N9EWO Review :
Wide Band Receiver
(IC-R20 Mini-Review on bottom of this page)
The ICOM IC-R30 "WideBand" Handheld
Uses traditional Superhet design as with the elder IC-R20 model. Adds a digital audio decoder,
Bluetooth, GPS and an improved on board "off air" digital audio
Recorder now uses a standard .wav format and a removable micro-SD
card. (N9EWO Photo)
Review : "Icom IC-R30 WideBand Handheld Communications Receiver" (as
Stock). Comparisons made in this report to the previous IC-R20 model
and others. A mini-review on the elder IC-R20 model can also be found at the bottom
of this page (owned previously).
Model : ICOM
IC-R30-16 (USA Cell Blocked)
Manufacture : Japan (Osaka)
Tested : 1.04, 1.05, 1.06
(approx.) of Test Sample : 1600119x
Included Accessories (Country of Origin):
BC-223 Drop In Charger (Japan)
BC-123SA AC Power Adapter for BC-223 Charger Above, 12VDC 1 Amp (China)
BP-287 3.7 Volt 3280mah Lithium Ion Battery (China)
MB-133 Alligator Belt Clip (Japan?)
Accessories Tested :
BP-293 3 "AA" Battery Case (Japan)
LC-189 Vinyl Carrying Case (Japan)
Test Antenna's :
Comet DS150S Discone Antenna (30 ft height)
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire with Balun (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)
Sony AN-71 "Reel" Antenna (portable wire antenna with alligator clip connection to collapsed whip)
Features / Improvements / Changes (as compared to the IC-R20 model) :
- 2000 Memory Channels (IC-R20 : 1200 Channels)
- Faster Scanning Speed of 200 Channels per Second (IC-R20 : 100 Ch per Sec)
- Voice Synthesizer (built in as stock)
- BlueTooth (built in as stock)
- GPS (built in as stock)
- FM Narrow Mode (see Text)
- Built In Digital Audio Decoder
- Micro USB Connector for Power / Charging and Data (IC-R20 : Mini USB and 1.7 mm ID x 4.0 mm OD Jack)
- Standard ".wav" Format Used for Built In Audio Recorder (IC-R20 : ".icw" Oki ADPCM Format)
- Micro-SD Card Slot
- Includes BC-223 Desktop Charger as Stock
- 3-Step Antenna Attenuator (IC-R20 : Single 20 db Attenuator)
- SMA Antenna Jack (IC-R20 : BNC)
- More Powerful Audio Amplifier (see Text)
- AA Battery Operation Now An Option (BP-293)
- Earphone / External Speaker Selection (toggled in menus)
- Improved Stability at 2.5ppm -+ (IC-R20 : 6ppm -+)
- Larger LCD with White Backlight (IC-R20 : Green Backlight)
Icom's IC-R30 "Wideband" Handheld Receiver
The Icom IC-R30 is a
“WideBand” handheld radio receiver with its body measuring in at 58 (W)
× 143 (H) × 30.5 (D) mm or 2.3 (W) × 5.6 (H) × 1.2 (D) inches. Weight
is around 310 g, 10.9 oz with antenna and BP-287 lithium-ion battery pack (just a
tad lighter over the IC-R20).
Is thinner and less chubby over
the previous IC-R20 model (our mini review on the IC-R20 model can be
been on the bottom of this page).
Size / Weight Comparisons (projections not included):
: 60 (W) × 142 (H) × 34.8 (D) mm / 2 3⁄8 (W) × 5 19⁄32 (H) ×1 3⁄8 (D)
inches / weight : 320 g, 11.3 oz (with antenna and BP-206 battery)
: 58 (W) × 143 (H) × 30.5 (D) mm / 2.3 (W) × 5.6 (H) × 1.2 (D) inches /
weight : 310 g, 10.9 oz (with antenna and BP-287 battery)
Uses a triple conversion
“super-heterodyne” receiving scheme for A MAIN (top). It also features
a second B sub-receiver with more limited coverage / modes and a bit less
performance (dual conversion being used here). Depending on the mode,
one can receive 2 frequencies simultaneously in a limited frequency
range (Digital signals can only be decoded one side at a time).
Frequency Coverage / Limited Dual Receive / Modes / 2 Manuals
Frequency coverage with the
IC-R30 is near identical over the IC-R20 elder model. It starts at 100
kHz whereas with the IC-R20 it was 150 kHz. WFM mode is fully
operational in the 902 to 928 MHz range on side A. We have a true FM-N
(narrow) mode and that is totally lacking on the IC-R20 model.
“A” MAIN Receiver Coverage: 100 kHz to 3304.999 MHz (Triple Conversion)
(Minus 800 MHz cellular frequencies for “USA 16” blocked versions).
