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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Kenwood TS-820S Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-820S
Kenwood TS-820S Reviews: 56 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $5000.00
Description: 160 meter through 10 meter HF radio
Product is not in production.
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NT9M Rating: 5/5 Feb 3, 2011 12:32 Send this review to a friend
Beautiful radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I've owned a Tempo 2020 for several years now so much of observations will be based on that experience. I like the 2020 a great deal and so I had been wanting to own a Kenwood hybrid to see what the Kenwood experience is like. Let me say I'm glad to have started with the TS-820S.

The 820 is nearly identical in size to the 2020. These are big and heavy radios that seem to ooze character. The build quality and materials are excellent. I especially like the 820's large meter, knob size, and the smoothness of its controls. The 2020 is also well endowed in this area, though the Kenwood seems to have a more aesthetically pleasing layout. The 2020 has a rather unique rotary drum with analog frequency readout combined with a digital readout for the first two frequency digits. The 820-S has a fully digital readout to go with the analog scale on the tuning knob.

About the main tuning knob, the 820's has a light weight feel to it and the tuning step is a little faster than I would prefer. I can see this being necessary for quick excursions up and down the band. But I like the 2020's heavy metal tuning knob and tuning step speed better. This is probably due to the 2020's tuner being broken up into discreet 100 khz band segments. Since you need to touch up the tuning anyway as you travel up and down the band, I like this feature of the 2020. It's a good reminder to re-tune.

Both rigs have similar controls but there are some departures. The 820 has an IF shift which comes in very handy. It also features a very useful audio processor to boost your "talk power". It also has FSK mode available from the mode switch, which is lacking on the Tempo. The 820 also has an audio monitor, but the volume seems very low to me on a Heil Pro Set plus headset. VOX adjustments for delay, anti-vox, and vox-gain are available on the front panel of the 820 but require a trip inside the 2020.

But the edge goes to the 2020 when it comes to RF ATTENUATION adjustment. It has a continuously variable RF ATT knob that comes in very useful, while the 820 has a fixed level RF ATT button.

The Tempo also has AM available on the mode switch, which is really the only serious drawback I've encountered with the 820.

I always loved the audio of my 2020, but having had the 820 now, I must admit I prefer the Kenwood audio. Both get good reports for transmit audio, but the Kenwood seems to have the quieter receiver. Really can't go wrong with either rig.

So when it comes to choosing between these grand old gals, I can't really say I have a preference. I put a Kenwood CW filter in the 820 and I prefer to use it for CW now, even though the Tempo already has a stock filter for that. But the Tempo gets the nod for AM mode obviously, and so I don't see me ever parting with it. On SSB, I'd call it a tie, although that RF ATT knob on the Tempo is sure nice to have available.

