Kenwood TS-990S HF and 6 Meter Transceiver

Kenwood TS-990S HF and 6 Meter Transceiver
TechnicalReview
Product
by Mark
Spencer,
WA8SME
Mark
J. Wilson,
K1RO,
[email protected]
Kenwood TS-990S HF and
6 Meter Transceiver
Kenwood’s top-tier transceiver is loaded with features.
Reviewed by Rick Lindquist, WW1ME
ARRL News Editor/NCJ Managing Editor
[email protected]
The long-awaited, top-tier Kenwood TS990S is a magnificent behemoth — not surprising when you consider it swallowed an
entire TS-590S for its subreceiver. Among
its interior features are separate DSP chips
for the main receiver, the subreceiver, and
the bandscope to spread the workload, and
hefty FETs operating at 50 V that help to
moderate transmit IMD, keying sidebands
and operating temperature while it’s cranking out 200 W. Words such as “bulletproof”
and “brick wall” barely begin to describe
this receiver’s ability not to hear something
you don’t want to hear.
This handsome radio sports an ambitious
front panel, with no fewer than 110 buttons
— including the one that actually turns on
the radio — and 28 knobs, including concentric controls and the main and sub tuning
knobs. A lot are dual-purpose — press, or
press and hold. Given their tight proximity
and the less-than-prominent off-white labeling, it’s very easy to, for example, mix up
the CW T. and FIL/SEL buttons or turn the
MULTI/CH knob when you really meant to
grab the RIT/XIT knob.
our unit twice). Will the paradigm among
manufacturers shift from introducing new
hardware to developing better software for
existing platforms?
The true beauty of the TS-990S is that it
although it’s a “hardware” radio, it essentially lets you configure the radio that you
want. The other side of that coin, however,
is that you can invest considerable time getting it “just so.” For operators who desire
one array of transceiver settings for casual
operating and another for contesting or
DXing, the TS-990S lets you save two complete transceiver configuration sets on a
USB thumb drive — menu settings, audio
equalization and routing, and other para­
meters. This fine tuning may be an enjoyable exercise — sort of like sitting in the
driveway with your head under the hood,
tinkering, with the engine of your highperformance sports car — but it doesn’t
beat getting on the air. Zoom zoom!
User Friendly
Much of the transceiver’s personality resides in upgradable firmware, and the radio
incorporates functions you’ve been relying
on your PC to perform in the shack. Many
critical functions exist only in code, so features can be added or improved (we updated
Bottom Line
Kenwood’s top-tier TS-990S offers
high performance and an extensive
list of features. Its settings are highly
customizable, and it looks and
sounds terrific.
Figure 1 — The larger of the two colorful LCD panels can be configured to show many different
operating parameters.
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February 2014 53
On the Face of It
The ’990 has two colorful LCD front-panel
display windows, the larger measuring
about 3.5 × 5.8 inches (Figure 1), the
smaller “subdisplay” — directly above the
sizeable main tuning knob — about 2.3 ×
2.8 inches (Figure 6). Between them they
can tell you everything you need to know.
The displays are clear and sharp.
Connecting an external display may be a
wise decision, because the main display
contains an encyclopedia’s worth of status
information and can include a bandscope
and/or waterfall to boot — your call. It’s
easy for info such as time and date to get
“lost” in the display.
The smaller display duplicates the main radio’s frequency readout, contains a minibandscope, and, depending on mode, can
graphically represent such things as filter
and IF shift settings and provide a tuning aid
for RTTY or PSK. The most unusual thing
about this tuning display, however, is the
virtual analog apron, or “skirt,” that recalls
the Kenwood TS-520 era.
Scoping the Waterfall!
Repeatedly pressing the SCP button will
cycle you through a screen where the bottom half is blank, a screen where the bandscope takes up the bottom half, and a screen
where the bottom half is roughly divided
between a reduced-height bandscope and a
waterfall that uses a color-coding scheme to
indicate relative signal strength. The pattern
rendered on the bandscope in the main display is smooth and sharp. Shadowing is a
choice on the bandscope. Averaging lets you
“settle down” the spectrum scope, making it
a bit easier to spot signal peaks under certain
conditions.
A lot of new TS-990S owners are enthusiastic about the waterfall. It’s available in all
modes, although most hams are probably
familiar with this feature from their digital
mode software. It’s terrific but has its limitations. If you tune the receiver with the waterfall display in CENTER mode, the waterfall
stops! This means you cannot tune over to a
signal on the waterfall that may not be making much of an impression on the bandscope
but is showing clearly on the waterfall. This
leaves FIXED mode, in which the waterfall
spans the limits of the current band. This
also applies to CENTER and FIXED mode with
the bandscope.
