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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
W1WN Rating: 2013-05-07
Great Radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I will not go into technical details. I will leave that to others. I was not going to bother with a review until I read the prior post. "Great little radio" It is larger than the Icom 7800 that I sold to fund this purchase, lol. Not sure what Donovan was playing with for 3 days, but this radio has the benefit of 10 years of technology that have passed since the introduction by Icom of their flagship radio, the IC-7800. Everything works as it should. The receiver is at least as good and probably slightly better than the Icom. Far more options on transmit, eq, etc. The easiest way for me to describe it is that it is the 7800 on steroids. Best radio on the market currently at any price.
OE1MWW Rating: 2013-04-28
sophisticated and absolutely excellent rig Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Using my TS-990 now daily several hours since 3 weeks (and not for 2 hours) and sorry to say, none of those mentioned issues of M0NJA can be confirmed. Cursor sits exactly in USB and LSB, so as the non existing carrier would be. The audio bandwidth can be adjusted to whatever one wants and the audio equalizer allows to set up any audio in the range of +6db to -24db, frequency range from 300Hz to 5.1kHz divided in 17 (!) bands. 6 adjustable presets plus 3 user pre-settings are possible. Wonder why M0NJA had a 'thin' audio... Audio bandwidth can be adjusted to remove most, if not all signals that splatter or sitting close by. Notch filter can be set audible and/or visible via the audio spectrum in the small display or automatic. An extra 'Beat Cancel' button does what it is named. Two buttons for NoiseReduction plus two buttons for NoiseBlanker and each of them adjustable by double knobs. This needs live experience using the Radio - there is no way around. But than you have the best!

The solution for using split and the second RX allows fast and comfortable split operation with the TS-990. Entering split offset needs just one or two keys to be pressed.Spectrum display can be set with or without waterfall. Yes, the TS-990 is driven by software inside, this makes sense. Otherwise that many options and functions with a structured menu system would not be possible. Drivers and several software packages for local and remote operation are free at no cost, compared to other brands, and can be downloaded from Kenwood support site.

Operation: it takes several hours to get used and find all the options according to ones likes. With the TS-990 I had to grab the manual (in fact, searching in the pdf manual) more often compared to other TRX I had in the past. And each and every time I was surprised about that many possibilities to use the rig. Last, but not least - try to touch a TS-990 and feel how mechanical solid all the knobs are mounted and do not wiggle - compared to other brands. Still owning a little Icom and a Yeasu plus a KX-3, my previous rigs, as far as I remember after more than 50 years as a ham, hi, been a TS-870, FT-897, IC-756 Pro II, IC-756 Pro III, IC-7600 and now the TS-990. The TS-990 is the best, out of experience up until today - and not only because it was the most expensive one.

Yes, I found one bug (feature?) in operating sequences. Kenwood provides updates. Loading the file on a USB stick and the update can be loaded into the rig.

