Icom’s IC-9700 has been favorably received by consumers, except for the half-baked 10 MHz “Reference” locking scheme. 

It was thoughtful of Icom to provide an SMA jack on the rear panel for an external 10 MHz “reference” source, but this will only periodically re-calibrate it’s internal timing against the external 10 MHz source.

As this is not a proper continuous phase-lock system, the internal 49.152 MHz TCXO reference is still subject to drift, especially when the internal fan cycles on and off.

This design “feature” has created an opportunity for after-market solutions, read as: modifications.

An early modification allowed the fan to run continuously (at reduced speed) to help reduce the sudden change in temperature with airflow changes.

We now see GPS-locked solutions from various suppliers, such as MiniKits and Leo Bodnar.

In Australia, a legitimate (not a grey import) IC-9700 has a generous five year warranty, so nobody in their right mind would want to risk voiding that.

One of the modification manufacturers, MiniKits, claims;

The use of this product [GPS-9700] does require removal of the Icom IC-9700 bottom cover and replacement of a cable and soldering of the small coupler PC board. This should not affect Icom warrantee as No modifications are required to the Transceiver that could damage it.

 

Differing opinions have been made on Facebook, so these are murky waters.

In an attempt to gain some clarity I contacted Icom Australia’s service division, the full transcript below.

 

From: Adam Maurer
Sent: Wednesday, 13 November 2019 1:58 PM
To: ICOM_Service <service@icom.net.au>
Subject: IC-9700 modification and warranty clarification required

Hello

As you may be aware, the IC-9700 does not use the 10 MHz “reference” SMA input on the rear panel to phase-lock it’s internal 49.152 MHz TCXO.

Rather, the 10 MHz “ref” input is used periodically to re-calibrate the IC-9700’s internal 49.152 MHz TCXO.

As this is not a proper continuous phase-lock system, drift becomes a problem, notably when operating on narrow bandwidth digital modes on the 1296 MHz band, especially when the internal fan cycles on & off, and the fan’s airflow affects the stability of the internal 49.152 MHz TCXO.

To get around this design flaw we are seeing after market products become available to minimise/eliminate frequency drift.

One these is the “Minikits (based in Adelaide) GPS-9700”

The manufacturer of this product claims;

“There are no modifications required to the Icom IC-9700, but a small coupler PC board with a single solder connection, and replacement SMA to IPX cable is supplied and is required to be fitted internally inside the Transceiver.”

https://www.minikits.com.au/gps9700

If you scroll down, you will see how the coupler board (which injects a GPS locked 49.152 MHz signal) is soldered to the shielded can to keep it in place.

The manufacturer, Minikits, claims;

“This should not affect Icom warrantee as No modifications are required to the Transceiver that could damage it. “

On the other Ross Keogh (proprietor, Strictly Ham) claims this modification will void the warranty.

I have attached and highlighted Ross’s comments ex Facebook.

(click on image below for full-size)

As you can appreciate, there is confusion amongst consumers in what to believe.

Given that Icom Australia would be the entity doing any future repair/warranty work on my IC-9700 (purchased from RF Solutions in Brisbane, April 2019) I am enquiring about whether if I were to fit a Minikits GPS9700 modification by myself, would this affect my 5 year warranty at all?

I believe this should be a simple yes/no answer, without any ambiguity or qualifiers attached.

I’d like to be able to share your official response regarding this modification and warranty situation so that other consumers can be properly informed.

Cheers,
Adam Maurer,
VK4GHZ

 

 

From: ICOM_Service
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2019 9:01 AM
To: Adam Maurer
Cc: ICOM_Service
Subject: RE: IC-9700 modification and warranty clarification required

Hi Adam.
Thanks for your inquiry.
I don’t mean to keep you waiting, but if you could leave this with me for the moment, we’ll have a discussion here and get back to you soon.

