Icom R20 Questions

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I keep coming back to the wideband handheld receivers, I'm not sure why. :)

After searching through and reading the various threads here on RR for the Icom R20, I'm curious what people's impressions are a couple of years later. Is this a good buy or would it be better to save for something else?

There are a few things that jump out at me that other posters have mentioned:
1) No "easy" way to lock out frequencies.
2) Audio on R20 has been mentioned as being low, weak, or bad quality.
3) Some have gotten interference on certain bands, the receiver is sensitive but not selective enough.
4) Battery life is longer on R20 versus AOR 8200. (Wonder if running Sanyo Eneloops changes this?)
5) USB programming on the R20 versus older tech. on the 8200.

I'm looking to monitor things like HF aviation SSB, SW broadcast stuff, VHF aviation, and conventional VHF/UHF. I don't plan on hooking the unit up to an external antenna (plus, I've read that can overload the thing; I'm in a metro area.) I do want CTCSS/DCS ability, so there's a strike against the AOR there with the add-on card.

If the audio quality & output is really bad on the R20 that would a deal-breaker for me.
 

maplebear

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I bought the R20 to listen to HF, SSB and SW broadcast. It could not pick very much up.
I also found it very hard to program following the manual. I would never get another R20 again.
 
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Yikes, that's not a good endorsement. I haven't used any of the higher-end handheld receivers, so I'm trying to do my research beforehand. I've used things like the Icom R2, R5, R6, and Yaesu VR-500.

Never owned an AOR product, so I have no idea what those are like.
 

mancow

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I find it to be a very capable hf receiver if used as a hand held. A large hf antenna causes overloading but thats the situation with any hand held wide band unit. I think the audio is fine and programming isn't the easiest but isn't all that bad. It scans very fast and the built in recording is great. The battery seems to last forever too. I love mine and will never get rid of it unless I have to.
 
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Appreciate the info... keep it coming please!

Was figuring this would be an "investment" of sorts. I sold my VR-500 off here on the forums and realized that I should have kept it. (That probably goes for a lot of radios over the years!) Looking to pick up something that I can keep for a long time and get some good use out of without outgrowing it.

Whatever I wind up with, I would be planning on using some sort of programming software. (Such as ARC20 from Butel if I went with the R20.)
 
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Oh, and I meant to ask... is the R20 display backlight green or amber? Looking at pictures and videos on YouTube, some seem amber, some seem green to me. (Maybe Icom made a running change to the LED color? Or maybe the camera's white balance is off.) Thx
 

Turbo68

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Hi i own the Aor-8200MK3,Icom-R20 both are excellent receivers across all bands not easy to program but they are realiable antenna for hf its hoked up to a Wellbrook-ALA1530L active loop vhf/uhf Icom-AH7000 discone and a Miracle IL ducker for portable hf/vhf/uhf might also wanna have a look at the Alinco DJ-X11 which i also have performance is equal to the other 2 radios its smaller in size.

Regards Lino.
ALINCO DJ-X11,ALINCO DJ-X2000,ALINCO DX-R8
AOR-8200MK3
GRE-PSR400,GRE-PSR500
GRUNDIG SATELLIT-750
ICOM-RX7,ICOM-R3,ICOM-R20,ICOM-R71,ICOM-R75,ICOM-R7100,ICOM-PCR1000,ICOM-PCR1500
ICOM-PCR2500
KENWOOD-R600
PALSTAR-R30A
REALSITIC-PRO2035
TEN TEC-320D
UNIDEN-245,UNIDEN-396,UNIDEN-780
YAESU-VR500
 

hertzian

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1) No "easy" way to lock out frequencies.
When stopped on a frequency, just HOLD 5 (skip) to toggle it. Hold it again to bring it back.

2) Audio on R20 has been mentioned as being low, weak, or bad quality.
Don't confuse this with the weak RX7. You won't like what you hear at 60mph in a car. It does sound ok, and acceptable level within a reasonably quiet environment. Has a high-cut AF Filter which helps on some noisey AM.