Your emotional milage my vary, but nevertheless, don't make a fast judgement by just driving once around the corner.
M0NJA Rating: 2013-04-28
Nice feel but few niggles Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Sat in the shop for two hours with my headphones playing with this on receive. Coming from a TS 950 VMSDX with flat receive and having a LP panadapter I found a few issues that stopped me buy this.
No matter how much I eq the receive equaliser it sounded thin even with the low cut filter width on zero and it could not hit my headphones with any decent depth. Then using the high contour on the filter it had limited options lots less than I have on the SDX. So trying to remove splatter it had to be adjusted in big steps. Ok now this radio goes narrow down to around 1k wide on ssb but your do well to recognise much being said that narrow. And finally the scope does not line up perfect or even close to the signals received. The zero line sits into the signal not at the edge of each side band as you see on Flex radio etc. Ok your more or less on the signal but it's not accurate I was using the options to set it in the centre of the signal but to the edge could not be lined up tight. This radio should be more SDR based in my opinion but its mish mash of ideas. Having infinite adjustment filters in the flex software I use with my panadapter keeps the fidelity the audio much nicer when only having to remove the exact amount of offending qrm at a time leaving more audio to be retrieved not cutting huge lumps of high frequencies like the ts 990s is doing. So other than these issues yes the noise reduction 1 is great notch is superb display is top stuff the feel of the radio is typical Kenwood. But if you have never had a Sdx with panadapter this would be your perfect radio and I would have thought so too. But I just cannot part with money to loose that SDX sound such a shame as the radio looks the best out there.
VE2AED Rating: 2013-04-25
Best rig I have EVER operated Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Kenwood really outperformed themselves on this one (I have owned this 990 for 4 weeks) . I have owned so many radios , using an antenna switch I have compared the 990 receivers with my IC-7600 and IC-756pro3 , it is so much easier to hear s1 stations and understand them with the 990 , I believe that it may be a result of the high speed dsp's which have inherent resolution and are therefore able to not mix weak signals with noise . I have published a critical comparison between the 756pro2 and pro3 on eham years ago , have been licensed since 74 . Due to the unavailability of time I cannot write an article at this time however I hope this brief review hits home, anyone with negative reviews most likely does not own this radio ... AMAZING .. 73 ..Howard VE2AED
W2YJ Rating: 2013-04-18
Kenwood got it right! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I've been through a lot of transceivers over the past 8 years and finally Kenwood moved us into the computer age with USB and ELAN connection. As for the receiver and transmitter itself, I found it very easy to navigate all the functions as well as the easy to use menu system. It is a great ergonomic laid out front panel. The scope is a great addition and not just an after though. I'm finally finding myself using the NR function of this rig unlike my past rigs with NR that were not as effective. The filtering is as good as I expected from a well-designed receiver front end. If you can get your hands on one of these you will not regret it. More to come.
K4BXN Rating: 2013-04-17
Ouch Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
This is the best rig I have ever owned. But you have to take that with a grain of salt. I haven’t owned any “top-tier rigs”. My comparison with the TS990 is to my most recent rigs … TT Orion and Omni VII, the Flex SDR1000 and the Elecraft K3 + P3. While I enjoyed each of these in their own way, the TS990 is a step above.
The front of the TS990 may seem intimidating with all its buttons and knobs, it in practice is easy to get on the air and operating, controls are located logically. The RX is as good or better than my previous rigs. The panadapter shines. The built in antenna tuner works better than either the one in the K3 or the out board LDG tuner. Only good reports on the TX side of things (CW and SSB).
I am pleased and don’t regret for a moment the money spent on this fine rig.
But there is a down side … think I got a hernia lifting it onto the desk.
N5ARK Rating: 2013-04-16
WOW! What a radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Hello all,

After owning the radio since 3-5-13, I thought it would be a good time to write a review. First off, the radio is an amazing piece of equipment in many aspects...The first appearance of the radio is it's big, bold, heavy and has everything you would expect in a high end transceiver. Operating the radio has been nothing but a joy. The layout of the front is very impressive and overall easy to figure out. If you have owned previous models of Kenwood, you will find it easy to navigate and get on the air without the manual. Speaking of the manual, it is very large and overall easy to understand. Yes, there are some errors, misprints and translation issues (Japanese to English), but you can easily figure out what is being said. I have found the same type of misprints from other manufactures in the past. The manual is much easier to understand that most VHF/UHF & HF Radios from the other big companies. Now lets talk about operating the radio, I found it easy to setup the radios equalizers, filters and user defined settings. There are many different user defined settings possible with the radio to suit every user. The EQ's for both TX & RX are easy to adjust and reset to default if needed. You can make the radio sound any way you like using the EQ's. There is really no need to have a external EQ as it is built in to the radio. The video card allows you to connect a monitor directly to the radio. I used a 20 inch computer monitor using the DVI Port on the back of the radio, and it works like a champ. The feedback I have received on the air have ranged from studio quality, best ever heard, amazing and stunning! I have yet to hear anyone tell me my audio was anything but perfect. I have made numerous contacts with the first question/compliment being about the audio and how great it sounds. I have used a stock mic, heil proset, warren gregorie and even a cheap computer microphone with nothing but great reports from each one. The radio also has a built in sound card for endcoding/decoding digital modes that works like a champ. You connect a keyboard directly to the radio using a USB port for PSK and RTTY. The radio also has a COM port and USB port for direct connection to a computer. By doing this you can also use HRD DM780 or similar program for digital modes. You can also use your computer microphone for transmit. CW work with the radio is a dream. The filters make working CW a pleasure. HRD works just fine with the radio using TS-590 settings. I am sure HRD will come out with a 990 version soon. USB audio recording is easy as well. You can customize pre recorded messages such as callsign, reports etc. The USB ports also allow you to save personal settings to a USB Stick, Update Firmware or save PSK/RTTY conversations. The remote program from Kenwood is fairly easy to understand and make work. The control program is very good as well.

