There comes a time when having a few different scanners set up at home to give good coverage of the RF spectrum gets a little annoying and its time to invest in an all in one package like the Icom IC R8500 base scanner but what are you really getting for your hard earned cash.
Starting with those all important basics the IC R8500 has an all mode frequency coverage from 100 KHz to 2GHz with some gaps depending on which country model you have. Buy a UK version and you’ll get the complete range but if you’re in the U.S.A there are a few small gaps in the between 800 – 900MHz to block out the cell phone frequencies. Because of laws in the U.S.A its illegal to supply receiving equipment that can listen in on the cellular phone band.
The situation is a little better than on older models which tended to block out large sections around 800 MHz as Icom have been more precise by only denying access to the prohibited frequencies.
There may be a way of change the way the 8500 blocks this portion of the band but would you really want to?. Investing in a radio with these capabilities then opening it up for modification making it illegal and in danger of possible confiscation does seem a little risky.
IC R8500 Antenna Connections
Getting the most out of ultra wide band receivers are a pain if separate antennas are needed to get good reception across their entire frequency range. This is the one problem when using a handheld at home where even a long wire has to be terminated in a BNC to give a good connection.
Base stations are much better with the idea that they can be set up properly once with all antennas connections needed. The 8500 has 3 antenna inputs with connections for a wide band antenna, long wire and HF vertical or beam antenna meaning once the radio is installed changing leads should only happen if there is a antenna swap out.
Optional Computer Control
Connecting the IC R8500 up to a PC is done via a RS232 socket with a couple of paid and free software packages available.
The free option is called TK8500 written by Bob Parnass, its open source and can be tailored to meet your needs if you have the necessary programing skills.
Icom do produce their own software but we couldn’t find it for sale and being a bit dated its only guaranteed to work on windows 95/98 which could be a drawback unless you have a computer dedicated to running radio software. Most programs that are 98 compatible can be run on XP with a little bit of fiddling and if your primary reason for buying the radio is working it from a PC it might be worth getting hold of any software first to make sure it works properly.
Describing the 8500 as a scanner does make it more identifiable and even though it provides powerful scanning functions they are not as intuitive as your typical handheld scanner. With every radio upgrade comes new controls and a small learning period when you and your new toy make friends with the 8500 being no different.
We like to read all the information possible on a new radio before committing to buy and even though they can sometimes be like swimming through treacle (especially without the radio in front of you) manuals can give a good indication of what a radio is actually capable of. A full English PDF manual for the Icom IC 8500 Communications receiver can be found on Icoms UK website here