TZ4AM: I’m Starting to Like the 7610 More Than The K3

The IC-7610 Scope layout and options are very intuitive

OK – now I am really starting to love this new rig. The Scope functions fit my operating better than the P3 did. The amount of information is laid out the way I think – and once you put the SD card in – you get these beautiful screen snaps. I love the “T” marker and the color scheme – for the first time ever I really see why people love a Panadaptor.

I don’t know why – but even with some noise – signals just seem more readable on the 7610 than the K3. I remember “straining” more when there was noise and also QSB. Even when the signal fades on the 7610 – it seems to adjust so you still can copy – I can really tell the difference. This is where Bob – in that review I posted before made a reference to the clarity and likened it to “Digital Windex”. I completely agree with him.

I also used the Dual Watch feature with both receivers – to find that TZ4AM was pretty much camped out 2 up – so that was easy to figure out and I worked him with 100 watts no problem and beat many in the pileup. He’s a really good op – and has a very good and consistent signal. I still get the biggest kick working anything in and around the African Continent – and on 40M its just pure fun – like no other band.

I did listen on the UrbanBeam, and it was almost as strong as the DXE DV-40-P, but I chose to use the phased array – which does jive with the Short Path. Its pretty cool – the UrbanBeam was used for LP to 3B7A last night and now the DV-40-P for SP to TZ4AM.

I’m going through the manual and pushing buttons, and I can say for sure – I really love the ergonomics of this rig over the K3.

The Filter screen

I’m just starting to get into the filters and Twin PBT functions. The visual on the screen is just absolutely stunning. I can really understand filtering better than I ever could on the K3. The built in filters just happen to cover what I had in the K3, but somehow – these sound better. I vaguely remember ICOM introducing some of this on the IC-756Pro way back in 2001 – when I got back into ham radio and into DXing for the first time ever.

OH – the Noise Reduction is better on the 7610 – and I think the Noise Blanker was better on the K3. The APF works – I remember that on a Yaesu FT2000D – the APF and several other features like this did not even work unless you installed that AC0C mod – which voided your warranty. Thank goodness ICOM doesn’t have any issues like that FT2000D had – that was a nice rig ergonomically, but a real lemon otherwise. The IC-7610 is actually a pretty amazing engineering accomplishment. I can tell ICOM must have studied the K3 – because this feels like a K4!

More to come . .

The “100 Watt Challenge” (and ACOM Amplifiers)

I found last night’s 3B7A QSO one of the most enjoyable in quite a while. I did already have 3B7 on 40, 30 and 20 (SSB and CW), so last night I just wanted to see if I could be just a tad better operator and beat all of those running amplifiers. I did – and its a technique where you put yourself right after the last person responds to the DX. You have to be very fast – and it takes more finesse than say, when you have 1.5 KW, a decent antenna and where you just plow right through.

Until Bouvet or Glorioso are activated, I will be running 100 watts and no more. I toyed with the idea of trying some chase using QRP, but that’s a bit too much of a challenge. After having the full gallon amps – 100 watts feels like QRP!

My favorite amplifier, hands down, is the ACOM – with its TRI tuning. Its foolproof, fast, and the amplifier doesn’t need a tuner if your antennas have an SWR of 3:1 or less. I don’t care much for solid state amps – because while some say they can tolerate 3:1 SWR – they can’t. In fact, solid state amps are just too “finicky” for me – I had amp faults with the solid state amps that I never experienced with a tube amp.

If Bouvet were activated say later this year – I might go out and grab an ACOM 1010 or a used ACOM if someone has one locally. But since I need 2 more for Top of Honor Roll, its cheaper just to go to my neighbor, Oliver, W6NV’s house or super contest station.

I doubt I will ever own an amp again – but if I did it would be another ACOM.

