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N9EWO Review :
Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" SDR / DSP
 Communications Receiver 

The excellent ICOM IC-R8600 "Wide Band" SDR communications receiver. Direct Sampling SDR below 30 MHz. Hybrid Superhet / SDR above 30 MHz. It is NOT just a IC-7300 "receiver" section with VHF / UHF Coverage added on (however overall HF receiver performance is similar). In our view the best receiver Icom has produced to date ("Wide Band" or not). One MUST remember this is NOT a "scanner" type receiver, so no Trunking etc. We detected some minor audio harshness / distortion and or spurious gremlins with firmware 1.30 , 1.31 and 1.33. Firmware 1.32 is still tops for the lowest audio distortion we have tested to date (however 1.34 is better over 1.33) ! The IC-R8600 has much fuller audio range when compared to the IC-7300 transceiver cousin (which has no bass response in comparison). One bug that still existed until firmware 1.34 was what we called "AGC Swamping" (see text) (N9EWO Photo)

N9EWO Review : Icom IC-R8600 Wide Band SDR / DSP Communications Receiver (as Stock). Comparisons made in this report to the Icom IC-R9000, IC-7300 HF SDR Transceiver and  IC-R9500 Wide Band Receiver (all tested and or owned previously).

Important Note : We will be looking at this receiver more on the "Short Wave" HF side of the fence below 30 MHz.

Model : ICOM IC-R8600
Country Of Manufacture : Japan (Osaka)
Firmware Versions Tested : 1.02, 1.10, 1.20, 1.30, 1.31, 1.32, 1.33, 1.34 (1.32 for the best audio quality in our testing, see text)
Serial Number (approx.) of Test Sample : 0201xxx

Optional Accessories Tested :
"SWL-Remotes" R75 IR Remote : USA (discontinued / was not manufactured by Icom)
CS-R8600 "Cloning Software" (Versions 1.10, 1.20) [Made in Japan]
SP-39AD External Speaker / Power Supply (Made in Japan) [Contains AD-55NS, Made In China]
Astron RS-7A, RS-12A Regulated Linear Power Supplies [Made in USA]
Various Die-Cast 2 Way Mini-Speakers (see text)

Test Antenna's :
Comet DS150S Discone Antenna (30 ft height)
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)

Receiver Coverage / Internal Digital Voice Mode Decoding

The Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" Communications Receiver coverage is from 10 kHz to 3000 MHz (less the outdated cellular blocks for USA 02 versions ) in the usual AM, AM-S, USB, LSB, CW, FM and FM Wide modes. However it also "internally" decodes a number of digital protocols : Baudot RTTY, D-STAR, NXDN (4800 and 9600), dPMR, DCR (Digital Communication Radio) and APCO P25 "Phase 1". Woefully missing is the now widely used DMR (Digital Mobile Radio), and being this not in Icom's game plan do not look for it to be included either later on (ditto for Yaesu's Fusion C4FM). But there is a I/Q baseband port provided for using external decoding devices.

Decoding DMR With Your Icom IC-R8600 ("You Tube" Video)

It uses the same identical RayStar 4.3 inch color TFT "touch screen" display with super fast spectrum scope and waterfall display as with the IC-7300 HF Transceiver. Some may say that that it is 100% IDENTICAL to the IC-7300 for HF reception ? As we will cover in this report it indeed is in many ways, but not entirely. There are many differences other than just receiver coverage and is more suited for broadcasting listening and also includes internal digital decoding for above 30 MHz.

So What's The Draw To The IC-R8600 ? / Real Direct Sampling Up To 30 MHz

What are the pluses to the Icom IC-R8600 "Wide Band" receiver ? I would say the first on the list is it being a "Direct Sampling" Software Defined Receiver design up to 30 MHz (just as with the IC-7300 HF Transceiver). That’s right….no traditional mixer and IF stages in the HF coverage. Right from the antenna input there are 11 bandpass filters then to a 14 bit analog to digital converter, after that there is a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). Above 30 MHz it does use a traditional Super Heterodyne scheme and then down conversion into the SDR.
- Low distortion and hiss free audio (crisp and SUPER CLEAN) with EXTENDED bass and treble adjustments for each mode (firmware 1.32).
- 4.3 inch color TFT "touch screen" display with super fast spectrum scope (up to 5 MHz swath) and waterfall display.

- Proper AM mode bandwidths for MW / SW Broadcast use, right up to a nice WIDE 10 kHz one when conditions warrant.
- Icom's proper choices of tuning KNOB steps and how selected.
- QUIET No Fan operation.

- Built in digital "off air" audio recorder with usable quality for MW / SW / FM Broadcast use (higher quality recording over IC-7300).
- Front mounted SD card slot (unlike the rear mounted and difficult to access CF card found in the IC-R9500).

- Just as it is for amateur use, EXCELLENT super fast "Spectrum Scope" that can be tweaked for user preference (up to a 5 MHz total swath).
- LCD Backlight uses LED's for Greatly Improved Display Reliability (no CCFL tubes).

- Very good (optical encoder) tuning knob that is wobble free and generally smooth operating (has Click or Smooth selection).
- Provided tilt bail for proper angle that also includes tabletop / anti-slide protection (rubberish tube on bail and real rubber rear feet).
- No use of rubber like buttons (as used with the Icom IC-7200, IC-718 Transceivers, IC-R8500 and IC-R75 Receivers).
- Rugged metal outer cabinet and Die-Cast chassis.
- High "Q" 11 RF Bandpass Filters on HF, 13 for VHF and UHF.
- TCXO included as standard (+- 0.5 PPM)
- Superb Phase Noise Characteristics.
- 3 Event Timer / 120 Minute Sleep Timer.
- Ethernet Operation for remote "World Wide" use / NTP Time Server Function.
- I/Q baseband signal output port (see text).  

NOTE : Less relay "clicking-clacking" vs. the IC-7300 Transceiver. With no transmit electronics in the IC-R8600 one will experience much less relay clicking as you tune around. This has to do with the transmit low pass filters / relays (as it has none). There are still relay's used in the receiver mind you, but not many. On a side note : No schematics or full block diagrams are included with the set.

Small Lightweight Cabinet / Steel Outer Shell
Icom's IC-R8600 receiver is housed in an attractive steel outer cabinet (plastic front bezel) with an internal thicker die cast chassis that also creates the semi unpainted rear panel (1/2 is a sticker of some kind ?). When compared to the IC-7300 HF transceiver (see my review here), it's tad smaller and ever so slightly heavier. A very good pop-down tilt bail is included and has a rubbery-plastic protection tube that saves the desktop and helps to keep the lightweight box from sliding around in use. There are also 2 bottom rear REAL RUBBER feet (not hard plastic) to also aid with any sliding around issues.

Size comparisons (in inches Width x Height x Depth) :
IC-7300 :
9.45 x 3.7 x 9.37 / 9.26 pounds (4.2kg)
IC-R8600 : 8.7 x 3.5 x 9.1 / 9.50 pounds (4.3kg)
On top of the cabinet there is it's small internal speaker output. It's sounds decent for it's size. But of course only a external speaker will satisfy most including me (more on that later in this report).
There is NO internal fan used of any kind in the IC-R8600. This is of course very good news, but it does operate with a bit of heat however, more so if one operates it at 13.8 volts (15 volts ??). Yes, it does require use a external power supply and more on that topic later as well.
All knobs have a good feel and all buttons use traditional tac switches. Buttons do have a slight wobble, but is nothing serious. No undesirable soft plastic “rubber feeling” buttons are used. There are 3 mechanical "push in" rotary encoders used for many functions including volume. These have a softer feel over the lone one found on the IC-7300. There is the typical slight rotational play with these, but is nothing excessive.
Main “metal” tuning knob is a bit smaller over the IC-7300's but still has the rubber like track (and is actually a bit thicker). Not sure at the time this report was typed if it's a “push on” variety knob or uses a set screw ?? It's spinner hole is not a separate movable piece (is just a dimple in the knob). Is a "clicky" type (detents) out of the box. Good news , there is to way select a "smooth" feeling knob by moving the 3 position slider adjustment on the bottom of the knob (it's not so easy to do however). So it goes from left to right : "smooth loose - smooth tight - clicky". It has some rotational play in the "clicky" mode (but so does the IC-R9500's knob in "clicky " mode), but overall it feels good and this knob scheme was well done.

