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Icom IC9700 Background Icom IC9700 RADIO VK3FS
The Icom IC-9700 review, 6 months on

The Icom IC-9700 6 months on…

I’ve been using the Icom IC-9700 for 6 months now, and I’d have to say, it’s a radio that has exceeded my expectations in many respects. Despite a fault which developed 6 months in that required a visit to the Icom workshop, the transciever has become a shack favourite. I use it for contests, nets, and DX. I haven’t used it for satelites or non SSB use.

The three noteworthy features worth a mention, and they’re not the only ones, are the receiver sensitivity, the ability to power external preamps up to coax, and the waterfall.

 

Sitting next to the IC-9700 is an IC-9100. The 9700 spends 99.9% of its time on SSB. I don’t use it on FM or D-Star. As mentioned in a previous review, don’t buy this radio if you’re just going to use it on FM. I use the 9100 primarily for HF, and 6m.

Why buy this radio?

Having used the IC-9700 almost daily since buying it, it’s not hard to realise it punches well above its weight. There’s nothing like it on the market. It’s really is the radio for contesters, satellite users and those who enjoy tropo and Sporadic E openings.

I the recent Summer VHF UHF competition, I had to use my IC-9100 instead of the IC-9700. What a difference a generation of receivers makes. Despite running preamps on 2, 70 and 23cm, the 9100 just didn’t have the edge that the 9700 does. The 9100 is no slouch, it’s just that the 9700 realy has an exceptional receiver.

VK3FS IC9700 Dusk

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Resources

Icom IC-9700 Product brochure

Icom IC-9700 Operation Manual

Icom IC-9700 Firmware Updates version 1.21 This may not be the latest version

CS-9700 Computer controlling software (Free download for the Icom IC-9700)

USB driver for Icom IC-9700

Features that make a difference

The IC-9700 Real-Time Spectrum Scope and Waterfall Display

 

If there’s one feature that’s now mandatory in a radio used for working DX and contesting,  in my opinion, it’s a programmable waterfall. The waterfall in the 9700 is highly configurable from colours, frequency range and decay. It supports 3 separately configurable frequency ranges per band all accessible from the touchscreen. I have one set up for 100kHz of voice, and another for beacons, and one spare.

IC9700 Waterfall

The waterfall is perfect for monitoring other stations or signals up and down the band making it ideal for contesting or just seeing who’s on the band. The transceiver has two spectrum scope modes, the Center mode, and the Fixed mode.  I use it fixed mode as you can see in the photo above. This way the waterfall stays stationary as you tune up and down the band.  Others like it in centre mode where the waterfull moves as you tune the radio. You can also turn the Waterfall display ON or OFF. In addition, you can select the Mini scope to display it in a smaller size on the screen.

8 preset voice recorder

 

How many times have you called CQ Contest? Lots I bet. The 9700 can record 8 preset audio grabs to be transmitted at the touch of a button provided you have an opional SD card in the radio. If you’ve got to call CQ repeatedly and often, this is the easiest way to do it. Simply navigate to the appropriate menu on the front panel of the radio and hit record. Say you piece, give it a name and you’re done. Calling CQ is now at the touch of a button.

IC-9700 Voice TX Rec

Simply press REC/SET and follow your nose. It’s very straight forward. Assign it to a number T1 ~ T8 and give it a name. When you’re done, just select a preset. The radio automatically goes in to TX and what ever you’ve recorded goes to air.

Power external preamps up the coax

 

Through the setup menu, a DC voltage can be applied to the antenna coax connector to power an external preamplifier. This eliminates the need for a Bias tee. Each band can be switched individually, and it’s worth noting that all these settings can be transferred and stored on your computer for later use or just as a backup. I use the minikits amplifiers on all three bands. The 23cm 1296MHz UHF RX/TX Preamplifier is mounted up the mast, and has the ability to pull weak signals out of the noise. All preamps are RF VOX switched eliminating the use of a sequencer and can handle the full RF power on each respective band.

Minikits 23cm mast head preamp

The 2m preamp and the 70cm preamps also work very well although I have had to reduce the overall gain of these devices.

Built in card reader

 

Once you have some removeable memory in a radio, you’ll soon realise how invaluable it is. Not only can you back up your radio memories, you can also take screen shots like the ones you see on this page. You can record audio of QSOs as well as presets for the 8 voice soft buttons. You can easily read the files using a card reader on a PC, and share them with others. It’s also where the  firmware updates live after you download them from Icom. There’s so much more too as I’m still to discover.

3FS IC9700 card slot
Icom IC-9700 mountain