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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Kenwood TS-990S Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-990S
Kenwood TS-990S Reviews: 99 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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KJ4KBC Rating: 5/5 Feb 24, 2016 11:08 Send this review to a friend
Regrets??  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Okay here's the scoop. This is my second TS-990. What happened to the first you ask? Well, After using several boat anchor's along with each ones pluses and minus's, The 990 intimidated me I guess! I have several older rig's set up through a switching network that I was familiar with and comfortable with their shortcomings. The 990 is massive and has around 100 buttons and several knobs. The operation manual is "Huge". My stubborn nature kept me glancing through the operation manual and not truly seeing the beauty of how everything worked,and worked well. I sold the first one. What a mistake! I then tried a fully loaded 9000! Great rig but not in the same league as the 990. Mr. Sherwood has the 990 in the top tier of his receiver tests, but his grading manly covers one area. The 990 does well in that area, and as well or better than the rest in others. I've also found that my "ears" are not as sensitive as his testing equipment. It's not just one thing it does well. It's everything! The menus are easy to use and setting something to "your" taste can be accomplished in lightning fast time. The new and the old mixed together to create a wonderful rig that you can actually play with. I've looked at Flex and some of the other SDR's. To me they are about as exciting as my PC or cell phone. I feel for me to be a ham, I need some nostalgia to keep the hobby interesting and "Point and click" leaves little to be desired. The 990 works, and it works well! You'll miss no more opportunity to work stations with it than an SDR and you'll have fun while your at it! Regret's? None. I have my second and last one now and I won't let it leave. One last thing. I've seen some posts that claim they can't hook up an external Monitor. I don't know where they get that. I have one hooked up to mine and it works perfectly. Great waterfall, Sharp signal peaks and very good contrast. I suggest a middle of the road HP monitor and the adapter for the PC plug that mates to the 990.(can be had for about 10 dollars from the crap shack or Mouser). 73's
W6LBV Rating: 5/5 Feb 11, 2016 16:41 Send this review to a friend
Not your grandfather's typical review  Time owned: 6 to 12 months

“This is not your grandfather’s era product review of the Kenwood TS-990.” And the 990 is not your grandfather’s era Swan 500, either! The 990 is a modern, very high quality, and hugely capable state-of-the-art instrument, but it may not be the best choice for every ham. This review is intended to provide some decision-making information about it, especially for those who might not enjoy and benefit from owning and using the TS-990, and who could therefore be dissatisfied with it after purchase.

The TS-990 is an outstanding “traditional” (i.e., containing discrete, hardware-based sub-systems) HF transceiver, one with unparalleled versatility. Nevertheless, it is certainly not the astoundingly best HF transceiver ever to be produced following the end of Prof. Heinrich Hertz’s experiments with electromagnetic waves. One would be naive to claim that! But it fits securely and very competently into the ranks of contemporary “top tier” HF radios.

The 990 is the result of twenty years of design work, product development, and continuing advances in technology. It is not a major “revision” of the last transceiver that Kenwood introduced; it is an entirely new, “from the ground up” product.

The TS-990 is a very complex instrument. It has almost endless possibilities for varied ham uses because of the large number of circuits and functions that have been designed and built into it. (An approximately 250 page instruction manual barely covers the job of explaining it!) It is possible that an operator will not ever fully understand everything that the 990 contains or will not ever use everything that it is capable of doing. Thus a distinction: the TS-990 is not a “plug and play” transceiver, or a “first radio” for a newly licensed ham.

Over the past thirty years this reviewer has purchased, owned, and used a number of Kenwood HF transceivers, and he understands the “Kenwood way” of designing and producing radios. Yet when the 990 arrived and was first set up on the operating bench, it was as if “the world had begun anew.” It was necessary to study the manual intently over a period of weeks, adding new “tricks” to the existing quiver-full each day. And, in reality, his work on the learning curve still continues. More of its functions are still to be mastered.

This high level of complexity is a key point. A prospective purchaser should have (among others) two different major skill sets to aid his being able to master and use the 990 with satisfaction: background and experience with current HF transceivers and modern wireless technology, and a willingness to work at and eventually complete the climb up a long learning curve. These are not impossible goals, but there will be no “zero-familiarity-to-complete-mastery-of-the-990" in just fifteen minutes after opening the box!” If a prospective buyer does not yet have these skills, then some serious considerations should be given before making a purchase.