Not only can the LED back light be dimmed (we use ours at 20%, default is 50%), the other LED panel indicators can be separately dimmed which is a nice touch. The active SD card slot indicator is a blue LED just left of the slot (with the IC-7300 indicator this is on the LCD). It flashes as one accesses data to and from it. IMPORTANT NOTE : One MUST properly "Dismount" the card just like with a computer (if the set is powered on) .

The "P.LOCK" button disables the front panel controls including the tuning knob (white LED when activated). Even better is if you hold this button down for 1 second it will turn off (toggle) the backlight. Very useful if you walk away from the set / room for awhile (without having to power it off).

There are 3 antenna inputs.
- ANT 1 is a N Type Connector that covers all ranges.
- ANT 2 is a SO-239 for up to 30 MHz.
- ANT 3 is a RCA (Phono) type jack that is a second input for up to 30 MHz.
All are selectable in programming so to make it easy if you  are using different antenna's. There is one rear RCA jack that is a "AUX" spare (indicated in the manual that it is not connected to anything).

2 power inputs are provided. One is using the 3 pin molex type style (is also used on the IC-R9500), and a nice flexible power cable is included. The other is a  EIAJ-5 Power Jack / Plug (4.3 x 6.5 x 9.5mm) type.

USA Icom dealer "Universal Radio"
stresses these important "Operational  Reminders" to IC-R8600 owners (especially for those who DID NOT read the included printed manual).

Be sure to insert the supplied "short connector" into the radio's rear panel if using Icom's AD-55NS or SP-39AD.
Do not accidentally try to insert a PL-259 connector into "Antenna Jack 1". (This is an "N" jack).

Rear Panel of the Icom IC-R8600. "AUX" is a RCA (Phono) Jack that has no internal connection.
"Meter" Jack allows for connection of a external signal strength (usually mechanical type) meter.
 Adjustment in the Menu's allow this up to 8 volts, output impedance 10K (not tested).  

Requires External Power Supply / Operation "Near Hot" at 13.8 Volts

With the IC-R8600 rated a near 2 AMP current draw (it's actually approximately 1.4 amps continuous in our testing), does make for very warm operation after a few hours on. It does NOT make use of any cooling fans...very good news here ! Any fans operating in a RECEIVER is unacceptable to N9EWO. The IC-R8600 requires an external power supply, and I REQUIRE my regulated linear power supplies NOT to run HOT with any continuous operation. I would NEVER use ANY switching type supply with it (as about 99.9% of them are RF noisy in some way with a HF receiver no matter how well they are made), but that's MY choice. I say the minimum size to use is the Astron RS-12A model. While this may seem way overkill, we tested a smaller RS-7A and after being on for 2 hours (important : screen saver off so backlight on full time) it's lone rear pass transistor was too hot to touch which is totally unacceptable to N9EWO's standards. The RS-12A has 2 rear mounted pass transistors and a larger heatsink (and thankfully still no fan to create room noise). We extensively tested / compared a RS-7A vs. the RS-12A with the IC-R8600 (both at the stock 13.8 output voltage) and the RS-12A model is the PROPER linear power supply for the IC-R8600. I say do NOT go with a lesser lower current Astron model if you wish it to run to N9EWO heat standards ! It operates the receiver for extended periods with the heat sink only somewhat near hot (even at the changed 12.2 volts setting, see below).

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here

Again in our view the IC-R8600 runs quite warm almost near HOT after a 3 to 4 hours of operation (especially at the marked regulated 13.8 DC volts, screen saver off) ! VERY IMPORTANT (PLEASE NOTE) : Test with SCREEN SAVER OFF , cabinet heat test based in a non-air conditioned room during warm summer time conditions. Being in a cooler operating environment cabinet heat will vary (be much less) !! NEVER block the cooling vents on top of the set as indicated in the manual page 2-1 !! Give it room to properly dissipate the generated heat. Our recommendation is DO NOT stack ANYTHING on top of it (including another radio or even a clock).

We ran extensive test to see if operation at a lower voltage would help to reduce cabinet heat (for less internal voltage regulator burn off it has to do). The voltage input specifications are regulated 13.8 DC volts plus or minus 15%. That puts the low end at 11.73 volts, and sure enough as one goes a bit below this voltage the receiver stops operating. I wanted to see a
.5 volts (half a volt) buffer above the low end specification , so we went with a setting of 12.2 volts (adjustment made with the IC-R8600 on / as loaded to the host Astron RS-12A power supply). Good news is that this does indeed help to reduce cabinet heat in our testing. Mind you it will not make for cold operation, but we found this to help make a definite noticeable difference even if only slight (and can only help with the receivers longevity). We have not noticed any degradation of performance as this text was added at the 12.2 volt setting. Yes, it's even a bit hotter operation with the Icom AD-55NS or SP-39AD with those being at 15 volts, see additional below. Most of the IC-R8600's heat is radiated from the LOWER right side of the chassis (with the front panel facing you).

Mind you this is still a much better showing with operational heat in any event when compared to the Icom IC-R9500 or IC-R9000 receivers with their quite "hot" operating internal power supplies (both tested previously).

NOTE and WARNING : The Astron RS-12A host power supply has an INTERNAL voltage adjustment (between 11.0 and 15.0 volts). It's a thumb wheel trimmer pot located on the parts side of it's PC Board and is not so easy to get at. This one is for owners who have experience dealing with this kind of stuff (and have a known "accurate" digital voltmeter). If you are not, PASS THIS UP and find a friend who is that can help you if you wish to do this !!

Recommended LINEAR (Transformer) Astron RS-12A Regulated Power Supply. Click on photo for larger view.
While it may seen overkill, continuous operation of the IC-R8600 made the lesser Astron RS-7A model to run too HOT !!
We turned down the operation voltage of the RS-12A to 12.2 volts to help reduce the IC-R8600's cabinet heat slightly (see text, photo)
The small piece of cardboard jammed in the RS-12A's top cover helped to reduce it's cabinet transformer buzz (a common trait). (N9EWO Photo)

Optional Matching "SP-39AD Power Supply - Speaker" / Why 15 Volts ??

We were able to test a sample of the optional Icom SP-39AD External Speaker / Power Supply combination. It is made in Japan and it contains inside a AD-55NS switching type power supply (made in China). Please Note : The AD-55NS "floor style" power supply is also sold separately. All metal construction (except the bezel) is solid and very attractive matching the IC-R8600 perfectly. Front speaker grill is also metal and excellent looking.  Size is 3.9 (w) x 9.5 (d) x 3.5 (w) inches, weight is 3.5 pounds. Has the same excellent  rear "real" rubber feet as does the IC-R8600 (using screws for attachment, no undesirable stick on ones are used), chrome tilt bail with table protection. So one will not have to worry about it sliding around the table nor damaging it. It includes a detachable and very flexible "2 wire" 6 foot length AC power cable. It is not polarized so can be inserted either way into the power outlet (117 VAC tested cable). Measured "straight wired" DC output cable is 2.1 feet long and the speaker cable comes in at 5.5 feet long. Internal speaker size is 2.5 inches large (this is the actual measurement done in testing) and has a 5 watt rating.   
OK, the BIG questions is : How much RF noise does the power supply generate on Medium Wave and Short Wave bands ?? Just as it is with most (if not all) switching type power supplies, our testing of the SP-39AD (AD-55NS) we indeed experienced LW / MW / SW RF noise interference (setting a portable receiver on top of it's case made it go really wacky). We used an active INDOOR MW and Tropical Band Loop antenna's (good for up to 7 MHz) in the same room and close to the receiver. On the MW band we could hear the supplies buzzy hash (touching the metal case of the speaker actually made it a tad worse). But importantly the strength of this power supply hash was "usually" lower than any received signal. Strength depended how close the loop antenna was to the SP-39AD case. Above 5 MHz using a passive 30 Foot INDOOR SW long wire across the ceiling of the room, the noise was even less of a problem (but still detected). Above approx. 30 MHz it was never much of a problem. If one uses all outdoor antennas (at a decent distance from the receiver) this noise was not much of an issue at all. By the way it made no difference what way the AC Plug was inserted into the outlet.

