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Show all reviews of the ICOM ID-31
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of the ICOM ID-31.
Mar 22, 2013 15:30
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Great way to start DSTAR if local systems are 440mhz
Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I debated buying an ID31 for about a year now, my two triggers:
- Our local club converted our rarely used 440 analog system to DSTAR back in (?) 2011 since there was growing Minnesota ARES communications on DSTAR. I try to buy at least one new item and try one new "thing" in ham radio every year or so after being licensed since 1967 so ARES followed by a new DSTAR offshoot seemed reasonable.
- My wife & I had to buy a new car and I sold my IC2720 2/440 mobile rig that had been in our other car that past 5 years with intents on picking up a used IC800 or 880 mobile analog FM/DSTAR at Dayton last May. After a thorough walk through at the flea market there were NONE for sale (actually there may have been an 800 but not at any sort of good deal). After attending some DSTAR sessions and successfully using the ID31 at the ICOM booth then making QSOs in < 2 mins of playing around, it's ease of use won me over. I almost bought the ID31 at a very attractive dealer mark down, but ran out of time with intentions to return there later. I later heard ICOM rumors about a 2/440 DSTAR HH out later in the summer at maybe < $500 so I waited all of 2012 for what was to be the ID51 only to see it selling for $630 way out of my budget since I already had multiple 2m rigs and HHs and a lot of interests in HF too.
So by YE2012, I had written off DSTAR for now.
But in Feb it occurred to me there would be some hams who bought ID31s and just HAD to trade up to the ID51 and sure enough, spotted a for sale on eham and got a nice slightly used ID31 a couple weeks ago. I have been playing with it and worked many DV DSTAR voice contacts locally and through our MN REF053 as far as southern Manitoba. I also have made some 440 analog FM contacts when on a trip to Minneapolis - a concern in some ID31 reviews was muffled audio on FM but this unit got a good audio report. I am happy with the receive speaker quality and volume too. A couple other comments:
- Despite my easy-to-use impression at the Dayton ICOM booth, the entire concept of DSTAR needs a fair amount of prep to really "get it". The ID31 hardcopy manual really doesn't have much DSTAR info, you need to use the advanced user manual on their CD or web site (almost 400 pages!). So far I have done programming via direct input on the radio and by using the supplied software putting the microSD card in my PC to do direct freq input and use the spreadsheets downloaded from http://www.dstarinfo.com/icom-import-files.aspx
- I knew this going in, my opinion, but ICOM charges too much for all it's accessories. $50 for just a data cable, about 2X the competing RT systems cable. DC cables, speaker mics especially the lightweight over the ear systems all add up quick. The supplied 1100mah battery drains fast too, so $75 for a 2nd LI-ON battery is a bit much.
- This comment is totally my problem, but I am going to need an external whip from my basement or 1st floor to access our local DSTAR system located 6 miles to the north; standing by a 2nd floor window seems to work fine. You can set up the DSTAR echo and hear a playback of your audio on many repeaters. Just don't get fooled thinking "digital" will improve your transmitted signal strength, at least in my case I can hear much better/farther than I can transmit on both DV and FM. If it ever warms up in our endless winter this year I will have more fun outside or on the deck.
- I setup my GPS to be on and when I transmit can see my DPRS locator on the aprs.fi map tracker just like my 2m tiny tracker. I will play with the built in GPS more while taking hikes when it is warm outside, but it does seem to get a satellite lock on even near windows inside our house.
- I have also played a bit with the voice record function on a couple QSOs. Still have not really used it sending any data streams & you need a data cable to use even low speed PC data.
So if all you need is a 440 HH to access your local DSTAR system, these units are currently priced new around $300 and you can find used ones closer to $200 as of early Spring 2013. The DSTAR "mark up" is around $50-100 compared to just FM, however if you have either an ARES reason or just want to try a newer fairly well accepted digital mode it is a good starter unit.
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