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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF+UHF models) | ICOM IC-9100 Help

Reviews Summary for ICOM IC-9100
ICOM IC-9100 Reviews: 43 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $3599
Description: Base Amateur HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver
Frequency range 10-160 m + WARC / 6 m / 2m / 70cm
23cm + D-Star optional
Product is in production.
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K0JEG Rating: 4/5 Jan 20, 2014 09:52 Send this review to a friend
Good "Second" Radio  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
If you've been operating for a few years on your first radio and are ready to step up, it is worth a look.

I bought my IC-9100 used, with the roofing filters installed. I purchased the D-Star module because the repeater directory said there's a D-Star repeater in my area (there is not). However, I had no issues with the D-Star module, just take your time, follow the instructions and you'll get it the first time too.

I wanted the IC-9100 because I was getting into satellite work at the time, but I've actually used it more on HF than anything else. Prior to this radio I had used an FT-897d and FT-817 controlled from a PC for running satellites and the 897d on HF. The IC-9100 is head-and-shoulders above the 897d's receiver. I am usually able to copy stations that don't have any S-reading at all, something that never happened on the FT-897d. In reality, I would expect this radio to perform much better than the 897 given the higher price and different task. The internal tuner does an OK job on home-brew dipoles and antennas that are "close enough." I like that I can interface an external tuner and hope to take advantage of that feature down the road since my current trap vertical won't do WARC bands. I've used it portable with a few MFJ 1979 telescoping whips in a dipole pattern and the internal tuner will bring them into 1:1 SWR if your measurements are off a little. The internal RTTY demod is a neat trick, with the output also showing on a second virtual serial port on the USB connector, but not very useful for actual QSOs since you'll need software to generate RTTY anyway. If it behaved more like the higher end Icom rigs and allowed sending as well it would be a great feature. As far as I can tell, the rear KEY jack won't accept iambic keys, only the front jack. Not a big deal but it becomes yet another cable running across my desk.

On VHF, again the receiver is much better than the FT-897d or any other 2 Meter radio I've ever used. Having 100 Watts available is nice for getting out into distant repeaters, the difference between "some sizzle in the background" and "armchair copy." I'm able to copy satellite and ISS passes using just a collinear in the attic, although using a directional antenna is of course much better.

Many of the one and 2 star reviews seem to be for extremely specific use cases or single issue problems, and if you're a casual operator you'll likely never run into them. If you think you will be using this radio for some esoteric purpose (except for the problem with the amplifier overshoot, which a lot of Icom radios seem to have), you'll likely want to go in a different direction. At the mid- and high end, there's little real world difference between radios anyway.

The only things missing that I might want to see would be different band modules. 1200MHz is a dead band in my area, and we're all very spread out so I doubt it would do much good anyway. But a 220MHz module could get interesting, even a 900MHz module would be more useful. Heck, even just having a "breakout box" that could be used for transverters or SDR interfacing would make better use of that space.

Speaking of D-Star, I finally tried connecting to a local repeater (which is what prompted this review). Once you get an idea of the functions and how to program the radio to connect to a D-Star repeater, it does work. However, the terrible call sign entry and cryptic messages don't help. I spent several minutes just attempting to verify I was actually connected to a repeater when N0VA heard me testing and came back. There seems to be a slight hiss in the background of the audio when in D-Star mode that could get annoying over time. Programming software will be a necessity if you plan on using D-Star a lot.

If you're a casual operator who wants VHF, UHF, satellite modes and a few bells and whistles this is a good radio. Is it cheap? No. Is it the best? Depending on what you want it for, not likely. Should this be your "first" radio? No, too expensive for that.

Will it do a lot of things well? Most definitely.
NI6S Rating: 5/5 Nov 20, 2013 01:14 Send this review to a friend
Shack in the Box - Excellent!  Time owned: more than 12 months
Have owned this for about a year. Fantastic radio with all the bells and whistles! Sensitive, selective and on par with my Icom 7800.

Only downside are the following:

-No IF Output=no aftermarket band scopes/programs
-No internal wattmeter for 1.2
-No narrow roofing filter for CW

No radio is perfect, but glad to have this one.

