Icom IC-R30 review

Product Review

Icom IC-R30 Communications Receiver

Icom’s IC-R30 handheld receiver covers a wide range ol bands from LF through microwaves, with reception of a wide range of analog and digital modes.

Wide-coverage reception is common these days. Transceivers of all types, including some low-cost models, routinely boast of extended receive ranges. It’s even possible to turn your computer into a dc-to-daylight software-defined receiver with a bit of free software and an inexpensive USB dongle.

Less common are wide-coverage, dedicated receivers that don’t depend on assistance from any other devices, including computers. Fewer still are the radios designed to bring optimum performance to the task of receiving signals, while being so compact they fit in a coat pocket with room to spare. The Icom IC-R30 is one of these rare creatures.

The IC-R30 covers 100 kHz to 3.5 GHz in a handheld package that weighs just over 10 ounces with the battery and the antenna, and it does so with performance that rivals radios several times its size. Within its broad coverage, you can listen to AM, SSB, CW, FM (wide and narrow), D-STAR, NXDN, and APCO 25 (Phase 1) communications.

The IC-R30 also offers the ability to monitor digital private mobile radio (dPMR) and digital convenience radio (DCR), although you’ll only find those signals in Europe and Japan, respectively.

Out of the Box

Icom IC-R30 review

The IC-R30 is supplied with a 27-inch telescoping antenna that is more articulated than an ordinary whip. It rotates at two separate points near the base, allowing you to position the antenna exactly where you need it, even if that means collapsed and slung down along the side of the radio.

The antenna screws into a female SMA connector, which also allows you to connect an external antenna with an appropriate adapter.

The package also includes a drop-in charger. Slide the radio into the charger and wait for the green LED to indicate that its lithium-ion battery is charged and ready to go.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a USB cable in the box as well. Many radio manufacturers require users to source their own USB cables, but Icom made an exception with the IC-R30. The USB connection is particularly useful in this radio, as we’ll discuss later.

The ARRL Laboratory charged the IC-R30 for testing prior to sending it to me, so there was little else to do but remove it from the box, attach the antenna, and turn it on. Using just the telescoping antenna indoors,

I didn’t expect much on the signal front. I tapped the direct frequency entry button on the keypad, punched in 10 MHz, and then selected the AM mode. I was immediately greeted by the dulcet tones of National Institute of Standards and Technology station WWV coming in loud and clear.

I wanted to know how the IC-R30 and its indoor antenna would handle the challenge of 40-meter amateur SSB. After switching to lower sideband and entering 7.255 MHz, I was pleased to hear the East Coast Amateur Radio Service (ECARS) net. This initial test took place while seated on the first floor living room of an aluminum-sided house. I was impressed.

SSB demodulation was crisp, clear, and stable, every bit the match for my regular station transceiver. Moving down to CW, reception was equally impressive, although the IC-R30 lacks the ability to adjust the IF or audio bandwidths for a narrow CW passband.

I dialed in 7.074 MHz USB and ran an audio cable from the earphone jack to the microphone input on my laptop. After booting up the WSJT-X software and making a few adjustments, I found myself decoding all the FT8 signals I could see in the waterfall display.

Because I hadn’t yet opened the manual (yes, I am one of those people), I discovered one feature entirely by accident. While adjusting the side buttons to increase the volume, my finger strayed briefly onto the power button. The IC-R30 startled me by speaking aloud and announcing the frequency and mode. A quick press is all it takes to trigger it. This would be especially helpful for the visually impaired.

As I explored further, I discovered that like any communications receiver worthy of the label, the IC-R30 includes adjustable RF gain and a multi-step attenuator. These functions really come in handy when you connect the radio to an external antenna.

The IC-R30 is designed to expect lower signal levels from the telescoping whip antenna, so it is prone to overload when you connect a superior skyhook. When listening to medium-wave AM, the radio relies on its internal ferrite bar antenna, but even with this antenna, the front end can overload.

The IC-R30 adds a capable automatic noise-limiting function and a separate noise blanker. The noise limiter is available when listening to AM, while the blanker is intended for SSB and CW.

Dual-Watch and Band Scope

The IC-R30 can receive two separate signals simultaneously with its dual-watch functionality, and it will show both frequencies in its 2 x 1.5 inch display as A or B bands that you can designate as either the main or subband. You can listen to any frequency or mode on the A band, but only the 108, 146, 370, and 440 MHz segments on the B band.

There is a band scope you can activate within whichever band you’ve selected as the main band. It can sweep once, or continuously, through a range centered on the display frequency. The sweep range is equivalent to 15 times whatever you’ve chosen for the tuning step.

The IC-R30 doesn’t provide a touchscreen display, so the only way to stop the sweep and select an interesting-looking signal spike is to push the clear button and then twist the dial to move the sweep marker to the target.

Memory Cards and Audio Files

On the side of the IC-R30, you’ll find a slot for a microSD memory card. The radio uses this card to store various types of data, including frequency memories and audio files. You must supply a card

for use with the receiver, but these are inexpensive and widely available. For this review, I used an 8 GB card.

You can remove the memory card and read the contents on your computer by placing the card in a USB adapter. However, in the IC-R30, you have an easier option — and this is where the USB cable comes into play.

If you attach the USB cable between the IC-R30 and your computer, your computer will recognize the radio’s memory card as it would any other storage device, such as a disk drive. In my case, the computer decided that the IC-R30 would be Drive E. All I had to do was open Windows Explorer, and I could access everything on the card and write to the card as well. That’s much more convenient than physically swapping cards and adapters.

As a bonus, the IC-R30 battery can recharge through the USB connection. The amount of power available at USB ports can vary, so some may be better chargers than others. I tried a few USB options, and while the battery charged in all cases, charging seemed faster with the dedicated Icom charger.