A mini waterfall shows up in FSK or PSK,
54 February 2014
Table 1
Kenwood TS–990S, serial number B3200197
Manufacturer’s Specifications
Measured in the ARRL Lab
Frequency coverage: Receive, 0.03–60 MHz;
transmit, 1.8–2.0, 3.5–4, 5.25–5.45, 7–7.3,
10.1–10.15, 14–14.35, 18.068–18.168,
21–21.45, 24.89–24.99, 50–54 MHz.
Power requirement: 90–132, 180–264 V ac;
transmit, ≤720 VA; receive, ≤120 VA.
Modes: SSB, CW, AM, FM, FSK, PSK.
Receive and transmit, as specified.
Receiver
Receiver Dynamic Testing, Main Receiver
560 VA (transmit, maximum RF power
output), 66 VA (receive, full volume, no
signal, maximum display brightness).
As specified.
SSB/CW/FSK/PSK sensitivity, 10 dB S/N:
Noise floor (MDS), 500 Hz bandwidth,
0.5 µV (0.13–0.522 MHz), 4 µV (0.522–
500 Hz roofing filter:
1.705 MHz), 0.2 µV (1.705–24.5 MHz),
Preamp off
Preamp on
1.3 µV (24.5–30 MHz), 1.3 µV (50–54 MHz). 0.137 MHz
–123 dBm
–127 dBm
0.475 MHz
–133 dBm
–138 dBm
1.0 MHz
–109 dBm
–119 dBm
3.5 MHz
–129 dBm
–139 dBm
14 MHz
–128 dBm
–138 dBm
50 MHz
–127 dBm
–140 dBm
Noise figure: Not specified.
14 MHz, preamp off/on: 19/9 dB.
AM sensitivity, 10 dB S/N: 0.5 µV (0.13–
10 dB (S+N)/N, 1–kHz, 30% modulation,
0.522 MHz), 32 µV (0.522–1.705 MHz),
6 kHz bandwidth, preamp off/on:
2 µV (1.705–24.5 MHz), 1.3 µV (24.5–30 MHz),1.0 MHz
27.8 µV
6.5 µV
1.3 µV (50–54 MHz). 3.8 MHz
2.48 µV
0.75 µV
50 MHz
2.72 µV
0.63 µV
FM sensitivity, 12 dB SINAD: 0.22 µV
For 12 dB SINAD, 3 kHz deviation,
(28–30 MHz); 0.22 µV (50–54 MHz).
15 kHz bandwidth, preamp off/on:
29 MHz
1.55 µV
0.21 µV
52 MHz
1.00 µV
0.22 µV
Spectral display sensitivity: Not specified.
With 100 kHz display width, preamp off/on:
14 MHz
–102 dBm
–113 dBm
50 MHz
–106 dBm
–121 dBm
Blocking gain compression dynamic range:
Blocking gain compression dynamic range,
Not specified.
500 Hz bandwidth, 500 Hz roofing filter:
20 kHz offset
5/2 kHz offset
Preamp off/on
Preamp off
3.5 MHz
>139/>149 dB
>139/134 dB
14 MHz
>138/>148 dB
>138/133 dB
50 MHz
>137/141 dB
>137/132 dB
Reciprocal mixing dynamic range: Not specified. 14 MHz, 20/5/2 kHz offset: 117/101/87 dB
ARRL Lab Two-Tone IMD Testing (500 Hz bandwidth, 500 Hz roofing filter)*
Measured Measured
Calculated
Band/Preamp Spacing Input Level
IMD Level
IMD DR
IP3
3.5 MHz/Off 20 kHz
–25 dBm
–129 dBm
104 dB
+27 dBm
–6 dBm
–97 dBm
+40 dBm
14 MHz/Off
20 kHz
–16 dBm
–3 dBm
0 dBm
–128 dBm
112 dB
–97 dBm
–88 dBm
+40 dBm
+44 dBm
+44 dBm
14 MHz/On
20 kHz
–25 dBm
–11 dBm
–138 dBm
113 dB
–97 dBm
+32 dBm
+32 dBm
14 MHz/Off
5 kHz
–17 dBm
–3 dBm
–0 dBm
–128 dBm
111 dB
–97 dBm
–90 dBm
+39 dBm
+44 dBm
+45 dBm
14 MHz/Off
2 kHz
–27 dBm
–9 dBm
0 dBm
–128 dBm
101 dB
–97 dBm
–88 dBm
+24 dBm
+35 dBm
+44 dBm**
50 MHz/Off
20 kHz
–19 dBm
–9 dBm
–127 dBm
108 dB
–97 dBm
+35 dBm
+35 dBm
Second-order intercept point: Not specified.
