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Reviews For: Kenwood TS-990S

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TS-990S
Reviews: 104MSRP: 7999
Kenwood FLAGSHIP TS-990S has arrived. Kenwoods sets a new preformance and operating standard for the ultimate Amateur Transceiver. Advanced KENWOOD technologies deliver a Top-End receive and transmitt experience on Amateur Bands 160 Mtr to 6 Mtrs. Kenwood proudly adds the 990S to its trendsetting TS series!
Product is in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
2E0DQQ Rating: 2016-05-21
Beautiful radio Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Firstly, I should state from the outset that I've been a Yaesu fan for many years, but getting the opportunity to use a TS990 for a few days completely changed my mind. To me the TS990 is a work of art; easy to use, EQ setting that will please the most passionate audiophile and a receiver that in my humble opinion is going to go down in history as one of the best ever made. It's just a joy to use in every way. The VERY first contact I made was to a Canadian station in Ottawa followed closely thereafter by 2 stations in Florida. My antenna is a Mosley 2 element tri-bander and the TS990 was hearing things that the FTDX5000 could only dream about. This was especially true in relation to 80m. The TS990 is just amazing. The big part for most people nowadays is obviously the money involved with radios like the 990. Yes, it is expensive but like everything in life, you get what you pay for and boy ohhh boy - this beast just does it for me bigtime. My advice, if you get the chance to get one, grab with both hands and run home immediately - you will not regret it.
DD4DA Rating: 2016-05-16
Just an Update of experiences Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I am own the radio near 2 years and did the 1.11 update last week, that just fiexed some build-in keyer issues. I miss the build-in cw-decoder feature of the TS590SG and it would be nice to have a dual-notch like the IC7000's. In the past years, i most qso's are done in CW (95%) because the sound of the IC-756Pro3 was'nt good enough and the rig lacks in output power in SSB. In the 10 years of operating the icom rig, i had never found a setup that works proper. The TS990s comes with a great sound in ssb without change the default settings and using an external add-on, just the MC60a (about 30Years old) who's preamp is bypassed - just using the dynamic mic. In Dx purpose i limit the audio bandwith, especialy the lower-cut frequency raised. All of the settings could be backuped externaly by a memory-stick and the CAT-Program relased by Kenwood. The rig are able to hold-on two different profiles that contains different setup's and can be selected as required. I use this for two different PA's with different power limit settings for each band and mode. It's very comfortable to use this for a quick change of an entire setup of the hole trx.
I had read about AGC-Issues - well, i can't confirm that. The sensivity and delay requires to setup them. This values are very depend on the filter setup and bandwith. The AGC is build by software as a pice of code in the dsp and be able to cooperate with the bandwith filters. The behavior is different as an old school styled one who just detect the rectified and smoothed received signal as the only value. This is common used in all modern receivers who are if-based digital signal processed. Some receiver uses the signal of the last IF-Stage and generate the agc voltage,that regulate the amplifier stages of the RX. The optimizing of them is limited by hardware modifications. The DSP generation is more flexibel and can be improved by a software update. That's the way where most of the common rig's going. Depending of the update policy, this is a good or bad way to to go. I had not problems about the AGC. It's handling is similar as every other rig a had owned. More flexibility and values to tune that's available, as more complicated is to find the special setup that's required.
A pitty is, that's impossible to send out a previously recorded received signal back to sender like a rehearsal. You need a trick to do that. I also miss a protocol like winkey to control the build-in keyer by an external logbook.
Similar is the missing of remote usable command set that support the PSK31 and RTTY mode as like a modem or other. An ethernet is available and runs up`to 100mbit full-duplex; This could be used by sending I/Q signal for monitoring or external signal processing by an SDR-program. In addition, i miss an output socket for the IF. I don't know why most of the modern TRX don't have such one. I have no idea why. Well, i am lucky with that TS990s and will not give them away.
I know that here are better radios out there but i am sure that all around the things, i got for the the best for that price. An Icom IC-7851 or a Hilberling maybe perform the TS990s out but they all cost a double of the Kenwood.
ZS2DL Rating: 2016-04-14
Buyers Remorse Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Short and sweet, After 2 years I can honestly say
I miss other radios I have owned in the passed. which tells me I made a mistake in buying the TS990.

