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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF models) | Kenwood TS-990S Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-990S
Kenwood TS-990S Reviews: 77 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $$7999
Description: Kenwood FLAGSHIP TS-990S has arrived. Kenwoods sets a new preformance and operating standard for the ultimate Amateur Transceiver. Advanced KENWOOD technologies deliver a Top-End receive and transmitt experience on Amateur Bands 160 Mtr to 6 Mtrs. Kenwood proudly adds the 990S to its trendsetting TS series!
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AA7AS Rating: 5/5 Feb 16, 2014 13:35 Send this review to a friend
Good, needs attention from Kenwood  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
The TS-990 is a superb transceiver. In day to day operations, I find the amenities to be well thought out and useful, the receiver to be highly selective, sensitive and capable of significant fidelity or extreme narrowband operations.

Between the noise blanking and reduction, notches, BEF, receive equalization, shift/width or high/low bandpass, RF gain, AGC selection, roofing filters, antenna choices, preamplifier, preselector, splitting, RIT, separate rx/tx antennas, regular memories, quick memories, band stacking and band memories, isolated rx loop and the optical, usb and analog audio outputs, and the unique and very clever shortwave mode, the receiver is truly a joy to use.

The transmitter, at 200 watts and with a relatively high final voltage, runs at reasonable temperatures and produces a good quality signal. I've gone all day rag-chewing, barefoot at full power and never experienced any kind of heat related problem, not even a particularly warm case. The antenna tuner likes all my antennas and is quite fast. There is TX equalization, bandwidth setting, XIT, split operation, and remote operation.

The network command set is reasonably well thought out (with the exception of the selection of UTF-16LE as the character set) and enabled me to quickly write a Python application that allows my SDR software to track the TS-990's tuning and demodulation mode, and vice-versa. The radio's network operations are highly responsive and although the manual warns of possible missed commands under heavy (radio) CPU load, I have never seen this happen.

I've left the radio on for days at a time, and it has never crashed or glitched. Given that I actually use a lot of the radio's features, this speaks highly of the firmware quality.

This radio is large, heavy, and will not operate from 12vdc unless you have a (powerful) inverter. A great desktop rig; not so great for portability unless mounted in a trailer or something like that.

The menu system is extensive, and offers a myriad of useful choices and options. Expect to spend some quality time in there changing things around. I can guarantee it.

It didn't come with a microphone. Had the salesman not warned me, I would have been one disappointed fellow the day I received the rig. I don't understand Kenwood's choice in this regard.

Both the spectrum and the waterfall are low performance in comparison with the typical SDR display. Slower, less resolution, poorer control, less utility. Having said that, there's a lot that could be done to improve both of them in firmware.

Firmware upgrading is basically trivial: You format a memory stick on the transceiver, move it to your computer (any OS), drag and drop the upgrade file onto the stick, plug the stick back into the TS-990S, and start the upgrade. No cables, no OS-specific software, no computer crashes, no multiple file download/install complexities... nice.

The radio is very expensive; in my opinion, it is well worth the price. But it could easily be improved. Specifically...

As of firmware 1.05, I find that the following firmware changes are called for:

o mouse control for the spectrum display
o S-meter recoded to obey 50uv=S9 standards
o Waterfall base color s/b much darker
o Waterfall colors s/b editable
o Waterfall intercept with spectrum display s/b variable
o Front panel REC system should allow for retransmit
o Main knob should have spin rate variable tuning rate
o Needs CW decode added to RTTY and PSK decode
o NB1 should not stop blanking when signal is high level
o NB2 should not stop blanking when signal is high level
o NB2 needs independently adjustable width, threshold
o Notch is too wide at 300 hz
o Needs ID interval timer
o PF keys don't execute deeply enough, pick menu choice
o Slowest AGC isn't even close to slow enough
o Sub-display should be able to show s, other-meter(s)
o Kenwood software should support OSX, Linux too
o Antenna jacks need TX disable switches
o Antenna jacks need TX only within range(s) settings
o Preamp gain should be consistent on all bands
o Matching speaker needs to be completely rethought
IK0OZD Rating: 5/5 Feb 14, 2014 23:44 Send this review to a friend
TS990 after many time of use   Time owned: 6 to 12 months

