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Author Topic: Kenwood "Big Iron" Radio and Marketing  (Read 23832 times)
WA4D
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« on: May 20, 2012, 07:32:28 AM »

Kenwood's return to the HF Base station market has prompted much disucssion around the net. Some amusingly bemoan "too many knobs", others the design, and since no independent source has even heard it and we don't even know when it will ship, it leaves a void. Thus we are left to speculate.

But there is one area that is clear. "Marketing". Kenwood has positioned the radio for the serious operator.  And in doing so this rig is aimed directly at  their competitors. In my mind, the elegant Icom 7700 is the most vulnerable to the TS-990. Single receive and  currently priced well above the 990 (estimate) makes the Icom 7700less attractive. (Still the Icom is a beautifully designed/ spec'd rig) That said, I think the TS 990 strengthens the Icom 7600 as an alternative to a full sized HF radio. A 100 watt xcvr, Dual "Watch" and a competive price in smaller dc powered rig. Yaseu? The 5000 makes it own statement. But, I think the TS 990 will outsell it at similar price point. Indeed in the $5000-$7000 price range, only the Yaseu can compete.

We don't know yet what the "LAN" connection functionality is on the TS-990. But assuming it makes the rig IP addressable, I'd say game over for the 7700 and a major dent to the Yaseu 5000 sales.

Some complain about radios that cost $5000+, but in my mind, the suggested price range for the Kenwood TS-990 is perfect. Kenwood has built excellent amateur radios for how long? A half century? They know what they're doing.

To me, it's great to see Kenwood back in the Big Iron HF radio space!

Ok, that's my take. Ready to hear yours.

Cheers from LA
Mike/WA4D.Net     [ who first learned Morse on an ARC-5 in 1965]
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 07:53:23 AM by WA4D » Logged
KD8MJR
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2012, 10:10:05 AM »

I own an Icom 7600 and I really like about 95% of what I see with the TS-990S.

Pros:  For the Most part it looks like an Icom so copying the Bandscope etc was a wise move by Kenwood.  The 990 seems to have a solid metal front and I assume the whole construction will be like a typical Kenwood so that's an improvement over an Icom and the 200 Watts and USB/Ethernet/RS-232 ports are all great.

Cons:  It has all the pieces but somehow the design of the front panel ended up not looking all that great, the closer you get to it is the uglier it gets! it's really ugly when compared to say a 7700 or 7800 and they just went overboard with Buttons and knobs, some of this stuff could have easily been put into Menu's like they do on Icoms.

You make the comparison that its an Icom 7700 killer and how can the 7700 compete?  I am not sure how the 7700 will compete unless Icom lowers the price but the 7800 could easily compete if it's price is lowered to $6000 and that's a move that Icom might make just to clear out the last of the 7800 until they come out with a new top of the line model.
IMO the 990S is not meant to go up against the 7700 it's meant to go up against the 7800 and that's an easy victory for Kenwood unless Icom matches the price of the 990.
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M6GOM
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2012, 10:24:58 AM »



Cons:  It has all the pieces but somehow the design of the front panel ended up not looking all that great, the closer you get to it is the uglier it gets! it's really ugly when compared to say a 7700 or 7800 and they just went overboard with Buttons and knobs, some of this stuff could have easily been put into Menu's like they do on Icoms.

A lot of people are put off by the menus in Icoms.
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2012, 10:49:28 AM »



Cons:  It has all the pieces but somehow the design of the front panel ended up not looking all that great, the closer you get to it is the uglier it gets! it's really ugly when compared to say a 7700 or 7800 and they just went overboard with Buttons and knobs, some of this stuff could have easily been put into Menu's like they do on Icoms.

A lot of people are put off by the menus in Icoms.
That's true but I cannot fathom why because they are outlaid so well it's easy to do any changes and personally I don't want buttons on the front that are seldom used I would rather have them out of the way in a menu so the front panel is left uncluttered and the buttons that I do use daily are larger and easier to find and press.
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WA4D
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2012, 12:19:42 PM »

Robert....

