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Reviews For: Kenwood TS-120V

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

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TS-120V
Reviews: 8MSRP:
Early 1980s entry-level low power CW/SSB transceiver 10 Watt, SSB and CW HF transceiver. Covers 80/40/20/15/10 Meters. The lower power version of the TS-120S
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
VK3ALB Rating: 2016-05-15
A great fun radio Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've had my TS120V for over a year now and I think it should be reviewed for what it is - a 30 year old radio. It's not a flagship radio and never was but it does its job as a simple low power HF radio admirably.

In my opinion the TS120V is no more difficult to service than any other radio of its era. Mine had two dots on the display on the 15m & 10m bands courtesy of a low gain transistor in the 10MHz doubler section. After replacing the transistor and a tune-up I heard pretty much anything I could hear with my more modern radios - it has a good receiver.

In common with many radios of its era the frequency stability at power-up is not great but once warmed up meets the specification in the manual for stability. Certainly if you needed to use the radio immediately it is no issue to ride the VFO while waiting for it to settle down.

The transmitter meets the specification in the manual and perhaps not surprisingly I've only ever received good reports on the audio quality of my transmissions. The low power output is not the limitation that it may seem especially if the bands are open. As mentioned elsewhere you should not be surprised to get a 5x9 report when your friend around the corner running 100W gets 5x9 +10 from the same distant station. That's radio.

As far as I am aware my TS120V has not caused any perceived downfall in the hobby but it has caused me to speak proudly about it on the air and has been an integral part of some really great QSOs with other hams that like working on their rigs and keeping them going - one of the joys of our hobby.

I would not be disappointed if this was my only radio and if someone was to ask me for my opinion I'd be happy to recommend it to them. Don't confuse or compare this radio with today's modern radios - if that's what you want to do then you've come to the wrong place. I give it 5 out of 5 simply because it does what it's supposed to do - simply - even after 30 years.

VK2MS Rating: 2016-04-24
QRP?? Time Owned: N.A.
QRP... Transmitters are rated on INPUT...the power input drawn by the final. Only sets with RF meters gave an output indication (e.g. the W/S no 11). With tube sets, input power to final was less than total set input power owing to heaters and other B+ use, whereas with solid state the difference may be less pronounced.In true QRP the final stage may be almost the total consumer. Yes there are ways of measuring OUTPUT power but generally accepted is QRP 5W INPUT irrespective of an IARU 10W INPUT. A problem is that so many with licences seem to have no idea of the difference and these are called "Hams"...a once proudly technical fraternity which well knew the difference between input and output power and used them correctly. On 'technical' comments 0-5 .. Of course the TS 120/130V is bigger than some little qrp IC devices, the Kenwoods are in cases built for 100W input units with fans...but how is that relevant anyway? to 120V performance. 120V's are NOT QRP whether as one chap claimed, operating at 10W or 'over 10W output' even in the extreme case of suggesting 10W INPUT is "qrp'. If you have 10W output you have exceeded 10W input. 120V's also have numerous control manual features that the 'smaller' qrp's rarely have.. I say 'rarely' as if I say 'no QRP has' one will be shoved under my nose (LOL!!) I ran my 130 V very effectively at always metered 7W INPUT but I don't claim that as QRP even though that 7W was total set input. The set has a very stable and quite excellent receiver as well as a first class output...For those speaking of 120V drift and alignment perhaps after 40 years it's time to have a thorough capacitor check maybe at least electro' replacements and at least a passing resistor check before rushing to realignment. As a close, the difference in "effective power" between 5W and 400W is not linear. Often enough new hams with '400W' and such as '12dB' antenna have been aghast to learn my 5/9 plus a point to them and their 'good' 5/9 to me using an offset dipole were on sets over 390 Watts,input, apart. They can't believe it...."you couldn't possibly be running that power, come on....what are you really running??"...A 4/6-7 into Wales on 7W one 7pm, 40M sideband I thought a pretty fair result too. No coincidence with the downward spiral of Ham radio is that unfortunately the craft and hobby of SWL'ing on H.F. and Broadcast band seems to have all but disappeared,a great pity. That said I think it's a pity Hams want to hear and work everything in the ether....The real fun technically, I think, is running under 10W (in) plus wire-antenna experimentation. I had more joy and fun with my 1 tube regen. than I ever did with a JRC Icom or Kenwood and a novice transmitter can still be built 'from the junk box' if hams get connected with us "old timers" who still carry old gear or buy some old tube broadcast Rx and work on the tuning cap to rebuild some components to an HF Rx with BFO... Why not take off our shoes as Hams and feel the earth again under our feet.....? Cheers.
VK3ZIE Rating: 2012-03-05
I own three Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Two of the rigs I bought worked well, but needed a lot of re-alignment work to get the best out of them. The third rig had blown finals, but an alternative transistor type with B-E-C lead configuration produced the full 10 watts output.
Although they are a large QRP rig by todays standards, I quite often carry one with me on the motorbike with a tuner, aerial and 9AH battery for portable operation, plus a 5 watt solar cell for extended use in the field.
For those users who complain of intermod from close/big signals, try turning the Noise Blanker off - it generates a lot of spurious signals when hit by a large signal.
One of my "V"s is a very late model, and has an RF attenuator with pushbutton selection on the front panel, very much like the TS-130V.
The Kenwood service manual is quite hard to interpret in MANY places, so try a "120S" or a 130S/V manual, as it is very similar, but sometimes more correct in its explanation. Beware also, that some individual components change their numbering between the "S" and "V" models. The RF and Signal level tracing diagram in the manual is a great assist in servicing.
The "V" final is MUCH easier to work on than the 120S final, and the serviceability is great, when you get the general design worked out. Beware that some of the I/Cs are NLA, and even data is hard to come by - viz the 8pin DIP SN16913P in the PLL.
PD0RTL Rating: 2008-03-16
Sweet QRP rig Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Got this qrp HF rig now for some weaks.
TX is 10 watts,, good audio, and rig contains a'n CW
500 hz mod.

