No more updates to this Post. Interesting developments in the marketplace. The prices on used IC-7600 radios are crashing, apparently as a result of the introduction of the IC-7300 and the IC-7610. I still love both radios, but at these prices, it would be hard to turn down a 7600. Whichever way you go, enjoy the Radios.
Updates are at the bottom of this Post
Here is an email that I sent on the FTDX-3000 reflector. It was in response to questions about the Yeasu FTDX-3000 vs. the ICOM IC-7600. I happen to have both radios and here are my thoughts on a comparison between them. I did not even mention the DSP, as they both do a good job there, but I am still evaluating that on the FTDX-3000. Initial look at its DSP functions have left me very impressed. One other thing I forgot to mention in the email is QSK mode. The FTDX-3000 has a relay you hear on QSK keying. That just bugs me, and I often use Semi-break-in because of that. The IC-7600 has silent QSK switching, which I prefer. I think both rigs have very good receivers. The FTDX-3000 receiver is very quiet and I prefer listening to it’s low noise level. But the bottom-line, you can’t go wrong with either of these. Here are my comparisons:
USB interface, especially for digital modes – FTDX-3000 has better integration. You can have true FSK TX/RX with only the USB cable. Yaesu has done a great job here. The USB driver creates 2 ports on the PC; one for normal computer control (CAT) and the other for PTT or CW/FSK keying.
Display – IC-7600 is a significantly bigger and I would say better (sharper), but not by much. The band scope display on the IC-7600 is better but Yaesu seems to be making improvements on the FTDX-3K display. Recent firmware upgrades have made the display much more usable. Recent upgrades to the IC-7600 have added a waterfall display with the ability to select a signal using the mouse – very nice. I am behind on updates of the FTDX-3000, so I will try to comment on the latest, once I get it installed.
IC-7600 has the “dual-watch” receiver function. That allows you to listen to two freqs on the same Band at once. I hardly ever use that feature as I prefer a Single Operator Two Radio (SO2R) station setup. My “second receiver” is my second radio. But this is a useful feature when working stations that are running Split.
Receivers – I can not recommend one over the other in my limited A/B comparisons. Both seem sensitive. The FTDX-3000 receiver just seems to be very quiet, maybe due to a lower noise floor and/or roofing filter differences. The 300 Hz roofing filter in the FTDX-3000 is great for CW, and is especially welcome in crowded-bands typical of CW contests.
External IF output – only available on the FTDX-3000. Great foresight by YAESU. If you really want a big, fancy spectral display, you can’t beat that. Many are using an external SDR to generate a nice PAN display. I plan to do that. A good external display is going to be better than any internal display, in my opinion.
Firmware updates – I used to complain about ICOM not doing a firmware upgrade for the IC-7600 in 3 years. But they eventually provided a firmware upgrade with some very nice features. Kudos to ICOM for supporting their equipment well after the sale. We had an ongoing debate on the IC-7600 reflector, where people claimed that no updates were possible because all the memory was full. Sorry, but I am just not buying that. This just does not happen with a new commercial design. Yeasu seems to be more proactive about upgrades in general, but the FTDX-3000 is also a newer radio than the IC-7600.
External receive accessories – IC7600 has the ability to switch in a receive filter/preamp external to the unit. I have not used that yet, but I really like the feature. Both radios give you the ability to use a separate Receive-only antenna.
Manuals – The manuals in both radios cover everything, but I think the ICOM manual does a better job of explaining some features. Of course that is why we have this Reflector – great help can be found here.
Rig Transmit Tuning – IC-7600 is better here, but this is something that could be improved on the FTDX-3000. The IC-7600 has the ability to do a “normal” Tune cycle where the power is reduced and the Mode changes to CW temporarily. There is also a feature that automatically retunes the antenna tuner if the SWR increases to a certain point. This is a wonderful feature that I now always keep enabled, especially when using the Rig remotely. The FTDX-3000 has a rear connector that can be used for a Tuning function. It also switches to CW and transmits a tuning tone. Just takes one connector and a momentary switch.
