IC-7300 Notes

I purchased a new IC-7300 in June 2018 to revamp my /P setup – after mixing the KX3 and FT-857 depending upon my operating mood, band conditions etc, I wanted something that had a) a good RX b) a visual display.  My options were limited within the scope of “portable” (not to mention my budget!) and I wasn’t prepared to go down the KXPA+PX3 route (around £1800 just to have 100-watts, an ATU and the Panadapter)…

Obviously, that left the IC-7300 which had been on my radar since buying the TS-590SG 2 years ago – It was a difficult choice but I think I made the right one as I much prefer the Kenwood as a “workhorse” (big chassis, twin cooling fans).

IC-7300 in M0PZT's Shack

Page updated 13th July 2018 : The following may be updated from time-to-time, as I discover more about it and expand my operating experience with it…


I’ll list some basic pros+cons and then make some comments on aspects that are worthy of note (whether good or bad!)…

Pros

  • Easy to drive – I only had to resort to the manual a few times
  • TX audio is very punchy – easily able to get a clean 100-watts peak (safe ALC zone)
  • SD Card to store/recall settings (different operators, perhaps?) as well as audio playback+record
  • Nice “main dial split lock” feature (see below)
  • CW “auto-tune” surprisingly good (much like the TS-590SG), and faster/better than the KX3
  • 4m / 70MHz – not a band I’ve really used

Cons
What don’t I like – well, there are a few issues, and this may just be a result of making the transition from the KX3 as well as having a TS-590SG in the Shack.  Sure, there will be differences – but just what stands out as being a bit “meh”?

  • Cooling Fan – it starts up quickly (voltage surge) and is a fair bit noiser than the (pair of) fans in my TS-590SG.  It also comes on immediately during TX – there doesn’t seem to be a time or temperature threshold (that I’ve noticed yet).  Personally, I’d favour a “min TX time” threshold which is overridden by a temperature sensor – so that even during brief “599 TU” exchanges, if the radio is hot, the fan comes on to deal with it.  I’m aware of the “CPU” fan mod – but with the radio being used almost exclusively /P, I’m not sure it’s going to be a problem for me.  It’s a very light radio (compared to the 590) – which gave me some initial concern over it being suitable for long indoor sessions on something like PSK/RTTY.
  • TX/RX QSK Relay – Far noisier than the TS-590SG and annoying if you’re not wearing headphones.  As I’ll be using this radio when /P, I don’t think it’ll be an issue for me so much.
  • Lack of quick access to a tuning carrier – You have to enter a multi-layer menu and switch from paddle to key in order to get a constant carrier from the radio for tuning purposes. There’s also the option of using a push-button attached to the Molex “Tuner” socket.  With the 590, you can assign this function to the PF A/B buttons and easily re-tune.

Driving the 7300
I’d say that it’s easy to drive – especially as the menus are large+clear.  However, it is often the “long press” of buttons which take you to the relevant settings, eg: if you press the VOX/BK-IN button it’ll toggle through Semi Break-In, Full Break-In and Off.  If you hold the button down you’ll get the “hang-time delay” setting.  Same with the Noise Blanker+Reduction buttons.

Stacked VFOs
I like that is has a 3-stack VFO per band.  This means that you can toggle through CW, Data and SSB sections of the band with ease and without having to spin the VFO dial, change modes/filter settings etc.

Display : Spectrum/Waterfall
What’s not to like about this?  You can easily see a large chunk of the band as well as narrow-down to +/- 2.5KHz to watch for that 5NN during a CW pile-up.  I kind-of have the panadapter facility on my TS-590SG although it requires an SDR unit capable of receiving the operating frequency (which rules out using a cheap RTL-style dongle if it’s <25MHz).

Screenshots of the display (example below) are a nice touch – allowing for captures to be shared on websites/social-media.  Audio recording (RX+TX) can be useful for those special QSOs and for giving audio to your QSO partner during audio/signal testing.

IC-7300 Display

It amazes me that there are some people who regard a waterfall display as “not being real radio” – I find this quite a strange opinion!  If you are “sampling” a wide frequency range (or even just the audio passband), why not take advantage of it and plot it visually?  In my opinion, it makes for a more efficient operating experience as you can see how busy the band is, find a signal to investigate and even find some space to park and call CQ”.