You are right AD4C,
It is not the best receiver in the world.
The best receiver does not exist.
Use the ts990 for almost 1 year, not change ever for a k3 or another radio right now on the market,
for this I must thank Kenwood,
Thank you kenwood because although it is an expensive radio makes you pass the desire to have other radio in the same category,
the TS590 was not the killer of the k3,
the TS990 is the killer of high-end radio
AD4C2006 Rating: 4/5 Feb 11, 2014 10:05 Send this review to a friend
Good pretty radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am not hiding behind a weird ID to review this radio so every one will know who I am.
For almost seven years I have owned the K3 wich for me it’s the highest performer as HF radio in the market, I have owned besides several high end radios as the IC-7700, FT-2000, FT-5000,Orion II, etc and after deep and long tests all of them has been inferior than my K3 in rough condition comparison.
Thanks to a friend of mine who pushed me to buy this big radio I just did it last week.
The TS-990 as a friend of mine said it’s an “Evolution but not a Revolution”
After been comparing the TS-990 with my K3, these are my results:
1- Ergonomics
At simple sight when you see how impressive the 990 is, you fall in love with it, no doubt that is the most attractive radio in the market. The K3 is an ugly radio but…………………………(coments later).
Operation of this TS-990 requires skills, If you like plug and play radios this is not your choice, this radio needs lot of settings be done, some of them are obvious and simple, some others require you to read the very thick operator manual. The K3 is very simple to operate even having as well a big menu to set.
2- Receiver
When you turn the TS-990 and wait for the welcome message, first thing you hear at the speaker is a “hiss” something that will not happen with the K3 wich is completely silent.
When you connect the antenna noise is high, the K3 with the antenna is very quite, so is simple like that, the floor noise in this TS-990 is higher than the one in the K3.
The preamp on this 990 aparently is not a “low noise preamp” like in the K3, when enabled band noise increase a lot and the “grass” at the scope increase as well. On the K3 when you engage the preamp, signal increase but noise increase a little bid only and when you see the grass at the P3 scope, it drop about 6db.
Scope needs more gain, you won’t be able to see signals with less than S8/S7 while on the P3 panadapter you can see signals as low as S2/S3. The scope on the 990 needs some more work, maybe a later FW update will make it work better.
NR1 works great as good as the NR in the K3, no difference here.
NR2 works terrible, it add distorsion to received audio, sound like digital artifacts in the signal.For me its useless.
NB as at the K3 is perfect, it can delete any type of electrical noise.
BC or NOTCH on all other radios works excellent as the one on the K3, no difference here.
Selectivity in CW is as good as the K3. Both radios has roofing filters for 500 and 250 Hz but on the TS-990 there is ringing noise at 150 Hz BW. To clear the ringing noise you will have to add then the audio filter. At the K3 there is no ringing noise even without the peak audio filter.
Audio filter works better than the one at the K3 and its easier to adjust.
Selectivity on SSB is poor, the 2.7 Khz ladder filter is not enough to clean a station that be at 2Khz from your working freq even with the DSP set for narrower BW. At the K3 engaging the 1.8 or 1.5 Khz roofer that station will disappear and the channel will be clean. The 990 have an available empty socket for an extra roofing filter but Kenwood neither other company has built it yet. Maybe INRAD will do it later.
Audio quality without a doubt is better than the the receiver audio from the K3 and also the bandwith is wider, it comes down to 20Hz and goes up to 5000Hz. The K3 comes down to 40 Hz and goes up to 4000Hz.
The receiver EQ is not needed at all, its very wide without it unless you wanted to create an specific audio filter for CW or SSB.
3- Transmitter
200W is very convenient to have in a radio, having a good antenna system you can work the whole world.
TX audio EQ needs more freqs below 0.3 Khz (300Hz) like the K3 having adjustments for 50, 100 and 200Hz wich are critical freqs when equalizing different mics.There are 16 freqs at the EQ with freqs not needed and some ones needed. It could be fixed with a later FW upgrade but I am sure Kenwood will leave it as is now. The former TS-590 had same issue and in spite of lots of complains they never changed anything.
One thing has to be said at this point ,when customers has complained about some was wrong designed on the K3 Elecraft immediately released a new FW version fixing the issue, that customer service support you will never have it.
The TX audio is excellent, as good as the one at K3, no difference between radios here.
If you love ESSB, this radio will filled your wishes, it can come down to 40 Hz with a good mic and go up to 5Khz. I keep mine from 90 to 3400Hz using a Heil PR40
In my honest opinion the price of this radio don’t match its performance, I was expecting a better radio for what I payed but is not better than my K3.
With less than 6 grand you can buy a fully loaded K3 and have a better performance radio than can be transported anywhere. The 990 with its 65 pounds makes it just a base station.
Thanks to eham for let me express my honest opinion about this radio that besides to be very pretty is not performing better than the K3.
End of the story, I will use it for few months more and sell it to be back to my K3.