The SP-990 speaker also is very good with the usual settings found in a filtered speaker. Running the radio at 200 Watts doesn't make it hot, unstable or bother it in any way. The radio has built in cooling fans that keep it cool. You can monitor the temp of the radio if you like. There is a screen saver built in and you can customize it if you like. I can go on and on about the features but you get the idea.

Ant tuner seems to be a little quieter than previous models. It tunes very fast and will tune about any antenna within specs.

Negatives: Well I haven't really found any that stands out. The NR1 & NR2 work very well once you get them setup correctly but do cause some artifacts (like other radios in this class) if you don't set them correctly. The NB, BC, Notch, DSP all work as described. I have updated the firmware without any problem at all.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the radio. You get what you pay for! It is just a joy to operate. I also call a weekly net with great reports. I have been able to copy 99.9% of the stations with ease. When the band it noisy you can pretty much eliminate unwanted QRM, Nearby stations and man-made interference making the stations easy copy. I haven't noticed any overload from nearby stations either.

Waterfall & Bandscope work as described and easy to use.

I will write another review after about 3-4 months of use. I have been honest with this review as well. Having used other high end radios from Yaesu, Icom and Tentec for comparison, and I think the 990 beats all of them to some extent on RX and TX. Yes, there are always room for improvement. With future firmware updates, I think it will only get better.

Kenwood created a masterpiece with this radio. They listened to what users wanted and designed this one accordingly in my opinion.

Brought back my interest in HF after using it for a few days. I look forward to many hours having fun with this radio. You can listen to me call the net on 3.927 @ 4:30 CST on Thursdays.

If I have any problems, faults or issues with the radio, I will update this review. So far there have been none. Belonging to the TS-990S Yahoo group, my impression seems to be on par with the other owners. Only read one post where a user got a dead radio. So far there have been about 500 sold based on user feedback.

Owner of the first radio sold from Main Trading in Paris, TX. Also first one in the state of Arkansas!

K6RIM Rating: 2013-04-08
Kenwood's Newest Gem Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Over a period of 20 years, I enjoyed DXing with Kenwood radios, beginning with the 930, then the 940, then the 950SD and the 950SDX.

I enjoyed the 950SDX for a number of years, and awaited the next gem from Kenwood. The 960? But the waiting extended so long that, in my view, the 950SDX was no longer at the cutting edge. Icom’s DSP radios with their eye-catching and useful spectrum scopes became difficult to resist. So in 2002 I took a deep breath and, based upon the glowing reviews of ARRL and others, purchased an Icom Pro II.

The Pro II sold me on Icom, and for a decade, I was a convert. In addition to the Pro II, I owned a 7600 and a 7800.

In 2012, rumors began swirling about a new high-end radio from Kenwood. The rumors were true! Kenwood has a new baby, the TS-990S. After over twenty years, Kenwood finally gave birth to a new high-end radio worthy of the Kenwood moniker. I couldn’t resist, and ordered it as soon as it became available.

The TS-990S reeks of quality, and from my first contact with the radio, it became evident that Kenwood put a LOT of thought and expertise into its design. Over twenty years worth. And what a gem it is!

One reason some of us are willing to pay up for a radio like the IC-7800 or the TS-990S is the thoroughly enjoyable experience of operating a quality instrument. It’s not because the high-end radio is necessarily going to work more DX or improve contest scores.

And the TS-990S delivers this experience, in spades! Almost every detail of the radio is perfect: the fit and finish is second to none; the bright and crystal clear displays, the silky smooth main VFO knob, the easy and efficient split, the unbelievably easy-to-use RTTY tuning, USB radio control, external monitor capability, fabulous filtering that – even at 50 cycles - does not ring. There are simply too many useful features to detail here.

Any negatives? Sure, no radio is perfect:

The front of the radio is too busy for my taste: too many buttons. But I knew this before I bought the radio. With time, I have learned the location of the buttons that I use the most. In Kenwood’s defense, though, it should be noted that the radio has an incredible depth of choices and configurability. But, for ergonomics, my nod still goes to Icom.

The NR on the TS-990S is good, but, IMHO, not as good as the NR in the Icom 7600 or 7800. NR is a feature that can be improved with a firmware update, and my hope is that Kenwood will see fit to do so.