BTW - How could N5XO give this radio a 3/5 if he's never even played or owned the 9100?!! Pretty irresponsible as it skews the overall rating average. Disregard and take the advice of true owners who know better.
K3ROJ Rating: 5/5 Nov 19, 2013 16:08 Send this review to a friend
My best transceiver   Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Have owned many rigs over the years and presently use an SDR 100 watt unit from Flex Radio. I love the SDR radio but it is too bulky and takes time to hook up since we use it mostly when traveling to WV where the elevation is 2,600 feet. Yes, the 9100 is rather heavy for it's size but wow, all bands are available and we enjoy using the 1296 internal unit for CW and SSB operations. By using a long yagi type beam on 1296, we have made some very good contacts. The 9100 is not recommended for mobile operations unless it is portable operations since the 9100 would have to sit on a seat or outside the vehicle on a table.
I have no complaints at all with how well the 9100 works even though some controls are rather small for my big fingers. Try one, you will like it for sure.
AC5XP Rating: 5/5 Oct 29, 2013 13:46 Send this review to a friend
The best transceiver I have ever owned  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Before I purchased the IC-9100, I was considering both the IC-7410 (which has exactly the same HF receiver as the 9100) as well as the FT-DX3000. The latter Yaesu radio seems to have the better papers on the "2 kHz two-tone third order dynamic range" receiver performance, although the Icom is considerably better on both the two-tone 20kHz DR test as well as the blocking dynamic range test at 20kHz. Furthermore, the downmixing scheme of the FTDX3000 I don’t like much for reasons of it resulting in poor rejection of image products (the FTDX3000 is prone to an image problem at 26MHz, a frequency where very powerful "CB freebanders" often reside).

The Icom on the other hand has a mixing scheme I think is very clean and effective: First mixing to a high frequency, then downmixing STRAIGHT into the DSP at about 30kHz using an image-reject double mixer (the much more expensive Icom 7600, 7700 and 7800 use the same concept). This scheme is very robust against the image issue that plagues the FTDX3000, although it results in slightly less good results for the close-in DR testing at 2kHz. The latter test being something the QST product testing guys are in love with so much nowadays.

Let’s elaborate on that receiver 2kHz dynamic range testing a bit. When a very strong signal would reside at only 2kHz away from your frequency (so strong that your receiver IMD products become stronger at the desired frequency than the weak signal you are trying to listening to), what else would happen? Simple – the spectral content around the signal from the other guy (who is only 2kHz away from your receiver frequency) will cause you problems at the desired frequency WAY before your receiver IMD becomes the limiting factor. That will be true for BOTH the Icom AND the Yaesu, even if the latter has the better performance for this QST 2kHz DR test. The difference resides in the fact that the QST lab tests this parameter using an ultra-clean signal generator functioning as the "other guy" 2kHz away, but that is not reality. The "other guy" (sorry, YLs,) will have a lot of noise around his signal, caused by his transmitter IMD, keyclicks, or even composite noise in general. So to me, this 2 kHz receiver IMD test has nothing to do with reality, other factors outside your receiver performance (and outside your control) will play a much bigger role under those circumstances. In plain English; the ARRL basically has ham radio designers chasing their own tail with this issue.
So instead, I am most concerned with receiver performance at 20kHz testing, as this conforms more with real situations you might actually encounter (albeit still pretty extreme, 99% of your QSOs will not even face THOSE kind of strong signals, certainly not for me).
So adding it all up, the Icom is the better radio in my opinion, with better blocking DR and intermod DR numbers than the Yaesu at 20kHz separation.
Also, the Icom IC-7410 (and the IC-9100) actually show better numbers (especially for the blocking dynamic range) than the much more expensive IC-7600, which made the choice even simpler for me. Last but not least, I think Icom is by FAR the best of the big-3 when it comes to IF DSP processing, they are the only one that has dared to make DSP filtering the centerpiece of the receiver, eliminating a lot of support from added crystal filters (other than the roofing filters). With Yaesu and Kenwood, the DSP processing is much more in a supporting role.

I ultimately ended up buying the IC-9100 instead of the IC-7410, I felt the added $1200 was worth the added capabilities (an added all-mode 100 watt VHF transceiver and 75 watt UHF transceiver, and the option for 23cm capability).