“A” Receiver Modes:
“B” SUB Receiver Coverage: 108.000 ~ 520.000 MHz (Dual Conversion)
“B” Receiver Modes:
* Digital Voice-Decoding Modes (Both “A” and “B”) :
- APCO P25 (Phase 1)
- NXDN - N (Narrow - 9600 , 6.25 kHz)
- NXDN - VN (Very Narrow - 4800 , 3.125 kHz)
*- Decode available one side at a time.
Just as with the Icom IC-R8600
tabletop set (our review can be seen here).,
it lacks DMR and Yaesu Fusion decoding. Also keep in mind
that the SSB, CW and digital modes are offered from 100 kHz to 1.3 GHz.
SSB bandwidth filtering is not selectable independent of mode (while AM
and FM are). More information in regards to IF bandwidth filtering will
covered later in this report.
Being this is a communications
receiver and not a scanner, Trunked Radio Systems (TRS) are NOT
followed. Provided a TRS system is not too large / busy and not using “Phase 2”
APCO P25, one can use the old trick and enter the frequencies in
memories as conventional and just leaving (or locking) out the control
channel. Also not allowing any channel delay. Not a perfect scenario
but at least usable.
It includes 2000 memories,
scanning at zippy 200 channels/second (the IC-R20 has 1250 memories and
scan speed at 100 channels/second). Other features include: Noise
blanker (NB), RF Gain, voice synthesizer, built-in Bluetooth, Band
Scope and dual receive including analog/analog and analog/digital. A
built in audio recorder (that uses a standard "wav" format) with a
card slot and it even supports dual record. The internal GPS receiver
displays your current position data, course, speed and altitude on the
display. Yes the bluetooth and GPS can both be turned off to increase
battery life (whew !).
Please note that there are 2
owner manuals for the IC-R30 (just as with the IC-7300 HF Transceiver, our review can been seen here).
The printed basic manual that is included in the box, and an "Advanced
PDF Manual" that can ONLY be downloaded via Icom’s web site. Unlike the
IC-7300, there is NO CD-R included that provides off line access. We
feel the advanced manual is an owner’s requirement to read as covers
very important information including details of all menu selections. We wish Icom
would at least offer the “printed” version of the advanced manual as an
extra cost option. Not everyone have the capability to print out
manuals (if one desires a hard copy of
Triple and Dual Conversion Receiver With DSP Digital Voice Decoder
By looking at the published
specifications we must assume that the DSP circuitry in the IC-R30
(see firmware version in menus) is used for the Digital Voice Decoding ? Receiver architecture uses traditional superhet circuits and
we must assume that all IF Filtering is being done with standard
crystal / ceramic devices? Note: At the time this report was complied,
Icom has not released any schematics or even a simple block diagram of
(IF) Intermediate Frequencies in MHz:
A MAIN Band (Triple Conversion, except WFM)
1st IF: 266.65 or 266.7 or 266.75
2nd IF: 58.0500 (except WFM), 10.7000 (WFM)
3rd IF: 0.4500 (except WFM)
B SUB band (Dual Conversion)
1st IF: 46.3500
2nd IF: 0.4500
Large LCD That Can Be Seen Without Backlight / S-Meter OK
The large 2.3-inch LCD is a dot
matrix monochrome type with white LED backlighting. Contrast is
adjustable as well as a 2-position (bright and dim) backlight
brightness selection. Contrast while adequate is lacking a bit, even if
adjusted on the darker side (looks a bit faded with the backlight on).
Being it is not using a negative or color type LCD one can view it with
the backlight off in bright lighting situations (outdoors etc).
A bar type S-Meter is provided (one for each receiver). It is only of of
marginal use as tends to be full scale on only medium strong
signals, but still good to have available.
IC-R30's large 2.3 inch monochrome LCD. It can be viewed without it's white back light on.
Beautiful Build Quality / Top Encoder / Keyboard / Ergonomics
The IC-R30’s “Japanese” build
quality is simply first rate. Extremely solid and holds in hand
comfortably with the case having left and right side rounded edges.
With its stock BP-287 lithium
ion battery it will stand upright on it’s own (barely) even being on the
side. Of course much better when using the optional BP-293 AA battery
case which makes the bottom half of the receiver a bit thicker.
Lone top rotary encoder uses
a nice larger size knob and has a very good feel with soft click
detents. No undesirable rotational play or side-to-side play either.
Thankfully it does NOT use one of those a “push in” types that more
times than not gives for a very sloppy feeling encoder. This is used
primarily for VFO tuning and memory channel access. If one taps the
“Dial Sel” button on the front panel the 2-side volume buttons and the
top encoder functions are reversed.
Front keyboard is a bit unusual
for it’s construction. It is not using separate hard plastic buttons or
carbon backed rubberized buttons. Instead the IC-R30 uses “PC Board” mounted
Tac buttons and a single piece of very thin hard plastic (sort of like
a totally flat membrane with no seams). It’s very close to the actual
Tac buttons underneath so they do not have to be pressed in much to
make contact. It works fine and has very good tactile feedback as well.
