Icom 7300 Review

Amateur Radio Projects and Software Defined Radio

Icom 7300 Review

Transmit
The IC-7300 is rapidly gaining the reputation of having some of the best “out of the box” transmit audio currently available in a transceiver. After listening to several IC-7300s on the air, the reputation is well deserved. Transmit audio is excellent with the new included HM-219 electric condenser microphone. You are probably not going to improve things a lot by investing in a more expensive microphone unless you prefer a desk mike. One user was transmitting with a cheap computer headset mic through a RS-BA1 remote setup and the audio still sounded good. The audio from the IC-7300 with the default settings typically comes across as a very full warm sound. Turning on the compression still keeps the good audio but makes it more punchy to be heard over the crowd in a pileup (just don’t over do it). The large muffin fan on the back fires off when you transmit, but it is not hugely annoying. Overall the IC-7300 has  excellent transmit audio for a transceiver in this price range.

Tuner

SWR Graph

SWR Graph

The built in antenna tuner is also very good. It will handle tuning up to a 3:1 mismatch very quickly and memorize that setting for future use. One interesting feature with the tuner is the Emergency Mode. Not sure why Icom decided to call it that. Anyway by activating the Emergency Mode the IC-7300’s antenna tuner can tune a 10:1 antenna mismatch at the sacrifice of output power. Output power will be reduced to a max of 50 Watts. Extremely handy feature to have when you just need to try to work that 30M station on your 20M antenna. There is also a feature that can plot the SWR curve of your antenna installation to allow you to more easily adjust your antenna’s SWR.

 

 



RS-BA1 Remote Software (optional $100)
If you really miss having the ability to display the IC-7300’s spectrum / waterfall display on your PC, Icom’s RS-BA1 software will let you do that. The RS-BA1 software is really meant to allow you to control your IC-7300 from a remote computer, but it can serve as a work around for having a on screen spectrum / waterfall display on your computer. There are basically two components to the RS-BA1 software, a server program and the control program. There is no need to worry about the server program if you just want to use the control program with a IC-7300 connected directly to your computer. The spectrum / waterfall display feature will let you click and tune signals that are displayed on a direct connected computer just like software based SDR systems..  The spectrum / waterfall display can not be sized to fill the entire computers screen only lengthened vertically. Also the remote spectrum / waterfall display is slightly laggy since it’s only can be transferred at 115,000 baud from the USB port. However, it isn’t terrible and could be useful. The software can be a little fiddly to set up, but it will work as advertised. The RS-BA1 software will allow you control a large number of settings from your computer. So, in some ways you get some of the similar features of a desktop SDR application but the RS-BA1 doesn’t process any of the SDR signal it’s self. By installing the server component on the PC connected to the IC-7300, you can use the RS-BA1 control software installed on a second PC / Laptop to access the IC-7300 remotely with transmit and receive audio. A touch screen laptop or tablet coupled with a good headset / mic and Icom’s RC-28 hardware control would make a pretty nice remote setup.

Third Party Software
The IC-7300 will work well with most 3rd party digital programs. If the program doesn’t directly support the IC-7300 CAT commands, you can usually define it as a IC-7100 and get by. However, direct support is coming pretty quickly to these programs. The latest version of Ham Radio Deluxe supports the IC-7300 as well as Ominirig.



Conclusion
Icom has certainly produced a terrific transceiver with IC-7300 and is sure to become an instant classic. It is also pretty amazing that it is being offered at it’s current price point. Especially considering the lowest priced “blackbox” 100 Watt SDRs right now is the Anan 100B at $1800 and the Flex 6300 at $2500. To be fair, both the Anan and the Flex offers more features and flexibility due to their software centric operation. However, the overall performance of these SDR transceivers are not going to be night and day over what the Icom SDR offers. Plus the IC-7300 is a complete SDR system in a box making easy for SDR novices to setup and use. There is still a learning curve to get familiar with all the IC-7300’s bells and whistles, but not a very steep one. For you that have wanted to get involved with SDR technology but didn’t care for the potential complications with a computer driven system, then the IC-7300 is for you. So far the early adopters of the IC-7300 who have commented in forums, user reviews, and on Facebook have been extremely positive. This often isn’t the case with new radio launches especially on forums where users can be very vocal with their criticism of a product, there have been a few minor issues reported , but nothing significant so far. If you are interested in doing some reading for what current owners think, check out the Yahoo IC-7300 Group or the Facebook IC-7300 Group. The only area that Icom slightly dropped the ball, was on not providing the IQ audio via the USB port (to be fair, not all users aren’t going to care about this). This would allowed the IC-7300 to be used with 3rd party SDR software providing more flexibility and generating interest amongst traditional SDR users who would like to have that optional feature available. If technically possible, maybe Icom will add that feature in a future firmware upgrade. For sure the IC-7300 has certainly shaken up the overly stagnant HF transceiver market that has been in place for the last 15 years or so. It will be interesting to see how the “black box” manufactures and companies such a Yaesu and Kenwood will respond now that the gauntlet has be thrown down. This should be fun. Thanks Icom!

