Friday, April 1, 2022

ICOM releases "705 Companion!"

Since early December, I have been fortunate enough to be one of the beta-testers for a new product from Icom. The nondisclosure agreement that I signed expired today and I am now free to reveal what I think will be a very popular product for IC-705 owners.


Long story short, Icom continues to listen to its customers. The same strategy and attention to detail that led to the design of the IC-705 has now produced the 705 Companion!

And, just as the IC-705 inherited SDR technology and other features from the IC-7300, the new 705 Companion! shares some of its DNA with the IC-9700 - Icom's flagship transceiver for VHF-and-up.

Many will regard the Companion! simply as a 100-watt amplifier designed specifically for the IC-705. It is that and so much more - but let's start there.

100 watt amplifier

This portion of the Companion! uses a pair of RD70HVF-1C MOSFETs in push-pull configuration. These are the same devices used in the IC-7300 and allow up to 100 watts out on bands up to 54 MHz.

The internal frame of the Companion! is composed of a copper-titanium alloy for lightweight strength and superior heat dissipation characteristics. A very small heatsink of the same material (Little CuTi) allows for minimal run-time of the whisper-quiet 12-speed fan.

ATU

Icom listened to the complaints/requests of many IC-705 owners and potential owners. They will be happy to know that an automatic antenna tuner is built into the Companion!. And the Companion! has a QRP mode that allows the ATU to be used by those ops who wish to remain QRP.

An internal balun allows the Companion to tune both balanced and unbalanced antennas. Furthermore, the balun can be soft-key selected to have either a 1:1 or a 1:4 ratio.

AFX

The Companion! is made to be placed to the left of the IC-705. A front-facing speaker identical to that in the IC-705 is on the upper-left side of the Companion!. This places the two speakers as far apart as possible and allows for simulated stereo, via an AFX switch. This feature can be helpful in some QRM or weak signal situations. AFX is also available when using headphones.

And the IC-705 can now be operated with both VFO's in operation simultaneously. Audio from VFO-A can be routed to the Companion!'s speaker and audio from VFO-B can be routed to the IC-705's speaker. This is extremely helpful when working DX stations that are operating split. In this configuration, the VFO knob on the Companion! controls VFO-A.

Full duplex

Satellite users will appreciate the full duplex capability of the IC-705 when the Companion! is attached (requires firmware 1.28 or higher). This capability is only for 144 MHz and higher. Crossband operation with FM "Easy Sats" or sats with linear transponders capability makes the IC-705/Companion! combo one of the smallest and portable solutions available for those involved in this aspect of Amateur Radio.

1.2 GHz transverter

And, perhaps best of all for satellite and EME aficionados/aficionadas, the Companion! contains a transverter that allows operation on the 23cm band. Many satellite  and EME operators have been using IC-705's to act as an IF for this band since soon after the release of the transceiver. With the Companion! attached, the IC-705's band keys will include the option for 1.2 GHz to be selected.

Miscellaneous Features

The Companion! has a few other front-panel hard keys that will be of interest to a variety of users:

  • POTA button - This feature is for those times when you hear a flurry of activity from either a contest or a DX pile-up. It sounds like a cacophony of noise and, frankly, a lot of work to make contacts in such a situation. Enabling the "Piece of the Action" button causes the IC-705 to repeatedly send out your callsign (CW or SSB) and then listen for your callsign in a response. If it copies your callsign, the QSO is logged to internal flash memory. Hit the POTA button and then sit back and have a beer - let the rig do all the work. Life's too short to be dealing with all that gibberish.
  • EME button - Everyone knows that mag-loop antennas respond to the magnetic characteristic of the electromagnetic radiation they receive - but what about transmitting? With the "Enhanced Magnetic Emission" feature enabled, the RF out of the IC-705 is modified to be mainly magnetic rather than electro. This is useful only when using mag-loop antennas.
  • SAT button - With this feature activated, the Companion! connects to your WiFi and uploads all contacts in its internal log to LoTW every Saturday.
  • BOT button - useful for POTA and SOTA ops, the "Botany" function identifies flora encountered on your outdoor operation and operates similar to Seek. An embedded pinhole camera in the Companion! scans the surrounding area and informs you of the exact taxonomy of all the vegetation in your vicinity so that poison ivy, giant Venus fly-traps and other harmful flora can be avoided. 

