IC-705 – Part 1: D-Star

It’s been over a year since my last post. There are reasons for that, not limited to a move to another state and a global pandemic. It certainly isn’t because I’m not active in the radio hobby! In fact, moving has made me more available to the club that I belong to and their activities on the air. And being locked down has made for more time experimenting with the radio. But that hasn’t left a lot of time for blogging about radio.

Until now!

At this point, I’m pretty sure everyone in the ham radio community heard something or other about the release of ICOM’s QRP rig the IC-705. It’s full of features and has an amazing footprint for all that it does. I remember reading the data sheet and thinking, “This is the rig I want for getting out in the field.” My 7100 is great, but I have to carry a battery box that weighs quite a bit or stick close to my Jeep. The sheer weight of the rig plus the battery just doesn’t make for a nice hike. But the 705 looked like it was going to be what I wanted it to be.

I pre-ordered one way back through DX Engineering. And then, well, the world ended. There were delays. Then more delays. Finally, we heard that November would be the earliest possible ship date. So imagine my surprise when there was a box from DXE on my porch on 02-Oct! I did the Happy Nerd Dance and opened it up so I could start charging it.

I’m familiar enough with ICOM’s approach to radio operating systems that I could get myself up and on the local repeater in no time, even with my cruddy mag-mount antenna that I keep around for emergencies. Programming it is about as easy as once could expect. That said, radio manufacturers could take a few lessons from modern UI/UX designers when they name things and decide what will go where. I’ll pick those nits later.

I have a Zumspot that I use for D-STAR and DMR. I wanted to get my 705 to hit it so that I can do a demo for Jamboree On The Air in a couple of weeks. I like to keep D-STAR up and ready as HF is unpredictable, sometimes no one is on a repeater, and no kid wants to hear about radio for 15 minutes and then not talk to anyone. D-STAR solves that nicely as there are Scouts on a couple of reflectors and it’s relatively foolproof.

It took a bit of fiddling. The manual, which covers details nicely, is still not great at walking someone from point A to point B in a straight line with some typical configurations. The fact that they don’t really address Hotspots directly is a gap. We all know that they are technically repeaters, but there are some fiddly bits there that make it less than clear. I would cover it all here, but I have a feeling it’s very specific to how the individual Hotspot is set up. More on that as I gain more experience.

I spent about an hour getting it working on D-STAR. That hour was spread over 2 days. That’s more a sign of where my life is than a ding on the rig. If I’d had more time to sit and fiddle with it, it probably would have gone more smoothly.

So far, so good. Next up will be FT8 and field tests. It’s going to be an exciting few weekends as I have some time in the field coming to me.