Kenwood’s Ham Radio HF Rig Lineup

Kenwood logo

Kenwood is a venerable ham radio supplier. Click on the link to go to the Kenwood HF transceiver page.

Today’s summary is of the rather small Kenwood family of HF transceivers, a couple of which are of interest to new hams. Kenwood seems to be in the same place that Yaesu was back in the mid-1980s, with only three rigs in its lineup, although the first two come in various flavors—I’ve devoted a line to each flavor. Kenwood no longer sells its high-end TS-950-class rigs and is now focused on the mid-market.
 
Back in 1975, when I got my General Class license, the two radios vying for attention were the Yaesu FT-101 and the Kenwood TS-520. Both are still popular as used rigs, though the technology is very dated. A friend of mine went for the Kenwood, and I purchased the 101’s little brother, the FT-201. We both loved our radios. Kenwood has a great history making radios and I own a couple 2-meter Kenwoods. But let’s fast-forward to today. The prices I took today from Ham Radio Outlet’s website. Here’s the table:

Model Price at HRO as of today Comments
TS-480SAT $954.95 Physically small radio. 100 watts on HF and 6 meters. The control panel comes off, allowing the radio to be tucked away in a more convenient place (good if you have extremely limited space or you want to use this rig as a mobile) but this requires a $59.95 kit of cables. Requires separate 13.8VDC (12V) power supply as do all Kenwood HF radios. Built-in antenna tuner.Technology circa 2004.
TS-480HX $1,074.95 Same as TS-480SAT except 200W output and no internal antenna tuner. Note this requires a very hefty 13.8VDC power supply—in the 40A region. Technology circa 2004.
TS-2000 $1474.95 Much of Kenwood’s attention over the past several years has been focused on its TS-2000 family. These are all mid-range transceivers and have “all in one” capability, covering HF, 6m, VHF, and UHF (440 MHz band). All are good for amateur satellite work and offer some interesting cross-band capabilities. With an option, the TS-2000 can add the 1.2GHz band, increasing the satellite capability. Built-in antenna tuner for HF/6m. Requires separate 13.8VDC (12V) power supply. Technology circa 2001, though Kenwood’s advertising talks of “all-new” features and updated technology.
TS-2000X $1924.95 Same as the TS-2000 but with 1.2 GHz already added.
TS-B2000 $1359.95 The B2000 model is a “silver box” equivalent of the TS-2000 that you can control with your computer or purchase a control head. (In other words, it’s not a complete radio. It’s similar in concept to the old Ten-Tec Pegasus or the current FlexRadio systems.) I would not recommend this option unless your ham station is heavily computer-oriented—I don’t think this would be a good beginner’s rig.
TS-590S $1699.95 Mid-range transceiver. HF/6m, 100W, built-in antenna tuner, require external 13.8VDC power supply, has all the necessary bells and whistles to make it a competent HF transceiver. (Technology uncertain—hasn’t been reviewed by QST. The predecessor radio, the TS-570S, was reviewed in QST in 1999, so that would put the TS-590S somewhere in the mid 2000’s.)
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5 Responses to Kenwood’s Ham Radio HF Rig Lineup

  1. Eric says:

    Nice work on the equipment summaries. Again, congratulations Scott. Hope we’re all on HF soon…. Cycle 24 is looking good. Good technical site at http://www.solarcycle24.com.

  2. Scott says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll definitely continue my research. In the meantime, I’ll have to take you up on that loaner rig to get a feel for the features that I will want.

  3. dave says:

    Scott, you might also look at the Amateur Electronic Supply (http://www.aesham.com). They have some closeout specials—new-in-box older models that offer good value for the money.

  4. dave says:

    Scott–the answer is: it depends! For years I used tuned dipoles with good SWR at the rig, but at last found myself needing to buy an antenna tuner. I got the MFJ-901B, which is still in production after all these years. I now have an MFJ-993B IntelliTuner, an automatic antenna tuner, and I wonder why I waited so long. I use it with my 80m full-wavelength loop, which tunes on 80 on up. Looking at the cost difference between the FT-857D and the FT-450D, it’s an interesting trade. For an extra $100 you get a built-in tuner, but lose the VHF/UHF capability. You probably should do some serious research on the manufacturer’s websites (click on the logos). I just noticed that Yaesu’s website now lists some different rigs—I’m not sure all of them are available in the USA. Impossible to keep up—I wrote the post only yesterday! Before you buy a radio, find someone who has that model and pay him/her a visit to play with the radio. If you’d like, you can come to my place to “get your feet wet” on HF. It’s quite a different experience from VHF/UHF and is, IMHO, where “real” ham radio takes place.

  5. Scott says:

    Dave,

    How important is that antenna tuner anyway? After reading all three comparisons, I am leaning toward the Yaesu FT-857D. Based upon your research, which rig might you suggest to a budget-conscious new General?

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