When you face tough band conditions, things like variable IF, DSP noise reduction, notch filter and noise blankers become important. How does the 9100 perform here?
The notch filter in this radio is truly stunning. The auto-notch mode works on the AF and works great when you face an annoying carrier that is more or less the same strength as the desired signal. With a simple press of a button you eliminate it completely. The manual notch works on the IF (outside the AGC) and completely eliminates carriers MUCH stronger than the desired signal, without affecting readability or AGC action for the desired signal. It is also very easy to set; I was used to radios where you need to set this very precise and where the actual notch point is easy to miss. Not with the Icom; you can completely notch a carrier without the precise fiddling from the past.
The noise blanker was another very positive surprise. This is the FIRST radio I own where the NB can take out the most commonly occurring noise: The rattling from fluorescent lighting. And it does so EVEN in the AM mode. Very impressive.
I am not a fan of DSP noise reducers. I don’t seem to have the ears for it. To me they distort the sound without improving signal to noise. Also on this radio I do not think I will use it much for that reason. Although I have to admit, this is the first radio I have experienced that has a DSP NR that actually improves intelligibility somewhat for very weak signals; with it, I was able to pull out a station that would have been masked in noise otherwise. So that is good.
The variable IF width feature is phenomenal. To have ANY IF bandwith available to you (in any mode even FM which has 3 IF filter settings) is just awesome. I like ragchew QSOs with the wide 3kHz SSB filter. Also, CW and the digital modes have any filter width available you can think of. AM allows for broadcast quality filters (8kHz) and communication quality (6kHz). And it is very interesting to see how different FM filters have an impact on over-all intelligibility in this mode.
The receiver is very quiet and relaxed while maintaining excellent sensitivity, without any IF/LF hiss or other artifacts. The radio has two different preamps and an attenuator but I have found no preamp is needed for the HF bands, even on 10 meter the radio is more than sensitive enough without them.
There are 3 different AGC settings for the receiver, and each setting can be further tailored from the menu.
The receiver comes out the best when you use it with good headphones, this makes a huge difference from the internal speaker. The IC-9100 sound quality using headphones is truly stunning. So I recommend investing in this (I bought excellent Sony headphones on the web for only $15!)

The radio has another VERY neat feature – You can do the final calibration of the internal 0.5ppm TCXO from the menu. NO need to open up the radio to fiddle with trimcaps. My radio was set pretty good from the factory (within 6 Hz or so), but I was able to calibrate it to within 1 Hz on 20MHz WWV. And it STAYS there, from cold start to warmup. There is NO noticeable drift. Excellent job, Icom!

What about the transmitter? Modulation quality is very good (all modulation is made in the digital domain). And can be tailored to the user’s taste. AM modulation is superb as well; the radio does the carrier to sideband ratio leveling automatically (this is always a tough one for radios doing low-level AM modulation but the Icom handles it perfect).

The rest is icing on the cake; USB hookup (basically a built-in sound card and virtual RS232 port), built-in RTTY decoder that works pretty well, lots of memories that store filter settings as well, band stack memories, dual-receive capability (you can listen on HF and VHF/UHF simultaneously), very effective RF speech processor, programmable step size and dial speed and so on. Last but not least, the build is excellent, the radio has a solid feel and workmanship is simply the best. The old 746 and even the 756 family had a somewhat cheap feel (with lots of play in the tuning dial for example) but Icom has completely eliminated the feel of cheapness on this radio. The dial and other controls feel rock solid, a pleasure to operate.

What is it I do NOT like so much?
These are by far in the minority, but worth mentioning nevertheless.
My major gripe is not with the radio itself but with the box in which it arrived. Icom has this packed in two boxes. The inner box uses no Styrofoam to protect the radio, just some cardboard folds. Not great. The outer box only has Styrofoam inserts at the 8 corners of the inner box. As a result, the top of the outer box sags badly when other stuff is placed on top of it during transport. So the box looks pretty bad when it arrives, it gave me an initial scare. And (as I found out), the bottom of the inner box sags as well, as it is only held up in the outer box by four small Styrofoam blocks on its bottom corners. There is no other support present to handle the weight of the inner box than those four corner pieces. Granted; it DID protect the radio, but at the expense of the box itself. It is some kind of "wear away" protection, like active armor.... Yaesu does a MUCH better job boxing its radios. I would not feel comfortable to reuse this box for a return shipment if I had to do so.

