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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
AD4C2006 Rating: 2014-02-11
Good pretty radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I am not hiding behind a weird ID to review this radio so every one will know who I am.
For almost seven years I have owned the K3 wich for me it’s the highest performer as HF radio in the market, I have owned besides several high end radios as the IC-7700, FT-2000, FT-5000,Orion II, etc and after deep and long tests all of them has been inferior than my K3 in rough condition comparison.
Thanks to a friend of mine who pushed me to buy this big radio I just did it last week.
The TS-990 as a friend of mine said it’s an “Evolution but not a Revolution”
After been comparing the TS-990 with my K3, these are my results:
1- Ergonomics
At simple sight when you see how impressive the 990 is, you fall in love with it, no doubt that is the most attractive radio in the market. The K3 is an ugly radio but…………………………(coments later).
Operation of this TS-990 requires skills, If you like plug and play radios this is not your choice, this radio needs lot of settings be done, some of them are obvious and simple, some others require you to read the very thick operator manual. The K3 is very simple to operate even having as well a big menu to set.
2- Receiver
When you turn the TS-990 and wait for the welcome message, first thing you hear at the speaker is a “hiss” something that will not happen with the K3 wich is completely silent.
When you connect the antenna noise is high, the K3 with the antenna is very quite, so is simple like that, the floor noise in this TS-990 is higher than the one in the K3.
The preamp on this 990 aparently is not a “low noise preamp” like in the K3, when enabled band noise increase a lot and the “grass” at the scope increase as well. On the K3 when you engage the preamp, signal increase but noise increase a little bid only and when you see the grass at the P3 scope, it drop about 6db.
Scope needs more gain, you won’t be able to see signals with less than S8/S7 while on the P3 panadapter you can see signals as low as S2/S3. The scope on the 990 needs some more work, maybe a later FW update will make it work better.
NR1 works great as good as the NR in the K3, no difference here.
NR2 works terrible, it add distorsion to received audio, sound like digital artifacts in the signal.For me its useless.
NB as at the K3 is perfect, it can delete any type of electrical noise.
BC or NOTCH on all other radios works excellent as the one on the K3, no difference here.
Selectivity in CW is as good as the K3. Both radios has roofing filters for 500 and 250 Hz but on the TS-990 there is ringing noise at 150 Hz BW. To clear the ringing noise you will have to add then the audio filter. At the K3 there is no ringing noise even without the peak audio filter.
Audio filter works better than the one at the K3 and its easier to adjust.
Selectivity on SSB is poor, the 2.7 Khz ladder filter is not enough to clean a station that be at 2Khz from your working freq even with the DSP set for narrower BW. At the K3 engaging the 1.8 or 1.5 Khz roofer that station will disappear and the channel will be clean. The 990 have an available empty socket for an extra roofing filter but Kenwood neither other company has built it yet. Maybe INRAD will do it later.
Audio quality without a doubt is better than the the receiver audio from the K3 and also the bandwith is wider, it comes down to 20Hz and goes up to 5000Hz. The K3 comes down to 40 Hz and goes up to 4000Hz.
The receiver EQ is not needed at all, its very wide without it unless you wanted to create an specific audio filter for CW or SSB.
3- Transmitter
200W is very convenient to have in a radio, having a good antenna system you can work the whole world.
TX audio EQ needs more freqs below 0.3 Khz (300Hz) like the K3 having adjustments for 50, 100 and 200Hz wich are critical freqs when equalizing different mics.There are 16 freqs at the EQ with freqs not needed and some ones needed. It could be fixed with a later FW upgrade but I am sure Kenwood will leave it as is now. The former TS-590 had same issue and in spite of lots of complains they never changed anything.
One thing has to be said at this point ,when customers has complained about some was wrong designed on the K3 Elecraft immediately released a new FW version fixing the issue, that customer service support you will never have it.
The TX audio is excellent, as good as the one at K3, no difference between radios here.
If you love ESSB, this radio will filled your wishes, it can come down to 40 Hz with a good mic and go up to 5Khz. I keep mine from 90 to 3400Hz using a Heil PR40
In my honest opinion the price of this radio don’t match its performance, I was expecting a better radio for what I payed but is not better than my K3.
With less than 6 grand you can buy a fully loaded K3 and have a better performance radio than can be transported anywhere. The 990 with its 65 pounds makes it just a base station.
Thanks to eham for let me express my honest opinion about this radio that besides to be very pretty is not performing better than the K3.
End of the story, I will use it for few months more and sell it to be back to my K3.

