Saturday, April 3, 2021

The IC-705 is the KX4

I'm a long-time Elecraft fan, having owned many of their radios over the years, and had been hoping for a KX4 to come along eventually. Along with a KX2, I also have a mcHF, and I've been keeping a list of all the best features of both radios that I would like to see incorporated into an eventual Elecraft KX4.

Also on the list were features that neither of those two radios had - the chief item being some degree of weatherproofing. Any amount would be a vast improvement over both the KX2 and the mcHF.

Evidently, Icom was also keeping a list.

I am told by two attendees of the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo that Elecraft mentioned that there are no current plans underway for a KX4. That now makes complete sense - with the IC-705, there is no need. It would be a hard sell indeed.

Having the IC-705 for 6 weeks now, I'm now trying to imagine what features a KX4 could contain that would make it a valid competitor to the IC-705. That list contains only two items: solid-state QSK and built-in ATU.

In those six weeks:

  • I've made a number of park activations on both phone and CW, QRP and QRO (with Hardrock-50)
  • Used built-in GPS to check my gridsquare during those activations
  • Charged the battery (with USB cable/car jack) as I drove home from parks
  • Switched from CW to FT8 and back again, effortlessly and with very few steps/cabling involved
  • Worked several DX stations operating split on CW
  • Operated a CW contest (ARRL DX)
  • Made my first 6m contact with Q65A (no drift, no overheating issues)
  • Recorded QSO's to radio's SD card
  • Listened to (and enjoyed!) Radio Northern Europe International on 5850 kHz
  • Made MDS measurement of HF ham and SWL bands, finding no sacrifice in receiver sensitivity outside the ham bands
  • Made test QSO's on 2m and 440 MHz via area repeaters

For one rig - and a small one at that -  to be able to offer such a variety of features in a KX3-size package is nothing short of amazing. But the fact that it does all these things superbly is what makes the IC-705 truly remarkable and, I think, untouchable in the foreseeable future.

My initial hesitation in buying the rig was due to the lack of an ATU, primarily for use during outdoor operation in parks. Although I use a 3-band resonant antenna, I don't trust the "This antenna is resonant" part of the ads to be true in every type of installation one might encounter: low to the ground, nearby metal roofs/awnings, etc encountered at parks. An ATU has always been my insurance policy that the antenna will work regardless of installation.

Also, I often used my 20/30/40m antenna on 15 and 17 meters with rigs that had a built-in ATU.

My solution with the IC-705 is a ZM-2. I take it but seldom use it since both 15 and 17 meters have been poor, in terms of propagation or activity level. But it works and even tunes antenna types that may not be match-able with an inbuilt tuner's more limited range.

The relay keying? I can hear it if I listen for it but to do so, I have to put my ear close to the radio with the paddles at arm's length. Otherwise, I hear the paddles rather than the rig's relays. They're that quiet and the radio is that well-sealed (sound isolated).

So the things I was most concerned about that might cause me to not like the rig are, in reality, non-issues.

As a result, I now have a power-efficient QRP portable, all-mode, 160m to 440 MHz radio that, when home, becomes a QRO main rig, thanks to the Hardrock-50 or the KPA-500 (or both!). Furthermore, the radio has a big touch screen that presents a wealth of useful info (in a customizable way) and serves as a way to intuitively access other functions.

Who would have thought that Icom would make an Elecraft-like rig? In many ways, that is exactly what they've done. The IC-705 is the most Elecraft-ish rig on the market...and it's actually available.

And no extra charge for a microphone and battery!

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11 comments:

ON5ZO said...

Once again, you're not helping me here to keep my mouse pointer away from the 'order' button!!!
Happy Easter - go easy on the chocolate eggs. 73.
Franki

John AE5X said...

Upcoming Icom ad in ham magazines worldwide: "Belgian Contester Buys IC-705; Wins CQWW (CW)" ;-)

Franki, I'm surprised you're tempted by the 705?! Is your interest in the hobby beginning to shift from pure contesting?

Happy Easter to you too and 73,
John

ON5ZO said...

It's not that my interest is shifting, I still enjoy every minute and hour of a CW contest.

