Icom Voice Synthesizers
This article is for blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators interested in using a voice synthesizer to announce the frequency, mode, and signal strength information from an Icom transceiver.
A voice synthesizer is a standard feature in all but three of the HF transceivers currently sold by Icom, and many older models can be retrofitted using a UT-102 Voice Synthesizer unit. The user manual for your radio will state whether this is an option.
Icom no longer produces the UT-102 unit, and newer models no longer support it. For example, a footnote was recently added to the user manual for the IC-718 transceiver, stating that the UT-102 speech synthesizer settings in the menu no longer function.
This review was done using a UT-102 unit on loan from the Icom Company and installed in an IC-746PRO transceiver.
Basic operation of all Icom voice units is the same, whether they are built-in or installed as an accessory: To hear an announcement of the frequency, press the Speech button on the radio panel. When the signal level menu option is activated, the frequency announcement is preceded by the S-meter reading. The operating mode (USB, LSB, CW, etc.) is announced when a mode button is pressed.
The language (English/Japanese), speech speed (high/low), and signal level announcement (on/off) are selectable in the set mode menus. The volume is controlled with a menu setting (0 - 100% in 1% steps) for built-in synthesizers and with a trimmer potentiometer on accessory unit boards.
UT-102 Voice Synthesizer Unit
The UT-102 is constructed on a small circuit board, approximately 0.8" x 1.35". The installation instructions and accompanying diagram in the transceiver user manual are easy to follow, and the manual also includes the necessary steps for removing the top and bottom covers of the radio. The unit plugs into a clearly labeled socket on the radio main unit circuit board. This step requires good vision, as the tiny plug measures only 0.15" x 0.2".
Before reassembling the radio you can adjust the audio level of the announcements with a tiny potentiometer located on the radio circuit board. The trimmer accepts a screwdriver blade just under 0.1" wide, so a magnifying glass might be useful. To choose the volume it was helpful to reattach the antenna and tune around the bands to hear the announcements under different signal and noise conditions. The synthesized speech is distinctive and easy to understand.
The Icom voice synthesizer is well designed and easy to use. This feature makes it possible for many blind and vision-impaired hams to operate a transceiver.
Icom has discontinued production of the UT-102, and newer models of least one radio, the IC-718, no longer support it.
Special thanks to Diane Morrison, KE7PCS, of Icom America, Inc., for loaning me a UT-102 unit for evaluation.
Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator in the USA. This website has no ads or conflicts of interest.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.