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Old 07-14-2017, 1:38 AM
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Default Using the Icom R8600

OK, I have had mine just over one day. I have not yet put it on the bench for mesurbation, and I have not yet used it under very trying conditions. This is my first impression after maybe 12 hours of use on various bands and under various conditoins.

I am primarily an HF listener, utilities, oddities, and military, but I did not get this radio with HF in mind, I use several SDRs for that (for HF specific receive only SDRs I currently have the WinRadio G31DDC and G33DDC, the RFSpace NetSDR, SDR-14, and SDR-IQ, the Elad FDM-S2, AFEDRI SDR, and Kiwi SDR, I have owned and used many others). I also have dozens of traditional superhet HF radios. For a scanner on the desk I have the BCD536HP, so I did not get the 8600 primarily as a scanner either. I like to look at odd signals in the VHF/UHF range. I got this radio as a general purpose, DC to daylight (yeah, I know both are exaggerations, but still...) communications receiver.

In wideband Icoms I own the R7000, R7100, R2500, R8500, and now the R8600. I own several other wideband receivers from other companies also.

The 8500 was / is a fair HF receiver (nothing to get excited about, but a decent basic performer) and a good VHF/UHF receiver. It has decent analog scanner ability. In the 8600 I was looking for something at least that good on HF with improved analog and digital scanner ability, and a design less than 20+ years old (I think the R8500 was released in 1996).

What I got appears to be much better. Keep that thought in mind, the 8500 was still selling for over $1800 when they discontinued it just a short time ago, over 20 years after its introduction.

On HF the 8600 seems a very good performer. It appears to be outperforming my R-75, and seems to be keeping pace in a general way with my WinRadio G31DDC, a radio I consider to be outstanding. My WinRadio G33DDC seems to have some small advantages, but I consider that radio to be one of the best of any technology I have ever used.

So far I am not at all displeased with the HF performance of the R8600. Wideband radios generally seem a bit of a compromise on HF, this does not seem to fit that description at all.

On VHF/UHF the noise floor is very even and uniform. I have found VERY few birdies.

On both HF and freqs above the frequency calibration seems good, but not outstanding. Discipline the receiver to a GPS 10 MHz source and that statement no longer applies.

The audio from the built in speaker is fair, about what you can expect from a built in. I imagine one of the optional external speakers would be better. The audio shipped out the fixed level AF on the back is outstanding, and I use this shipped to my main sound board to listen or record.

I have only played with it as a scanner for a very short period. I have programmed in all the freqs in the area and it seems to do them well and fast. But really I have my 536HP for that. I do wish the 8600 did more in the way of digital modes.

One of the first things I did in the VHF/UHF realm was to tune to the ATSC pilot of a TV channel in the Los Angeles area (more than 100 miles away). I selected USB and tuned 1 kHz low, placing the pilot tone at 1 kHz audio. Then I watched the energy of that pilot reflected off aircraft landing at LAX. Essentially turning the receiver into a passive radar looking at the Doppler shifted tone. This is a weak signal, and the 8600 did this task as well or better than any other receiver I have ever tried it with.

The 8600 is not perfect, it has some features I do not like, or wish had been done differently.

The 8600 uses the main tuning knob for a lot of adjustments that seem odd to me. I would think dial A or C might be better suited to some of them. For example filter width adjustment, I sometimes like to be able to fine tune frequency while adjusting the filters, not possible because frequency tuning and filter adjustment uses the same knob (tuning by default, filters after entering filter adjust mode).

Speaking of filter width, I think that every mode could use a wider range of allowable filter widths, especially SSB. AM maxes out at 10 kHz and SSB maxes out at 3.6 kHz. Both could be a little wider, I sometimes like a 12 kHz filter for AM, and for various HF oddities, like radar, I sometimes use up to 20 or 25 kHz width on SSB. Since it is all done in software it seems to me the maximum limits are a little artificial. There may not be many people who want or need those widths, but it should be simple to do, so why not allow it?

The waterfall display is surprisingly useful, however it could use more adjustability. For example, you can adjust the reference level, the noise floor of the waterfall if you will, but not the Z axis range. If you could adjust this parameter you could allow weak signals to show greater contrast, and make the waterfall more useful with weak signals.

The display is very good, but why not allow that display to be mirrored on a stand alone monitor? Just plug in a large monitor and see the same thing as shown on the front panel LCD? Icom says there is control software coming, maybe this feature will be included with that.

