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AOR AR8600 Mark 2 Receiver

T he AOR AR8600 Mark 2 is a

wide coverage, multimode re-
ceiver built in Japan. It is an
improved version of the AR8600 we
reviewed in April 2001 MT. Except
and keypad are brightly lit, and you
can adjust the LCD contrast to suit.
The Mark 2 has a new option to turn
on backlighting for a few seconds after
the squelch opens or a key is pressed.
for a “Mark 2” gummed label affixed We would have preferred that the light
to the cabinet top, the AR8600 Mark remain on for the duration of a trans-
2 looks identical to the original mission instead of timing out.
AR8600. Both models are furnished A standard DB9 connector is fitted
with the same manual, though the on the rear panel so a computer may
Mark 2 comes with a two-page update sheet. center frequency. Up to 50 frequencies may control the AR8600 Mark 2. AOR wisely
The AR8600 is both a shortwave and be skipped. The AR8600 will not stop on documents the computer commands in the
VHF/UHF receiver, and frequency coverage signals within 10 kHz of designated skip fre- radio’s operating manual. The manual up-
has been expanded to 0.1 to 3000 MHz ver- quency. date sheet mentions the AOR Workshop PC
sus the earlier model’s 0.53 to 2040 MHz In addition to searching between the VFO software (for Windows) available for free
limits. Three AM bandwidths, three FM limits, there are 40 pairs of search limits avail- download (, but we
bandwidths, CW, USB, and LSB are sup- able. They can be linked together, though the haven’t used it.
ported. step, mode, and attenuator settings can differ A 10.7 MHz IF output jack is provided
The AR8600 is powered by 12 - 14 VDC for each one. Each search bank also supports and enabled in WFM mode. Enabling it for
or from the AC mains using the provided wall up to 50 “pass” (skip) frequencies. other modes is an operation which “should
wart power supply. A telescoping antenna An Auto Store facility stores active fre- be carried out in a workshop,” but the user
and a tiny, removable AM broadcast antenna quencies into a memory bank. The AR8600 manual doesn’t tell how. An odd, 8-pin jack
are included. stops on the active frequency during an Auto on the rear provides unfiltered detector out-
Extra cost options in- Store and you can hear the put, high and low level audio outputs, but
clude a dealer installed eight audio. It will not resume the Mark 2 no longer provides the same tape
AA 700 mAH NiCd battery searching until end of trans- recorder switching connections as the origi-
pack and “slot” cards which mission, depending on the nal AR8600. AOR doesn’t include the mat-
can be plugged into edge con- search settings. ing connector with this kilobuck radio.
nectors on the rear panel. The 1000 memory chan-
Cards available are: TE8200 nels are divided into 20 ❖ Performance
tone eliminator, CT8200 banks, designated A, a, B, b, Our AR8600 Mark 2 performs fairly well
CTCSS squelch, VI8200 in- etc. Initially, each bank has on VHF/UHF, though we confined testing to
version descrambler, RU8200 20 second au- 50 channels, but you can re- frequencies below 1300 MHz. The image re-
dio recorder, and EM8200 secondary memory. apportion 100 channels between bank pairs. jection, audio, intermod immunity, and sen-
An optional mobile mounting bracket For instance, bank A can contain 15 channels sitivity are on par with good scanners. The
(MM8600) is available, as well. We tested and bank a can hold the remaining 85 chan- Mark 2 hears intermodulation products in the
AR8600 serial number 551213, but have none nels. VHF high band from a NWR 162.4 MHz
of the options to evaluate. An alphanumeric label can be pro- transmitter, as do our Radio Shack PRO-2006
grammed for each memory channel, memory and Uniden BC9000XLT. The “old faithful”
❖ VFOs, Memory, Scanning, bank, and search bank. Banks can be scanned ICOM IC-R8500 is unaffected.
and Searching individually or in combination. Audio output power is usually speci-
The AR8600 has two VFOs and displays fied as some number of watts or milliwatts at
the frequency of both simultaneously. The ❖ A Solid Build 10% distortion. Our Mark 2’s audio distor-
tuning step size is more flexible than found in The AR8600 Mark 2 is ruggedly built in tion was less than 2%, even with the volume
most receivers. It is adjustable, regardless of a clamshell metal cabinet with cast metal front control at full rotation. We connected the
emission mode, in 50 Hz increments up to and rear panels. It “feels” like an expensive receiver to a noninductive 8-ohm resistive load
999.95 kHz, with an additional choice of an radio and won’t walk off the
exact 8-1/3 kHz. Though the procedure re- desk when keys are pressed.
quires some effort, you can offset the AR8600 One can easily envision a
tuning if you want to tune only the intersti- Mark 2 installed inside a po-
tial channels, e.g., use a 25 kHz step size to lice surveillance van or emer-
tune 470.0125, 470.0375, 470.0625, etc. gency communications truck.
The VFOs are handy for general band The tuning, volume, and
tuning or searching, using both VFOs to des- squelch knobs are rubbery
ignate upper and lower limits. Our AR8600 and easy to grasp.
often stops a few kHz away from a signal’s The green LCD display

