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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Hand-held | ICOM IC-91AD Help

Reviews Summary for ICOM IC-91AD
ICOM IC-91AD Reviews: 51 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $628
Description: DSTAR Digital dual band transceiver from ICOM.
Product is in production.
More info: http://
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N7MSD Rating: 4/5 Oct 5, 2009 02:04 Send this review to a friend
Good Radio; other reviews missing some things  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I bought this radio 2nd hand, and have been pretty satisfied with it. My previous radio is an IC-T81A quad-bander and, just prior to getting this, I got the ID-800H. If you know either of these radios, keep them in mind as you read this.

BTW, if you didn't hear yet, this radio is no longer made, superseded by the IC-92 and, later and cheaper, the IC-80.

The good:

1. Lots of memories. Everyone comments on this. I wish all my other radios had this many memories. I mean, come on, what's so hard about more memory locations, Icom? In particular, this radio has more memories than the ID-800H, a mobile rig! Just weird, but it turns out a lot of things Icom does under the hood are weird.

2. The last Icom D* radio with regular jacks: the IC-92 and IC-80 both have gone to that waterproof-albeit-hard-to-find Motorola connector.

3. Decent user interface: I don't know what some of the other reviewers were talking about because this radio is a breeze to program through the front once you work with it a little. I consider it about the same as my IC-T81A and other HT's I've had in the past. Keep in mind, this radio does a *LOT* more than your typical FM-only radio, so it's necessarily more complicated, but the menu system makes it easy, IMHO.

4. Dual-receive--but see the caveat below.

5. Battery Life: compared to HT's I've had in the past, this thing performs very well. Remember, this isn't a cell phone, and the DSP containing the AMBE codec has to fire up every time you hit a digital frequency, sucking more power. OTOH, I'm not about to say they couldn't optimize more.

The bad:

1. The HEAT: everyone talks about it, yeah. You have a choice now, though: get the IC-92 (for a LOT more money!) or the IC-80 (single-frequency only and the same display and form-factor as the IC-T81/90). Otherwise, well, radios get hot on transmit, just deal with it--my IC-32AT used to get this hot--or hotter--on transmit as well. Since this radio also gets warm sometimes just receiving (my ID-800H even more so), I'm going to guess the AMBE DSP has something to do with it as well. It sounds crazy, but if it's that big a deal and you want to keep this radio, wearing a glove or keeping it away and using a speaker/mic may do the trick. Just remember to allow air flow for heat-sinking. IMHO, this heat problem is probably the biggest reason why Icom pushed out the IC-92 so fast.

2. SMA connector: why the Japanese have standardized on this connector, I have no idea. SMA was never designed for repeated (dis-)connect cycles, major cable flexing, etc. TNC would have been a far better choice (and cheaper to boot).

3. Lithium battery: "What?" I hear you ask. Simple: while they have awesome energy density, they have a very finite life and number of cycles. In particular, a lithium-ion battery will only last around 3 years WHETHER YOU USE IT OR NOT. Cycling will shorten this quite a bit. The lithium is also dangerous when mis-handled, which is why any decent battery pack (including individual cells for cell phones) come with protection circuitry built-in. Knock nickel technology all you want, but we never had those problem with it. In particular, I miss my IC-32AT with my 10-cell AA-alkaline pack which I stuffed with Ni-Cd cells instead and got a pack I could use, charge, and maintain much cheaper than the equivalent "real" pack; those days are over with these newer radios unless you want to make a belt-pack. :)


1. Dual-band scanning: what SHOULD be a great thing is tainted badly by the presence of massive birdies. I don't know if the IC-92 is affected the same way, but I imagine it is: there's only so much separation you can do in such a small package. In particular, some combinations of frequencies will cause the scan to stop, forcing you to block those frequencies and being unable to listen to that repeater.

2. Remote-control + programming: Remote control is a great idea. Unfortunately, Icom's idea of it requires their RS-91 software, which itself won't interface to anything else. Like most radio makers, they aren't exactly helpful about the wire protocol used to communicate. If this is broken, it would make things pretty kewl, though! Oh, and their software doesn't understand anything except their .ICF format. I haven't tried that other piece of software out there.

3. D-Star itself: not much more I can say about it. Even in English by those who seem to understand it it's confusing--and I work with computers!