3) Some have gotten interference on certain bands, the receiver is sensitive but not selective enough.
I haven't run into that with handheld antennas. You might have a problem with "today's" version of super-narrow FM that systems are switching to.

4) Battery life is longer on R20 versus AOR 8200. (Wonder if running Sanyo Eneloops changes this?)
I don't know about the AOR, but 2000 mah eneloops have more capacity than the standard lithium that is supplied.

I'm looking to monitor things like HF aviation SSB, SW broadcast stuff, VHF aviation, and conventional VHF/UHF.
It can be done if you MUST have it all in one unit. The R20 does very well if you have a proper HF antenna, and even has an RF-GAIN adjustment, rather than only an attenuator (which it also has), so you could find the right combination if you got into trouble.

Personally to cover this much ground I'd get separate radios that specialize for the service - unless of couse you have to be portable with only one handheld-sized radio.

I don't plan on hooking the unit up to an external antenna (plus, I've read that can overload the thing; I'm in a metro area.)
Ah, then HF would be a trick pony with the typical 3 foot whip. :) Really, for day to day use on HF, you'd be wearing out the controls and buttons faster than you realize. It does great for what it is, but daily hardcore HF use? I wouldn't enjoy it.
 
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I'm looking for something that can go traveling, take around town, etc. (Although an R75 for a base unit looks pretty appealing, too.) The big limitation is greenbacks -- can't have both.

Thanks for confirming about the RX7; I can't think of many good articles or reviews I've read about that unit. No SSB anyway, but I see it is being sold for $199 now through Universal Radio, etc.

Although I'm hampered by what I can put outside for an antenna, I could tack up some sort of long wire in the house near a window I'm sure. So the stock three foot whip could be expanded upon somewhat.
 

skidplate

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I have an R20 and the Kenwood THF6. Both are very good for what they are. I like the audio quality of the R20 but it has quite low volume. The Kenwood will provide louder volume but the tonal quality is not as good for me.
I use them both when I am out in the bush. I listen to all the hf ham bands as well as COTHEN, GHFCS, USCG, and the maritime and aeronautical freqs. I have them programmed into memory since manual tuning is slow and tedious. I just keep and small spiral bound note book with all the memories on hand. The antenna I most often use is the stock telescopic one used with a Miracle Antenna and that does very well with either radio. I have to point out that I have never used these radios in an urban environment so I don't know how they would behave in that situation.
I have several handheld scanners that go out in the bush but usually never get used. The dual receive feature on both radios is like having 4 radios. Of course they don't do trunking or P25.
If I could have just one handheld, it would have to be the THF6 since I can TX with it as well. If I wasn't a ham, I would choose the R20 as the best "does it all" radio for me. I find the R20 to be a handheld version of the PCR1500.
 

Nap

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Well, since you're listing your location as "Wherever" I can't tell if the following info is useful to you or not.

Here in Canada (where the last analog cellular phone was decommissioned in spring 2010) you can buy a non crippled Canadian version of the R-20 that continuously covers the spectrum from 150 kHz to 3.3 GHz. AOR is not that courteous and offers us only the US version.

Nap.
 

mparker

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If I could have just one handheld, it would have to be the THF6 since I can TX with it as well.
I dont mean to hijack this thread, but Ive often wanted to get a wideband for SW listening and HF contests and also the "greenbacks" have been holding me back... Ive always wanted a Yaesu VR5000. Ive also had my eye on the R10 and while researching I stumbled on this R20 thread.

Anyhow, I find the recommendation for the THF6 interesting. It is about half the price of the R10/R20 and I can TX with it... Bonus... Quickly reading about it, it seems it does everything I wish my VX7R would do...

Without getting to far off the tracks, How well does it do for SW and HF listening? would it be worth springing for one even though I plan on getting a HF radio in the spring? (IC7000..I cant wait!) Also on a side note, Santa might be bringing me a Sony SW7600.

Thanks Guys
 

Turbo68

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Hi Mike i use to have a Yaesu-VR5000 only problem was it didnt matter what antenna u put on use to overload very easy end it up selling it with no regret as for hf the Icom-R20 actually doeas an excellent job mainly monitor hf aero on my wellbrook loop and have used the R-20 portable for hf/vhf/uhf with the Miracle Ducker-IL with original antenna supplied..

