Before we get into this, I gotta lend a big thank you to Russ. Russ is a great guy who uses our Ham Radio Programming Services. He purchased an Icom IC-2730A and had it shipped to us to get it all programmed! Admittedly, we may have held on to it for an extra day in order to get some testing on it (with Russ’s permission, of course!). Read through the below to hear about what we thought for an off road ham radio!
Our Review of the Icom IC-2730A Mobile Ham Radio
Our first impressions of the Icom IC-2730A were fantastic. It has a sleek design. An easy to read display. A very solid feel. And is easy to hook up, put together, and install. If you like just seeing numbers and dB ratings, skip to the bottom of the post and check out all the nerdy stuff!
The face plate itself is detachable. This means you can mount the face plate/control head on your dash (or from your ceiling, or any other way of mounting your face plates). You can then mount the radio itself anywhere you want in your vehicle. We mount our radio under the passenger seat, and the face plate on the dashboard.
The nice thing about this radio compared to other detachable face plate radios, is that the microphone plugs straight into the face plate. A lot of other radios have the microphone plug straight into the radio itself, which means you end up having to run a really long microphone cable from wherever you mount your radio, to your driver seat.
The most noticeable feature of this radio, is its clean UI (user interface). Everything you will need to know for off roading purposes (mainly, what frequency you are on, or what memory channel you are on, and which frequency is receiving a signal) is there in big, bold, easy to read while shaking around, letters. It only takes one quick glimpse to know what the radio is doing. The high contrast light blue background with bold black letters and numbers helps with this endeavor tremendously.
The face plate itself is average sized for a mobile ham radio face plate. No bigger than our favorite TYT TH7800. Which means it can squeeze into most empty dash areas.
Perhaps the thing that we liked best about the IC2730A, is that it comes with everything an off roader would want for trail and emergency communications, but in a simple to use package. The learning curve is quite easy and quick. The usage menus are fairly intuitive (until you get into Icom’s famed nested menus for the more intricate details) to maneuver through. The IC2730 is not a feature rich radio by any means, but it is certainly clean and classy.
One of the things that surprised us, was the receive sensitivity. We had it hooked up to a little ¼ wavelength antenna that was leaned up on our window sill. It was inside a condo area, on the bottom floor, with 2-3 story condos surrounding the window. We were still able to receive almost every single signal that our antenna on the roof 30 ft up was picking up with our FT5200. In comparison, the receive sensitivity is noticeably better than our TYT TH7800.
The internal speaker is quite loud. This surprised us, as you generally need to hook up external speakers to be able to hear mobile ham radios while driving at all. If you are mounting the radio anywhere in the front area of the cab, you should be fine on sound. If you mount it in the back, under a seat, then you will want an external speaker.
Which brings us to one of the tricky aspects of the radio. The radio itself has 2 internal speakers so that you can have full duplex and listen to 2 different frequencies at the same time. With some other radios, like the Kenwood TMV-71A, the radio not send the incoming sound from your sub frequency, if the main frequency currently has sound coming through. Which means, if you are in active conversations on 2 different frequencies, you will miss information coming in on your sub frequency, when you have an incoming signal on your main frequency.
This full duplex of listening is a great plus for the Icom 2730. It means you can actively listen to the simplex frequency that you are running the trail on with your buddies. And you can actively listen to the local repeater at the same time. We find ourselves doing this ALL THE TIME while on the trails.
Don’t get confused like we did on the external speaker ports. Icom is cleverer than we anticipated. When you have a speaker plugged into the SP1 port, the radio will send through both frequencies to the 1 speaker. When you have a speaker plugged into the SP2 port, the radio will only send the signal from the RIGHT frequency to the speaker. The LEFT frequency will stay on the internal speaker of the radio. And if you have 2 speakers plugged into the ports, it will split the audio and send the LEFT frequency to the SP1 port, and the RIGHT frequency to the SP2 port. This allows the 2730A to be setup so that you can put speakers in different locations of the vehicle so you can quickly determine what frequency is coming through the radio based on where the sound is coming from in your vehicle. Handy feature if you do a bunch of SAR or volunteer team work over radios.
Programming Software and Programming the Icom IC-2730A
The nice thing about getting an Icom Ham Radio, is that Icom includes programming software with every radio purchase. So, you know you will be able to program repeaters without having to purchase extra software. The downside, is that you have to get used to Icom’s programming nuances.
The first programming nuance is how to setup the spreadsheets. When you run the IC-2730A Programming Software, it lists the memory frequencies in sections of 100 data spots at a time. So, the first group is 0-99. The second group is 100-199. The third group is 200-299, and so on. This just means that you have to make multiple CSV files for your repeater database. No biggie. Easy enough to do. But then, each of your “channel locations” that reference the memory spot in your CSV file, need to be 0-99 no matter what group you are programming. This means that for your 200-299 group, your CSV file needs to be labeled 0-99 still. Which is fine, it just doesn’t make intuitive sense and it took us a while to figure out.
The other programming nuance that took us a while to figure out was inputting the PL Tones (CTCSS Tones) for repeaters. Most programming software, like CHIRP and RT Systems, allow you to just put in the straight numerical data for the repeater CTCSS tones into your CSV sheet. But with the Icom Programming Software, you have to add “Hz” after every tone. For instance, say a repeater’s CTCSS tone is 123.0Hz. In most software, you can just put that in the CSV cell as “123” but in the Icom Software, you have to put it in the CSV cell as “123Hz”. Once we figured this out, we used a quick =A1&”Hz” input to put in Hz through all 600 tone listings in our CSV sheets.
Icom’s Programming Software definitely has its little quirks, but what programming software doesn’t? We still prefer CHIRP, and it looks like, as of January 18th, 2017, the Icom IC-2730A has been added to CHIRP’s repertoire. You can also find the RT Systems Programming Software for the IC-2730A over on Amazon for a cool $60. If you decide to use CHIRP or Icom’s software, you will need to get the IC-2730A Programming Cable.
How to Unlock Crossband Repeat in the Icom IC-2730A
Our only REAL gripe with the IC-2730A is the crossband repeat function. For some reason, Icom refuses to advertise that their radios are capable of doing crossband repeat. Not only do they not advertise it, but they lock their radios from the factory. You then have to manually unlock them to be able to make use of the crossband repeat function.
I got to talk a little bit with one of the national sales managers at Icom, and they are mainly concerned with people abusing Icom’s radios and using them in ways that interferes with other radio services. Which is a legit excuse, and a very admirable, responsible thing to do of them. But their radios are too good to not be advertised as crossband repeat compatible.
Manually unlocking the IC 2730A is easy enough to do. You simply hold down the MAIN and MONI buttons while powering on the radio. After that, you have to battle through the nested menus, but the crossband repeat function will now show up from then on out. If you ever do a factory reset on the radio, you will need to re-enable the crossband repeat.
The Final Verdict on our Review of the IC-2730A
The bottom line for this radio, is the Icom IC-2730A an EXCELLENT mobile radio for off roaders. It has everything that 90% of off roaders would want in a radio. The ONLY thing that is missing from this radio, is APRS. But at $350, we would pick it up over comparable radios like the TYT TH7800, the Kenwood TMV-71A, and even the Yaesu FT 8800 (especially since the 8800 is now discontinued).
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