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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Icom IC-38A Help

Reviews Summary for Icom IC-38A
Icom IC-38A Reviews: 7 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $25-50 used
Description: 220MHz FM Mobile Transceiver
Product is not in production.
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KK9H Rating: 4/5 Jan 27, 2015 05:34 Send this review to a friend
Old friend  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been active on the 220 MHz band since the late 1970s and owned an IC-37A until it finally wore out. It was replaced with an IC-38A in the early 1990s and it is still working as my base station today so I certainly will give it high marks for durability. As others have stated, the volume and squelch controls can get flaky and the display lights can go out. Many others on our repeater group have experienced this and have had to have their radios serviced. I must have had a really good one because everything is still just fine. It is a very basic radio by today's standards, but as a base station it is fine. One quirky thing about it is that the PL encoder only works when the DUP repeater offset is activated, it will not transmit a PL tone in simplex. After all these years it still puts out about 27 watts on high power and 5 watts on low power. The audio is good, but I did have to reduce the PL tone level a bit since it had increased due to component aging that caused a slight hum that could be heard by others. It is a good solid radio, but they are getting quite elderly now and that is a caution I would recommend for anyone contemplating buying a used one today. I will continue using mine until it goes the way of my IC-37A many years ago.
W9MT Rating: 4/5 Aug 2, 2012 20:08 Send this review to a friend
Worthy successor to the IC-37A  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Bought my IC-38A at a hamfest. Asked if it worked, and was told "YES". (Yeah...right.)

I brought it home and attached a spare HM-14 DTMF mike I had in my stash (as nothing else came with the radio), and powered 'er up. No receive audio? Hmmmm....

Interestingly enough, upon inspection, the volume control had the same "lost voice" problem ALL IC-27/37/47 series radios eventually develop. (Puny mechanical pots on those radios can't stand years of rotary torque turning the radio on/off with the rotary switch on the pot and the pot wiper goes intermittent.) I always thought that the integral pushbutton on/off switch on the IC-38A's volume control was Icom's permanent fix to prevent that kind of problem typical of their older series of radios. I was wrong...

Well, splicing a 10KOhm blue trim pot into the volume pot cable and fastening it to the bottom pcb with a dab of RTV fixes that right up. A small hole in the bottom cover makes the trim pot accessible with a diddle stick for those few times I change the volume setting. There...good for another 25 years of use.

My radio outputs an honest 29W in the high power position. The radio gets a little hot after a long ragchew, but it works like a champ.

I like this beast much better than the newer 220 radios. It's a keeper.
K7NG Rating: 3/5 Mar 6, 2012 14:38 Send this review to a friend
OK, but some odd features  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had both the IC-37A and the IC-38A when I lived in the Silicon Valley. There were lots of 222 MHz repeaters.

I liked the IC-37A well enough, but came to find that it didn't have enough channels for that part of the country. Not many places like that on 222 MHz, even today. So I got the IC-38A because it had more channels. It was thicker than the slim IC-37A, which made it a bit harder to find a place for in the vehicle I owned at the time, but not a big deal.
What I found was (1) the speaker volume available was less than the IC-37A, without an external speaker, and (2) The way Icom configured the radio for PL tones! You had a choice of 3 tones, period. You pick 3 and any repeater you needed TX PL for, had to be one of those 3. You changed one of the tones, any channel programmed with Tone 2, for example, would have the different PL if you changed 'Tone 2'. Since there were lots of repeaters I wanted to use, there were lots of tones, and the IC-38 was a problem child.

I kept the IC-38 as a base station radio, since from the place I was living I could reach 8 repeaters, 5 of which had the same 2 PL tones, one had no PL access, one had a 3rd tone, and one I couldn't stand to listen to anyway. I put the IC-37A back into the mobile because it allowed any tone to be written into any channel (like it should be). I accepted the fewer available channels as a necessary evil, if you can call it that.
KI8ES Rating: 5/5 Nov 6, 2011 10:26 Send this review to a friend
Great rig!  Time owned: more than 12 months
This older radio produces only 25 watts. More than enough to hit local repeaters, but make sure you put up a nice Yagi to make the most out of it. Rock solid chasis, and I really like the display of this era of Icom radios. Used ones with manual, box, and the elusive mobile bracket will fetch up to $150 for a beautiful example. Make sure that the l.e.d. backlight still works, as replacements from Icom are long gone. very nice rig.
W4PIG Rating: 5/5 Oct 8, 2011 18:06 Send this review to a friend
GREAT RADIO  Time owned: more than 12 months
KB8GFF Rating: 5/5 Jun 26, 2010 20:28 Send this review to a friend
Sweet & Simple  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a rock solid radio. Not many bells & whistles. Very good audio and receiver. They don't build'em like this no more. Have own the radio for 25yrs since new. Never a hiccup. Get one you won't be sorry.
K6BSO Rating: 4/5 Feb 27, 2010 21:31 Send this review to a friend
Good basic radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Simple, built like a brick you-know-what 220MHz transceiver that can be picked up for next to nothing at swap meets and hamfests. None of the bells and whistles of new radios but it's very easy to program and does what you need it to do.

It's not exactly a powerhouse at 25 watts out, but that's probably all you need to hit the local repeaters and, unlike some older radios, it has a CTCSS tone encoder built-in. There were also options for digital code and analog tone squelch available; you may be able to find the boards on eBay.

To sum it up, if you're looking for an inexpensive 220MHz rig for basic FM work, you could do much worse than a IC-38A.

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