Regards Lino.
 
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I should chime in with a quick update to this thread... I was fortunate enough to sell off some other gear and picked up an R20. It is a very nice radio; I don't think I'll be getting rid of it anytime soon! Thanks to all who helped with their advice and info...
 

millrad

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I have one also. It's not for beginners or the faint of heart, since programming it is no easy task when using the keyboard only. The R-20 makes a great airband and public safety scanner, but as far as shortwave reception, it can't handle a large outdoor antenna without overload and desense.
The TV band audio reception is now obsolete, since American TV went all digital a few years ago.
 
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R20 thoughts

Hey Guys

I have just spent most of my afternoons over the last few weeks looking at the ICOM IC-R20 reviews and prices and history. I have always hankered after this model so I hope I won't be disappointed. I have now reach the stage of shopping around. The prices vary quite a bit here in Australia. Highest was AU$799 from an authorized ICOM dealership in Melbourne and the cheapest was AU$640 from an online supplier in Perth, WA. ScannerMaster are currently out of stock as were other US online dealers.

I have owned ICOM receivers before, staring with the R1 and working up.. The usual Japanese high standard and quality are obvious and to me and are of a superior standard to models made under licence in other Asian countries, hence the price. I have owned many scanners in my time. Last year I bought an AOR 8200MkIII but sold it on as it was too bulky and rather dated. I currently have the Icom IC-R6 which is a great little scanner, but is somewhat limited in features when compared to the R20. My primary interest is airband monitoring, but I also keep an ear on our local Fire stations activity as my son-in-law is a Firefighter. I would like to listen on HF again. The sound of SSB is quite addictive to me!

The programming of ICOM's scanners is basically much the same all the way through their range, so I doubt if I will have any problems there.

In some reviews the audio has been reported as 'weak' but I believe the audio quality is good (easy on the ears) from what I have read. Some others had gripes about the PC set up, but that doesn't bother me as I am old school. The overall scoring went over 70 out of 100, which isn't too bad at all IMO.

So yes, I will get one anytime soon when I can one at a reasonable price.
 
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Romak3

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You won't regret it. Programing takes trial and error, but once you get it, its a great RX. I run the stock antenna and with great results. Not a R-75 with a PAR or long wire, but this thing will impress for a handheld!
 

Fast1eddie

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Although I found much to like of the R20, programming was extremely difficult and frustrating. The audio recorder is excellent, as is the tone capability. I love my 8200 and often wonder why AOR went with accessory cards that are expensive and cannot justify the cost for my use. I liked the R20's audio and battery compatibility with my R3's drop in charger.

Maybe if I had bought the programming software I would still have it. Anyway, it is a excellent radio and has it's own quirks as do all the others.
 
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Short review R20

There’s an old saying that you pay for what you get. ICOM scanning radios are designed and built in Osaka, Japan. Their range of equipment is well known globally and they are considered to be among the best in this field of the electronics industry.

The latest and long awaited radio for me is the IC-R20 Communications Receiver. It first came out in 2004, but it has had some modifications over the years. This radio has not waned in popularity over the years and continues to sell well. To call it a scanner is selling it short in my opinion as it has a lot of features that are not included with a basic UHF/VHF scanner. I’m fairly sure that the R20 is the only hand held that has a built-in recorder and a dual watch system. The dual watch is fascinating to monitor, in fact it’s like having two scanners operating side. It also has a massive frequency range from 0.150-3304.999mHz. The R20 has 1250 memory channels with 26 banks. Alphanumeric labelling on both banks and memories consisting of upper case and lower case, numbers and signs and even small icons for plane, ship, truck, fire pumper and patrol car. Dial display shows frequency and name. Nice relaxing soft green illumination adds a professional look at night. It has illumination of dial and keypad with 3 options; OFF, AUTO and ON.