Both rigs have the look and feel of a "real ham radio". For that reason I'm very happy to have them in the shack serving as bookends for a more modern TS-2000.
GM1SXX Rating: 5/5 Oct 26, 2010 04:44 Send this review to a friend
Lovely old rig.  Time owned: more than 12 months
What a great old radio. Mine cost 90 at a radio rally. It is in mint condx. Looks brand new. I only had to lubricate the VFO spindle to get it back in action.
It still has the original Japanese S2001 PA valves and delivers full power. The receiver is excellent.
So much for amateur radio being a rich man's hobby!
So long as you are not one of the 'plug and play' brigade, and can load and dip a valve PA, I'd recommend this radio to you. I like this radio a great deal, and I can't find anything about it I don't like.
G7AQK Rating: 5/5 Sep 26, 2010 05:28 Send this review to a friend
Oldie but goodie  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bear in mind that this is a 30 year old radio and will need a little TLC from time to time to keep it operating in tip top condition. The good thing is that most of the parts are discreet components that should be reasonably easy to obtain. In my case the faults requiring new components have generally been due to my own stupidity and have been confined to repair of the finals. All other problems have been resolved with a little contact cleaner. A tune up of the receiver can be easily achieved without external measuring equipment by just using the built in test and monitoring functions. There is a Yahoo support group for these rigs that can be found at The rig is a joy to own and operate. The only part that I think could be improved is the speech processor and mine is rarely used. Despite its age it is a great rig to use on sound card modes. It features a "phone patch" connection and VOX circuit making it very easy to hook up to your PC without requiring an external interface. The radio will drift in frequency a little when first switched on but will settle down after about 1/2 an hour.
XE1GXG Rating: 5/5 Jul 6, 2010 11:00 Send this review to a friend
Still going strong...  Time owned: more than 12 months
Fun to own, operate, repair and aesthetically pleasing. Everyone who sees it says: "THAT'S a ham radio!" Original s2001 tubes and a new driver in 2007 and still puts out a full 100 watts. Very fine CW rig and quite good for PSK and SSTV, too. My FT 450 is great, too,like a reliable Toyota (of yore ha ha) but the 820 is like a Mercedes Benz.
W8JBV Rating: 5/5 Apr 18, 2010 12:06 Send this review to a friend
Great old rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
What bad things can you say about this radio, can't think about a single one. had mine since 1973, never did a thing to it, still pumps out 120watts with same tubes. She is my backup rig now I just got lazy and got a Ten/Tec Jupiter with all the bells and what both radios.The old girl still works great.W8JBV just will not sell her she is like an old friend.
VU2YK Rating: 5/5 Apr 9, 2010 11:50 Send this review to a friend
Awesome Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got mine in battered shape from a friendly ham who thought I could use it for parts. Apparently it had fallen off the roof. Nevertheless after some coaxing, it worked and showed about 50 watts out with original tubes. With supplied MC-50 microphone I received glowing audio reports. My friend VU2DK thought the transmit audio was very nearly broadcast quality. A lover of hybrid radios, I was very fortunate to start out my hobby with HW-101 followed by the venerable Yaesu FT-101ZD in 1980, a radio I still use every day. Bought another 101Z and finally a TS-530S while on a short trip to the US braving huge odds from the TSA. I own several other Icom and Kenwood radios , but end up using hybrids most of the time. The large tuning knob may have something to do with it, or is there something more ? Awesome radio. Rahul/VU2YK
W5XTL Rating: 5/5 Mar 29, 2010 21:36 Send this review to a friend
The pinnacle of the Kenwood Hybrid Line  Time owned: more than 12 months
The TS-820 and the later TS-820S was the pinnacle of the Kenwood Hybrid line. Kenwood switched to a quieter single conversion RX in the 820, changed the IF frequency, and added features such as IF Shift, the adoption of the DG-1 internal digital display and an RF speech processor.

Electrically, the only difference between the TS-820 and the TS-820S is that the original 820 had the DG-1 digital display as an optional accessory while the TS-820S had it as standard equipment.

Physically/mechanically, the original TS-820 had the metal/plastic composite band switch coupler between the coil pack board and the remaining switch in the PA compartment. The TS-820S came with the infamous plastic coupler that is one of the headaches for later hybrid owners. Ken, K4EAA, now has replacement metal couplers for the 820S that will work and last a life time just like the original 820's couplers.

The DG-1 is often pointed to as one of the failings of this rig. True, there are some troublesome spots, but all can be corrected easily with patience and diligence. First area of issue is the plated feed through holes on the counter unit. To repair these, and bring them back to full functionality, one only has to use a short piece of wire in each hole, and solder both sides (ensuring the solder flows through the hole) with high quality solder. It's a one time fix that will last a life time. Second issue is crud, oxidation, and in those particularly bad "smoker owned" rigs, tar and smoke residue buildup on the interconnecting pins and sockets between the two boards that make up the counter unit. Simply remove both boards, clean the sockets and pins with high quality electrical cleaner, and follow up with a good electrical connection lubricant, reassemble/disassemble several times to ensure good contact, and then assemble everything back up and button her up. Should be good to go for quite a while.