*Photos of the IC-7300 screen were captured with the built in screen shot function.

 

 

13 Responses

  1. Keith says:

    I own a Icom IC7300 and it is a very nice radio for the price. However, i think it is only half of what I would consider a SDR without the ability to leverage other than OEM SDR software.

    An I/Q output in the current USB needs to be a top priority for either the next or following firmware. Otherwise, this radio will be overcome by the next Japanese manufacturer that decides to incorporate such capability.

    Maybe Icom won’t care since they have sold so many units as a first mover in the space, but I certainly hope that they add this capability to this rig. There are certainly many reasons why they will hold back (primarily because they will want people to purchase their next higher cost unit that will have more open architecture and capability) but I hope they don’t.

    This rig is super nice but it is a bit of a shocker that this was not included as a capability. I did not buy the additional icom software because because of all the negative reviews and the YouTube videos I have seen demoing it make me really question the need to actually buy it. It appears to be very clunky and the panadapter inflexibility to scale to the computer screen and apparent latency compared to the ic-7300 touch screen panel are a huge turnoff for me.

    • Robert Young says:

      Hi Keith, thanks for your input on your IC-7300. I’m considering investing in one of these rigs. I live in a Very noisy area, and need a receiver that can reject as much noise as possible. In the review above, it says ” Recorded transmissions can be be played back over the air, if someone wants to know what their audio sounds like. ” I looked over the manual and even called Icom tech support, and they said it would not allow you to re-transmit QSO audio recordings. He wasn’t absolutely certain, however. Can you verify this function. Thanks, ’73 Bob

      • admin says:

        Yes it can be done, but not directly from the radio. The RSBA1 software adds that feature. The other technique is to remove the SD card and plug the card into a computer. Move the recording to the voice memory directory , plug the card back into the 7300. Assign the file to a voice memory button. Press the button on the voice memory on screen and the recorded audio will be transmitted. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.

    • Joe says:

      Just curious. I’ve been thinking of purchasing an IC-7300 to be used primarily as a replacement for my aging Icom R75 receiver. So aside from transceiver use, and instead using it as a communications receiver, how would you compare it’s receive capabilities in comparison to the R75? Would it be a worthy replacement? Or would I be better off purchasing a dedicated receiver?

  2. David Hartwig says:

    I have an IC-7300 and am very satisfied with the performance. It is easy to operate and does have too many unnesaccery unwanted bells and whistles. ICOM have issued 4 firmware updates which I have installed the last one rectifying problems with the USB port. ICOM are bringing out the IC-7610 which is also a SDR touchscreen but at twice the price which I think is a bit steep but as I say I am very happy with my 7300 and would recommend it.

    • Malcolm Pelham says:

      Just curious about the USB Port problem you are referring to. Mine has the 1.13 firmware and I am having issues setting up the USB Port for both radio control and sending CW. I just got my radio a few days ago (12/23/16). I did notice on the Icom site that there was newer firmware to download so I was just wondering about the USB Port Issue

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m an old style cw op. Wish the 7300 had a bug emulation mode.

    73, K1JHB

    • Jim wa3mej says:

      it does just use the soft menu through I think the cw menu (has the picture of the key on it) I believe to get to that part of the menu… same place to change between fully automatic bug and the old style J38 key

  4. Richard Smith says:

    Refering to Third party software, please confirm that the 7300 will handle NBEMS digital applications such as FLdigi, FLmsg, etc. In addition the recent addition of FSQcall that is gaining in popularity.

    Rick
    k0kex

  5. Licensed HAM says:

    This is a really nice radio, it initially sold well, and ignoring the internal SDR architecture, it’s main competition is the Yaesu FT-991A which adds 2 meter and 70cm transmit and VHF/UHF receiver coverage. Without having a true I/Q output, or coverage above 70Mhz, the 7300 is largely more comparable to the FT-991A than most any wideband SDR. The Yaesu also comes with more options included and you don’t have to spend $100 on the software. The 7300 has an edge in dynamic range on a test bench but real world performance seems to be very similar to the FT-991A. The “A” revision of the 991 fixed the two major problems–finals failing and a realtime waterfall making it a much stronger competitor to the 7300. In short, I think Icom either needs to add I/Q or risk Yaesu or Kenwood beating them to it leaving Icom in the dust. Right now the FT-991A appeals to many more buyers than the 7300 primarily because of the VHF and UHF support. So Icom is already behind in some ways and the far more expensive IC-7610 does nothing to correct any of the above issues.

  6. marshall says:

    what do I need to send cw 40 meters Lower side band
    where you hear most cw using IC-7300
    Thanks

  7. Bob says:

    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.”

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