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Reviews For: Kenwood TS-690S

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - non QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TS-690S
Reviews: 30MSRP: ts-690
The TS-690 was Kenwood's All Mode Multi Band HF Transciever.
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
NY4D Rating: 2021-04-11
All you may need Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have a hard time finding any faults with this radio. Not saying it is perfect, and it isn't a contest or dx crusher, but it has been around long enough that the good and bad points are well known. For my money, in this price class, there are few used rigs that give you more bang for the buck for an everyday rig.

This and the kindred TS-450s (no 6 meters) are rigs that just sound and look better and seem to work better than the specs and reviews say. The superior audio qualities are well known, I can listen to one of these for hours with no fatigue. The internal speaker actually sounds good. The transmit IMD specs are very good for a 12 volt rig.

There is no internal DSP but add an audio dsp box or speaker.

Almost anything you need to access is on the front panel. there are some setup menus but you will probably only use them once. I'm not a big fan of the Kenwood hand mic, it does have a hollow sound but have found that any mic or headset with the Heil HC-5 element always sounds good. The MC-60 is a no brainer also.

It is easy to add filters through the bottom hatch, they plug in, and they are reasonably priced if you look around for used ones. If you get a TS-690 with an antenna tuner (no 160 or 6 though with the internal tuner) you will wonder why the tuners in most newer rigs aren't this good. Mine have always tuned (within reason) almost anything worthy of the name "antenna." Not saying you can use a "wet string" or a "resistor on a stick" from dc to daylight, but something like a full sized g5rv is a no-brainer.

Like most 80s and 90s rigs, parts and service can be an issue. In reality, parts are an issue for most any rig from this era. There is a fairly constant availability on eBay now.

Like it's unidentical twin, the TS-450S, this rig can be a pleasure to use and they do hold their value well on the used market.
N4JQQ Rating: 2020-05-04
Great Radio After All These Years Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have owned this radio for a LONG time. It was in use at my former QTH, C6AFP. Now in second QTH, FL. It continues to amaze me with performance. I also have TS-450 and TS-850/TS-870/TS-890 to compare to. If you are limited in terms of funds and can find one of these for a price that agrees with you, do it. There are still guys out there who can recap, repair, etc. In terms of six meters, 50 watts, 100 watts, never made much difference to me.
KJ4RZZ Rating: 2020-05-04
Love this radio, previous was TS-440S Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Owned many TS-440S's and loved that radio. Always curious about TS-450 because it looked like a TS-440 with a few more features. I recently acquired a TS-690S (TS450+6M) because I wanted to try 6M, and wow this radio is beautiful. The display is nicer, and the ability to combine filters is a neat feature, and the tuner is a little faster. The 8.83 IF is before the AGC, and 455 after the AGC. So for strong nearby signals pumping AGC, you can add filters to the 8.83 side to filter before the AGC, or you can ride RF gain to reduce AGC. Either works. Filters can be installed without removing circuit boards or soldering (unlike the TS-440). Internally it is easier to work on, epoxy PCB's with some SMT reduces the clutter. There are less boards and smaller boards which means easier to remove for repair. Having a power output adjustment in addition to carrier adjustment and mic gain is very nice compared to the 440. The 450/690 had far less problems than the 440. One thing you should do is remove the bottom cover and inspect C104 on the IF board. The original cap is a brown 470uF 10V electrolytic and it will leak. Look for leakage (dark area) under the cap. If you still have that cap replace it. Symptoms will be a crackling noise across all bands which sounds like a loose audio or antenna connection.

Very happy with this radio and much prefer it over my old TS440S. Functionally it's almost identical with a few extras and cleaner look.

Some people complain it goes deaf on 40M and below, but I think they are not realizing that AIP turns on automatically (disables the pre-amp) at 7mhz and below to reduce noise. You can turn the pre-amp back on with a press of the AIP button.

The notch filter is AF rather than IF but it does work well.

Most importantly the radio sounds great!

