The ICOM IC-728 HF Transceiver
Top-of-the-line performance in an inexpensive package.
When I first had the chance to operate a new IC-728, 1 looked at it as an inexpensive and plain radio without many of the bells and whistles found on top-of-the-line transceivers. However, after a few days of use ] was so impressed by its ease of operation and the high quality of the receiver that I felt that this affordable transceiver could definitely hold its own when compared with top-of-the-line radios.
The IC-728 has all the features I feel are necessary to effectively operate on today's busy bands: pass-band tuning; a very effective noise blanker; a switchabie receiver preamp; a 20 dB receive attenuator; variable AGC; RIT; 10 Hz readout; an RF power level control; a speech compressor; and a microprocessor that is smart enough to handle memory, frequency, mode, and other operations property.
There is no digital keypad, built-in keyer, individual controls for noise blanker widtht audio tone, or odd configurations of RIT on the IC-728. However, what few controls it does have are logically laid out on the front panel.
Fortunately, ICOM wasted no money on a manual notch filter for the IC-728. After all, everyone knows that I say, "Get an automatic notch filter—it'll be the best money you ever spent for an accessory!"
The manual, although small in size, contains the necessary information required for proper operation and use of all features of the IC-728. Additionally, instructions are given for many maintenance operations and adjustments. An excellent owner/operator troubleshooting chart is part of the manual. One flaw of the manual is the sometimes lack of jn-depth explanations for control settings.
The tuning knob has a good feel and serves the dual purpose of frequency change and band change. The rate of tuning can be speeded up by pushing a switch and the dial weight can be changed by adjusting a tension screw on the front panel. A 10 Hz readout is selectable.
The VFO operation is typical of most current solid-state rigs. A and B can be selected, A can be equal to B, and split operations are possible. Memory and VFO information are interchangeable. When you QSY from one band to another, the mode and frequency last used will be stored/recalled for the band left/chosen.
Modes (SSB/CW/AM/FM) are selected by push-button; however, it should be noted that to operate AM transmit and any FM, the IC-728 requires installation of an optional UI-7.
The PBT (pass-band tuning) works as expected; this feature is required on today's crowded bands.
There are 26 memory channels selectable by UP and DOWN front panel switches and various SCAN configurations can be set up. Mode selections are included in the memories.
The standard (included) microphone has U P and DOWN switches for lazy-man tuning. The condenser element and circuit are typical.
Semi-break-in CW with adjustable hold is standard; CW fifter(s) are not. Optional plugin filters of 250 or 500 Hz bandwidths are available
The RF output power level is fully adjustable from 10 watts to 100 watts (CW and SSB). The meter displays RF relative output and received signal strength (S-meter).
LEDs indicate XMIT and RX (when the squelch is opened). The squelch can be used in all modes. The XMIT LED doubles as an ALC indicator by changing brightness.
The rear panel of the IC-728 has a number of accessory sockets that are not generally found on other comparable XCVRs. Outputs/inputs include: switched 13.8 VDC, audio (fixed level), squelch, tuner information, AFSK, ALC, amplifier switching, etc.
Computerized operation is afforded through an optional CT-17 Cl-V Level Converter with speeds to 9600 baud.
How It Performs
The IC-728's receiver is triple conversion and uses direct digital synthesis. It is both sensitive and quiet—very quieti ICOM has really perfected DDS (direct digital synthesis).
I was not prepared for the quality of the receiver the IC-728 provides. In performance it is comparable to my trusted Ten-Tec Corsair II and outperforms my IC-751 A hands-down, I don't make this statement lightly, as both have been standards to which all others have been compared.
Selectivity and sensitivity both rate very high. Weak signals on 10 meters were copyabte, and the very crowded 75 meter band at night was easily sorted out. Using the PBT made signal sorting very easy.
Note: This evaluation was completed during the summer months when ORN is very prevalent. I found that the IC-728 handles high levels of static very well.
Receive audio was very good, even when using the internal speaker. It improved, however, when I sent the audio to a large external speaker (as would that of nearly any receiver).
Comments about the XMIT audio quality were not as positive as those about receiver performance. Audio was described as weak and without authority. I corrected this by changing from the standard microphone to the SM-8 (ICOM) and making tone adjustments to it. I was then able to duplicate my typical IC-751 A or Corsair II signal, and comments were then very favorable.
A keypad, such as the one optionally available for the 1C-751A, would be a good addition. I rarely use memory features, but I do enjoy the ease of keypad frequency entry. Perhaps a third party will develop a workable solution to this deficiency.
The display is very readable and the controls are well laid out for ease of operation. The switches and controls are large enough to be easily usable.
The size of the IC-728 is such that it will easily fit in most mobile situations. An automatic antenna tuner would be perfect for this operation.
For the evaluation I used an Astron 35-amp power supply, as the IC-728 does not have a built-in AC power supply. The antennas I used included the Cushcraft R5, a two-band dipole, and a 160 meter Carolina Windom.
The ICOM IC-728 performs top-of-the-line and is operationally comparable to the high-priced rigs, but the price is way-down-low.
I recommend the IC-728 and feel confident the investment will be returned with many years of reliable enjoyment.
ICOM foresaw the recent demand for 6 meter transceivers by adding coverage from 50 to 54 MHz to the IC-728 and calling ft an IC-729.
Six meter power output is 10 watts on SSB/CW/FM and 4 watts on AM. A tone encoder is included. The 729 weighs about 10.8 lbs, and costs about S300 dollars more than the IC-728. - 1992 Bill Clarke WA4BLC - 73 Amateur Radio Today
AM/FM Unit (UI-7) is required for AM transmit and FM operation in the 10 meter band.
ICOM offers an automatic antenna tuner (AT-160) which attaches to the side of the IC-728. It receives its operating power from the 728.
For mobile operation the AH-3 HF Automatic Antenna Tuner is available. This particular tuner is designed for remote mounting
(ie: in the trunk).
An automatic antenna selector (EX-627) is also offered that switches antennas based upon the frequency of operation. Manual over-ride is included.
Many other options are available (see your local dealer or send to ICOM for more information). Availability
The ICOM IC-728 is available from most amateur radio sales outlets. The suggested retail price is $1,099 although the street price will probably be less.