A Short Review of the HF/6 m Transceiver
This is a review based on real-life operation of the TS-590S from Kenwood. If
you are looking for dynamic range measurements, please have a look at Rob
receiver test data. Note that the dynamic range at 2 kHz spacing is
irrelevant for SSB since the transmitter IM is always stronger than that; it is
primarily relevant for CW and some digital modes. And unfortunately his table
lacks one column - the price: While all the "upper class" radios have very
similar properties within just a few dB, their prices differ significantly.
- The receive audio is really excellent with no noticeable distortion even
during loud peaks.
- Strong signals nearby can easily be eliminated using the high/low cut DSP
- Compared to the TS-480, the filter edges are sharper, though not causing
any ringing sound; the selectivity is excellent.
- The IF notch filter does a great job filtering out strong carriers from S9+
- The noise blanker (NB2) manages to eliminate even S9+20 dB over-the-horizon
radar pulses (OTH): The S meter jumps to S1!
- The built-in automatic tuner seems to be identical to the one in the
TS-480SAT: fast and effective.
- The noise reduction (NR1) is much more effective than the one in the TS-480
and does no longer sound like a tin can.
- MENU A/B allows two switch between two menu profiles, e.g. different RX/TX
equalizers for voice or data (the FLAT setting is recommended for data).
- The RX AGC speed can be set in 20 steps; with a low speed, the noise stays
low during speech pauses.
- The [CW Tone] button tunes to the strongest CW signal in the passband,
making the TX 100 % transceive with one finger tip.
- The two fans (which are only activated after a long time of transmission)
are very quiet.
- A USB sound interface is built in. It was never easier to get e.g. PSK31 up
and running: All you need is a PC, a USB cable and a software like FLDIGI.
- The ARCP-590 software for Windows has a function (among others) to display
the spectrum of a frequency segment up to 200 kHz wide; clicking on it sets the
receiving frequency. (A larger width can be configured but results in a
deceptive spectrum. The receiver is muted during the scan.)
- While e.g. the TS-480 has a perfect transmit audio right out of the box,
the TS-590 needs some fine-tuning of the equalizer and high/low cut settings to
make it crisp and clear.
- After a while of usage, the Multi/Ch knob has similar contact problems as
in the TS-570 and sometimes the value jumps in the wrong direction when turning
it. (It seems to help turning it around quickly a few times.)
- The RIT/XIT control is a bit too sensitive, making it hard to find the
correct setting if the Fine button is not pressed.
- The scan function stops only in FM mode when a signal is found, making it
more or less useless in AM and SSB.
- The S meter reading is deceptive in FM mode, even weak signals are
displayed as S9+20 or more.
- Like its predecessors the TS-590S does not save the ATU on/off setting for
each band separately.
- It would be nice if the RX/TX equalizers would be disabled automatically in
- The program window of the ARCP-590 software is a bit too high for a typical
netbook display with 1024 x 600 pixels.
- While it is possible to save and restore memory channels and menu functions
using the ARCP-590 program to avoid data loss during a firmware upgrade, some
settings like ATU, AGC, filter bandwidth, microphone and speech processor
levels are lost.
Kenwood has done a great job making a state-of-the-art radio at an
affordable price. The performance/price ratio is probably one of the best.
This obviously also results from the fact that Kenwood is using the new
down-conversion concept (1st IF 11 MHz) for the most critical HF bands only,
thus limiting the number of band pass filters behind the antenna jack which are
required for mirror-frequency suppression 22 MHz away from the reception band.
Other bands like 6, 10, 12, 17, 30 m and also modes like AM and FM which are
too broad for the narrow roofing filters are handled by conventional
up-conversion (1st IF 70 MHz). Combining both concepts in one transceiver is a
nice idea and also offers general HF coverage which not all higher-priced
competitors like the Elecraft K3 have.
- If you are using the transceiver in a typical home environment with a more
or less constant temperature, the drift is below 100 Hz during about one hour
of operation. Using it in a car or a tent may be different, of course. With the
optional TCXO, the drift is below 10 Hz.
- The impression that the SSB power output is significantly below 100 W is
incorrect. It is caused by the fact that most external power meters as well as
the internal instrument do not display the true PEP but the average output. The
manual describes the effect in the "Troubleshooting" chapter, and it can easily
be proven using an oscilloscope.
- Install the virtual COM port driver before you connect the rig to
the PC for the first time. This avoids that Windows tries to use some driver of
- If the firmware update program displays an error when started, install the
ARCP-590 software from Kenwood first; it will install the required Microsoft
NET runtime DLLs which the update software also requires.
- A full reset (A/B key pressed while switching the transceiver on) does not
always seem to be mandatory after a firmware update though Kenwood recommends
it. All menu settings would be lost after a reset.
- If you are using a digital communications program which is not up to date,
the TS-590 may not yet be in the list of supported transceivers. In this case,
select the compatible model TS-480 from the "hamlib" list. Make sure that RTS
and DTR are set to +12 V in the software. Use software-controlled PTT because
RTS or DTR will not work as PTT with the virtual USB COM port. Use the Windows
sound controls to reduce the audio output until the transceiver ALC is near
zero. And do not forget to set the data port to USB instead of ACC2 in the
- If you are using the speech module VGS-1 and want to transmit automatically
for stored messages but prefer not to use the VOX for the microphone, simply
set the VOX gain to zero and switch the VOX on.
- Before complaining about supposed birdies below 0.5 MHz, try using a car
battery instead of a switched power supply...