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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | ICOM IC-781 Help

Reviews Summary for ICOM IC-781
ICOM IC-781 Reviews: 58 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $8752
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PA3HGT Rating: 5/5 May 26, 2013 03:46 Send this review to a friend
Needs a little help but overall very god  Time owned: more than 12 months
I used this rig for more ten a year but before that i had to check several things like the capacitors,spikes etc.
Changed the 2 covers because they are to damaged and changed a control.
First of all the powersupply is not properly cooled so i mounted a fan so that the powersupply stays in a proper temp.
Some mods are made in the IC781 and i replaced all capacitors in the powersupply and final stage with 105 C types.
When the IC781 do his job,it's one of the finest transceivers of it's age and can compete with several modern rigs when you don't need the rings and bells where the rigs come with.
When you install the roofingfilter of Inrad according Inrad instructions,it will not work properly but in the Yahoo usergroups you will find a good explaining and instruction from Bob Lanning,W6OPO.
The problem with the 781 is it's age so defect can be eminent and that's a pity because it can be a top-performer,specially the selectivity and then there's no Inrad-filter installed.
Despite this rig has his problems , i gave it 5/5 because this rig is a real joy to listen en have a QSO with.
Spare CRT's are for sale on Ebay when you need one.
You can read and see my story about the IC781 (written in Dutch,google translator available) :

WX2CX Rating: 5/5 Apr 6, 2013 15:01 Send this review to a friend
the best, yes the best!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Very lucky to find a brand new in box IC-781 a month ago at a reasonable price.
Had a 765 for many years, and recently bought a IC-7600 that I sold soon after acquiring the 781.
The sweetest receiver ever! , paired with my IC-4Kl and the SP-20, you have a beautiful full KW radio!
Twin PBT, notch, and NB are fantastic, spectrum analyzer is what it is, good for overall look of the band.
The radio itself inspires, it is well built, solid and very pleasant to operate. The best radio I have ever used by far! If you have a chance to buy or even operate one you will understand why this radio has such a good reputation. No doubt the best analog radio ever produced , very close with the newer top of the line DSP radios.
JP1DJV Rating: 3/5 Oct 10, 2010 08:34 Send this review to a friend
Everything is OK, but...  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had IC-781/765/761,TS-950SD/950SDX/940/930/850/450,FT-1000mkv/990/102/107 etc.I also had 781,950SDX,and 990 at the same time,and did A/B comparison.IC-781 performed well,but I couldn't find any remarkable advantages.TS-950SDX has excellent audio in and out.FT-990's digital (AF)filter helps me a lot to read very week signals easily.Especially on high bands(21-28mhz),990 has a good ear.Its full break-in function is also a feature. How about 781? The RX amp,which earns 10-12dB of RX-sensitivity,makes very week signals sink into the noise.Turning RX amp ON made nothing improved,but made me disappoint,instead.The effect looks like just turning AF gain up.Very poor S/N performance.IC-765/761 have the same trend,and it is more significant on high bands.Thanks to poor RX performance,I always hesitated to call CQ on 10m.Other things are not so bad, but nothing is special.Actually, Alinco's $560 transceiver DX-SR8 has much more practical advantages. So I have sold my 781.
KJ4KBC Rating: 5/5 Jul 30, 2010 06:38 Send this review to a friend
What an awesome rig!!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have "several" Rigs but the 781 is the best overall Rig I have ever used! I installed the "Inrad" roofing filter to update the already wonderful receive and it just made it better! The difference in specs among rigs vary from tester to tester even with the same rigs, but the difference in the 781 and the newest rigs in sensitivity probably can't be heard with the human ear. Why spend thousands of dollars for one of the "digi-monsters" just to listen to a quieter receiver garbled by DSP artifact's? I hear as well and Transmit as well with my 781 as any rig currently produced. The rig will drive my Amp easily to legal limit with pure clean audio. It has a "Crystal Oven" for frequency stability and you know I don't think you can flat top it!! I won't spend time shipping mine back and forth to the producer to correct defects either. You can still fix this rig if it breaks, and contrary to some reports, after market parts are pleantiful including the "Scopes"(less than 200.00 in assorted colors on ebay!). Because of the ruggedness of this unit, repairs are few and far between! My "scope" doesn't have grass growing and provide's me with all I need to work the bands! I can own any new rig out there, but I already have the best! Isn't life wonderful!! Get you one for around $2,000.00 and you'll never look back! This is an awesome rig! KJ4KBC
F4FWE Rating: 5/5 Mar 29, 2010 10:43 Send this review to a friend
EXCELLENT  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
It's an excellent transceiver!!!,I had YAESU FT 990/FT2000 ICOM IC 751 and two IC 765.This transceiver is very very good in RX,the sensivity is great,hy power 180watts and very good audio!Don't lighting too much the CRT...

