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R8600 Icom R8600: What Are You Monitoring?

Joined
Apr 1, 2008
Messages
4,472
Location
San Francisco, Ca.
#1
This question goes to the capabilities of our rig. I use this highly capable rig just as I used the R71a it replaced-HF utilities and SW broadcast. But I know my habits are not doing this thing justice. What are you guys with R8600s using yours for? I don't think there are any R8600 owners near me save for one person but I'd like to expand the horizon on the higher frequencies. I've used it for marine and VHF/UHF police stuff but what else can I chase with this thing on my D130J? What's out there that I can sink my fangs in? I've got the Lambo but I don't know where to drive it:)
 

kruser

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Nov 25, 2007
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St. Louis County, MO
#2
This question goes to the capabilities of our rig. I use this highly capable rig just as I used the R71a it replaced-HF utilities and SW broadcast. But I know my habits are not doing this thing justice. What are you guys with R8600s using yours for? I don't think there are any R8600 owners near me save for one person but I'd like to expand the horizon on the higher frequencies. I've used it for marine and VHF/UHF police stuff but what else can I chase with this thing on my D130J? What's out there that I can sink my fangs in? I've got the Lambo but I don't know where to drive it:)
Not sure of your interest above HF ridge but I use my 8600 for about everything! It is truly a fantastic receiver and I find I'm finally migrating away from using my much older Icom R9000 and R7000s.
If I had to pick, I probably use my 8600 for railroad monitoring the better percentage of the day.
Any rail lines are far from me so it's almost more like chasing DX but on the AAR rail frequencies!
I also tune around the aircraft bands, both civil and military but aircraft monitoring never had a high interest with me for some reason.

I also like to just tune around mainly the VHF (136 to 174 MHz) range with the bandscope set to display maybe 1 MHz of spectrum. I seem to see more weak or very short duration transmissions with the bandscope set below its widest span of 5 MHz.

Amazingly, I don't use it much for the digital modes it will get but will when railroads actually start using NXDN if that ever happens here.
I would love to use it for DMR as we have a ton of that here using conventional single frequencies but unfortunately, the 8600 does not handle DMR. I know many have sent feature request to Icom to add DMR if possible in a firmware update for this model as well as the new R30 portable.
I know the R8600 hardware can support DMR but its anyone's guess if it can be added via firmware and of course the biggie, will Icom do it. I guarantee they would sell more of both models if they added DMR.
It's kind of funny but I always wanted a receiver capable of Icom's D-Star mode. Now that I have one, all the DStar ham repeaters have switched to DMR or P25! Just my luck. I did get to monitor some DStar on my R2500 a couple years back but it was already fading away in popularity. Today, I think there may be one 2 meter and one 440 repeater left in this area that use that mode and they are seldom on the air.

If I were you, I'd turn the bandscope on and start tuning around the V/UHF ranges and see what you can get!
I also lookup distant VHF stations across both Missouri and Illinois (I live right on the border of both) and see what I can get. I get great distant signals out of Illinois with that state being so flat. Same goes for Missouri more to the north northwest of me. I like to lookup what I hear here in the database. That's kind of fun and I find I can spend hours just tuning around like that!

Somewhere out there is a settings list that someone posted that customizes the bandscope to look more like an older signal analyzer screen. I personally like this much better than the default waterfall display that you see when you turn the scope feature on. Especially when tuning around above 30 MHz. For HF stuff, I do favor the waterfall look.

One of Icom's HF transceivers shares the same screen and bandscope as the R8600. The scope settings were written for the amateur transceiver (forgot the model) but apply to the R8600 also.
Let me know if you want to try that and can't find it and I'll dig up a link for you.

All in all, these radios are very nice and tons of fun!
Enjoy!
 
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#3
Thanks kruser for the reply. I guess I'll have to go hunting like you said. One thing I can tell you that you probably already noticed is this rig receives far-distant stuff far cleaner up in vhf/uhf than I expected. I only have my 2004 Uniden BC785D to compare it to, but for example, all the San Jose police agencies, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Santa Rosa, etc. that are at best, readable but static-filled on the scanner, are highly readable and very clean down to the least of s-unit signals on the 8600. This I am impressed with. Like I said in another thread, I always attributed this to the d130j being just an OK or so-so antenna. This R8600 showed me that antenna is actually very effective.
I had the Blue Angels on the R8600 when they were here and where I'd lose their voices in the hash as they soared eastbound away from my QTH, the R8600 held onto them all the way through each maneuver.

I appreciate your input here and hope to hear something from others that maybe both of us can benefit from:)
 
Joined
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#4
If you test the Uniden and Icom on a bench I'll bet they measure similar sensitivity and I suspect your line of sight to Sutro tower which is blitzing your Uniden, where the Icom is very high performance and immune to the overload. When receivers get blitzed they can generate internal IMD that raises the noise floor and masks weaker signals.

