Icom IC-R8500 successor. If and When ?

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perseus68

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After a lot of searching I found nothing about any successor of the IC-R8500.
It's curious but when you look around you see that many of them are still for sale and they are new!
Is it still produced by Icom or do many stores had enormous stocks?

Many sites do report it being a vintage receiver (e.g. Strong Signals writes: "Vintage 1996" )
I'd like to buy one but its' general layout can be little surpassed nowadays.

I'm wondering if anybody knows about any possible successor that will be announced by Icom.
Is it possible that they are still selling a "Vintage" rig after 15+ years and there is nothing new announced in its class to replace it?
I understand its a good receiver but the IC-R9500 is definitely out of budget for me.... :-(

73s
Marco
 

Token

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Yes, the Icom IC-R8500 is still made today, although if I am not mistaken only the unblocked Gov version can be found in the US and so only certain buyers can purchase it. Foreign vendors have the same model since many of those countries do not have the requirement to block cell frequencies.

I am not quite sure why you think there needs to be, or will be, a direct successor to the R8500.

The R8500 is a “left over” concept that followed the R7000/7100/8500 path of development. It is a communications receiver that covers the HF/VHF/UHF range. Originally this series of radios involved two radios, say the R71 for HF combined with the R7000 for VHF/UHF to cover the full range. The 8500 combined the two radios into a single piece of hardware. If I remember right the list price of the R7000 in 1986 was about $1400 and the follow-on R7100 in 1992’ish was $1800. Remember that the R7000/7100 could not do HF and to get “full” range required a second HF radio, such as the matching R70/71/72/75, and the combination of the two radios ran to a list price between $2100 and $3400, depending on the exact combination. In 1992 the R9000 was about $8000 if I remember right. The R8500 was around $2000 or a little more in 1996, a good “lower cost” option to the R9000 or the combined R-72/R7200.

But the key is “communications receiver”. For the majority of its range of frequency coverage the concept of a communications receiver is really a specialized application. It is good at weak signals and odd modes. It is not optimized for “scanner” types of needs, such as P-25, Trunked systems, etc.

The real users of communications receivers in the VHF/UHF range, people with a need for this type of performance, with this range of coverage, are probably specialized, and so something like the R9000 or the R9500 and their associated price tags are acceptable business costs. Remember, the R7000 was a relatively “big ticket” item when it came out, and I would bet a large portion of sales were originally government and professional.

To cover the more average users needs Icom came out with the IC-PCR1000/R1500/R2500 series. These radios can do all the same modes that the R8500 does, but include the features needed by scanner type users and half the purchase price of the R8500. At the performance cost of being not quite as good at weak signal work.

I suppose you could call the Icom IC-R2500 the successor to the IC-R8500. But I tend to think Icom will not really replace the R8500, and the now “mid” line will probably end while the lower end R2500 style and high end R9500 style will be the way Icom goes.

Of course, all of the above is opinion as I have nothing to do with Icom or their planning ;)

T!
 

SCPD

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Icom is certainly overdue to release a (R)eceiver. It's hard to believe, but I believe the R9500 came out in 2006. Icom hasn't released anything since.

That being said, with the popularity of the R75 and other radios they're probably not in any hurry to release an upgrade.

I suspect Icom will eventually tread into the SDR marketplace.
 

w2xq

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The higher end shortwave/wideband receiver marketplace has, in my opinion, all but died. I look back at the receivers reviewed by the World Radio TV Handbook, Passport to World Band Radio and Radio Netherlands' Media Network show in the 1980's and 1990's. Virtually nothing today is new to the market. ICOM is long in the tooth, Kenwood gave up after the R-5000, JRC (Japan Radio Company) did so after the short-lived NRD-545, and Yaesu has not had anything in years. And portables are just as old. SONY's 7600-series hasn't been updated in years. All one sees now are these <$100 cheapie portables from the Far East that are a joke in terms of signal handling. I believe the combination of Internet streaming and SDR's have put the stake into this segment of the market.

Shortwave radio will continue to survive as it is the only delivery system that cannot be interrupted by man. To that end, there is a portable receiver market in parts of Africa, the Middle East and south Asia... but that's about it.
 

SCPD

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The higher end shortwave/wideband receiver marketplace has, in my opinion, all but died.
This is true and unfortunately a product of the stretched-to-the-limit economy. What was hitting the USA in 2008-2009 is really hitting the asian markets. Natural disasters sure didn't help the economy either.

I really do hope JRC, Kenwood and Icom get back into the receiver marketplace as there is plenty of room for the competition.