I purchased my R20 in Australia on line and it arrived safely and undamaged just 20 hours after I paid for it. It was well packed and once I got past the bubble wrap to the familiar ICOM radio box, I got the usual increased pulse rate that scanner hobbyists seem to get when the new radio arrives. The box inclusions were as follows:

• ICOM IC-R20 receiver
• Supplied telescopic antenna 18cm to 60cm extended with an articulated joint just above the BNC connector.
• Belt clip with screws
• Carry strap
• Vanson plug in charger, centre pin positive. Model SMP 1000A – AS set for 6v (Supplied by the Australian dealer)
• NimH battery drop in cradle for 3 X NiMh AA cells as an alternative power source
• ICOM Battery pack (BP-206)
• Instruction manual 94 pages in English

I decided to fit the BP-206 battery and charge it up, which took about 6 hrs.
The radio is about 4cm thick, 6.5cm wide and a length of 15.75cm including the top control knobs. The all up weight on my kitchen scales is 330gms which is not a brick.





BASIC OPERATION
The R20 is not a beginner’s scanner. For anyone not previously owning an ICOM scanning radio its operational features can be puzzling and setting it up manually may be frustrating. It need not be, provided the user does three things.

• Operate the features and programming in consultation with the instruction manual, step by step.
• Try not to learn it all in a single session.
• Consult each feature by the manual until it’s in your head.

Programming memories and using features becomes simple once you have it learnt.

The R20 has a ’Main’ memory into which all frequencies are first programmed. Initially all you do is enter the known frequencies of you receiving area into the main memory. Later on you can categorize each frequency into a selected memory bank. You can name each bank; e.g. AIR, FIRE, MEDIC, SES and so on. Then you can scan these banks one at a time or all of them, or link them. These procedures are similar to the R20’s little brother, the R6 and are made a little easier as there is a full keypad whereas with the R6 you have to use the CONTROL/FUNC to locate the band and particular frequency.

DUAL WATCH
Two frequencies can be entered and monitored simultaneously. Each one has it’s own volume control so if both are transmitting at the same time, you can reduce the volume on one in order to listen to the other. This is a great feature and can be set up for incident monitoring so you don’t miss anything.

SCAN TYPES
There are 7 scan types and 4 resume conditions to suit your operating needs. The scan speed is 100ch/sec. (approx) for VFO scans and 20 ch/sec for memory scan.

COMPUTER OPERATION
Page 81 to 91 of the instruction manual deals with PC CS-R20 cloning software. It can be operated using CS-R20 software and an OPOC-12382 cloning cable. The radio is compatible with the following operating systems:
• Microsoft Windows XP
• Microsoft Windows 2000
• Microsoft Windows 98/98SE/Me

Regrettably the radio will not work directly with Apple Mac. My knowledge of PC operated radio is very limited and I have little desire to hook up a hand held scanner to a computer, which to my old mind seems a pointless exercise. The satisfaction I get from using the R20 is setting it up myself, which to many seems a slow process and finally the end result gives me great monitoring pleasure.


AUDIO
I have read other reviews on the R20 where the reviewer considers the audio to be ‘weak’. I can only disagree. The audio isn’t screamingly loud, but the sound quality is better than many. For private listening I have bought a DSE set of ear buds which work fine. My only criticism is that the earplug socket is mono and requires a mono/stereo adapter for bi-aural listening. I have a slight hearing impairment and besides my wife finds the audio of a scanner irritating to say the least.

IC RECORDER
The R20 has an IC recorder of up to 32 tracks with a maximum time length of 260 minutes. It has variable playback speed settings and recording quality and nicest of all, has an automatic recording function, which will record automatically when receiving a signal and pause when the signal ends. This function is very useful when you wish to record an uncontinuous signal or monitor a frequency through the night while you’re asleep.


Having only owned this model a short time, I am yet to fully explore its capabilities below 30mHz and the SSB feature for HF aviation monitoring. I briefly visited Radio Australia and Radio Japan which was quite clear on just the supplied telescopic.

I consider The R20 to be one of the best handheld analog communications receivers that I’ve owned. The BP-206 is still operating on its initial charge and I’ve been using it daily for a week.

Cheers
 

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