A particular area of technical difficulty for many 990 users, judging from the volume of traffic on the Yahoo TS-990 users’ group, is wire-based digital communications between the 990 and other digital devices connected to the 990. Modern radio operations practically demand an associated computer and/or other digital devices for purposes of logging, digital mode communications, even radio remote control. The TS-990 certainly has such a requirement, but it also has three digital communications I/O ports: RS-232, USB, and ethernet (IP, pointing to a LAN/router with DHCP). In addition Kenwood provides (via a free download) essential radio remote control computer applications for the 990.

Everything required is there (with the exception of connecting cables), but it all needs a knowledgeable set-up. Prospective purchasers thus should have good skills in wire-based digital communications, and the willingness to trouble-shoot physical connections and computer communications, if needed, until they work properly. Without such personal skills, a number of the 990's capabilities may only be available to the purchaser with difficulty and potential frustration. One should think hard about this before purchasing.

The TS-990 is a magnificent radio. I will keep mine for the rest of my days, and perhaps still not master quite all of it. And in fact, the 990 could even represent a growing problem to Kenwood marketing: after producing this radio, what else could Kenwood add to a future radio to tempt a current 990 owner to abandon his present rig and buy another (even more impressive) one? I can’t suggest any really significant new capability that is now “missing” and that could be beneficially added!

The TS-990 is available at a fairly “comfortable” price point (for a state-of-the-art HF transceiver). For a senior, mature operator it will provide superior service and should earn “pride of place” in any station. For an inexperienced or beginning ham, it might just prove troublesome and difficult to master. Caveat emptor!
HB9DLF Rating: 5/5 Feb 8, 2016 11:25 Send this review to a friend
JUST PERFECT  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I`ve got my 990 4 weeks ago. For me it is just an amazing transceiver ! It`s exactly what i`m searching for since a long time . For me; more then 5 points
G3RCE Rating: 3/5 Jan 27, 2016 09:55 Send this review to a friend
Glad to be rid of it  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I had to try the 990S
but after a few months, got totally bored and sold it and now have a Flex6300 sdr.
Much much better and more fun and flexible.
I'll never touch an old fashioned, dated legacy radio again.
SDR is my preference now.

W3BJ Rating: 5/5 Jan 26, 2016 13:50 Send this review to a friend
Great radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have had this radio for a month now and have to say this is a fine piece of engineering. I haven't even broke the surface of what you can do. One fault is there is only one din for an amplifier. It has 6 meters in there and I like to run my SB 220 on 6. W2IHY, Julius sells a switch to switch just relay and alc between 2 amps and works fantastic. Big cabinet and big price, but it will be the last radio you have to buy. She does all that I want to.
KU3X Rating: 5/5 Oct 1, 2015 11:46 Send this review to a friend
Best radio I've owned so far  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I’ve owned my TS990S since Feb 2015 and found it to be very user friendly.
I upgraded from a TS 950 SDX and really had a hard time working with the sub receiver on that rig. The sub receiver and VFO layout on the 990 is super easy to use. I like the idea that you can listen to two bands at one time. Could not do that on the 950. Rather than discuss it here, you can see how easy it is to use by watching this video.

Using this radio in a stand alone mode for digital is again super easy. Last weekend I worked the RTTY contest and all I used was the screen on the radio to read the text sent to me and two of the programable memory channels in the radio to send, call sign and two.....the exchange. The screen above the VFO knob shows the mark and space of the signal. Super easy to tune signals in. PSK is just as easy to tune in.

Lots of buttons and knobs of the front panel. It is easy to get a tad confused, but they are well laid out. The noise reduction is best I’ve used so far. On my TS 480 SAT, when I use the noise reduction it sounds like the receive signal is underwater. Not so on the 990. Sounds great.
When you tune into a CW signal on a noisy band, by narrowing down the bandwidth to 100 cycles, you don’t need the noise reduction.

The band stacking registers is a nice feature. It can stack up to 5 if you choose, menu selectable.

Programing the built in memory keyer for CW is great. You can use the paddles, buttons on the radio or a remote keyboard.

There are a lot of menu items to choose from. Once the radio is set up to your liking, there is no need to go into the menus again. Being able to back up a complete radio configuration to a computer is great. If you screw up the setting and don’t feel like trying to figure out what you screwed up, just do a restore from the computer. You can also backup the radio to a USB flash drive if you choose.

Firmware updates are also easy. BUT.....if the power goes out during a firmware install, you probably bricked the radio and it’s back to Kenwood. I decided it’s time to purchase a 1400 watt UPS.

I just wanted to touch some of the highlights of the 990.

Bottom line, for the price range of this radio I think it’s one of the best on the market.

