Comments on the IC-756Pro III

by Dave Hammond, N1LQ

I owned a Pro II from 2003 until April of this year, using it almost daily. I sold it this past April anticipating that the value of the Pro II was probably at its greatest in the used market at that time and I was contemplating acquiring a Pro III sometime this summer. (A 7800 would be so nice but I just cannot justify the expense at this time.)

Last Saturday (July 9) during the IARU contest, I visited my local branch of a national dealer, and got a chance to sit in front of the Pro III during contest conditions for about 45 minutes. While my observations that follow are unscientific and not based on a strict “A” vs. “B” comparison, I do believe that any of us who are receiver fans can distinguish many receiver characteristics and performance from one unit to another without necessarily having both side by side at the same time.

Here are my initial user observations of the Pro III:

  1. The preamps are definitely quieter. Signal strengths are significantly elevated without the accompanying increase in noise floor. Pleasing to the ears. Excellent refinement. As I recall multiple pre-amps are a feature ICOM has been refining since the IC-775DSP. The Pro III versions are superior.

  2. The receiver is less susceptible to intermod in the face of strong, close-by signals especially on my favorite mode, SSB. The IARU contest was in full-force during my test drive and I found no instances when the receiver misbehaved in the presence of a nearby S9 +40db signal on 40m or 20m which were the only bands open at that time of day. (I cannot comment on the lower bands as they were not open at that time of day.) In my perception, this is a noticeable improvement over the Pro II which did have a tendency to desensitize in the presence of some close-by rock-crushing signals. Is this the result of the roofing filter change and or the re-work of the bandpass filters in the front end? Whatever, it is marginally but noticeably improved and welcomed. (I do wish that ICOM had provided for a 6 KHz roofing filter option. Once again ‘price point’ issues probably came into play in the Pro III feature set design.)

  3. The LCD display is even better than the Pro II. There is much more contrast in the LCD and a bit brighter colors. The showroom was very bright and the screen on the Pro III simply looked elegant. It did not wash out in bright light. IMO it approaches the color and clarity of the 7800 screen which to me is the ultimate display. (Too bad ICOM did not provide and external display option for the Pro III.)

  4. The mini-split screen feature is very nice. There’s lots of info without having to engage multiple keystrokes to change back and forth as with the Pro II.

  5. If money were no object (I still have one kid in college!) then a 7800 would be my choice. But in truth the Pro III is probably more radio than I will ever need. Yes, the 7800 and the Orion too will probably yield better if not significantly better close-in IMD numbers - but that one measurement alone is not, in my opinion, the basis for making a rig purchase decision for most of us. The design, engineering and quality of ICOM products right now yield some truly elegant transceivers for us to enjoy. My only question is: what will ICOM do to replace the Pro III? An SDR? Or a single receiver version of the 7800? Now that is something that I would be very interested in seeing!

Additional comments (September 2005):

I made another trip to the dealer yesterday specifically to sit in front of the Pro II once again. This time, the WAE DX Contest (SSB) was in full force and would hopefully give me a better opportunity to see how the Pro III fares under some tougher SSB conditions.

I was very impressed! With my Pro II, the front end was always susceptible to desensing and intermod with strong SSB signals adjacent to weaker ones under a contest situations. This behavior was one of my leading reasons to sell the Pro II last spring.

Yesterday on 20m SSB, there were plenty of strong stateside and European SSB signals in the contest and loads of opportunity for bad receiver front-end characteristics to be revealed. And to my pleasant surprise the Pro II handled all of this with grace and ease. There was not one case of a close-in signal that created noticeable desense or intermod and in only a few cases was I unable to rid the offending signal by either employing the PBT or narrowing the digital filter. Very impressive.

I also noticed once again (as I mentioned before) that the preamps are far more refined and quiet compared to those of the Pro II.

In talking with a senior salesman at the store, he mentioned that the store manager had run an 'A vs.B' comparison of the Pro II and Pro III during the CQ WW SSB Test last fall and noticed the same thing. Apparently ICOM has introduced significant changes to the front end on the Pro III. He also said that he told ICOM they have mis-marketed the Pro III by not emphasizing these changes enough and by making it look identical to the Pro II. It should have been re-cased or something else to set it apart.

So others have noticed the same improvements independently of you and me.

On CW I tried to get the digital filters to demonstrate that famous 'cellophane sound or crinkling sound' effect that many have commented on with the very narrow filter widths (50 Hz or 100 Hz) with earlier versions. I could not get it to appear. In fact the difference between the soft and sharp filter effects is now very minor. Remember that ICOM introduced these filter settings to mitigate this 'digital sound' principally on CW. So ICOM has apparently done some fine tuning to the digital processing involved with the filter bandwidths generation. The results are noticeable to my ears anyway. CW is much more pleasing to copy on the Pro III.

So I am once again very, very impressed. I'm hoping to see a Pro III here soon.

These were some follow-up comments on a very productive session at the "candy store" yesterday. It's quite a radio. Now if only signal conditions would improve maybe I would have someone to have a QSO with!

My very own Pro III (May 2006):

The Pro III arrived yesterday evening, and I got it up and running last night. So far so good as I burned it in last night for about 5 hours. More tonight.

It's a keeper. I notice considerable improvement in the receiver and overall 'manners' of the rig over the Pro II. A very pleasant and refined radio to sit in front of. And the display seems a bit brighter, and with more vivid and saturated color. A real looker.

All in all, I am glad I made this choice.

Copyright © 2005 D. Hammond N1LQ. All rights reserved. Last updated: 05/25/07