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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Scanners | ICOM R20 Help

Reviews Summary for ICOM R20
ICOM R20 Reviews: 30 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $500$
Description: 3ghz
Product is in production.
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KB8DGC Rating: 5/5 May 15, 2016 16:50 Send this review to a friend
A lot of capability for the size and price  Time owned: more than 12 months
Although the drawbacks of the radio may cause others to rate it lower, and aren't to be blindly ignored, I really think it deserves a 5 because it's just so darn useful as a cost-effective tool for so many jobs.

After being away from the hobby for several years, the R20 was my way of testing the waters, plus I figured (and in many cases confirmed) it would also be nice for other fringe use cases on an ongoing basis, such as:
* Scanning through a bunch of amateur signals on a wide variety of bands/modes to see what net is going on, what calling frequency is active, etc., without tying up multiple transceivers (handy with a discone, LPA, etc.), even on CW or SSB (within practical limits).
* Checking activity on various VHF/UHF bands, and satellite downlinks, before investing in a transceiver to cover them "properly." The R20 is limited to FM (and AM/WFM) above 470MHz, which is a bit disappointing but not a problem for typical users.
* Amusing school-aged STEM-minded people by listening to the news in China, FM broadcasts, and a microwave oven, with one unit.
* Having a compact, portable emergency radio with massive battery life, that also gets aircraft and marine frequencies, NOAA, etc. Handy for camping, disaster sheltering, possibly cautious backpacking or boating, as it is not particularly rugged or water resistant.
* Testing receive antennas at/near the feed when ruling out problems, or testing other equipment where portability and guarantee of not accidentally transmitting is of benefit.
* The built-in attenuator and RF gain and the easily visible S-meter make it great for RDF work, in my modest experience (though the RF gain steps are a bit "chunky" at lower values).
* During contests or portable ops, checking your gear for basic functionality and frequency, modulation quality of AFSK digital signals, rudimentary idea of field strength, etc.
* Use squelch-operated record and drive around town transmitting in various spots to test your portable/mobile xcvr range back to home... etc.

For the downsides:
* Unless you use a large antenna and know what the attenuator button is, HF performance is marginal. Even then there are much better, cheaper shortwave receivers if that's your main interest.

* As others have mentioned, the audio is fairly quiet, especially outdoors, and is superimposed with some sort of hum (linearly-spaced frequencies) from the audio amp if you turn it up, which adds to fatigue and frustration.

* Headphone jack shared with CI-V which isn't terrible but it's a nuisance. An extra ring on the phone connector would've been a nice touch.

Still, it covers up to 3.305GHz and for casual use it's not half bad, especially given the price on the used market.
VE3TMT Rating: 5/5 Jan 19, 2015 10:04 Send this review to a friend
Great hear all receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Was browsing one of our local sale boards (not ham related) and saw this receiver for sale for $250. It was in great condition, with all accessories. It is the unblocked version. I asked the seller his best price and he countered with $200. I really wanted a trunking scanner but he was anxious to sell. Ending up getting it for $120.

Have played with it for a few weeks and it really is an amazing piece of radio. Love the dual watch function and being able to roam the house listening to 20m SSB.

Found a copy of the programming software online and was off to the races. Turns out my Garmin GPS cable works with the R20 so I didn't need to buy an accessory cable.

Having a blast with this little gem.

K2RTY Rating: 3/5 Jan 29, 2014 07:31 Send this review to a friend
Icom r20   Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This would have been a great radio if they set it up right rf gains for each band, and put a decent audio amp or speaker in it,my 20 year old Yupiteru 9000 blows it away.
Icom,seriously how come everything you make looks cool but the audio output or speaker is BEAT.100milliwatts?Ya gotta be kidding me!
Anyone that gave this a 5,you cant be serious,this
is much less than an AOR8200MK3,which i sold like a
donkey,I want to say something else but.....
P4PENDING Rating: 5/5 Nov 7, 2013 19:59 Send this review to a friend
Awesome!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After about 5 days of intensive playing with the IC-R20, I must say that I'm very impressed. Before actually buying it, I reviewed it extensively on YouTube and this was very valuable and helpful.
The IC-R20 is feature packet and nearly all buttons have a double or triple function. It's really amazing how they can get so much functionality in a handheld communication receiver.
It operates very well on all bands. The ANL and AF functions are really working well and are extremely useful to listen to the weaker stations.
If I have to point out a minus, it will be the speaker. The volume and quality out of that tiny too low powered speaker are poor. An external speaker or headphones are essential if you want to listen for a longer of period of time.
The supplied antenna works fairly well and do outperform some more expensive RadioShack antennas.
The IC-R20 leave my Grundig Satelit 750 and Icom R-7000 in the dust regarding sensitivity.
My external discone antenna does works extremely well on the IC-R20. Battery life is amazing!

