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Reviews For: ICOM R-8500

Category: Receivers: General Coverage

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Review Summary For : ICOM R-8500
Reviews: 24MSRP: 1999.99
All mode receiver.
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
G4MJA Rating: 2016-04-19
Great Receiver! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I had always wanted one of these receivers but the cost was out of my radio budget. A short while ago I bought a used example at a sensible price which apparently had little use & looked like it had just come out of the factory, not a mark on it anywhere. Having used it for a while now, mainly on MW & SW I realise what a sensitive receiver it is. It is not the simplest receiver to get to grips with, especially the memory system but I'll figure it out in time! I have seen complaints from users on here about the bulbs that illuminate the display being almost visible if you look down or up at the display & either being too bright or too dim. There is no evidence of bulbs being used on my example & the factory default setting, which is called bright is fine, even in a darkened room. I can only assume my 8500, which is a late model either came from the factory this way or maybe it's had the LED display mod done. The radio has every feature I could want & then some. I've been missing this kind of receiver performance for years, now I have it it's staying.
BOBE Rating: 2014-01-20
Further Comments Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
One thing I see in all the specs for the IC-R8500 is no mention of blocking and cross modulation performance.

And I can see why. There is no blocking or cross modulation.

So, for example, here outside of Sydney, Australia, I have a Radio Australia signal out of Shepparton, about 600 miles south of me, blasting away on 6180kHz to Papua New Guinea in Pidgin English. Wraps the S-meter needle around the stop.

5kHz below on 6175kHz is Radio Voice Of Russia from Vladivostok in English to North Asia, an azimuth of 220 degrees from Vladivostok.

On AM RA blasts this signal out. On LSB, the RVOR signal comes in nicely without any hint of QRM from RA on 6180.

That is OUTSTANDING performance in my book.
ROGERT Rating: 2012-11-23
It just does it like they say it will Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
Have owned one of these (purchased) new for over six months and wonder why I did not do it sooner after purchasing other sets each year for several years (Icom7200, Alinco, palstar).

It just does as specified or better without fuss or need to keep trying the settings to get a better signal - so if you are a fiddler that wants to be all the time pressing buttons and controls this is not the set for you!.

Another recent review says it all - more or less as I was about to. Perhaps the only downside is the backlighting being globes; however 12v leds are now available for those who might want to try a change.

My set does get warm, but certainly not hot and the noise blanker (as spec by manufacturer) is only a pulse blanker, but it does blank two electric fence pulses from nearby.

In all am very pleased.
KE4RWS Rating: 2012-11-19
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. It’s 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 I’ll 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 say’s a lot about any receiver with a production run that long. I don’t have any electronic gadgets to show numbers and figures of what it can do but I can say it’s the finest receiver I've ever owned. As many have already stated here, this is NOT a scanner so please don’t 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, it’s 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 you’re considering a new or used R8500 it would have to be for purposes other than regular “scanning”.

I have noted others indicating their R8500’s 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 “jumper” 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 R7000’s 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. There’s a lot of 2-meter SSB and even 70-cm SSB I wanted to monitor so this was the receiver for me. That’s 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 it’s not just me on this one.

I have tried numerous types of software with my R8500 (it came with Icom’s 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 you’ll 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 R8500’s operate rather warm or even “hot”, whereas mine remains quite cool. Upon inspection of the interior case and circuit boards I noticed a 3-pin header marked “Fan” (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 it’s 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 don’t 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 “pots” where the audio only goes down just so far before turning completely off. Personally I don’t care for some of the current digital Volume/Squelch controllers but that’s just me I guess, although some seem to be sufficient.

Although you can still purchase new R8500’s, used models can be found for a good price if you’re patient like I was and are willing to wait for just the right one and pass over those that don’t meet your criteria. Also, it should be noted the “blocked” version is every bit as good and useful as the un-blocked version (at least in the USA), as there’s 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, there’s 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 don’t 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 SDR’s), 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 you’re considering buying one and just need clarification on some things. I’d be happy to help. My email address can be found by looking up my call here or at QRZ.
N7WY Rating: 2010-04-15
Good receiver - manual needs help Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My IC-R8500 was bought out-of-box at HRO in MD about 2 years ago, and I have really enjoyed using it. I have PROG scan bands set up for WWV and CHU to check band conditions, calling frequencies for PSK and SSTV for finding activity, and for the local repeaters on 210 and 70 cm.
While the receiver is a great product, the manual was hurriedly written and can be totally misleading.
The instructions on pages 24-27 deal with scanning across a programmed range of frequencies. You set a PROG scan range (pg 27) and assign it to a PROG bank. Then you press PROG and then the bank number to start the scan. Depending on the DLY setting, the receiver will pause or stop when it finds a signal above the SQUELCH threshold. I set the 210 cm interval to 2.5 KHz, and the 70 cm interval to 25 KHz.

