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Product Review & Short Takes Columns from QST Magazine

Month Year
Product Reviews
ICOM IC-910H VHF/UHF Multimode Transceiver
DB6NT MKU 10 G2 10-GHz Transverter Kit

Short Takes
N4PY Pegasus Control Program, version 1.45

Copyright © 2000 by the American Radio Relay League Inc. All rights reserved.
PRODUCT REVIEW

ICOM IC-910H VHF/UHF Multimode Transceiver


Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY
It’s easy to pigeonhole the IC-910H
as a “satellite transceiver,” but that would
be a mistake. This radio offers a range
of versatility—not to mention a hefty
100 W output on 2 meters and 75 W out-
put on 70 centimeters—that makes it a
truly multipurpose rig.
The IC-910H is disarmingly compact
at only 9 1/2 × 3 11/16 × 9 13/32 inches. Despite
its size, all of the front-panel controls and
switches are ergonomically placed for
effortless operation (even with big fingers
like mine). The VFO knob is large and
its rotation is smooth. The expansive LCD
display is easy on the eyes and readable
from every angle. Since the IC-910H is a
dual-band radio (actually, it’s triband if
you purchase the 1296 MHz module), you
have separate RF/AF gain and squelch knobs to function as the sub band VFO cess with unscheduled contacts than I had
controls on the front panel. The micro- control (clever!). You can even punch on the other bands.
phone and headphone jacks are on the your chosen frequencies in directly from
front panel as well. (A small hand mike the front-panel keypad. IC-910H as FM Transceiver
is included.) I used the ’910H primarily to hunt The IC-910H is a fully capable FM
Turn the radio around and you find contacts on 2 meters and 70 centimeters. transceiver. The considerable output
antenna jacks for 2 meters and 70 centi- Even with my puny attic-mounted power on 2 meters and 70 centimeters
meters (installing the optional UX-910 Yagis, the range was impressive. SSB gives the radio a formidable punch on FM
1296-MHz module adds a third antenna contacts spanning 150 miles were not simplex. For repeater operation the ’910H
jack). There are three accessory sockets, uncommon on 2 meters. During a brief offers most of the same convenience
two data jacks for digital communication, band opening on 70 centimeters, I en- functions you find on many mobile FM
a pair of external speaker jacks, the obliga- joyed an SSB contact on 432.1 MHz over rigs. The duplex offset frequencies are
tory dc power connector and an interface a distance of about 100 miles. With out- programmable for each band. There is a
jack for computer control. All in all, it is door antennas, low-loss coax and receive 50-tone subaudible (CTCSS) tone en-
a clean, uncomplicated layout. preamps, I’m confident that my commu- coder/decoder for use with repeaters that
nicating range would have been consid- require the tones for access. The stock
The IC-910H as Terrestrial SSB/CW erably greater. microphone, however, does not include a
Transceiver On 1296 MHz I set up a couple of DTMF pad for control or phone patch
The IC-910H is an exceptional tool for skeds with a local station just to see how applications.
exploring the mysteries of the so-called the IC-910H played on this band. Reports Testing the ’910H on FM was an ideal
“weak signal” modes. The convenience on my transmit signal were very favor- opportunity to experiment with the
of being able to jump back and forth be- able, and the local station that I was com- memory and scanning functions (al-
tween bands is something that could spoil municating with sounded good as well. though these functions are available for
me in a heartbeat. The IC-910H displays The overall lack of activity on the band other modes as well). The IC-910H sports
both the “main” and “sub” band frequen- in my area and my less than optimal an- 106 memory channels—99 regular chan-
cies vertically (main on top, sub below) tenna (a small helical) gave me less suc- nels, 6 scan-edge channels and one call
along with bargraph-style signal-strength channel for each band. The memory chan-
indicators in each section. You can re- nels can be programmed with the fre-
ceive simultaneously on both bands, but quency, mode, simplex or duplex and
you can transmit from the main band only subaudible tone frequency. Alphanumeric
(this arrangement is reversed when you Bottom Line memory naming is not supported.
are in the satellite mode). Of course, a The ICOM IC-910H offers a great There’s also 5 (or 10—your choice)
quick press of the button flips the main/ selection of capabilities and features “Memo Pad” memories. These are very
sub frequency assignments. The ’910H for the VHF/UHF enthusiast. Its mul- handy for temporarily storing interesting
has two VFOs for each band. You can opt tiple modes and ample power output— frequencies. This storage system is set up
to use the main VFO knob to make fre- and optional 23-cm coverage—make it as “first in, first out.” When you program in
quency changes on either the main or sub a versatile tool for FM, weak-signal the sixth (or 11th) frequency, the first fre-
bands—or assign the RIT or IF SHIFT terrestrial and satellite operation. quency that you memorized will be erased.

