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Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | ICOM R-8500 Help

Show all reviews of the ICOM R-8500

You can write your own review of the ICOM R-8500.

KE4RWS  Rating: 5/5 Nov 19, 2012 20:44  Send this review to a friend!
Love it :)  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have wanted to try one of these receiver for many years now and a few months ago I finally decided to just go for it and buy a used model for a price I knew I would be a able to recover my costs if I just didn't like it. Itís been a real winner with me and I plan on keeping my Icom IC-R8500 indefinitely.

There are many things to say about the R8500 but Iíll start by saying it does everything the specs say it does. However, one must bear in mind this is an older receiver design and as dated as it is there are still new units being sold at the end of 2012, which sayís a lot about any receiver with a production run that long. I donít have any electronic gadgets to show numbers and figures of what it can do but I can say itís the finest receiver I've ever owned. As many have already stated here, this is NOT a scanner so please donít buy it thinking you can use it as such. Although it does receive a very wide range of the radio spectrum and does in fact scan if desired, itís not a scanner in the traditional sense of the word. Having said that, I do own several actual scanners for my everyday police, Fire and EMS reception but if youíre considering a new or used R8500 it would have to be for purposes other than regular ďscanningĒ.

I have noted others indicating their R8500ís run warm or even hot, however mine does not. Originally I started out using the included AD-55 power supply but I found the power supply itself was the only component that ran a little too warm for my tastes so I went to Radio Shack and bought a 4-pin Molex connector and wired it accordingly for use with my R8500. This same connector can be wired as a replacement ďjumperĒ if you buy a used R8500 that doesn't come with one or you lose yours. Fortunately Radio Shack still sells the correct DC power connector for this receiver for a whopping $2.36 at the time of this writing, so I bought one and my R8500 is now powered via my Astron 12 amp supply (actually it powers a few other items as well, including my Icom R75 receiver and a few regular scanners).

I previously owned an Icom R7000 receiver and was very happy with it but it had some inherent problems many R7000ís develop over time so I considered just buying an R75, as my main interest was originally to monitor HF. However, after buying a nice used Icom R75 I found I really wanted to be able to monitor the world above 30 MHz (or 60 MHz in the case of the R75) and not have to compromise by merely using a typical scanner. Thereís a lot of 2-meter SSB and even 70-cm SSB I wanted to monitor so this was the receiver for me. Thatís when I ended up buying my R8500 and I can say I absolutely LOVE this thing and use it every single day from top to bottom. Reception in the HF bands is exceptional and is every bit as good as my decked-out Icom R75 if not *better*. The one thing the R8500 lacks is a DSP notch filter though, which I find a bit odd considering the cost and grade of this receiver, but for some reason Icom decided to omit this particular feature from this wonderful radio. However, this was not a big issue for me as I find I do not use DSP on my R75 receiver very often. This is something people will feel VERY differently about though, depending on who you are and your operating situation. Additionally, I find the Noise Blanker on the R8500 to be virtually useless. Oddly it seems to do nothing at all. I have toggled it countless times under a multitude of conditions and it doesn't seem to ever had any effect whatsoever. On the other hand the NB on my R75 does improve signal noise clarity when enabled so go figure on that one. I have read where others have said the same thing about their R8500 NB feature so itís not just me on this one.

I have tried numerous types of software with my R8500 (it came with Icomís RS-R8500 software, which is fine for the most basic tasks). However, I found I really like Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD), as it offers a hell of a lot for what it is and depending on your needs I highly recommend it. I like to monitor numerous types of digital modes and HRD is a good pairing with the R8500, although there ARE other options available. You simply have to look and youíll find there are actually quite a few free software options for this model receiver.

