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Reviews For: Kenwood TS-680S

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - non QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TS-680S
Reviews: 19MSRP:
160 Thru 6 All Mode Transceiver
Product is not in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
KN4YNV Rating: 2022-02-04
An Excellent Analog Starter Rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This is my first HF Rig. Any short comings are all well documented here. It is light weight and has a small foot print. These are priced reasonably usually and this unit has never given me any trouble. The sliders are a little finiky but its not a big deal. I got good signal reports with the stock mic and even better with an MC60 mic. A great starter rig for a new Technician to work 10 meters or 6 meters and be your gateway rig when you get your General. My first real contact was Belize on 10 meters with a Hamstick dipole up about 18 feet. It does not have an internal tuner. I have use it with a OCF dipole 80-6 and a MFJ 941 tuner and worked all over the the Americas and Europe. I had a TS-930S that sounded great ,but died on me. Great power and the receiver was better than the TS680S. But the 680 is much more reliable. I recently upgraded to a TS870S- and there is a big difference when you jump to DSP.
Bottom Line: if you are on a budget this a very good choice. -Remember it is always about the antenna. Especially starting out. 73's
W9MT Rating: 2020-10-23
Solid transceiver with minor shortcomings Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought mine new in 1992 at the now defunct AES "associate store", Erickson Communications, in Chicago. I powered it with a Motorola linear power supply and fed most of its RF into a Cushcraft R5 vertical. (I still have the R5 and the DC PS.)

The TS-680S was the first brand new radio I owned. Everything else for HF in the first 22 years I was a ham was purchased used. I truly liked it, and chose it over the close-sibling TS-140S because I wanted the 10 Watt 6 Meter coverage over the 140's VOX capability, even though the 680 was slightly more expensive.

I eventually found a used AT-250 automatic ATU to use with the 680 and bought it, too. The pair worked seamlessly together, and it was fun to listen to the grinding of the servo motors rotating the variable capacitors when the AT-250 was tuning my VSWR to an absolute minimum.

Receiver sensitivity was very good. The YK-88 500Hz CW filter was a great add-on for operating A1 mode on crowded bands.

An MC-80 microphone rounded out my Kenwood station. That desk mike had excellent, "Kenwood Quality" transmit audio.

The only complaint I had for the 680 was that the T/R turn-around time was pretty close to 100ms. This made the 680 transceiver useless for the older digital modes like PACTOR & AMTOR. The radio's slowness during exchanges when using these modes would make it lose synchronization and "get lost", killing the QSO after 3 or 4 short "go arounds". This was NOT the MFJ-1278's fault but definitely a characteristic of the TS-680S's slow switching between transmit and receive.

Some reviewers complain about the slider controls, but usually mine were set and forget. They never bothered me nor electrically/mechanically failed me in the 13 years I owned the radio. I've heard of problems with the rotary selector for the memory channels, but also never experienced these either.

I sold mine in 2005, some five years after acquiring my also new IC-706Mk2G at Dayton. But today, if you can find a nice example of a 680 and simply want it for SSB voice and CW communications it's a hard radio to beat. Marry it up to an AT-250 and maybe a ClearSpeech DSP speaker to cut the carriers and background white noise on HF and you won't know you're NOT operating something much newer.
N4MJR Rating: 2012-06-24
Fine simple rig Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I've had this radio for about 9 months. It is a very simple to operate rig and works very well. The sliders are an issue but I keep a can of spray cleaner handy and clean the controls regularly. Use very small amounts of the type that doesn't have lubricant and repeatedly work the slider back and forth.

The coarse tune / memory encoder is easliy cleaned by pulling the knob off, spraying spray cleaner into the port on the face of the encoder housing, then rotating the shaft. I use very small squirts and repeat the process several times. Don't use spray cleaner with lubricant as it may wind up making the problem worse.

The radio works fine now. 73 N4MJR / C6AMR
KX9RJ Rating: 2011-11-28
Easy to use first (and so far my only) HF/6m rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This is my first and only HF/6m rig. I got it new for $900 at HRO when it first appeared. I am a casual SSB ham and do not have any extensive experience with any other rig.

Turn the memory knob SLOWLY and it will behave.

The rig is 20 years old and I still have not had to replace the lithium battery which back up the memories!

My favorite feature on this rig is memory positions 20-30, which are programmable band markers. You program in the low and high frequencies for each band, and then just turn the main tuning knob to troll through the band. When you get to the high frequency, it wraps around to the low frequency, and you just keep turning the knob. You don't go outside your license limit, and you don't have to reverse your turning of the knob or otherwise keep track of where you are. Just tune and operate! Memories 10 - 19 allow split frequency operation too.

Controls are well laid out and easy to use. It has just enough features without requiring menus.

Noise Blanker 1 works well for pulse-type noise such as ignition or powerline. NB 2 was designed for the woodpecker which is rarer nowadays, so not as useful anymore. I wish it had a notch filter but it does not. The IF shift works but I personally don't like using it to clear QRM.

The receiver is sensitive but a bit funky. Occasionally, reception will fade out, and then I have to push the RF gain slidepot in or wiggle it to have it make better contact. It does have a blocking problem with strong signals just off-frequency. Also, I usually just leave the AGC control on Fast.

