by Antony Chazapis
I was reluctant to sell my Yaesu FT-897D and give up the all-band, all-mode convenience. However, as has been stated by many, while it was pretty good at doing all things, it did not excel in any one (except maybe SSB operation at VHF/UHF which has proved to be of very limited use to me). I also had a lot of good moments with the radio and had learnt to use it pretty well during the last 6 years. But it was time for an upgrade, and it was necessary to let go of old equipment to cover the cost of something new. Luckily, within almost a week I managed to sell both my (practically unused) Yaesu VX-8E handheld and the FT-897D along with all the accessories I had collected over the years: the SSB filter, an LDG AT-897Plus tuner, and a SignaLink USB.
I wanted an HF-oriented radio, capable of 100 Watts, with an integrated tuner, a USB port to connect to the computer, and priced under 1500 €. This narrowed down the selection to one model from each of the “big three” manufacturers: the Yaesu FT-991, the Kenwood TS-590S, and Icom’s brand-new IC-7300. The Yaesu was getting bad reviews all over the Internet, with reports of early units blowing their finals. It felt like a gamble and not a significant upgrade from the FT-897D. So, it was between the Kenwood and the Icom. The Kenwood had already been many years in action and part of a very prestigious list – the equipment used by the world’s top contesters. On the other hand, the Icom had all the latest technology, raving reviews, and a panadapter. The latter, and the fact that I had to stretch the budget a couple hundred euros more for the Kenwood, were enough to make me place the order for the Icom.
The IC-7300 is overall a great radio. I will not give a full review, as I don’t have the experience or the equipment to do so, but in comparison to other radios I have used, it sounds good, the noise reduction, auto-notch and filtering work great, using the menus to navigate through configuration parameters is extremely easy, and all knobs and buttons feel like being in the right place. It has a tuner, a USB port, and a voice keyer built-in, so no accessories needed. Also, the touch-screen is a pleasure to use and a game-changer. Ten minutes after using the radio I accidentally found myself touching the callsigns showing up on the bandscope window of my laptop screen, expecting for the logger to switch the radio automatically. Well… not yet.
But, still, none of these things feel as important as the panadapter. I had read that once you get to use a panadapter, you can never really go back. It’s true. All other features are nice to have and their absence would be a nuisance, but it’s the panadapter that makes the difference. Because I can now literally see the signals instead of just hearing them. I can check any band in a glimpse – tell immediately if there is propagation, were the activity is, spot a weak signal, etc. I still like to use the dial, but now I now where I am heading to when I turn it around. Using your sight to interface with a radio is a big paradigm shift.
A week ago, my new radio made its brief contest debut during the IARU HF World Championship. Sweeping through the stations one-by-one was never easier, because I could now see their imprints side-by-side on the screen. I just moved from one to the next. After a few hours on the air, I did not miss my old radio. I felt excited. Highly recommended.