The R8500 is extremely sensitive, and mine came with a few optional features I originally did not know it had when I bought it, such as the UT-102 Voice Synthesizer Unit, the FL-52A 500 Hz (455 KHz) CW filter, and the MB-23 carry handle, so this was a very nice bonus surprise when it arrived and I inspected it and found these features already installed. Oddly though, you would think a receiver that cost upwards of $2000 would come with a simple carry handle but not so in the case of this receiver. Basically it came with every option available for the R8500 *except* one; the CR-293 High Stability Crystal Unit. However, I have found my R8500 is quite stable on its own, at least in the capacity which I use it. Of course, the environment you operate the receiver has everything to do with your need for this particular option. As stated earlier, others have indicated their R8500ís operate rather warm or even ďhotĒ, whereas mine remains quite cool. Upon inspection of the interior case and circuit boards I noticed a 3-pin header marked ďFanĒ (located just behind the main display board) and a mounting point for a small box fan located on the outer cover. Apparently Icom incorporated the ability to add a cooling fan if desired, however itís not mentioned in any literature or manuals for this receiver.

The Icom R8500 is an extremely well made receiver. The frame is a very healthy, thick, all-aluminum cast chassis. The prior model, the R7100, used a less expensive and thinner stamped-metal frame (I donít recall what my R7000 was comprised of). The R8500 does not have an internal power supply the way prior receiver models did. Apparently Icom decided not to incorporate this into the receiver, which I believe was a very good idea, as it will undoubtedly operate cooler using an external DC supply. All the controls are well marked and of good build quality and very responsive. The display is bright and crisp, simple to read and laid out very well. The signal strength meter is analog style, which I prefer. However, it appears somewhat cheap and is likened to what you would find in an average CB radio, although it does perform well and like the display, is equally easy to read and is well lit. I wish Icom would have stuck with the same S-meter from older receivers, as they had a more fitting appearance than the one chosen for the R8500. Being an older design the display back lighting is accomplished via incandescent bulbs, four of them I believe. The good thing is they are still readily available from Icom, as are all parts for this receiver. They are inexpensive and simple to replace. I asked Icom if there was an LED retro-fit kit available but there is none. However, there are numerous people found on the web who have replaced their burned out bulbs with the appropriate LED package type, thus eliminating ever having to replace them again, not to mention having less heat output. I will likely replace mine with LED when the time comes. All the controls on the R8500 are well made and respond distinctively. The keys are rubberized and have a nice feel to them. The VFO is weighted and has a nice outer rubber ring offering good dexterity. The AF Gain and Squelch controller are the old style linear potentiometers and provide a nice even audio dispersion, unlike many digital controllers which have incremental points and do not have the older linear feel to them. I have some newer gear that uses digital ďpotsĒ where the audio only goes down just so far before turning completely off. Personally I donít care for some of the current digital Volume/Squelch controllers but thatís just me I guess, although some seem to be sufficient.

Although you can still purchase new R8500ís, used models can be found for a good price if youíre patient like I was and are willing to wait for just the right one and pass over those that donít meet your criteria. Also, it should be noted the ďblockedĒ version is every bit as good and useful as the un-blocked version (at least in the USA), as thereís nothing to hear in the cellular telephone bands anyway since everything has been digital for some time now (this used to be a big deal to many users). Mine is the un-blocked version and believe me, thereís absolutely NOTHING to hear there anymore. The prior model, the R7100, blocked out the entire 800 MHz portion rather than just the cellular phone portions making it useless for monitoring trunking systems (for trunking based software monitoring), or other non-trunked repeaters in the 850-865 MHz range. Many older Icom receivers blocked the entire 800 MHz range but blocked R8500 receivers do NOT block the whole 800 MHz range. Instead Icom blocked only the cellular portion so you donít have to worry about this issue if you end up with a blocked model receiver. However, some prior Icom models did in fact block out the entire 800 band altogether.

I highly recommend the R8500 for all-around communications reception. Although it does not go as high as many more expensive high-end receivers do (as well as newer SDRís), it does offer excellent quality and reception up to 2 GHz. This receiver does so much more than this but I merely covered the basics in plain terms. Please contact me anytime if you have any questions about your R8500, or if youíre considering buying one and just need clarification on some things. Iíd be happy to help. My email address can be found by looking up my call here or at QRZ.
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