So if you use a indoor loop (or a indoor long wire for SW) near the SP-39AD just be sure and keep it as far as you can and should be no problem in most cases. But one must remember your situation and experiences may vary (as it goes with ANY indoor antenna use). It's not the worst switching power supply we have encountered over the years (again it's actually OK for MW / SW using outdoor antenna's). However i
n any event WE still choose to use a Linear (Transformer) Regulated Power Supply set at 12.2 volts output as covered above to rule out ANY noise issues 100% (but again that is MY choice).

Question we asked Icom America : "Why is the output of AD-55NS power supply at an excessive 15 VDC ??" The receiver operation is just fine at the cooler 12.2 volts (this is well within the + - 15% specifications at the nominal 13.8 volts). At 15 volts it also operates the IC-R8600 even a tad hotter than at 13.8 volts (as tested). As of this report being typed we have not received any answer back on this topic.

As far as the internal 2 1/2 inch speaker fares in the SP-39AD, to our ears it did NOT sound as good as the IC-R8600's internal speaker (even being it's pointed towards the user). It was no where close. Lacks ANY bass response even at the maximum + 15 Bass setting. This part of it was extremely poor in our view for any broadcast listening (however it is acceptable for voice communication use). Please see our speaker suggestions later in this report, that is if you wish to obtain the best possible "Broadcast" speaker audio quality from the receiver (the SP-39AD is not it).

If a Icom "external speaker" is a MUST HAVE for your IC-R8600, our suggestion is the larger SP-20 model (now sold as the SP-34 in a black cabinet). It's the only Icom external speaker we have ever tested to date that was decent to our ears. It's has a nice large 5 inch speaker, audio filtering, dual inputs, neat Speaker "on-off" switch with LED and a 1/4 inch headphone jack to boot. However it is quite pricey.

The SP-39AD is a very attractive matching speaker with a built in AC power supply. It may or may not live up to your expectations (that is your call and depends what type of signals you listen to).   

Optional Matching SP-39AD "Switching" Power Supply / Speaker.
It contains a stand alone "floor wart" AD-55NS hidden inside.
Frequency Coverage / Offered Modes

Receiver Coverage: 10 kHz to 3000.000 MHz
(Minus 800 MHz cellular frequencies for “USA 02” blocked versions).
(in comparison the IC-R30 hand held receiver coverage is 100 kHz to 3304.999 MHz)

Available Modes (firmware 1.32):
- FM
- AM
- S-AM (D)
- S-AM (L)
- S-AM (U)

- CW

Digital Voice-Decoding Modes (firmware 1.32):

- APCO P25 (Phase 1)
- NXDN - N (Narrow - 9600 , 6.25 kHz)
- NXDN - VN (Very Narrow - 4800 , 3.125 kHz)
- dPMR

Just as with the Icom IC-R30 hand held receiver, it lacks DMR and Yaesu Fusion decoding. WFM mode is fully operational in the 902 to 928 MHz range.

Being this is a communications receiver and not a scanner, Trunked Radio Systems (TRS) are NOT followed. Provided a TRS system is not too 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.

Super Spectrum Scope Display / LED Backlighting / Can See the Weaker Signals

"Spectrum Scope" Display that allows for viewing of a chunk of the HF spectrum up to 5 MHz Max (+/- 2.5 MHz). This is a huge improvement to the older IC-756 PRO, PRO II and PRO III HF Transceiver models that only did 200 kHz max. Even the IC-7600 is limited to 500 kHz Max, the IC-7300 is 1 MHz Max (+/- 500 kHz). The 1 MHz setting is the most useful "maximum" width for use on HF. It matches the normal scope mode width (with no muting) of the expensive Icom IC-R9500 super receiver for use above 30 MHz. Works better too as it unearths the weakest of signals, where the IC-R9500 weak ones are awash in it's noise floor "grass" (see my IC-R9500 review here). There are 3 different speed settings of the spectrum scope, but why anyone would want to slow this down is a good question ?
Being it is only a 4.3 inch screen, it is a bit tight for what needs to be displayed, but it gets the job done. We have an excellent "Waterfall" screen as well, something completely absent on the elder and very pricey IC-R9500. Why this was added to the IC-7600 HF transceiver later and not to the IC-R9500 has always been a great mystery ??
As is the normal for Icom here, the IC-R8600 spectrum scope still allows for the 2 different types of tuning. One type where the center of the tuned frequency moves with the dial and the other and way where the scope stays fixed and you tune a red marker across the screen. The desired tuned segments are adjusted in the menu's (very easy to do). Again we have to stress that the scope sensitivity is excellent , plus with the bottom grass noise being totally absent that existed with older models (including the Icom IC-R9500).
One can change the colors of the display "scope" (personally I like green), as well as the waterfall colors. Also a timed background "ghost" display will indicate what have been received until you tune again with the knob or when it resets (this can be turned off which we prefer to do). This spectrum scope is active full time and no receiver muting at any time.

We changed to no-fill part of the spectrum display to make it look more “old school” (to no fill at all). Please see below for a photo and the bottom of this page for adjustment details.

The IC-R8600 will not have a problem with CRT burn or CCFL “Florescent Tube” backlight failures as it uses LED Backlighting. Its resolution is also improved over the IC-7600 / IC-R9500 LCD's (even being a smaller size screen). So it’s very sharp and extremely "W-I-D-E" viewable even being small.
Icom Transceiver Display Sizes and Resolution
IC-R8600 / IC-7300 : 4.3 inches (RayStar RFE430H) 480 x 272
IC-7600 : 5.8 inches (EPSON L5S30853P00) 400 x 240
Again, we found the sensitivity of the spectrum scope to be excellent as well. I can see very weak signals on the scope (with no local noise present…..and that is very important). Is the second (first was the IC-7300) Icom set with a spectrum display I have been able to do this with. This is even comparing to the very expensive IC-R9500 receiver (my review click here). I’m sure some will dispute this, but I have used many of Icom’s sets now with a spectrum scope and this has been a treat here on the test sample. I have my own desirable old school "Spectrum Scope" settings, please see the bottom of this page for details. Please keep in mind that I do NOT care for waterfall display so much (but that is me of course), and that is always still available in the EXPD screen even with my adjustments.

Touch Screen / Stylus - Screen Protectors "NOT"
OK, lets get it out of the way that I’m NOT a fan of touch screens being used with a stand alone Receiver or Transceiver. Mind you I NEVER touch a set with dirty hands / fingers (and SHORT fingernails). But even with that in mind, greasy and fingerprint smearing is still going to be an issue anyway. I also strongly do NOT believe in any use of those stylus pens (popular for tablets and smart phones - rubber tip or not) with the IC-R8600. That tip constantly slamming against the LCD sure can't do it any good. I see some using a pencil eraser......really (ouch) !! Your CLEAN fingers are much softer than that.  

LCD CLEANING NOTE : With the radio turned OFF, we CAREFULLY use a CLEAN
screen cleaning cloth (made for LCD TV screens) MOISTENED WITH DISTILLED WATER (when it needs to be dealt with, which is not too often). NOT dripping wet but not dry either, getting it totally wet and then squeeze out as much water as you can from the cloth BEFORE. Using a very "light touch" is also the very important word here. We just let it AIR DRY (which is not much) after with NO additional cloth usage to help to dry it. Of course if you do this "wrong" could lead to water where you do not want it for LCD or other serious damage......"so you have been officially warned" !!  NEVER NEVER NEVER....spray any liquids directly on to the LCD !!!