Another issue is the radio’s display. Not really fair to Icom because I obviously knew exactly what this looked like before I bought it. In any case, it is not a very impressive looking display (and makes the whole radio looking somewhat bland, this is where the FTDX3000 is much sexier). The spectrum scope on this display is pretty much useless due to the low display resolution. Also, I would have liked it if Icom had given the user the option to change backlight color to amber or green, white is a bit boring (although probably easier to read I must admit)
I think Icom should have gone the extra mile and put a TFT color display in this radio. I mean- with all the mass produced smart phone HiRes displays, how expensive can this really be? The white custom display might actually be more expensive than a standard (generic) TFT display. Given the $3000 sticker on this radio I think a color TFT display would have been justified. I’m pretty sure there are many hams who will pass on this radio just because of that. Which would be a shame because when it comes down to it, a radio is not about a pretty display - it is about performance. And in THAT area the IC-9100 scores very well.

Another item I miss (after having sold my FT990) is a built-in power supply, although a pretty minor issue, I grant you that.
Last but not least, I miss the diecast aluminum front panels from the old days. Would that really cost so much more for today’s radios to equip them with this, especially when you consider the fact that the whole inside chassis is made of diecast aluminum alloy already? Icom equipped the IC-7700 and 7800 with a diecast alloy front panel, so why not for the rest of the product lineup? It can't be that much more expensive.

But, all these are pretty much minor; the earlier discussed positives outweigh these small negatives by a megaton. I bought the radio for the performance and features, not for the pretty display (or the lack thereof).

So to summarize: a GREAT radio. Much better than anything I have owned in the past. We live in great times, where your ham dollars get you MUCH better radios for the same (or less) amount than what we forked over in the past (keep inflation in mind when you compare to past prices!)
An excellent job you did on this one, Icom!

M0VOX Rating: 5/5 Mar 17, 2013 14:15 Send this review to a friend
Excellent all-rounder!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Generally, I think it's a great radio. HF performance is comparable to the FT-2000 in my opinion (which I owned previously) and on VHF/UHF it more than holds it's own, especially in Satellite mode. The only minor downside that I've found is the memory management, but this is something that I can live with since the CAT control is pretty good. The price tag is a little on the high side, but if you have a lack of space and want a "shack in a box" that offers good all-round performance, this radio get's my vote.
ON5PDV Rating: 4/5 Jan 26, 2013 04:38 Send this review to a friend
Love the change, generally pleased  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Looking out for a good VHF/UHF ‘base’ commercial-grade transceiver, there are few options. I chose the IC-9100 based on its specs, and, second, I think it is one of the better looking transceivers (of the shortlist in that range) too, but that’s a matter of taste obviously (I have the IC-9100 for 4,5 months now).

I have a couple of other transceivers in the shack, all Yaesu, so I had no experience with Icom other than what I read about it until then. My impression is that Icom owners generally are very pleased with the build-quality and user friendliness in operating the radio (logic of menu’s, buttons, etc.)

I can confirm that the build quality (finishing) of the radio is very solid and very nice.
On the other hand, I do think there is some room for improvement on some aspects of operating the radio, but then again, ‘perfection is not of this world’.

The transceiver is really polyvalent with many features, some of them that I didn’t even tested or used yet (e.g. USB interface). I purchased the transceiver in its basic version, without the optional 23cm or DV options, and without the optional filters for HF. I understand that mounting the (currently optional) 3Khz and 6KHz HF filters would have increased the cost for everybody purchasing the transceiver, then again, I do think that a transceiver in this price range would have been better off with the filters standard with the radio, as I assume most owner wills also use it on HF. DV and 23cm is another matter: I guess not all owners of the IC-9100 are (or plan to be) active on that mode/band.

