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Reviews For: Kenwood TM 261 A

Category: Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held)

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TM 261 A
Reviews: 60MSRP: 169.95
Two-meter FM radio
Product is not in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
K4TBN Rating: 2004-05-30
lousy reliability Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Finals blew after a year. Thanks Kenwood.
W4CGP Rating: 2004-05-20
Very Reliable Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased this radio not long after I got into ham radio. It's worked nearly for me since I bought it. The only real problem I have with the radio right now is that I broke the rotary encoder for the tuning knob, which I will replace as soon as the new one comes in the mail.

The radio is fairly rugged (apart from the knobs on the front) and is mechanically sound. The speaker leaves a bit to be desired, the audio is very clear, albeit with little low end. I do not run the radio on any more power and for any longer than absolutely necessary, as it gets very hot.

My only two real complaints...the AM receiver is a bit weak as other have mentioned and there is no tone squelch built in.

This radio served me well as a base radio until I replaced it with an Icom 706 MKIIG. Once I get the new rotary encoder in, the radio will most likely go in my truck.
K4RKC Rating: 2004-01-24
Works Great but get a Fan Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I won a Kenwood TM-261A at a hamfest in 2002 and have beem quite pleased overall with it's performance. I have used it as the primary rig for Net Operations forthe last several months and it has performed like a champ. I followed the recommendation of installing a fan to disapate the heat and that helped the situation.

Programming the 261 was a learning process since I had never owned a Kenwood vhf rig before but I eventually mastered all of it's many features.

I serve as the Treasurer of a large ham club and will recommend the purchase of Kenwood 261's for our communications room and mobile command post.
AE4NR Rating: 2003-09-29
Works first time-every time Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Having now owned the 261 for more than 2 years now it has never failed me have noticed the heat sinks get a bit warm on high power but most of the time I run it on echolink with it in low power.I have not had a ptt problem but to be honest only use the mic about a once per week so it would not be fair to give a review on the mic.I can only give it a 4 because of the disply lighting fades in different lighting conditions.
If looking directly at it in rooom lighting it is fine but at angles or in direct sunlight it is lousy.The radio has functioned just fine
no failures as of yet.Memories are ok to program and the manual is lousy but easy enough to follow along.
W5ZZQ Rating: 2003-08-09
Excellent Radio !~! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have had this little radio for over a year with NO problems at all. It does get warm on high at times. Nothing major. For just a 2meter radio - it can't be beat. Not the best looking radio around but it does work great. I may buy another.
KC8MJX Rating: 2003-06-19
Excellent Radio For The Money Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Had this radio for about 2 years now and it works great. The only drawback that I have is that it gets a little hot with only a short qso when using medium power. I'm a strong Kenwood customer. Every radio I have is a Kenwood. I would recommend this rig to anyone and that is why I'm giving it a 5. It's everything that I'd expect from a good VHF Transceiver.