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here

Some have added a smart phone screen protector to prevent scratches and other nastiness. But is this a good idea ? Five reasons why for ME it is NOT !
1. This is going to cloud the screen a bit (I say….NO matter what the screen protector manufacture hype is).
2. It's a major chore to get it PROPERLY installed (good luck getting this looking 100% decent).
3. Stress created on the LCD pressing this into place (and removing). Read the warnings in your IC-R8600 owners manual.
4. Possibility it could make the touch sensitivity a bit less (or MUCH less) ? As again covered in the owners manual.
Wear on it's "resistive type" touch screen is not going to make ANY difference if you have a screen protector on it or not.
So I choose NOT to make use of a screen protector and being I’m a very picky-careful dude and again ALWAYS CLEAN hands / fingers….it has not been a problem for ME and part of the reason why is next.
The Discontinued "R-75 SWL-Remotes" Black Box

To help with fewer pokes on the LCD touch screen we added a really cool IR remote control device that allows basic operation of the Icom IC-R8600 via a universal TV remote control. This “R75 SWL-Remotes” model was originally to be used with the Icom IC-R75 receiver but also works with other newer Icom receivers / transceivers as well via the CI-V "Remote" jack. Just connect the included CI-V cable between a very small black control box and the transceiver. Next plug in the (also included) very small ANALOG 9-volt wall wart 120 vac power supply into the jack on the remote box. Program any universal remote control for a Sony TV's and that is it after a few setting changes on the IC-R8600 (as given below).

There are a few differences than used with the IC-7300. For one direct keyboard entry is limited to 60 MHz (as the old IC-R75 receiver coverage was and the remote controller was originally made for). These are NOT for the "Icom generic" model that "SWL Remotes" also sold (although some will be valid). PLEASE NOTE : For the most part (aside from toggling some receiver functions), it's really only useful up to 60 MHz.

IMPORTANT : Sadly this "R-75 SWL-Remotes" product has been discontinued and no longer available new. One will have to hunt on the used market now and will not be easy as it was not a widely sold product.
There is bit of a learning curve and not all functions are valid as the IC-R75 is a little different of course.
This IR remote will NOT allow for any control of the spectrum scope functions (among others). However most of the basic functions are including, control the sets volume as well as muting it (one not even available on the set), tune up and down the band or zip through your memory channels (except for memory channel 00). Adjust the bandwidths, AGC, PBT, Tuning Steps and even for entering the memory channels and much more. Also you have direct keyboard entry that is more straight forward and faster than on the sets touch screen. Yes, this USA made product was a bit pricey when sold new.

NOTE : Do NOT confuse the proper R75 model with the more "generic version" that is for older Icom models (example : volume or muting control is not supported for the older sets with this generic model).

R75 "SWL-Remotes" USA made after market device works great with the Icom IC-R8600.
 (sorry product now discontinued, this was NOT a Icom product)

Low cost SONY RM-EZ4 "Big Button" remote works well with this device. You do not want a remote with lots of buttons or functions (it will make it much more confusing to use). The Volume and Channel buttons are a bit on the stiff side and not the best placement on the RM-EZ4, but it gets the job done nicely. Also good that it uses 2 AA batteries for longer life (not the less desirable AAA type) and a LED that comes on when a button is pressed. Any universal remote will do the trick , just programed to work with Sony TV's. But the simpler the remote the better.
NOTE : I no longer make use of alkaline batteries due to the high (likely in time) possibility of leakage. The use of the "low-self discharge" type (or called pre-charged) AA rechargeable nickel-metal hydride cells works fine with most IR remotes (including the Sony as indicated above) and near eliminates this possibility of leakage. An alternative would be the use of non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries (these have a much less chance of leakage over alkaline types as well).
Settings using the “R75 SWL-Remote” with the Icom IC-R8600 (Important : Using the default settings in the remote device) :

1. Change the port "baud rate" to 19200 in the IC-R8600 menu’s (don’t use auto).
2. Change the "address" to 5A (from the 94h default) also in the IC-R8600.

It can be a bit finicky operation at first use (learning curve) ; especially if you punch the remote buttons a bit too fast and you get the blinking LED timeout indication (this is a bit dependent on the remote model used). There are timing settings on the remote that may help here, but I have not attempted those as this report was typed. Not a real drawback here anyway.

Ergonomics Good / Metering
Even with the Touch Screen nastiness and limited one touch operations in the mix, overall ergonomics are good. But as it goes not as pleasant as if real buttons were in use (the IC-R9500 is better in this regard) . Again direct keyboard entry is much easier to make happen using the IR remote as covered above for the HF spectrum. One can select memory channels (once a group is selected with the up down buttons) either the main tuning knob or with  "Dial C" knob.

As far as the NORMAL Mechanical Encoder usage is (Sub Menu when knob is pushed in) :
Dial C : MEMORY CHANNELS / Sub Menu : Varies with mode (normally Passband Tuning 1 / Passband Tuning 2 / VSC / Backlight setting).
Many of the Knob Sub Menu's can vary depending what mode you are in.
Metering is displayed using bar graphs and is selectable in the following : Standard S-Units, dbu, dbu (emf) and dbm (same as with the IC-R9500).
Readings appear to be most accurate. There is a 1/8 inch phone jack on the rear panel to add a mechanical meter (8 volts maximum), not tested. This output level (voltage) can be tweaked in the menus.
Not so "Cool" operation / Contains No Cooling Fan
As commented earlier,
in our view the IC-R8600 runs quite warm almost near HOT after a 3 to 4 hours of operation (especially at the marked regulated 13.8 DC volts, screen saver off) ! VERY IMPORTANT (PLEASE NOTE) : Test with SCREEN SAVER OFF , cabinet heat test based in a non-air conditioned room during warm summer time conditions. Being in a cooler operating environment cabinet heat will vary (be much less) !! NEVER block the cooling vents on top of the set as indicated in the manual page 2-1 !! Give it room to properly dissipate the generated heat. Our recommendation is DO NOT stack ANYTHING on top of it (including another radio or even a clock). See the earlier comments on this page to help reduce this slightly.

There is no cooling fan which is actually extremely good news and no annoying buzz in operation. Having a fan involved with a receiver (or in a transceiver in just receive mode) is unacceptable to our standards.

One can just look at the actual tested current measurements and understand why the IC-R8600 operates VERY VERY warm to HOT (as compared to the IC-7300 in receive which operates cold in comparison) !! The real heat generator is the old IC-7600 HF Transceiver in just receive ONLY.
ICOM IC-R8600 at 12.2 or 13.8 volts, Firmware 1.20 (revised info via Rob Sherwood)
Receive Current : 1.3 Amps +/- 100ma

ICOM IC-7300 at 13.8 volts

Receive Current : 836 ma +/- 50ma

ICOM IC-7600 at 13.8 volts
Receive Current : 2.7 Amps +/- 50ma

Proper “Tuning Knob” Steps / Other Tuning Knob Details / No 1 hz Tuning With Knob / VRIT
With most current production YAESU HF transceivers, the “Tuning Knob” steps are extremely limited to just 10 or 100 hz steps in SSB modes and 100 hz and 1 kHz in AM or FM modes.  In the case of the FT-450D this is even slower going (see my full FT-450D review here for those details). Yes…it can be a real “wrist wrecker” if you wish to move fast using the main tuning knob.
As it is with all current Icom HF receivers / transceivers, the IC-R8600 has many more programmable steps for the “Tuning Knob”. So one can adjust it exactly proper to the owners desires for normal operation, which for us is : 1 kHz for SSB, 5 kHz for SW Broadcast and 10 kHz for MW Broadcast (or can be 9 kHz outside North America). Better yet, each mode stores it’s own setting. Icom does this right here…no contest in our view. Selecting a faster or slower temporary “tuning knob” step is a breeze as it is with all current Icom HF sets.

Yes, it can tune and display down to 1 Hz as well. However the ONLY way to access 1 hz tuning was with "direct entry" using the keyboard or by using the IR Remote control (as cover earlier in this report). Even the programmable TS setting will not allow 1 hz steps. In sharp contrast the IC-7300 does allow 1 hz steps with the tuning knob (for 1 hz tuning steps the IC-7300 wins).
Tuning Knob optical encoder had a very good feel with no bearing slop (downright zero). However it is not as silky smooth as the one found in the vintage JRC NRD-545 receiver. Nor is our test sample as smooth as the IC-7300's encoder. Again (I know we already covered this, but have I been asked a number of times on this repeating) is
a "clicky" type (detents) knob out of the box. There is to way select a "smooth" feeling knob by moving the 3 position slider adjustment on the bottom of the knob (it's not so easy to do however). So it goes from left to right : "smooth loose - smooth tight - clicky". It has some rotational play in the "clicky" mode (but so does the IC-R9500's knob in "clicky " mode), but overall it feels good and this knob scheme was well done.