How long has the 7800 been out?  5+ Years?  Even so, I don't see Icom dropping the  price to $6000 or even $8000. It is a $10,000 radio. And in my opinion even after 5+ years it remains at the top of the heap among "Amateur" radios.  

I once had to buy some new proffessional Microphones in a Studio setting . I knew that my colleagues preferred Brand X. But I liked and wanted Brand Y.  So I brought them into the studio control room and they listened  to 3  mics I had selected without knowing what they were. A test in the blind.  Guess what? They all chose my preferred Brand Y. -------------  I've always thought it would be a fun exhibit at Dayton to have a table set up with say a Kenwood TS-830, an Elecraft KX3 and a Yaseu 5000 and throw in an SDR rig. Use an RF Splitter, all fed to the same antenna and then have people sit in a booth [without knowing WHICH rig they were listening to) and see what radio they feel has the best capture and sound. ( Flat of course without filtering, bandpass or DSP).  The results might surprise!

Mike
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 01:11:11 PM by WA4D » Logged
PA5MW
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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2012, 12:48:49 AM »

It would be interesting and certainly a good experience for some of us. Especially the pure analog vs digital can be refreshing. For different reasons.
And then again there's good and bad in both groups.

But doing a blind test on such diverse equipment is like having a winetasting lineup where everyone must drink  from 5 plastic cups and the contents are lengthened with 50% of plain tap water.

There currently are no real bad rigs. Generally that is.
If you are into a specific discipline of hamradio (contesting, VHF weak signal dx'ing, ESSB ragchew, *enter yours*...) you will need to look into some different details, compare rigs in practise situations, share experiences with those who do this for several decades and are just not blinded by looks&static benchmarks.

For 80% or more, the fun factor with any particular rig is thee MAIN factor in your hobby experience.

Want better results, by making new QSO's/working that rare DX/better contest score?

Build better antennas!

But mainly: have fun!
73 Mark
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WA4D
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2012, 08:51:49 AM »

Mark....

Your observations spot on.  

The  headline on your post : "There currently are no real bad rigs."

and the best antenna book I ever read was Bill Orr and Stu Cowan's Wire antennas book.  

Cheers,
mike wa4d.net
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 08:54:09 AM by WA4D » Logged
W4AMP
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2012, 12:49:41 PM »

What I thought was cool about the new Kenwood at Dayton was the back of the rig. A large sheet of black construction paper. Just have to stick your cable or coax in there and it works! Sweet! Grin
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WE1X
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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2012, 06:13:56 AM »

The TS-990 at Dayton was a mocked prototype. The actual production unit could be similar or very different. Given the costs of design and production, the limited market for amateur radio gear and the more limited disposable income most of us have I suspect Kenwood will want to do everything possible to get it 90% right the first time.

Be aware that high prices and "big" radios do not equate to high-end performance.  I owned an Icom 7800 a few years ago. Ergonomically a wonderful radio to use. The receive section was outstanding for its time. Reliability was approaching a hacked Heathkit built as a science fair project by someone incapable of reading the manual and following instructions. Okay, I'm overstating this. The 7800's reliability track record has been spotty at best. Yes, many owners have had no issues. Many of us have had particularly with PA finals failing.  Another example is Yaesu's FTDX-9000 series which required major hardware and software upgrades before it became a stable radio.

As for receiver performance, today there are any number of rigs that outperform the high-end, big and big-budget radios at a far lower price. Elecraft's K3, FlexRadio's 3000 and 5000A are two examples.

Finally, the real question is why spend $5,000 to $12,000 on a radio if you have a modest antenna farm (dipoles, verticals, smaller beams at relatively low heights) that cannot take advantage of (or warrant) the claimed receiver specs of these expensive rigs? It just doesn't make sense.

Harry WE1X
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W8JX
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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2012, 07:12:03 AM »

The TS-990 at Dayton was a mocked prototype. The actual production unit could be similar or very different.

It was not a mockup but rather a fully operational radio. It is a pre production prototype and only change in appearance will be the display of main tuning dial it final design was being locked down and manufactured. (it will have more whistles and bells in that display) Like Yeasu a lot of Kenwoods parts sources for new 990 were wiped out in Tsunami and they had to find new sources in last year and tweak design further (even more advanced) They told me they had trouble finding some of the right knobs designs for it and it was one of the last problems they solved before hamvention.