Bottom line: as long as you're aware of the heat problem and you're not afraid of a computer and programming a radio a bit more complicated than normal, you shouldn't have much trouble with the radio. Used, this radio is still fetching around $300 on E-Bay and such, so it seems to be holding its value. Finally, you'll definitely want the programming software and cable if you can get it, though I hear that other software is better; in any case, this radio has so many memories that just being able to save the contents is worth it!
N0VKG Rating: 5/5 Aug 28, 2009 10:41 Send this review to a friend
Good, when programmed via software  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Fine radio. It functions as it should. D-STAR is good. Analog is good. 1300 memories is totally awesome. Thank you ICOM for making so many memories available. All radios should have a minimum of 1300 memories, my opinion. But the radio is aliite difficult to program via the keypad. So best bet is use the programming software/cable with PC. Makes it a breeze. D-STAR mode seems to do so much better under weak signal conditions then stanard analog FM. It is the way of the future. And lets keep AMBE as the vocoder, ok? It is superior to IMBE used in P25 Phase I used by public safety agencies. Phase II of P25 will use AMBE.
W6DXK Rating: 3/5 Jul 22, 2009 20:48 Send this review to a friend
Good radio, runs too hot  Time owned: more than 12 months
Operationally a good radio, but it runs uncomfortably hot within a few minutes of operation at 5W. Inexcusable for a premium priced product. Looking to replace it with a radio I would actually want to use for more than a few minutes. Belt clip is difficult to use, and manual is poorly organized.
KK9H Rating: 5/5 Apr 9, 2009 07:08 Send this review to a friend
Good HT for D-Star and regular FM  Time owned: more than 12 months
A couple years ago my local ham club put up a new D-Star repeater system and I bought an IC-91AD to be able to use this new mode. There is an initial learning curve to understand how the HT gets programmed to utilize a local repeater system, but that aspect of operation is pretty straight forward. The HT works very well in both D-Star and regular FM modes. I found the HT's menu system to be logically laid out and easy to master. The receiver has excellent sensitivity and can operate on a frequency next to a strong adjacent signal with minimal interaction if you use the "B" band which is optimized for the ham bands. The "B" band experiences the least amount of intermod as well, There is a known "intermod alley" area in downtown Chicago where this HT exhibits only an occasional squelch break. The "A" band on the HT is the wide band receiver and as you'd expect, it is considerably more likely to exhibit intermod, but only in highly prone areas. Both receivers are just fine in normal use. The audio quality of the receivers is excellent in both D-Star and regular FM mode. The D-Star audio has a small characteristic that is unique to digital mode, but it is very close to normal sounding voice. When you have a weak signal condition, you can experience some break up of audio, but our repeater is well situated and that behavior is minimal. The transmitted audio on this HT is superb. I have had excellent audio comments in both D-Star and FM modes. The 91AD has lots of memories, with good reason. D-Star operational convenience requires this. There are only two weak areas and these have been mentioned by other reviewers. One is having only two transmit power levels, 5 watts and 1/2 watt. I would have liked something in between, say 1 watt or so. The other would be a desire to have just a little more audio output level for operating in noisy environments. Neither of these is a show stopper, though. Battery life when using the power saver function seems fine. I usually carry an extra battery with me anyway. All-in-all, the IC-91AD is a smooth operating HT and I think it would be the better economic choice for getting into D-Star if this was to be your only D-Star rig.
N4BFD Rating: 3/5 Apr 8, 2009 13:23 Send this review to a friend
OK... needs improvement.  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I really hate giving this HT a 3, but it is what it is. I know ICOM improve things in the future with the ID-80 or some later model.

I'll go ahead and list the negative things to get them out of the way.
1. Heat issues. This HT will heat up to blow torch levels on 5 watts. I have several HTs and none of the others get this hot. The reason is that it has a class AB1 or 2 (not sure which) final for Dstar signal purity. It burns more juice and creates more heat than the Class C finals in all other HTs. I've had the HT thermally shut down several times, and I've had it so hot that I could not hold it. It doesn't take long for that to happen, a ten minute QSO at 5 watts is almost impossible. So, you think Icom would offer several power levels to choose from, no.. you have .5 watts or 5 watts, nothing in between. If you're on the fringe of a repeater .5 watts won't do, and the other option is to wear gloves and use the HT till it thermally shuts down. In fact this HT with the RX power save turned off warms up on receive!
2. Battery life and the indicator. The battery life is terrible on receive, and due to the class AB final isn't going to be great during actual QSOs. Expect about a days worth of receive. Most of my other HTs can go several days.
The indicator is useless, it will show full, then half full for about 20 seconds if you just happen to be looking at the display, then the rig shuts down. I have a spare battery and a rapid charger, so this isn't that big of a issue if I am home. If you're going to be doing some sort of event with a lot of transmitting, or going to be away from a power source for a long period of time and will actually be transmitting, being along a spare battery or two, you WILL need them.
3. Low Audio output. Another big big problem for me. At home the audio is fine, if I go mobile or I'm in a noisy environment you have to put the HT up to your ear to hear it. The audio out is 200mw. It has the lowest audio of all of my HT's even my itty bitty VX-3r! My VX-170 blows it away in that department.