If they build it, the (SWL) community will buy it. :cool:
 

kruser

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sales to "professionals", who are you talking about?
I would assume he means users like say professional radio shops and maybe cable tv companies. Cable tv providers can also purchase the unblocked versions that the average Joe cannot. I always wondered what made cable companies so special. I've always assumed they need unblocked receivers to sniff out cable plant egress in the old amps cellular range or something. The logic behind that thought sounds good anyway.

I own a R7000 and R9000 and love them both. They meet my needs way more than a scanner does as I sit on single frequencies way more than I scan. I also own the R2500 and PCR1000 but they do not compare to the 7000 and 9000. They are ok and do perform very well (the R2500 anyway) but there is just something about having a large frontpanel that I can work with my hands that is lacking in the PCR series. The Icom R series (most of them) also kick butt over any scanner. They handle nearby strong signals WAY better than a wideband scanner ever could.
I'd love to own the R9500 but it is a tad out of my price range!
Maybe when they release the IC-R10K, that will cause the R9500's to become affordable on the used market and I can get one.

My R9000 was originally owned by a guy that also owned several broadcast radio stations. I could never find out if he used it for hobby purposes or if he used it in association with his broadcast stations (as a professional?). I always suspected it was hobby use though as the thing had no visible wear at all unlike some of the government issued R9000's that I've seen. Many of those spent their lives powered on 24x7 for years on end and had the paint wore away around the controls if they were operated locally.
I've always heard that many of the government owned R9000's were operated remotely so those may be hard to determine how much use they actually saw.

Radio is just a hobby to me so I guess I would not fall into the "professional" user category although I am a professional in another area so maybe I do qualify!
 

perseus68

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Hi trsundstrom. Good analysis yours ;-)
About the fact that the IC-R8500 it is still produced, as Token said, well I don't know.
Both RigPix database and Rigreference.com agree about this:

Manufactured: Japan, 1996-2004 (Discontinued) - RigPix
Manufactured: Between 1996 and 2004 in Japan - RigReference

Anyhow, I tend to agree with trsundstrom that a successor is unlikely to appear.
Unfortunately the market is looking too much to the PCR oriented radios.
 
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Token

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Hi trsundstrom. Good analysis yours ;-)
About the fact that the IC-R8500 it is still produced, as Token said, well I don't know.
Both RigPix database and Rigreference.com agree about this:

Manufactured: Japan, 1996-2004 (Discontinued) - RigPix
Manufactured: Between 1996 and 2004 in Japan - RigReference
Around 2004 or so is when they stopped production on the cell blocked version for consumer use (the Icom IC-R8500-02 version). Icom still shows the unblocked “Gov only” version (IC-R8500-32K) of the radio on its web site as a current model, and I purchased a new one less than 2 years ago (for a government contract) with a production date of 2008 if I remember correctly . I know that foreign vendors are still selling new radios with recent production dates.

The Icom page is here:
IC-R8500 Communications Receiver - Features - Icom America

Note it says *Available for export or to approved U.S. Government Users only

In reality it is not limited to only US Government users, but it does have to be someone who is authorized , and that is a pretty limited field these days.

sales to "professionals", who are you talking about?
“Professional” in this application can take on many meanings, but essentially anyone or any entity that monitors the covered spectrum for pay/job/occupation. Not a hobbyist, not even a well healed one ;)

Back in the early 1990s I took a trip to Northrop Corp in LA (prior to the Grumman acquisition) to witness acceptance testing of an item, one of the electronics labs had multiple R7000’s. What they were originally purchased for no one then working in the lab knew. One assumes some past project had a need. For a short time I worked with a group that performed spectrum monitoring under contract, they contracted to both government and private sector customers. Among the many pieces of hardware they used was included both the R7100 and the R9000. And I have seen such gear used by cell phone technicians (in the past) and cable providers.

I have seen custom monitoring systems built around the wideband Icom gear, often queued by something like a spectrum monitor. Such receivers can be a lower cost option compared to purpose built wideband surveillance receivers. I have also seen such systems produced with embedded WinRadio products.

I have the R7000, the R7100, the R8500, and the R2500 at home, and they are all pretty good radios. The 8500 is my favorite among them, doing everything better, in my opinion, than the others. But, still not as good as a dedicated mid-to-upper end SW receiver on HF. And To tell the truth on HF all I use is SDRs these days. Without a doubt, SDR is the way things are going, and if Icom does come up with an 8500 successor (I don’t think they will) I bet it will be SDR based.

T!
 

WayneH

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I would assume he means users like say professional radio shops and maybe cable tv companies. Cable tv providers can also purchase the unblocked versions that the average Joe cannot. I always wondered what made cable companies so special. I've always assumed they need unblocked receivers to sniff out cable plant egress in the old amps cellular range or something. The logic behind that thought sounds good anyway.
Unless the dealer is sketchy no sales are to be done to anyone but government agencies. Working for a cellular carrier I've made a professional request in the past and was denied. So even being licensed to operate in the blocked bans they'll still deny you.