Joe Bottiglieri, AA1GW  Assistant Technical Editor


From May 2001 QST © ARRL
Memory programming is straightfor- because these birds operate in Mode J— consistently grab large amounts of data
ward and probably familiar to most FM listening on 2 meters and retransmitting during two KITSAT-OSCAR 25 passes.
operators. You can transfer VFO contents on 70 centimeters. In addition, both sat-
to a memory channel, or vice versa. The ellites use inverting transponders. What- IC-910H as Contest Transceiver
call channels are convenient memory ever you transmit on the uplink is inverted If the ’910H performs well for terres-
slots to store a single frequency (or fre- on the downlink—LSB on the uplink be- trial weak-signal and satellite work,
quency combination) for each band that comes USB on the downlink; a signal at would it perform just as well during a
you use often. To access one of these, you a frequency in the lower portion of the contest?
simply push the MS/BAND button to se- uplink passband appears at the upper por- If your contesting interest is more than
lect the desired band, then press the CALL tion of the downlink passband. Add the casual, this transceiver may disappoint.
button. considerable Doppler frequency shift In fairness, however, the IC-910H is not
There are three scanning modes in the that’s present on the 70-cm downlink and designed to be a competitive contest
IC-910H: memory scan, programmed scan you have the potential for serious opera- radio, and it would be unreasonable to
and mode-select scan. The memory scan, tor confusion. (A condition that may also compare it to, say, a VHF/UHF contest
as the name suggests, scans through the exist on the new AO-40 satellite—it uses station based on high-performance trans-
memory channels, automatically exclud- inverting transponders.) The IC-910H verters. The dynamic range performance
ing blank, call or scan-edge channels. A promises features to alleviate the head- on 2 meters and 70 centimeters wasn’t
“memory channel lockout” feature, for aches. Does it deliver? adequate to deal with numerous nearby
temporarily excluding a specific memory Prior to my first Fuji-OSCAR attempt signals. I set up a contest simulation with
channel from a scan, is not included. The with the ’910H, I set the downlink fre- a couple of stations and it quickly became
scan resume conditions (what happens af- quency on the main band at 435.900 clear that the ’910H wasn’t up to the task
ter the scan stops on a busy channel) and MHz—the top end of the downlink pass- of sorting through the chaos (even with
the scan speeds are selectable. In the pro- band. I entered the uplink frequency in the judicious use of the IF SHIFT control and
grammed scan mode, the ’910H scans in sub band at 145.900 MHz, which is the RF attenuator).
the VFO mode between the two frequen- bottom end of the uplink passband. By It is important to note that our Lab
cies programmed in the scan-edge memory switching to the satellite mode and en- tests revealed that the IC-910H generated
channels. Mode-select scan is intriguing. abling reverse tracking, I was ready to go. a substantial amount of phase noise
It allows you to scan through only those It’s worth noting that the ’910H includes on all bands. In casual applications,
memory channels that are programmed 10 separate satellite memories that you this would not be a problem. Unlike HF
with a particular mode (FM, SSB or CW). can preprogram with all the necessary phase noise, these signals would not
For example, you can set up the ’910H to setup information for your favorite birds. travel very far. However, if you were us-
scan only your SSB “hot spots” if that is When OSCAR 20 rose above 10 de- ing the IC-910H in a multioperator con-
your interest at the moment! grees elevation, I was able to hear the CW test environment, the transceiver has the
I’ve already mentioned that the beacon clearly with my attic Yagis. I be- potential to create a fair amount of inter-
IC-910H can generate subaudible tones gan tuning up through the downlink pass- ference to the other radios, depending on
for repeater access. As it turns out, the band and watched as the ’910H’s uplink the bands and frequencies in use.
tone-scan function allows you to detect frequency stepped downward automati-
these tones as well. If you don’t know the cally in perfect sync. Despite that fact that Additional Highlights
frequency of the subaudible tone in use I wasn’t using a receive preamplifer, I was ICOM has also packed in some fea-
on a particular repeater, the ’910H can able to eavesdrop on several SSB conver- tures that you may not expect to find in a
scan the incoming signal and alert you to sations without difficulty. VHF/UHF transceiver. Some examples
the exact tone frequency. In fact, you can A quick phone CQ brought a response are VOX, a sideband speech compressor
configure the transceiver to activate its and a 59 report. Doppler shift on the 70- and a variable attenuator. A speech syn-
own tone squelch function. In this mode, cm downlink was tricky, but the IC-910’s thesizer—the UT-102 is available as an
the ’910H remains silent until the proper automatic reverse VFO tracking made it optional accessory. This will announce
subaudible tone is received. easy to compensate. I didn’t have to re- the current operating frequency and mode
Related to the various scanning func- mind myself to raise my uplink frequency (and the S meter reading, if desired) at
tions is the IC-910H’s simple band scope. to compensate for Doppler shift on the the push of a button. Optional DSP noise
This feature allows you to sweep both downlink. reduction boards can also be installed.
sides of a center frequency to check for And even with my mediocre antennas, Separate UT-106 DSP units can be added
activity. Detected signals are displayed the ’910H provided more than enough to the main and sub receivers.
as part of the signal-strength indicator for output for my signal to be heard through There’s even a built in CW keyer. The
each band. This feature is available for the satellite. In fact, I often discovered keying speed is adjustable from about 6
SSB as well as FM. that I was a little too strong. (The rule of to 60 WPM, and you can vary the break-
thumb is that your own signal on the in delay time, the weighting, the paddle
IC-910H as Satellite Transceiver downlink should be roughly equal in sense, the pitch and the side tone level.
Despite the versatility of the ’910H, strength to the satellite’s CW beacon.) In a pinch, you can use the UP / DOWN
its use as a satellite transceiver garners Thankfully, the ’910H’s output is adjust- buttons on the microphone for sending
the most attention in the amateur com- able all the way down to 5 W. CW.
munity. Considering the innovative sat- Digital satellite enthusiasts will be
ellite-operating features this rig provides, pleased to hear that ICOM has paid par- Conclusion
this is easy to understand. I’d be less than ticular attention to data communication in With a decent antenna system, feed
honest if I said that I wasn’t eager to try the IC-910H. As you can see in the ac- line and preamp, the IC-910H has the
the ’910H on the satellites as quickly as companying ARRL Lab test results, the capability to be a worthy contender for
possible. bit-error-rate (BER) performance of the point-to-point terrestrial communication
I put the IC-910H to work primarily ’910H was impressive. Using a 9600-baud on SSB and CW in noncontest environ-
on the Fuji-OSCAR 29 and 20 satellites modem and WiSP software, I was able to ments. On FM its power and features
From May 2001 QST © ARRL
Table 1
ICOM IC-910H, serial number 01242
Manufacturer’s Claimed Specifications Measured in the ARRL Lab
Frequency coverage: Receive, 136-174, 430-450, 1240-1300 MHz;1 Receive and transmit, as specified.
transmit, 144-148, 430-450, 1240-1300 MHz.1
Power requirement: Receive, 2.5 A; Receive, 1.5 A; transmit, 21.5 A. Tested at 13.8 V.
transmit, 23 A (max output). 11.7-15.9 V dc (13.8 V nominal)
Modes of operation: SSB, CW, FM. As specified.