W9TVX Rating: 5/5 Feb 2, 2014 17:11 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I upgraded to the radio from a Kenwood 590S several months ago. The transition was fairly painless, although the breadth of features on the 990 dwarfs the 590.

As others have mentioned, this is not a small radio... actually it is rather massive; however, the size provides accessibility to many key features via physical knobs and buttons without having to dive into a menu system. Speaking of the menu system: I find it to be quite intuitive and logically laid out. Due to the large main display, the menu items are for the most part quite easy to find, navigate, and set.

The main display also doubles as a bandscope that is very useful for picking out signals (I wish user selection of bandscope colours were more flexible). This display is a touch display, which is useful for jumping around the band, though it is fairly course grained - i.e. you will have to perform some manual tuning to dial in the signal.

This is a very easy radio to which to listen. The ability to customize RX equalizer settings ad infinitum and the flexible filtering really make it a pleasure to use without operator fatigue of many hours. I have a couple of SP-990 speakers positioned to give a nice stereoscopic presentation; however, there are certainly better and more economical setups. The dual SP-990s do look cool bracketing the radio though!

On the TX side, the user is again able to customize modulation vis a vis TX filters as well as a TX equalizer that may be configured to the users voice and microphone. Multiple configurations can be saved for casual, DX, and competitive operations.

On the back of the radio there are a host of connectivity options including multiple I/O (LAN, USB, DB9), audio (including optical), and multiple antenna inputs, including an RX antenna input. I use the latter to connect a magnetic loop that helps with RX in my high noise environment.

I could write endlessly about the features and capabilities of this radio - Others have done so more eloquently than I could. I will say, that for me the 990S is a pleasure to use both in phone and data modes. It is no doubt an expensive radio, but in this case you really do get what you pay for.
EA4AZZ Rating: 3/5 Feb 2, 2014 08:12 Send this review to a friend
no technical advantage   Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I agree with QRPNEW.
The 990 is a great transceiver but.....nothing new.
I used for about 6 months one unit from a friend of mine. I compared the receiver with a ts950sdx and Ft1000D.
The 990 is not better. Have the same receiver and I found that the NB of the TS950SDX is much better than the 990. I test the NB in a 250.000V power line noise. The 950sdx wins.
In general the 990 works great but is not for me.
I don´t sell my ts950sdx and my FT1000D to buy a 990.
Remember that the TS950SDX was a world first DSP for TX and RX in a ham transceiver and also a world first to use a MOSFET final unit.
The TS990 is not revolutionary.
N4GUD Rating: 5/5 Jan 31, 2014 07:35 Send this review to a friend
Awsome!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months

I have had the TS-990 for about a month now and have always been a Kenwood guy. I also have like others tried the competitor rigs like the FT-2000, IC-7600, IC-756PROII/III, FT-3000 and a Flex as well as the other Kenwood rigs like the TS-950sdx and TS-870. The TS-870 has always been my favorite all time rig, until now that is. In trying the other rigs, I found that I was consistently trying to get the other rigs to sound like the TS-870 and felt like I'd never get a newer rig to do so. When I first hooked up the TS-990, the very first thing I noticed was the low noise floor...I had to check to make sure I had the antenna hooked to the correct input, it was! Then I began to play with the menu and equalizer settings. WOW is all I can say! This rigs transmit audio is incredible as well as the receive audio! I work 75/80m in the evenings and have always had to deal with the AM interference...until now that is. When utilizing the preselector the AM interference is gone! I sometimes feel like I have set the squelch because the receiver is so quiet! The panadapter is fabulous especially when using an external monitor! The recorder is nice as well...and you can retransmit the recorded audio by simply installing an optical cable from the optical in/out and setting the recorder up properly...Kenwood apparently is unaware of this. In summary, if you want the best of the best and love audio as I do, this is the RIG!!!
QRPNEW Rating: 3/5 Jan 31, 2014 02:35 Send this review to a friend
Poor Value  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I consider this radio poor value for money.
It has no technical advantage over my K3/p3 combination.