Implementing a user memory for CW, SSB or RTTY both sends the message, and, at the same time pops up a window on the bottom half of the big screen on the radio. This window shows what message is contained in each of the programmed memories. The purpose, obviously, is to assist the user in remembering the contents of up to eight memories. The only way to dismiss the popup window is to push the Escape button on the radio. It’s picky, but I don’t like having to do this. An easy solution that should satisfy everyone would be to provide the user a choice to disable the popup feature.

Bottom line:

It was an exceedingly long gestation period before Kenwood delivered its newest gem, but the TS-990S delivers the goods and more; it was worth the wait!

KH6CG Rating: 2013-04-04
TS-990S finally arrives... Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have had this TS-990S for a little over 2 weeks now. I have allot to say about this radio. First of all, one needs to play with this radio for many days to really learn how to get the most out of it. It's not your run of the mill FTdx5000, or 7800 etc....I see posts where some have operated it for a few hours and then begin to pick it apart. Personally, IMHO, I don't think there should be any real reviews of this radio till one learns how to fully take advantage of it's many features, and that will take many days at best. OK, having said goes: Let it be known that I am a big fan of the Flex5000a, ( in fact I have 2 of them)but since I have this 990S, I have not turned the Flex radio on in 14 days so far. this in itself, might be a glowing review in it's own right. The TS-990S has the BEST Bandscope , panadapter than ANY other box radio to date. Bar-none! I hooked up a 22" monitor to the 990S and the bandscope comes to life in grand style. I have owned the IC-7800, FTdx9000 PEP9000, FTdx5000 now for sale, K3 and a few others over the years. The TS-990S's bandscope is actually, not only usable, but works quite well. This a contester's radio, packed with feature on top of feature. ( i am NOT a contester )I was listening allot during the WPX SSB contest during the crowed times and the 990S allowed me to easily copy stations as close a 1kh easily. I love how the NR1 works on SSB, actually takes out all background noise and only leaves the intended SSB signal without degradation of this signal. None of the other radios were able to do this, none. If you are not getting this on your radio, read the manual and learn how it's done. I especially like the fact that I can use the internal digital modes effectively and bust pileups on RTTY and even split operation by just using this one radio and no computer or external interface. The capturing of the digital signals is fast and clean, and the 990S digs out the weak ones and decodes very well. Much better than my 7800 was ever able to do. I constructed the PF Keypad, shown on page 16-7 of the manual with parts from my local Radio Shack. This allows me to transmit my memory macros, without leaving the encode/decode screen. You can see this keypad on my QRZ.COM page. It easily slips underneath the front of the radio when not in use. This keypad also works for my CW macros as well. My keyboard connects to the front of the rig where there are 2 USB ports. I like the touch screen feature and use it. Works well. Break-in keying is fast and silent. Closing the Passband filter down to 50hz with no ringing. Nice! I have my 990S connected to my SPE 2k-fa amplifier along with my Flex5000a. just the push of a button on the amp allows which transceiver to use. Amp switching and CAT control from the 990S to amp is simple and easy. I have made qso's on all bands all the way to 6m. First qso on 6m was XR0YX, on Easter Island. How cool was that? hihi. The layout of controls is very good. Easy to find the buttons you need in the heat of battle. Split operation is a breeze. I use the Bandscope screen in split operation to find the station that the dx station is working and then Pounce like a cat. There is an 18 Band tx and rx equalizer. I tailored my tx equalizer to my Heil headset HC-4 and HC-5 elements and have been getting excellent audio reports for both DX'ing and ragchewing. I thought I would buy this Kenwood TS-990S and try it out and I am glad I did. I would never go to a friends station and try it out, and then come here an write a review, geeeeze........give me and all of us a break!!! I never thought I would have this much fun with a Box radio. I still prefer the PSDR panadaptor of the Flex, but nothing else is that good, since it is using PSDR, but for a Box radio, the TS-990S is the way to go. I think the price should have been $7000, but heck, what's $1000 if you can add the fun factor? hihi. I am also anxious to see how the New Flex6700 will be once it arrives , hopefully shortly, it is on order.
So, if you have the bucks, and are looking for a radio that will not quit giving you options, this radio will provide hours of fun and uninterrupted service. If you have one, enjoy it, like I do mine.
WA8MAX Rating: 2013-04-02
Over BLOWEN Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Way over rated-not as good as my FT9000/FT1000D