I'm currently listening to my morning 40m net on the 8600 with the voice squelch engaged and its really nice. I temporarily have a 133ft 80m offset center fed connected for HF reception. My 8600 spends most of its time connected to an MP Antenna Super M Ultra, which is a super ultra POS, but the receiver picks up plenty of HF, VHF and UHF stuff with it.

I had a 10/20/40m trapped sloper connected to the 8600 for HF reception but found when I fire up my main HF rig with amplifier I get too much coupling to the sloper and can measure 10W of energy into the 8600. I bought a receiver protector rated at 10W input and burned that up, so I have to be careful not leaving big HF antennas plugged into the 8600.

Otherwise my 8600 doesn't get the attention it deserves but I have explored some NXDN TV crew stuff and VHF/UHF air, lots of HF through 23cm amateur including D-Star and some VLF beacons. Occasionally I'll scan LAPD and other local public service freqs when my TRX-1 is out of reach.




Thanks kruser for the reply. I guess I'll have to go hunting like you said. One thing I can tell you that you probably already noticed is this rig receives far-distant stuff far cleaner up in vhf/uhf than I expected. I only have my 2004 Uniden BC785D to compare it to, but for example, all the San Jose police agencies, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Santa Rosa, etc. that are at best, readable but static-filled on the scanner, are highly readable and very clean down to the least of s-unit signals on the 8600. This I am impressed with. Like I said in another thread, I always attributed this to the d130j being just an OK or so-so antenna. This R8600 showed me that antenna is actually very effective.
I had the Blue Angels on the R8600 when they were here and where I'd lose their voices in the hash as they soared eastbound away from my QTH, the R8600 held onto them all the way through each maneuver.

I appreciate your input here and hope to hear something from others that maybe both of us can benefit from:)
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2008
Messages
4,472
Location
San Francisco, Ca.
#5
If you test the Uniden and Icom on a bench I'll bet they measure similar sensitivity and I suspect your line of sight to Sutro tower which is blitzing your Uniden, where the Icom is very high performance and immune to the overload. When receivers get blitzed they can generate internal IMD that raises the noise floor and masks weaker signals.

I'm currently listening to my morning 40m net on the 8600 with the voice squelch engaged and its really nice. I temporarily have a 133ft 80m offset center fed connected for HF reception. My 8600 spends most of its time connected to an MP Antenna Super M Ultra, which is a super ultra POS, but the receiver picks up plenty of HF, VHF and UHF stuff with it.

I had a 10/20/40m trapped sloper connected to the 8600 for HF reception but found when I fire up my main HF rig with amplifier I get too much coupling to the sloper and can measure 10W of energy into the 8600. I bought a receiver protector rated at 10W input and burned that up, so I have to be careful not leaving big HF antennas plugged into the 8600.

Otherwise my 8600 doesn't get the attention it deserves but I have explored some NXDN TV crew stuff and VHF/UHF air, lots of HF through 23cm amateur including D-Star and some VLF beacons. Occasionally I'll scan LAPD and other local public service freqs when my TRX-1 is out of reach.
The bolded part of your post is key. I believe what you stated is most likely the accurate view of what's going on. It is the R8600's "immunity" to being squished by the 3-headed monster 1.7 miles from me I'm sure.
The bc785d is fine for San Francisco 800-trunked but the VHF/UHF stuff I intend to put into banks in the R8600 for sure. Once that is done it's going to be interesting:)
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
3,004
Location
Stockholm, Sweden
#6
Typical scanners like Uniden BC780 and BCD536 have 7 different frequency band filters. R8600 has 13 above 30MHz and 11 below 30MHz. The most efficient way to improve reception quality are to narrow down the amount of frequency range that the receiver sees.

/Ubbe
 

KC1UA

Scan New England Guru
Database Admin
Joined
Oct 27, 2002
Messages
1,586
Location
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
#7
I primarily use mine for 30 MHz and above searching. For DMR right now I dump the 12 KHz IF out into SDR# and pipe it to DSD+. To make the spectrum larger I find myself using SDR Console but as that program seems geared more to HF usage it comes up short. It would be nice if either Icom or a third party would or could get the spectrum display out of the receiver and onto a monitor or at least a program that catered to those of us that like to monitor above the HF range. I'd be thrilled to see SDR# work with it as that has always been my go-to program for viewing VHF and above spectrum. Combined with its plugins it's unbeatable. Of course that and SDR Console turn it into a very expensive "dongle" I suppose, although its performance can't be beat.

I have used it on HF quite a bit as well but I am at best a casual user there. I have a Wellbrook Loop mounted in a quiet area of my yard and the combination is a superb one.
 

