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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Kenwood TS-950SD Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-950SD
Kenwood TS-950SD Reviews: 28 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $3800.00
Description: former kenwood flagship
Product is not in production.
More info: http://kenwood radio
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W5TD Rating: 5/5 Nov 15, 2017 11:17 Send this review to a friend
Still a great rig!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
WOOOO HOOOO!! I now own a top of the line radio! Well ok, it was top of the line 25 years ago, but it is still a great performer!

About 8 or 9 years ago I bought a used Kenwood TS950 from Ham Radio Outlet which was in rough physical condition, but it worked good, except for the DSP unit that came with it. I ran it in a couple of contests, was amazed by the receiver, and then sold it to get something else. I kind of always regretted selling it. Having owned mostly low to mid level radios, listening to a contest with a competition grade receiver is a new experience, you will hear many stations you wouldn't have otherwise.

Ham Radio Outlet had a Kenwood TS90SD for sale used than I had been keeping my eye one. About a month ago they dropped the price by $150 and I couldn't wait any longer-I got it! The DSP unit on it works fine, and it was a nice surprise to see that it was full of Kenwood filters as well-with the 1.8KHZ and 500hz filters at the 2nd IF, and the 2.4khz, 500hz, and 250hz filters at the 3rd IF. This makes a pretty nice setup.

I believe this was the first radio aimed at the amateur radio market that had DSP, but the DSP is pretty primitive by today's standards. You can use it to shape your transmit audio on both SSB and CW, and I set that up a little bit when I had the cover off of the radio. On receive, the only thing that the DSP unit does is act like an Audio Filter for the slope tuning (which is used on SSB). So when you adjust the slope tuning the IF portion of the radio narrows the passband of the radio, and the DSP unit does the same for the audio. Here is the rub, though. There is no way to tell if this setting is on or not. To change between it being on or off is accomplished by the "hold down the key while turning on". However, the manual doesn't say what the default state is, so I really have no idea as to whether this feature is turned on or off.

The receive audio on SSB is beautiful, just like it is for most other Kenwoods. I am more of a CW operator, but probably get on SSB more than normal just because it sounds so good. When I first bought the rough TS950 8 years ago, I was getting reports on SSB than my transmit and receive were off by a few hundred hertz. I looked around in the manual and discovered that there is a power on function that will offset the transmit and receive in SSB and RTTY by the amount of CW offset selected by the Pitch control. I have no idea why you would ever want to do this, but I turned off that function and everything was fine. If you are getting similar reports look in the manual for this.

The autotuner in this radio is pretty fast, and will turn absolutely anything! It tuned up my doublet on 160 meters and some manual tuners can't do that! The autotuner is only in line during transmit, though, so you might be able to tune up an antenna with a large mismatch using it, but you probably won't hear very much. Wish the tuner worked on receive as well, but it doesn't.

I have run this more recent TS950SD in the Illinois QSO party, the CQWW SSB contest, and the November Sweepstakes. It handles contest conditions with ease. If you look at the QST review of this radio, written by my friend Rus K2UA, it shows that it is crazy sensitive, like a MDS of -143dbm or something, with the preamp on. So, turning on the AIP (which turns off the preamp) will improve dynamic range and you will still have the necessary sensitivity on HF. The receiver is quiet, though. On the higher bands I do run it with the preamp on and still hear very little noise, much less than I hear with low to mid level radios. There is a 3 step attenuator also-with 10db, 20db and 30db as your choices. Every radio should have this instead of the "one size fits all" attenuators you see in many radios, where the attenuation is too much for most conditions. The Kenwood TS950SDX switched to a 6/12/18 attenuation setup, and I would have preferred that, but the 10/20/30 isn't bad. In the 3 contests I have run so far, I haven't seen any overloading of the receiver with the AIP on when on the lower bands, and the AIP off on 15m and above. The only time I noticed any IMD products being generated was when the Noise Blanker was turned on.

The Noise Blanker deserves special mention also, it really works! I get some sort of raspy/hashy intermittent noise at times, which I am still trying to located and eliminate, which can hit S7 or so on 40 meters. The NB on the 950 pretty much eliminates this noise completely. Even without that noise, turning on the NB will lower the background noise by an appreciable amount. As stated above, though, you need to be careful doing this when the band is really crowded. The NB is adjustable as to its level, which is nice also.