Some positive things:
- Overall good performance on HF, VHF and UHF (I have no measurement devices, so it’s using the 2 ears…comparing it with my Yaesu transceivers and switching antenna’s). This transceiver can be used as a single transceiver to operate all bands/all modes, but you won’t have dual receive on HF (e.g. useful for split operation in pile-ups, that features is available on a dedicated HF rig such as the Yaesu FT-2000 at a lower purchase price).
- The finishing (materials) and aesthetics/design
- the standard filters are working fine for me, I do think they work better than the ones on my Yaesu transceivers. Splatter on a VHF frequency just above the one I operate disappears with a simple click to narrow the receive bandwidth from 15Khz to 10Khz, great. Notch filters work fine, the DSP noise filters seem to make a difference where on my Yaesu FT-2000 I didn’t manage to improve reception using DNR until now…
- Programming repeater channels with access tone or Tone Squelch went quite easily (but not without the manual obviously)

Some things to improve, to my opinion:
- No separate VFO-B dial. You have to first click the ‘sub’ button before the main dial operates the sub receiver. If the designers would have used a bigger chassis (at a higher production cost fur sure), a 2nd VFO-B dial would have been possible ; they chose a medium size chassis instead.
- Scanning. This is personally my biggest negative point of feedback. When scanning, you have to push too many buttons to get the scanning mode I want: to scan in MEM-SEL (selected memory channels) I have to press MENU-SCAN-MEM-SEL (4 buttons) and then I have to select MENU-MEM to get the alfphanumeric name of the frequency, that’s too many buttons to push. But the real shortcoming in the channel scanning is that it doesn’t stop scanning at the channel as long as there is a carrier, but either leaves you the choice to stop scanning permanently, or continue scanning automatically after a few seconds. That’s for me a really annoying thing : I would like it to stop at the channel where it picks up a conversation, and remain on the channel as long as the carriers are there (unless I would swing the VFO manually to continue the scan). With the IC-9100 it continues the scan after a few seconds, no way to change that. I would hope that could be changed with a firmware update one day… (Icom, if you would be reading this…)

Some ‘strange’ things:
My IC-9100 gets warm, then hot, only after a few minutes of continuous transmit on the lowest power (2W) on VHF. The Fan switches in 1st gear, then in 2nd gear, the transceiver gets warmer and warmer. I contacted the HAM-shop where I purchased it, they said they tried to reproduce this, couldn’t and suggested to bring in the transceiver for a check-up. I didn’t until now, I did contact some other IC-9100 owners, and one of them confirmed me that the IC-9100 (as many other Icom transceivers to his opinion) gets warm or hot, but it never posed a problem, he said. Now: I usually send at minimum power allowing a comfortable contact, and usually that’s as little as 2W for local QSO’s on VHF. Yesterday, I had to increase power to make a longer distance connection with a repeater about 60 miles from here, and strange, but the transceiver didn’t get warm at all, even after many minutes of constant transmitting (let’s say at 30W VHF). So, I start to think that it is better (for thermal aspects at least) to operate this transceiver not at the lowest RF power setting, but I really would like to have this confirmed, and understand why (if so). Anyway, I thought it would be useful to indicate this here.

Some ‘neutral’ thoughts:
- Small pots for RF Power and Mic Gain: I’ve read on other reviews that these should be bigger, indeed they are very small to operate. If I would have written this review in the 1st week of purchase I would have said that’s a big minus indeed, we are used of these pots to be bigger. But if you think of it : is it normal that you have to change your Mic Gain regularly ? Maybe the RF power is to be changed by most operators more regularly, but still, I think it’s a design philosophy, and I got to understand/support such a philosophy better than a few months ago. If you would switch between analog and digital modes frequently, or use some amplifier occasionally, you might want to change the RF Power setting more often and then a bigger pot would be very welcome indeed, but for many of us it’s probably a setting that doesn’t need to be changed ‘all the time’.
- Limited or useless Band scope? True, the receiver stops for a split second to execute the band scan (which needs a push of a button every time), but on VHF/UHF it has given me a handy quick view on ongoing QSO’s on neighboring QSO’s. Not sure if I would have liked to pay considerably more for a permanent band scope on this transceiver.