MStep

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Joined
May 2, 2005
Messages
1,163
Location
New York City
#8
As I explain to some of my radio-newbie friends, the Icom R8600 has many wonderful bells and whistles, but all things being equal, you receive nothing more nor less than you would receive on a small. inexpensive, portable shortwave receiver. The 8600 just does it better, with more features and options.

In terms of the expanded frequency coverage up to 3 GHz, I have never heard any intelligible voice signal above1300 MHz, the upper limit of the 1240-1300 amateur radio band.

The be sure, there might be some signals out there, more likely than not digital, but with an "average" user's antenna configuration, they may not be readily detectable.

As encouragement to those starting modestly in the monitoring hobby, perhaps the best analogy that I use to explain the "difference" between a $100 and $2500 dollar "radio", is essentially in the operator's ability to use his training and techniques to fully utilize the receiver's full potential, much in the same way that a skilled photographer can take equally great pictures with either a $50 film camera (do they even still exist???), or with a $5,000 digital camera.
 

N3CI

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Joined
Apr 20, 2012
Messages
33
#10
I am using my 8600 to quickly scan utility DX stations of interest on HF, to monitor UHF public service, and aircraft band. It is so agile that I can move between target signals with no fuss. It is also very useful to check ham band activity and for occasional SWBC use.

I am careful to keep it without antenna when operating ham radio as the antennas are close and I am worried about RF damage.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
San Francisco, Ca.
#11
I am using my 8600 to quickly scan utility DX stations of interest on HF, to monitor UHF public service, and aircraft band. It is so agile that I can move between target signals with no fuss. It is also very useful to check ham band activity and for occasional SWBC use.

I am careful to keep it without antenna when operating ham radio as the antennas are close and I am worried about RF damage.
Can't blame you for that-I think prcguy expressed the same concern with his. I don't need to worry here, mine is all-RX at this shack:)
 
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#12
You guys should be made aware of the fact that the R8600 is very effective for MW DXing. If that is one of your things. It's one of mine. This rig can be extremely selective what with the PBTs I can run away from adjacent flamers unlike my other rigs. The R75 will only eliminate about a third to half the bleed over from a next-door powerhouse unless I kick in the 2.4meg filter...and who wants that? Where, even in filter-1, the R8600 will totally eliminate that offender. Plus its stellar refining attributes added, hell I have 1270 KZTQ out of Reno playing reliably with very few fades at just under 200 miles sans the crush of 1260 KSFB at 5 miles from me.
 

kruser

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St. Louis County, MO
#13
You guys should be made aware of the fact that the R8600 is very effective for MW DXing. If that is one of your things. It's one of mine. This rig can be extremely selective what with the PBTs I can run away from adjacent flamers unlike my other rigs. The R75 will only eliminate about a third to half the bleed over from a next-door powerhouse unless I kick in the 2.4meg filter...and who wants that? Where, even in filter-1, the R8600 will totally eliminate that offender. Plus its stellar refining attributes added, hell I have 1270 KZTQ out of Reno playing reliably with very few fades at just under 200 miles sans the crush of 1260 KSFB at 5 miles from me.
Yes it is!
I also use my 8600 for most of my NDB work today as well. It beats the heck out of my R71A or R75. Even though I've had this 8600 for quite some time now, I still find it's hard to take my hands off of it when I should be getting ready for a long day the next morning! It's an addicting radio.
I'm using a Pixel loop antenna. Their early version but not quite the earliest. I think they made some slight modifications maybe to the physical strength and possibly to something in its LNA to give it a slightly better noise figure at the lower end. I can't recall for certain. Living in an apartment, the loop was a must. I wish I'd had a loop for the prior 40 years I've been into HF monitoring as they can make a huge difference if you are in a noisy environment. Pair a good loop with an R8600 and you can't go wrong for almost anything within the 8600's receiving ranges for stuff below about 40 MHz or so. I also have a couple different antennas for work above 30 MHz. A 12 element yagi for stuff above 700 MHz and a couple verticals for most everything else.
One thing that would have been helpful would be two or more selectable antenna inputs for 30 MHz and up. One input for everything above 30 MHz is not enough.

I also find myself using the 8600 very often for VHF reception from 108 on up. With its built in scope and great sensitivity, I've found a lot of VHF stuff out of Illinois that I'd never imagined I could hear here. I don't monitor the air bands very often but when I do tune through those ranges, the scope is alive with a lot of short duration signals. By the time I spin the dial to an active scope marker, the signal is usually gone but that's the nature of short aircraft transmissions. I've gotten very good at being able to know what frequency the scope is displaying a spike on so I can usually tune to that spikes last observed frequency and be dead on or close enough to capture the signal and fine tune to it.
Same goes for central and north to northwest Missouri, I find a lot of VHF signals that I'd never tried for due to range and local terrain. I'm blocked by terrain and a ton of man made structures to the south and southwest but this 8600 still manages to pull in distant signals from across the state.
It's kind of cool finding so much analog activity still on the air from rural stations across both Missouri and Illinois. Stuff that most typical scanners would probably miss if doing limit searches.