If you find one,take it and fast!! you don't regret.

best regards, yohann F4FWE
K0SF Rating: 3/5 Jan 18, 2009 09:39 Send this review to a friend
Newer rigs much better  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned one since 1996, and I have repaired 3 of them.

I also own a Yaesu FT1000MP Mk V, which I much prefer over the 781. My MK V has the roofing filter, W8JI NB leak-thru mod, VK5EME NB expansion mod, and key click mod. Other than the roofing filter, there are no accessory filters in the MK V.

Why the MK V discussion ? Because it is far superior as a CW rig. My main IC-781 complaint is that the CW filters ring. This was immediately noticeable the first day I hooked up the Mk V. The difference is amazing listening to weak DX; much easier with the MK V. Having mentioned this, I know many consider the K3, Orion II, and IC-7800 far superior to the MK V; that doesn't say much for the 781.

The other issue with the 781 is that they are getting old. Of any HF radio I have worked on, it is by far the most difficult to repair. The MK V is much easier to work on than a 781. Access to the PLL is incredibly difficult: the worst thing I have ever repaired. Access to the T/R supply or PA is not much better. Some of the parts are difficult to find. In 2003 when I lost my PA, I spent two weeks looking for the high level driver transistors; they were obsolete. Although ICOM in Bellevue, WA does a good job stocking parts, some of the parts are no longer available.

Other than for a highly modified Drake C Line, or the Kenwood TS-830, this was the best rig in the late 80's and early 90's. Not anymore. One would do far better with new equipment, or buying a used Yaesu FT-1000MP and installing the roofing filter from Inrad.

VK5ZG Rating: 5/5 Jan 12, 2009 06:46 Send this review to a friend
Sorry I sold it.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Back in 2003, I was indeed fortunate to buy one of these units, from the original owner. The unit was as close to mint as you could get.

This radio had a receiver that was unlike anything else that I have listened to. Now I am sure that the DSP afficianados will say otherwise, but i stand by what my ears told me.

At the time, I also had on my bench a Yaesu FT1000D and a Kenwood 950SDX.

Both of these other units are top performers in their own right.

I think that when you get to this level / type of equipment quibbling over which one is better becomes somewhat academic. I dont beleive that there is good or bad, just different.

Anyway, I ended up selling all of the units in the space of a couple of weeks, as my familly and general life commitments were limiting my time on air.

Now its 2009, have become active once again, and deeply regret selling the 781.
I know I can find another, but i am sure it will not be in the same condition as mine.

The 781 is an amazing unit, and is built like the proverbial battleship.

If you can find one of these units, dont hesitate.
W6OPO Rating: 5/5 Dec 18, 2008 23:20 Send this review to a friend
Still best radio - got a second one  Time owned: more than 12 months
After 14 years putting hundreds of hours on my IC-781 I still find it the radio I use.

I have made some filter changes and performed some "spot" alignments where I thought necessary. The temperature controlled crystal oven keeps the radio rock solid. Look for another amateur radio with a crystal oven.

The controversy over 100V or 120V rages on. After 14 years of running on 125-127VAC mains this radio works great. I added the Sherwood fan about 5-6 years ago making a big difference in the Regulator compartment temperature.

I made a test recently. I ran the radio on 100VAC power for an hour and measured the temperature of all parts of the Regulator compartment with an IR non-tactile thermometer. I turned it off for 2-hrs then ran it on 125VAC for an hour then made the same temperature measurements. No temperature difference was found anywhere in the compartment. So the radio continues on 127VAC going on its 15th year stopping the non-sense, at least at my station.

Mine has the LCD display due to the video board failure. Yes the CRT provides a better image but I know the LCD isn't going to burn-in or die anytime soon so I can live with the LCD no problem.

I put the roofing filter in but found INRAD's point of insertion distorted the amplitude of the band scope. I moved the filter down one notch putting it after the buffer amp isolating the filter's impact on the IF from the scope signal take-off point and works great.