Receiver Receiver Dynamic Testing


SSB/CW sensitivity, bandwidth not specified, Noise floor (MDS), 500 Hz filter:
10 dB S/N: <0.11 µV. 144 MHz –141 dBm
432 MHz –142 dBm
1240 MHz –144 dBm
FM sensitivity, 12 dB SINAD: <0.18 µV. For 12 dB SINAD:
146 MHz 0.13 µV
440 MHz 0.14 µV
1240 MHz 0.17 µV
Blocking dynamic range: Not specified. Blocking dynamic range, 500 Hz filter:
144 MHz 106 dB*
432 MHz 104 dB*
1240 MHz 92 dB*
Two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range: Not specified. Two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range, 500 Hz filter:
144 MHz 85 dB*
432 MHz 80 dB
1240 MHz 78 dB*
Third-order intercept: Not specified. 144 MHz –6.4 dBm
432 MHz –5.8 dBm
1240 MHz –14.5 dBm
FM adjacent channel rejection: Not specified. 20 kHz channel spacing: 146 MHz, 66 dB; 440 MHz, 73 dB;
1240 MHz, 51 dB.
FM two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range: Not specified. 20 kHz channel spacing: 146 MHz, 66 dB*; 440 MHz, 73 dB*;
1240 MHz, 51 dB*; 10 MHz channel spacing: 146 MHz, 93 dB;
440 MHz, 85 dB; 1240 MHz, 65 dB.
S-meter sensitivity: Not specified. S9 signal: 146 MHz, 25 µV; 432 MHz, 14 µV; 1240 MHz, 11 µV.
Squelch sensitivity: SSB, <1.0 µV; FM, <0.18 µV. At threshold: SSB, 144 MHz, 0.58 µV; FM, 146 MHz, 0.14 µV;
440 MHz, 0.10 µV; 1240 MHz, 0.09 µV.
Receiver audio output: 2.0 W at 10% THD into 8 Ω. 2.8 W at 10% THD into 8 Ω.
IF/audio response: Not specified. Range at –6 dB points, (bandwidth):
CW-N (500 Hz filter): 358-1123 Hz (765 Hz);
CW-W: 147-3084 Hz (2937 Hz);
USB-W: 129-2887 Hz (2758 Hz);
LSB-W: 148-3098 Hz (2950 Hz).
IF and image rejection: 144, 430 MHz, 60 dB; 1240 MHz, 50 dB. First IF rejection, 144 MHz, 91 dB; 432 MHz, 99 dB;
1240 MHz, 126 dB*; image rejection, 144 MHz, 85 dB;
432 MHz, 86 dB; 1240 MHz, 99 dB.
Transmitter Transmitter Dynamic Testing
Power output: 144 MHz, 100 W high, 5 W low; 144 MHz, typically 96 W high, 1.1 W low; 430 MHz, typically
430 MHz, 75 W high, 5 W low; 1240 MHz, 10 W high, 1 W low. 73 W high, <1 W low; 1240 MHz, typically 10 W high, <1 W low.
Spurious-signal and harmonic suppression: 144 MHz, 68 dB; 430 MHz, 71 dB; 1240 MHz, 71 dB.
144, 430 MHz, ≥60 dB; 1240 MHz, ≥50 dB. Meets FCC requirements for spectral purity.
SSB carrier suppression: ≥40 dB. As specified. >40 dB.
Undesired sideband suppression: ≥40 dB. As specified. >47 dB.
Third-order intermodulation distortion (IMD) products: Not specified. See Figures 1, 3 and 5.
CW keying characteristics: Not specified. See Figure 7.
Transmit-receive turn-around time (PTT release to S9 signal, 70 ms.
50% audio output): Not specified.
Receive-transmit turn-around time (tx delay): Not specified. SSB, 32 ms; FM, 32 ms. Unit is suitable for use on AMTOR.
Composite transmitted noise: Not specified. See Figures 2, 4 and 6.
Bit-error rate (BER), 9600-baud: Not specified. 146 MHz: Receiver: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 7.4×10–4; BER at
16 dB SINAD, 1.1×10–5; BER at –50 dBm, <1.0×10–5;
transmitter: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 1.5×10–3; BER at 12-dB
SINAD + 30 dB, <1.0×10–5.
440 MHz: Receiver: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 7.1×10–4; BER at
16 dB SINAD, 1.7×10–5; BER at –50 dBm, <1.0×10–5;
transmitter: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 1.6×10–3; BER at 12-dB
SINAD + 30 dB, <1.0×10–5.
1240 MHz: Receiver: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 9.4×10–4; BER at
16 dB SINAD, <1.0×10–5; BER at –50 dBm, <1.0×10–5;
transmitter: BER at 12-dB SINAD, 1.7×10–3; BER at 12-dB
SINAD + 30 dB, <1.0×10–5.
Size (HWD): 3.7×9.5×9.4 inches; weight, 10 pounds.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all dynamic range measurements are taken at the ARRL Lab standard spacing of 20 kHz.
