Pros: Rack mountable
Cons: Lack of cooling for internal switching power supply
Poor CW bandwidth
Odd rack spacing
Despite the description above, the RCI 2995DX is not a 'Base Scanner'. It is, in fact, a 10 and 12 meter two-way amateur (also called 'ham') radio.
I purchased an RCI 2995DX approximately 3 months ago, intending to use it as a full power 10-meter (10m) beacon. Converting a radio for beacon use puts extra stress on the transmitter components due to the extended duty cycle, and without adequate cooling, the transmitter will fail. What impressed me about the RCI 2995DX for this use is the oversize heatsink on the back of the radio that keeps the output transistors cool, and the option of adding the Ranger fan kit. The fan kit is a factory made unit that includes two 12-volt fans installed in a beautifully crafted bracket that attaches to existing screw holes in the RCI 2995DX rear heatsink. The RCI 2995DX has a 12-volt connection on the back of the radio that mates with the fan kit plug so the radio itself can also power the fans (so the fans shut off when you shut the radio off). Using the fan kit, the RCI 2995DX never gets above room temperature, even when transmitting at nearly 100% duty cycle. An essential accessory for the 'long winded'.
Anyway, when I received the RCI 2995DX I noticed just how beefy this thing is built. The metal chassis and nearly 1/4 inch thick faceplate really add to the professional solid feel of this unit. The buttons and knobs are all clearly labeled and easy to read. The best part about the RCI 2995DX user interface is the large, backlit analog meters! Today's amateur radios are just full of gadgets and doo-dads, but lack the personality and warmth of nice meters to monitor received signal strength and transmit power, SWR, etc. You don't realize how much you miss those personal things until they are gone, and then you rediscover them some time later. The meters on the RCI 2995DX are simply heaven.
The RCI 2995DX has an LCD display for frequency, operating mode, and other parameters. The LCD is backlit by a greenish color light, and has 4 stages of dimming (front panel selectable) for night viewing, etc. The brightest setting is BRIGHT! The lowest setting is completely off. The backlit meters also dim with the LCD display and light levels are closely matched. One interesting feature of the RCI 2995DX is the internal SWR metering, selectable from the front panel display. In SWR mode, your transmitted reflected power ratio is shown on the far left analog meter. When in power mode, the forward power is shown on the same meter. The right meter is used only for received signal strength.
Using the RCI 2995DX is very intuitive. Most of the familiar controls are on rotary knobs like volume, squelch, mode selection (AM, FM, LSB, USB, CW, PA), clarifier, power output level, and swr calibrate. Other functions like noise blanker, etc. are selected by the backlit, rubberized buttons below the LCD display. Everything on the RCI 2995DX is so intuitive, you will probably not need the instructions if you have ever used a radio before. If this is your first ham radio, a quick run through the instructions, and you're a pro!
Inside the RCI 2995DX you will find a large speaker behind that thick, metal grille which explains the tremendous audio the RCI 2995DX puts out. The radio is built with sub-assemblies and boards that wire together with harnesses, but looks fairly easy to work on should repairs be needed. Ranger will gladly supply the schematic upon request. The metal chassis is reminiscent of the old tube-type radios of yesteryear with all components mounted above, and wiring accessible beneath. The cabinet is stabilized with metal bars and braces above the chassis, which accounts for the RCI 2995DX's rugged feel.
Speaking of the RCI 2995DX cabinet, the finish on this unit is really professional grade and looks great. If rack mounting your equipment isn't your thing, with just two screws on each side, the rack ears can be removed, and the RCI 2995DX becomes just a normal rectangular box. It is nearly the same size as a typical home stereo receiver. However, the rack mountability is what makes the RCI 2995DX really special! If you have a standard 19-inch equipment rack to mount your equipment in, it really cleans up the shack and makes it looks professional. Of course, rack mounting your gear is functional too, as it keeps things from moving around, and access to the back is made easier as a whole. One drawback in this particular radio is that it does not use standard RU spacing. When mounting in a standard 19" rack, you will have one open screwhole space above it and a half RU below it. You could re-drill the RCI 2995DX rack ears to solve this. In my installation, some odd open space above and below the radio isn't a big deal, so I left it as-is.
Now, to discuss performance! The receiver on the RCI 2995DX is a double conversion superhet type with average image rejection and sensitivity. I measured approximately 0.4 uV for 12 dB SINAD on AM and slightly better on SSB. CW sensitivity is almost identical to SSB, and I suspect it is just the injection of a BFO to generate the side tone on CW. This is, unfortunately one of the drawbacks to the RCI 2995DX if you are a CW enthusiast. Normally, when listening in CW mode, you want a very narrow receiver I.F. bandpass. The RCI 2995DX does not have selectable receiver bandwidth adjustment, and unfortunately, the CW mode is just way too wide. I suspect, from doing receiver sweeps, the bandwidth is around 3 kc. If your primary mode is AM or SSB, the RCI 2995DX will please you. If you are a CW fan, you will be disappointed.
As for the transmitter, the RCI 2995DX is very under-rated by the manufacturer. According to RCI specs, the output power on AM, CW, and FM is 50 watts (carrier) and SSB is 150 watts (peak). Right out of the box, I found power to exceed these figures. On SSB, audio peaks are slightly over 200 watts. Same results for AM. CW and FM power was around 70 watts. With an internal adjustment, I was able to set CW power level to 100 watts, right where I want it. With the added fan kit, the output transistors never even get warm. Spectral purity is excellent, with harmonics measured better than 70 dB below fundamental on an IFR 1200 service monitor. Splatter is... What splatter? Undetectable.
Somewhere along the line, Ranger changed the power supply of the RCI 2995DX from a brute-force type with regulators mounted on the rear heatsink, to an internal switching type supply. I have to admit that I am not a real big fan of switching supplies (when they fail, it is usually catastrophic for the supply and the radio!), but admit that when talking about the kind of current required to run the RCI 2995DX at full power, the size and weight advantage of switching supplies is a plus. The new switching supply mounts inside the cabinet with no external regulators or other parts needed, so some of the rear heatsink is open. Ranger did a good job selecting the switching supply for the RCI 2995DX, but did a poor job in implementing the changes. As most 'techies' know, switching supplies require cooling, almost always done with internal fans. The RCI 2995DX power supply is no different, there is a dual speed fan located in the supply unit to cool the internal components. When you put the RCI 2995DX in transmit mode, the fan speeds up, when is receive it slows down to cut noise. Where Ranger failed in this retrofit is they did not include holes in the cabinet for the power supply to draw air from and exhaust heated air. As it comes stock, after a few hours of operation, the internal supply gets VERY hot! The power supply fan is just blowing air right back into the sealed cabinet, and the tempurature builds inside. Although mine did not fail, I was uncomfortable leaving it as-is.
I modified the RCI 2995DX cabinet by drilling holes above the internal power supply fan for hot air to be blown out, and several holes along the right side of the cabinet (opposite the power supply) for cool air to enter. After adding the airflow vents, the power supply runs slightly warm, but not hot, and the frequency stability of the radio also improved. Highly recommended!
On the air, the RCI 2995DX is very solid and sounds great. For the ham wanting a really high performance AM, SSB, and FM radio without spending high performance dollars, the RCI 2995DX will impress you. If money is no object and you want to compare the RCI 2995DX to the latest high-end Kenwood, Yaesu, or Icom, you will be disappointed. There is no comparison. The RCI 2995DX is built for a specific purpose, and does a good job for its intended user.