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Would like to get into digital HF modes with IC-706

Discussion in 'Working Different Modes' started by KA2ABC, Jan 13, 2015.

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  1. KA2ABC

    KA2ABC QRZ Member

    Hi everyone;
    I have an Icom-706 (the original one, not the MkII/pro). I would like to get into some digital modes. PSK-31 seems interesting and would like to try RTTY as well. Firstly interested in keyboard-to-keyboard, would like to investigate store-and-forward packet stuff later.

    My problem is I have no idea where to start. It seems there's several ways to interface to the '706 and I don't know the pros and cons of each. There seems to be a direct digital RTTY input on this radio. Wouldn't this be the easiest/best cleanest method (for RTTY at least)? Does it expect serial input?

    I think I understand that the CI-V control allows you to change things like frequency and mode from the computer. Since I have the radio right in front of me, I don't think I need that. However, if it could be used to automatically set functions in the radio (for example, if a program relies on VOX operation instead of keying the PTT, or if it needs to change to a narrow filter, it would be nice if that happened automatically over the interface).

    I have seen some soundcard based software, but it seems there are several around that have stopped support and may be for anything from Windows 95 to Windows 8. I've seen USB interfaces but am not sure how to connect them to the radio or what software to use with them. Some older designs use a COM port which newer computers don't have (though there are USB<->Serial adapters). I just stumbled upon two other interfaces, the Signalink which uses USB and Wolphi-Link which interfaces with a TRRS plug to an Android device.

    It's not too expensive and runs on a small tablet, which seems perfect, but unfortunately it doesn't work with the first gen Nexus 7 (which is what I have).

    Interfacing with a tablet or phone seems like a good idea because they are small and light and don't require messing with old technology like a serial port. It would lend itself well to portable operation.

    I'm good at soldering and kit-building but would prefer buying something cheap and off-the-shelf if possible. If there's a compelling benefit to a kit or DIY circuit, I'd check it out.

    I guess what I am saying is there are too many choices and I have no idea in which direction to go. Is there a webpage that compares and contrasts the various options?
  2. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree there are too many choices. I used to have a basic IC-706, and I used it with a RigBlaster. I think the RigBlaster Plug n' Play is a good choice, though some of the interfaces with built in USB souncards make life easier. You can get the proper plug to mate with the accessory connection on the 706 from RigBlaster.

    I use the FLDIGI software. It does almost everything, it's free, and it's widely used as part of the NBEMS protocol suite - a flock of add-on programs that integrate with FLDIGI for sending
    messages and files.

    I was going to look to see where you are located, but a QRZ search and FCC search on your callsign came up empty.
  3. N0IU

    N0IU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Bootlegging what appears to be a callsign here is one thing, but I hope you are not using that callsign on the air.
  4. KA2ABC

    KA2ABC QRZ Member

    I'm in the Northeast; have a valid General class license, but due to sensitive employers (TLAs) have to maintain a low profile online.
  5. VE3PP

    VE3PP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Some suggestions, I have been operating digital modes for years. Now I have never used an Icom 706MKII but I have used an Icom 7000 and other radios.

    My suggestion would be to buy a SignaLink USB. Built in sound card, plug and play when it comes to digital operation.

    For rig control, or CAT you should invest in a good CAT cable and RT Systems makes good CAT Cables and stands behind them. ZLP Electronics in the UK also makes good cables, I bought my first CAT cable from him years ago.

    Fldigi is great software, but I prefer Ham Radio Deluxe, I have been using that software from day one and I am comfortable using it. Not saying it is the best, but it is what I am used to operating. The free version is still available, search for it. I like the rig control, log book and the digital software. For JT65 I am using an older version, JT65-HF 1.0.8

    If you plan on operating JT65 you need to download some software to keep the computer clock synced, very important with JT65. Dimension 4 is free and will work just fine for that.

    One important note when operating digital modes with that 706. It will heat up quickly due to the small body and lack of air flow. So always run low power (which you should when operating PSK31, JT65 etc). If you need more power for RTTY and sometimes for Olivia then you can run short bursts of text but do not have the radio keyed down for long periods of time. Digital modes are 100 percent duty cycle (other than HELL which is like CW) and that is hard on the finals and produces heat.

    I used to run a small 12 VDC fan behind my Icom 7000 when operating Olivia because even with low power output the radio got warm. So the extra airflow over the radio helped.

    Good Luck, if you have any questions feel free to contact me, my email is listed under my call sign.
    Rick VE3FMC
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  6. KA2ABC

    KA2ABC QRZ Member

    RigBlaster and Signalink both appear to be $119, except that SignaLink comes with the 13-pin cable.

    Aside from that very simple comparison, is there anything else I should consider?

    Thank you!
  7. N0IU

    N0IU Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you are referring to the RigBlaster Plug & Play, that relies on the sound card in your computer whereas the SingaLink has its own self-contained sound card.
  8. VE3PP

    VE3PP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Scott is right, and why tie up the sound card in the CPU when you can use the one in the SignaLink USB? As I said earlier my SignaLink USB's have been running flawlessly for many years. And I never turn them off, except when the computer is shut off, which is rare. So powered up for many years straight with not issues.
  9. KA2ABC

    KA2ABC QRZ Member

    Tigertronics doesn't sell the radio control cables, do they? Just the audio interface?
  10. N3AWS

    N3AWS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I concur with the Plug-n-Play. I had an original 706 but eventually sold it and did not use it on digital modes. I bought a 706 MKIIG when they first came out and use it with the P-n-P as well as my 756 Pro II and Yaesu FT-817. It makes a nice small setup especially with the 817 and my Acer Aspire One.

    73 and have fun!

    Jim N3AWS
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