The ICOM IC-7100 was never really on my radar. I guess I just didn't really like the idea of that odd looking control unit. In the beginning I could only focus on BIG radios with a million knobs and buttons and weight and presence!
But after twiddling all those knobs and buttons I soon realised that my tiny shack was getting tinier and the big radios had to be placed at awkward angles on shelves which were at awkward heights. The 7100 soon became more appealing and so I looked further into it and found that it grew on me - so I got one. And I'm glad I did.
First of all, I like the fact that this radio is a "Shack In A Box" with HF, 6M, 4M, 2M & 70cm. I think it's probably the only radio in the world which covers all those bands in a single unit, All Mode!
The radio comes in two parts - the Base, which can be stored away somewhere on a shelf or under your desk, and the Head unit which can be placed conveniently closeby. The two are connected by a single cable (CAT-6 I think). The Head unit has a built-in speaker and sockets for a morse keyer, microphone and headphones.
The Head unit (control-unit) is neat and compact but it still has some weight to it which is nice and it certainly feels like a very high quality bit of kit. Pushing buttons on the unit does not cause it to move around on your desk - it pretty much stays where you put it. Underneath it has four anti-slip feet and the back ones can actually be extended out to make the unit even more stable. There's also a very handy "Tripod Mount" on the underside.
The VFO Tuning Knob is large and comfortable to operate with a nice level of detenting. This can be adjusted by use of a small lever to the side, so that the knob rotation can be tailored to suit your personal preference (either stiff and notched or free and spinning). It's very easy to live with and it's a shame that other radios don't have this - I would have certainly loved the feature on my super-sensitive FT-DX3000 VFO dial!
The screen is nice and crisp and clear. Illumination is good and it can be controlled for brightness and contrast. It is a shame, however, that it's not colour. Icom should have maybe included it as standard or (if they were trying to keep to a certain price-point in the marketplace), offered it as an option. Having said all that, I am perfectly happy with the 7100's display and when I'm using the radio I never give it a second thought. It almost looks as good as a Paperwhite Kindle!
One has to accept right at the beginning that a 'Shack In A Box' is never going to be as sensitive as a KX3 but in every day life, there is very little difference. Sure, the tiniest, most faded signals can better be pulled out of the distance with the premium HF radios, but the IC-7100 is no slouch!! It has really surprised me when making direct comparisons with my other radios. Flicking the antenna switch from one to the other has often resulted in me trying my best to find an advantage that the "superior" radios have over the little Icom.
The 32-bit floating point DSP supports many digital processing features such as digital IF filter, twin PBT and manual notch filters. Of course, these high-grade digital processing features work on all ham bands, from HF to the 70cm band.
On the desk, you soon start to appreciate how very convenient it is to have a compact radio that can be placed virtually anywhere. I tend to have mine sitting just underneath my computer monitor where it's out of the way but still easily within reach and very visible. The 45 degree angle on the screen seems to be perfect wherever you position the radio and there's no darkening of the screen when viewed from the sides. With your wrist on the desk, the VFO dial falls naturally to hand and playing radio is just a pleasant experience.
Most radios have a meter which allow you to cycle through a range of displays such as SWR, POWER, ALC, Etc. But the IC-7100 does one better than that - it will show you ALL of them at once including temperature, current and voltage. Nice!
The speaker within the control-unit is perfectly adequate for listening to VHF or UHF frequencies in FM mode where the signals are generally clean and bright once they've broken through your squelch, but if you are trying to dig something out of the dirt on HF you'll probably want to plug in an external speaker to the base unit (or the control-unit). Alternatively of course, you can plug in a headset or headphones.
I bought a HM-151 DTMF Microphone which has some remote-control capabilities including band and frequency changing. My ELAD FDM DUO came with a mic which looks identical to the 161 and so I did a recording of my transmissions using the ELAD software and compared the 151 to the 198. The HM-151 was the clear winner!! I have also seen a video on YouTube where a guy spends hours recording transmission and making comparisons between his HM151 and a host of other mics including expensive HEIL headsets - and the HM-151 beat them all!
Setting up DSTAR was a total pain in the ass on the Kenwood (not helped by the fact that no one at the local radio club had a clue and no one on the online forums seemed to know anything about setting up a D74) but eventually I got my head around it. I was hoping that the IC-7100 might be different but it's not. You basically have to setup memories not only for the Gateways/Reflectors but also to make an initial Connection and then you switch to another memory channel to CQCQCQ (or that's my understanding of it LOL). I've just ordered RT Systems programming software and I'm hoping that it will make the whole process of setting up DSTAR far easier - I'll update this section later.