DSP noise reduction: Not specified.
Notch filter depth: ≥70 dB (manual),
≥70 dB (auto).
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
Preamp off/on: 14 MHz, +69/+69 dBm;
50 MHz, +57/+57 dBm.
Variable, 20 dB maximum.
Manual notch: >60 dB; Auto notch:
>60 dB, attack time: 164 ms.
www.arrl.org FM adjacent channel rejection: Not specified.
FM two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range:
Not specified.
S meter sensitivity: Not specified.
Squelch sensitivity: Not specified.
Receiver audio output: ≥1.5 W into 8 W.
IF/audio response: Not specified.
Spurious and image rejection: Not specified. Preamp on: 29 MHz, 89 dB; 52 MHz, 87 dB.
20 kHz offset, preamp on: 29 MHz, 86 dB;
52 MHz, 85 dB; 10 MHz offset: 29 MHz,
113 dB; 52 MHz, 115 dB.
S-9 signal, preamp off/on: 14.2 MHz,
75.8/19.3 µV; 50 MHz, 69.1/8.2 µV.
At threshold, preamp on: FM, 0.09 µV
(29 MHz); SSB, 0.6 µV (14.2 MHz).
2.8 W at 10% THD into 8 W.
THD at 1 V RMS: 0.3%.
Range at –6 dB points, (bandwidth) ‡:
CW (500 Hz BW): 449–949 Hz (500 Hz);
Equivalent rectangular BW: 496 Hz;
USB: (2.6 kHz):100–2530 Hz (2430 Hz);
LSB: (2.6 kHz): 101–2530 Hz (2429 Hz);
AM: (2.9 kHz): 140–2590 Hz (4900 Hz);
AM: (5 kHz): 120–2940 Hz (5640 Hz).
First IF, 14 MHz, 68 dB; 50 MHz, 70 dB;
image, 14 MHz, >72 dB; 50 MHz, >137 dB.
Receiver Dynamic Testing, Sub Receiver‡‡
Receiver
SSB/CW/FSK/PSK sensitivity, 10 dB S/N:
Noise floor (MDS), 500 Hz bandwidth,
0.5 µV (0.13–0.522 MHz), 4 µV (0.522–
default roofing filter:
1.705 MHz), 0.2 µV (1.705–24.5 MHz),
Preamp off
Preamp on
1.3 µV (24.5–30 MHz), 1.3 µV (50–54 MHz). 0.137 MHz
–126 dBm
–133 dBm
0.475 MHz
–128 dBm
–138 dBm
1.0 MHz
–109 dBm
–118 dBm
3.5 MHz
–128 dBm
–138 dBm
10.1 MHz
–126 dBm
–134 dBm
14 MHz
–128 dBm
–137 dBm
50 MHz
–125 dBm
–137 dBm
Noise figure: Not specified.
14 MHz, preamp off/on: 19/10 dB.
AM sensitivity, 10 dB S/N: 0.5 µV (0.13–
10 dB (S+N)/N, 1-kHz, 30% modulation,
0.522 MHz), 32 µV (0.522–1.705 MHz),
5 kHz bandwidth, preamp off/on:
2 µV (1.705–24.5 MHz), 1.3 µV (24.5–30 MHz),1.0 MHz
26.0 µV
8.60 µV
1.3 µV (50–54 MHz). 3.8 MHz
3.59 µV
1.40 µV
50 MHz
4.41 µV
0.91 µV
FM sensitivity, 12 dB SINAD: 0.22 µV
For 12 dB SINAD, 3 kHz deviation,
(28–30 MHz); 0.22 µV (50–54 MHz).
15 kHz bandwidth, preamp off/on:
29 MHz
1.11 µV
0.23 µV
52 MHz
1.51 µV
0.29µV
Blocking gain compression dynamic range:
Blocking gain compression dynamic range,
Not specified.