CATV companies go after the vendors that target them (BTDT). And that typically goes for other commercial enterprises; there are usually specific businesses that will target them for test equipment tailored to their market. The government or Military are probably the only ones who go after ICOM, AOR, etc.
 

Token

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The government or Military are probably the only ones who go after ICOM, AOR, etc.
And contractors who do work for the gov or mil or whos final product support the gov or mil. If you can get your COR (contracting officers representative) to sign for it you can get the gear.

T!
 

dkf435

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Ham Radio Outlet still has a goverment version of a AOR AR3000A in stock. They will never sell it because it is now outdated and civilians can not buy it.

On the early blocked receivers. The R7100A with the complete 800-900 block can be reversed. The low serial number R10 PCR1000 and R8500 receivers could have a country code change done. When this leaked out ICOM started replacing the Hitachi CPUs with new ones that had the blocks hard coded so the bit flipping or solder jumpers are ignored. THIS IS ALSO BEING DONE ON RADIOS RETURNED FOR REPAIR, so be careful sending modded ones to ICOM.

My favorite is the R7100 but the R8500 is up there as is the AR5000. The AORs are more sensitive but the ICOMs have better audio.

David Kb7uns
 

perseus68

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Around 2004 or so is when they stopped production on the cell blocked version for consumer use (the Icom IC-R8500-02 version). Icom still shows the unblocked “Gov only” version (IC-R8500-32K) of the radio on its web site as a current model, and I purchased a new one less than 2 years ago (for a government contract) with a production date of 2008 if I remember correctly . I know that foreign vendors are still selling new radios with recent production dates.
....
T!
Thanks Token

Finally it's clear to me what's going on with the IC-R8500.
That was referred to the US blocked version ;-)
I live in Europe so I was wondering why they said it was discontinued and we can still find the unlocked version here for about 1600 euros.

73s
 

KE4RWS

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&quot;Blocked&quot; anything is just plain stupid anymore

I love how the government seemingly makes such a big deal out of the unblocked version of this or any receiver covering 800 MHz. It's not as if you can actually hear anything in the old cellular phone range anymore.

It used to be a big deal for a lot of people who wanted to be able to listen to phone comms and would either buy older pre-ecpa scanner (in America), or would modify their scanner before everything was embedded in the CPU. At one time it was a big deal to many people but anymore there's nothing you can even hear there so I have no clue why they still even produce "blocked" versions of anything. I have an old PRO-2006 scanner and I've scanned the cellular bands and there's simply nothing discernible to monitor there. But our country is notorious for keeping antiquated laws in effect long after even technology makes them obsolete. Nothing new there . . .
 

KE4RWS

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Gotta have real controls . . .

I just acquired a like-new unblocked R8500 with all of a few hours time on it and it's a real beauty. I had an R7000 back in the mid 1990's and although it was indeed a great receiver, the 8500 has a major advantage in several ways over it. Talk about a boat anchor. Unfortunately mine had the flickering display issue. I certainly wouldn't mind having an R9000 but I doubt that's in my cards. Maybe if I write Icom and tell'em I'm a big fan they'll *give* me an R9500 . . . or maybe not.

I don't know about the industry going completely the way of SDR receivers because personally I gotta have knobs and buttons for me to efficiently operate a radio (not to mention truly enjoy it). Don't get me wrong here, SDR's are cool as hell but nothing beats real controls and a nice big weighted VFO with a textured rubber cover. In my book nothing will ever replace the tactile experience one gets when operating a radio.

I used to have a Kenwood TS-2000 and I tried the control software, and although it CAN be operated this way, I personally wouldn't want to be limited only to using on-screen controls. I tried the RS-75 software for my Icom R75 receiver and played with it for all of 20 minutes before I had enough and my hands were back on the rig where they belong.

SDR's are cool and all, and maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but I can't imagine this totally replacing a real interface. But hey, that's ME ! :D
 

Token

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I don't know about the industry going completely the way of SDR receivers because personally I gotta have knobs and buttons for me to efficiently operate a radio (not to mention truly enjoy it). Don't get me wrong here, SDR's are cool as hell but nothing beats real controls and a nice big weighted VFO with a textured rubber cover. In my book nothing will ever replace the tactile experience one gets when operating a radio.

I used to have a Kenwood TS-2000 and I tried the control software, and although it CAN be operated this way, I personally wouldn't want to be limited only to using on-screen controls. I tried the RS-75 software for my Icom R75 receiver and played with it for all of 20 minutes before I had enough and my hands were back on the rig where they belong.

