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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Kenwood TS-480SAT Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-480SAT
Kenwood TS-480SAT Reviews: 218 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $1499.99
Description: 100 watts HF & 6m allmode portable and mobile transceiver w/ built-in antenna tuner
Product is in production.
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HL1ZIX Rating: 5/5 Aug 8, 2019 02:02 Send this review to a friend
Is it still worth the price?  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
My true rating would be a 4.5 or 4.7.

Pros: Excellent ergonomics for the size. Great tuner that tunes about 5.0 SWR antennas, very quickly. Decent sound, and high-quality build. Nice accessories. Mic sounds good -- not stellar, but good.

Cons: Adding filters requires board soldering. The TCXO stability chip is needed for digital modes. May be prone to frequency drift, on older models (easily adjusted by a tech). Being in 2 parts will annoy some, and endear others, depending on use.

Most useful situations where this rig excels: Minimalist desktop rig, semi-portable, and automobile applications.

Newer hams may wonder if this rig is still worth the price it commands, in this day and age. I'd like to approach my review with this in mind.

I purchased this rig used for about $575. For around $600, this rig is certainly worth the price in 2019. As of recently, Kenwood no longer makes this rig. They are still being sold new on a few of the ham sites, so there are still a few new ones out there in stores. That alone should cause a price drop, but it hasn't.

I have owned the Icom 7200, 7300, Yaesu FT-891, and Elecraft KX2, which are rigs with potential of attracting a similar market (portable operation, or small desktop station). Of these rigs, I would consider the 7300 the best choice, but with the caveat that the 7300 costs about $300 more, new or used. If you are looking to keep costs down a bit lower than that, then the Kenwood TS-480SAT is, in my opinion, a really great choice.

The TS-480 is a great rig for people who want to have a lot of functionality from the face plate. It is a small rig, but the menus are quicker-access (long-press choices) on the face of the radio, so they're not very taxing to access. Some radios require a lot of menu-hunting. This radio gets by with less of that, for the size. The ergonomics are pretty good. Any time you have a smaller main VFO knob it can be a comfort compromise, but otherwise, the ergos on this unit are great.

The build of the radio feels high-quality, and more sturdy than some newer rigs might. The lighted buttons are nice, but you're still not going to easily see the functions above them, in the dark.

Performance-wise, this rig is very good, for its size. I would rank the performance of the 7300 a hair better, with the caveat that you need to do a lot of fiddling with Twin PBT and go deep several pokes into the menu to get to the bandwidth adjustments to get there. The TS0480 will get you pretty close to the point that you're only going to notice a big difference on (a guess) 2% to 5% of the very faint DX contacts you'll try to make. Maybe not even that, for most. I work extreme DX off of a yagi at 75 feet. I doubt most users with a single element wire antenna will notice even that much.

Yes, a big comparison people will make is to the Icom 7300, of which there are a million out there. So should you spring for the 7300? If the difference is $200, then get the 7300. If the difference is $300, and it's to much of a stretch to spend more, then get the Kenwood. You won't get the bandscope or audio features on the Kenwood. You'll also be lacking voice recording for CQ's on the Kenwood, and the stability chip for digital, unless those additions have been installed. The 7300 comes with that. Adding these options later is a PIA on the Kenwood, because some things need to be soldered to the board (difficult and potentially dangerous to the rig, for non-tech hams).

Lastly, I should mention that the reason I dumped the 7300 was that I found it folds-up and cries to mama in noisy 40m band situations. It just cannot handle the noise, and even though I attenuate, I find the front end of it loses DX in noisy low-band situations. Even my cheap FT-891 was sometimes better on 40m, than my 7300 was. The Kenwood seems decent on 40m, and does a bit better with noisy bands. The type of noise I'm talking about is big-city general noise from lights, electronics, and what have you. In a typical US suburban environment, the 7300 will be OK, but in a large metropolis, go with another rig, like the TS480, if you like low band DX.

As mentioned, I had the Elecraft KX2. That radio hears really well, but I sold it because 10w wasn't enough at this point in the sun cycle, even though I loved that radio. Also, the KX2 suffers from a cheap main knob/VFO/digitizer, and mine went out. I had to fix it via warranty (I heard it's made of nylon, and easily damaged), and that put me off, so I sold it. Too bad -- great radio, otherwise (get the KX3, if you go this route). The TS480 is much larger and heavier than a KX2, but it's also 100w, and has a better speaker. If you are just going to bring a radio to a park, in a car, or on a bench out back of the house, then go for a larger radio, like the 480SAT.

