>> most Japanese radios - no matter how expensive - still use mechanical relays to shift between transmit and receive. Depending on the radio, they can be very noisy and distracting unless you want to wear headphones all the time and then in some cases you can still hear the relay. Japanese manufacturers are mainly marketing to the phone crowd and why they continue to use this outdated and old mechanical technology is anyone's guess. <<
Bullsh*t. Neither my TS-950SDX or FT-1000D use relay switching. Nor does the Kenwood 850. They *do* have relays for external amps, but in every case they can be switched off. All these rigs provide 12V at the rear apron so it is a simple matter to configure an external transisitor switch for silent and instantaneous amp keying. The last Kenwood rig I used with mechanical relays was a TS-830S, which incidentally is a quite good CW rig...just no QSK.
The 950SDX is without question the best CW rig I have ever used. A super receiver and slick QSK. Great frequency agility too. Not as intuitive to operate as the 1000D, but a better radio.
All the Yaesu rigs I have owned have had lousy QSK. The 'MPs were particulary grim. The 1000D ain't too bad, but definately not in the same league as the 950SDX.
For my ears, Icoms have fatiguing audio with lots of white noise component. Yaesu isn't immune to this complaint, either. YMMV. I had a couple of IC-765s, and they *did* use relay switching. Two strikes. Also an indefinable, toaster like appliance quality. No fun to operate...strike three, you're outta here.
The Kenwood TS-870S is a horrible CW rig (but fairly competent on SSB). Terrible selectivity and AGC problems. DSP artifacts too. Yes, even the late ones. Nasty QSK. Nice built-in Logikey keyer, too bad the radio sucked. Just the ticket for the ESSB crowd ;-)
I have a K2/100 and find it only just acceptable on CW despite rave reviews. It's also a PIA to change the received audio pitch of the K2 without significant adjustments to the rx. The menu system is cumbersome and it's easy to inadvertantly key in unwanted menu selections.
Drake 4 line radios, while fun to use, aren't even close to modern transceivers in selectivity without extensive modification. That's why Rob Sherwood made a living bringing them up to snuff. They have really clunky frame relays too, unlike modern high speed relays, so T/R switching is cumbersome at best.