The TS-820/S represents the end of the battleship built Kenwood Hybrids. The later 530/830 were smaller, lighter, and boards were combined to reduce cost (engineering/fabrication/repair costs). Those later hybrids are great rigs, but the build quality leaves something to desire for those who own the earlier hybrids. The 820/S quite possibly is the heaviest of the Kenwood Hybrid line. It is also quite possibly the most complicated in design and layout, but is built well, designed with perfection in line, and a properly aligned and maintained 820/S will beat the pants of most rigs out there in both RX performance as well as TX quality.
K0PF Rating: 5/5 Oct 30, 2009 19:07 Send this review to a friend
Great Classic Kenwood  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a TS-820 new in about 1980 and I still use it. It has one of the best receivers, sensitive and quiet, I have ever used. On cold winter evenings it's nice to smell the warm tubes and it has a comfortable "feel" about it, reliable and just enough power to contact almost anyone you can hear. It's not at all difficult to tune: Dip the Plate and Peak the Load. It does not have a digital synthesizer, so it does not have synthesizer noise in the receiver like so many newer (less expensive) rigs. By the way, it was not $5000 MSRP, more like $1000...
K6LO Rating: 3/5 Oct 23, 2009 16:12 Send this review to a friend
Decent choice  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I love older Kenwood HF gear, and I wish I could say enthusiastic things about the TS-820S. I have owned two of them. I kept neither for more than a couple of months. Nice radio. Rugged, reliable, but I found that both my examples had annoying cicuit hisssssss.... on the audio. Never could solve it. It always colored the audio. I am very sensitive to that noise - pickier than most. If you are not, then the radio is a reliable choice. I love my TS-520S. Blissfully quiet.
AI4HO Rating: 5/5 Aug 29, 2009 23:31 Send this review to a friend
Great rig for its time.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I as going through the review section here on EHam and noticed that I hadn't posted a review om Kenwood's TS-820s.

First a little history with the 820s. When I first got back into the hobby in late May of 2003 after a 5+ year layoff of the hobby and being a tech for 8+ years I received this radio as a gift for passing my general class test. Actually I had received the radio sans the mic so I could listen to the ARRL CW practice and on the 40 meter sub band. Any how on the day I was to take my test I was talking to my friend Richard who had initially given me the radio, asked if I was going to pass the tests this evening. I replied in the affirmative and he stated that he would bring the mic to our weekly brunch.

Well obviously passed, and once I had passed and had everything to get on the air, Richard came over a day or so later and showed me how to dip and tune the grid for best operating conditions. I was a quick study and Richard had me show him that I could do the required tasks on pretty much every band. Being that it has none of the WARC bands didn't faze me at all. I was on the air!

I had this rig and and a MC-50 mic and an amplified D-104 mic and my antenna at the time was a GAP Challenger vertical. I will say ths about the radio, it is huge, something like 37lbs, it does have an internal PS which was a plus for me at the time. I was getting a good solid 120 watts out with that rig. But once bitten I had to upgrade not only the license class but the rig/s.

A lot has changed in the shack over the past 6+ years. I am now running an Icom 756 Pro III, with a 75 Pro as a second rig, and a Kenwood TS-570D/G for my special events/field day/ scout rig. I now have a 50' tower with a Mosley TA-33 classic, I also have an AL811H to help with the bad band conditions. Our club had 2 tables at last years Orlando Ham Fest, we had an 820S on the table. Could of had it for a song, it was absolutely pristine, unfortunately it had nothing else, no cables, no power cord, no mic. Seriously thought about it but figured I'd better not, really don't have the room for it on my desk. Yea I could've picked up what I needed, but at that time I really didn't have the $$ to have a complete operating rig. I still have fond memories of the 820s, had a lot of QSO's with that rig, which stayed in my shack until about 3 years ago.

73 de Mark
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