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    N9EWO Review :
Icom IC-R30
Handheld Wide Band Receiver
(IC-R20 Mini-Review on bottom of this page)


The ICOM IC-R30 "WideBand" Handheld Communications Receiver.
 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.
Recorder now uses a standard .wav format and a removable micro-SD card. 
(N9EWO Photo)

N9EWO 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)
Country Of Manufacture : Japan (Osaka)
Firmware Versions Tested : 1.04, 1.05, 1.06
Serial Number (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?)

Optional 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)

Added 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):

IC-R20 : 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)
IC-R30 : 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:
- FM
- FM-N
- WFM
- AM
- AM-N
- USB
- LSB
- CW
- CW-R

“B” SUB Receiver Coverage: 108.000 ~ 520.000 MHz (Dual Conversion)
(All versions)

“B” Receiver Modes:
- FM
- FM-N
- WFM
- AM
- AM-N

* Digital Voice-Decoding Modes (Both “A” and “B”) :
- D-STAR
- APCO P25 (Phase 1)
- NXDN - N (Narrow - 9600 , 6.25 kHz)
- NXDN - VN (Very Narrow - 4800 , 3.125 kHz)
- dPMR
- DCR

*- 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 be 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 micro SD 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 it).     

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 the receiver. 

(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.
 (with enough external lighting say outdoors) (N9EWO Photo)  


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 thinner 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.

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.


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)


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 of  "seconds".

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.

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 circuit protection.


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"
It's cover has a red gasket seal for waterproofing. (N9EWO Photo)


WARNING (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 !

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !

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.


MINI-USB LINEAR 5 V AC Adapter (left). Sold by CCrane in the USA.
Hefty 900ma Output. CCrane Item # CWTPLP, Model: SR0509U (subject to availability).
Right photo shows 4 - 0.01 disc-ceramic capacitors added to reduce rectifier hum with indoor antennas on MW and HF.

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.


YCSbasics 1 Meter / 3 Foot USB Cable Adapter
 (Product ID: A5575Q Part Number: U2JH3-B)


Overall current consumption with the IC-R30 is about DOUBLE (and then some) when compared to the IC-R20, so the greater lithium ion battery 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  
I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !

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 station).

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 pars 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 discouraged.  

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.


We did experience "Local MW Intrusion" signals into the HF/SW bands with the IC-R30 (using decent outdoor antennas).
Connecting a “Band Pass Filter” like the Chinese one above, cleared this issue up 100%. (N9EWO Photo)
 

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.

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 kHz .

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 (–10C to +60C; +14F to +140F)
IC-R30 : Less than 2.5 ppm (–20C to +60C, –4F to +140F)

AOR AR-DV1 : 2.5 ppm
AOR AR-DV10 : 5 ppm (–10C to +50C)

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 above). 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 situations.

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.

Scanning Modes

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.

N9EWO AUDIO FILE : Icom IC-R30 "FM Broadcast Audio File" as made with the built in recorder. Only converted to MP3 to save web page space (no other changes) from the original ".wav" .

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
128 kbps
8000 hz
16 Bit MONO

IC-R8600 INTERNAL "WAV" RECORD FORMAT
256 kbps
16000 hz
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 signal.       

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 feature).           

- 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.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
Ver 2.4

Links for Additional IC-R30 Information (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

Icom IC-R30 "Groups io" (public archives)
Icom IC-R30 "Yahoo Groups"
Icom (Japan) IC-R30 Page
Icom (America) IC-R30 Page

    N9EWO Review :
Icom IC-R20
Handheld 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)

(Discontinued Receiver)

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 battery cavity.

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 extended.

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 increments.

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 environment.

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 “up-down” buttons.

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 better.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
Ver 2.5

(Discontinued Receiver)

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