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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
W3BJ Rating: 2016-01-26
Great radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have had this radio for a month now and have to say this is a fine piece of engineering. I haven't even broke the surface of what you can do. One fault is there is only one din for an amplifier. It has 6 meters in there and I like to run my SB 220 on 6. W2IHY, Julius sells a switch to switch just relay and alc between 2 amps and works fantastic. Big cabinet and big price, but it will be the last radio you have to buy. She does all that I want to.
KU3X Rating: 2015-10-01
Best radio I've owned so far Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I’ve owned my TS990S since Feb 2015 and found it to be very user friendly.
I upgraded from a TS 950 SDX and really had a hard time working with the sub receiver on that rig. The sub receiver and VFO layout on the 990 is super easy to use. I like the idea that you can listen to two bands at one time. Could not do that on the 950. Rather than discuss it here, you can see how easy it is to use by watching this video.

Using this radio in a stand alone mode for digital is again super easy. Last weekend I worked the RTTY contest and all I used was the screen on the radio to read the text sent to me and two of the programable memory channels in the radio to send, call sign and two.....the exchange. The screen above the VFO knob shows the mark and space of the signal. Super easy to tune signals in. PSK is just as easy to tune in.

Lots of buttons and knobs of the front panel. It is easy to get a tad confused, but they are well laid out. The noise reduction is best I’ve used so far. On my TS 480 SAT, when I use the noise reduction it sounds like the receive signal is underwater. Not so on the 990. Sounds great.
When you tune into a CW signal on a noisy band, by narrowing down the bandwidth to 100 cycles, you don’t need the noise reduction.

The band stacking registers is a nice feature. It can stack up to 5 if you choose, menu selectable.

Programing the built in memory keyer for CW is great. You can use the paddles, buttons on the radio or a remote keyboard.

There are a lot of menu items to choose from. Once the radio is set up to your liking, there is no need to go into the menus again. Being able to back up a complete radio configuration to a computer is great. If you screw up the setting and don’t feel like trying to figure out what you screwed up, just do a restore from the computer. You can also backup the radio to a USB flash drive if you choose.

Firmware updates are also easy. BUT.....if the power goes out during a firmware install, you probably bricked the radio and it’s back to Kenwood. I decided it’s time to purchase a 1400 watt UPS.

I just wanted to touch some of the highlights of the 990.

Bottom line, for the price range of this radio I think it’s one of the best on the market.

Barry G. Kery, KU3X
K5PS Rating: 2015-09-30
2 years of fun and counting Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Bought one new in September 2013 to replace a ~16 year old FT1000MP - still worked well but was ready for something new. Did not have in time for CQWW RTTY that year, but have since used it during 2014/2015. Also has worked very well working the DX on various digital modes - 216 and counting. It does take time to learn the interface, but works really well after that. Also works very well on SSB/CW. On SSB, always get great audio reports. On CW, the filtering and other available features makes it easy to break most DX pileups in 5-10 minutes. The fantastic receiver still allows me with a non-directional vertical antenna to hear and work stations I could not previously. Looking forward to many more years of fun use.
WE1X Rating: 2015-09-30
Absolutely No Remorse Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've been using a TS-990S for a year now and have found it a joy to operate. Yes, there are many bells and whistles of which some will be never used. Yes, there is a learning curve. I, however, find learning curves be it with rigs, software, modes, antennas, etc. the source of much enjoyment this hobby has to offer.

Connection to the PC via the rig's USB port was a snap. The extent of rig control is highly dependent upon the application being used. I found HRD (v6.3.0) to be rather good.

Support for digital sound card modes via the USB port and DM780 also excellent whether it's PSK, MFSK, MT63, Throb, Hell, JT65, JT9, etc.

Yes, learning to use the rig's native RTTY and PSK decoders can be a bit daunting. However, what I discovered is tuning to the signal and getting a solid decode requires a tender touch.

Ergonomics and build quality are stellar. Firmware upgrades, albeit too infrequent, are easy. Audio quality (receive and transmit) is wonderful. Selectivity is very nice.

Over the past 25 years I've gone through more rigs than I care to admit, and with few exceptions each has been a solid performer with the usual quirks. One may argue that a rig costing less than 30% of a TS-990S (or one of its competitors) makes contacts just as well. True. A Lada or a Yugo will get you from Point A to Point B, but the ride will not be as enjoyable as a Lexus or Infiniti.
KB3Z Rating: 2015-09-30
A Learning Experience, but a good one! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I am a Elecraft K3 owner, and I must admit that the 990S does have many features that are standard and not options as with other radio's. I never had a sub receiver but it is nice to listen to cw on one band and ssb on another, and all at the same time!