Of course this helps give the IC-R30 its waterproof status.
Left side buttons are of a soft
rubber type plastic and have equally good tactile feedback (these feel
to have real TAC buttons underneath?). These are SQL (Squelch), UP and
DOWN Volume and the POWER button that also activates the SPEECH
function when momentary pressed (VFO Mode).
Ergonomics are overall near
excellent as far as handheld receivers go. Much logical thought was
given with the limited buttons possible on such a small device. This is
in sharp contrast to the long discontinued Yupiteru MVT-9000 which we
have used in past that was a royal nightmare to use (plus it had
downright unacceptable dynamic
range). Nice touch is tuning step selections are tied with the bands
(so each "band" has a tuning step memory in VFO). One little gremlin is
that the " .
" key is on the lower left (not in the middle) and ENTER is ABOVE the 1
key (which is also MENU). Keeping with the Icom tradition, all direct
keyboard entries are made in MHz.
(with enough external lighting say outdoors) (N9EWO Photo)
External Sockets / Included Telescopic Antenna / Battery-Power Options
Top mounted antenna connector is
a SMA “female” type with the IC-R30. Some will find this to be a
drawback as the old IC-R20 used a “female” BNC type connector and may
not fit their drawer of after market antennas. So this is going to be a
hate-love thing (as usual). Make note that there is a slight raised
ridge around the connector and some SMA to BNC adapters may not fit
properly (any type that has a wide base) and even with some after market
antennas as we ran into in testing. But most of the time this will not
be an issue as the length of the SMA conector is also a bit longer than usual.
Included is a beautifully made
27-inch “very thin” SMA telescopic antenna. It’s entirely made of metal
(no plastic parts on this one). A double-jointed type base so you can
fold it over to the side of the set when not in use. It’s a bit tight
moving and does not flop around like dead fish like the IC-R20’s
included BNC antenna in our testing (when fully extended). Only minor
observation with the test sample whip was the black coating at the SMA
fitting was partially coming off out of the box new.
Charging the BP-287 lithium Ion
battery and data transfer can both be accomplished via it's MICRO type USB
socket. Charging current of any user provided 5 volt DC USB adapter is
to be at 1 Amp indicated in the manual. Good news is it includes the BC-223 drop
in charger and the ac adapter for that charger. Using the drop in
charger decreases the approximate charge time from 5 hours via the USB
port down to around 4 (we logged our actual battery recharge time at 3.75 hours with the BC-223).
The included BC-223 desktop
charger is an beautifully made “Japanese” device
including its heavy bottom steel base. We did not notice any excessive
heat in use. It has a 2-color status LED.
Unlike the IC-R20, there is no
separate “donut” coaxial DC power jack to be found on the IC-R30 for
external power operation. This is achieved via its 5 volt USB jack. But
alas it’s the old story of using the common switching adapters for USB
power and the RF noise that the receiver is going to pick up from that
adapter especially if indoor or close antennas are used (HF/VHF or even
UHF). Read on for a possible alternative power supply option.
There is a audible battery low
indication which gives ONE dual tone "chirp" before the radio shuts
off. It also gives "Low Battery" indication on the LCD for a couple
Battery life with the BP-287 was
tested as excellent. We experienced 13.9 hours of operational time
scanning three quite active P25 and two NXDN frequencies using single
MAIN A side (volume at 18, No backlight, No GPS or Bluetooth). The 4
step battery indicator was also found to be very accurate (unlike most
low cost Chinese handheld radios). NOTE : As normal it will take about
3 cycles of the BP-287 battery to achieve full battery current rating.
The included BC-223 Lithium Ion battery charger. Two color status LED (on with battery inserted).
"Made in Japan" quality and did not run excessively hot in our testing. (N9EWO Photo)
BP-293 "3 AA Battery Case" (option)
Yes, the IC-R30 can be powered with 3-AA alkaline batteries just
as it was with the IC-R20. However the BP-293 is an extra cost option.
Also it does make the receiver a bit more chubby / heavier and the
LC-189 case cannot be used with the battery case attached. The battery
level indicator does not operate with alkaline cells (just shows a "filled in" icon). As they
indicate on the shell of the BP-293, the use of Ni-Cad or Ni-Mh
rechargeable batteries are STRONGLY NOT to be used. It lacks any short
Side right view of the IC-R30 with the BP-293 "3 AA Battery Case" in use (N9EWO Photo)
The BP-293 "3 AA Battery Case"
(disclaimer): Information that follows below was thoroughly tested with
no issues whatsoever using this linear AC adapter as discussed below
(including charging and powering the set at the same time). But your
situation may well vary and if you attempt this it is TOTALLY at your
own risk !