500 Hz bandwidth, default roofing filter:
20 kHz offset
5/2 kHz offset
Preamp off/on
Preamp off
3.5 MHz
>138/145 dB
>138/138 dB
10.1 MHz 136/135 dB
127/124 dB
14 MHz
>138/143 dB
>138/130 dB
50 MHz
135/130 dB
108/98 dB
Reciprocal mixing dynamic range: Not specified. 14 MHz, 20/5/2 kHz offset: 117/105/94 dB
ARRL Lab Two-Tone IMD Testing* (500 Hz bandwidth, default roofing filter‡‡)
Measured Measured
Band/Preamp Spacing Input Level
IMD Level
IMD DR
10.1 MHz/Off
20 kHz
–24 dBm
–126 dBm
102 dB
–15 dBm
–97 dBm
0 dBm
–48 dBm
Calculated
IP3
+27 dBm
+26 dBm
+24 dBm
10.1 MHz/On
20 kHz
–35 dBm
–23 dBm
–134 dBm
99 dB
–97 dBm
+15 dBm
+14 dBm
10.1 MHz/Off
5 kHz
–34 dBm
–25 dBm
–126 dBm
92 dB
–97 dBm
+12 dBm
+11 dBm
10.1 MHz/Off
2 kHz
–37 dBm
–26 dBm
–126 dBm
87 dB
–97 dBm
+5 dBm
+10 dBm
[continued on page 56]
though, and it does continue to flow as you
tune, although its width is determined by
the filter you have set. The bandscope
works in all modes, and if you add the waterfall along the bottom half of the main
display, the height of the bandscope reduces
by two-thirds. Using the digital mode decode screen takes the waterfall down to
about one-third its usual width, and the
bandwidth is reduced to a maximum of
1500 Hz.
Span choices in CENTER mode are 5, 10, 20,
50, 100, 200, and 500 kHz. Narrower is better on the bandscope, but you can easily
distinguish signals by using the waterfall.
Touchy Feely
The TS-990S offers limited touch-screen
capability. Touch a signal on the bandscope
or waterfall, and the radio tunes to it. (The
mini-waterfall is not a touch display.) This
sounds better in theory. You must apply
fairly firm pressure (compared, say, to an
iPad), and tuning precision is only approximate at best, especially for narrow bandwidth modes (unless you have very pointy
fingertips). It is far more precise with the
waterfall. It’s a nice touch, however (pun
intended), and I did find myself using it
more as I got familiar with the radio. It’s also
an excellent way to speed frequency
changes. It’s possible to exact far greater
precision using a touch stylus.
On the Menu
The TS-990S menu befits such a substantial
radio, and navigation is straightforward.
Press the orange-labeled MENU button (it’s
the only orange label), and it brings up the
top-level menu, which is divided into groups
0 through 9. Each group covers a certain
group of controls. For example, 0 is “Basic
Configurations.” Highlight a group, and its
abbreviated contents appear in (or stream
across) the highlighted field. Kenwood has
employed streaming-text menus in previous
models but not in such a sophisticated presentation. Select the menu and you can
navigate among the various parameters in
that group. For example group 0, item 02
lets you adjust the font style for the frequency display (there are three choices).
Many parameters are settable using the buttons below the menu screen or along the
right side, although some are (also) adjustable by using the MULTI/CH knob.
All Things Being Equal
The TS-990S does not leave transmit or receive audio to chance. In addition to some
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
www.arrl.org
February 2014 55
QS1402-ProdRev04
[continued from page 55]
14 MHz/Off
5 kHz
–21 dBm
–11 dBm
–0 dBm
–128 dBm
107 dB
–97 dBm
–58 dBm
+33 dBm
+32 dBm
+29 dBm
14 MHz/Off
2 kHz
–30 dBm
–16 dBm
0 dBm
–128 dBm
98 dB
–97 dBm
–57 dBm
+19 dBm
+25 dBm
+29 dBm
Second-order intercept point: Not specified.
FM adjacent channel rejection: Not specified.
FM two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range:
Not specified.
S meter sensitivity: Not specified.
Squelch sensitivity: Not specified.
Receiver audio output: ≥1.5 W into 8 W.
IF/audio response: Not specified.
Spurious and image rejection: Not specified. Preamp off/on, 14 MHz, +73/+73 dBm;
50 MHz, +65/+27 dBm.
Preamp on: 29 MHz, 85 dB; 52 MHz, 83 dB.
20 kHz offset, preamp on: 29 MHz, 85 dB†;
52 MHz, 83 dB†; 10 MHz offset: 29 MHz,
106 dB; 52 MHz, 106 dB.