Barry G. Kery, KU3X
KK7JS Rating: 5/5 Sep 30, 2015 14:29 Send this review to a friend
2 years of fun and counting  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought one new in September 2013 to replace a ~16 year old FT1000MP - still worked well but was ready for something new. Did not have in time for CQWW RTTY that year, but have since used it during 2014/2015. Also has worked very well working the DX on various digital modes - 216 and counting. It does take time to learn the interface, but works really well after that. Also works very well on SSB/CW. On SSB, always get great audio reports. On CW, the filtering and other available features makes it easy to break most DX pileups in 5-10 minutes. The fantastic receiver still allows me with a non-directional vertical antenna to hear and work stations I could not previously. Looking forward to many more years of fun use.
WE1X Rating: 5/5 Sep 30, 2015 07:46 Send this review to a friend
Absolutely No Remorse  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've been using a TS-990S for a year now and have found it a joy to operate. Yes, there are many bells and whistles of which some will be never used. Yes, there is a learning curve. I, however, find learning curves be it with rigs, software, modes, antennas, etc. the source of much enjoyment this hobby has to offer.

Connection to the PC via the rig's USB port was a snap. The extent of rig control is highly dependent upon the application being used. I found HRD (v6.3.0) to be rather good.

Support for digital sound card modes via the USB port and DM780 also excellent whether it's PSK, MFSK, MT63, Throb, Hell, JT65, JT9, etc.

Yes, learning to use the rig's native RTTY and PSK decoders can be a bit daunting. However, what I discovered is tuning to the signal and getting a solid decode requires a tender touch.

Ergonomics and build quality are stellar. Firmware upgrades, albeit too infrequent, are easy. Audio quality (receive and transmit) is wonderful. Selectivity is very nice.

Over the past 25 years I've gone through more rigs than I care to admit, and with few exceptions each has been a solid performer with the usual quirks. One may argue that a rig costing less than 30% of a TS-990S (or one of its competitors) makes contacts just as well. True. A Lada or a Yugo will get you from Point A to Point B, but the ride will not be as enjoyable as a Lexus or Infiniti.
KB3Z Rating: 5/5 Sep 30, 2015 04:50 Send this review to a friend
A Learning Experience, but a good one!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am a Elecraft K3 owner, and I must admit that the 990S does have many features that are standard and not options as with other radio's. I never had a sub receiver but it is nice to listen to cw on one band and ssb on another, and all at the same time!

I will admit that getting it connected with my computer and amplifier was not too bad. Once you got the cables it was basically plug and play.

I was surprised that I was not able to access a cw keyer with N1MM or ACLog. To do that I had to re-connect my Digikeyer II. But once I did that and configured the software, everything was OK. Of course, the Digikeyer II has a built in Winkeyer, which is really nice.

Now, tuning your amplifier to the 990S is done in either FSK or FM mode. It is not like the K3 where it is done in CW mode. But, I must admit that there was plenty of help out on the group/yahoo/TS-990S reflector. I did write a message to Kenwood in which they say they will get back to you within 48 hours. Well, that was 1.5 weeks ago, and still no response. Kenwood could improve on that one.

I do not agree with the previous review on operating digital modes with the 990S. I operated the CQWW Rtty contest this past weekend and basically set up 2 memories on the 990S. One for my call letters, and two for the 599, cq zone and state. Using the USB keyboard made that very easy. But I could never get the keyboard to be able to access the memories and press a F key to get it to send the memories I had set up. I guess I have to experiment with that. But it was just pushing 3 button, and I made 250 contacts over the weekend. I have not operated RTTY in over 25 years, and that was with my TS-940S, which I still have.

Tuning RTTY and PSK signals was very easy with the second screen. It's take time and a slow touch, but with the decode function and interface already built in, there was no need to use FLDIGI or MMTTY.

It is a learning experience, but I am not sorry I purchased it. I have my K3 as a backup now. I can't wait to try the 990S in the upcoming DX contests. Mark Griffin, KB3Z
VE3GZB Rating: 2/5 Sep 29, 2015 17:10 Send this review to a friend
I regret spending so much for so little  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
While technically the TS990 is hailed by some as a great success, my own experience has been less than fantastic.

True enough, SSB communications are excellent. There's no complaining about that!

My complaint is in the use of the digital modes. I have greater success in getting my toaster on the air in digital mode as compared to this radio.

If there are any FSK or PSK transmissions going on, I can be sure that the built-in decoding system on the TS990 will turn it into complete and utter gibberish on the built-in touch screen.

For all of the usefulness I've gotten out of all of the bells and whistles, I'm no better off with this radio than when I was using vintage 1960s tube gear.

73s, VE3GZB
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