There is a way to turn on a VRIT (Variable Rate Incremental Tuning) with the tuning knob. Called "Manual Dial Auto TS". That is it speeds up the tuning rate if the knob is spun fast by up to 5 times. This can be most useful depending what tuning steps are normally used.

TIP : Press and HOLD (touch screen) on the MHz digits for second and this provides tuning in 1 MHz steps (little arrow will appear just above the MHz digits).

Proper Bandwidth Choices / SSB Selections Could Be Wider /
Useful S-AM modes (Is It a True AM Synchronous Detector ?) / Manual ECSS Excellent
The IC-R8600 is near excellent when it comes to available bandwidths. For AM mode the user has continuously variable bandwidths from 200 Hz to 10.0 kHz available (in 200 Hz steps). Of course we love the excellent 10.0 kHz one when conditions warrant.  For SSB modes its from 50 Hz to 500 Hz (50 Hz steps) and 600 Hz to 3.6 kHz (100 Hz Steps). As usual for Icom with current production models, the widest SSB is limited at 3.6 kHz. This is a bit lacking especially for manual ECSS use. We would have like to seen this to least 5 kHz (or even greater). Of course we have the 3-bandwidth presets that add to the excellent ergonomics as well.

At first test we were extremely disappointed that the S-AM modes (AM Synchronous Detector) seemed be exactly the same as in the IC-R9500 (Firmware 1.20). In other words, it did NOT help with AM mode fading distortion. We have a bit better news on this after more testing. In S-AM (D) [double sideband], it's indeed a royal stinker with no reduction in fading distortion. When we switch to S-AM (U or L) [upper or lower sideband], we are indeed hearing much less fading distortion. Not that it does a stellar "yeoman's job" here as some distortion remains and tends to cut off the high end slightly. But "finally" Icom has at least a useful Synchronous Detector circuit to reduce most fading distortion on the LW/ MW and SW bands. Of course one can use manual ECSS  too (that is zero beat in a SSB mode) which it does excellent with fading distortion totally gone. However the SSB modes have limited top bandwidth of 3.6 kHz as all modern Icom sets do. We experienced none of the bugs that plagued OUR IC-7600 test sample with manual ECSS use.

Important Note on the AM
Synchronous Detector : Even with the Sync being useful, just by the way it acts it does NOT appear be a "TRUE" AM Synchronous Detector being used ?? I say this as it never goes in a usual "heterodyne" sound when in a out of lock condition like true Sync will do when off tuned. The 'SYNC" light just flashes on and off with no difference to the received signal. So its not all wine and roses here, but at least you can set the bandwidth up to the maximum 10 kHz value (unlike manual ECSS which is limited to 3.6 kHz).  

Not only do we have a STOCK +/- 0.5 PPM TCXO for excellent stability, with our test sample the display was also DEAD ON out of the box right down to the 1 hz digit (this can be tweaked in the Menu’s if necessary).
N9EWO’s Bandwidths Presets Changed From Default in kHz (Firmware 1.32)
WIDE (FIL 1) : 3.6
MID (FIL 2 ) : 2.8
NARROW (FIL 3) : 2.3
WIDE (FIL 1) : 10.0
MID (FIL 2) : 8.0
NARROW (FIL 3) : 6.0
As it has been with previous models, we also have the “DSP Filter Shape” adjustment for SSB and CW modes. SHARP and SOFT. We normally just leave it in the default SOFT selection for our operations (sounds the best).
ADC Overloading / Sensitivity / Other Receiver Notes / FMBC in Mono / "REF Level" UP to + 5.0 db
When the receiver is hit with an extremely excessive input signal, the red OVF icon will start to flash. Unlike “dynamic range” mixer overloading that can occur with an analog superhet receiver, here it’s the ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) that gets saturated and can make the FPGA to do strange things when the OVF indicator starts to flash.
In our testing (with firmware 1.32) and antennas it took the receive PreAmp (Note : It only has one receive Preamp, not 2 as with the IC-7300) with a SUPER strong station for this OVF indicator to start to flash (or a extremely noisy band and or with local interference). Turning off the preamp's cured this overloading completely in OUR situation when it happened. However this scenario will vary greatly of course. In extreme cases it could take the attenuation function and or backing off the RF Gain control to stop it.

TIP : What might sound totally counterproductive, we operated the the preamp and backed down the "RF Gain" to help recover audio with down in the noise signals on HF.

 Is this a drawback to the IC-R8600 ? I say….strongly NO. Being this is a true SDR, this is the just part of the technology (at least at this price point).
The IC-R8600 does NOT have the "MW band ATT" setting in the Menu's as with the IC-7300. Long Wave (LW) performance is MUCH improved over the IC-7300 transceiver (in fact it's night and day). Internal preamp s not helping the cause at all.

“IP Plus” function is advertised to improve the Intermodulation Distortion (IMD). Optimizes the Analog/Digital Converter (ADC) against the distortion when receiving a strong signal. Third-order Intercept Point (IP3) is also supposed to be improved (this feature was not tested). 

In "side by side" testing the overall HF receiver performance and features appear identical to the IC-7300 transceiver (PreAmp OFF). To equal the 7300's "Spectrum Scope" sensitivity (Firmware 1.32) it was needed to adjust the "REF Level" UP to + 5.0 db. Again the IC-R8600 only has one RX preamp, where the IC-7300 has 2 (PreAmp 2 is rarely used except above around 15 MHz for our antenna's).

See our IC-7300 page for more HF performance details (as those are indeed near identical).

FMBC reception is stellar and has excellent sensitivity and selectivity (only has one fixed bandwidth in FM WIDE mode). It is in MONO only (sorry no Stereo). However it has a strange ACG pumping trait where at times the volume wonders a bit intermittently. So the volume drops up and down at certain times (AGC getting swamped ?) Also sounds like some audio compression is going on here in it’s DSP processing (FM WIDE Mode ) ?? Of course on the FMW mode the AGC and decay rate are not adjustable. But even with this small bug, we can already tell you that it's pointing to a fantastic FM DX'ers dream set. Selectivity and sensitivity are both outstanding including stunning audio quality that has never been heard out of communications receiver (well it's not all wine and roses , we cover that later in this report). On the FMBC band PreAmp use makes for a very noticeable improvement on very weak signals. 

VHF/UHF performance is another stellar showing of the IC-R8600. Sensitivity and selectivity easily overtakes any consumer "scanner" receiver (PreAmp ON). Of course one has to keep in mind (again) that this is NOT a scanner and also cannot do any trunking functions. Even with that, scanning speed is extremely zippy and provided priority and scan delay features. For all FM modes there a well performing (but small) discriminator meter that pops up on the mid left screen. P25 decoding quality is simply first rate as is the NXDN digital decode mode also tested.

AGC / Weird AGC Clipping Issue (Getting Swamped)

Three "preset" AGC settings are available (expect for Wide FM) :  Fast, Medium and Slow. The decay rates are adjustable for each operational mode.

Generally the AGC works properly (Firmware 1.32). However when tuning across a very strong broadcast station you have to sit and wait like up to 5 seconds to wait for the AGC to come back down to continue tuning. Also when listening to a weak station ANY static (including local  interference) also triggers this what we call "AGC swamping" bug. Happens with any broadcast listening (MW , SW or even FMBC) and yes the AM AGC setting is at  the fastest-minimum you can go (so on AM mode at .03s). Indeed, this is a bit annoying. Using the NB makes no real difference when local interference causes this (slightly). UPDATE : This bug was fixed with firmware 1.34 (see light blue block entry below).

We changed the AGC SSB and AM decay settings from the default as indicated below and this SLIGHTLY helped to tame it (again to .03 s in the AM Mode FAST setting), but not by much.

This issue is actually even more noticeable with the IC-R8600 when compared to the IC-7300 which also suffers a bit from this bug (as tested).