All in all at this point I am extremely pleased with the 8600. Just thinking out loud here, Icom could drop the VHF / UHF coverage, optimize things a tad for HF (presumably improving the already very good HF performance on the way), and have a very good replacement for the discontinued R-75. You listening Icom? Build one of these for HF only, improve its HF performance just a tad, and you would have a truly exemplary receiver, possibly one of the best hobby level receivers ever made. And I would be among the first to get on the pre-order.

T!

Last edited by Token; 07-14-2017 at 1:44 AM..
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Old 07-14-2017, 2:57 AM
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Thanks for the extensive review Token. Hope you enjoy the R-8600. I like monitoring HF, but for me, all my ham rigs (currently FLEX-5000 and TS-590SG), Elad FDM-S2. and Perseus are fine. I was hoping for something more in the VHF/UHF digital mode department with the 8600, but it appears that is not to be.
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Old 07-14-2017, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sshermanmd View Post
Thanks for the extensive review Token. Hope you enjoy the R-8600. I like monitoring HF, but for me, all my ham rigs (currently FLEX-5000 and TS-590SG), Elad FDM-S2. and Perseus are fine. I was hoping for something more in the VHF/UHF digital mode department with the 8600, but it appears that is not to be.
I have two different operating locations set up. My ham rigs are in the radio room, a converted bedroom. That is where the majority of the ham rigs and associated equipments are. I also have the FLEX-5000a but I don't use it all that much since I got my FTdx-5000. I really want to try a FLEX-6700, but have not talked myself into pulling that trigger yet.

But my listening area is in the living room, that is where I have the majority of the receive only stuff, although there is a TS-2000X and a FT-2000 there also. No way I am going to have the amps, mic booms, etc, etc in the living room. Besides which, the living room has no 240 V for the amps.

I hardly ever transmit, other than some local stuff on 80, 10, 6, 2 meters, and 23 cm. My radio hobby is much more centered on monitoring, although that runs in cycles, I periodically get very active on the ham bands, then drift away from them.

So the living room desk is receive oriented. I often have each SDR looking at a different chunk of spectrum, and it is not unheard of to have 5 or 6 recordings going at one time. I have two servers set up for storing these recordings, one with 24 TB of storage, and one with 12 TB. The traditional receivers are typically setting on a freq, I really do not use those for finding new stuff, not with an SDR to do it instead. Searching for signals with a traditional radio, despite the fact that is how I started in the late 1960's, just feels like groping your way around in a dark room when compared to using a waterfall on an SDR for that function.

And that is one of the reasons I was looking forward to the 8600, a more or less traditional radio / tuning knob layout and a built in waterfall. I have that feature on both my FTdx-5000MP and my FT-2000 (I have the DMU-2000 for each of those), but of course those are HF / 6 meters only.

T!
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Old 07-14-2017, 12:51 PM
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Token, sounds like a nice set-up there. I know you're up in high desert somewhere, from back a couple of years ago when you and I were the two So. Cal stations on the Perseus map. Will have to get together sometime. Maybe I could come and see your shack. I will be interested in any further reports and comments you have about 8600. Would be an interesting comparison with my AR-DV1. I suppose, from your description, that the 8600 would run rings around the AR-DV1, especially on LW, MW, and SW.
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Old 07-14-2017, 1:08 PM
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Originally Posted by sshermanmd View Post
I will be interested in any further reports and comments you have about 8600. Would be an interesting comparison with my AR-DV1. I suppose, from your description, that the 8600 would run rings around the AR-DV1, especially on LW, MW, and SW.
I have never used the AR-DV1, so no point of reference there for me. And I have not yet used the 8600 on LW/MW, but that will change this weekend.

I am still in the honeymoon period with the 8600. I was pleasantly surprised by its HF performance, based on past wideband receivers I was half expecting something more mediocre but at first blush getting something more than I expected. It is like a new car, you are convinced it is a great ride, one of the best you have owned so far in your life.

Lets see if a month down the road, having used it under wider ranging conditions and gotten a lot more experience with it, if I am still as happy.

Personally I will also want to see the bench results, how does it really, quantitatively, stack up to the radios I am making subjective comparisons with at the listening desk?

T!
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Old 07-14-2017, 1:41 PM
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Exactly, I am waiting for your honeymoon period to be over. I will be awaiting the 1-month report. If it is glowing, my wife may go what "you're buying another radio."
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Old 07-14-2017, 2:32 PM
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This is a video of display option B on icom R8600.

It is the same display screen as on the icom R9500.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXeM8QA9xaw

Last edited by n2pqq; 07-14-2017 at 2:46 PM..
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Old 07-14-2017, 2:53 PM
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When I first got my Icom 7300 I was a little disappointed with the looks of the display then discovered its completely tweakable for color and other things. I now have a green spectrum analyzer and a deeper shade of blue for the waterfall.