ICOM IC-7610 vs. Elecraft K3s

ICOM IC-7610

This review is close to my experience with the IC-7610:

The most important thing is his comment on how clear the 7610 receiver sounds – which I can vouch for when I worked 3B7A last night on 40M SSB. Weak signals just sound a bit “clearer” than when I had my K3. Being at the bottom of the cycle – and needing only Bouvet and Glorioso, this is very important. I also did get the rig at the price Bob suggested would be a good deal, and agree with him – I wasn’t interested when the rig first came out.

Here are the features that the 7610 and K3 share – and I am not even bothering with price points (Elecraft has everything as an option – all of these are standard in the 7610):

  • Two receivers – I’d give the 7610 a slight edge, and that’s just how the rig sounds – not “the numbers”
  • RX antenna input – they are equal
  • USB – they are equal
  • Panadapter – I kind of like the 7610 better
  • External display support – same, but I like some of the different displays on the 7610 better
  • Antenna tuner – the K3s is better – Elecraft auto tuners are the best available
  • Voice recorder – same, but I absolutely LOVE the SD card slot in the 7610 – so it wins here
  • External frequency reference input – not something I use
  • QSK – surprise! They are the same – it seems as though ICOM studied the K3 a bit for this
  • The K3 wins big time as a DXpedition radio (with knobs). I cannot see the 7610 on any tent and generator dxped – it’s too heavy

The only thing that I do worry a little about is longevity of a touch screen and ICOM support. Its hard to beat Elecraft support and service. Another important thing is “Modularity” – if you want or need a modular approach – Elecraft is the king. The benefit is that you add features as you need them – and you can also build the rig and components yourself. If you want “everything in one box” then the 7610 wins.

As Bob said – 200 watts would have really put the 7610 over the edge on the K3 for me. I’m at a point where I no longer want an amp and I also don’t want a bunch of boxes and cables all over the place. If they come out with a IC-7610D, then I would really be wowed.

I have no regrets and love this rig. It, combined with the UrbanBeam and my other two TX antennas and Wellbrook Loops for RX – all plugged into one box and with the receiver as great as it is is where my needs and wants are now.

Working 3B7A was the most fun I’ve had since working #100 for 9BDXCC a couple of months ago. It proves that my entire antenna and station makeover turned out to be a good move.

3B7A Worked With 100 Watts and the UrbanBeam (Long Path)

I worked 3B7A with 100 watts and the UrbanBeam (up only 35-ish feet) at o321z on 40M SSB

The Long Path to 3B7A

I tried using the DX Engineering DV-40-P, but they were barely audible. On the UrbanBeam – which would have a very high angle at only 1/8 wl up – they were Q5 and for about an hour. This is not a surprise – we have this same phenomenon almost every day during the West Cost morning – and LP to ZS, C9, V5 and even EU during the Winter. For ZS – this LP path is at 270 degrees due West at our sunrise, and it is open year round.

I’m very pleased that with only 100 watts and the UrbanBeam that I can work something 13,937 miles away. It was very easy – I knew that because I was the weak station in the pileup that I had to be the last one to call – all the big guns were yelling right away – and I slipped my call in right at their end of their call. . .

Glorioso is just enough West of 3B7 to have a different path – Glorioso is a short 20 degree polar path. What I worked tonight was somewhere around 165 degrees or so – and that means it was most definately LP over Antarctica.

Because he was so loud at that distance – this had to be a Chordal Duct or Pedersen Ray.

My First Week With the ICOM IC-7610

I made the big switch from my Elecraft K-Line to the 7610 a week ago, and I am even more sure that this is the right move. Just before selling the KPA-500 and KAT-500 I thought I should take another couple of days to see if I would regret getting rid of the amp and tuner – but au contraire – I love having everything I need in a new rig. Because I mostly listen to others going crazy in pileups and do a lot of BCB DX-ing with the fabulous Wellbrook Loops phased through the DX Engineering NCC-2, its a total blast.