All of that being said, and again I hate to even say it because this HT is very well made, and has a excellent receiver on VHF low, high, and UHF! Rock solid, great specs, no inter mod problems even on a outdoor antenna.
One pet peeve of mine is poor TX audio quality, the IC-91ad is excellent in that department! The best all around audio I have heard from Ham HT's by far. A great balance of lows and highs.
I also love the menu system and display on the 91ad, easy to read and understand, with menu items described with actual words for the most part. I only had to read the manual to set up the Dstar side of things.
I purchased this rig 7 months ago, so it is fairly new still, the volume knob is much stiffer than the older ones and doesn't move, so that is not a issue.
The construction of this HT is top notch, very tough, looks good. Very durable plastic front, attached to a metal body on the back side.

Dstar works great for the most part, if you have a good repeater (another ICOM problem) with a decent receiver the range seems to be greater than analogue.
DJ0ABR Rating: 5/5 Dec 15, 2008 17:14 Send this review to a friend
good performer  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I replaced an Yeasu VX6 with the IC-91 because I need to work on 2 band simultaneously. The IC-91 is a solid handheld, like most others available today.
What I like is the menu system which is very similar to other Icom transceivers like the IC-2820. It was easy to copy all the memories from the 2820 into the 91 which saved a lot of work.
KB2VYZ Rating: 5/5 Sep 20, 2008 23:02 Send this review to a friend
Another GREAT Icom!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just a GREAT radio! This is a very solid radio with a really nice feel to it, and it is as well built as the Yaesu VX series of radios. This radio is also very easy to program with a well laid out menu system. I can't comment on the manual, because I have yet to use it. The things Icom could have done better, would be to add more volume, the radio sounds great in both analog and digital, it could just use more volume. The other thing I feel needs improvement is, the back-light could be a bit brighter, I'm only 43, so my eyesight is not that bad yet.
KE7NCJ Rating: 4/5 Sep 8, 2008 13:27 Send this review to a friend
Nice radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
Good battery life and good signal reports. The stock duck is like all of the others so I added a Diamond SRH-77CA (good addition). The RS91 Software version 1.1 package is dismal. No print capability, cannot copy from A to B bands, difficult to move around in, no comment field, and limited to 8 characters in the description field. When I called ICOM about the print problem the tech said do a print screen and hung up. I would like to have a variable squelch rather than the 9 steps that the '91 has. As in some of the other reviews the manual takes some time to understand.
KG4PQR Rating: 4/5 Jun 23, 2008 16:50 Send this review to a friend
plesed despite problems  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I purchased my 91AD for D-Star. That feature works great, voice is clearer than ID-800H, but could use more volume.
My problem is that my 91AD FAILED during a QSO.
It took Icom (and HRO) a solid month to get the radio back to me, but I am not complaining about that.
The problem wasn't the final, but a diode in the final amplifier circuit.
My radio is now programed with all of my goodies, I even modd'ed it, for MURS and FRS/GMRS. It works great for all of those features.
PLUS, you can use digital voice on ANY frequency on the "B" band! very handy!!
It does get hot fast, oh well.
The factory rubber dickie works better than any I've ever seen. This radio stomps my VX7R.

If I had not of had one fail during storm reporting, I would rate this radio 5/5.
I would buy it again.

73 de KG4PQR
KF7P Rating: 3/5 Jun 18, 2008 10:26 Send this review to a friend
needs a revision  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have been using a Yaesu VX170 for the past 2 years, and thought it would be nice to get a dual band, dual receiver HT with wide band receive. The radio performs okay, but has a number of things that just drive me absolutely crazy. Nothing is perfect, and I'd expect a few annoyances, but for $400 these annoyances shouldn't be here.
1)Battery has aweful life. I'm lucky to get a full day of monitoring out of it with a minute or two of TX time.
2)Battery dies with no warning whatsoever.
3)Backlight is too dim/worthless.
4)Display is really small and some of the features are tough to see. No I'm not old and my eyesight is fine.
5)Belt clip sucks, requiring two handed operation. The Yaesu two part clip is great!
6)Audio isn't as loud or quite as good as the VX-170.
7)AM receive isn't all that great, even with a strong broadcast station nearby.
8)"Monitor" button next to the PTT acts as a "reverse" button when on repeaters. I'd rather have it be a "monitor", with a dedicated "reverse" button.
9)The volume knob needs detents to keep it from being knocked off it's current setting.
10) The base isn't flat enough to stand up on a flat surface! Okay, it will stand up, but a loud noise will knock it over. hihi. It tips over easily.

What do I like about it? It sure is fun being able to moitor two freq. at the same time! THe wideband coverage is nice to have. I haven't done a lot with the Dstar stuff, but it is fun. For as complicated as it is, the menu system isn't too bad.
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