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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Kenwood TS-120S Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TS-120S
Kenwood TS-120S Reviews: 41 Average rating: 4.6/5 MSRP: $700.00
Description: 100-120 watt HF SSB/CW rig (no WARC.) Solid state, 1980 vintage
Product is not in production.
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Page 1 of 5 —>

VK5GI Rating: 5/5 Nov 11, 2017 00:16 Send this review to a friend
A very good transceiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
How I HATE the"starter rig" epithet! I just bought my,third Ts-120 in nearlt 50 years, though this is my;first S model. My "new" 120 is scruffy but works well. Of course it doesn't have the WARC bands, dsp, scanning or any bells and whistles. It,is 35 years old, for crying out loud! I have other rigs, all home brew and all about 5 watts. So this is kinda special. No menus, no fartarsing around, just plain good radio.
AC8JU Rating: 4/5 Apr 22, 2016 13:22 Send this review to a friend
Own and use three of them.  Time owned: months
I got my license back in 2011 after a long absence and immediately ordered a new radio. While waiting for it to be delivered I went to a yard sale with my wife and found a Kenwood TS-120S for $40, Thinking to fix it up and use it as a spare.
Having no antenna yet, I connected it to a CB mobile antenna, turned it's carrier down real low and put out a test signal on CW in the 10 meter band just to see it it had any output. Another 8 call station about 100 miles away answered my word "TEST" as if It were a CQ - my first QSO in 45 years.
By the time my shiny new toy arrived I had a homebrew fan dipole up for 10, 15 and 20 and was using the old Kenwood every day. The box stayed unopened for a couple days while I pondered trying to send it back, but I did not. It's everything I expected and more and I still have it, but about all I use it for is 12, 17, 30 and 160. It maxes out at 100 watts while the TS-120 shows 130 on my meter, and sounds better, both RX and TX.
After using both radios side by side for a year or so I bought a parts rig to support the old thing and paid over 100 bucks for it because it had a CW filter. It only took a shot of deoxit to fix it. Now I had two TS-120 radios. The new one got the position of honor in the shack due to it's CW filter and the forty dollar one became a shop radio, So I still had no spare and now had two obsolete rigs in use.
My third was described by the seller as "junk". It had a crack in one of it's cards, poor RX and no TX at all. It looked like it had been worked on by someone whose soldering iron was a lot bigger than his brain. It took two sessions about a year apart to fix it. Now I have a portable and still no spare.

I prefer these rigs mainly for their excellent audio and ease of repair. Granted, they do have shortcomings. The lack of break in keying on CW for one. The lack of direct power output control on SSB, The ineffective noise blanker, the VOX knobs on the top of the cabinet, The obvious lack of WARC bands or even 160. My biggest squawk is they are picky about DC power. They really do need 13.8 volts. A 12 volt battery won't quite carry the freight for a TS-120. It works fine in a car until you shut the engine off, then it gets cranky and will kill the battery real quick. Not a great choice as a mobile, and an AC dependant portable.
Do-it-yourself repairs? The weak part is the big mechanical bandswitch. I keep mine clean and have tightened the contacts by bending them in with dental probes. I've never in over five years needed a part I cannot find.
One of these days I'll find and buy the lower power version, the TS-120V.
KK4CUL Rating: 4/5 Apr 10, 2016 18:25 Send this review to a friend
Super enjoyable, fun rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I like it so much I want to give it a 5. But it is so basic and old at this point calling it "perfect" is a bit of an exaggeration.

I have an Icom IC-7410 as my main base rig. I'm has a much more stable vfo, much better noise reduction, more consistent power out and bigger screen, and weighs almost 3 times more. However, it find myself turning the TS-120s on first most often.

