Upgrading the Icom IC-91A for D-STAR
I recently obtained an Icom IC-91A handheld and a UT-121 D-Star board. This board was relatively straight forward to put into the transceiver. I photographed the installation process and posted the images on my flickr.com pages.
So far in using this radio I have been impressed with some of its features. These include
- Good audio on receive.
- Dual watch of two frequencies.
- Easy switching between the two VFOs.
- Comments on good audio when using digital voice (DV) mode and an Icom headset.
- The 0.5 W setting works well on 440MHz for the work commute when about 5 miles or so from the D-STAR repeater. Antenna is a mag-mount on the trunk (not the best place but it allows me to drive straight into the garage).
- One button call capture for callsign and repeater settings in DV mode.
- Wideband receiver
The negatives are minor:
- Preferred some indication of the battery status (my IC-T7H gives a voltage reading at start-up).
- I prefer BNC connections and the SMA takes longer to attach to the car antenna.
I thought only having two power settings of 5W and 0.5W would be a problem (the IC-92AD has 4 steps). However, I find those two settings work well during the commute. When in the city I use the 0.5W and when closer to home and out of the city I switch to full power. The radio gets hot on full power transmit, but I put the radio in a mount in the car and so do not get a hot hand! I try and limit transmission lengths to prevent overheating problems. A hand speaker/mic will likely be the next acquisition.
Why not the IC-92AD? I do not really need the submersible capability (and did not want to pay for that). As well I would need to pay $30, or so, for an adapter to connect my headset (which I was told was not yet available). Again, the adapter is needed because of the waterproof speaker/mic connector. So the IC-91AD seemed the logical choice.
It has been enjoyable talking to Dale, VE3XZT, in Ottawa and Andrew, VE6EN, in Calgary on 70cm on D-STAR as we commute to our respective work places in the morning. The repeater VA3ODG gateway works very well and Andrew sounds like he could be in Ottawa.