As for receiver performance, today there are any number of rigs that outperform the high-end, big and big-budget radios at a far lower price. Elecraft's K3, FlexRadio's 3000 and 5000A are two examples.

This is funny. To even suggest that a 6+ year old design with buggy software (Flex) outperforms top end rigs. Also I would not even put a Flex in same league as a K3 or 590 (rather well below it) Flex has some nice eye candy but under hood it has issues and always has and always will and I have talked to more than one flex owner on air that has suddenly disappeared when it locked up and needed a reboot. 

990 could be a game changer as it will raise the bar and the sub/second receiver in 990 is the actual 590 receiver complete with roofing filters.  As far as Flexs 6000, most likely smoke and mirrors. Flex lack resources and commitment to even fully resolve issues in old designs let alone new ones.
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WE1X
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« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2012, 08:15:52 PM »

W8JX...

Regarding the TS-990 displayed at Dayton, you may or may not be correct. You spoke with Kenwood and I with dealer. Maybe the same message delivered differently...who  knows.

Regarding your comments about the Flex....Sorry, but you are dead wrong. I've owned the IC-7800, a well outfitted K3, the TS-590 and currently a Flex 5000A and Icom 7410.  The TS-590 is a fine rig in its class. The K3 and Flex 5000A receive sections and versatility leave the IC-7800 in the dust at a mere fraction of the cost.  This has nothing to do with eye candy....and is not based upon second, third or fourth hand comments about either rig, but actual use in the shack. The success Elecraft and FlexRadio have enjoyed as reflected in their sales appears to paint a very different picture than your observations. As for Flex's "buggy software"...nope. Not the case. The last 2 or 3 releases of PowerSDR have been almost stellar as has been the support from Flex regarding bug fixes, enhancements, etc. Note that Flex software bugs do get fixed via software downloads over the Internet.  IC-7800 hardware "bugs" may get fixed if you send a 50 lb rig across the country for about $100 each way. By the way, I emphasize "may" as (a) Icom has never admitted major reliability issues with the IC-7800 (such as repeated PA failures due to bad components and/or possible design issues with its protection circuitry) and (b) rigs have been sent to Icom multiple times for repeated repairs of the same "bug".  Finally, as for Flex's "limited resources" and the pending 6000 "most likely being smoke and mirrors", well probably not. A good portion of Flex's revenue is government contract work (military I believe) and the 6000 is a byproduct of that effort.  Again, your reference to Flex lacking resources and commitment to resolve issues is completely without foundation.
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W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2012, 09:29:31 PM »

W8JX...
Regarding the TS-990 displayed at Dayton, you may or may not be correct. You spoke with Kenwood and I with dealer. Maybe the same message delivered differently...who  knows.

I had several conversations with the guy in charge of marketing in US. He also said it is going to FCC acceptance testing in August and will be on market by Thanksgiving. He is same guy that confirmed its existence to me last year at hamvention.

Regarding your comments about the Flex....Sorry, but you are dead wrong. I've owned the IC-7800, a well outfitted K3, the TS-590 and currently a Flex 5000A and Icom 7410.  The TS-590 is a fine rig in its class. The K3 and Flex 5000A receive sections and versatility leave the IC-7800 in the dust at a mere fraction of the cost.  This has nothing to do with eye candy....and is not based upon second, third or fourth hand comments about either rig, but actual use in the shack. The success Elecraft and FlexRadio have enjoyed as reflected in their sales appears to paint a very different picture than your observations. As for Flex's "buggy software"...nope. Not the case. The last 2 or 3 releases of PowerSDR have been almost stellar as has been the support from Flex regarding bug fixes, enhancements, etc. Note that Flex software bugs do get fixed via software downloads over the Internet.  IC-7800 hardware "bugs" may get fixed if you send a 50 lb rig across the country for about $100 each way. By the way, I emphasize "may" as (a) Icom has never admitted major reliability issues with the IC-7800 (such as repeated PA failures due to bad components and/or possible design issues with its protection circuitry) and (b) rigs have been sent to Icom multiple times for repeated repairs of the same "bug".  Finally, as for Flex's "limited resources" and the pending 6000 "most likely being smoke and mirrors", well probably not. A good portion of Flex's revenue is government contract work (military I believe) and the 6000 is a byproduct of that effort.  Again, your reference to Flex lacking resources and commitment to resolve issues is completely without foundation.