In comparison to the FT-891 I had... the 891 has superior DSP, for sure. It's just press and go. No fiddling, if you set it to where you like it, in the menus. That feature, and size, is a big plus for the 891. The TS480 has DSP, but it's just average. Where the TS480 has it over the 891 is in sound quality and menu functionality / ergonomics. The 891 can be positively annoying to use, due to the menus. The TS480 is a pleasure, by comparison. I also prefer the sound of the TS480, as the speaker is larger. The internal speaker on the 891 is quite bad -- worse than the Yaesu 857D, even. I had to wear headphones, or carry a heavy external speaker to hear it well. My 891 was an early model, and suffered from a very noisy speaker which hissed -- and was more pronounced if using the rear speaker port. The side stereo port wasn't so bad on it, but that hiss drove me nuts. I like to use my RF Gain, and make 40m rag chew audio clear. The 891 still hissed, just due to poor electronics. The TS480 is far, far cleaner. More like a proper desktop radio. Through the external speaker port, the TS480 also sounds good. You also need a tuner with the 891, if your antenna is not good enough. The LDG external tuner I had added weight, wires, and set-up time. It clattered away for 10 seconds to find a tune, sometimes. The Kenwood's internal tuner is bullet-fast. Like 1 to 2 seconds or less, even on tougher tunes.

The TS480 is a nice radio if you want a minimalist desk set-up. You can hide most of the radio away from the desktop, and just add the head unit to your desk. If you are a neat-freak, then this radio is for you.

I want to mention that the tuner on this radio is REALLY GREAT. FAR BETTER than anything in any other radio of this size that I have encountered. I am not sure of the specs, but I'm tuning antennas that are around 5.0 SWR, where my other radios which have internal tuners can only tune around 3.0 SWR or less. That is a HUGE deal, because I can then run 17m on my 40m vertical, or even 20m yagi. Yes, there is loss, but it's acceptable for a mid to strong contact. It should be noted that only the Icom 7300 can do similar, but you have to go deep into the Emergency menu, drop to 50w out, and restart the radio to enter emergency mode to get similar tuner results. The 891 has no tuner. The KX2 (if you buy the internal tuner) is even better than the TS480, but again -- that rig is only about 10 to 12w out, and will end up costing you a lot more than a TS480.

I haven't mentioned the older Icom 7200, as a comparison. That rig is nice, minimalist, but heavy as a tank. I didn't enjoy it. I also didn't enjoy the tinny sound it had. Although that rig has a nice Twin PBT control, and the face of it is very easy to use, I would avoid it. There is no tuner in that rig, and I find the TS480 a far better value in the price range, with performance that easily compares or exceeds. I just didn't feel impressed with the 7200, and don't know why they command the price that they do, with the 7300 out.

So, in my view, the TS480SAT is still a great rig to get, provided you get it at a decent price. It is aging, but not too old, as of 2019 that parts can be found (as they just stopped selling it).

If you can pick up a good used working one, and the price is right, you will like it. After having all of those other rigs, I am still liking my TS480. Yes, I miss having a bandscope, and the Icom 7300 has a really good one, but if your budget is in that TS480 range and not the 7300 range, then this rig is a great choice.

VE6KMD Rating: 5/5 Apr 8, 2019 01:33 Send this review to a friend
Solid Radio for Base or mobile  Time owned: more than 12 months
Really enjoy running the radio. I remember receiving it as I was headed out to and Emergency Communications exercise and I took it, in the box.
Set up an antenna and had it communicating in the first 3 minutes of running all wiring to it and had my first contact a about 700 miles out. Very intuitive and looked at the book only to set a couple of menu options later in the day. Good reports on TX and RX. Output meets specifications. A real pleasure to run for about 10 years now.
SM2OTU Rating: 5/5 Dec 30, 2018 16:18 Send this review to a friend
Perfect for remote use  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
If you are looking for a great rig for remote use you should read this. Most other reviews are probably written for "local usage" I bought the 480 solely for remote operation.

I have been using the TS480SAT solely accessing it remotely with Remoterig 1258MkII equipment. I cannot have any antennas where I live so my shack is 187 km from home. Tried to use the IC7300 with RSBA1 software and that was a big disappointment.

The 480 is easy to configure for remote op with Remoterig. I have the control head at home so I control the rig as if it were in my shack here in Lulea. (The TX-part of the 480 is in fact 187 km away from the control head) And as long as I do not need the rig for digital modes, I do not need any computer. The feeling of touching real buttons and a real VFO and at the same time looking at the rig's own display is worth a lot to me.
For digital modes I use CAT-control with WSJT X v2.0. Cable attached between radio Remoterig box and the TX-part of the 480 (remoterig offers using com-ports, just read the manual and visit their forum) The control Remoterig is connected to my PC with a USB cable from Remoterig and virtual com ports) If you are using CAT-control with the 480, you are likely to experience HAMLIB errors. But just download the freeware Omnirig from VE3NEA and all problems are solved. It is a small program you configure for the 480 and then select Omnirig in WSJT X as your rig.