It's cover has a red gasket seal for waterproofing. (N9EWO Photo)
A LINEAR Power Supply Alternative / Power - Current
We have covered this topic in
the past with other radios that use a USB socket for power. What to do
about the excessive RF noise that ALL switching AC adapters emit ?
Provided it’s still available (it was as we type this review text),
CCrane in California USA has a excellent and fairly inexpensive ANALOG
/ LINEAR 5 V 900ma USB power supply that provided enough “cool” current
for charging AND operates the set cleanly with no self-inflicted noise
(CCrane Item # CWTPLP, Model: SR0509U). Yes it has a good old power
transformer and linear type regulator. If one is handy enough, can add
four .01 disc ceramic capacitors across its internal 4 power rectifier
diodes to make it even cleaner (kills off diode hum for close indoor
antennas, see photo). We just soldered them across the top of each of the diodes.
I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !
Downside is that the CCrane
power supply has a MINI USB output cable and you need a MICRO USB for
the IC-R30. Not to worry as we located a nifty but very rare 3-foot (1
meter) USB converter cable that does the trick perfectly from YCSbasics
also in California USA (Product ID: A5575Q Part Number: U2JH3-B).
Having a length of cable and not some adapter right at the radio
helps to relive stress off the receiver’s USB socket.
Overall current consumption with the IC-R30 is about
(and then some) when compared to the IC-R20, so the greater lithium ion
capacity of the BP-287 is most required. This part of the IC-R30 was
disconcerting. Once the Dual Watch, GPS and Bluetooth are switched on,
it then becomes a pretty good battery pig.
Current Drain Comparisons (information as taken from the owners manuals):
IC-R20 : (Single band operation with BP-206 without operating IC recorder)
Max. Audio 150 mA typical
Standby 100 mA typical
IC-R30 : (FM, Single Watch mode, Recording function OFF, GPS function OFF, Backlight OFF):
Receiving 330 mA typical
Standby 200 mA typical
About DOUBLE the Audio Power vs. the IC-R20 ? / External Speaker Toggle / Bluetooth
On paper there is a plus with
the IC-R30 when compared with the elder IC-R20 model. The audio power
has been doubled and then some. In practice it’s not quite as loud as
one might hope for with some modes (say P25) but is a definite
improvement over the IC-R20 model. Digital signals is where it can be a
bit lacking depending if the monitored system has generally low audio,
where as with broadcast signals are indeed much more punchy (definitely
an improvement in any event).
The audio quality is overall a
royal treat with minimal distortion and the decent internal speaker.
Just as with the IC-R8600 the digital decode quality is also stellar
and puts most “scanners” to shame in our overall testing. Limited tone
controls are provided for “each” of the digital modes (no tone controls
for analog). However there is no digital AGC of any kind, so
volume level can be “all over the place” when compared to a
scanner and can place more stress on the radio's speaker. This was
another very disconcerting issue at times.
AF Output Power Comparisons:
IC-R20 : (3.7V)
0.1 W typical at 10% distortion with an 8 Ω load
IC-R30 : (3.6 V)
External speaker More than 0.2 W (8 Ω load, at 10% distortion)
Internal speaker More than 0.4 W (16 Ω load, at 10% distortion)
Stereo 1/8 jack for
earphones/headphones OR External Speaker is provided. In the menus
there is a toggle (Sounds > Earphone Mode) so one can get FULL power
for external speaker use from the same jack. It’s default as OFF, so if
you make use of an earphone/headphone, be sure and change the “Earphone
Mode” to ON.
Even with the jack being of a
Stereotype, one will only hear MONO (in one ear) with stereo devices.
So have a 1/8-inch stereo to mono adapter handy if you are to use
stereo headphones or earbuds. Just as with the elder IC-R20 model, the
middle contact of the Stereo jack is used for CI-V data. The CI-V data
is also provided over the USB cable.
There is also a selection to use the earphone cable as an antenna (not tested) for more stealthy operations.
The IC-R30 features “BlueTooth”
as stock (not an option), so that is another excellent way for
earphones/headset use. This of course uses battery current to operate
but can be turned off if not desired.
GPS Included as Stock
Located on the top of the IC-R30
cabinet is a spot marked "GPS" (antenna). The integrated GPS receiver is included
as standard (not an option).
Displays your current position
data, course, speed and altitude on its LCD. GPS data can also be saved
in recorded audio files. Can list up to 50 stations within 160 km (99.4
miles) from your current location (position data of each station must
be preprogrammed in the memory channels).
There is a feature called “Near
station scan” that uses GPS location information and the Memory
channels (position data of the stations must be programmed in advance).
Here the IC-R30 can display and scan up to 50 stations within 160 km
(99.4 miles) as well from your current location, in proximity order.
Just as with the BlueTooth feature,
the GPS receiver can be turned off to extended battery life.