Yep, the IC-R20 is a bit expensive, but worth every penny.

The IC-R20? Highly recommend!

If you plan to buy one, check out the learning videos on YouTube. It will help you tremendously.
KA6CAI Rating: 4/5 Sep 25, 2012 10:17 Send this review to a friend
R-20, a better receiver  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I purchased the Icom R-20 last June, notably it's a great receiver! Only flaw is the weak audio! People buy scanners to LISTEN in! Scanner manufactures don't seem to take this in consideration when it comes to audio quality...other than this remark, the scanner is great for what it was designed for. The other wideband receiver is an AOR-8200. When listening to SSB, the R-20 employs true SSB and signals are roughly 3.0 Khz a part. On the AR8200, they're 5khz and filtering is only fair compared to the R-20. For a wideband receiver, I choose the R-20 as it's features are more up to date...the 8200's technology is still in the late 90's. Both radio's, however have excellent sensitivity.
KE7TMA Rating: 4/5 Aug 5, 2011 17:36 Send this review to a friend
I like it a lot.  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is my go-to handheld receiver. I also own an IC-R3 and Yaesu's VX-3R and VX-8R.

The IC-R20 is an extremely useful receiver for a few reasons. It is very sensitive, and can pull in stations that other handhelds will not receive with the same antenna. It is in fact too sensitive at times, and benefits from both the attenuator and the RF gain control. Weak HF signals are comfortable to listen to on the R-20 even if there is a lot of noise, as you can turn down the RF gain to the point where it is just at the noise threshold, allowing only signal to break the silence. Turn down the AF gain and you are listening to weak signals with more comfort than several popular tabletop HF transceivers (yes really).

There are several downsides to this radio. The SSB is very "computery" and there is a good bit of frequency drift for the first 1/2 hour of operation from a cold start. It will take a while to settle down and then you will still need to adjust it periodically, but eventually even music is tolerable (normally whacked on SSB).

The SSB feature comes in handy often enough, because there is a roughly 2400 Hz filter in there of some kind. AM mode is really really wide, to the point where you will be receiving a signal which is 5-7 KHz away in either direction from the tuned frequency. This is no big deal for the most part, but when you do get two stations at once it is annoying. SSB mode allows you to overcome this to a large degree, as I alluded to above.

The audio recorder function is nice to have if you find something weird. I don't use it that often.

Scanning might be slower than other "dedicated" scanners, but it is still pretty fast and you also have an all-mode all-band receiver rather than the typical limited scanners, which also usually lack more than AF / FM reception.

The spectrum display is nice for visualizing the activity on a band on the wider step settings, and with the narrowest step setting you can visualize the carrier and side bands very easily if you are curious about those details. It's no spectrum analyzer, but it does in a pinch for simple jobs.

This receiver is the standard handheld used in the intelligence and security countermeasures communities in many nations. It's not perfect, but it is the best of breed at this time, and if Icom releases an R-30 I will be the first one in line at the local HRO.
KC2RCX Rating: 5/5 Nov 15, 2010 06:15 Send this review to a friend
A Pleasant Surprise  Time owned: more than 12 months
A short , non technical evaluation from KC2RCX.

Icom R20 or AOR 8200 Mark 3B ?

Calling several dealers at the time, it was quite unanimous that the ICOM is a better investment for the $$$$.

Therefore, I went with the Icom R20.

It seems that when someone writes a review/opinion of a radio in this hobby, he or she feels compelled to list all the radios they have owned.

I guess it sort of gives the reader a comfortable feeling that the evaluator, has some experience in this hobby.

Although, everyone has different interests in different parts of the spectrum for different activity's, I too will mention the radio's I have had and currently own.

Heathkit SW-7800, Heathkit SS-9000, Heathkit HW-5400, Sony ICF-2010, Kenwood R-2000, Kenwood R-5000, (6) various models of the Zenith Transoceanic line, including (1) tube, Drake
SW8, Drake R8, Drake R8B, Icom Pro 2, Icom Pro 3, Yaesu FT-1000D, Ten Tec RX-320D, Icom R-7000, Palstar R-30A, Icom R75 with S-AM, new ones don't have it anymore, Ten Tec RX-340, Ten Tec Jupiter.

Believe it or not, I never transmitted, not even once on any of the transceivers. Bought purely for receive !

ICOM R20: (Serial # 0602964)

A convenient package to take on the go or out on the deck. Great feature set, very nice clean audio for a radio of this size, ergonomics excellent, consistent long battery life make this radio a good choice for the person that wants a good all-around radio to experience the spectrum.

Radio performance below 30 MHZ for AM DX or utility hunting is not on par with dedicated HF radio's, but allows full coverage in these bands, all mode. Exception, using the R20 with my Palomar Loop antenna's, the receiver was quite sensitive in the LW and MW area's.

