Monday, 14 March 2022

ICOM ID-52E QUICK REVIEW

ICOM's LATEST HT


The Icom ID-52E
is Icom's latest and greatest handheld transceiver with all the bells and whistles that you could ask for. It was launched a few months ago, but availability has been dreadful due to the global silicon-chip shortage, so I was very happy to receive a call from Martin Lynch & Son to say that a batch had eventually arrived and one of them was on its way to me. I'd enquired about the availability of them during one of their live-chat sessions😊.

The ID-52E (ID-52A in America I believe) replaces the ID-51 and unlike the Yaesu FT5D, it's radically different to the previous model. Despite the differences between old and new, there's still a great deal of familiarity between both models, meaning that that there isn't a steep new learning curve. As with most modern Icom radios, they are extremely intuitive and jumping from one radio to another is a breeze, be it an ID-52, IC-705 or even an IC-7300.


The ID-52 feels quite large, like the Kenwood D74 - certainly one of the bigger handhelds out there apart from my Yaesu FT-550L Airband transceiver. It's a good thing though - it feels beautifully made and sits better in the hand than my FT3D, which in my opinion, is a bit stumpy! 

The radio comes with a BP-272 battery which is the same as the one fitted to the IC-705. I also have the large capacity BP-307 which makes this radio seem very bulky, but if you want all-day power...

The quality of this (rather expensive) radio is obvious to all. The plastics are good, the buttons are good, the rotaries are good and the 2.3" screen is fabulous! The radio also looks good. Appearance is obviously secondary to performance, but it's nice when a great radio looks as well as it performs. The FT3D by comparison is not very attractive at all (and with those dreadful tacky red buttons, the FT5D is even worse IMHO)!

Some people may be surprised to find that the screen is not a Touch-Screen, but personally, I don't mind that one bit! In fact, I prefer it not to be. The trouble with touch-screens like the one on my FT3D is that they are just too damned small to be practical. I often struggle to touch the correct option on the FT3D screen especially up in the corners and the fact is, you still have to use the keyboard for some selections and navigation anyway! I'd prefer to have a nice, solid screen with options selected from the keypad. Another thing I don't like too much with the FT3D touch-screen is that it seems to flex when being pressed. Hmmm.

The ID-52 is a Dual Band VHF/UHF transceiver with DSTAR capability. It can simultaneously receive VHF/UHF, VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF and can even receive DV/DV meaning, for example, you can listen to two DV Repeaters at the same time. Bear in mind, that some other handhelds declare the ability to monitor two DV frequencies at the same time, but the difference with the ID-52E is that you can hear both frequencies at the same time. 

It can also receive Airband on both VHF and UHF, so Military aviation frequencies can be monitored! Coverage is basically 76-479MHz. The FT3D by comparison has a wider receive range of 0.5MHz – 999.99MHz which is pretty impressive but sensitivity across that very wide range has highlights and lowlights as you'd expect. Neither radio includes SSB modes like the D74.



 
The built-in BlueTooth makes it easy to use BT headsets or to communicate with your Android or IOS devices, whether you're wanting to use the free Icom software apps to control the radio, program it or to send images, etc.

One of the very best features of this new radio has to be the inclusion of a proper bandscope. It is really well implemented - much better than on my FT3D - the two are like chalk and cheese. The scope on the ID-52 reminds me of that on the IC-705. A major plus point for portable operation.



Speaking of the IC-705, it's worth noting that the ID-52 uses the same battery, so if you have a 705 you can take advantage of having a spare battery for either radio. In fact, now that I think about it, I bought the large capacity BP-307 for the 705, so I’ll be able to use that too with the ID-52.

Icom's CS-52 Programming Software is free to download and is easy to use. No need for RT Systems here! Within minutes of getting the radio, I was using CS-52 and had entered all my favourite AirBand frequencies, Broadcast frequencies and I moved my favourite repeaters to a Group of their own for quick access.

There's a fabulous function which (no matter where in the world you happen to be) identifies the repeaters close to your current location. This is possible because of the built-in GPS and Icom's eagerness to make the ham operator's life easy by including a list of the world's FM and DV Repeaters and Reflectors!

Having built-in GPS, the radio can show you which are the closest repeaters and reflectors to your current location and quickly get you connected. You can of course add any new repeaters or hotspots to the list.


Using DSTAR on Icom radios is pretty straightforward once you understand the basics and there are plenty of great video guides on YouTube about it. It seems far easier to use DSTAR on an Icom radio than on a Kenwood. Dstar audio has always been good for me and I don't see much of a difference between it and C4FM. I have no bias either way.

Picture-Sharing is another feature of the Icom but personally I have no use for it. I just don't understand why it was implemented in the first place. What's the point? Perhaps someone can point out its usefulness to me?