Both of my IC-781s (sn 1888 & sn 1604) I own have no ALC spike. I measured using the memory capture in a Tek 2230 scope and proved these two radios are clean. Not all IC-781s are this way but these two are.

If you like poking around, check the -9VDC bus. I bet it is at -7.6VDC. I made it -9VDC and found no change in performance but I feel good about it. Hi.

I have a Yaesu Mark-V, another great radio (has 2-receivers) but I keep going back to the IC-781 (1-recevier two mixers) for its clear clean audio, musically clean CW tone - beautiful.

With the 2.8 kHz filters the TX audio sounds great. Using a small mic preamp for the Shure SM-57 dynamic mic makes for a great sounding radio. Compliments have been received from Kuwait to State-Side.

If you dont have one, get one.
VK2VM Rating: 5/5 Jul 30, 2008 23:26 Send this review to a friend
The finest Transceiver ever produced  Time owned: more than 12 months
Forget the rest it is still the best,I have tried them all, even the latest ones and they do not even compare to the 781 . If you want to spend
2 to 3k on one you will not regret it, these things are built like tanks and when you see the build quality of these masterpiece radios you will soon see for yourself ! I also use a 775Dsp
it comes close ,but the 781 just seems to be the a classic Transceiver with a receiver beyond anything !!
K4RO Rating: 4/5 Jun 5, 2008 21:02 Send this review to a friend
Last of the great analog radios  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'd rate the IC-781 a "5" but it simply has too many little imperfections to rank a perfect score. Nonetheless, it is my radio of choice, and I now own two of them. The first was purchased at the Dayton flea market in 2006. The second was acquired in the spring of 2008. Both units have been used in at least one full-time contest operation.

First the shortcomings of this marvelous radio:

1) It really needs to be run at 100 volts, and/or have some kind of auxiliary cooling fan. I choose to use both, as my operations are typically high duty-cycle, and often involve an entire weekend of non-stop operation.

2) The rear panel jacks are quite difficult to access. I use small furniture gliders under the feet to lift the radios up about a half-inch from the desk. The small lift makes a big difference in rear panel connector access.

3) Some of the knobs are small and hard to get to, particularly the monitor gain. At least all of the controls are on the front panel -- or just about every control you could think of. I thought that the IC-765 had better ergonomics, but the IC-781 is more radio in the same size box.

4) It's big and heavy, and consumes a lot of power. This is probably not a good radio for DXpeditions, mobile, or portable operations.

The good points of this radio far outweigh the shortcomings, at least for my style of operating.

1) The transmitter is clean. I frequently listen on one band while simultaneously transmitting on another band, sometimes at full legal limit. The IC-781 has a cleaner transmitted signal than any radio I have ever used in a multi-transmitter environment.

2) The AGC is continuously variable, and has a marvelously smooth response. The AGC has real "depth" when the radio's dynamic range is maximized for band conditions, using the RF attenuators or preamplifier circuits.

3) I find the band scope to be VERY useful for a number of purposes, from spotting band openings to tracking RFI problems. I wouldn't be without a band scope now that I've used a radio with a good one.

4) The AF circuit is actually fairly high fidelity. The separate bass and treble controls, plus lack of annoying high-end hiss (like the stock IC-765) really help with the fatigue factor on both CW and SSB.

5) The Audio Peak Filter makes CW signals right at the noise floor literally jump into clarity. No external filter box or associated cabling is involved. Just press the APF button and tweak for perfect copy.

6) The noise blanker is as effective as any I've used. It works better on some sources than others, and does introduce distortion products a thigh levels like most impulse noise blankers.

7) There's a button for everything. None of the radio's major control functions are buried in a menu, or some multi function knob shell game.

8) Multiple selectivity options are available, including SSB, using the stock filters. The internal filter switches must be set properly for your installed filters and preferences.

9) The CW transmitter side tone actually tracks the receiver BFO frequency for accurate zero-beating at any pitch. The CW pitch is also continuously variable, with no steps.

So, that's my user's review, after two years of operating an IC-781. (I made over 20,000 QSOs in 2008 alone.) I'll leave the technical number crunching and arguing to the folks that actually measure the parameters. From a strictly operator's view, the IC-781 is a true radio man's delight.

The "best" radio is usually the one the operator knows how to use well. After becoming familiar with the IC-781's sound and operation I've discovered the radio which I like the best.
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