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The Sony 7600 series page

About 30 years ago, the first model of this series basically defined pocketbook-sized shortwave portables. Since then, they have enjoyed high popularity not only among travellers but also among ordinary SWLs looking for a first "serious" set (such as yours truly). While declining sales in Western countries (where shortwave does not play much of a role these days) and the rise of Chinese manufacturers with decently-performing, much less expensive sets may mean that the still-current ICF-SW7600GR becomes the very last model, the "7600s" will always be known as high-quality, well-made products.

On these pages you can find information about the receivers themselves, modifications, impressions etc. You'll probably have to wait a bit until all the receiver images are loaded.

You'd like to add something? Writing to me doesn't hurt. (BTW, thanks to the nice people who have done so in the past!) If you've got any questions, please keep in mind that I don't know everything on any receiver either, having to rely on whatever information I can gather from the web, service manuals (if present) or other sources.

Note: A reader from Japan kindly informed me that these and other more upscale SONY shortwave sets are actually developed and manufactured at Towada Audio. In fact, external sourcing like this actually seems to be very common in the Japanese consumer electronics industry.

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Page Contents

  1. History of the series – from 1978 to present
  2. Receiver timeline – an overview of production times and the "sub-series"
  3. The models (in inverse chronological order):
    1. ICF-SW7600GR – the current model
    2. ICF-SW7600G
    3. ICF-SW7600
    4. ICF-7601
    5. ICF-7600DA a.k.a. ICF-7700
    6. ICF-7600D and ICF-7600DS a.k.a. ICF-2002 and ICF-2003
    7. ICF-7600A/ICF-7600AW
    8. ICF-7600/ICF-7600W
  4. A few 7600 series receivers compared
    1. Feature comparison of ICF-7600D(S), ICF-SW7600 and ICF-SW7600G(R)
    2. Shortwave gain stage / AGC overview
  5. Receiver utilities
    1. The AN-LP1 active antenna
    2. Misc. headphones
  6. Modifications – read the disclaimer
    1. ICF-7600D/DS (ICF-2002/2003) mods
    2. ICF-7601 mods
    3. ICF-SW7600 mods
    4. ICF-SW7600G mods
    5. ICF-SW7600GR mods
  7. The competition
  8. Image sources
  9. Related and unrelated links
  10. Glossary

What about some history?

It all started in the mid-'70s when shortwave listening grew very popular in Japan and elsewhere. Someone at SONY figured that a truly compact shortwave set might be useful for, say, today's world traveler who wants to stay in touch with what's going on. In those days, a radio was considered portable if it fitted under an airplane seat, and most shortwave sets were quite large.

The first effort was the model ICF-7600, introduced about 1977, worldwide about 1978, which finally became available in Germany as the ICF-7600W ca. 1980. This pocketbook-sized set (18 x 12 x 3.2 cm), weighing in at little more than a pound, was a single conversion analog (of course) receiver covering five major shortwave bands along with mediumwave and FM. Its shortwave reception was not all that outstanding but no worse than in much larger sets (and MW and FM weren't bad at all), besides the widely spread frequency scales allowed fairly good readout accuracy in spite of relatively widely spaced markings. The ICF-7600 proved to be very successful, and soon after the competition brought out a number of similar radios.

[ICF-7600 pic]
Sony ICF-7600 [7]

By the way the ICF-7600(W) had kind of an AM/FM "companion", the model ICF-7500(W). This was a peculiar set which allowed using just the radio part, minus the loudspeaker, with headphones – an idea which resurfaced a few years later in the SRF-80(W) radio Walkman. Both are collectibles today.

In 1982/1983, the ICF-7600(W) was replaced with the ICF-7600A(W), a model looking very similar but sporting a lot of major and minor improvements under the hood. It now used a dual conversion concept on shortwave (albeit an unconventional one that isn't as resistant to overload as "normal" ones) and received a total of seven shortwave bands with increased band coverage. Selectivity and sensitivity on mediumwave and shortwave also were very good, along with decent overload rejection. The effective tone control and nice audio section and speaker were taken over from the previous model, and power consumption remained low. All in all, this was a winner for Sony and became very popular around the world, with tourists, journalists and SWLs alike. It was soon challenged by "me too" models from other companies with usually better feature sets and sometimes better, sometimes worse performance (the Panasonic RF-B50 and Toshiba RP-F11 a.k.a. Kenwood R-11 come to mind, see The competition), but the '7600A remained the most popular choice. Actually it still isn't half bad even today, although it does have its limits in terms of dynamic range and band coverage.

[ICF-7600A pic]
Sony ICF-7600A (the international model)

But Sony wasn't done yet. The 1983 IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung, the international consumer electronics fair in Germany) saw the presentation of a new model that truly made an impact: the ICF-7600D (called ICF-2002 in North America to reduce grey imports).

[ICF-7600D/ICF-2002 pic]
ICF-7600D [5]

While being pretty much the same size as prior models, this was a full-blown PLL synthesized dual conversion set using a high first IF and FET-based balanced first mixer, with a continuous reception range from longwave 153 kHz right up to 29995 kHz shortwave (models sold in Germany had to make do without the frequencies above 26100 kHz and more importantly without the antenna input, a case for a mod) plus FM, and all the goodies like a whopping ten station memories, direct frequency input, and a clock with timer function. Shortwave could be tuned in 5 kHz with analog fine tuning being available, and as a first, even SSB reception was possible. Back then, this was absolutely unheard of anywhere near this kind of size. At the same time, reception performance also was quite respectable.
All this, of course, reflected in pricing – the new set was over 50% more expensive than the 7600A. Nonetheless, these things sold like hotcakes (ultimately about half a million) and got rave reviews. Since the 7600A remained in production until 1987, Sony now had two real winners.