SDR's are cool and all, and maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but I can't imagine this totally replacing a real interface. But hey, that's ME ! :D
The future of radio is indeed SDRs. I would be willing to bet that in the next few years fewer and fewer new superhetrodyne radios will be introduced, and eventually they will be the &#8220;oddity&#8221; instead of the norm. Now, that does not mean they (SDRs) will not have knobs, switches, and such. I think the future will include radios that are SDR hearts with the interface (GUI) in hardware on the &#8220;front&#8221; of the radio. In other words, SDRs with built in controls that do NOT need a PC connected to them, they can be stand alone devices.

If you look at several of the newest radios this trend has already started, although at this time only at the higher end of ham gear, the K3 and the FTDX-5000 for example. The line between SDR and traditional radio is blurred with such designs.

The core SDR functions are just so easy to do in such a small and versatile piece of hardware that eventually it will not be worth it to include mixers, LOs, hardware filters, detectors, etc, etc, when it can all be done on a single chip or a very low count of chips with outstanding performance.

But, it is clear that SDRs have higher performance potential than superhets at the same price point.

Now, I combine an SDR with my R-8500 (put the SDR on the IF), and really like the combination.

Also, I use some of my SDRs with the X-Keys Jog and Suttle Pro, and have a tuning dial and buttons to do everything I want, never have to touch the mouse or keyboard.

T!
 

nanZor

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My issue with SDR is vendor lock-in, and adding yet another point of failure to the system. I'll take the 8500 hardware only please. :)

And this isn't just a simple Microsoft vs Unix/Linux issue. Beyond mere hardware / software lock-in, the temptation is to push everything into a "subscription" based model, requiring always-on internet connections, or perhaps something like cell-phone contracts just to run your hardware.

A little less paranoid, but can you see in the future if you like to monitor the marine vhf channels, you suddenly get swamped with email offers for boating equipment when the sdr also provides a list of things tuned to back to the marketers....
 
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KE4RWS

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I'll take the 8500 hardware only please. :)
A little less paranoid, but can you see in the future if you like to monitor the marine vhf channels, you suddenly get swamped with email offers for boating equipment when the sdr also provides a list of things tuned to back to the marketers....
Amen to that ;)
 

Token

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My issue with SDR is vendor lock-in, and adding yet another point of failure to the system. I'll take the 8500 hardware only please. :)

And this isn't just a simple Microsoft vs Unix/Linux issue. Beyond mere hardware / software lock-in, the temptation is to push everything into a "subscription" based model, requiring always-on internet connections, or perhaps something like cell-phone contracts just to run your hardware.
Most current SDRs require some interface to a computer of some sort. And I completely understand what you are saying based on that.

Before I got my first software controlled radio (SCR) I considered the issue of how long would I be able to use the hardware? I have many 50 and 60 year old radios that I can still use today, they work as well today as they ever did. But, with an SCR how long would I be able to get the supportive hardware or a compatible operating system? That was in 1997, and today no operating system supports that hardware, in order to run it I must keep an old PC running an obsolete OS. A pain in the butt at times, and will I still be able to do it 10 years from now? Probably not, even if the receiver hardware itself still is functioning.

So, when I dived into the world of SDRs I asked the same questions and looked at the same lifetime limitations. I decided that a 15 year timeline was “good enough” considering the advantages of the technology. Anything longer than that is gravy.

Today there is no reason to think future SDRs need have the same lifetime/hardware/OS limitations.

A radio can be designed and built today, indeed at least two of them already exist, that use an SDR as the core engine but includes a fully integrated hardware user interface. A front panel with knobs and switches on the SDR. These kinds of SDRs have all of the advantages of the SDR but never need to be plugged into a computer unless you want to take advantage of the possibility of updating firmware and things like that. Assuming there is not an internal hardware failure this kind of SDR will be as useful when 30 or 40 years old as it is the day it comes out of the box.

These last are the SDRs that I say are going to be the future of radio. They can already be built to performance levels that exceed traditional superhet design for similar cost points, and in the future as the ADCs become cheaper they will be less expensive than traditional designs.

So when you think SDR don’t just think of a small box, a peripheral plugged into a PC as is most common with SDRs today, but think of the technology itself, and how it can be implemented in stand alone radios. The “desk top” communications receiver of 15 years from now will, in all probability, be an SDR. Look at the Elecraft KX3, it is essentially a stand alone SDR that does not have to be plugged into a PC. The core receiver is built around an SDR function with no IF and being direct conversion to the ADC. Other radios on the market are only one step away from that point, using an SDR function at an IF frequency (some makers call this an “IF DSP”).

T!
 
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