Here is a video of a similar display and if the 8600 has the same adjustments you can make it look a lot better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY3T91AHQko Otherwise thanks for the review.
prcguy


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Originally Posted by n2pqq View Post
This is a video of display option 2 on icom R8600.

It is the same display screen as on the icom R9500.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXeM8QA9xaw
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Old 07-14-2017, 3:04 PM
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Yes, the waterfall option B in N2PQQs linked video is my default setting, tweaked with some custom values.

And prcguy, it looks like the 8600 has the same set of options, minus the TX specific ones, as the 7300. I have tweaked it to several values similar to what is in the video you linked. But I would really like adjustability in the Z axis. The Grid setting is as close as that gets, and I did not realize that existed until your vid, so thanks for that, much improved now. But I would still like to be able to adjust the grid on the spectrum display, instead of 10 dB / division I would like to see that settable, I like more like 3 dB / grid.

The CENTER Type Display is a little odd, I don't know if the 7300 does it the same way or not, but with 2 of the 3 settings as you change modes, without retuning, the waterfall shifts right / left, depending on if you are in LSB or USB. I end up using Carrier Point Center, which is the 3rd setting and does not shift the waterfall left or right with a simple mode change.

T!

Last edited by Token; 07-14-2017 at 4:01 PM..
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Old 07-14-2017, 5:59 PM
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Thanks for the review! Really appreciate it!
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Old 07-14-2017, 6:51 PM
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Initial impression of the ICOM IC-R8600

My executive summary if you are on the fence deciding, do not hesitate to purchase if you can afford the R8600, I dont believe youll be disappointed.

Ive had my IC-R8600 for a week now and would like to share my initial impressions. I had reserved my R8600 at the beginning of February from Ham Radio Outlet (HRO), and I received a unit from their initial ICOM allotment. HRO called and emailed me when they had stock to release (30 June), and I received on 5 July.

The R8600 joins an ICOM R-75 (from the last production run), a Radio Shack DX440, a Uniden BCD436HP, a Uniden BCD536HP, and a Whistler TRX-2. I use two ICOM SP-23 filtered speakers with the ICOM receivers. I sold a CommRadio CR-1a, Grundig Satellit 750, and an ICOM R-75 (last production run unit) in anticipation of the R8600 being released. HF antennas: Alpha-Delta DX Ultra (500 kHz-to-30 MHz) with ~60 Belden 9258 RG-8X lead-in and a 100 long wire (both ~20 ft above ground level); VHF/UHF Antenna: Specialists MON731 (50-894 MHz) with ~20 Belden quad shield RG6 lead-in. The R8600 and R75 are powered via a single Astron RS-12A power supply.

HRO double boxed the R8600, well packaged, and arrived safe and sound. The R8600 came with the following:
Owners Manual
DC Fused Power Cable
DC jumper plug
Three audio plugs
One RCA plug (for antenna)

I must admit I was initially underwhelmed when I unpackaged the R8600. The lack of a keypad, dedicated controls for some functions (implemented via multifunction selectors like Dials A, B, and C), and even the physical size left me wondering about my purchase. The R8600 front panel appeared smaller than the R75 front panel. I realize SDR versus conventional, and outside of the CommRadio CR-1a my collection has been conventional (still have several other receivers like the Panasonic RF-4900 that I am thinning out). The R8600 definitely has the solid feel when you pick it up; especially when compared to the Grundig.

Unlike the R75 (connect antenna, apply power, tune via keypad, press a few buttons, and listen), the R8600 requires a bit more attention (and even reading the manual). I quickly though fell in love with the R8600 after an hour. The filter options including the two PBTs are great. Monitoring of various HF signals is greatly enhanced and I found much more enjoyable. My R75 just has the factory filters and the R8600 filtering is far superior.

HF performance is better on the R8600 than the R75 and my experience with the CommRadio CR-1a. With the R75 I was able to conduct A-B testing using the same antenna. The first evening I was able to receive both WWV and WWVH on 15 MHz with the R8600, the R75 only could receive WWV (Im in central Ohio). The R8600 was definitely able to receive weaker signals that the R75 could not. The R75 is no slouch to begin with either.

The audio quality of the R8600 is excellent using the built-in speaker. The tonal quality sounded better to me than the R75.