I will admit that getting it connected with my computer and amplifier was not too bad. Once you got the cables it was basically plug and play.

I was surprised that I was not able to access a cw keyer with N1MM or ACLog. To do that I had to re-connect my Digikeyer II. But once I did that and configured the software, everything was OK. Of course, the Digikeyer II has a built in Winkeyer, which is really nice.

Now, tuning your amplifier to the 990S is done in either FSK or FM mode. It is not like the K3 where it is done in CW mode. But, I must admit that there was plenty of help out on the group/yahoo/TS-990S reflector. I did write a message to Kenwood in which they say they will get back to you within 48 hours. Well, that was 1.5 weeks ago, and still no response. Kenwood could improve on that one.

I do not agree with the previous review on operating digital modes with the 990S. I operated the CQWW Rtty contest this past weekend and basically set up 2 memories on the 990S. One for my call letters, and two for the 599, cq zone and state. Using the USB keyboard made that very easy. But I could never get the keyboard to be able to access the memories and press a F key to get it to send the memories I had set up. I guess I have to experiment with that. But it was just pushing 3 button, and I made 250 contacts over the weekend. I have not operated RTTY in over 25 years, and that was with my TS-940S, which I still have.

Tuning RTTY and PSK signals was very easy with the second screen. It's take time and a slow touch, but with the decode function and interface already built in, there was no need to use FLDIGI or MMTTY.

It is a learning experience, but I am not sorry I purchased it. I have my K3 as a backup now. I can't wait to try the 990S in the upcoming DX contests. Mark Griffin, KB3Z
VE3GZB Rating: 2015-09-29
I regret spending so much for so little Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
While technically the TS990 is hailed by some as a great success, my own experience has been less than fantastic.

True enough, SSB communications are excellent. There's no complaining about that!

My complaint is in the use of the digital modes. I have greater success in getting my toaster on the air in digital mode as compared to this radio.

If there are any FSK or PSK transmissions going on, I can be sure that the built-in decoding system on the TS990 will turn it into complete and utter gibberish on the built-in touch screen.

For all of the usefulness I've gotten out of all of the bells and whistles, I'm no better off with this radio than when I was using vintage 1960s tube gear.

73s, VE3GZB
PB5X Rating: 2015-08-04
2,5 years+ Time Owned: more than 12 months.

There are allready been written a lot of reviews about the 990. My experience with this radio is that it is one of the best i have ever owned. My previous radio's where a FTDX5000MP, IC-7700 etc ... etc...
I can tell that the 990 will win over those radio's. In receiving the 5000 and 990 are equal with perhaps a slight win for the 990. The 990 compared with the 7700 is a win for the 990.
But with that in mind do not forget ofcourse that the technology with these fine radio's is not standing still.
So the 7700 back in 2008 was a dream to operate.

Anyhow back to the 990. I read that a lot of people do not like the ergonomics. For me it is just perfect. I've rather have 100 buttons in front of me than 10 with all sub or triple menu's so thats a win for me.

The layout and 2 LCD screens is just marvelous.
The bandscope is also better than both the 5000 & 7700.
But the 5000 had an option to get a SDR hooked up true his IF out.
That is one of the downside of the 990 that it does not have an IF out.
But you know what ?? NO radio is perfect and also not the 990 or even the NEW IC7851 /K3S / etc ... are perfect

So i can go on and on with PRO's and CONs about the 990. But i think the most allready have been said.

This Kenwood 990 is a great piece of machinery for a verry nice price. So if you have the money and you want a 990.... BUY ONE !! You will not be sorry.

Roberto PB5X

ON6KE Rating: 2015-04-18
OK transceiver Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.

I bought my TS-990 on 30/7/2014, I sold it 2 weeks ago.

But a FEW of the reasons:
- Fans blowing every 3-4 minutes even when 100% RX. Nobody ever mentioned this to me B4 I bought the rig;
- no CW keyboard;
- only 8 CW message banks but 12 PF keys,
- the noise bankers, need I say more;
- NR1 and NR2 just average, noise reduction on my KX3 WAY better;
- ATU average, can't tune a 16m long wire with 9:1 balun on 160m for instance, the KX3 tunes it 1:1;
- no cursor/mouse control on the left most display;
- LONG overdue and disappointing firmware upgrade last January. A few bug fixes and next to zip new functionality;
- Touch screen rather insensitive;
- Sherwood test results disappointing.