Pros: Warm, easy to listen to received audio
Extremely simple to use, you literally don't need a manual
Every function is 'first layer'-- no menus and submenus
100-125 watts out up through 15 meter band
RF gain control does help to a degree, IF shift does work well for adjacent signals or QSB, noise blanker works for ignition noise and some powerline noise

No 160, 60, 30 ( I never use it anyway), 17, 12, or 6 meters
At 35+ years old, it's drifty and off frequency 100+\- hz depending on band
Mechanical VFO turns too quickly, and whatever frequency you're currently on (14.300) changes the frequency on other bands (21.300). Not a big complaint, but basically if you change hands, it impacts your 'VFO memory'
No squelch
No compressor/processor

Now these are all minor complaints. Overall, it is a joy to use. It's so simple anyone can figure it out, the audio NEVER gets fatiguing, and it's reliable. I picked it up for $150+ S&H and at under $200, I can honestly recommend it to any ham that wants a good SSB/CW rig!
ZS6BWW Rating: 5/5 Apr 6, 2016 05:03 Send this review to a friend
Nice to have in the shack  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my 120 about 3 years now.
It is very easy to use, simple controls, nothing too complicated, no bells whistles, waterfalls or dancing girls, but it works well.
Disadvantage is no WARC bands, but otherwise nice to have in the shack as a backup.
A great little radio for a beginning ham with a limited budget to get on the air.
KC8MWG Rating: 5/5 Dec 17, 2015 16:06 Send this review to a friend
Quite pleased with mine!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I wanted a budget-priced solid-state rig to run mobile, as setting up a base station just isn't possible for me right now and my Heathkit HW-101 is just too big to run mobile in a modern vehicle (not to mention power requirements...). My antenna system is the weak link right now but I have no trouble making contacts within the lower 48 states on 20m and consistently receive good signal reports. This one is a keeper!
KB1TCD Rating: 5/5 Apr 8, 2014 22:31 Send this review to a friend
great back up radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a very simple to use, no frills radio. The only neg. is that it doesn't do the WARC bands.
Got it for USD$100 a few years back and have used it mobile on several occasions including as a GOTA station on Field Day a few years ago with great results.
Radio currently lives in the cellar where it is coupled to a Kenwood MC-50 desktop mic and a Tokyo Hy Power HC-200AT auto tuner which cost me 2 and a half times more than the radio! For an antenna I'm using a RadioWavz G5RV Jr antenna at about 40 feet.
I am located in Mid Coast Maine and have made plenty of DX contacts from my cellar shack which I use when my real shack is not accessible as it is next to the bedrooms upstairs.
I just had a QSO with a station from New Zealand on 20m and got a 59 report, that's how good this radio is.
For my regular shack I use a Kenwood TS-830S or a Yaesu 897D (for digital and batt. power) coupled to a home made Off Center Dipole about 30ft up.

73 de KB1TCD
W0BKR Rating: 5/5 Mar 7, 2013 06:06 Send this review to a friend
Great bare Bones Radio!  Time owned: more than 12 months
No frills, no real options, basic capabilities, talk and CW. That is about it. No second VFO, but then again, to be honest, I doubt I would use it in a DXpedition pile up. I would recommend it for causal or newbie op, great for mobile rag chewing, nets, ragchewing in general, working some not so rare DX. Just your basick 8-10 (non WARC sadly) radio with analog and digital readout. Solid as a brick, built like one too.
KD0GCH Rating: 5/5 Jun 30, 2012 17:05 Send this review to a friend
30 years and still works  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is a good rig at the rite price, about 150$
An HTX 10 will cost you about the same and its a single bander with only 25 watts out. The 120 pumps out 100+ watts out with 5 bands and is easyer to fix.This rig is great for everyday use as long as it is kept up .
26JLH Rating: 5/5 May 1, 2012 14:16 Send this review to a friend
good old bird  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
good old fashond bit of kit..
the ts 120 is built like a tank and weighs like one to very nice build quality sounds good and i fitted a 500 hz cw filter all for about 250 quid now thats what i call a good deal.
no menues no fuss it will out last alot of the new junk and has this is one of the first 1978 made when i was 14 i am now 49 might out last me and nearly did due to the cancer i had..jeffrey 2e0glu
N5YRJ Rating: 5/5 Jan 25, 2012 17:33 Send this review to a friend
Still going strong... Second Review  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got my old rig back from my friend who had it stored the last several years in his garage. Drifts a bit more than it use to but after about 1/2 hour warm up it settles down. I ran this rig mobile for approximately 5 years in the late 90's... Its really cool talking on this rig that has so many miles on it. Still going strong. Knock on wood...


simple to operate
small enough to run mobile
great receiver
great transmit audio


only covers 5 bands 10-80, no warc
drifts slightly

N5YRJ Steve
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