In key areas of receiver performance the K3 is head shoulders above the TS990S. The P3 bandscope is way ahead in terms of performance and features. Even the K3 receive audio quality has low distortion and receiver IMD than the TS990S.

I really could not find 1 area in terms of raw performance that the TS990S was superior to my K3.

The TS990S has 1 big advantage over the K3 it has better ergonomics and front panel layout.

For the price I would have expected the TS990S to be way ahead of the K3. It really represents poor value for money.

I would expected the bandscope panadapter to have better dynamic range and speed. I would have expected at least a decent accurate S_meter. The TS990S has a quirky calibration that has no meaning to any real amateur standard. The K3 even though it has a course S_meter scale is reasonably well calibrated.

Even when I compare the TS990S to my TS590S the TS590S is superior in many ways. I am rather disappointed with this very expensive rig that does not deliver much in real technical advantage over its competitors. It just appears to be an expensive big box that does not deliver out of this world performance. Its all bells and whistles and no real performance advantage. Reminds me of the Yaesu FT_ONE a big box with lots of knobs and no real performance.

When I buy a radio that is this expensive I expected it to be the best in every area. Unfortunately its not, and I will be selling it before the value drops too much. It just clutters my desk up having such a big massive radio that even my Ten Tec Eagle can outperform and sound better.

If you are considering buying this radio, be very wary and try and get to test someone other hams TS990S before you burn your money. WHen I sit in front of the TS990S the only thing that impresses you is the huge box and front panel everything is not much better than average.

I must say that I buy radios for their performance not their bells and whistles. If the Kenwood TS990S was capable of delivering more performance for the dollar I would keep it. Unfortunately its a old technology designed that cant be fixed with firmware improvements. In this regard the old/new technology just does not deliver the goods which was a huge disappointment for Kenwoods re-entry into the big radio market. In a way all the current big radios, TS990S, FTDX9000, IC7700 and IC7800 all are hyped up radios that cant really beat a basic radio like the TS590S. The amount of money that you spend for these big radios, you would expect at least twice the technical performance for the amount spent over a basic 1500 dollar radio. When You cant even get this performance dividend whats the point of buying a new big expensive radio that is mediocre in performance?

It sad that I payed all this money for this radio and i cant even find 1 feature that makes it better than any radio that I have owned over last 30 years. The receiver performance test numbers were a huge disappointment. If technical performance is not important to you I guess you can brag you spent a lot on a radio like the TS990S, thats all its really good for. Bragging right and not much performance value.

K4ELO Rating: 5/5 Jan 27, 2014 16:01 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have only used the 990 for about 2 weeks, but long enough to get comfortable with it. Absolutely the best rig with knobs that I have ever had. Not going to compare it to sdr radios. But I will say that I sold an FTdx5000 to buy this and I am not sorry. QRM fighting tools are great and much better than the FT5K in my opinion. I also like the way the controls work, much better than the FT5K. Split operation, RIT, and general operation controls are superior to me.

The layout of the controls and menus. Once you get used to it, it's really good.
Manual notch filter is very good. Easy visualization on the display.
Selectivity is outstanding.
Weak signal reception is very good.
Ease of use.
So many things are configurable.
Displays - all the parameters you need to see.
Ability to use an external display is great if you need to see things larger.
Outstanding transmit audio quality. Folks I talk to regularly are raving about the audio.

The auto notch filter is not as good as other rigs I have used. But this may be corrected with a firmware update.
There is a steeper learning curve than other rigs, but it's worth it.

I sat on the fence about buying this radio for a while.
After using it, I am really glad I made the change.
You might be too.

KC9AGG Rating: 5/5 Dec 19, 2013 12:22 Send this review to a friend
awesome!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
i have only owned it for 2 weeks, but i must say that, even with my modest antennas, the receive is i've seen here. The noise blanker's ability to remove the sounds you encounter in the city--is actually 100%--and the receive signal remains beautiful.
There isn't anything to dislike about this radio.
If you're considering this one, don't hesitate to buy one--you will not suffer disappointment!!
KQ4KK Rating: 5/5 Dec 12, 2013 08:53 Send this review to a friend
Worth the MONEY  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had the chance to use a 990 for about 7 hours. IF you have the money, it is worth every dollar you spend on it. Everything about it is top notch. I have a Flex 3K, and a couple of ICOM HF high end radios. All great. Love the Flex. But the KENWOOD 990 is in a class all its own. The 200 watts is also nice to boot.
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