Mode selection – you will see a lot of complaining that the FTDX-3000 does not have a button for each Mode. I agree that this is a bit annoying, but hardly a deal breaker. The IC-7600 does have individual Mode buttons.
Menus – You just can’t get away from these long menus that are used for configuring radios. The IC-7600 has a very intuitive set of menus. The set of buttons below, and alongside the display make selection of many features very easy. The FTDX-3000 has a nice set of screen-buttons that are used to select common receive functions. There is also a very long list of numbered menu items on the FTDX-3000. This is a bit cumbersome, but I set most of these and do not change them. It can get a bit complicated when moving between various Digital modes. I have now learned that you can quickly scroll through menu choices on the FTDX-3000 using the VFO-B knob. That makes this a non-problem for me.
Price – last time I looked, there was still a pretty big difference here, in favor of the FTDX-3000. You can decide about the value comparison. ICOM is now moving to the upgraded IC-7610 version. No doubt this will also be a great radio. There have been some big price discounts recently on the FTDX-3000 (at least in the USA).
Summary – If you are agonizing over which one to get, just make a move. You won’t regret it. These are both first-class radios. They both also have good support online. I have not yet had a single problem with either of these radios. They typically only get used on weekends, but they do serve Contest duty. I have also taken the FTDX-3000 mobile twice for he VA QSO Party, I just strapped it onto a storage bin, and it did just fine.
August 2016 Update
I am still enjoying both of these radios. Most of my operating continues to be on CW and most of that recently has been in contests. In that arena, both radios do a fine job. The Band scope and display on the 7600 is much better – bigger, sharper, and the Band scope is much better that that on my FTDX-3000. ICOM has done a great job with recent updates to the spectrum display. The 3000 Band scope is just too small. I know you can now make it full-screen, but then you lose everything else. the other issue with the ‘scope is that the scaling seems to be off. Even the strongest signals seem to use only about 25% of the vertical scale.
BUT – the receiver on the FTDX-3000 just sounds great to me. The noise level is much lower (to my ear, please don’t tell me about some lab test…). And the filtering sounds very clean. Varying it down to 200 Hz and lower, it is still crisp and clear. I can not complain about the receiver in the 7600, which also does a great job helping me dig out the signals. but I must admit, when I am using both radios and I have a choice, especially in the long grueling hours of a CW contest, I prefer to listen to the FTDX-3000.
Antenna Tuner Interface – Here is an area where the 7600 clearly wins. The IC-7600 has done a great job of making it easy for me to use an External Antenna tuner. The reason I wanted to do that is that internal tuners (other than Elecraft) only work over a small range of VSWR mismatch, typically 3:1. There is a very popular Tuner Interface Standard, the AH-4 antenna interface, which provides the power and signal connectors needed for connecting compliant Tuners. The IC-7600 has this interface (so does my IC-7000 in my vehicle). When you connect an AH-4 interface-compiant Tuner, you can just press the TUNE button in the Rig or the Tuner, and it automatically Tunes to match the antenna. Common tuners including some by LDG and Elecraft support this standard. There are no provisions for a simple external Antenna Tuner connection on the FTDX-3000. There IS a connector that can be used to add a switch for a TUNE signal. Someday I may get around to that (I finally did add this switch).
Spectrum Panadapter Display – Continued use of these Radios in contests underscores how the IC-7600 Spectrum Display is better than that on the FTDX-3000. It is really just the better display (size and resolution) that makes it better. It is more like a mini-spectrum-analyzer than the small display on the FTDX-3000. The MENU settings for tailoring the display are also better on the IC-7600, especially for setting the upper and lower Band edges for the display, which is done using the Main tuning knob. Still, the display on the FTDX-3000 serves the basic purpose of finding an open spot, a pileup, or a station on a nearly-empty Band. I use it all the time in Contests.
Guess the IC-7600 is now OBE as far as a new purchase goes. If the resale prices start dropping, this could become one of the best-ever used Rigs available. The FTDX-3000 is still a great buy. Also, there is the entire line of FTDX radios, so you can find a great radio that fits your budget and station needs.