The receiver has the ability to scan and record active frequencies within the range of a PROG bank. The instructions on pg 24 of the manual are incorrect. Here is how to do it correctly. Start a scan in the desired PROG bank by pressing PROG and then a number key indicating which BANK. Then press AUTO and decide using the tuning knob whether to CLRSTART or START without clearing the AUTO bank that holds the results. You can actually accumulate frequencies from more than one PROG bank if you use START, but don't use CLRSTART or your prior results will be gone!

After you decide whether to clear the AUTO bank or not, the book (pg 24) says press AUTO to start the scan, but this is not correct. You need to press PROG and then AUTO. While the scan is running, the PROG bank number follows AUTO on the display like AUTO3 for PROG bank 3. I usually use VSC to suppress capturing frequencies without voice modulation. As it AUTO scans, the number of hits increases in the lower right corner of the display. You can then press AUTO to stop the scan. At that point, you need to use the BANK up/down switches to expose the AUTO bank. There appears to be only one of them, not one for each PROG bank. With the bank set to AUTO, press PROG to scan the frequencies that were AUTOmatically captured. I have not tried cutting and pasting from AUTO bank to a numbered or named bank, yet.
When I was switching banks, I also found SKIP and FREE banks, but have no idea what they do unless SKIP is where skipped frequencies from all other banks are kept. However, I suspect that when you switch to another PROG bank, the SKIP bank may be loaded from that other bank dynamically for use by the IC-R8500 controller.

I suspect the power users out there will be suggesting I hook up the PC and a piece of control software instead of using the built-in features.
KI4WCA Rating: 2009-01-25
Outstanding Time Owned: more than 12 months.
A fantastic receiver.It is excellent on HF, contrary to some claims.It does lack a few features like notch but do not let that deter you.The APF(audio peak filter)Is wonderful for cw and voice audio recovery.VHF and above is excellent as well.The HF sensitivity is amazing, so small antennas work without an outboard preamp.A WHOLE LOT of capability in a small space, and build quality is excellent.Worth every penny.I favor it over my R8A for weak utility work on HF.A lot.I use mine with sennheiser phones, which really highlight the excellent audio.
In my opinion, a highly underrated radio.I will never get rid of mine, which I purchased new.I also have the video/stereo demodulator unit for it, as well as the 500hz cw filter.
73383 Rating: 2007-12-23
Great Receiver Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
The R-8500 is a great receiver and worth the relatively high price. I've used it primarily to scan Aviation VHF (118-137 MHz) and UHF (225-400 MHz) bands. I have it connected to a Diamond D130NJ discone antenna. I haven't used the receiver that much at HF.

The setup and programming takes a little getting used to but it has great versatility. I like the scan stop and resume flexibility in this receiver and wish the R75 had it.

I use Ham Radio Deluxe and Icom's RS-8500 software with this receiver. The RS-8500 software has some basic flaws and does not provide full control of the receiver. HRD can be customized.

The R-8500 puts out some heat while running and I had to install a small fan in the cabinet to keep it cool. Icom doesn't recommend installing the radio in a sealed cabinet for this reason.
KD8BNB Rating: 2007-04-11
Nice receiver Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I Found a nice used unit at AES and combined it with an AOR SDU5600 spectrum scope and it works out very well. Audio is respectable and so far is a pleasure to operate. It was refreshing that it already had the vhf band capability and no converter was needed like in my kenwood r-5000 or the Drake r8b.
I would have liked to have bought the new Icom IC-R9500 but the price on that model was far beyond my reach. I think this combination is a cheap alternative if you want a spectrum scope without having to break the bank.

KD0ZV Rating: 2007-04-08
Great for wideband Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I was looking for a wideband receiver for VHF and UHF and bought a Yausu Vr-5000. It was basically a scanner and worked OK as ling as you did not take it off FM. It was easily overloaded from other transceivers in my shack. The manual sucked too. So I sold it and bought the Icom.

The Icom is 100x the receiver and actually does a great job on HF too. It has IF shift and a BFO adjustment that allows you fine tune things. The manual is well written and the rig is easy to operate.

So if you are looking for an "all in one" receiver, this is it. Unless you want to spend 4-5K.

This is a keeper.


AE3S Rating: 2006-01-27
Great receiver Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Picked it up used off qrz for a great price, I figured I could sell it and make a buck if I didn't like it. Hooked it up next to my R75. Long story short, sold the R75.