Limited Dynamic Range With External Antennas / 3 Step Attenuator / RF Gain Control
Using the included telescopic
antenna, there are no receiver overload issues with the IC-R30 on the
SW / HF bands (unless you are extremely close to a transmitting
Being near any strong local MW
and FM Broadcast transmitters, the IC-R30 was difficult to use with any
decent external antennas. Fiddling with the 3-step
attenuator and/or 9-step RF gain control gave some control over the local
signals splattering across the entire band (but not entirely in our situation). Use with a lesser antenna
was the only way to completely tame MW and FM overloading in our testing.
With night time listening to
broadcast SW / HF stations (or local "strong" amateur radio signals anytime)
connected to decent outdoor antenna’s,
overloading also did
occur. LOCAL MW station intrusion was also a problem here (more on
that below). Adjustment of the RF Gain Control
(try this first) and or attenuator cleared up any overloading easy once the MW bleed
over was taken care of first with a "Band Pass / High Pass Filter". So it indeed
better over the IC-R20 here which overloading was not so controllable. As one can easily figure out, use of an
active-preamplifier antenna is strongly
Antenna Tip: Connected to the
test “Comet DS150S Discone Antenna” (30 ft height) in a smaller town of
around 75,000 population, it behaved itself with VHF-UHF signals (no
overloading with maximum RF gain and no attenuation). In a larger city
with many more powerful transmitters around this scenario may well be
different? But on even the AM Broadcast and HF bands it worked very
well (weaker reception of course) with only a minimum amount of tweaking of the RF Gain control and
still decent signal reception (nighttime conditions). FM Broadcast was
a different story with a very strong station nearby. Again one should always
try the RF Gain adjustment FIRST to help eliminate receiver
overloading. Then if not successful add a bit of attenuation, then tweak the RF Gain control again.
No Excessive Spurious Signals / Local MW Intrusion Into HF / Decent Image Rejection
We did not experience any
strange or weird out of place signals with the IC-R30, including image
frequencies (MW and HF
spectrum). However we did experience LOCAL MW (medium wave) signals
finding their way
bleeding into the SW/HF bands using decent outdoor antennas. So front
end filtering appears to be lacking a bit ? This issue was totally
cleared up by adding a simple "Band Pass Filter" (or high pass filter) just as we needed to do with the AOR AR-DV1. Mind you it was not as severe as with the AR-DV1 (our review here), but nevertheless is a bug that was detected.
I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !
We did experience "Local MW Intrusion" signals into the HF/SW bands with the IC-R30 (using decent outdoor antennas).
Internal MW Loopstick a Total Bust / External Antenna Only
There is a “tiny” MW (AM
Broadcast) loopstick antenna inside the IC-R30. This is active from 500 to 1620 kHz. But by listening to it
you would swear it does not exist. Yes, it is that dismal for any signal
capture. OK for listening to local “very strong” stations and that is
it. Good news is the toggle in the menu’s can totally switch this over
to the SMA jack for say connection of an external PASSIVE loop or other antenna. However switching to external antenna jack and using the included whip antenna made the performance even worse.
Once a proper external antenna is connected (but not too good), it operates properly and
decent. As covered above, best NOT to use any antenna with a
preamplifier in it.
Connecting a “Band Pass Filter” like the Chinese one above, cleared this issue up 100%. (N9EWO Photo)
Stability / Display Accuracy / Excellent (manual) ECSS / 10 hz Tuning Steps
The IC-R30 is absolutely rock
stable. No drifting at any time was noted in any mode (below 1000 MHz).
Even better yet the frequency display was dead on with the test sample.
Good too as there is no menu adjustment available to correct any
frequency errors (whereas the IC-R8600 or IC-7300 do).
With equally “extremely stable”
SSB and proper AGC decay rates, (manual) ECSS is just first rate even
is on the narrow bandwidth side (and a bit lower audio) . This
helps take the sting of lacking any synchronous detector modes.
One can tune down to down to 10 hz steps and this also helps greatly with ECSS reception.
Speaking of tuning steps, here
is what the IC-R30 offers:
0.01 (10 hz), 0.1, 1, 3.125, 5, 6.25, 8.33 (aircraft
only), 9 (MW only), 10, 12.5, 15, 20, 25, 30, 50, 100, 125, 200
3.125 (very important these days), 125 and 200 kHz steps were added when compared to the IC-R20.
Frequency Stability Comparisons (information as taken from the owners manuals / brochures):
IC-R20 : ±6 ppm (–10°C to +60°C; +14°F to +140°F)
IC-R30 : Less than ±2.5 ppm (–20°C to +60°C, –4°F to +140°F)
AOR AR-DV1 : ±2.5 ppm
AOR AR-DV10 : ±5 ppm (–10°C to +50°C)
Sensitivity / Selectivity / AGC
Sensitivity is very respectable
across its coverage range (MW/HF/VHF/UHF). Equal to any other
receiver/scanner we have used. Whip sensitivity is also equal to any average portable.