So the final verdict for TS480SAT is that it is a great rig, AND a really great rig for remote usage with Remoterig, and a great rig for CW as long as you install the optional CW-filter(s). I have both the 500 hz and the 270kz.
It also works perfectly with digital modes as FT8. I have a Signalink USB. And I use a 4G (LTE) wireless router at my cabin to connect to my fixed Internet here in Lulea. I did not have any trouble with timing/delays etc in FT8 and ran default settings in my Remoterig. Have made more than 1000 QSOs in 2 months in CW and FT8. Works beyond my wildest expectations.
The thing I had most worries with, was CAT-control in WSJT X, but Mike K2GC had the recipe in Omnirig. Mike responded in the Facebook group "Kenwood TS-480 Operators". Not a very active group but help is usually offered fast.
Any questions, mail me at my address at my QRZ page.
SP2SWR Rating: 5/5 Dec 1, 2018 16:41 Send this review to a friend
I wish it have sepateted RF gain knob!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am quite wide experienced among ham radio HF transceivers (I have owned many Yaesu and Kenwood radios). From Icom it was only 706MKII and G version.
Now I running TS-590SG for a year or so. But as my backup I still keep TS-480SAT. The main issue with the TS-480SAT operation is lack of separated RF gain knob which could be also SQL knob as well. For example, YAESU FT-xx7 series understands if I select FM mode it will switch for SQL. Eventually one can set it otherwise by the menu. Here you have to long press number 5 button-for RF gain and for SQL you will have to another knob (right behind AF gain not bad).
Overall the radio performance as a whole (operation, received and transmitted audio) is in my opinion excellent.
SP9HZX Rating: 5/5 Jul 20, 2018 13:29 Send this review to a friend
Really good radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
Very good radio.I have all filters installed.
Perfect receiver,very good ATU.
Nice design.I use it both in the car and at home
Really nothing to complain of.

WA5DSS Rating: 5/5 Feb 17, 2017 12:15 Send this review to a friend
Great mobile SSB rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a TS-480sat used off eBay about 3 years ago intending to experiment with remote operation between my apartment and a cabin with a large antenna. In checking it out from a single location I discovered it was a great, flexible, easy to use radio. To heck with remoting... I put it in my RAV4! I have used it on long vacation trips and in several QSO parties running mobile. Never have had a problem.

The features I find the most useful for mobile operation is the lighted buttons on front panel, the "click" tuning knob, the speaker in the control head, the noise blanker and the noise reduction filter. I also added the 1800 Hz if filter which is a must under noisy conditions.

On the negative side, I agree with some of the other reviewers about the CW keyer and antenna tuner. The keyer does not seem to support iambic B, so is difficult to use with fingers trained for that timing. The tuner has limited range compared to my other radios. I use neither of these features operating mobile, so they are not problems for my application.

Finally, I have been so happy with this radio, I recently purchased the "HX" model to get a stronger signal out during our present low sunspot cycle.
N1BSB Rating: 5/5 Jan 11, 2017 11:57 Send this review to a friend
Awesome radio in truck  Time owned: more than 12 months
Hi I got a TS 480sat last Christmas I have it mounted in my Peterbilt semi truck . It's mounted in the rear sleeper and the main unit is under the bunk it's wired directly to the batteries and I'm using an Chameleon V2L antenna. I've gotten 5-9 reports radio is a charm to run when the bands are active. I'm in the process of trying some new antenna setups since I travel a lot in the truck it's hard TO get a good setup. I've been wanting a Tarheel maybe or with a budpole and telescoping mast when I'm parked now that would I cool.anyway I'll just take it day for day 73s.
W8MPX Rating: 5/5 Dec 19, 2016 20:36 Send this review to a friend
EXCELENT RADIO  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
LZ1ZJ Rating: 5/5 Aug 5, 2016 05:26 Send this review to a friend
Exellent  Time owned: more than 12 months
Exellent transceiver for money!
Really very good RX one of the best I have heard with narrow 500 and 270 CW filters.
Great working with full power on RTTY after fan modification.Aded second fan.
KD6NXI Rating: 3/5 Jul 17, 2016 21:49 Send this review to a friend
Convoluted interface.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Don't like the front panel. Buttons around the tuning dial are hard to see and I hate multi function buttons in general. Confusing. Power output also a bit low.
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