However, without a good antinuator, don't even think about connecting a long-wire external antenna as the front end will overload in almost all cases.

The attached whip is tuned fairly well for the full coverage.

Unlike other radios with a feature set such as this one, the learning curve is straight forward. I would say that the only practice one would need is in the memory scan modes.

Radio is exceptional above 30 Mhz. In most cases dual receive capability, nice back lit display, host of easy to access features make this a winner.

However, those seeking computer control software for this radio will be dissapointed, as there is no real solution that can access the full feature set of the radio.

There is however, adequate cloning software for memory organization via an easy to connect USB cable, not included.

In conclusion, you will find the built in recorder worth it's weight in gold. The nicest feature I think of the recorder besides recording anything your listening to at the press of a button, it can be setup very easy to record only when a signal is received.

Signal quality trade off with amount of storage used. In normal which is excellent, about 2 hours.

Enjoy !

AC4FS Rating: 5/5 Oct 28, 2010 06:48 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I received my R20 two days ago, and am nothing short of totally impressed. I sat in the living room last night (east coast of Florida), watching TV and listening to AM DX and shortwave, using just the internal bar antenna and the external telescoping antenna, and I was able to clearly hear the Beijing Hour on China Radio International (11.835MHz shortwave), followed by WBT News in Charlotte, NC (1.110MHz AM). The Charlotte station was over 400 miles away.

The manual is fairly easy to follow, as long as you have some experience with Icom instruction manuals (which I do). Programming memory channels isn't that difficult, but tends to be tedious, if you have more than just a hand full. I can definitely see where purchasing the optional cloning software and cable would come in handy.

The price is a bit steep, especially after purchasing a few options (car charger, cover for the R20, etc...), but if you want a fantastic portable receiver with a "DC to Daylight" range, along with the ability to pickup ham SSB and CW signals, it is worth the price.

I plan on giving this little receiver a work out over the next few months, and will try to write another review after I've become more familiar with it.
G0RRL Rating: 3/5 Feb 7, 2010 06:59 Send this review to a friend
reasonable but pricey for a scanner  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
looking at the posts i see im well late in posting. well the radio is new to me.
1st impressions. my location is fairly built up in town. nearest local radio transmitter would be 10 miles away.
VHF broadcast band would be the source of QRM plus the usual pager/phone.

not a great fan of so called scanners as they all seem to be too wideband. same here with the R20 but it has some surprises. the 1st thing i did was to connect my airband dipole and found the usual overload problems. using the ATT rather than the RF gain helps a lot .. making the radio quite useable. the thing that really impressed me was the lo-bands. 20mtrs was actually quite good using the same airband dipole .. with NO overload at all. by trying a longwire was pointless. later in the evening 80mtrs was also fair. maybee not as good as my Sony7600 but not bad for a handheld. the SSB modes were good. PMR bands were also good but the worst by far were the broadcast bands. MW suffered from being TOO wide as does VHF 88-108mhz. this is no good for any sort of dx listening. i feel the radio has a bit too much gain overall .. and needs a touch more IF filtering. this would be a cracking scanner. forget the RF gain and please ad a fliter Icom to the R30 (wishfull thinking)

another thing i found is that i have a loft discone (that i have been using with another bedside radio) this again is no good on the R20 for some reason. i tried adjusting both RF and ATT with no success. yet the R20 on its own aerial it seems quite sensitive ... very strange. Birdies are aparent across the bands .. as is breakthru.
but all things considered no worse than others ive owned. not tried a aerial tuner yet.

my verdict in the short time ive used the R20. as a handheld its pretty good all round. using a aerial other than the reciever aerial is a bit hit n miss. maybee in a vehical using a magmount may work. audio Q is reasonable ( i prefer the audio filter ON when using the AM bands ) 446 wasnt as sensitive as my legal walkie talkie. the menus are really easy. even without the handbook u can get to use it .. but setting memories u may need to check.
ive had a few scanners in the past .. ie. a Fairmate HP100e which was quite complicated i seem to remember .. but the R20 is logical. the backlight is very nice as are the lit keys. the radio feels light .. but then who needs to drag a heavy radio round. its a good size. works on 3xAA NI-MH as i see the replacement Li-on battery is SO expensive. ridiculous. shame u couldnt swap the top volume for squelch! as it has a volume both on the top and the side when in momoband. strange. i prefer the volume on the side buttons.
one last thing. i was unable to make HRD work for sorting the memories. perhaps later.?
KJ4BXM Rating: 5/5 Jan 25, 2009 17:32 Send this review to a friend
Works good, chore to learn to program  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Had mine for a year works great. Paul(KC2QPT), had the problem you had listening to the fm dropping out, turn the weather alert feature off.
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