The TS950S has 2 separate receivers, with some limitations. It is more adaptable than the Icom 781/775/756 series/7600 dual watch in that you can have each receiver on a different mode and bandwidth. However, unlike the Yaesu FT1000/2000/5000/9000 series and Icom 7800/7851, you cannot put each receiver in a different ear when using stereo headphones. However, each receiver does have its on AF control, instead of a balance control used in some different radios. Also, the subreceiver has a bandwidth of 2.4khz and there is no narrow CW filter option for the subreceiver. I do a lot of DXing and these limitations haven't really bothered me. You quickly learn how to separate the receiver signals mentally and how to use each AF control to best hear each receiver. The wider bandwidth on the subreceiver doesn't bother me, because I use this receiver to find the station the DX is working in a split frequency pileup, so I like the wider bandwidth on CW because it makes finding that station quicker.

The AF VBT (variable bandwidth tuning) is like an audio peak filter for CW, and it works on both receivers, so you can use it to narrow down the receive audio for the subreceiver in CW. It is different that most other audio peak filters I have seen in that in most rigs, the control adjusts the center frequency of the peak filter, and you only have couple of peaking widths to choose from. In the TS950 the control adjusts the peaking width, in probably 10 or 15 different widths-it is a detented knob. There is also the IF VBT for CW which is like passband tuning, in that it narrows the width of the passband at an IF level. With the 500hz and 250hz CW filters, the AF VBT and the IF VBT you can easily get single signal reception on CW. If you can't it is only because the signals are zero beat on top of each other.

For SSB you have the slope tuning which is like passband tuning in that you can narrow either side of the SSB passband, or both sides if you like. There is no IF-SHIFT control on the 950, but with these other controls, it isn't needed. The TS850 (another great radio) doesn't have IF Shift either.

I am getting around 160 watts out on the lower bands, and 150 on 12/10. The extra power does seem to help. The QST review shows that this is a full duty cycle rig, as Kenwood says you can run RTTY at 150 watts for an hour. The 950 has phone patch in and out jacks which might not seem useful at first, but you can use these jacks (which are phono plugs) to use for the digital modes, giving you an audio in and out. I dug up a couple of different cables around the house, did a little soldering, and I was setup for RTTY, PSK, and others. Yes, I still have to manually switch the radio between transmit and receive when using this digital modes setup, but what do you want for free? Yesterday I worked 9U4M on 15m RTTY for a new band country! Also, you can select any filter in any mode, so if you are doing AFSK you can select the narrow CW filters while in SSB.

If you look at the for sale ads, you don't see many of these radios for sale, because people tend to hang on to them. Also, you don't see many being sold as parts units, because they seem to age pretty well and are just reliable in operation. The price of the TS950SD and 950SDX have remained pretty high, going for more than what the Yaesu FT1000D goes for, which is a fine radio also.

Well, this review has gone on long enough. You can probably tell by now that I love this rig, and don't think you can go wrong with it, unless you are expecting it to have DSP noise reduction and more advanced DSP than what it has.
KG4BON Rating: 5/5 Jul 19, 2014 09:36 Send this review to a friend
TS-950SD is still one of the best!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have tried many radios but none have more pleasant listening audio when the bands are open. One of the most sensitive receivers I have ever had. The best mix of analog and digital so it sounds great all the time. I have tried the TS-950SDX and it is a nice radio too, but not better enough to warrant the extra few hundred dollars. Most of the 950SDX radios have been modified so much and with the cold solder problems kenwood admitted to, it's hard to find a nice reliable one anymore. A newer more modern DSP radio can dig the signals out of the noise better when the bands are not good, but still not very pleasant to listen too. If you are not using it for contesting and you just enjoy spinning the dials when the bands are fair, you will be very happy rag chewing with this radio. I'm like a child on Christmas morning every time I turn it on and it just looks great sitting in front of you (still a very modern looking after over 25 years)!

I also have the TS-870S. It too is a great radio. The receiver on my TS-950SD is a little more sensitive, but the TS-870S IF DSP is a little better at bringing the signal up out of the noise when the bands are not great. The TS-950SD is easier to search the bands as the TS-870S does not have direct band jumping buttons, it does however have band up and down buttons that will scroll thru the bands in order. The biggest difference between them is my TS-950SD has the 120 vac power supply built in and it does not operate on 12 vdc. The TS-870S operates on 12 vdc only, making it a much lighter and smaller radio (no power transformer). The TS-950SD has 150 watts output on ssb and the TS-870S has 100 watts output on ssb, but most stations I talk to cannot tell the difference because the TS-870S does a great job with the DSP giving it a more pronounced (hot) audio. Do not let this be a deciding factor when considering either radio. I use ssb only. I can not comment on the CW difference, but most reviews I have read like the TS-870S better for this mode.