It has AGC and RX sensitivity issues, and backup support from Kenwood is non existent.

I am so disappointed because I feel duped!

W2NER Rating: 2016-03-18
Dumped the flex for my 990 Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I had a few Flex radios, 6300 and a 6500. I also was in the que for a Maestro (waited three months) but never was released to production. I was charged the full price of $1200 for a Maestro that was not even ready for production and there are STILL delays. Matter of fact, most of their equipment has a 6 week lead time now!

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and order the TS-990S. Sick and tired of the constant Flexradio endless delays and postponements. I love this 990, lots of knobs, works out of the box. I have had many CQ's and did not even open the manual yet. Yes its a big nut to spend but, you get what you pay for. I have had many CQ's tell me I sound much better than when I had the flex. If you are thinking about the 990, just pull the trigger.
WB2WW Rating: 2016-03-02
ESSB sound & more. Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Hi! WB2WW.
My experiences with the Kenwood TS990S is phenomenal! that the way Kenwood company put together after a long awaited return of Kenwood products to the line where it belong! the Top to claim the number 1 I know that the flex 6000 series and the Yeasu, Icom and other company are rushing in with new product,they are trying to catch up with all the technology that this Radio has built in already. never the less from my point of view in turn of AUDIO!!!!!! anything closer to a Kenwood TS950sdx well we won't complain but this one is in the class by him self,. I own the Icom 7700 for 11 months and waited for the right moment to trade my icom for the Kenwood and never look back again...very happy with my decision on Dec 18 2015.....for does ham radio Fellas up there that use this radio for DX digital communication etc...But I have to let you know that the AUDIO from my Kenwood TS990S is WOW!!!!!!ESSB...VOODOO!!!!! & more...take care and God Bless this great hobby...73..

ps: if only we can discover where can I get the 6k wide on the secret Menu..ahahaha
OM6MS Rating: 2016-02-28
Satisfied Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Used since 2012 almost 100% CW. I am very satisfied with equipment of this machine. I miss him already only bandscope :).
K1PMA Rating: 2016-02-27
First Impressions - great! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
This is a brief review with the first impressions of this impressive transceiver. I can compare this Kenwood to a bunch of other radios I have had or still have, incl. but not limited to: Flex 6300, Flex 6500, Icom 7600, Elecraft K3, Yaesu 3000.

This is not a cheap radio and if any radio is worth spending over $6000 on could be a discussion on its ownt. What I like so far over the other radios is that you have 200W output. Got rid of a KPA500 amp I had, the difference between 200 and 500 is about 1/2 S unit. No external power supply needed. Its all in one (very heavy) package.

Large LCD display and even a secondary LCD (really necessary, not sure). Did I mention the best thing? Over 100 buttons, switches and knobs to play with! Like a kid in a candy store. I got it all set up and made a couple QSO already without opening the manual at all but for the full experience one really has to study the huge, 200 page hand book.

For what it's worth, I have already busted several pile-ups with this rig and got an unsolicited 'big signal' report. Who can argue with that. A more detailed review will follow in good time.

PS Before I decided on the 990S I was going to to the Maestro Flexradio route but got tired of their endless delays and postponements.
W6LBV Rating: 2016-02-11
Not your grandfather's typical review Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.

“This is not your grandfather’s era product review of the Kenwood TS-990.” And the 990 is not your grandfather’s era Swan 500, either! The 990 is a modern, very high quality, and hugely capable state-of-the-art instrument, but it may not be the best choice for every ham. This review is intended to provide some decision-making information about it, especially for those who might not enjoy and benefit from owning and using the TS-990, and who could therefore be dissatisfied with it after purchase.