I just want to 'broaden my horizon', like try the satellites. And there are several ONFF references where we go to walk. Or do VHF All Mode. In 1999 I was an ON1 (VHF and up only) and when I worked my first G and DL on 2m SSB, I felt like a Big Gun DXer.
These things also seem to fit in my other interest: homebrew small and simple antennas.

The 705 offers all bands, all modes in a small package that is not too expensive.
I just need to reprogram myself from the low power aspect and high rate operations :o)

If I buy one (if, not when), my first goal will be a 705-to-705 QSO with you. Deal?

73!
Franki

John AE5X said...

Sounds good, Franki - let me know. CQ-WPX-CW is just around the corner.....

I consider my 705 as an exercise plan - it gets me out to parks where I either hike or bike while there. And I'm currently reading ON4UN's book with the idea of phasing a couple verticals for directionality on 20m during park ops. Lots of EU stations call when I pre-announce my planned activity and I'd like to be able to work them more easily than inverted V's allow.

73,
John

ON5ZO said...

Look for "Christman feed", possibly the easiest way to gain...

Thomas Witherspoon said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

Indeed, my whole Winter SWL Fest presentation this year was basically saying, "The IC-705 is a kick-ass SWLing machine."

I really love this machine and shortly after buying it for review realized there was no way I was going to sell it as I had planned to do after the review.

I find its performance to be stellar too: super low noise floor, excellent sensitivity and filtering.

And the reed relays (or whatever they are)? I honestly have to strain to hear them in the field.

The IC-705 is now a serious benchmark in the world of portable radios.

Cheers,
Thomas
K4SWL

PS: Oh yeah! Great putting you in the logs again recently, OM!

John AE5X said...

Hi Thomas - Now having owned it for a couple months I'm finding it to be a great way to explore aspects of the hobby that never appealed before. My current project is getting it to work with WinLink, thanks to a recent posting by Bas PE4BAS:
https://pe4bas.blogspot.com/2021/04/every-ham-should-know-how-to-send-e.html

After that, who knows. There's a good chance that it may soon become my only rig.

Thanks for the recent park contact (Lake Norman SP) and 73,
John AE5X

Michael VE3WMB said...

John, after reading your excellent blog postings and watching a number of K4SWL's great videos I re-evaluated my needs, cancelled my KX2 order (been waiting 7 weeks for it to ship) and ordered an IC-705. I think that 99% of my portable operating from now on is likely to be picnic-table-portable with perhaps a few easy hikes to do some SOTA activations so I concluded that an extra pound of rig is worth it for the incredible arsenal of features that the IC-705 provides. It is like an FT-817, but built with alien technology ;-). Many thanks for taking the time to document your thoughts and adventures in this blog, it is always interesting and very informative.

Cheers - Michael VE3WMB

P.S. I think that the IC-705 could be the only rig that I need to bring with me on vacation travels as it does everything.

John AE5X said...

Hello Michael, I really hope you like and would like to hear your impressions after you've had it a bit. And I'm glad to hear you'll be using it portable. Every now and then I read a comment from someone who has an IC-705 but, due to its cost, they don't want to take it to "the field". I shake my head in disbelief and wonder why they bought the thing.

Mine continues to see daily use on all 3 major modes, though I'll always prefer CW.

I'll be taking it to Colorado soon for a week long cabin-rental trip in the mountains (K-4408 San Juan National Forest). If you hear me on, give me a call. I'll be on battery power with a 20-30-40 meter end-fed dipole.

73,
John

Michael VE3WMB said...

John, enjoy your trip! I will keep an eye/ear open for you.

I do dabble in Digimodes but CW is also my preferred mode.

A field radio is bound to get a little dinged up and that is ok, but I am considering buying the Windcamp ARK-705 to protect the rig from major bumps. I am still trying to decide if it is overkill. (https://www.windcampgear.com/productinfo/612936.html). The advantage of this product over the similar IC-705 Carry Cage by Peovi is that it also provides protection for the rear of the rig as well, but at a weight penalty of about 500g.

Cheers

Michael VE3WMB

P.S. The best price I have seen on the Windcamp ARK-705 is on Aliexpress.

John AE5X said...

The link isn't working at the moment but a search for 'Windcamp ARK-705' brings it up on Aliexpress, Amazon and others. I've got mixed feelings about these protective cages and haven't taken the leap so far.

And thanks for the 40m CW contacts back in 2004 & 2005!

73,
John