The transmitter is a bit funky because the slidepots for power and mic-gain need to be diddled to make sure you are modulating enough and transmitting full power. The speech processor generally overloads, and my QSOs are better with it off. If you turn it on, be sure to reduce the mic-gain to about halfway.

I have taken this rig to Scout campouts and JOTA, so its size and sturdy build are good for portable use. I have worked 6 meters to New England from my Chicagoland QTH on 10 watts so if the magic band is open, you don't need 100 watts. All-in-all, this is an easy-to-use approachable rig with well-rounded features for the casual or first-time ham.

KB0HAE Rating: 2011-05-23
Good radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have only had my TS-680S for a few weeks. I got it for a a lot less than they usually go for as it is cosmetically fairly rough. It looks as though something heavy was dropped on the top front edge. Otherwise it doesn't look bad. It works well on all bands. I get reports of very good TX audio using an Audio Technica ATR30 mic. RX audio is pleasant to listen to. My only gripes are rhe slide pots, and no option for a narrow SSB filter. Thats why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5.

Would I recommend that a friend buy one? Yes I would, especially if they are looking for HF and 6m capabilities on a budget. A note about 6m power. One of the things I like about Kenwood is their conservative designs... turning up the power on 6m from 10 to 20 watts may shorten the life of the 6m output module. And the power difference will only make about 1/2 an S-unit difference on the receiving end.
KC0YBX Rating: 2010-11-30
I like the rig, lotta of fun on 80 Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Have had reasonable luck with this tranciever with a mini-windom. Could be better with a better antenna(next week)I do like the radio but it did have an issue with the memory knob! The memory locations jump all over the place when used so is hard to set them. But like has been said, clean the slides and ect. and there you go. Also same thing with the noise blanker. generaly it has no affect. But I love the A&B switch. and am generally fond of the Rig. it is my first...If I do get another rig I shall keep the 680 for a field day field bas station....or pass it down to one of the Boy's at Christmas...
Could use any comments on setteling that Memory knob down(jumping around to different memory locations) though...would like to use that part more. 11-2010
thanks a lott.

N8WWM Rating: 2010-02-20
Excellent for a beginner or an old timer! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Owned this rig about 2 years. All I can say is the price is about the same on the used market as a first model IC-706, but has a receiver that makes the 706 look like 2 paper cups and a string. 10 watts on 6 is not exactly high power, but I have done a lot with less power in the past. If you want to putz on VHF get a 706, but if you want to have a good sounding and good listening rig on HF with 6 meters thrown in, get a '680.

There has been some comment about the "all or nothing" nature of the slide pots for various functions, but that has been a non-issue for me. I keep them clean with some spray treatment, and occasionally blow some canned air into them. It is very likely a lack of attention that causes this problem.

If you have a friend who owns a TS-140 you can get an idea by listening to that rig as well. It is a '680 without 6 meters. The big decider will be if you can listen to a 706 and a 140/680 side by side on an antenna switch. The '680 will blow you away in comparison.

Besides that, maybe I am just fussy, but since I have owned all 3 models of IC-706 over the last 15 years, I feel like I am allowed to say this: The 706 looks like a car stereo, the 140/680 looks like communications equipment. The beauty is also far more than skin deep. :)
AUSHAMUSER Rating: 2010-02-02
For the price you can't go wrong Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I have owned this rig for a while now and couldn’t be happier, easy to use and does the job it was intended to do. As for the slider controls, like anything different it will get criticism but once you get used to it you won’t even notice, great rig for the beginner or expert.
VE7IG Rating: 2008-12-04
Works fine for me Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I got this radio from a local amateur who wanted to upgrade. I got it mainly for 6 metres. It drives my amp fine on 6 and using a 5 el cushcraft I made several hundred QSOs this summer(summer of 2008) on both SSB and CW, including 20 JAs during one opening. It was sensitive enough and did the job.

On HF, it is also sensitive enough and the only negative things I noticed are the IMD from nearby stations, that has already been pointed out in one of the reviews here and the sensitivity of the power slider-- all or nothing. I am using it now as a backup rig since my main transceiver is off to the repair shop. I intend to keep it for backup. Also, it is fantastic for listening on the AM broadcast band with a 160m sloper.

All around, a decent radio.
KI4CRA Rating: 2008-08-04
Not a bad transceiver at all. Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I got this little gem about 4 months ago in a trade, and first impressions are pretty good. I have received some good audio reports when using this rig. Yea, it has those dad gum sliders for most if not all of your most important functions, RF power, Mic gain, and the RF gain, and the NB. Currently I have this rig connected to a 67' Off Center Fed dipole up about 43', and it works very well. I have been thinking of connecting my Mosley TA-33 Tri[band 3 element bean to it and see what happens.

No it doesn't have the bells and whistles that my Icom 746 Pro has, but then again we're talking 20 year old technology here. For all the bellyaching I've heard about this radio IMHO this is a decent little transceiver. I have learned through trial and error, especially since I'm using a manual tuner, that it takes a LOT of patience to fine tune this rig. That being said. all in all not a bad rig once you get to know her secrets. This is just my first impressions of the rig, at this point in time I'm not even sure its a keeper yet or not, time will tell.

73 de Mark