EDIT: The only problem with the TS-450 and TS-690 is that the cat cable connector is on the left side of the radio and the cord sticks straight out. The solution is to buy a right angle connector from digikey. Part number CP-1360-ND. Mfr part number is SDR-60. 6 pin right angle male connector.
W5BXY Rating: 2014-05-14
Great radio Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My first HF rig was a 690 SAT and that was over 20 yrs ago. I used it every day for 10 years until I decided to get out of Ham Radio for several years. When I returned to the hobby I tried a couple of different rigs, including a brand new one, but found myself longing for another 690. I finally found a nice one and I’ll never part with it. I’ve made hundreds of contacts, used every mode and this radio shines in all areas. For the money you just can’t beat it. I have other HF rigs including a TS 940 SAT which I like very much but the 690 is my baby. If you can find a good one for a reasonable price (currently $450-$600) buy it. I promise you won’t regret it!
WA9PIE Rating: 2009-08-25
Rig of a lifetime Time Owned: more than 12 months.
It looks like it's been a while since anyone has written a review. So here's mine.

I've been a ham for over 35 years. Somewhere I've got the receipt for my TS-690S, but I bought mine in the early 90's when they first came out. It replaced my TS-440S (because I wanted 6m), which replaced my TS-430S (which replaced Heathkit SB-300 and SB-401).

I still use this rig today as my primary station rig. That's about 50% of the 30 years I've been a ham. For that reason, I call it the "rig of a lifetime". It's not scratched... doesn't smell like cigarettes... like new after all these years.

With this rig, I've worked 325 countries (mixed), 270 CW/270 phone... 5BDXCC... WAZ... and my November Sweepstakes score from one of those years in the 90s is still among the top scores submitted from Indiana all-time.

Someone earlier said that this rig is "like an old dog". Yep, ham's best friend - for me anyway.

The only annoying thing about this rig is that the connector for the rig interface is on the side of the rig (and that the AT-450 doesn't tune 160/6m; the LDG Z100Plus eliminates that problem; adding filters and a microKEYER II sure improve the rig).

One day I'll get a new rig, but I probably won't let this one go.

My only regret in writing this review is that 5 is the max score I can give it.

Earlier 4-star review posted by WA9PIE on 2001-01-23

I've had this rig since right after they came out and it's always worked great. The only things that bug me about this is that you've gotta buy a bunch of filters to get the best out of it (or a DSP), the optional tuner doesn't do 160m, it doesn't have a built-in RS232 connection, and the rig never has given me a full 100W output (more like 80W; has anyone else seen this?).
N2PTF Rating: 2008-10-07
My only Tranceiver Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
Not much to say, except this is a great little rig. I used to own a 450S, but wanted to get into 6 meters. Great value on used market as it has very good transmit and receive audio for SSB. I'll never part with mine !
AA2HA Rating: 2007-09-02
Great rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased this rig about 12 years ago as a back-up rig. It has been reliable beyond what I ever could have expected. It has been used on field day, as a mobile rig, and a base. With the filters installed, it has proven itself a worthy DX rig not usually found in this price range. The transmit audio is wonderful as well. I would highly recommend this rig as it has been a real work-horse and hasn't ever had a single problem.
EI3GSB Rating: 2007-08-22
Great rig! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I bought my very clean 690S/AT on eBay from a US seller who was great to deal with, it even came with a spotless SP-23 speaker.

My main rig is an 850S/AT but I use the 690 at my girlfriend's house with a modest antenna, a half size G5RV and I've had great results with this set up. There are no added filters but for me the stock filters do a great job of eliminating most QRM and the receive is very sensitive.

I bought this radio to replace an Icom IC-736 and to have a back up HF rig and I've no intention of replacing it, it's very easy to use and has all the features I need.
EX_AA5JG Rating: 2007-06-13
Now I know why! Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I used to see what the TS690SAT was going for used, compare that to the prices of the used HF/6m/2m rigs, and get confused. It went for as much or more than those rigs, and with the other rigs you got more power on 6m (the 690 does 50 watts) and 2 meters. However, after owning a couple of TS690SATs, I can see why they retain their value.