USB CAT / OmniRig
I had some initial issues getting the radio to communicate with OmniRig and display live freqency+band info on PZTLog.  This was simply teething-trouble as far as baud-rate, CiV and other parameters went.  After a bit of tweaking, I got “Rig2” in OmniRig to work nicely and was able to switch between the Kenwood and the Icom within PZTLog.

I had to modify PZTLog to use CAT-based PTT so that the digimodes window could key the radio – This is because OmniRig “grabs” the serial port which meant basic DTR (CW) and RTS (PTT) had to be issued via OmniRig.  The radio does NOT have any kind of Data/USB “VOX” so I wasn’t able to get PSK/JT modes to key the radio upon an audio signal being present via the USB sound device.

Voice Record
With the SD Card slot comes the ability to not only store the radio’s settings *away* from it, but to put that card into another 7300 and recall your personal settings.  The built-in voice recorder is great for capturing activity and keeping the voice alive during long operating events like field days or contests.

Main Dial Lock with “Split”
A particularly nice touch was a menu option to lock the main dial during “split” operation.  This means that you can keep the DX station whilst holding the XFC button to tune around listening for the station they are working.  On the TS-590SG, the lock was VFO independant, so worked “out of the box”.  This menu setting (SET>Function>SPLIT>SPLIT LOCK) was not enabled on the demo unit at ML&S so I was a little miffed that I’d not be able to easily navigate a split pile-up without losing the DX station on VFO-A.

CW Auto-Tune
This is a great feature for zero’ing onto a caller’s frequency to ensure pitch-perfect (and filter aligned) Morse.  It reacts well, seems better than the one used on the KX3 and (thankfully), operates on RX-only when you have RIT engaged: So, if you are on 14.050.00 and are called slightly off-freq, you can engaged the RIT and hit “Auto Tune” to bring the pitch in-line with yours (but without affecting your TX freq) lest you end up chasing each other up+down the band!

4m / 70MHz
More and more EU countries are getting an allocation on 4m and it’s certainly something I’d like to try now that I can generate an easy (and clean!) 50-watts on all-modes.  This would be a great addition to Galleywood /P events as well as seeing how far I can get at the home QTH.

Easy Headset Wiring
OK, you still need to wire a 3.5mm socket to 8-pin chassis connector but if using a cheap “electret” headset, you only need to wire the Mic and Ground connections, no resistor+capacitor as Icom have all that inside the radio. The downside is if you want to use a dynamic microphone (like a vocal mic or non-iC Heil), a blocking capacitor is advised.  My own headset adapter is the 8-pin front panel connector with 2 short lengths of screened cable: a 3.5mm for the headset mic and a phono for my foot-switch.


Verdict

Here’s a simple Q+A which may help you decide if it’s right for you – this is based on my experiences owning the following radios: Yaesu FT-817ND, FT-857D, FT-450D, FT-950, TS-590SG and Electraft KX3.

  • Would I buy this as a main Shack radio? Yes, but only if I absolutely needed an in-built spectrum/waterfall display
  • What would I buy as a main Shack “workhorse”?  I like the TS-590SG, simply for its build-quality, large chassis+cooling.  It’s a cracker on CW+Data.
  • What’s the best “first HF radio” with a £1200 budget?  There are a few within that price-range.  At the bottom-end, the FT-450D is a great HF+6m set: Small, a good compliment of buttons to make swift changes a breeze plus good (300Hz) filtering.  The FT-857D is a great “Shack-in-a-Box” but lacks selectivity on CW+Data unless you add £120 of filter to it.  Failing that, it’s a tough choice between the IC-7300 and TS-590SG.

There are numerous other reviews, resources and YouTube videos of the radio in action – so use Google and make up your own mind as to whether this is the radio for you.  I’m certainly happy with my purchase in terms of what’s “under the hood”, so providing it performs fault-free, then I’ll be a Happy Ham.

As always, I am not a Doctor and YMMV 🙂