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Reviews For: ICOM IC-781

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - non QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : ICOM IC-781
Reviews: 56MSRP: 8752
Product is in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
AA7IN Rating: 2023-06-11
Great work horse Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I have had the Icom IC-781 since December 2005, the radio holds it's own very well to most modern radios. There is almost no discernible TX/RX performance difference of my IC-781 and my IC-775DSP. This radio has an array of functions like a built in terminal, dual clocks, memory menus and multiple timers among others. I used to have a IC-756 and missed all the functions it carried over from the IC-781 when I sold it. I used to lust after the IC-781 in the late 80's early 90's but simply could not afford one. But now I was able to pick up this gem on the used market; I have only done a few minor repairs on this radio. I replaced the PBT encoder, knobs, case screws and cleaned the face plate. I did have to take the PLL unit out and adjust one trimmer for the 'TX/RX loss every 500kHz' problem. Aside from removing dozens of screws, seven coax cables and two wiring harnesses and then finding out I did not have the needed breakout cables; I was still able to get it working again by using the old 'hit and miss' technique.

I have noticed that despite it's sophistication the tuner is 'semi automatic'. It does not track frequency or last setting used and you need to carefully adjust the presets under the top access plate. The spectrum scope needs time to drift, the spectrum scopes PLL is NOT phase locked to the transceivers OCXO on PLL board A. But with careful adjustment the scope can be brought into line with the center frequency displayed on the display.

Despite these minor nit picks, if you find a well cared for IC-781 on the used market, buy it, you won't regret it.

Craig - AA7IN
W0BKR Rating: 2017-06-07
Great Radio Even Today! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Won't go into all the pros of the radio but suffice it to say, this radio performs superbly and has an excellent receiver. Many features and a fun radio to use. A bit heavy and large but that was the 781. Some folks poo poo them today as being obsolete, but I disagree.

Only nits I have aside of the weight and size (my shack is 6x8 foot and not much desk space), is the rear connections are hard to see if you need to hook up something post facto. Means, you have to swing the radio around to see.

Mine was totally upgraded by Burdhardt and has less than 25 hours on it (been in storage 18 years unused and powered up and worked fine when pulled from storage).

Other nit, like my FT-920, the transmit monitor is a bit weak/low but some radios are that way, likely to reduce the possibility of feedback when you transmit with the headphones not connected.

I love this "old" radio and all my friends that have them still have theirs. Will likely hang onto mine for some time. Some folks just don't understand or appreciate the radio.

Ask Rob Sherwood why he has two (2) of them....

Earlier 4-star review posted by N9CM on 2015-11-08

Too bad one cannot update/modify a review.

One nit I have with the radio is the recessed connections under the back regulator/final unit, making it for a very hard to reach (even looking at the rear) connection. If you hook up your interfaces, be sure to have the rear of the radio facing you as it is very difficult to see otherwise and hard to get fingers around the tight area. Once set up, hopefully, you won't have to move the behemoth. A very nice and enjoyable radio to use, but definitely not a light weight....Sorry had to add a review posting but unable to add to existing one.
W6UXB Rating: 2017-02-09
Absolutely fantastic Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I have this radio for quite awhile now and I have to say it is probably the greatest radio I have owned and operated, pure analog pure perfection, the noise blanker actually works in real world situations, the filters are a pleasure to listen with, the audio on transmit and receive is beyond anything that is available for any comparable price radio available now. It is big it is heavy it has all the controls on knobs on the front panel for control plus a scope for your housekeeping duties, what a radio. I also own a DZ kits Sienna boy that is so a close modern version of this radio this is radio #2 my TenTec Eagle is radio #3 The 3 best radios I have encountered
WD1V Rating: 2015-11-20
High Fidelity + Lot to Love Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I just purchased a 781 that had one owner (SK) who babied it for > 20 years. I had never owned one and got it with some trepidation. It was the best Icom offered back when it was announced. But now? Its old. Its heavy. Its expensive to get fixed if it breaks. Reliability and 2 decade old feature sets might be a set of risks greater than the reward. Good news! It performs flawlessly with audio that is stunning. How stunning? Consider that it has concentric front panel controls for bass and treble. Has any other ham transceiver done that? You can listen to your favorite AM broadcast station and it will outplay any home radio you own. Bring that same fidelity and richness to your favorite ham bands and its a gem. The filtering, band pass tuning, built-in tuner, CRT display scope and intuitive menu make navigation through the bands slick. Really glad I'm having the 781 experience in my ham career and didn't miss it. Like an old fine wine or great rock band, seems to get better with age. #ThanksIcom @JohnSeney
PA1CW Rating: 2015-06-08
Fantastic radio! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I had the IC-781 for about 20 years.
Last year I sold it because I have also the Icom-7600 / 7100.
They are also great radio's but I missed the quality sound from the IC-781.
Now I bought another used in mint condition IC-781 and I am really happy with it.
So if you find a good IC-781 don't think but buy!