These are solely my impressions and are based on unmodified radios. They are both truly great radios ahead of their time (thanks to Kenwoods great engineers) and if you cannot decide, just get both like I did!

KG4BON 73's
HL5FEE Rating: 5/5 Apr 17, 2013 00:28 Send this review to a friend
Very nice audio.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I love excellent sound quality than what I had for almost 20 years, the TS-950SD.
I have ICOM IC-7700 too.But I still work with this fantastic rig.
Many other stations gave me very nice audio report.So as a backup device, I recently purchased the TS-950sd again.
W1EY Rating: 5/5 Mar 17, 2013 07:10 Send this review to a friend
"Sounds Like the BBC"  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I very seldom write reviews here, I only do when equipment excels far above or falls well behind expectations. Since most ham units fall in the middle of the pack, I don't evaluate much. BUT, then there's my "new" TS-950SD (four weeks here). Also have had many amps, microphones and audio processing equipment.
I've owned much Icom (except 7800), Yaesu (except 3000, 5000 and 9000) and Kenwood 480SAT and TS-940SAT. But compared to the rest of the pack, the 950SD is another animal. I've cleaned out all my audio processing equipment and various dynamic and condenser microphones. I now use just a Heil PR-781 mic with my 950SD directly into my Sommer XP-807 antenna.
The comment "Sounds Like the BBC" came just last week from a ham in Belgium, but not a response to an audio inquiry from myself. I sat with this comment for a week, then decided to "tell all".
So there you go, a PR-781 mic (no processing) into a TS-950SD (stock, 2.7 wide) into my 807 antenna, 120 watts out. Other reports similar, but not as specific. I may have arrived at my long term arrangement.

W5DUG Rating: 5/5 Sep 18, 2012 07:40 Send this review to a friend
TS-950sd final replacement  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I recently purchased a TS-950sd. It was in great shape, excellent receive, great transmit audio.
After playing with it on 75 meters where the local nets and ragchew hams meet, I tried to tune the radio up on 20 meters. I discovered that the filter board had a open coil on 20 meters and the finals blew at full power!I guess the finals don't like working into a open without any load. After repairing the filter, I decided to replace the bipolar final transistors, MRF429's, with MRF150's, just like the TS-950sdx has. It is not too hard to do, just take the TS-950sdx schematics and change a few resistor values, and add a few .01 caps and add one new transistor for the bias on the second FET and your in business.(Make sure you add a 4.7 volt zener to the diode that sits over one of the final transistors), and set the driver bias and final bias current described in the 950sdx manual. Audio reports with the new finals have been excellent. It is cheaper to replace the mrf429's with the mrf150 fets. It takes a little work, but it is worth the effort.

KB2CPW Rating: 4/5 Jun 16, 2011 21:55 Send this review to a friend
Great Rig!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months

Even though it's considered an underdog when compared to a 950SDX. The 950SD is a great radio. I don't have much of a problem with headphone audio, but you must lower the volume when switching over and a good quality headphone like Sony's MDR-V600 is a must.

Older style auto-tuner which works fast.
Fantastic RX and TX (you can adjust the DSP-10 for better outgoing audio by removing it and adjusting the pots.)Will go 3.1 wide on TX.
Clean TX audio and it's happy with many different microphones.
Love the display, very nice to look at and it responds fast to changes.
Nice filter selection,NB,AGC,ATT and a TCXO.
DSP is not very good on RX.
VFO is sensitive and the VFO/CH Knob is not adjustable. No fuzzy logic when tuning.
No menu's like the 850, Sub RX hasn't many features beyond an ssb filter and NB.

You can pick one of these up for between 900-1200 US and they are worth every penny. The SD has a cleaner TX with less distortion than the SDX because of the bipolar transistors used in the SD final section.
They are pretty easy to repair since not much goes wrong with them beyond some having the finals crap out. If you find that it won't tx, pull the top cover and look at the fuse in the PA. If it's blown, check the 2sc2922 48 volt regulator, fuse and check the finals for shorts. The 2sc2992 goes, dumps 77 volts into the MRF-429's and kills em. Then the fuse blows when one or both short ;-p .
The 2sc2922 will not regulate with the fuse out of place, so if you replace it and do not put in the fuse, it will still show 77 volts on its output since two other control transistors are bypassed when the fuse is out. The best way to service and check everything, is to remove the finals by lifting the legs, replace the fuse and check the voltages then, if you see 48 volts, the reg is good but for 5 bucks, I would replace it anyway.
The 2sc2922 is often counterfeited like the 2sc1971's and 2sc1972's. Make sure you get a real Sanken replacement from a reputable supplier. There are places on the web where you can see pics of the counterfeits vs the real McCoy..
K1FBI Rating: 4/5 May 17, 2011 10:11 Send this review to a friend
Good, but with quirks  Time owned: more than 12 months
The rigs good points have been told many times over.

