For the past couple of years the company I work for has shutdown the week of July 4th. They've always "encouraged" that employees take vacation during this stretch, but didn't require it until recently. I don't really enjoy having to burn vacation like this because I certainly wouldn't pick the busiest and most expensive time of the summer to go somewhere. But since a number of our customers also close during this week, I guess it makes sense from a company standpoint.
This year, however, they waited until last Friday to make the official announcement. That was unbelievable. "Oh, and by the way, everyone needs to take vacation next week, we'll be closed." Not that several of us hadn't suspected as much, and a few of us had some inside info that indicated a strong possibility of it happening, but that's a really sorry way of handling the matter if you ask me. My wife had no chance of taking vacation where she works on such short notice, so we're basically hosed. That's the case with everyone I've spoken with.
But what will be, will be. So, trying to make the best of a crappy situation I decided to take a trip to Atlanta and visit Ham Radio Outlet. Last year, while working near Cleveland, I visited AES, so this was a good opportunity to compare. While the HRO store in Atlanta is a good bit smaller than AES in Cleveland, it was stocked to the gills. I don't recall really seeing anything at one and not the other. The Cleveland store probably had more stock in the back, just guessing.
The one aspect where I'll give the store in Atlanta a leg up is their radio demonstration setup. AES more or less had a half dozen radios set up in the corner, while HRO had an entire wall configured with all the major brand offerings. Very impressive. Two radios really caught my eye, the new ICOM IC-7600 and the Yaesu FT-2000. I spent a good bit of time toying with both. Having an FT-1000MP myself, I had a good level of familiarity with the 2000. I had no familiarity with the 7600. Given the time of day that I was there, about the only thing that I could listen to was 20 meters and I concentrated mostly in the CW portion of the band.
From an ergonomic standpoint, I felt far more at home with the 2000. I'm sure a lot of that was because of my experience with the 1000, but the ICOM felt, well, rather flimsy by comparison. First of all, it was quite a bit smaller than I expected. The Yaesu dwarfed it. The main tuning knob on the ICOM - a lot of positive comments have appeared on eham - was awful, in my opinion. Small and rather clumsy. The finger dimple was teeny-tiny and I had trouble spinning the dial. It didn't spin smoothly. If there's one thing that I'm kind of picky about, I love having a good feel to the main tuning knob.
Clearly the 2000 is a radio that you can look at and figure out rudimentary functions the first time you sit down with it. Knobs are everywhere. Forget doing that with the ICOM. The knobs are very small and a lot of the features are menu-driven. And I don't know the menu structure, so I was at a disadvantage and you'd have to discredit my comparison to the Yaesu accordingly.
Maybe it was that the 2000 reminded me so much of the 1000 - sure, steady, solid, BIG feel. It was also noticeably larger than the FT-950, which I hadn't realized.
From a performance standpoint, truthfully, I couldn't tell that much difference in the limited time that I had and the manner that I tested them. Signals sounded the same on one as they did the other, same levels, same sound, same, same, same. The display on the 7600 was very cool. The bandscope was very neat and I can see how that would be a really nice thing to have. Interestingly, they had the 2000 hooked up to a monitor, so the same thing was available for it too. But, clearly adding that capability would be extra cost for the 2000 and not the 7600.
But, again, given the time of day and the lack of signals, I didn't really get much opportunity to fiddle with the DSP capabilities, plus, customers were in and out, some looking over my shoulder - lots of extraneous noise around. Very informal test.
The 7600 was priced at roughly $3300 and the 2000 around $2300, I think. I don't know if the ICOM needs an external power supply - I think it does - and I believe that the model of 2000 that I was looking at has a 120 VAC supply built-in, like the 100-watt version of the 1000 does.
Not a bad way to spend a mandatory vacation :)