Icom IC-703Comments on the Icom IC-703

A Review of the QRP HF Transceiver

The IC-703 was manufactured by Icom from 2003 to 2010. It is a compact transceiver for high-frequency (shortwave) amateur radio with up to 10 W output power. While the first generation had some severe flaws like a temperature-sensitive driver bias, these are mostly fixed in the rigs sold now. The picture on the right shows the IC-703 together with an MP-1 antenna from Superantennas (now sold as HF-P1 e.g. by Difona).


  1. In spite of its many features, the transceiver has a logical and simple user interface.
  2. Depending on the supply voltage, the operation mode can be switched automatically between low-current drain (lights off, 5 W HF, 320 mA during reception) and normal operation with 10 watts e.g. using a mains supply or a car battery.
  3. An automatic tuner (ATU) is built in and works even with a relatively bad SWR of 3:1 and more.
  4. You can display an SWR graph for a whole band which is ideal for tuning mobile and portable antennas with coils.
  5. A speech compressor is built in, too. It significantly enhances the readability of the transmitted QRP SSB signal as many reports have shown.
  6. The built-in band-scope function shows a graph with the spectrum of up to a few hundred kHz.
  7. The receiver is very sensitive on all bands. Digital modes like PSK31 or RTTY are perfectly supported.
  8. A DSP is used as a notch filter and also is able to reduce background noise significantly.
  9. The dial knob has an acceleration function: Rotating it quickly increases the frequency step width.
  10. The transceiver is a bit larger than the 5-W competitor FT-817 from Yaesu but still quite compact.


  1. There is no battery space in the rig, though it is no problem operating it with a rechargeable 7-Ah gel battery for 10 hours or more. Instead, a supply cable hangs out loosely from the transceiver.
  2. The rear speaker jack causes severe distortion of the audio. The reason is probably a magnetic saturation in the RF choke between the outer jack contact and the chassis ground (L7373) - obviously a design flaw. The front jack (which can be switched between monaural speaker and stereo headphone operation using the switch on the rear of the display panel) does not have this problem.
  3. The selectivity of the standard SSB filter is far from perfect and not comparable e.g. with a TS-480 when strong stations are on adjacent frequencies. Even signals on the unwanted sideband can be heard sometimes. It is only a workaround to turn the passband tuning about one marker in the direction of a higher-pitched audio.
  4. The SSB demodulator is not quite linear and causes a slight distortion of received signals as long as the RF gain is not decreased manually.
  5. The LEDs for preamplifier and tuner are nearly unreadable in a sunlit environment; LCD symbols would have done a better job.


The IC-703 is primarily designed for portable use and works very well for this purpose. Intermodulation issues reported earlier are mostly history after most broadcast stations disappeared in the 7100 to 7200 kHz range since March 2009. But even with an additional power amplifier (PA) it cannot compete with a modern station transceiver, especially due to its limited selectivity. It is also unclear why Icom was unable to fix the distortion problem with the rear speaker jack for so many years.

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