I do not share your views on Flex. It is safe to say for every happy Flex owner there is at least one (or more) unhappy ones. As for Flex's revenue stream, if it is really was sound they would not be trying to pre sell them to raise venture capital to build them. (and also to keep you from changing mind) That is the actions of a company on the ropes financially. Also the long "battle" with software for rig too is because they lack funds to hire a proper software development group to resolve matters quickly. 
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WA2ONH
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2012, 08:35:10 AM »

Some Web comments noted about Vaporware / future products at the following Blogs:

BY: K9ZW Steve
Why did Dayton 2012 have so many Vaporware Phantom New Product Offerings?
LINK: http://k9zw.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/dayton-2012-vaporware-phantom-new-product-offerings/

BY: KE9V
Bubble? by Jeff Davis on Tuesday, May 22, 2012
What's the deal with the recent proliferation of amateur radio equipment in the $5,000 (US) and higher category?
LINK: http://ke9v.net/soapbox/2012/05/bubble-2012.html

Do I spend my $ for something you'll promise to make in the coming months. I think NOT!
Don't pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.
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73 de WA2ONH   ...Charlie
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"No time is ever wasted that is spent LEARNING something!"
MISTAKES are proof that you are TRYING
WE1X
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2012, 11:27:05 AM »

John,

"As for Flex's revenue stream, if it is really was sound they would not be trying to pre sell them to raise venture capital to build them. (and also to keep you from changing mind) That is the actions of a company on the ropes financially."

A couple of comments. First, the deposit for the Flex 6000 pre-orders are refundable and has nothing to do with "keeping you from changing mind". Second, these deposits are not "venture capital"...believe me as I'm in the venture capital business. Instead, pre-orders with deposits are an excellent way to gauge customer interest. This is particularly true with a new generation product if you are not a large consumer electronics product company. Third, if you're assuming Flex needs deposits to build the initial 6000s I don't know how you can make that claim. You don't have access to their financial statements or operating budgets. You're simply disparaging the company with willful speculation.

As for the "long battle with software because they lack funds to hire a proper software development group", again how do you know this? You don't. You don't know how staffing assignments are made per project and you don't know their development methodology or what tools are used. Yes, I too suspect the software team is relatively small. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Now to put this into some comparative context, Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood's amateur products divisions probably have larger budgets than Flex and possibly Elecraft, yet they too have been sluggish with firmware and software updates for their various rigs to address a variety of bugs. Consider that the USB drivers for Icom's IC-7410 don't support audio adjustment under XP and the rig has been on the market for over a year.

Bottom line: all rigs and all vendors have their issues. Flex and Elecraft are no different. To get back to my original comment,  one doesn't have to spend $5000-$10,000+ for a rig with outstanding receive capabilities. A high-end rig doesn't have to be one of the more expensive rigs or require an Interstate weigh station to ship it.






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K9IUQ
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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2012, 11:28:18 AM »

W8JX...
...Sorry, but you are dead wrong.

Sorry but I think he is dead right. Disclosure: I have owned both the TS-590s and the Flex 5K. The eye candy on the 5K is fantastic. For every day and contesting Use I would pick the Ts-590s every time.

Making a customer put a down payment of $1200-2100 for a radio and software that does not yet exist is indicative of a company that needs the money now to develop the product. Flexradio's past record of long delays should give every prospective customer pause.

The down payments are refundable according to the Flex Website. However my concern would be if Flex does go belly up. Where is my refund now?

Stan K9IUQ
« Last Edit: June 17, 2012, 12:00:54 PM by K9IUQ » Logged
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