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Reviews For: Kenwood TS-130SE

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

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Review Summary For : Kenwood TS-130SE
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KG4TWX Rating: 2004-04-12
Good and simple Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This rig is my one-and-only Hf rig. It is rock solid, sounds great and is simple to operate. I have been in the hobby for 3 years and have been around it all my life an I have seen some pretty nice rigs but when I make a contact 59 and the next fellow to call in to the dx station was running full legal limit and he was never heard because of audio distortion. The only rig that I think really overshadows the '130 is the ts-520 and considering that rig is still unmatched today, well that should tell you something.
NE0P Rating: 2004-02-20
Good simple rig Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I had one of these transceivers back in 1985, and it was alot of fun to use. It was great going to solid state after having a FT101B which required tuning when going from band to band.

The TS130SE is very easy to operate, with just the basic functions. It was a small mobile rig back then, but is kind of large by today's mobile standards. It came with a speech processor, IF shift, and narrow/wide options for each mode. It did not have general receive coverage, but modding it to work on the WARC bands was simple, just unplug a wire. Much better than the remove tiny diodes we have to do today. I really miss the "cut the green wire" mods that rigs used to have. The 130 was also simple enough to operate that you never really needed to open the manual.

I gave it a 4 for 2 reasons. One is lack of 160 meter coverage. That is a fun band if you have the space. I am guessing that they left it off because it was intended to be a mobile rig. The second reason is that it only contained the 1 VFO. Made it next to impossible to run splits, although you see the external VFOs from time to time.

I have seen some good prices on these recently, and they are solid rigs, but I would recommend an Icom 730 over this if you can find one for the same price. That way you get dual VFOs.

AG4RC Rating: 2003-03-16
Rock Solid Rig! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Licensed Amateur-Extra in April 2002 and worked only 10-meter band with a President HR-2510 until I bought my first HF rig (Kenwood TS-130SE) in Feb 2003.

I bought it from an older HAM in Orlando FL (area) for $260.00 cash! He announced the rig in the local Traders Net on 2-meter band. Thanks for the reviews on eham web site and such to help make my decision!

One disappointment, at first, was no AM or FM mode - However who really needs FM and also learned quick by tuning down to the side-band of an AM transmission (Short-wave signal and such) reception is 100% readable - Shift the IF adjustment a bit and it sounds fantastic!

So as it stands the only "negative" is a slight degradation of RF output on 28 MHz on up - Perhaps the finals are getting old?

Other than that I've worked all bands (80 through 10) including WARC barefoot through an MFJ-941E tuner into a homebrew dipole center feed with 450-ohm ladder line. Nine-out-of-ten times if I hear a station they can hear me equally well with fantastic audio reports!

For phone transmissions I user a Turner Plus 3 desk mic and occasionally a D104.

For digital transmissions I use my homebrew audio interface between the rig and my computer. I've worked the world on CW, PSK31, RTTY, and SSTV.

I'll soon be receiving a used Autek QF-1A audio filter. Again thanks to eham for the great reviews of this product - Saved a few bucks instead of buying a used crystal filter. The audio filter (should) help with QRM and narrowing down that weak SSB / CW signal.

Bottom line the Kenwood TS-130SE is a great basic rock-solid rig and I don't anticipate replacing it any time in the near future.
FORMER_K4JT Rating: 2003-02-20
Amazing 30 yr old rig Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Just got the 130SE from net advertisement. Been a ham for 52 years and used almost everything. I bought it for peanuts to use on PSK for it is happy key down for extended periods.

Got on 75 last night. These guys are very picky about audio. They said it sounded great. Even liked the compression quality. On with a group of rednecks for 2 hours and never touched the dial.

Has the CW filter and it is excellent. What a buy in the $200.00 range. I wondered who I could work with a 3 kilobuck rig that I can't with this. Answer: almost no one!