73 Chad KC8MJX
AB0RE Rating: 2002-12-29
Okay, but very outdated Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Every time I've been shopping for a 2M mobile in the past, I've overlooked the TM-261A as it seemed to be an inattractive, expensive, and under-featured rig. But, my curiousity was killing me, so I picked up a TM-261A at R&L's Customer Appreciation Day sale on 12/14/02 for $125. Now that I've had a chance to use it a bit, here are my initial impressions:
1) Not that it really matters, but the overall appearance of this radio is awful. The chassis is two different colors. I have never before seen a ham rig this square - no rounded corners. The 261 looks more like a cheap CB than a $150 ham radio.
2) The display is awful, too. Contrast and brightness can not be adjusted. The brightness across the display varies drastically in relation to where the lamps are mounted. Again, not something I'd expect from a $150 ham rig.
3) Since we're on the subject of the radio's cosmetics... the microphone is the ugliest I've ever seen. The backlighting of the microphone does not match the display *at all*. Looks very tacky. And, there's no way to turn the mic's backlighting off. That, coupled with the fact that 261's are notorious for mic failure, has me considering purchasing a different mic if I decide to keep this rig.
4) This radio is difficult to use in the dark. The MR / VFO / MN keys are not backlit as they should be - have fun guessing which is which. The squelch and volume control knobs have just a very small indent indicating what position they are in. The indent is difficult to see during the day and impossible to see at night. Just hope you don't make the 300 mile trip with the volume turned all the way down or the squelch turned all the way up - you'd never know.
5) The radio gets very hot, as many others have mentioned. The radio gets considerably warm even when receiving only. Use of the 50W setting for any length of time would not be recommended. Or, at the very least, one might want to add a computer fan or two to the chassis of the radio. Kenwood should've advertised this radio as being a 5/10W rig, not "full 50W output".
6) This has got to be one of the slowest scanning radios I've ever seen. I find myself having to do a "double-take" when looking at the radio to ensure it's scanning. If you're planning on purchasing the 261A for use as a scanner... don't.
7) The leads of the power cord are separated all the way to the T-connector. Ugly, messy, etc... I think Kenwood could've used the standard #12 zip cord like all the other manufacturers and let consumers decide if they'd like to separate it. Oh, and the fuse holders are about 5" from the end of the wire - don't plan on trimming this power cord short. The fuse holders are not the weather resistant ones, either, meaning you'll have to take steps to weatherproof them if using the radio mobile (Kenwood addresses this in the user's manual).
8) Speaking of the manual... Kenwood's user manual could be very confusing for the new ham. Not only does it contain errors, but it also is not very clear on many other things. For instance, it refers to repeater frequencies as "simplex channels" in the programming section.
9) The speaker in this thing is weak. When driving at highway speeds, it is necessary to turn the volume a majority of the way up to hear activity. The internal speaker just doesn't do well.
10) Considering the above-mentioned problems, the 261 is very expensive in my opinion. The radio with tone decoder chip would run $200. Worth it? I don't think so.

In all fairness to Kenwood and it's loyal supporters, I think it's worth noting that the radio does have some positive points. It seems to do okay at rejecting bogus signals (i.e. noise from my computer monitor)... TX audio is okay... the radio is relatively easy to program once the manual is reviewed... and from what I've experienced so far, the radio does not seem to have any major performance problems. I will probably end up holding onto this one "as a spare", but I'm sure it will see more closet time than actual use.

Bottom line... Kenwood is getting spanked by the competition. They need to take a few of their R&D dollars away from the tri-band HT department and design a decent VHF mobile so they can be competitive in today's market.
VA3WXM Rating: 2002-12-12
Good first rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I was licenced in 1999 and my first rig was a used TM-261. I liked it because it had proper RF power options, an easy-to-read display and was built like a tank! I also found the audio output to be strong and pleasant to the ear. It survived two Canadian winters in my car and never missed a beat.

I've since moved up to a dual-band rig but will always remember this one as my "first".
WB7RRK Rating: 2002-12-11
Good on 2M, weak on airband recepton Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
This replaces a previous review. After a few months of operation, I believe this is a good 2 meter transciever. It puts out a full 50w and recieves distant stations nicely. After getting familiar with the manual and programming the rig, it's fairly easy to use, but I still need to refer to the manual if making changes to the setup. A quick reference card for usual ops, like setting duplex frequencies, offsets, and modes would be useful.

The airband reception feature isn't very good. The squelch needs to be set so there's constant noise before I can hear anything...that means airband freqs can't be set in with 2 meter freqs for scanning, and even if set as a descrete freq, the squelch will block transmissions unless it's set to allow noise all the time.

I have not had any trouble with heat buildup, the Alaskan climate may help. All in all, a good 2 meter rig, but don't let the aviation band feature be a deciding factor.
W7SFO Rating: 2002-12-03
1 year and still cooking with gas! Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I had to purchase one for myself after playing with the roommates.
My opinion of this radio has not changed one bit. I still love it and have not had a lick of trouble with it.

Earlier 5-star review posted by W7SFO on 2001-12-30

I purchased this radio as a Christmas gift for my roomate. After it arrived I hooked it up in my shack and started to learn how it works. After a few short minutes I had the first few local repeater's in the memory and it was time for a test.

I can say first off the internal speaker sounds better then either of my ICOM IC2100's or my Yaesu FT8100R. All the signal reports were great, simplex and repeater.

I love, the ease of programing, The way the menu's are layed out, the size and feel of the mic and most of all, the heavy duty mic hanger and mic hanger clip! My ICOM has a tin metal hanger, and it hangs on the plastic of the mic. Very tacky. This Kenwood it a scookum unit. Much like the TR7400A I got from my grandfather, just smaller. Now that 7400 was a RADIO!!!

I will give an update in 6 months or if something comes up.!