Again, one has to keep in mind with
possible receiver overload with decent antennas (see
But for any real performance on MW and SW, count on using some kind of
a external antenna. This can even be say a 25 foot piece of very thin
insulated wire thrown across a large window and clipped to the
COLLAPSED whip antenna (with a alligator clip).
Selectivity with FM Broadcast
band is also adequate. In fact a bit above average as it goes with
handheld wideband receivers. It’s stated as 150 kHz in the
specifications but sounds a bit wider, perhaps closer to 200 kHz? So a
bit wide and will disgruntle most DX’ers. The dynamic range issues as
covered above can be another “fly in the pie” for strong local signals,
but again overall it’s decent for it's class.
The IC-R30 offers a real FMN (FM
Narrow) bandwidth filter. This appears to be a real filter here and not
just a sneaky audio filtering trick as found with some Uniden scanners
over the years (BCD396XT and BCD996XT to name 2).
AM Mode has AM (12 kHz) and AM-N
(narrow 6 kHz?) filtering and performs well. (Keep in mind the author
prefers wider AM bandwidth filtering). For SSB modes (LSB and USB) we
feel is somewhere in the "mid-upper" 2 kHz area (brochure says 1.8 kHz) and
also works decent. Perhaps more on the wide–side for any tight band
For SSB modes the well-chosen
AGC decay rate does well with no excessive distortion or other
gremlins. There is no manual fast or slow decay rate selection offered.
The IC-R30 scans approximately
200 channels per second in the A band, and slightly slower 150 channels
per second in the B band. This is double what the IC-R20’s scan speed
was. Aside from the “Near Station Scan” as already covered above (that
works with the GPS), scanning modes include:
- Memory Scan (scans all channels)
- Memory Mode Scan (scans channels that are of a certain mode)
- Program Scan (set low and high scan frequencies)
- Auto Memory Write (automatically stores received frequencies [up to 200 Channels] during a Programmed scan.
- Priority Scan (checks for signals on a frequency every 5 seconds while operating on a VFO frequency or scanning).
- Tone Scan (detects a sub-audible tone frequency or the DTCS code in a received signal.
Also: Group scan, Group link scan.
Memory Channels / Handy “Quick” Button / “Band” Button
There are 2000 memory channels
(vs. 1200 in the IC-R20), so can make your memory channel set up near
identical to the IC-R8600 if you wish being as they come extremely
close and covering the same receiving modes.
Groups (0 to 99) can have their own alphanumeric tags as can each memory channel.
Handy “Quick” button is just
that and extremely handy. List of the most used function / Menu items
including: Group Select (old school what I call banks), RF Gain, 3 step
ATTenuator, Skip and Battery Level etc. What is available will vary
depending if one is in VFO or Memory mode.
Band Button (number 1 on the
keypad) is dual purpose. In Memory mode it’s the way you actually do
the “Group Select” and in VFO mode gives you a list of preset bands.
Those preset frequencies will change as you make entries.
A very useful scan feature is
the Temporary Skip function. This feature temporarily skips unwanted
frequencies (or memory channels) during a scan for the set period of
time, without changing the Skip Channel setting. It is reset once the power is recycled. ([MENU] > Scan > Temporary Skip Timer)
Micro SD Card Slot / Built In Audio Recorder
A “Micro” SD card slot is
located on the left lower side of the IC-R30 cabinet (under the rubber
protection cover). This is used for saving user setups, GPS and Memory
Channel data and for doing firmware updates. But also is used for
storage of the built in digital “off air” audio recorder.
It uses a higher quality what we
call a “clicky” type card socket. So with the gold pins of Micro SD
card facing the front of the receiver, it is pushed in until a click is
heard (we used a right size clean radio plastic tuning tool to lock it in as it is
quite recessed). 2 to 32 GB cards are supported. Please Note: The
larger capacity of the card the longer it takes for it to be recognized
after power up.
We used a 16 GB SanDisc brand
card as recommended in the manual with a Class 10 rating and worked
perfectly in our testing. One MUST format any new card using the IC-R30
format function. If the receiver is on and you wish to remove the card,
then one MUST un-mount the card ([MENU] > SD card > Unmount) or
power it off first.
There is only one quality
setting with the digital audio recorder (just as with the IC-7300 and
IC-R8600). With the IC-R30 it uses the same format as the IC-7300.
We noticed the recording level is a bit low in level and no “low end” of the
audio spectrum (firmware 1.05). Frequency response is tailored more for voice
communications, but is OK for broadcast station recordings. Have a listen to the unedited audio file (below) as
made off the test sample. Overall is works fine and is a welcomed feature.