Last fall I had a Kenwood TS850SAT, and really liked it, but sold it because I needed something with 6m on it. I am a confirmed 6m addict and have no plans to go to rehab! I told a couple of local hams that if the TS850SAT had 6m on it, it would never leave my shack. Well the TS690 isn't quite an 850, but it isn't far behind, and it has 6m on it.

The TS690 has an outstanding receiver on it for a mid priced (when it came out) rig. I have run it in a few CW contests, and it handles the crowded bands and contest QRM just fine. The one I have now has the INRAD 400hz filter in the 2nd IF and the Kenwood 270hz filter in the 3rd IF. This worked just fine in the CQWPX contest. I could run it with both filters on 20m and 40m and get no overloading or IMD products, and rarely encountered QRM that would keep me from copying a station. This receiver is much ahead of the HF/VHF mobile rigs. Plus the receiver audio on this rig just sounds nice. One of the best sounding rigs I have heard. I am not into HI FI SSB, but SSB sounds really nice on the 690. I also get unsolicited comments on my transmit audio, and I am just using a generic aftermarket hand mic.

The receiver and NB work nicely together on the low bands to take out quite a bit of the power line noise I have. I turn the AIP on (turns off the preamp) on 30 meters and below, as the rig is plenty sensitive already. I do run it with the AIP off on 20 meters, but the preamp probably isn't needed there either. The receiver seems much quieter on the low bands than many other of the rigs I have had. You can vary both the preamp and the antennuator to get several different levels of sensitivity.

The autotuner in the SAT model also works better than most. It loads up about anything I throw at it. It takes a little longer at times than some of the more modern internal tuners, but it also works much better than them. This is a nice sized rig to have an autotuner. It isn't as small as some of these newer rigs, but it still isn't that large, and I took it roving this past weekend in the June VHF contest and it fit just nicely in the minivan-but it did have to ride on the passenger seat as I don't mount any of my rigs permanently in the vehicles.

The NB in the 690 works pretty good. It is not as good as the NB in the FT100 or TS2000 (those are legendary) but it also doesn't affect receiver performance near as much as most NB do. It took out the ignition noise with no problem and takes out most of the power line noise I get.

One last thing to say about the Kenwood 690/850/950 line of rigs: They just look beautiful. The TS690SAT is one of the nicest looking smaller rigs I have seen. This sounds superficial, but it is a rig I can enjoy looking at while I operate, and it is one you would want to show off to others. The 2 colored bar S/SWR/PO meter is also nice, and it will show both power out and SWR at the same time.

Are there things I would add to the 690? Yes, I wish it had an internal memory keyer (it doesn't have a built in keyer at all, and one isn't even an option). I wish the manual notch was IF instead of AF-but at least it has a manual notch you can tune and use on CW as well as SSB-much better than the autonotch filters showing up on later rigs. It would be nice if it had the slope tuning that the 850 did, but rigs in this price class didn't have slope/PBT back then.

I traded a Yaesu FT990 to get the TS690 and don't really feel like I took a step backwards performance-wise. There are some things I like better on the 690 than on the larger and contest quality 990. I keep thinking about maybe replacing the 690 with something that has a few more bands on it, but I just can't bring myself to do it it. It hasn't been my favorite rig of all times (that is the 756PRO) but it is definitely in the top 4. You can't go wrong with this rig.
AA5TE Rating: 2006-10-19
Great rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned one of these from 1994 to 1996, then sold my Icom 706MkII in 2003 and bought another one of these last year. Great receiver, seems to work quite well on 6M as well. I've been able to work everything that I can hear with its 100W (50W on 6M) into an 80M off-center fed dipole @35'. I consistently get excellent (unsolicited) audio reports even without the DSP-100. The only real complaint is the the built in auto-tuner is sometimes a bit slow (it also won't always match on a few bands, but this is entirely due to the use of incorrect lengths of feed line with my multiband dipole setup). A great rig for the money.