Summary

When the IC-705 was released, many marveled at the extensive range of capabilities contained within its small form-factor. Some even had the irreverent audacity to compare it to a hypothetical KX4. The Companion! now adds significantly to that already-extensive list of features and, in so doing, brings 705-appeal to a new range of hams.

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14 comments:

PE4BAS, Bas said...

Oh wow John, I really like those incredible miscellaneous buttons. Will there be a companion for the IC-7300 as well? I guess it will be released next year at the first of April ;-). 73, Bas

VE9KK said...

Well John you had me for most of the post but when I started to read about the auto sending and logging of your call for POTA or DX-pile up I thought wait a minute....I will say for most of the post I was sucked in.
Happy April 1,
73,
Mike
VE9KK

K2WO said...

Well done John!

73,

George
K2WO

John AE5X said...

Hello Bas, I think there are even bigger plans for the IC-7300 - the IC-7301 is currently being tested here and I am very impressed. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until 2023 for the details as I am not allowed to discuss the new rig at this time.

73,
John

John AE5X said...

What do you mean, Mike? This is all true and valid info (for today!).

73,
John

John AE5X said...

Thank you, George. I think we are neighbors now that I've moved.

73,
John AE5X/4

Steve Silverman said...

John,

Your Photoshop skills are to be applauded. Never thought I'd see a Deep Fake associated with a rig or even a power amplifier, but someone has to be the first. Very well done.
Steve KB3SII

John AE5X said...

Thank you, Steve - I've had a lot of enjoyment with Photoshop over the years (all in fun, always harmless). Now, if only Icom would actually produce a Companion with at least a few of these "features"...

73,
John

ON5ZO said...

Woah John, fair and square: you had me. All the way dude! For the full ten minutes.

I was reading this Friday morning at work before the bell rang. No comments posted so far. Initial reaction after the first paragraph: AE5X one of the beta testers for ICOM? Why him? Strange. As I see it, his profile does not fit the ICOM preferred tester’s. But you never know. Mind you John, this is by no means a lack of respect from my side for your skills and knowledge and style. To the contrary!

As it happens, just the day before I had two browser windows open (again), comparing the IC-705 to another HF-to-UHF rig in the same price league (again). It always comes down to that QRP-thing. You know me: I never operate low profile. If the ‘705 were to deliver 100W HF and 40W on V/UHF I’d have bought one two years ago at the start of the pandemic / Stay-at-home-fest. I know: small and lightweight from low Ah batteries versus 100W is a technical paradox.
So the Companion hey… 100W… ATU… The scale was suddenly tilting dramatically towards ‘705! Full duplex for sats? WOW I have been gathering all kinds of stuff for my very first sat-QSO (that has yet to take place; procrastination level PRO)… Subconsciously I was placing the order already!

I read the POTA part diagonally. I found that weird upon superficial reading. It does not apply to me so I didn’t really pay attention. But then again: since FT-8 the ‘low threshold - no effort thing’ seems to reign supreme so it might as well be yet another step towards utter stupidity… The rest was a matter of TLDR;

Then I let my critical mind assess what I just read. There was something about that picture that didn’t look right. Might be pre-production prototype. Let’s google ‘IC-705 companion’. A few hits but not about this specific item. A faint alarm whistle… Alarm horn hooting louder… louder… Red flag raised… Waidaminit! April 1st? April fool! That darn Texas mofo just bamboozled me bigtime!

It’s been quite a while since I stepped into a April 1st trap. But you fooled me John. Well played! Thanks for the effort. I appreciate a good joke. And the world needs it. Now more than ever.

73
Franki ON5ZO

John AE5X said...

GM Franki,

The first reveal should have been the first sentence - me? a beta-tester for Icom? In my dreams...I can barely spell the brand!

And now for a completely different topic, a question I wonder about every time I read one of your postings/comments online: How do you have such a complete fluency in English when your first language is probably Dutch/Flemish and/or French, and possibly German thrown into the mix? I'm 3 parts amazed and one part jealous!

And I'm no longer in Texas - we're in our new digs in central FL where I'm pondering antenna possibilities that will allow me on the air from home, not just POTA outtings. The outlook is grim but I'll concoct something, somehow...