SD-CARD fitment is getting to be be pretty standard these days and the ID-52E makes great use of it. Apart from being a place to store or backup memories, it can also hold you Settings, GPS Log, QSO Log, Firmware Updates, etc, but can also hold your QSO Recordings! Yes, like all modern Icom radios, the ID-52 has a built-in QSO Recorder. Such a great feature which I don't think Icom make enough noise about!

Imagine being out and about in the hillsides having QSO's with people who are giving you lots of information which you may wish to recall later - well don't worry about writing it all down - you can listen through it again when you get home. Fabulous!

The SD-CARD is also used for holding your TX AUDIO recordings. Yet another fabulous feature and one which should be standard on all radios. 

Broadcast FM Radio is available between 76 and 108MHz. It's sometimes nice to be able to listen to your favourite radio station while monitoring calling frequencies or you can put it in FM Radio-Mode exclusively. The built-in speaker sounds really very nice and is loud enough to use in noisy environments such as town centers. Considering the high level of waterproofing on the Icom, you wouldn't expect it to be able to sound so good. The FT3D actually suffered in that respect because of its waterproofing.

You can also opt to use headphones or the Icom Speaker-Mic (ICOM HM-186LS). The speaker-mic is of very high quality - I just love how Icom products are put together. The volume of the mic-speaker is marginally lower than the radio, so you'll end up increasing the volume (or raising the mic to your ear). Thankfully, the radio's audio levels go extremely high, so there's no problem anyway.

I can confirm that the ID-52E works perfectly well with Apple AirPods as headphones. They sound great. I could not, however, get them to work on VOX, but then one doesn’t really need to 🤷🏻.  Just talk into the 52’s mic as normal. The great thing about the AirPod Pros of course is the fantastic noise-cancellation. 


Of particular note is that this HT has VERY high quality TX audio. It knocks spots off my other handhelds - it's just amazing! I know they used to say that Kenwood was the king of audio, but maybe their crown is about to be knocked off.

Probably due to the waterproofing, the microphone socket on the radio is deeply recessed which means that your standard headset connectors won't fit. Thankfully, Icom offer a special adapter to overcome this issue which I will be ordering. The price of it is a bit ridiculous at £24 but everything in this hobby is ridiculously priced!



So it's pretty obvious that we have a very highly specified HT here. It's superbly put together using top quality materials and construction techniques. It has high levels of waterproofing and great performance. I would strongly recommend investing in the LC-193 Soft Leather Case to protect the radio. I've never really liked using cases, but my opinion has changed somewhat since dropping my FT3D a couple of feet resulting in unsightly marks to the plastic case.

You will benefit from downloading the ADVANCED MANUAL from Icom's website to take full advantage of all the available features. You'll also need to dedicate time to studying it all. That's the fun of it too though - just when the new-radio feeling is fading, you can discover more things to bring the sparkle back.

I've not yet had the chance to take this HT on a long walk and test it thoroughly, but brief sensitivity tests alongside the FT3D show signs of superiority. The ID-52E not only sounds better, but it also pulled in a stronger, cleaner signal than it's Yaesu chum. I tested it using a Diamond V2000 and a high quality antenna switch.

So in summary, I would recommend the Icom ID-52E. It's expensive, but it's also a very good radio. If you're a 51 owner, you'll probably not want to spend all that money on an upgrade, because the 51 is still a cracking bit of kit, but if you're on the market for a new Dual Band DSTAR handheld and don't currently own one, then this is well worth considering - especially if you’ve got a big birthday coming up and your other half is begging you to have a special treat - yeh right! 😂  

What do I not like about the Icom ID-52E? Well there's nothing I really dislike, but for this kind of money and considering this is the very latest radio on the market (so Icom could already see what the competition were offering), I thought it would include APRS and  I would have very much liked to have a wider receive range including LW, MW and SW with SSB. That would have been the icing on the cake and made the ID-52 perfect!

Just remember to leave some money for some nice accessories...



THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!


ICOM's BLURB...


ID-52E Dual-Band D-STAR Digital Transceiver £520 RRP 

The ID-52E is a VHF/UHF dual band radio with D-STAR and FM dual mode functions. The ID-52E supports conventional FM communications as well as D-STAR simplex, repeater, regional, and worldwide calls over the D-STAR Internet gateway. With the ID-52E, you can call a friend in another city, or even internationally through D-STAR repeaters, with digital clear audio. In addition, the ID-52E can send digital voice with data, text messages, GPS location information and pictures.

Worldwide Communication Through the D-STAR Network
The ID-52E provides D-STAR simplex, repeater, regional, and worldwide calls over the D-STAR Internet gateway as well conventional FM communications. Call a friend in another city, or even internationally through D-STAR repeaters, with digital clear audio.