I can’t honestly tell if the 7610 is a better rig performance wise – it seems quieter than the K3. Sensitivity wise – they seem the same – at least to my ear. There are no relays on transmit as I remember older Icom rigs – its full QSK. Ergonomically its better than the K3, and feature for feature – it has even more than what I had in my K3 – so adding adding additional features to a 10 year old rig just didn’t seem like a good idea. While chasing DXCC – and especially 160M DXCC, I am very glad I had the K3.

I purchased the ICOM IC-28 tuning pod and the SM-30 microphone, and I must say, the fit and finish are better than the K-Line, but not by any amount that matters that much to me – but there is a difference. I like the touch screen (which surprises me), and I also like the video out port. The large screen monitor scope is nice – probably not as nice as the Flex, but the screen has all of the status checks for everything I care about. The multi knob and filters are very nice.

I absolutely love my antenna farm now – I have a really great coverage from 80 – 6M, and I do want to see if 6M offers anything at this low part of the cycle. 10M had been dead for a while – and I think 12M pretty much the same. But the switching and controlling and the fact I don’t have to worry about high power issues is a joy. The built in antenna tuner is something I can’t say too much about since my antennas are ALL resonant – and I highly recommend it. It saves a lot of pain that you have when you are trying to use a tuner to tune bands that your antenna just wasn’t designed to efficiently radiate at that frequency.

I also downloaded Ham Radio Deluxe – and its a very nice logging package. Its a shame there was some debacle a while back – but HRD really is a great fit for the 7610. More on that later – I probably will purchase a license.

All of the things that I wanted in my “post DXCC” rig is in the 7610. The SD card and recorder is a real kick – something I will make good use of when BCB DXing – just because its magic. And hearing 3B7A this past weekend as well as I did was the best performance test – for the radio and the UrbanBeam. The French team is having similar conditions that FT5GA had, but its pretty obvious who are the better team is as far as knowing and caring about West Coast propagation.

If and when they go to Glorioso, I could work them with this station – but will most likely run to Oliver, W6NV’s station for the last 2. While I wait – I’m having a ball with my new antennas and new rig.

KY6R Antenna Plots (Featuring the SteppIR UrbanBeam)

Along with my Fluke DVM, my Rig Experts AA-30 has seen so much use and helped me with antennas and feed and phasing lines that it rates as my top tool in the ham toolbox. One of the best things you can do – after you tune your antennas at their feed point – is to run the analyzer at your feedline(s) in the shack. This will ensure that everything is in great shape from antenna to rig – and if you do find any issues – it can save you many hours of frustration – not to mention issues like amp faults, transmitter high SWR fold backs, etc. Here are my in shack plots:

Position 2 of my remote switch box – 80M CW portion of the band.

The coil at the base of the 60′ vertical is switched in

Position 1 of my remote switch box – 80M SSB portion of the band. The coil is switched out.

The DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased array

If there was one antenna that feels like an “old friend”, this is it . . .

The UrbanBeam is the “new kid on the block”, and I am really loving how it fits best for where I am at as a DXer . . 

The UrbanBeam on 40M

The UrbanBeam on 30M

The UrbanBeam on 20M

The UrbanBeam on 17M

The UrbanBeam on 15M

The UrbanBeam on 12M

The UrbanBeam on 10M

My AA-30 doesn’t cover 6M, and that reminds me – I need to find that web site that shows 6M openings. I am not expecting much if anything regarding 6M – but now that I have an antenna for it – I should “investigate”.

Visalia IDXC and Hamvention Announcements

It will be interesting to see if there are any new announcements – product wise or DX-pedition wise during this years Visalia IDXC or Hamvention. I expect some new product announcements, but am guessing there won’t be anything really exciting regarding DXpeditions. Speaking of DXpeditions, DXPedition of the Year, where 3Y0Z no doubt would have won could very well be won by a non-mega DXpedition.

I am not going to either since in my Ham Radio world – the excitement is right here at home.

I’ll be especially looking for any news regarding Bouvet – 3Y0Z and 3Y0I teams have been silent as lambs.