In addition to an automatic reception log, anything you can hear can be recorded and stored to the card for later playback, either through the radio itself or your computer. The IC-R30 stores audio in WAV format, which can result in some large files, but my 8 GB memory card had plenty of room.

There is software available from both Icom (available through dealers) and RT Systems that you can use to manage the IC-R30’s memory contents. With all the available memories and frequencies (and modes) the radio can store, software makes it much easier to manage.

I didn’t have an opportunity to try either software package during this review, but I performed one experiment with interesting results. In the memory menu, there is an option to export the memory contents as a CSV (comma-separated values) file.

I did this, and then attempted to import the result into Microsoft Excel. It worked, and I was able to view and edit the memories in Excel, save the file, and then successfully load it back into the IC-R30. Using the Icom or RT Systems software would have been far more elegant, but it was great to see that there is an alternative.

GPS Receiver

As long as we’re discussing memory card storage, this is a good time to introduce the fact that the IC-R30 has a built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. The GPS receiver seemed to be quite sensitive, and it was able to obtain a position fix quickly — even when I was using it indoors with just a window to access the open sky.

The IC-R30 GPS can be used like any other GPS receiver to determine your position and log your travels. The GPS data can be saved to the memory card and exported for use in other applications, such as Google Earth.

GPS logging has a practical application that I didn’t discover until I had used the radio for a while. If you’re roaming the countryside and tracking local signals, it helps to know where you were at a given time. Audio recordings are tagged with the date and time, making it possible to match recordings with your GPS log.

VHF and Beyond

The Icom IC-R30 truly excels in the world above 50 MHz. In particular, its scanning features are among the best I’ve seen in a long time. You can set up various types of scans and even combine them if necessary.

For example, I set up one scan to search for analog FM signals between 146 and 148 MHz, and saved it with the memory label “2M FM.” A while later, I configured a scan to look for D-STAR activity between 444 and 450 MHz and labeled it “DSTAR 444.”

With the scan configurations stored in memory, I could trigger one or the other any time I wished. Moreover, I could link the scans, repeatedly running the 2-meter FM sweep, followed by the 70-centimeter D-STAR scan.

The IC-R30 also offers a write-to-memory scan that sweeps through a given range and stores every active frequency in memory. To avoid storing a collection of annoying interference, you can activate the radio’s Voice Squelch Control (VSC) that attempts to differentiate between voice activity and random noise. I found the VSC worked remarkably well at identifying real signals.

There was plenty of D-STAR activity to monitor in my area, but finding NXDN signals was a challenge. I did manage to briefly catch a ham NXDN repeater in action, but I had to be very patient.

Monitoring P25 presented a different challenge. My local police and fire departments use P25, but they are on trunking systems, where signals quickly appear and disappear on various frequencies. There are receivers that attempt to decode trunking control signals and track the frequency jumps accordingly, but the IC-R30 doesn’t include this capability. Also, more public service agencies are switching to encrypted P25 systems. I turned up a few of these and heard nothing but gibberish.

The IC-R30 lacks the ability to decode digital mobile radio (DMR) signals, which is unfortunate given the rapid growth of amateur activity on that mode. It would have been interesting to eavesdrop on amateur radio DMR repeaters, and commercial operations as well. I wasn’t able to use it to monitor any of the System Fusion C4FM activity in my area either.

Bluetooth Audio and Remote Control

The IC-R30 offers wireless Bluetooth connectivity for whatever devices you care to pair it with. I tried it with a pair of wireless headphones, and it was flawless.

The radio can also use its Bluetooth connection for remote smartphone or tablet control via either an iOS or an Android app. Both apps are available free of charge. For the review, I installed the iOS app in my smartphone and had no difficulty connecting to the IC-R30. From any location in my home, I was able to select frequencies, modes, and more.

The app doesn’t stream the receive audio from the radio, which was initially disappointing. Then I remembered that many Bluetooth devices can support more than one simultaneous connection. So, I reconnected my wireless headphones to the IC-R30 and was delighted to discover that I could listen to signals and use the app to control the radio at the same time.

Occasionally, the app control link would drop when I was doing something more involved than simply changing frequencies, but I was able to quickly reestablish the link. The audio stream was never interrupted during the control dropouts.

Icom IC-R30 review

Conclusion

I’ll be the first to admit that the IC-R30 is expensive. On the other hand, it helps to remember that you’re paying for a marvel of the engineering art that has been squeezed into a remarkably small package. Yes, the lack of DMR may be a shortcoming for some, but for others, the IC-R30 will more than compensate with its array of features and outstanding performance.

Manufacturer. Icom America, 12421 Willows Rd. NE, Kirkland, WA 98034; www.icomamerica.com.

Price: $600.

Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY

Reprinted with permission from QST ARRL.

icom ic-r30 software

Firmware / Software

TypeModel NameVersionLast Update
Cloning softwareCS-R30Version 1.102018.09.14
FirmwareIC-R30Version 1.11 for USA version2020.10.16
USB DriverIC-R30Version 1.002018.06.04

icom ic-r30 manual

Instruction Manual / Guides

NameModel Name
InstructionsCS-R30
Update InformationCS-R30
BASIC MANUALIC-R30
Advanced Manual (CI-V reference guide added.)IC-R30
Basic Manual (German/Italian)IC-R30
Basic Manual (Spanish/French)IC-R30
InformationIC-R30
INSTRUCTIONSRS-R30A
INSTRUCTIONSRS-R30I

iOS™/Android™ APPLICATION

RS-R30A
RS-R30I

Remotely Control the IC-R30 with iOS™ /Android™ Apps

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