EA4AZZ Rating: 2014-02-02
no technical advantage Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I agree with QRPNEW.
The 990 is a great transceiver but.....nothing new.
I used for about 6 months one unit from a friend of mine. I compared the receiver with a ts950sdx and Ft1000D.
The 990 is not better. Have the same receiver and I found that the NB of the TS950SDX is much better than the 990. I test the NB in a 250.000V power line noise. The 950sdx wins.
In general the 990 works great but is not for me.
I don´t sell my ts950sdx and my FT1000D to buy a 990.
Remember that the TS950SDX was a world first DSP for TX and RX in a ham transceiver and also a world first to use a MOSFET final unit.
The TS990 is not revolutionary.
N4GUD Rating: 2014-01-31
Awsome! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.

I have had the TS-990 for about a month now and have always been a Kenwood guy. I also have like others tried the competitor rigs like the FT-2000, IC-7600, IC-756PROII/III, FT-3000 and a Flex as well as the other Kenwood rigs like the TS-950sdx and TS-870. The TS-870 has always been my favorite all time rig, until now that is. In trying the other rigs, I found that I was consistently trying to get the other rigs to sound like the TS-870 and felt like I'd never get a newer rig to do so. When I first hooked up the TS-990, the very first thing I noticed was the low noise floor...I had to check to make sure I had the antenna hooked to the correct input, it was! Then I began to play with the menu and equalizer settings. WOW is all I can say! This rigs transmit audio is incredible as well as the receive audio! I work 75/80m in the evenings and have always had to deal with the AM interference...until now that is. When utilizing the preselector the AM interference is gone! I sometimes feel like I have set the squelch because the receiver is so quiet! The panadapter is fabulous especially when using an external monitor! The recorder is nice as well...and you can retransmit the recorded audio by simply installing an optical cable from the optical in/out and setting the recorder up properly...Kenwood apparently is unaware of this. In summary, if you want the best of the best and love audio as I do, this is the RIG!!!
QRPNEW Rating: 2014-01-31
Poor Value Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I consider this radio poor value for money.
It has no technical advantage over my K3/p3 combination.

In key areas of receiver performance the K3 is head shoulders above the TS990S. The P3 bandscope is way ahead in terms of performance and features. Even the K3 receive audio quality has low distortion and receiver IMD than the TS990S.

I really could not find 1 area in terms of raw performance that the TS990S was superior to my K3.

The TS990S has 1 big advantage over the K3 it has better ergonomics and front panel layout.

For the price I would have expected the TS990S to be way ahead of the K3. It really represents poor value for money.

I would expected the bandscope panadapter to have better dynamic range and speed. I would have expected at least a decent accurate S_meter. The TS990S has a quirky calibration that has no meaning to any real amateur standard. The K3 even though it has a course S_meter scale is reasonably well calibrated.

Even when I compare the TS990S to my TS590S the TS590S is superior in many ways. I am rather disappointed with this very expensive rig that does not deliver much in real technical advantage over its competitors. It just appears to be an expensive big box that does not deliver out of this world performance. Its all bells and whistles and no real performance advantage. Reminds me of the Yaesu FT_ONE a big box with lots of knobs and no real performance.

When I buy a radio that is this expensive I expected it to be the best in every area. Unfortunately its not, and I will be selling it before the value drops too much. It just clutters my desk up having such a big massive radio that even my Ten Tec Eagle can outperform and sound better.

If you are considering buying this radio, be very wary and try and get to test someone other hams TS990S before you burn your money. WHen I sit in front of the TS990S the only thing that impresses you is the huge box and front panel everything is not much better than average.

I must say that I buy radios for their performance not their bells and whistles. If the Kenwood TS990S was capable of delivering more performance for the dollar I would keep it. Unfortunately its a old technology designed that cant be fixed with firmware improvements. In this regard the old/new technology just does not deliver the goods which was a huge disappointment for Kenwoods re-entry into the big radio market. In a way all the current big radios, TS990S, FTDX9000, IC7700 and IC7800 all are hyped up radios that cant really beat a basic radio like the TS590S. The amount of money that you spend for these big radios, you would expect at least twice the technical performance for the amount spent over a basic 1500 dollar radio. When You cant even get this performance dividend whats the point of buying a new big expensive radio that is mediocre in performance?