Audio recorder uses a standard
and widely accepted “WAV” format and can be easily played on most
computers without any special players or hassle. Owners of the IC-R20
remember the very strange “Oki” audio format that was used with
telephone systems. Also the IC-R20’s very limited memory was not
removable and not playable other than in the receiver (but there were
workarounds to that).
IC-R30 and IC-7300 INTERNAL "WAV" RECORD FORMAT
16 Bit MONO
IC-R8600 INTERNAL "WAV" RECORD FORMAT
16 Bit MONO
Limited But Useful Band Scope
Band Scope function in the
IC-R30 allows you have a look around the displayed frequency using
single receiver A with an automatic scan routine that displays the
output graphic as a solid line with vertical “bars” that also shows the
signal strength (height of the vertical bar).
If the displayed frequency is
within the receiver B Sub Band coverage, it will be in real time with
no muting or dropouts. If is not there will be some muting in the
output. You can scan it once or continuous.
Even with it’s very limited
bandwidth (15 times the tuning step) we still found it useful. In any
event it makes sure that you do not tune across any active
No Notch or Pass Band Tuning / Includes NB , ANL and AFC
No notch or PBT (Pass Band
Tuning) is offered. However a NB (noise blanker) on LSB / USB and
CW modes and more “old school” ANL (Automatic Noise Limiter) on AM and
AM-N modes are available.
AFC (Automatic Frequency Control) is provided in FM, FM-N and WFM modes and works as it should.
These are more easily accessed using the “Quick” button.
Computer Programming Using CSV Files / CS-R30 Software
One can program the IC-R30 using "Comma Separated Values" (CSV) format file to or from the microSD card (not tested).
You can separately import or export the following data:
- Memory channels
- Programmable Scan Edges
- GPS Memories
The easy way to see the format
used is to MANUALLY enter a couple of memory channels in (including
alpha tags and any tones etc.) and then do an export file. See the
"Advanced Manual" page 2-9 for additional information.
Icom has the optional (and very pricey) CS-R30 Cloning "PC Programming"
software available. Not tested but should be similar to the excellent CS-R8600 software (as tested in the IC-R8600 review available here).
How Waterproof is it?
The IC-R30 has an IP57
waterproof rating. That is 1 meter (3 feet) depth of water for 30 minutes.
It can be used in harsh outdoor environments with resisting some pretty
good water on it. The radio also passes MIL-STD-810-G specifications.
We have not tested to see this first hand but gives peace of mind in
just in case you get stuck in a nice rain shower with it.
Other Features and Notes
- LC-189 Vinyl Carrying Case
(option): We appreciate the way Icom carefully designs and manufactures
carrying cases and the LC-189 for the IC-R30 is no exception. It
material is on the thin side and that makes it easy to work with and it
slides in and out without any major issues (after a break in period). Gives proper dirt and
finger protection and all front panel keys and LCD are covered with
clear plastic. While the radio can stand up vertically without the
case (barely), with it in use it will not. Please Note: The LC-189 cannot be
used with the BP-293 3 AA battery case. The LC-189 has cutouts so the side micro-sd card, earphone and USB
jacks are still accessible with the case in use.
- Voice Synthesizer (built in,
not an option): By tapping the side gray “power button” for a SECOND
accesses the nifty “Voice Synthesizer” feature while in VFO mode. Uses
the same female voice as found in the IC-R8600 and IC-7300 (among other
Icom radio products). You are able to adjust the volume and speed of
the voice in the menus.
- Weather Channels and Alert: Has
the 10 “USA National Weather Service” VHF frequencies accessed using
the “Quick” key. One can also receive “weather alerts”. There will be a
pause every 5 seconds with the alert feature in use (similar to when
using the Priority
- Real Time Clock: The IC-R30
contains a “Real Time” clock. It is displayed in the upper right hand
corner of the LCD. It must have some internal battery or large
capacitor as it retains the time as batteries are being changed (for a
short while) ? What battery or other component used here is unknown. Of
course with the GPS in use the clock and date automatically are set
(clock in UTC time format).
Verdict: A Very Nice Handheld “Wideband” Receiver
We very much enjoyed the IC-R30
from Icom. Overall layout, ease of use and performance excels over any
other “handheld” wideband receiver we have ever tested to date. Other
“Wideband” handhelds we have experienced in the past include: Yupiteru
MVT 7100 / MVT-9000, Yaesu VR-500, Icom IC-RX7, AOR AR-8000 and
AR-Mini. Of course none of these will decode Digital Voice modes (a
must for today), but even the analog reception with those cannot
compare to the IC-R30 overall. One MUST keep in mind that any wideband handheld receiver even manufactured today will still not perform as well as most better tabletop sets such as the Icom IC-R8600.
N9EWO Review :
Wide Band Receiver
Icom’s IC-R20 Handheld Wide Band Receiver.
Was a disappointing performer on the HF bands to our ears (much better above 30 MHz).