The pinnacle of the R8600 is the touch screen display and spectrum scope. Reminded me of my early days as an electrical engineer designing SIGNIT (i.e. COMINT and ELINT) systems (circa early-to-mid 1980s). What once was relegated to government monitoring systems is at my fingertips (I realize this feature has been available for a while on commercial amateur radios, and with the advent of SDRs and good application software). I ended up spending most of my time learning and using the spectrum scope.

So far, I have only used the HF features of the R8600. I will be moving on the LW/MW, and then to the VHF/UHF side. I will update this report after I get a week of tuning LW/MW and VHF/UHF.

Features I wish for: an external display port option, the 4.3 screen is too small for my liking especially with 5 MHz bandwidth spectrum scope in HF. Released application software, e.g. RS-R8600 and CS-R8600. I was excited as an amateur dealer on their web site indicated the CS-R8600 was available for order; when I called was told still listed as a future product and not available. I believe the full power and enjoyment from using the R8600 will arrive and be achieved when there is application software that can take advantage of this receiver.

Once again, I highly recommend the R8600 for at least HF performance. If you are on the fence, do not hesitate to purchase if you can afford.
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Old 07-28-2017, 8:05 PM
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Is anyone using the matching external speaker
with integrated power supply.

Sp39AD ?

If so what are your thoughts on it .
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Old 07-28-2017, 9:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
OK, I have had mine just over one day. I have not yet put it on the bench for mesurbation,
T!
I've mesurbated to the 8600, and I don't even have one yet!
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Old 07-28-2017, 10:09 PM
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Hello,

Dave, N9EWO has some observations about the R8600 on his radio news page. He has a link to his files on scope settings for R8600 and IC-7300.
N9EWO - Dave's Radio News - Shortwave Radio

I have seen mention of one review of the SP-39AD that noted the switching power supply is noisy and the speaker is mediocre.

73 Eric
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Old 07-29-2017, 1:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n2pqq View Post
Is anyone using the matching external speaker
with integrated power supply.

Sp39AD ?

If so what are your thoughts on it .
Hello,

Dave, N9EWO added some comments about it on his radio page, quote:
- SP-39AD Power Supply Speaker (Forget It !!) : I seen these comments over on "radioscanner.ru" forum in regards to the matching and very pricey SP-39AD power supply/speaker (text converted from Russian and modified slightly). As I suspected, it appears to be another noisy switching power supply and a mediocre speaker. Still do not understand why Icom continues to have these supplies output at 15 volts (why ??) ??

I received a power supply plus ICOM SP-39AD speaker.....Summary: Speaker is mediocre, is overloaded at high power, when a low-level sound, overloads. The main drawback of the SP-39AD device: when you touch the speaker housing, you can hear the increased background of the received signal from the station, the background is reduced after changing the polarity of the AC plug, but it still remains! Another trouble - when the speaker touched a strong background noise was in another nearby receiver. In addition to the external surroundings, I see nothing good.

unquote

$260 seems like a premium price to get a speaker and power supply in a black box with the Icom label on it. It likely has a $2 speaker and the guts of the $70 IC-AD55NS.

73 Eric
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Old 08-02-2017, 2:04 PM
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Here is a little test following a NXDN system.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-2hw-ZTmvI

Control channel locked out.

Using this system site 011B Pecks Pond ,Pike PA

https://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?sid=9209

Last edited by n2pqq; 08-02-2017 at 2:09 PM..
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Old 08-03-2017, 1:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hooligan View Post
I've mesurbated to the 8600, and I don't even have one yet!
You just download the hi-res image, print it out, and tape to the bathroom wall.
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Old 08-03-2017, 9:41 PM
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Hello,

The DC Power Jack looks like a EIAJ-05. Is that correct?

73 Eric
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Old 08-04-2017, 9:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricCottrell View Post
Hello,

The DC Power Jack looks like a EIAJ-05. Is that correct?

73 Eric
There are 2 ways to power the radio, either via the round power jack or via the three pin Molex looking connector. They never identify the exact type of jack used, but the round one does look like it might be an EIAJ-05. When I get home this evening I will measure it and see if the dimensions match the EIAJ-05.

T!
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Old 08-08-2017, 2:00 PM
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Hello,

I got my R8600 today. I am not in a good receive location with good antennas. I was able to try out some of the controls, very nice.

The R8600 does use a EIAJ-05, the same as the Whistler TRX-2 I have. I got a couple of adaptaplug 'T' plugs and a Radio Shack 2.5A multi-voltage power supply during the closeout, mainly to use with the TRX-2. The RS power supply seems to power the Icom fine, although there maybe noise issues from the power supply. I need to do some testing and experimenting.

73 Eric
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