This radio, being ahead of its time, was built for quite a few years; it saw an internal update by 1984 to rectify a few issues, and in 1987 the model ICF-7600DS (NA: ICF-2003) was presented, which was pretty much the same as an updated ICF-7600D with different colors.

[ICF-7600DS pic]
ICF-7600DS [6]

Meanwhile, the trend towards yet smaller sets continued – the 1984/85 ICF-4900 shrank a concept much like the ICF-7600A's to approximately half size, thanks to the then-new CX20091 all-in-one IC: 144 x 76 x 24.5 mm and less than 250 grams with batteries.

In 1987, another dual conversion travel portable was introduced: the ICF-7600DA (NA: ICF-7700). This was an entirely different radio with digital tuning and a tuning knob using an imitation of an analog tuning dial. However, the performance of this radio was quite poor (it did, however, receive a number of bugfixes until early 1988). The type number similar to the ICF-7600DS caused quite a bit of confusion, and the similar pricing didn't help matters.

[ICF-7700/ICF-7600DA pic]
ICF-7700 (from [1])

In 1987/88, the shrinkage trend culminated (for now) in the ICF-SW1, pretty much an ICF-7600D (minus SSB and fine tuning) squeezed into 118 x 71 x 24 mm. With the matching active antenna, it did not need to hide from its larger cousins in terms of reception performance.

In 1988, the ICF-7600A was retired in favor of the ICF-7601, a slightly cheaper model that noneless had a larger reception range – it covered the shortwave bands from 60m up to 13m (dual conversion), 120m to 75m (or longwave in the L version), MW and FM. Like the ICF-7600A, this was a dual conversion design with a 1st IF of 10.7 MHz. A flip-out stand was now featured, if only a small one. This model wasn't unpopular either, having good MW/SW selectivity and a wide range of shortwave bands, but ultimately couldn't quite match the raw performance and build quality of its predecessor.

[ICF-7601 pic]
Sony ICF-7601 [7]

Soon after, in 1989, the small dual conversion analogs were shrunk further – the micro version of the ICF-7601 was the ICF-SW20, now measuring only 116.5 x 72.5 x 28 mm and weighing little more than 200 grams.

Finally, in 1990, the ICF-7600DS was followed by the new model ICF-SW7600 (Sony had begun to call the receivers with shortwave focus ICF-SWxxxx in 1988). This receiver still tuned in 5 kHz steps on shortwave and had a total of 10 presets, but now allowed selecting two different BFO insertion frequencies for preferred upper or lower sideband reception in SSB, did away with the separate clock and backup batteries and had a flip-out stand on the back. (The German version now had full coverage up to 30 MHz, but it still didn't have the EXT ANT jack.) Internally, it marks the transition to surface mount parts (first seen in the 1985 AIR-7 and ICF-PRO70 sets) and higher integration. Shortwave reception was better than with the ICF-7600DS (less noise, improved SSB reception, same very good selectivity) and FM stereo could be received (even if FM performance wasn't outstanding otherwise). Thus it still sold in fairly high quantities (more than 300000 samples in 4 years), if not in the same ones as its predecessors given that there was some stiff competition around now (think Panasonic RF-B65, RF-B45 or Sangean ATS-808).

[ICF-SW7600 pic]
ICF-SW7600 (from [1])

In late 1994, the ICF-SW7600G superseded the ICF-SW7600.

[ICF-SW7600G pic]
ICF-SW7600G (from [8])

The new model was less expensive (albeit at the cost of a reduced set of accessories), finally had 1 kHz steps and offered a feature only found on more expensive receivers: synchronous detection. Although the sync detector is not as good as on more expensive radios (it adds some noise of its own, does not reduce selective fading all that much ["more successful at maintaining the volume"] and does not lock on weak carriers), it is very useful, especially in situations with heavy interference (like with tropical band stations). The receiver is very quiet but suffers from insufficient image rejection (if no more so than the predecessor) and unexciting audio quality.
Somewhat over 300000 samples were produced until 2000, the highest S/N reported was in the 326xxx range.
For a while, there also was a model called ICF-SW7600GS, which was simply a bundle of an ICF-SW7600G with the AN-LP1 active loop antenna.

In 2001, the current member of the line was presented, called ICF-SW7600GR. It features a number of smaller improvements over the older model, the most important ones being more memories that are safe from power failure, two clocks with temporary clock display during reception, and a variable attenuator. Reception is virtually unchanged, the usual sales price hasn't changed much either, but audio is somewhat improved. After September 11, 2001, sales of this and other shortwave sets picked up, with the 200000 sample mark finally being cracked in 2008. The 7600GR is one of the few models remaining in Sony's diminished shortwave product line.

[ICF-SW7600GR pic]
The latest model ICF-SW7600GR (from [11])

(If this image has a background that is quite clearly not white, you've got a bogus monitor color profile. Use sRGB then.)

What's next? Well, I fear that should the 7600GR become discontinued, it would be the very last model.

Interactive Series Timeline

Year The analog series The digital series Unique
1978 ICF-7600
1979
1980
1981
1982 ICF-7600A
1983 ICF-7600D / ICF-2002
1984
1985
1986
1987 ICF-7600DS / ICF-2003 ICF-7600DA / ICF-7700
1988 ICF-7601(L)
1989
1990 ICF-SW7600
1991
1992
1993
1994 ICF-SW7600G
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999 This page is launched :)
2000
2001 ICF-SW7600GR
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010

I have divided the receivers into several sub-series:

Next: ICF-SW7600GR, ICF-SW7600G

Quick links

Write to the author (Stephan Großklaß, "Grossklass" in 7 bit)!

Created 1999-06-01 (yyyy-mm-dd)
Last revision 2009-12-04