My new Icom IC-718 HF transceiver, a hands-on review
Starting out on HF with an Icom IC-718
My last HF rig was a Collins 32S-3B transmitter and a Collins 75S-3B receiver back in the 60s. Back then they was considered to be top of the line. I haven’t used that rig since the 70s. Sold all my old gear on Ebay long ago. From the 70s forward I was off HF until 2015. I had spent the last couple of months researching modern transceivers. I decided to stay away from 25 year-old tube-type “bargains” and only consider modern-day solid-state transceivers. I chose the Icom IC-718 and subsequently picked up a used one for $200 from an estate sale that I found online by using Google Search.
For *reference purposes here is where I am as I build up my station:
- Icom IC-718 10m-160m HF transceiver
- LDG IT-100 Autotuner for Icom
- MFJ 945-E manual antenna tuner
- MFJ 28-amp 12-volt switching power supply
- Generic USB computer cable, Icom IC-718 to personal computer
- Log4OM logging and rig control software (free or donate if you like)
- W2ENY boom headset
*Use any Amazon links presented here for reference only. I seldom find Amazon is competitive when it comes to ham radio equipment. I usually buy from hamradio.com.
Here are my principal reasons for choosing the Icom IC-718:
- It uses modern technology
- The DSP board now comes standard. With older units it was an optional purchase. The DSP filtering works wonderfully.
- It can easily be connected to a PC with the purchase of a cheap, generic data cable ($23). No need to purchase Icom’s cable for big bucks.
- It allows for the connection of an autotuner* which the Icom treats as an internal tuner. So very easy to use.
- Provides for quick direct-frequency band change
- A wide selection of operating modes: SSB (U/L), AM, CW and built-in keyer and RTTY.
- Comes with dual VFOs. Quickly set up splits.
- Memory storage
- The microphone compression system along with the ALC circuit works extremely well.
- Comes with a well-written user manual.
- Transmits on all ham bands form 10m to 160m. Receiver is HF continuous coverage.
- Though the Icom sports a good quality front-facing speaker, I choose to use a boom headset. Rather than pay hundreds of dollars for a Heil, I chose a headset manufactured by W2ENY. He makes quality headsets for a fraction of the price that competitors charge. I couldn’t be more pleased with mine.
- And last but not least, the Icom is so very easy to operate.
Don’t scrimp when it comes to the DC power supply that’s going to power your Icom or other transceiver. I chose an MFJ 28-amp 12-volt switching power supply. It loafs along powering my Icom. It should last a long time.
After coming back into the hobby after decades, the thing that impresses me most is how computerized things have become. I highly recommend you go the logging software and rig control route. The Log4OM logging and rig control software is free (or donate) and easy to use. And you can automate your Icom with only a $23 generic cable.
If you intend to buy any gear from Ebay, be careful.
- You could be buying an Icom that was not manufactured for the U.S. Market.
- It could be an older unit and not have the DSP board installed. A new DSP board would be an additional $150 or so expense. I wouldn’t want to use an IC-718 without one.
- The culture on Ebay frequently seems to be to price equipment at inflated prices. Then bidding wars escalate. The seller smiles. You lose.
- Countless times have I seen used equipment sell for prices in excess of what a new unit would cost. Some buyers just don’t do their homework.
Now here are some things I don’t like about the IC-718:
- This is my fault, not the transceiver’s, but I switched from the MFJ-945E manual antenna tuner to the LDG Autotuner because I change bands so frequently that readjusting the manual tuner just wasn’t practical. If for some reason, you intend to camp out on only one band for the most part, save some money and get the MFJ. It’s a fine manual tuner.
- More expensive transceivers have a better method of zero-beating a CW signal. With the Icom there’s an additional step…a bit annoying, but works. You switch modes to USB then tune down until you no longer here the CW signal’s tone; then switch back to CW and you are now on the proper frequency.
- The IC-718 has an RTTY mode, but its useless without buying an interface kit such as a RIGblaster. Maybe it’s just the way Icom advertises the RTTY mode that really bugs me. They could be more clear. But a RIGblaster gives you a plethora of other digital modes as well, so it’s actually a really good investment.
- If you’re a hardcore DXer, the default receive filters for SSB and CW may not be your cup of tea…not quite narrow enough. But I am a DXer and I find that prudent use of the DSP filter’s noise reduction system works extremely well. Icom does offer optional filters.
All in all I am very pleased with the functionality of my Icom IC-718. It is frequently called an “entry-level” transceiver, but I consider it to be a lot more. If you want to read a real nuts-and-bolts review of the IC-718, here is a good one that was published in QST Magazine.
My next focus will be my antenna. Improve my antenna and my IC-718 will shine ever more.