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Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Icom IC-251A Help

Show all reviews of the Icom IC-251A

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AH6RH  Rating: 5/5 Dec 7, 2008 13:34  Send this review to a friend!
I love my 251a  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I really like my IC-251A, quirks and all. First off, if you really want a top of the line 2m SSB rig, and you want a modern in-production radio, then the Icom IC-910H is your only real choice, and it's not a bad one.

But, if you choke on the $1,400 price tag, then I would consider a IC-251A in good condition. All the key controls are on the front panel, such as mic gain, RF power, etc. It passes the first test, because real radios have knobs and not push button menus. You can calibrate the internal SWR meter by opening up the top cover and using a screwdriver, but I leave mines in RF power mode.

The front end is very sensitive, and the radio tunes in 100 hertz increments in SSB mode, which is the second test.

On FM, you can get it to tune in 1 kHz increments, which is useful for working the ISS uplink. That is the third test. The button to the bottom and to the left of the main VFO knob is for selecting tuning step increments.

For FM, you can choose to operate the meter in signal strength mode, or center discriminator mode. Can't find radios with a center discriminator meter any more, because they don't make crystal mobile radios and walkies.

Now for the quirks. It has 3 internal memories that require external DC to keep alive. This is from the days before internal lithium batteries. If you don't like internal batteries, then you have to supply external DC to radios. This is one of them. It also comes with an internal AC power supply, and sometimes over the years people remove them so you might get a radio without the internal AC supply. This radio uses the 4-pin .093 inch Molex connector which you can get at Radio Shack, similar to the IC-22S radio and IC-ML1 amplifier.

There are two VFO's, A and B. You can tune each one independently, then use the RA-TB or RB-TA switch setting to receiver either on A or B, and transmit on the other VFO. If you change freq, the other VFO will change by the same amount. By default, the radio wakes up with A=145.0, B=145.60. This is the standard 600 kHz repeater split. If you use the RA-TB or RB-TA mode, you can tune the repeater split to where you want to make contacts.

There are no internal filter slots for add SSB and CW filters. There's not enough activity here to determine the filtering characteristics of the radio.

There's no provision for hooking it up to a computer for automated tuning. If you like Icom radios, I recommend you get one with a built-in CI-V interface, which are the IC-275, 820, 821, 910.

This radio uses the older pre-amplified mikes, with the phantom power hooked up to the mike audio pin. So, it uses the HM-7, HM-8 and SM-5 mikes. The more modern Icom mikes such as the HM-12 and HM-14 with a separate mic DC lead don't work well with this rig.

So, if you work straight SSB simplex, or are interested in using the radio for uplinks (or the downlinks) to satellites, it works great recognizing you and not the computer have to do the tuning. I look forward to using this rig when I come home from work each day. That lets me dedicate, configure and use my IC-910H for mobile satellite work. If you want a straight forward radio, consider the IC-275 (and be prepared to pay more). If you get a working IC-251A for $175 or less, it's a good deal.
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