Another great feature of the IC-7100 is the SD CARD that sits in the front of the base-unit. It can be used to store all the radio's memories and also to record QSO's or even store pre-recorded voice messages which can be transmitted at the push of a button. It's simple to make a backup copy of the card and even share it at the Radio Club with fellow 7100 owners. Speaking of the Base-Unit, there's another small, but sensible feature - the fan is at the front of the case instead of at the back where it's normally stuffed up against a wall with restricted airflow.
The connections on the rear panel are well spaced and easy to identify. The unit works well with a range of ATUs and a simple interface guarantees a fully integrated operation. I use an MFJ-993B in the shack with the IC-7100 and an LDG Z100 when working portable.
Playing with FT8 and other such digital modes is a breeze with the IC-7100 because the soundcard is built-in and everything goes through a single USB port (my ELAD uses three). Control software like HAM RADIO DELUXE or WIN4ICOM works well with the radio and one of the unique features is the ability to use the IC-7100 remotely using Icom's own RS-BA1 software.
Using a shielded CAT-6 cable which came with my BT Router, I sometimes just take the head unit into the adjacent lounge and sit comfortably on the couch playing radio. Absolutely brilliant! If I could be bothered to have a cable routed around the outside of my bungalow to the conservatory, I could do the same there. Or with a full licence I could just connect from anywhere using IP software (RS-BA1).
The final feature is the built-in scope. It's non-active like the FT-991pre-A. Personally, I prefer to use an SDRPLAY RSP1A to provide a large and accurate scope and waterfall on my big PC screen.
So overall, I'm really very pleased with the radio and I'm very glad I bought it. It fits in well with everything I do. For "serious" HF DXing or contesting I can always switch over to the wonderous IC-7610, but the fact is, the Icom IC-7100 does 90% of what the 7610 does, plus it has VHF & UHF. It can operate remotely, it receives the AirBand (an area of interest to me) and the Scan speed of the memories is nice and fast.
Low SSB Power?
Much has been written (and YouTubed) about the 7100’s SSB power. Indeed, out of the box you plug in the mic and talk and see about 13 watts on the meter. This is because it has a very fast ALC, pulling average talk power (and typical meters) way down. But the PEP is actually there! On mine, a bit over 100 watts PEP, on a ’scope. There is no need to mod the radio, either with the capacitor mod, or the jumper mod. Version 5 of the firmware brings up average power some, though it still needs to be run with a fairly high ALC indication, and maybe a 1 on compression. If you are used to running SSB voice with little or no ALC indication, well, forget that, and run the 7100's ALC at about 40-80% indication. Also, Icom has corrected the initial ALC overshoot problem, but adding a capacitor to slow down the ALC is a bad idea, as it may cause ALC overshoot, perhaps arcing your amp or tuner. KV5R
|Mode||USB, LSB, CW, RTTY, AM, DV, FM,|
|No of memory channels||495 regular, 4 call, 6 scan edges,|
900 D-STAR repeater channels
(one each for HF/50/70MHz and 144/430MHz, 50Ω)
|Operating Temp. range||−10°C to +60°C|
(0°C to +50°C @ 430MHz)
|Power supply requirement||13.8V DC ±15%|
(at 13.8V DC)
1.2A/0.9A (Max. audio/standby)
projections not included)
(at 13.8V DC)
Digital P.S.N. modulation
Digital low power modulation
Digital phase modulation
GMSK digital phase modulation
|Spurious emissions||Less than −50dB (HF bands)|
Less than −63dB (50MHz)
Less than −60dB (70/144/430MHz)
|Carrier suppression||More than 50dB|
|Unwanted sideband||More than 50dB|
124.487MHz, 455kHz, 36kHz
|Sensitivity||(HF: Preamp-1 ON, 50/70MHz: Preamp-2 ON,|
144/430MHz: Preamp ON)
SSB/CW (BW=2.4kHz at 10dB S/N):
AM (BW=6kHz at 10dB S/N):
FM (BW=15kHz at 12dB SINAD):
DV (at 1% BER):
WFM (at 12dB SINAD):
|Sensitivity for RED (Less than)|