But a few items that made me decide to let go of the 990.
In the mean time Kenwood preferred to make an uplift for the 590 rather thank work on the 990 firmware.

By the way, I'm rather certain that in 12-18 months they'll have a TS-590SG sub-receiver on board the 990, that making it a TS-990SDX analogue to the 590SDX. Not good for teh current 990S market value.

Gust ON6KE
GAZZER Rating: 2015-04-17
It's a good radio - with faults. Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.

What's going on here - denial or something? I allowed myself to be influenced by this forum in finalizing my decision on which flagship to buy - and frankly that's a choice I would like to have again.

Let me just present a few honest and undeniable truths here ...

The main receiver cannot hear anything after 7500 Khz and only starts coming back at around 9000 - fully back by 9500. Whilst the (TS590) sub receiver does a valiant job covering this fault - that's not what we paid for. Kenwood's reluctant official response (after 20 days silence) was "read the small print ... performance not guaranteed outside the ham bands". And indeed that is in the (very) small print. So - what have we got here - a main receiver that doesn't work "because of the effect of the Pass Band filter" ... Well, hello Mr. Kenwood ... Ain't no Yaesu or Icom with that problem in the past 25 years ... or any other Kenwood for that matter, ironically.

Secondly, one comment here actually praised the superior performance of the noise blankers (2) and Noise reducers (2) .... What's that about??

Even Kenwood have accepted that the noise blankers don't work and the noise reducers wallop the target signal into something unrecognizable. "The engineers in Japan are working on that".

I too wanted to be able to shout "greatest radio I ever used" from the rooftops as Kenwood made off like a bandit with my $7,500, but I can't, because it isn't. Side by side tests with a Yaesu FT-990, shows equal results at best on the receive side - where the main receiver works.

If I want to drown out pulsing or electrical noise typical to a city environment, It's best to switch back to the 1990 FT-990 (that's probably not entirely fair - that radio had one of the best noise blankers ever made), but this is a flagship (?).

If I want to track aviation HF (or anything else) between 7500 and 9000, I have to rely on the sub-reciever and tolerate the s-meter on the main receiver sleeping cosily on "0".

These issues have sometimes been described sympathetically as "characteristics" ... they are not. They are faults. Reluctantly accepted by Kenwood who are trying to figure out how to get the NB's and NR's up to even acceptable and they accept that there is nothing they can do now about the deaf spot ... Hence, their somewhat ungracious "read the small print" response.

If you live in the countryside, the noise issue is a tolerable problem. Also, for most, the 'dead zone' doesn't matter a lot (it does to me). Otherwise this is a great radio, and the range of toys it comes with is impressive, making it a joy to use, but please .... let's not declare that their first flagship has earned is flagship tag yet ... it hasn't.

I hope this hasn't upset too many people - and I wish i had read something like it before I bought mine.



VK3TEX Rating: 2015-03-24
Fantastic Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Fantastic radio, does everything I need and more. I have zero complaints about this radio.
The ability to tailor everything to suit yourself regarding transmit and receive is outstanding.
Everything is well laid out and logically placed.
I had a problem with my radio in the first month with an intermittent problem but Kenwood Australia and their technician Jan found the faulty intermittent broken internal coax cable and they provided absolutely fantastic and excellent service and kept me informed of the progress in finding this difficult fault. Well done Kenwood Australia!
After I got it back it has performed flawlessly.
Noise blankers and noise reduction is the best I have used yet.
I only had the Icom 7700 to compare it to and the 990 is better in almost every aspect.
The receiver doesn't suffer from AGC impulse overload from lightning and switching transients like the 7700 did which was a major issue with the 7700 for me.
The only thing I really liked better on the 7700 was the flexibility with choosing options, color etc, for the screen and waterfall. But the 7700 is not touch screen for instant QSY.
Although mouse function was possible which was ok I geuss.
All in all , I could go on ,but if you can afford one get it.
The learning curve was a bit longer than the 7700's but I had
A lot of fun learning all the great functions and features of this
Flagship radio.
I have pictures of my station on my QRZ page if anyone is interested in looking.

Les, VK3TEX.