VFO drift seams not efactive here, or it comes that the rig never is turned off HI.
KH7L Rating: 2004-05-14
A good performer Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I had the TS-120S 28 years ago. The TS-120V is the same but 10 watts made for the Japan market. No memories, no filters, no lock button, no dual VFO. Just a simple rig. At least it has IF shift and RIT. I use an external filter like the Autek QF-1A. CW or PSK31 is a lot of fun with this rig.
G4AON Rating: 2001-02-12
Good value for money on the second hand market Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Don't expect a transceiver of this vintage to perform as well as the more recent
TS-850 or TS-570. Where this radio scores is the value for money stakes. I bought mine for 140 UK pounds, it was fully working and in good condition - that price included CW filter.

Used mostly on CW, this transceiver is an adequate performer. The transmitter is pretty solid at 10 Watts on most bands. The receiver shows it's age, you can hear stations well off frequency if they are strong. There isn't an attenuator switch, if it starts to overload you have nowhere to go. On a multi-band antenna there are image signals due to the limitations of the filters, this is no worse than other rigs of a similar design (I'm comparing it against a much stronger receiver in my home made transceiver, which isn't a fair comparison).

The VFO drifts a few hundred Hertz in the first hour from switch-on. Again more of an observation than a criticism as rigs of this era all used to exhibit the same drift with a free running 5 MHz VFO. The tuning rate is adequate at around 25 KHz per turn.

The calibrate function seems useless as the digital readout works fine. There is a frequency display shift in frequency of 800 Hz when going from receive to transmit on CW, this is annoying to say the least, but I've now got used to it.

Bought at the right price this makes a good second shack transceiver, provided you accept it's limitations.
KU4QD Rating: 2000-11-24
Still performs well after 20 years. Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I recently purchased a TS-120V, a rig I had owned once before, remembering that I liked it as a nice, simple, QRP rig with really decent performance. My existing QRP rigs only covered 6, 15, and 40 meters, and I added this rig back into my shack to cover more bands. Honestly, it's better than I remembered.

The TS-120V, as someone commented, is a QRP version of the TS-120S. It is a bit smaller and lighter, lacks the bigger heat sink, the fan, and the 100 watt PA, and has a few other minor circuit differences. The rig covers 10 through 80 meters (no WARC bands), plus WWV/JJY receive at 15 mhz. (Receiver coverage is actually from 14.5-15 mhz in the WWV position.) Rated output power is 10 watts SSB or CW, but both rigs I have had have put out a fair bit more than that. The nice thing about this rig for the QRPer compared to it's main competition in it's day, the Yaesu FT-7, or even some newer 10 watt rigs like my NCG 7/21/50, is that there is not only a front panel mic. gain, but there is also a front panel carrier level control, making it easy to turn the rig down to 5 watts or less for "true" QRP CW contacts. The rig features RIT and IF shift for fighting the QRM, and also has the allowance for either a 500hz (YK-88C) or 270hz (YK-88CN) CW crystal filter. That filter really lets this rig shine over other early low power rigs if you operate CW. One minor complaint common with rigs of that era is a bit of drift, especially when the rig is first turned on, and also if it becomes really warm.

The rig features a blue flourescent display as did most Kenwood rigs of the '80s. While this is a great display to look at, it's not the best choice for a QRP rig, since it requires a fair amount of power. While there is an analog dial as well, there is no option to turn the display off. Adding a switch to do just that is one mod I highly recommend if you intend to use this as a portable rig. One note, though, is that the analog dial isn't terribly accurate, and a 2khz error is considered "in spec". Also, the display lamps are quite bright, which is great in a dark room, but requires too much power consumption portable. A simple mod (bright LEDs to replace the lamps) helps reduce power consumption and also increases VFO stability by decreasing heat inside the rig. Again, I recommend making this change. Details on this and other mods are at the excellent web site. I should also note that this rig is *big* by today's standards for portable/mobile use.

Both transmit and receive audio are excellent on this rig. There is no notch filter or narrow SSB filter, so an outboard DSP is a good idea with this rig. Options include a matching SP-120 speaker, which really helps bring out how nice the audio is, the matching VFO-120 outboard VFO for split operation, the matching PS-20 4.5 amp power supply, the AT-120 small, mobile antenna tuner, the matching TL-120 100 watt linear amplifier (which is quite rare), and the PC-1 phone patch.

The later TS-130V added the option of independent CW/SSB filters, a speech processor, and the WARC bands, so it is the better choice, but it's hard to find. The TS-120V makes an excellent, inexpensive QRP base rig, and while I can nitpick a few things, on the overall I do think it's a good rig, even 20 years after it was introduced.
AA0B Rating: 2000-07-20
Like the TS-120s Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
The Kenwood TS-120s, has reviews under the HF Transcever section.
The 120v is like the 120s but has a different (low power) final stage.