*Measurement was noise-limited at the value indicated.
Third-order intercept points were determined using S5 reference.
1
With the optional UX-910 1200 MHz Band Unit.
From May 2001 QST © ARRL
0 –60
make the ’910H the clear choice for ei-
Reference Level: 0 dB PEP
Reference Level: - 60 dBc/Hz
ther voice or data communication. For
–10 –70 Vertical Scale: dBc/Hz
satellite operating, the IC-910H has al-
–20 –80
ready taken its place among the elite
–30 –90 transceivers for its power and ease of use.
–40 –100 I had only one nit to pick with the
–50 –110
IC-910H—and it is a nit this radio shares
–60 –120
with many other rigs in its class. As a ham
who would like to explore the higher mi-
–70 –130
crowave bands (especially on the new
–80
–10 –8 –6 –4 –2 0 2 4 6 8 10
–140
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22
AMSAT-OSCAR 40 satellite), I plan to
Frequency Offset (kHz) Frequency Sweep: 2 to 22 kHz from Carrier use transmit and receive converters. With
that in mind, I would love to see: (A) a
Figure 1—Spectral display of the IC-910H Figure 2—Spectral display of the IC-910H low-power (1 W or less) output port on
transmitter during two-tone inter- transmitter during composite noise
modulation distortion (IMD) testing on testing on 144.02 MHz. Power output is
the rear panel to drive a transmit converter
2 meters. The worst-case third-order 100 W. The carrier, off the left edge of the and, (B) the ability to select alternate fre-
product is approximately 27 dB below plot, is not shown. This plot shows quency displays that would show the ac-
PEP output, and the worst-case fifth- composite transmitted noise 2 to 22 kHz tual frequency being received rather than
order product is approximately 51 dB from the carrier. the frequency of the IF transceiver. In
down. The transceiver was being
operated at 100 W output at 144.2 MHz. other words, when I am listening to an
S-band downlink signal from AO-40, I
would prefer to see the 2.4 GHz fre-
quency on the ’910H display, not the
2-meter frequency my receive converter
0 –60
is supplying. These may seem like nig-
Reference Level: 0 dB PEP
Reference Level: - 60 dBc/Hz
gling requests, but they make a substan-
–10 –70 Vertical Scale: dBc/Hz
tial difference in operating ease and con-
–20 –80
venience for satellite operators and
–30 –90 terrestrial microwave enthusiasts.
–40 –100 Manufacturer: ICOM America, 2380
–50 –110
116th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004;
–120
425-454-8155; fax 425-454-1509;
–60
75540.525@compuserve.com; www.
–70 –130
icomamerica.com. Manufacturer’s sug-
–80
–10 –8 –6 –4 –2 0 2 4 6 8 10
–140
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22
gested list price: $1799. Typical current
Frequency Offset (kHz) Frequency Sweep: 2 to 22 kHz from Carrier street price: $1450.
Manufacturer’s suggested list pricing
Figure 3—Spectral display of the IC-910H Figure 4—Spectral display of the for selected optional accessories: CR-293
transmitter during two-tone inter- IC-910H transmitter during composite
modulation distortion (IMD) testing on noise testing on 430.02 MHz. Power
high stability crystal unit, $380; CT-17
70 cm. The worst-case third-order product output is 75 W. The carrier, off the left level converter (for computer control),
is approximately 23 dB below PEP output, edge of the plot, is not shown. This plot $169; FL-132 500 Hz CW filter (main
and the worst-case fifth-order product is shows composite transmitted noise band), $133; FL-133 500 Hz CW filter
approximately 41 dB down. The 2 to 22 kHz from the carrier.
transceiver was being operated at 75 W (sub band/satellite), $133; UT-102 voice
output at 432.2 MHz. synthesizer, $74; UT-106 DSP unit, $166;
UX-910 1200 MHz Band Unit, $599.