My only gripe is the lack of DMR in the 8600 but I knew that before purchase so it's not really a disappointment. If I do find some distant DMR signals when tuning around VHF, I'll usually tune an Icom R2500 to the frequency and decode it with DSD+. The R2500 has a data output that is unfiltered baseband audio. This was included by Icom for packet radio back in its day but it works very well for any digital mode I've sent to DSD+ from the R2500.
I've never been able to get a working data output from my 8600 to send to DSD+. I know you can assign IF Output to several of the jacks on the 8600 but I can never decode anything when playing with an IF output mode on the 8600. When I do try, the data signal on the scope available in DSD+ does not look correct. It still looks like a filtered audio waveform.
Both the R8600 and R2500 will create a USB audio connection in Windows that is getting data as can be seen in the Windows mixed for recording inputs. DSD+ will also see these audio inputs when you start it but it will not decode anything regardless how the 8600's output is set for that audio device. I've tried IF Output and AF Output on all jacks on the 8600 and also altered the audio level of each from the 8600's menu's but I've never been able to use any of these signals for decoding any digital modes using DSD+ or any other application I have. If anyone has any advice for this, please pass it on! I'd love to be able to use the 8600 to pass baseband audio to DSD+ so I don't need to mess with two receivers.
 
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#14
Thanks for your addition kruser. It is indeed an addiction, this R8600. But then so was my poor old R71a which I still miss:( setting there sick under the SX-88 staring at me every time I walk into the shack. But the R8600 is so much darn fun it'll be a while before I address the R71a's illness. I'm spoiled I think.
 
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#15
ridge - you're killing me here man. I can feel the wallet vibrating!

What about sat-com? Military or amateur .... time to hook up with prcguy and homebrew an X-wing.

The main problem is being locked down to one radio at a time, so I suggest a twin-setup. :)
 
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#16
ridge - you're killing me here man. I can feel the wallet vibrating!

What about sat-com? Military or amateur .... time to hook up with prcguy and homebrew an X-wing.

The main problem is being locked down to one radio at a time, so I suggest a twin-setup. :)
HA good one Hz:D you do have to get this radio- your passion for this stuff and your expertise absolutely warrant it!
 

MStep

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#17
HA good one Hz:D you do have to get this radio- your passion for this stuff and your expertise absolutely warrant it!
I second ridgescan's recommendation. Go for it. I hesitated because of the lack of DMR and Fusion, although my AOR DV1 is great in that regard. So I got the 8600 and never looked back. Great receiver.

And ridgecan--- ditto on the comments about the R71a -- it was the 8600 of it's day, and mine saw some great service until something went amiss. I sent it back to Icom for repair, but unfortunately it was never the same.
 
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#18
I second ridgescan's recommendation. Go for it. I hesitated because of the lack of DMR and Fusion, although my AOR DV1 is great in that regard. So I got the 8600 and never looked back. Great receiver.

And ridgecan--- ditto on the comments about the R71a -- it was the 8600 of it's day, and mine saw some great service until something went amiss. I sent it back to Icom for repair, but unfortunately it was never the same.
Icom won't touch the R71a anymore and I have a couple of leads on R71a repair places that still exist. But I will need to act sooner than later before even those dry up.
 

vince48

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#19
Right now I'm enjoying ALE messages on two frequencies at once. I'm using my 8600, SDR Console V3 and MultiPSK.
I using 3 VFO's on SDR Console, one for 10.242 mhz and two VFO's for 11.494 mhz. For 11.494 one VFO is for ALE messages and the other VFO is for voice comms. Currently much voice/ALE activity on 11.494.
I really enjoys this type of Ute monitoring. Reminds me of the "old" days.
 
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#20
Right now I'm enjoying ALE messages on two frequencies at once. I'm using my 8600, SDR Console V3 and MultiPSK.
I using 3 VFO's on SDR Console, one for 10.242 mhz and two VFO's for 11.494 mhz. For 11.494 one VFO is for ALE messages and the other VFO is for voice comms. Currently much voice/ALE activity on 11.494.
I really enjoys this type of Ute monitoring. Reminds me of the "old" days.
Good for you:) you're really utilizing some more advanced attributes of this thing. Me, I haven't even assigned anything to channels yet. But one day I will dedicate some quality time in front of this rig and get some stuff organized. It's nice knowing all these great things are just in there waiting to bust out!
 
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