73,
John AE5X/4

ON5ZO said...

Thanks for your kind words John. Once every while this comes up…

My mother tongue is Dutch. My official second language is French which I understand for 99% when spoken to me (correctly) or when written. My talking skills took a hit because I rarely get to speak it anymore. But I can fluently converse and don’t hold back.

I live on the stupid because political and totally arbitrary language frontier between Belgian Dutch (Flemish) and Belgian French (Walloon). So I have some French speaking neighbors, visit markets and sponsor Walloon restaurants. I grab each and every occasion to speak French, because I like it.

My fourth language is German. Which is the third official language here. I understand it quite well but I lack spoken skills because I almost never get to speak it. My dad was in the military whole his professional life and spent a big part stationed in Western Germany. He kept watching German TV after his return. We also visited his old friends every year so I was exposed to German quite a lot. My mom is the godmother of one of his German friends’ son.

But you asked about English… First off, I seem to be a sponge for languages. I easily pick it up. I like languages a lot.
Second: we used to have a very good educational system here, emphasizing languages. Don’t get me started on the current state of affairs. Apart from Dutch we got 4 hours of French, I think 3 hours every week in English and 2 or 3 hours of German, between 12 and 18 year old. I got taught by old-school languages buffs. They put the bar sky high. Today’s youth would NOT pass. *sigh*.
We studied contemporary things (newspapers), medieval literature to a certain extent and even business correspondence. Letter of application, sending invoices, letter of enquiry, price quotes – all in a day’s work I mean in a hour of class.

Another key factor: nothing is ever dubbed on TV in Belgium. The French get to see a French mimicking John Wayne. The German see Clint Eastwood perform Dirty Harry in German. I wonder how “do you feel lucky punk?” sounds in German. But we have subtitles and hear everything in its original language. Movies, TV sitcoms, BBC news, documentaries – you hear it as a kid reading Dutch subtitles and willing or not, it sticks. For most.

And I got submerged in a few subcultures like skateboarding. In the late eighties (my early teens) I devoured American skateboarding magazines. I even sent handwritten snail-mail letters to the companies advertising, begging for stickers. With my dictionary next to me. Later on it was the lyrics sheets from my CD collection. We got as far as exchanging notes with American underground bands. Pre-internet, which made it exciting.

And now, the last two decades, it’s ham radio 24/7, combined with the Internet. Forums, reflectors, e-mail, websites and the occasional SSB excursion talking to the USA. I read English on a daily basis, I quite often type it and hear it.

It’s not that special around here. Almost all of my friends (between 40 and 50) who followed the same trajectory share most of these skills. Except for French, there I might excel. Unfortunately it’s going downhill fast. The new generation frowns upon French. Moreover many Flemish politicians under 50 make a fool out of themselves in French. And the other way round: 95% of Walloon politicians don’t speak Dutch. Either because unable to or not willing to. Political profiling, right-wing nationalism… Ugly things. But politics and ham radio don’t mix well I’ve been told lately…

Et voilĂ  dear John, that’s the situation on le ON5ZO in English… The Florida matter will be discussed after I get to work you again. But I haven’t touched a radio in over two months…

73!

John AE5X said...

Very good, Franki - and interesting. We watch quite a bit of foreign (to us) TV shows, always in the native language with English subtitles so I know what you mean about the inadvertent but beneficial learning that takes place. My most recent exposure to Flemish was on the Netflix series Undercover:
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7263154/?ref_=adv_li_tt

I can easily make my wife laugh by walking like Ferry Bouman (Frank Lammers) and throwing out a few Dutch-Flemish (the show is bilingual) curse words. That'll get old in another week or so, then I'll have to move on to other material.

It's funny to think of Clint Eastwood dubbed into German but I have noticed (in Spanish) that subtitles very often don't match what's being said.

When I was a kid in the 70's, we were told that by 2000 the whole world would be speaking Esperanto and therefore there would be no language barriers. I'm glad that didn't happen - it would have ended the often comedic results of our many misunderstandings!

73 for now,
John

Thomas Witherspoon said...

"the balun can be soft-key selected to have either a 1:1 or a 1:4 ratio."

SOLD!!!!

:) Well done, OM!
Thomas

John AE5X said...

You'll have serial number 0002!

73,
John