will.  As  a "Wide Band" or as HF receiver I would rate the Icom IC-R8600 well above the super expensive IC-R9500 for overall receiver AND spectrum display performance. Even beats out all other HF Icom receivers of the past in our view (I have experienced them all). 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. Some will say it's identical to the IC-7300 transceiver (minis the transmit). Well for overall receiver performance it most certainly is, but as we covered above it definitely is NOT overall !! The audio harshness issue WAS a concern at first, but thankfully that was cleared up starting with Firmware 1.20 (and above ?). As we covered above the IC-7300 never had any of this audio harshness with any firmware tested. The AGC "swamp" bug is still a nasty and is a even bit worse over the IC-7300. But again was not considered a severe drawback (Firmware 1.20).

Dave N9EWO
c N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 5.1


Icom IC-R8600'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 it is showing the maximum size one can view the "Spectrum Scope" using the EXPD (Expanded Screen). This takes an adjustment in the Spectrum SCOPE SET Menu >Waterfall Size (Expand Screen) (page 4/5) to Small (default is Mid). Sorry, there is no way to totally turn off the waterfall in the EXPD screen (Firmware 1.20). For more information please see my PDF document, download here. (N9EWO Photo)

Links for Additional Information (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

- Icom America IC-R8600 page
- ENGLISH PDF Brochure

- ENGLISH PDF Manual 
- CI-V Reference Manual here (version 3)  
- Fenu Radio "Icom IC-R8600" English Review (includes internal pictures)
- eham Reviews - Icom America Repair
- eham Reviews - Icom Service Center Michigan
- IC-R8600 Review November 2017 QST (PDF via Icom America's web site)

You Tube Video's that we feel are worth the link below :

ICOM IC-R8600 Introduction of Its Operation (including the Sync Detector)
ICOM IC-R8600 vs JRC NRD-545 Part II
IC-R8600 - MW Band in Japan
ICOM IC-R8600 with Radio Sakha 7345kHz (using Sync Detection)
-  ICOM IC-R8600 Medium Wave Reception in Japan
ICOM IC-R8600 FM Reception in Japan
-  ICOM IC-R8600 Performance of the Synchronous Detector
ICOM IC-R8600 Operation of Filter Adjustment
ICOM IC-R8600 9875kHz VORW Radio International (with S-AM(U) on)
Icom IC-R8600 - First Impressions in Europe by Fenu-Radio

ICOM IC-R8600 Quick Operation of Synchronous Detector and TWIN PBT
SDR DDC приемник IC-R8600 (Russian)
Icom IC-R8600 (general)


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