73 Theo PA1CW
I1QII Rating: 2014-06-03
NIce Top Radio Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased an Icom IC-781 last year. The radio is in excellent condition
both electrical and cosmetically and it works nicely.
I'm Ham for over 30 years and I had many radios.
The 'IC-781 that I really like is excellent one for reception quality in cw and ssb.
I tested it on the same table for two months with an IC-756PRO2 and an IC-7400 than I sold the two newest radios
and I kept the 'IC-781 with great satisfaction.
The reception quality of the IC-781 is more natural and clean particularly in cw.
In Tx with 150W and the excellent compressor in ssb is vy good and in cw the note is shaped and crisp.
Now I'm thinking to buy a second Icom IC-781.
Best 73
Diego (I1QII)
OE1TRB Rating: 2014-04-14
Great transceiver performance Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I had the chance to get a IC-781 2 years ago. I was very positively surprised that this unit has that great RX performance. The transceiver is easy to handle, a nice - nowadays a veteran tube display - the analog band scope is easy to read.
With respect to my IC-7700 , without the DSP and filter functionality the 781 does still a top job on shortwave. That unit is nailed down in my shack and will not leave it anymore.
vy 73 de Thomas
VA3PWC Rating: 2014-02-14
Top HF radio Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I was very luck to find one IC781 in a mint conditions. I know there are only few numbers of 781 down here in Brazil, probably 4 or 5 of it... and only who has operated one knows the quality of TX and RX of these radios.
For my suprise, I had a chance to compare it with FT1000MP, Icom IC 745, IC 730, Tentec Pegasus, FT 950, IC 7600, IC 736, TS 870 and TS 590 and my results was the IC 781 did beat them all in RX aspects. Without any doubt, this is a real Quad RX conversion with all filters for SSB, CW and Digital. What else do I need? I only use radio for contest and DX..and btw this radio is Excelent for contest and DX´s.... Amazing audio TX with Heil HC-5... Just plug a cable on the back and connect it to a monitor screen and now you will have the 781´s display on a big screen too.
On CW my opinion is simply the best radio that I have seen in my life. Weak signals are very easy to copy specially when you use Pre-amp, PBT or Notch.
I live in free-noise area, so I don´t need radio with DSP that makes some noise on the radio´s reception. Too many SMD components are not good for radio´s RX... I don´t know why, but my feeling says that analogic radio still the best. Just remember, most of moderns radios have been made in China... take a look on its microphone and open the top cover to check the quality of its components... These kind of analogic radios were made by Icom in Japan... Sorry, but I can´t compare the quality of materials made in China vs. Japan ... Can you???
Expect to pay around USD 2000 for a IC 781.
Sorry again if I have disapointed you with my comments, but that is true !!! 73 from Rick PY2EL / VA3PWC
KI5SO Rating: 2014-01-05
Brick House Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
This is a later serial number rig with fan mods. Love the big size and the large analog meter. Most adjustments are right on the front. It does have a menu, but it is not too in depth. This rig introduced a lot of firsts to ham radio. The scope, the ability to write your call sign in the window, PBT, and others. The knobs are not cheap like on Ft-2000D and the rig has a real feel to it, not some artificial feel and sound. There is something about analog I just love.
TI2TL Rating: 2013-08-25
adendum to my first review, Simply GREAT RADIO Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have had a lot of radios in my past, and I have to be honest, I don't see a real progress in radios in the last 30 years.
You can talk IMD numbers and Wide spaced or Narrow spaced dynamic range all day but this values are important just in one main case, contests. Were you have 9++ stations all over the place and you need to find yourself a good spot and not have interference from a close by station.
Now since I don't like contests and I don't work CW (where the actual narrow spacing measures are taken using the narrow CW filter), I see no real progress in SSB rag chewing from newer radios. Actually I see quite the opposite. After testing numerous modern radios out there I can honestly say that the older rigs can do better (in many cases) or at least equal the modern rigs.

Now I don't understand how people are spending thousands of dollars in modern equipment if they could do the same with an older radio, and save many green bills and still be happy with the results.
Now I am not saying that older rigs are all the same, as I am not saying the new are all bad. My meter of compare is my actual radio, an old IC-781 from Icom. Probably I decided to compare modern rigs to what was a legend in the top of the line analogue radios of some years ago, but to date I still need to find a radio that performs better than the 781. It might be "noisier" than the modern top of the line DSP radio, but for me the DSP is just too robotic, modulation is not natural, it is just "fake", on the 781 you might hear some hiss on the background but modulation is nice and warm, it's analogue, as modulation should be, not digitalized.

Many might disagree with this review and say that there has been progress in the last years and the old radio designs have been discontinued for a reason, and you are 100% correct, the reason is $$$$.

If you build a new radio by older standards, having a quad conversion like the 781, than adding all the DSP mambo jumbo, ecc...ecc.. you will have more likely a radio that has to sell for $20.000 or more USD, since the market is not so big anymore and ham radio is actually dying slowly, not many would ever purchase such a rig, and it wouldn't be rentable for the company to produce such a radio.
Solution to all this was to "digitalize" all the radios with the DSP BS that is found on modern rigs. You get a "decent" performer at lower prices.