So bottomline : A scoring of 5 would mean I’m fully satisfied. I am satisfied and happy to have the IC-9100 in my shack as a complementary transceiver. I hope it’ll be my ‘buddy’ for many years. However, given the heating concern (although I will use it at 20-30W RF now, which seem to avoid that issue) and the poor channel scanning features, I would rate it 4,5, but as that is not available I have to rate it a 4.
N2SLO Rating: 5/5 Dec 16, 2012 12:06 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: months
My initial feedback: excellent. I am comparing against my old IC 746, which is long in the tooth, since 2001. The receiver is much better, I did a side by side comparison on 2M and 10M, and hands down the IC 9100 is better. I hooked up my W2IHY equalizer and SM-20 microphone, and tuned the ALC and compression. My audio reports have been fantastic. Not sure why one reviewer mentioned audio was not good, or the TS-2000 was better. Maybe you didn't tune it and set compresison and other items. The manual is like a textbook, and you really need to read it carefully and use the set up menu to tweak.I was able to pick it up for under $3K from HRO. I am working on setting up 432MH, for the upcoming VHF contest in January.
AD4C2006 Rating: 5/5 Dec 5, 2012 19:06 Send this review to a friend
Great radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have been using this 9100 for just one month and I am very pleased with its performance although I have my dislike about the short pots to adjust power output, they should have provide that feature trough the menu to be available to set different level of power per band and mode as we can do with the 7000.Its not confortable neither make sense having to move that control when we change bands.
The receiver is very quite but also very sensitive. Audio quality in TX and RX is excellent.Selectivity at close proximity of 2Khz is not so good as my K3 but it does some work.
Its very quite,I never hear the internal fan.The NR and NB are both very effective and best of all is that it will not add distorsion on the received audio as it happened with the 7600 that I owned for 3 months.
I have used it on D-Star en local repeaters and also on HF and the digital audio is outstanding.
Again, Icom built a good radio.Its a little pricy but its a complete HF/VHF/UHF station in one box.
73 to all

G4VVQ Rating: 5/5 Oct 1, 2012 04:31 Send this review to a friend
Very good radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Hi Everyone, Fred g4vvq in England, i have just part exchanged my Kenwood TS 2000 with an Icom IC 9100, and i must say i am very pleased with it, rx/tx not really much different from Kenwood, it has HF/50mhz,vhf/uhf on, there are optional extras which i don't think i will ever need, like 2 roofing filters, vhf/uhf pramp, and a 1200mhz unit, i can't see i will ever need any of those, on 2mts and 70cms the signals seem strong enough to me, the inbuilt preamp only works on hf and i believe 50mhz, on the minus side it hasn't got an up/down band switch, you have to press the dedicated button for each band, the sub vfo does not tx only on Satellite, that's not a problem, setting the mic gain and compressor level is a bit of a black art, but i have had good audio and signal strength reports,the clarifier doesn't alter the vfo display, but just comes up with it's own digits, it's a bit of a fiddle to get from hf to vhf and back, but not too bad, it has 2 speaker outputs, one for each vfo, but can be joined in the menu, it's big and weighs a ton, on the plus side it's easy to use and very versitile, i hoped it would cover 95-110 mhz fm as the IC 7000 does for local radio,it doesn't,each section appears to have it's own memory block, hf/vhf/uhf. i use it with the Icom SM-50 Desk mic, which is pretty high in output, having said that the mic gain needs to be 3/4 up on 2mts FM, but about 1/4 on ssb, i have the compressor set on 8 out of 10, the Headphone socket appears to work on one side only, prob joining speakers in the menu would make it work on both, the headphone socket is for Stereo headphones, nothing very bad to report about it, seems fine to me, the scope is a bit indifferent hi, if used with an external hf amplifier like the Heathkit SB 200 will need external relay, but my amplifier has had a soft key unit fitted, so i don't need one...Fred.

K6DLB Rating: 5/5 Sep 5, 2012 03:02 Send this review to a friend
The Best  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
It is a "Beautiful Radio!"... After my upgrade to General, I put up Alpha Delta dipole on my two story apartment building. I made my 1st few contacts to Japan with my IC-706. Cool.. I need a new radio! I had never seen a IC-9100 until I ordered one and it arrived at my QTH. I have worked 80/75, 40, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10 SSB/AM/FM & most simplex (2m/70cm + USB etc.).. I could have spent less money but be far less excited about a radio. The IC-9100 is the "the keeper".."73
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