N9EWO’s IC-R8600 AGC Decay Rate Changed From Default (Firmware 1.32)

FAST : 0.1s
MID :  2.0s
SLOW : 6.0s

FAST : 0.3s
MID : 3.0s
SLOW : 7.0s

To change the AGC setting (between Fast, Med and Slow) you have to go into the "Function" Menu’s. No touch screen available adjustment here. Another situation were the IR Remote Control comes in extremely handy. 
"Best" Excellent Clean Audio Quality With Firmware 1.32  / Tone Controls / Internal Speaker / External Speaker Tests

General audio quality is EXCELLENT on HF especially when manual ECSS or even the Sync Detector is used with firmware 1.32 (L or U.......NOT with D). Punchy with ZERO audio hiss and no DSP artifacts. Even the virgin AM mode is near excellent. However it was not so great as out of the box (using the defaults). We had to make a few setting changes to in the "Tone Control” settings to make it sound proper (less muffled) and that information is below for my ears (these increased tone control adjustments are a REQUIREMENT in our opinion and of course will vary with other speakers used......experimenting is the word here).

While the internal speaker sounds OK to our ears, however for most only using a decent external speaker will satisfy (more on that also below). See earlier comments in this report for our views with Icom's matching speakers with the IC-R8600.

The IC-R8600 has much more extended Tone controls over the IC-7300 (in fact it's a night and day difference). So of course it has MUCH more richer sound especially with a decent external speaker in use. The IC-7300 sounds TOTALLY flat in comparison (but is actually cleaner to our ears..see below).
In our extensive testing our ears unearthed some minor audio harshness and or spurious gremlins in the AM / FM or WFM modes (over HF and VHF/UHF and FMBC receiving ranges) with firmware 1.01, 1.10, 1.30 , 1.31 and 1.33. 1.32 still has the lowest distortion of all firmware tested (very interesting that was). 1.34 while better than 1.33, was stil not so hot.(see below, remember we use 2 way speakers) ? Many may never hear this distortion depending on the external speaker used !

N9EWO IC-R8600 TESTING with FIRMWARE 1.34 (April 19, 2019)
It’s improved in a number of area’s. Some of the fixes were undocumented in the 1.34 update notes.

 - First the NR (noise reduction) has been improved. Going above #2 setting sounds no more like“R2D2”. NR is now a useful feature whereas before it was a utter disappointment. It now operates similar to the IC-7300’s NR performance.
 - The “AGC swamping bug“(that I call it) issue when tuning across super strong signals or strong static bursts has now been fixed with 1.34. Excellent news here and appears to have also improved weak signal recovery slightly.

Only downside is while zipping through mediumwave and shortwave MEMORY CHANNELS or VFO, we now hear a disconcerting “pop” sometimes when we land on a active strong channel ,(this is quite annoying after awhile to our ears, it may not bother YOU).
 - I detect a slight added Bass kick with broadcast stations that have it (most noticed on the FM Broadcast band) with our classic Realistic Minimus 77 speaker. Yes we do indeed set the “Bass” tone setting up to maximum (+ 15) on AM/FM and SSB modes.
 - After extensive testing, HF audio distortion while slightly better than 1.33, was still the best with 1.32. So if you want the lowest audio distortion on the HF bands..we say go with 1.32 even with the AGC swamping still present. 

UPDATE : Good News....with Firmware 1.32 this audio harshness / distortion issue has been "totally" cleared up.  I have to say the audio now is so clean and sharp it now matches (or extremely close) to the WJ-8711A super receiverwhen properly adjusted and connected to the right 2 way speaker (more on that next). This goes along way to help audio recovery with extremely weak signals. Some may say that using a 2-way speaker on HF is ridiculous, I say different. Sadly with 1.33 the audio distortion returned AGAIN ! With 1.34 the distortion issues while better than 1.33 but no where equal to 1.32.

Dean Bianco reports with his comments on the audio between v1.32 and 1.33 :
"I did a careful audio quality comparison between 1.32 and 1.33.  I did all bandwidths, but concentrated on the 10kHz width the most. I can definitely hear the difference, and to me it is not subtle. 1.32 has a clarity and punch that is sharper than 1.33 to my ears.  Also, I noticed that it makes a difference when the sync detector is in use. On sharp fades, on LSB or USB sync the audio on 1.33 seems to blast a bit.  On 1.32, fading is smoother with less audio "blasting."  The blasting isn't anything annoying enough; it's just that it IS noticeable on 1.33, not on 1.32."
N9EWO's IC-R8600 Tone Control Settings (Realistic "Minimus 7" / "Minimus-77" Speakers, Firmware 1.32)
(HF Bands, Broadcast 10 kHz Bandwidth)
Treble : + 15
Bass : + 15
(HF Bands, Amateur 3.6 kHz Bandwidth)
Treble : + 11
Bass : + 15
(FM Broadcast, Fixed Bandwidth):
Treble : + 13
Bass : + 15   
The list of tested "Classic" Die-Cast speakers with the Icom IC-R8600 : (*- winners)
- * Realistic Minimus 7 . Cat 40-2030C  [Date Code 6A2 (June 1992), made in Malaysia. Near end of production] 4 inch woofer.
- * Realistic Minimus 77. Cat  40-2054 [Date Code 9A1 (Sep 1991), made in Korea. Last production was made in Malaysia in 1992] Larger 5 inch Woofer over either 2 models.
- Centrios 4012000 Similar to the Realistic Minimus 7 in size and layout, but sound has less Bass, made in China. It’s 4 inch woofer surround is foam instead of the rubber one as in the Realistic 7’s. Was sold by “The Source” in Canada up to around the early 2010’s.
We ran extensive tests with 3 models "well cared for" classic mini "2 way die cast speakers " with the Icom IC-R8600. The receiver's internal 2 Watt audio amplifier drove all 3 more than adequately. All of these speakers are discontinued and one will have to hunt on the used market (usually ebay). Our  preferred speaker with the IC-R8600 is the classic Realistic Minimus 77 two-way “hi-fi” model    .WARNING : The Minimus 7 was made from 1978 to 1992 by various contract manufactures for RadioShack (watch for degradation of the rubber surrounds on the woofers). Best to ONLY locate the latest C version that was made in Malaysia (1992) and hopefully has not been abused by previous owners (and or modified) !! In the case of ALL speakers we added 4 vinyl stick on feet (not felt)..  The Minimus 77 can also suffer from foam rotting issues around it's woofer (later production did not use a foam edge woofer, details unknown).

The clear winners here was with the Realistic Minimus 7’s Cat 40-2030C and the Realistic Minimus-77 cat # 40-2054. With the larger Minimus 77’s for a bit more bass response. The Centrios 4012000 clone was good too. Not as much bass response (and different sound in general), but OK. Some have said this speaker was an identical clone speaker of the Minimus 7, that is simply is NOT TRUE in our side by side testing ! 
Please make note that changing the tone control settings also changes the built in SD card audio recorder audio as well (more below on that feature). We are unable to recommend any SOLID "tone control" settings here, as that will vary greatly with the speaker used.

Our favorite speaker with the Icom IC-R8600 receiver is the classic Realistic Minimus-77 Catalog Number 40-2054 for excellent Bass response. (alternative model : "Minimus 7" Die-Cast 2 way model - Catalog Number 40-2030C) . Look out hunting on the used market as age can eat away the woofer rubber surround (foam on the Minimus-77). Best to find a Minimus 7 "C" version that was at the end of production (Malaysia 1992). It was made between 1978 and 1992 by a number of Radio Shack contractors / countries.  (N9EWO Photo)  

SD Card Slot with Decent  “Off Air” Audio Recorder / Jamming In Slot / Line Output  / Speech Synthesizer Notes 

Icom’s super expensive IC-R9500 wide band receiver features a built in audio digital recorder. There are a multitude of quality settings; some are great while others at the bottom are totally useless. In the case of the IC-R9500, it records to the old standard “Compact Flash” card via a trap door located on the REAR of the set. It's NOT easily accessible as you need a screwdriver to get to it and a pair of needle nose pliers to remove it. You can read my full IC-R9500 review here.

Well the IC-R8600 also has such a feature too as does the IC-7300 HF transceiver. It records to it's FRONT MOUNTED SD card, so much easier access. One can use up to a 32 GB size card. It needs to be formatted (in the transceiver) before use. This also adds a number of required folders on the card.

Of course this was an exciting part of the receiver when we first discovered it. PLEASE NOTE : The IC-R8600's record quality is improved over the recording rate found in the IC-7300 (it's not at the same rate as you might think), so is a better sounding performer here. Still not going to match using our outboard and discontinued Sony PCM-D50 PCM digital recorder via the rear mounted line audio output jack. The Sony of course does a better job but is more of a chore to use.