What I don't like is that the microphone levels need adjusting whenever switching bands and the deafening hiss in the headphones, even when the transmit monitor is off. Not being able to use the headphones is a deal breaker for me.
Kenwood should never have let that happen and should have offered a fix.
M0VPL Rating: 5/5 Apr 26, 2011 12:17 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic!  Time owned: months
Well I managed to purchase a very late, mint TS-950SD with SP950 speaker, over the years i have had many HF radios in my shack, FT1000D, PRO3, TS870s and it has the best ears of them all. I use mine with an external BHI module and the combination of filtering is just awesome, its fully loaded with all the filters, DSP, plus BHI and i can pick out just what i want to hear. the audio through the SP950 sounds so full but missing no detail, the transmit audio through a PR40 is just as impressive iam told. you have all the controls to hand, no menus to fiddle with its just great to use and listen to. I still pinch myself that i found one in such mint condition. all i can say is if you ever get the chance to listen to one and have a play dont let it go by, because you may well want one but minters are hard to find. kenwood at its best!
EA8NR Rating: 5/5 Jan 15, 2011 04:42 Send this review to a friend
Master piece.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Despite its age, still work flawless since got it about 3 years ago.
Has awesome reception in all modes and band. Even to SWL is a plus.
Iím receiving continuously superb audio and signal reports.
Great wide filters selection.
Build like-a-tank. Has survived many trips and contests!
It will not disappoint you. A master piece no doubt.
VE3FDT Rating: 5/5 Oct 7, 2010 21:29 Send this review to a friend
Excellent!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am not sure if this will be more of a review or an obituary for a good friend...

A few months ago I sold my TS-950SD. I sold it "for repair". It succumbed to internal injuries caused by a nasty area power surge which, through the power supply transformer, overloaded the driver transistor (2SC2922) and blew up one of the Motorola final transistors (MRF429MP). I am not an electronics tinkerer and did not trust myself enough to shave off the labour cost (more than half of the estimated total!) from the repair expense. I also wanted to try something a little more modern than a classic, so I put a wounded friend up for sale.

For those readers whose eyes are filling up with moisture: it found a new home and is back on the air, part of a large Kenwood collection.

My personal experience with this rig has been nothing but gratifying: 3 years ago I bought this rig on eBay and invested in alignment. In 2 and a half years that I had used the rig (with a 5 band hexbeam on 20/17/15/12/10 and a shortened dipole on 160/80/40/30) I made about 8,000 contacts, 270+ DXCC entities (260+ on CW, 220+ on SSB, 130+ RTTY/PSK) and I thoroughly enjoyed using it. It allowed me to make (with my less than ideal "antenna farm") over a 1,000 QSOs in a CQWW (SOAB low power) and it kept me happy in many a ragchew, and in many DX chases.

Everything about this rig I liked. Heavy, but provides a very solid feel of every knob and button. Fantastic receiver. Quick and wide range internal tuner. The slope tuning. The subreceiver; very handy in the split pile-up (subreceiver's tuning knob is too small, but you can use the main tuning knob while pressing a button). The noise blanker. The excellent audio (the most "natural" DSP I have experienced, but I have not tried that many). The interference reduction from the Advanced Intercept Point RF amplifier. The flexibility provided by the full set of real filters; I had
# 8.83 MHz section with:
* 6 kHz AM filter
* YK-88S-1 2.4 kHz SSB filter
* YK-88C-1 500 Hz CW filter
# 455 kHz section with:
* YG-455S-1 2.4 kHz SSB filter
* YG-455C-1 500 Hz CW filter
* YG-455CN-1 270 Hz narrow CW filter
which is somewhat CW tilted, but it can be rearranged to your heart's content.

It was sometimes difficult to believe that this was a 20 years old rig. Outstanding radio. It is simple in use and it works very well! I suspect that I may regret selling it in the future...
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