Includes a built in "off air" recorder, but uses a weird off beat "Oki" format used in phone systems. (N9EWO photo)
N9EWO's "Mini Review" on
the ICOM IC-R20 Handheld Receiver (below 30 MHz)
The popularity and frequency coverage of handheld scanners has
increased over the years. Many have coverage of the shortwave
spectrum as well. Most if not all have been poor performers with
world band "HF" signals.
The Icom IC-R20 is on the beefy side as far as this type of
receiver goes, about 5 1/2 inches in length. Radio is powered via
the included 3.7v 1650 mah capacity rechargeable lithium ion
battery pack. The owner can also choose to use 3 AA alkaline
batteries instead by sliding a thin plastic insert into the
The set also boasts having “Dual Watch” reception, that
is being able to simultaneously monitor 2 signals at once.
However this is limited to the Aircraft, VHF and UHF segments.
Nada for world band. Modes provided are AM/FM/FM Wide/USB/LSB/CW.
There is no FM narrow (N-FM) mode. These are selected
in a single button “loop” arrangement.
Within the SW bands we found the sensitivity to be a major bummer.
Only the strongest powerhouse signals could be heard using the
included whip. With a bit of help connecting a indoor 20 foot
thin wire clipped to the collapsed whip did give it a shot in the
arm. But even then moderately weak signals were still a struggle
to hear. Going to the next step and connecting a real outdoor
antenna, it did even better.
Now for the real problem with this handheld set on the HF bands. The IC-R20 has
very poor dynamic range. So poor in fact that even after
tinkering with it’s "single" 30 db attenuator and or RF Gain
control, we were not always able to control overloading issue with the
outdoor antenna. Even with the 20 ft wire at night proved to be
too much on certain bands. But most of the time the overloading
could be tamed, but with MUCH reduced sensitivity. This made the
receiver much more difficult to use than it should be and in some
cases made it near totally useless on HF.
Sensitivity on MW is ditto what it is on SW. The internal bar
antenna for MW does nothing to help this. FM broadcast while
doing better hearing stations, also suffers from poor dynamic range
and capture ratio as well.
Image rejection and spurious signals both performed well.
The included whip antenna swivels a couple different ways,
however has a tendency to flop around like a dead fish when fully
Selectivity is another fly in the soup. The receiver has 3
bandwidth filters and are NOT independent of mode. One is for FM
wide (150 kHz). The FM/AM filter is at a whooping 12 kHz. It
functions adequately for stronger stations in the clear and
sounds very nice. The small low cost "plastic" SSB
bandwidth filter is in the 3 kHz area. This is still a tad too
wide for tight amateur radio signals but allows for good manual
ECSS operation. Other than a bit of a low level buzz mixed in,
SSB modes work well.
Stability is also very good to help with the SSB/manual ECSS
performance. The frequency display was off about 200 hz (low)
with our test sample. It can tune and display down to 10 hz
Biggest romp with the Icom IC-R20 is it’s ability to
digitally record any output that irks from the speaker for up to
4 hours. 3 record quality settings are available. We found the 4
hour selection to be very hard on ones ears as it’s loaded
with distortion. The middle (normal) setting is improved but
still has a grizzly sound to it. The much more limited 65 minute
“fine” mode pars much better still and for many will be
the one to use. It’s playback is never hi-fi but a very
useful part of the receiver nevertheless. The playback quality
varies with the reception mode.
I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !
However the created audio file is
in some weird non-standard format and is not easy to playback
within a computer (like almost impossible). Playback using the receiver only. The audio quality ,
recording time is no where near what the much lower cost Degen DE1121 recorder provides and it does it the
standard MP3 format (and the better receiver in the HF area too).
The recording can also be switched with the squelch control. That
is it will not record until the signal breaks squelch. Going into
pause mode while it is not receiving anything.
Internal speaker performs well for it’s size with no cabinet
buzzing even at top volume. It’s audio output is rated at
100mw and is lacking punch when used in any outdoor or noisy
The large LCD has a very useful back light and can be selected
for continuous operation say when connected to the included AC
adapter/charger. However without this back light on the LCD
background is dark and hard to view.
All keys have a good tactile response. Ergonomics while not great,
work in the difficult layout on a receiver in a handheld
configuration. Tuning can be accomplished via the knob, keypad,
1000 memories and even slewing is provided via the side mounted
Tuning steps of .01(10 hz) , .1, 5 , 6.25, 8.33,
9, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, 25 , 30, 50 and 100 kHz are provided.
Disconcertingly a couple of times during testing the receiver
failed to power up even with the ac adapter in use. The only
recourse to bring it back to life was to disconnect the power
adapter , remove the battery, wait a minute or two and replace.
Even with the front panel marked as a communications receiver,
world band signals on the Icom IC-R20 were a major disappointment to our ears.
For those people who will use receiver above 30 MHz, it will fare
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