0 –60
Reference Level: 0 dB PEP
Reference Level: - 60 dBc/Hz
–10 –70 Vertical Scale: dBc/Hz

–20 –80

–30 –90

–40 –100

–50 –110

–60 –120

–70 –130

–80 –140
–10 –8 –6 –4 –2 0 2 4 6 8 10 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22
Frequency Offset (kHz) Frequency Sweep: 2 to 22 kHz from Carrier

Figure 5—Spectral display of the IC-910H Figure 6—Spectral display of the


transmitter during two-tone intermodula- IC-910H transmitter during composite Figure 7—CW keying waveform for the
tion distortion (IMD) testing on 23 cm. The noise testing on 1240.02 MHz. Power IC-910H, showing the first two dits using
worst-case third-order product is approxi- output is 10 W. The carrier, off the left external keying. The equivalent keying
mately 25 dB below PEP output, and the edge of the plot, is not shown. This plot speed is 60 WPM. The upper trace is the
worst-case fifth-order product is approxi- shows composite trans-mitted noise 2 to actual key closure; the lower trace is the
mately 38 dB down. The transceiver was 22 kHz from the carrier. RF envelope. The transceiver was being
being operated at 10 W output at 1240.2 MHz. operated at 100 W output at 144.02 MHz.

From May 2001 QST © ARRL