256 kbps
16000 hz
16 Bit MONO

128 kbps
8000 hz
16 Bit MONO

The single "lone" WAV format "selection" used here is still limited at 16000 hz. It’s a excellent feature to have in any event and could have been much worse as with the old Icom IC-R20 receiver.  Allows for audio capture of something off air FAST that may have not have been without it. We tested up to a near 2 hour continuous file without any problems (but not recommended...I say best to keep a file to 1 hour maximum , start a new file). You can play it back in the receiver along with fast forward / rewind feature. Or remove the card and easily transfer the file to the computer for playback or for conversion / archiving. It marks the recording with an excellent date and time stamp (starting at the second).

We appreciate the use of a better quality type SD card socket, that is it “clicks” into place and when also removed. IMPORTANT NOTE : When removing a SD card and the receiver is ON, one MUST “dismount” the card (located in the menus) just like with a computer.

However one issue we had with the IC-7300 HF transceiver testing (and we are not alone on this), was with a San Disk 32 GB SD card (SDSDUP-032G-T46) as it jammed up in the slot. We could not click it back out. Some may say we inserted it in crooked…no No NO…that is not the case. We were able to get it out safely without any issues. When using other cards (we recommended San Disk and Samsung brands) this issue was not there. Have yet to find out what was going on here (ever so slightly warped card ??) NOTE : We did not have this bug occur with the IC-R8600 at time of this report (but others have, info via the IC-R8600's "Groups io" list). One also stores the user settings / memory channels and the screen capture pictures on the SD card.

Also available on the rear panel is a standard 1/8 inch phone socket for audio "Line Output". Level is set at default 200mv (50%), and is adjustable between 100 to 300mv's at 4.7K ohms impedance (in CONNECTORS  Menu > / AF Output Level). In our testing we found this needed to be turned up to around 80% to work properly with other external recorders (digital or analog). IMPORTANT NOTE : At 100% we detected excessive distortion more so with SSB signals. Keep in mind this also adjusts the level going to the USB cable, so if ones uses this transceiver with that function it's going to effect that as well. Again we must stress the Bass and Treble controls DO effect the Line Audio output. This output can also be programmed "receive IF (12 kHz) signal output" (not tested).

Please note that the included excellent "Voice Synthesizer" (speech) feature does stamp the recording (either using the built in audio recorder OR via the Line Output jack). There are a couple different ways this can be selected onto the recording. In the Set menu find : FUNCTION> SPEECH>SPEECH Output for Recording (see page 11-3 in the owners manual). Excellent !!

2000 Regular Memory Channels  / CS-R8600 Programming Software
The IC-R8600 has 2000 regular memory channels in 100 groups (OK lets call then banks), 200 Auto Memory Write Channels, 100 Scan Skip Channels, 50 pairs of Program  scan edges. Of course that is many more over the IC-R8500 or IC-R9500. One can add a 10 characters alpha tag to each entry including one for each group. Here the touch screen makes for extremely easy entering of the tags. However having the CS-R8600 Cloning Program is a very worthwhile optional accessory even if priced a bit stiff (more on that next), we say it's a must have !!

USER TIP : The "M-CH DIAL" button is used to tune a "Memory" channel (for those who do not read the owners manual, this will not be quickly obvious).
With the White LED OFF the MAIN dial tunes frequency (DIAL) and the DIAL C encoder will still adjust the MEMORY CHANNEL. With the LED on, both tune the Memory Channels.

We tested the CS-R8600 optional "Cloning Software" with the IC-R8600 and is excellent. It's GUI is extremely well done and can even adjust the font size for not so great eyesight like the author. It has cut and paste / insert / move an entry up and down. We actually found this software to be one of the best we have EVER tested with any radio ! It includes a Print function and that can be for all or just one Group. UPDATE : However it's print function is not so great in our view as as it can't print entire channel information on one page and waste paper to unreasonable limits ! We used screen shots of the GUI "pre-print" screens (landscape output) and printed the .jpeg's of the desired pages. This worked for our desires even if this was a chore to make happen.

N9EWO's CS-R8600 "Cloning Software" Installation Tips (IMPORTANT NOTE : This is based for the original "version 1.0" of the software.)
#1 : Load the USB driver (located on the CD-R) FIRST before one plugs any cables in.
#2 : Install the actual software (setup). It's takes a bit for it to complete once it gets going (so be patient).
#3 : User needs to enter the user name and serial number properly as indicated in the manual when that screen appears (serial number is more than just the serial number on the CD-R, product CD ID numbers come first). I left the "Company Name " blank (optional).
#4 : BEFORE one plugs in the USB cable (cable not included, I used the front mini-USB one), owner MUST install the new 1.20 CS-R8600 software update (that is if the owner did the 1.20 firmware or above update). If you pass this step the program will NOT work (with firmware 1.20 or above installed) !!
#5 : With the USB cable connected, our host computer created interference on the HF bands, so be sure and properly disconnect the cable once the data has been transfered. Important Note : Programming files with a older version (like 1.01 or 1.02) are NOT compatible with a the latest 1.20 version. It may sort of work, but weird things can happen I guess ??  So it is very important for all CS-R8600 users to update to the latest 1.20 version and update to the 1.20 (or above) IC-R8600 firmware before. Please Note : there are different firmware versions for USA and non-USA..

Noise Reduction Improved with firmware 1.34 / Noise Blanker / Notch Filter

We found the Noise Reduction (NR) feature on HF with firmware 1.34 to be most useful. Before 1.34 it was a disappointment (LEVEL 2 was as far as one could go otherwise it's awash with digital rubbish). Now one can go well past 6 and still usable. Notch filtering has auto and manual settings and par much better. To adjust the manual notch (MN) the MULTI knob is used. This takes a bit getting used to. But for most Notch use, the Auto one works just fine (AN) even for broadcast use. Noise Blanker is a mixed bag as they usually all are (depending on local conditions). But it can be most useful and is fully adjustable to conditions (Level, Depth and Width).

Easy Firmware Updates / Includes a FULL PRINTED manual

Firmware updates are accomplished via the SD Card and could not get any easier. One process does all the updates (Main CPU, Front CPU, DSP Program, DSP Data and the FPGA). This is in sharp contrast to Yaesu’s way of going about Firmware updates (ARF !!).

One of course needs to follow instructions and understand them TOTALLY before it is attempted. When one gets to the final screen: “Do You Wish To Start The Firmware Update”, be sure and tap and HOLD on the YES icon for at least 1 second otherwise it will not start it. This one is very easy to miss in the manual (but it is indicated properly).

Speaking of the owner’s manual, there is a FULL PRINTED one included (excellent). No CD-R manual is included (as with the IC-7300). 

No Schematics
/ Internal Pictures

Icom does NOT provide ANY (detailed or even basic) block diagrams or schematics included with the receiver. If you view the IC- R8600 Fenu Review (click here), they provide a number of excellent internal photo's of the receiver. Eric Cottrell removed the cover off of his IC-R8600 and had this interesting observation with it's speaker and 4 unused mounting posts.

"I noticed they are using a ported speaker (see photo below). There is a hole next to the speaker and a black plastic enclosure on the backside of the speaker. There is also 4 mounting posts on the speaker panel. Maybe there will be a future option board ? There are two populated unused connectors on the main board. I also noticed a number of places for connectors that are not populated."

IC-R8600's Internal Speaker uses a ported design (plastic baffle around the speaker).
There are 4 unused mounting posts on the speaker's bracket.
Who knows if down the road Icom will make use of these posts with a new option ? (Eric Cottrell Photo)

Miscellaneous Feature Notes

Real Time Clock. IC-R8600 has an excellent built in clock and is displayed in the upper right hand corner of the LCD. The chassis also contains a soldered in place ML414H micro lithium-ion battery so it backs up the clock settings for a short period (say during power failures). How long this backup battery operates before it dies was not tested (1.0 mah capacity rating). NOTE : If one leaves the receiver with no DC power connected (even when OFF) , in a couple of days the internal clock will need to be reset.   

Screen Saver. Can be set for OFF, 15, 30 or 60 (default) minutes. We left this set at the default 60 minutes and feel that should be used in normal operations. It totally shuts the backlight off if the time elapses with no control or knob being touched (has no moving display like with the IC-7600). When the screen saver is in operation, the blue power LED flashes.