Regards,
Chris Pritchard
Service Team Leader
chrisp@icom.net.au

Icom (Australia) Pty Ltd
Unit 1 / 103 Garden Road,
Clayton, VIC, 3168
Phone: + 61 (3) 9549 7500
Web: www.icom-australia.com

 

From: Adam Maurer <adam.maurer@vk4ghz.com>
Sent: Monday, 18 November 2019 10:03 AM
To: ICOM_Service <service@icom.net.au>
Subject: Re: IC-9700 modification and warranty clarification required

Hi Chris

No worries.

I can appreciate the concern with the thought of having random amateur radio operators, with questionable levels of skill, tinkering around inside a piece of complex gear that is under warranty.

Another 3rd party IC-9700 external lock coupling product was released over the weekend:

http://www.leobodnar.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=352

Similar to the MiniKits solution, this injects an external GPS-locked 49.152 MHz signal to inside the IC-9700’s TCXO can, but there is no soldering required whatsoever.

Existing screw holes are utilised to clamp the injection PCB down into place.

This appears to be a low risk solution.

As a side issue, I wonder if Icom Japan intend to re-code the FPGA firmware so that the internal 49.152 MHz TCXO becomes properly phase-locked to it’s “Ref” input, rather than the current periodic re-calibration implementation.  This would eliminate the need for any 3rd party GPS-locking solutions.

The IC-9700 has been very well received by consumers, except for the poorly implemented 10 MHz “Ref” calibration scheme.

Cheers,
Adam

 

From: ICOM_Service
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 11:28 AM
To: Adam Maurer
Cc: ICOM_Service
Subject: RE: IC-9700 modification and warranty clarification required

Hi Adam

Users generally won’t void their warranty entirely due to evidence of modification. However, faulty products returned for service are assessed on a case by case basis. Any damage to a Transceiver deemed to have been caused by a User modification or third party product would not be covered under warranty. This would include any damage caused during the install process or any damage caused by the third party product itself.

Some examples would be evidence of soldering having damaged a component, or circuitry altered to allow the product to perform outside its normal specifications. Modifications like this may cause failures down the line and aren’t always immediately obvious as the cause. This would be determined during a normal warranty assessment.

Regarding the IC-9700 Reference Calibration, I do know the 1.12 or 1.13 firmware update was meant to have improved how this feature operates, however I haven’t tested it myself.

Icom is definitely aware of the feedback within the Amateur community on this particular issue. If I hear of any plans or updates, I will let you know.

The product you’ve linked looks to be an effective and safe option, however this isn’t any kind of official endorsement, just my opinion having had a quick look.

 

Regards,

Chris Pritchard
Service Team Leader
chrisp@icom.net.au

Icom (Australia) Pty Ltd
Unit 1 / 103 Garden Road,
Clayton, VIC, 3168
Phone: + 61 (3) 9549 7500
Web: www.icom-australia.com

 

The last product I linked to was the Leo Bodnar screw-in coupler board that doesn’t require a soldering iron to go anywhere near the IC9700 internals.

 

During all of this I contacted MiniKits and asked the question;

… can your coupler board be fastened down with Kapton tape etc (instead of being soldered) and still work as expected?

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Support@Mini-Kits
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 11:44 AM
To: ‘Adam Maurer’
Subject: RE: Enquiry Adam Maurer

Hi Adam…

 

Contents of email cannot be reproduced here due to this at the bottom:

 

Attention:
This e-mail message is confidential and privileged. Only the intended recipient may access or use it. Any distribution, use, dissemination, reproduction, copying of this e-mail without prior written consent is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify us immediately by return e-mail and then erase the e-mail.

 

Regards mark

Mini-Kits
P.O. Box 686
Prospect East
South Australia 5082
www.minikits.com.au

 

However, suffice to say, the MiniKits GPS-9700 coupler board was designed to soldered in place and relies on being properly grounded. They have no plans to change the design.

 

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Posted in the interests of disseminating facts.

 

Note: this article is relevant to Australia.
Your own regional Icom service center may have a different policy to the one expressed above.
It is your responsibility to check your own circumstances.