Do you get the impression that it exceeded my unreasonable expectations?
N7RD Rating: 2002-12-08
Solid Rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned my TS-130SE for almost 2 years now. I operate strictly CW and first thing you need to do is get the narrow CW filter. Once that is installed this is a great rig, reciever is very good. If I can hear it I can work it with 100 watts no matter. Even makes it well into the pile ups or I wouldn't have 300 countries confirmed with no amp. For the money a very good investment for us small dxers.
Chris Rating: 2002-01-22
A great radio for its age! Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I have had the TS-130SE with matching VFO-120 for some time. It really performs. For the cost you can expect to pay for one of these little work horses (around $300 or so), you won't be disappointed. It is easy to operate and easy to work with. Small enough for possible mobile, although I wouldn't recommend it.

This radio to me came from a time when Kenwood knew what they were doing. They kept that tradition alive up through the TS-850 and TS-870 and seem to have lost sight since.

I can't explain it, perhaps it is the simplicity of the radio's operation, the lack of extraneous bells and whistles, but when you start using it, it really takes hold of you and you will find yourself having a ball with it. A little bit of a hog on receive current draw to be considered QRP even if you crank it down.

This little gem will stay with me for a long time I hope. I love playing with it and using it. Straight forward operation, hook up and no need for a manual (unless you enjoy reading). Right out of the box and onto the desk. This puppy has a cult following like no other !
K3AN Rating: 2002-01-21
Solid, Reliable, Basic Radio Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I bought this radio for a pretty low price over the Internet, with the hope of "flipping" it for a nice profit. However, once I started playing with it, I decided to keep it.

Even at the usual $300 price (more if it has optional filters or it's in pristine condition), I think this radio is a bargain. For the newcomer to our hobby, who might be intimidated by a radio with lots of features and lots of controls (or lots of menus), this radio offers simple operation, good basic performance, and great reliability.

I checked the "rig mods" page at and other sites, and I could find no mods at all for the TS-130. To me, that means that no one has felt it necessary to dig into the radio in order to make it better. For phone ops at least, I think that's a fair assessment.

But as someone who enjoys CW, I would change just one thing, and that's to make the keying waveform "harder." When you drive the radio to full CW output with the ALC at the top of its range, the waveform is somewhat soft (but OK). If you try to throttle back to lower power levels, the waveform is just too soft. The QST review stated this, and my on-the-air CW QSOs confirm it.

But even with the "shortcoming" mentioned above, I'm happy with the TS-130. Mine won't be for sale after all ;-)
WA8NAZ Rating: 2000-07-07
Still a great buy Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have owned several of these over the years. They are a great starter, backup, mobile, or travelling rig.
One of the few rigs with a good internal speaker. Tx audio sounds great with a good mic, try an mc-50 with these.

This radio comes with digital readout, speech processor, warc bands, vox, rit, optional filters, rf att., nb, and if shift. really only lacks notch and selectable agc to be fantastic little radio.

A lot of bang for the buck here, often available used
for around $300-350, depending on condition and options.

They will drift a tad from warmup, this is in specs, not abnormal. They are a little larger than today's
mobile radios. On the other hand it is possible to work on these radios if something goes wrong. Not much ever does.

Yes it does lack a few modern amenities, but I give it a 5 based on what is available used in this price range. I think it is one of the best values out there.

N7FDU Rating: 2000-06-14
Good Rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This rig was my first radio 17 years ago and it I still own it. It is one of the only fully solid state radios with a true VFO.

I have operated it mobile, portable and at home. It has a good reciever, however, the audio out of the speaker isn't the greatest. Transmitter is solid. Only have had one resister smoke on me, and the dial light burned out over the 17 years of use.

All in all it's a solid rig. (BTW mine is not for sale.:)
KB0WOB Rating: 2000-04-29
5/5 STARS Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The TS-130SE is an oldy, but goody. I was looking for an cheap reliable small HF rig with WARC bands as a starter for home use ... this radio was perfect. I've used it for three years without any problems.

This radio is one of the few models Kenwood has made that has never had a recall of any kind.

Also the noise blanker works great if used mobile, something that can't be said for most modern mobiles.

Best feature is the price. You can pick one for around $300. About the price you would pay for a decent FM/CD car radio!