SSB, AM, FM: at 12 dB SINAD
|SSB (2.4 kHz):|
1.8–2.999 MHz 10 dBμV emf
3.0–29.995 MHz 0 dBμV emf
50/70 MHz band –6 dBμV emf
144/430 MHz band –6 dBμV emf
AM (4 kHz, 60% modulation):
1.8–2.999 MHz 16 dBμV emf
3.0–29.995 MHz 6 dBμV emf
50/70 MHz band 0 dBμV emf
144/430 MHz band 0 dBμV emf
FM (7 kHz, 60% modulation):
28–29.700 MHz 0 dBμV emf
50/70 MHz band –6 dBμV emf
144/430 MHz band –6 dBμV emf
|Selectivity||SSB (BW=2.4kHz, sharp):|
More than 2.4kHz / −6dB
Less than 3.4kHz / −40dB
CW (BW=500Hz, sharp):
More than 500Hz / −6dB
Less than 700Hz / −40dB
More than 500Hz / −6dB
Less than 800Hz / −40dB
More than 6.0kHz / −6dB
Less than 10kHz / −40dB
More than 12kHz / −6dB
Less than 22kHz / −40dB
DV (12.5kHz spacing):
More than −50dB
|Spurious and image rejection ratio||More than 70dB (HF/50/70MHz)|
More than 65dB (144/430MHz)
(except 1/2 IF through on 50/70MHz,
IF through on 144MHz)
|Audio output power||More than 2.0W|
(10% distortion, 8Ω load, 13.8V DC)
UPDATE NOV 2021:
AND FINALLY, may I also suggest another option for those who want something more portable?? The ICOM IC-705. Wow!!!
Thanks for this nice review Tom. I've been reading it several times. I really like this radio and have been thinking about it to replace my IC-706 last year. But then I thought by myself I never use UHF/VHF so what's the use for me. So I bought a IC-7300 which looks way better. I still have no regrets but I still like the 7100. 73, Bas
No, there's no point in buying a 7100 if you're HF only. And the 7300's are supposed to be awesome radios - I know a few operators who love them. When deciding whether to buy a 7610, I actually thought of getting a 7300 and the matching 9700, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay £1800 for a VHF/UHF radio.
Great info, I agree with most all of your comments. I’m mostly an HF CW guy but I specifically wanted the option for VHF and UHF for local contacts and creating an emergency net for my several family members living within 12KM. I’m still not even close to exploring or pushing my 7100 very far but I will. I’m considering an install into my truck so I can use it more often. Thanks
Hey, thanks for popping by - it's much appreciated. And I'm glad that you found the review useful. Stay safe!
Best regards, Tom. M7MCQ
Hi Tom. I did not understand what you meant at the beginning of your review, when you said: "The two are connected to each other by a single cable (CAT-5 I think).... The two parts cannot be connected together in case you were wondering." I'm thinking of getting one of these, or an IC-705. I was wanting to go portable as my wife doesn't want aggro from the neighbours, as we had some years ago! Thanks, G1TCH
PS My email address is email@example.com. G1TCH
The IC-7100 Main Unit and Head Unit are connected via a cable with RJ-45 connectors on each end. I was saying that I believe it to be a CAT-5 type cable.
I have now got an IC-705 and it is my favourite radio for sure. Read the review here...
73, Tom, M7MCQ
Enjoyed your review. I have two 7100s. Are there better radios? You bet. Are there better HF/VHF/UHF radios for under under $1000? Nope.
Yes Elux, they are fabulous radios! I will always have a soft-spot for the 7100. It's a classic.
Thank you for visiting the blog.
Kind regards, Tom. M7MCQ
Is there anyway to connect both antennas to the panadapter so you can use VHF too?
Thank you for the review. I just purchased an 7100 - my first HF - and an SDRplay. Not many talk about this duo, so I am not finding much info on how to connect the CTRL from the MFJ-1708B-SDR-S to the 7100. Even the ham radio store that I purchased this setup from had no idea. What cable are you using?
Thank you again. 73 Sharon
Oh boy, I'm SO SORRY for not replying Sharon! BlogSpot had suddenly stopped notifying me by email of comments left on the blog!
Connecting the IC-7100 to the MFJ-1708B-SDR is simple! You can either rely just on RF detection or you can buy a PTT Lead from TechnoFix (try the link below).
Have you seen my post on the MFJ1708??
Best regards Sharon!
73, Tom, M7MCQ.
Post a Comment