The TS-990 is an outstanding “traditional” (i.e., containing discrete, hardware-based sub-systems) HF transceiver, one with unparalleled versatility. Nevertheless, it is certainly not the astoundingly best HF transceiver ever to be produced following the end of Prof. Heinrich Hertz’s experiments with electromagnetic waves. One would be naive to claim that! But it fits securely and very competently into the ranks of contemporary “top tier” HF radios.

The 990 is the result of twenty years of design work, product development, and continuing advances in technology. It is not a major “revision” of the last transceiver that Kenwood introduced; it is an entirely new, “from the ground up” product.

The TS-990 is a very complex instrument. It has almost endless possibilities for varied ham uses because of the large number of circuits and functions that have been designed and built into it. (An approximately 250 page instruction manual barely covers the job of explaining it!) It is possible that an operator will not ever fully understand everything that the 990 contains or will not ever use everything that it is capable of doing. Thus a distinction: the TS-990 is not a “plug and play” transceiver, or a “first radio” for a newly licensed ham.

Over the past thirty years this reviewer has purchased, owned, and used a number of Kenwood HF transceivers, and he understands the “Kenwood way” of designing and producing radios. Yet when the 990 arrived and was first set up on the operating bench, it was as if “the world had begun anew.” It was necessary to study the manual intently over a period of weeks, adding new “tricks” to the existing quiver-full each day. And, in reality, his work on the learning curve still continues. More of its functions are still to be mastered.

This high level of complexity is a key point. A prospective purchaser should have (among others) two different major skill sets to aid his being able to master and use the 990 with satisfaction: background and experience with current HF transceivers and modern wireless technology, and a willingness to work at and eventually complete the climb up a long learning curve. These are not impossible goals, but there will be no “zero-familiarity-to-complete-mastery-of-the-990" in just fifteen minutes after opening the box!” If a prospective buyer does not yet have these skills, then some serious considerations should be given before making a purchase.

A particular area of technical difficulty for many 990 users, judging from the volume of traffic on the Yahoo TS-990 users’ group, is wire-based digital communications between the 990 and other digital devices connected to the 990. Modern radio operations practically demand an associated computer and/or other digital devices for purposes of logging, digital mode communications, even radio remote control. The TS-990 certainly has such a requirement, but it also has three digital communications I/O ports: RS-232, USB, and ethernet (IP, pointing to a LAN/router with DHCP). In addition Kenwood provides (via a free download) essential radio remote control computer applications for the 990.

Everything required is there (with the exception of connecting cables), but it all needs a knowledgeable set-up. Prospective purchasers thus should have good skills in wire-based digital communications, and the willingness to trouble-shoot physical connections and computer communications, if needed, until they work properly. Without such personal skills, a number of the 990's capabilities may only be available to the purchaser with difficulty and potential frustration. One should think hard about this before purchasing.

The TS-990 is a magnificent radio. I will keep mine for the rest of my days, and perhaps still not master quite all of it. And in fact, the 990 could even represent a growing problem to Kenwood marketing: after producing this radio, what else could Kenwood add to a future radio to tempt a current 990 owner to abandon his present rig and buy another (even more impressive) one? I can’t suggest any really significant new capability that is now “missing” and that could be beneficially added!

The TS-990 is available at a fairly “comfortable” price point (for a state-of-the-art HF transceiver). For a senior, mature operator it will provide superior service and should earn “pride of place” in any station. For an inexperienced or beginning ham, it might just prove troublesome and difficult to master. Caveat emptor!
HB9DLF Rating: 2016-02-08
JUST PERFECT Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I`ve got my 990 4 weeks ago. For me it is just an amazing transceiver ! It`s exactly what i`m searching for since a long time . For me; more then 5 points
G3RCE Rating: 2016-01-27
Glad to be rid of it Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I had to try the 990S
but after a few months, got totally bored and sold it and now have a Flex6300 sdr.
Much much better and more fun and flexible.
I'll never touch an old fashioned, dated legacy radio again.
SDR is my preference now.