80 MONITORING TIMES October 2002

instead of a speaker while making this mea-
surement. AOR AR8600 Mark 2
With a 12 channel/sec scan rate and 24 NFM 12 dB SINAD Sensitivity, S/N 551213
step/sec search rate, our Mark 2 is not a fast 1.2
AM BCB reception using the small plug-
in “dorsal fin” antenna is disappointing. Our 1
minimalist AM/FM portable radios are more
We used the AR8600 Mark 2 on short- 0.8
wave side by side with a Japan Radio
NRD545 (s/n RG05179) and ICOM IC-
R8500 (S/N 01075). They shared the same

132-foot center fed Zepp antenna.
Our AR8600 Mark 2 overloads below
30 MHz without attenuation and is severely
stricken with AM broadcast intermod. The
Mark 2’s built-in attenuator does not com-
pletely eliminate the problem, but reduces it
better than in the original AR8600. The more 0.2
expensive NRD545 and IC-R8500 are nearly
intermod free under the same conditions.
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
❖ Finicky Squelch MHz
The squelch has three modes: carrier op-
erated, voice operated, and signal strength. channels with a variety of modes (e.g., NFM, balance of attenuation and antenna.
The squelch tail is slightly longer than our SFM, AM, NAM) requires a compromise The Mark 2’s VHF and UHF perfor-
AR8600 during FM reception in normal op- squelch setting. The squelch doesn’t close mance is on par with other scanners. Listen-
eration. Our Mark 2’s squelch threshold var- consistently in SSB when using it in the car- ers with more space should consider an
ies by mode and that means that scanning rier operated mode, regardless of the squelch ICOM IC-R75/Uniden BC780XLT combina-
knob position. Luckily, the voice activated tion alternative.
Measurements squelch mode works well during SSB recep-
tion unless it becomes confused by a high noise The AR-8600 Mark 2 receiver is available
AOR AR-8600 Receiver S/N 551213 level, e.g., 4 MHz band conditions on a sum- for $889.95 from Grove Enterprises, 7540
mer night. Hwy 64 West, Brasstown, NC 28902; 800-
List price $999 438-8155 or email
AOR U.S.A., INC. ❖ Wrapup
20655 S. Western Ave., Suite 112 The AR8600 is sol-
Torrance, CA 90501 idly built. The wide spec-
Phone: 310-787-8615 trum coverage, front panel
Fax: 310-787-8619 illumination, flexible step sizes, and adjustable
memory banks are assets
Frequency coverage (MHz): we’d like to see in more
0.1 - 3000 receivers. It oozes with
features and options, but
Steps: 0.05 kHz - 999.95 kHz the multiple keypad se-
in 0.05 kHz increments quences make the
AR8600 Mark 2 difficult
NFM modulation acceptance: 7.7 kHz to use and program.
Changing the mode and
Attenuator: step size requires several
15 dB @ 14 MHz key presses. The 143-
15 dB @ 40 MHz page AR8600 manual is
15 dB @ 155 MHz much more comprehen-
14 dB @ 460 MHz sive than the Yaesu
14 dB @ 860 MHz VR5000 manual, despite
a few omissions.
Intermediate Frequencies (MHz): The most important
1) 243.85 or 754.85 improvement in the Mark
2) 10.7 or 45.05 2 over the original AR8600
3) 0.455 is in reception below 30
MHz. Our Mark 2 is
Audio output power, measured at speaker jack: quite usable for short-
400 mW @ 2% distortion wave reception when
teamed with an external,
Squelch tail near threshhold (1 uV @ 155 MHz): 40 ms. adjustable attenuator and
an outdoor antenna. The
Practical memory scan speed: 12 channels/sec. original AR8600 was more
Search speed: 26 steps/sec. easily overloaded, and we
could not find the right

October 2002 MONITORING TIMES 81