DRM 12 kHz output (not tested). From page 16-1 in the manual : "You can change the Line Output" jack to IF, then transceiver outputs a 12 kHz IF signal from this (and the USB). In that case, you can listen to the DRM broadcast with the application software receiver that is installed into your PC.". This of course this would be the free DREAM software. 

Headphone Jack is using the smaller 1/8 inch size. This is a plastic type jack being used here. Some I’m sure will not prefer this size, but being it’s such a small footprint, I don’t find it to be a drawback. The AOR AR7030 and Yaesu VR-5000 receivers both use the smaller 1/8 jack and work fine here. Actually more suited for modern headphones, which always use this size these days anyway. It is a stereo type jack being used as well, so no adapters are required.

Screen Capture Feature. You can capture a LCD snapshot by tapping the POWER button. NOTE : This feature is NOT turned on as default. File is saved to the SD card and as a BMP or PNG type photo (selectable). See actual captured photo below.

2 USB Ports. Just as it is with the IC-7600 and IC-7300, there is a real USB port for direct computer connections on the rear panel (audio and control). Not tested for this review.There is also FRONT mounted Mini USB one as well. We used this for the CS-R8600 software and worked just fine.  As usual, it requires installation of a driver before use (uses 2 COM ports).

SDR I/Q output. With
1.30 firmware and above allows I/Q output from it’s rear jack. Separate program for the host computer is also required. Works with the HDSDR program. Also the RC-28 "knob" can be also used with the HDSDR program as well on the host computer (I/Q output was not tested). Tip : Use a high quality USB cable and no longer than 6 feet (2m) to host computer.

Best Icom Receiver Ever as Tested To Date - "Wide Band" or Not  (as this report was typed)

We have not been able to test the IC-R8600 up against the super big modern HF transceivers (Icom IC-7851, Kenwood TS-990 or any Flex / Elecraft etc.). We have no budget for that and never will.  As  a "Wide Band" or as HF receiver I would rate the Icom IC-R8600 well above the super expensive IC-R9500 for overall receiver AND spectrum display performance. Even beats out all other HF Icom receivers of the past in our view (I have experienced many of them). For the price point it's overall performance is just stellar in our testing aside from the LCD touch screen madness that I just don't care for. Some will say it's identical to the IC-7300 transceiver (minis the transmit). Well for overall receiver performance it most certainly is, but as we covered above it definitely is NOT with audio fidelity ! Please see our IC-7300 review here.

We found that using Firmware version 1.32 is still the best for audio quality (less harshness / distortion), and actually is the best "communications receiver" EVER tested for pleasant and supreme recovery audio quality in our view. Excellent that Icom fixed the AGC "swamp" bug with firmware 1.34. Be sure and see our "Wish List" below.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 11.7

Icom IC-R8600's "Screen Capture" feature at work and also shows our change to "no-fill" part of the spectrum display to make it look more “old school” (to no fill at all and a green line). When "Screen Capture" switched on in the menu's (default is off), a TAP of the POWER button saves the currently viewed screen to a PNG or BMP file (also selectable in the menu's) onto the SD card. Works well however some parts are on the fuzzy side. Even as we were in the record mode the screen capture worked at the same time without a hitch. In this screen capture it is showing the maximum size one can view the "Spectrum Scope" using the EXPD (Expanded Screen). This takes an adjustment in the Spectrum SCOPE SET Menu >Waterfall Size (Expand Screen) (page 4/5) to Small (default is Mid). Sorry, there is no way to totally turn off the waterfall in the EXPD screen. For more information on our "Spectrum Scope" changes please see the chart on the bottom of this page. (N9EWO Photo)

N9EWO's Icom IC-R8600 "Wish List"
As doubtful any of this will ever happen, here is N9EWO's "Wish List" of improvements and tweaks to the IC-R8600's firmware for MW / HF USE that we would like to see (below 30 MHz). Many will say that having bandwidth's above 10 kHz are totally useless for MW and HF listening. Dave N9EWO

- Provide a "second" VFO (or better yet a third or forth)

- Make the RC-28 (Remote Encoder Knob) operate with the IC-R8600 standalone (without ANY computer connection as like with the IC-7610). I would understand an additional interface box and or cable / accessory may be required for connection to the the receiver.

- Incorporate a REAL "Properly Operating" Synchronous Detector (instead of the less optimum "Synchrophase" type currently used). Or at least improve the current one with fading distortion performance.

- Allow 1 Hz tuning steps with the tuning knob (now only accessible with direct keyboard entry or computer / CI-V control). The lesser IC-7300 HF transceiver can tune 1 Hz steps with the tuning knob.

- Provide Wider Bandwidth Selections
- Increase AM Mode bandwidth up to 12 kHz (or better yet 16 kHz). For MUCH improved audio with good band conditions.
- Increase SSB Mode Bandwidths up to 6 kHz (or better yet 8 kHz). This would improve manual ECSS audio by leaps and bounds.

Links for Additional IC-R8600 Information (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

- Icom America IC-R8600 page
- ENGLISH PDF Brochure

- Fenu Radio  English Review (includes internal pictures)
- eham Reviews - Icom America Repair
- eham Reviews - Icom Service Center Michigan
- Review November 2017 QST (PDF via Icom America's web site)
- eham Reviews
- Sherwood Engineering "Receiver Test Data"

IC-R8600 "You Tube" Video's that we feel are worth the link below :

Decoding DMR With Your Icom IC-R8600
Introduction of Its Operation (including the Sync Detector)
vs JRC NRD-545 Part II
MW Band in Japan
Radio Sakha 7345kHz (using Sync Detection)
-  Medium Wave Reception in Japan
FM Reception in Japan
-  Performance of the Synchronous Detector
Operation of Filter Adjustment
9875kHz VORW Radio International (with S-AM(U) on)
First Impressions in Europe by Fenu-Radio

Quick Operation of Synchronous Detector and TWIN PBT
SDR DDC приемник IC-R8600 (Russian)
General Video
TX Factor (UK) General Features

(PDF Version "Click Here")
(using Steve Ellington N4LQ IC-7300 data as a base, but is not exact)

Access "Spectrum Scope" Settings Menu : (press and hold on touch screen) " EXPD / SET "
(change settings as below , all others are left at default)






Max Hold

10s Hold



CENTER Type Display

Filter Center

Carrier Point Center

 (ABS Freq)






Waveform Type




Waveform Color (Current)


R : 172

G : 191

B : 191

R : 0

G : 0

B : 0


Waveform Color (Line)


R : 56

G : 24

B : 0

R : 0

G : 255

B : 0


Waterfall Display




Waterfall Size (Expand Screen)


* Small


Waterfall Peak Color Level

Grid 8

Grid 4


Important Note: Be sure that the “VBW” (page 2/4) is selected on NARROW also located in the “scope set” menu (Default is “Narrow”).
*  - This will allow for the largest viewable “Spectrum Scope” (when in “Expand Screen”) 

Tip : To equal the IC-7300 transceiver “Spectrum Scope” sensitivity with the test sample
 (tested at 30 MHz and below), the “REF Level” was increased to + 5.0 dB (firmware 1.32).

Icom IC-7610 Fan Operates in just "Receive Only" Use !

The Icom IC-7610 "Direct Sampling" SDR HF Transceiver's receiver section draws around "3+ amps" of current just as with the elder IC-7600 model did (via information as indicated in the brochure). We of course had a gut feeling that the fan would operate in just RECEIVE use ??

Our concerns were found valid. Rob Sherwood NC0B reports to us that the IC-7610's internal fan does indeed cycle with JUST RECEIVE use !! So it's the same as with the IC-7600 fan operation and noise (our full IC-7600 review can be seen here). I for one will NOT be making a IC-7610 purchase now or in the future (it's off my possible purchase list permanently). But I'm sure for many (most) this trait will not be an issue at all. This is a VERY IMPORTANT factor and a total deal breaker for ME ! As we have already covered in the IC-7300's review, it's fan NEVER operates in just "Receive only" use. NO fan operation is REQUIRED with any "receiver" for our very sensitive ears to this kind of noise !! Dave N9EWO

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