It sad that I payed all this money for this radio and i cant even find 1 feature that makes it better than any radio that I have owned over last 30 years. The receiver performance test numbers were a huge disappointment. If technical performance is not important to you I guess you can brag you spent a lot on a radio like the TS990S, thats all its really good for. Bragging right and not much performance value.

K4ELO Rating: 2014-01-27
Excellent Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have only used the 990 for about 2 weeks, but long enough to get comfortable with it. Absolutely the best rig with knobs that I have ever had. Not going to compare it to sdr radios. But I will say that I sold an FTdx5000 to buy this and I am not sorry. QRM fighting tools are great and much better than the FT5K in my opinion. I also like the way the controls work, much better than the FT5K. Split operation, RIT, and general operation controls are superior to me.

The layout of the controls and menus. Once you get used to it, it's really good.
Manual notch filter is very good. Easy visualization on the display.
Selectivity is outstanding.
Weak signal reception is very good.
Ease of use.
So many things are configurable.
Displays - all the parameters you need to see.
Ability to use an external display is great if you need to see things larger.
Outstanding transmit audio quality. Folks I talk to regularly are raving about the audio.

The auto notch filter is not as good as other rigs I have used. But this may be corrected with a firmware update.
There is a steeper learning curve than other rigs, but it's worth it.

I sat on the fence about buying this radio for a while.
After using it, I am really glad I made the change.
You might be too.

KC9AGG Rating: 2013-12-19
awesome! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
i have only owned it for 2 weeks, but i must say that, even with my modest antennas, the receive is i've seen here. The noise blanker's ability to remove the sounds you encounter in the city--is actually 100%--and the receive signal remains beautiful.
There isn't anything to dislike about this radio.
If you're considering this one, don't hesitate to buy one--you will not suffer disappointment!!
KQ4KK Rating: 2013-12-12
Worth the MONEY Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I've had the chance to use a 990 for about 7 hours. IF you have the money, it is worth every dollar you spend on it. Everything about it is top notch. I have a Flex 3K, and a couple of ICOM HF high end radios. All great. Love the Flex. But the KENWOOD 990 is in a class all its own. The 200 watts is also nice to boot.
NA1A Rating: 2013-12-11
Amazing... awesome Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Unbelievable performance is all I can say about this radio. While I had lots and lots of high end radio in the past including K3, Flex 5000, FTDX-9000, 5000, TS-950SDX, IC-7700, the TS-990S is bar none the ultimate.
For those who are into audio, this is it. Receiver is flat out to 5K, incredibly smooth sound, no listening fatigue from the digi-wigi DSP like in most radios. Transmitter is pure natural, uncolored, can accept and pass all harmonics from your rack gear. You can feed the audio directly to the balance modulator (no mods necessary) or you can feed it directly using an optical cable if you have optical out from your rack!
AM receive and transmit is also awesome. Raving audio report from all AM hardcore players on 75M.
Finally, a real radio with flawless performance surfaced on the market. It's more than "about time".
WD1V Rating: 2013-11-11
Superb! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I just got it this weekend. I've been a ham for 53 years and got this as a retirement gift to myself. Each time I turn it on, it feels like the best Christmas and birthday I've ever had.

Every session with the TS-990 is pure joy. Every aspect you explore reflects first class engineering. You instantly sense you are driving a classic masterpiece. Its a long, long wow.

Direct USB connection from TS-990 to Mac for MacLoggerDX. I didn't need to open the manual until amp connection that required a menu activation.

My last 2 rigs were K3/P3 and Flex 5000A. If I needed a second radio, I'd get another TS-990.

KC9YGN Rating: 2013-10-23
Having issues Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I bought the TS-990 in May and generally it's been a fantastic transceiver. But a couple of issues have cropped up.

First, the built in PSK/RTTY encoder has failed. I'm not sure how long it's been out because normally I use HRD for digital modes. I didn't discover it until I was going to demonstrate the built in PSK features to someone and found that while it does decode, is isn't transmitting. Since I never use the built in decoders I've been procrastinating about calling customer support and haven't dealt with it.

New problem cropped up this morning. Now there are issues with the main receiver. It just -- stops. The waterfall display shows it's still receiving, but sound stops, the green 'busy' light goes out, the secondary bandscope goes completely flat. Some experimenting has shown that whenever the AF Gain control is turned up to maximum this will happen. Turn the AF Gain down a bit, and the receiver works just fine.

I did do the latest firmware upgrade (Version 1.4) and this didn't help. So it looks like it's off to customer support to see what to do.