Picture Sharing Function
Share pictures with other users and see received pictures on the colour display. Pictures taken on an Android device can be wirelessly transferred to the ID-52E via Bluetooth.

DR (D-STAR Repeater) Function
The expanded DR (D-STAR Repeater) function makes D-STAR and FM repeater communication easier to use. Combined with the GPS function, selection of an available local repeater is available with a couple of button pushes, based on your location. Additionally, DR mode supports reflector linking controls.

Terminal Mode and Access Point Mode*
Connect the ID-52E to the Internet through a Windows PC or an Android device. The Internet gateway (using Terminal mode and Access Point mode) enables you to access the D-STAR repeater network, even from areas where no D-STAR repeater is directly accessible via radio.
・ Terminal and Access Point modes are compatible with Icom RS-RP3 Gateway Software. If your D-STAR repeater is running G1 or G2 software, please contact your local Icom Distributor to upgrade software. ・ You need an Internet connection with an IPv4 Global IP address. If you use a cellular system, you need an IPv4 Global IP address assigned to your Android device. ・The RS-MS3W optional software is required to be installed in the PC (Download from Icom website). The RS-MS3A optional application software is required to be installed in the Android device (Download from Google Play). USB cable is required. Type-A: User supplied. Type-C: OPC-2418. micro-B: OPC-2417.

2.3" Large Colour Display
The ID-52E features a 2.3-inch colour display (320 × 280 pixels) which provides excellent viewability. The display background colour is selectable from black and white.

Bluetooth Enabled Features
The optional VS-3 Bluetooth headset enables hands-free wireless operation. In addition to the PTT and volume up/down buttons, the VS-3 has three programmable buttons that can be assigned functions to improve operation.

You can connect to an Android device through Bluetooth. With the Android device together with the RS-MS1A Remote Control Software installed, you can wirelessly control the ID-52E to change operating frequencies and other settings.

Handheld Radio First! Waterfall Display
The waterfall display shows not only the existence of signals but also the changes of signal level in chronological order. You will have an overview of the band conditions in more detail, including busy frequencies currently used, or open frequencies not used. The band scope mode is selectable from center mode, Fixed mode and Fixed scroll mode.

V/V,U/U,V/U Dualwatch Including DV/DV Mode
The Dualwatch function monitors the VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF and VHF/UHF bands simultaneously*. You can quickly respond to a call from the Main and Sub bands. Two DV signals can be decoded at the same time.
* AM/AM mode Dualwatch is not possible. AM signals can be received on only the Main VFO (A band).

VHF/UHF Airband and FM Broadcast Receiver
Airband reception is expanded from VHF to UHF military Airband (225 to 374.995 MHz). FM broadcast stations can be listened to while using the dualwatch function.

Integrated GPS/GLONASS Receiver
D-PRS mode is supported by the internal GPS receiver for sending your location and showing received station location, distance, and direction from your current location. In addition to your location, the ID-52E displays your current Grid Square information. The GPS position data can be used for Position Auto Reply, Near Repeater Search, and GPS log functions.

microSD Card Slot
You can store QSO Recording, TX Voice Memory, pictures, QSOs and GPS log data. Firmware upgrades, Repeater lists and other personal settings onto a microSD card (up to 32 GB). This can then be uploaded into the ID-52E radio.

Micro USB Connector
The ID-52E has a Multi-function USB port as well as USB host function, for charging the Icom battery packs, PC Programming, read/write contents to the microSD card, Terminal/Access Point mode support, as well as CI-V control as well as audio.

IPX7 Waterproof and Tough Construction
IPX7 waterproofing and pro-grade construction make the ID-52E ideal for operating in harsh outdoor environments.

Other Features
• 750 mW loud audio output power
• Improved heat dissipation efficiency for stable operation
• DV fast data mode uses data in place of voice frames
• QSO log in CSV data format
• Accessories for the ID-51E/ID-31E such as battery packs and microphones can be used
• DV/FM near repeater search function
• Voice recorder function
• External DC power jack


COMMENT RECEIVED FROM DK5CH : 

Hi Tom,

very nice blog. I also own an IC-705 and now an ID-52E. For me the microphone and VOX work for the ID-52 in combination with the Airpods Pro. However, I have to set the BT headset type in the ID-52 to Microphone instead of Normal. Audio sounds very good, but the build in microphone is hard to beat.

VOX is working, but I don't use it, pressing the PTT on the 52 keys the rig and voice is picked up by the Airpods. I really love operating outdoor with these two radios in combination with the excellent Airpods.

Best wishes and take care!

Christian - DK5CH

Thanks Christian, 73, Tom, M7MCQ

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