S-9 signal, preamp off/on: 14.2 MHz,
86.0/20.9 µV; 50 MHz, 107.0/10.7 µV.
At threshold, preamp on: FM, 0.1 µV
(29 MHz), SSB, 0.7 µV (14.2 MHz).
2.8 W at 10% THD into 8 W.
THD at 1 V RMS: 0.3%.
Range at –6 dB points, (bandwidth):
CW (500 Hz): 460–950 Hz (490 Hz);
Equivalent rectangular BW: 476 Hz;
USB: (2.6 kHz): 226–2481 Hz (2255 Hz);
LSB: (2.6 kHz): 227–2537 Hz (2310 Hz);
AM: (4.9 kHz): 137–2299 Hz (5324 Hz).
First IF, 10 MHz, 107 dB; 14 MHz, 99 dB;
50 MHz, 117 dB; image, 10 MHz, 100 dB;
14 MHz, 88 dB; 50 MHz, 92 dB.
Transmitter
Transmitter Dynamic Testing
Power output: 200 W (50 W AM). HF: typically 4.5–200 W (4.5–50 W AM);
50 MHz, 4.3–190 W (4.2–50 W AM).
Spurious-signal and harmonic suppression: HF, 69 dB (worst case, 10 meters),
HF: ≥60 dB (harmonics), ≥50 dB (others),
typically > 70 dB; 50 MHz, 68 dB.
50 MHz, ≥66 dB. Meets FCC requirements.
SSB carrier suppression: ≥60 dB.
HF and 50 MHz, >70 dB.
Undesired sideband suppression: >55 dB.
HF and 50 MHz, >70 dB.
Third-order intermodulation distortion (IMD)
HF, 200 W PEP, 3rd/5th/7th/9th order:
products: Not specified.
–31/–46/–52/–57 dB (worst case, 10 m),
typically –39/–46/–54/–56;
50 MHz, –36/–47/>–60/–58 dB.
CW keyer speed range: Not specified.
4 to 60 WPM.
CW keying characteristics: Not specified.
See Figures 2 and 3.
Iambic keyer mode: Not specified.
Mode B
Transmit-receive turn-around time (PTT release S9 signal, 35 ms.
to 50% audio output): Not specified.
Receive-transmit turn-around time (tx delay):
SSB, 18 ms; FM, 8 ms.
Not specified.
Composite transmitted noise: Not specified.
See Figure 4.
Size (height, width, depth): 7.2 × 18.1 × 17.7 inches (incl protrusions); weight, 54 lbs.
Price: $7999
*ARRL Product Review testing includes Two-Tone IMD results at several signal levels.
Two-Tone, Third-Order Dynamic Range figures comparable to previous reviews are shown on the first line
in each group. The “IP3” column is the calculated Third-Order Intercept Point. Second-order intercept
points were determined using –97 dBm reference.
**This measurement was made with the 270 Hz roofing filter.
†Measurement was noise–limited at the value indicated.
‡Default values; bandwidth and cutoff frequencies are adjustable via DSP. For SSB, DSP was set to
2800 Hz for “high” and 200 Hz for “low” for a width of 2600 Hz. For AM, it was set to 100 Hz/3000 Hz
and 0 Hz/5000 Hz for the main receiver and 100 Hz/5000 Hz for the sub RX.
‡‡The TS-990S subreceiver operates as either a double downconversion receiver (RX1) or triple upconversion receiver (RX2) depending on the band of operation and filter bandwidth selected. To give an
example of the performance of each configuration, RX1 with 500 Hz roofing filter was used for receiver
tests at 14 MHz; RX2 with 15 kHz 1st IF filter and 2.7 kHz 2nd IF filter was used for testing on 10.1 MHz.
56 February 2014
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
0
0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.06 0.07 0.08
Time (s)
Figure 2 — CW keying waveform for the
TS-990S showing the first two dits in fullbreak-in (QSK) mode using external keying.
Equivalent keying speed is 60 WPM. The upper
trace is the actual key closure; the lower trace is
the RF envelope. (Note that the first key closure
starts at the left edge of the figure.) Horizontal
divisions are 10 ms. The transceiver was being
operated at 200 W output on the 14 MHz band.
QS1402-ProdRev05
0
-10
-20
Response (dB)
Calculated
IP3
+33 dBm
+32 dBm
+29 dBm
+18 dBm
+17 dBm
-30
-40
-50
-60
-70
-80
-90
-100
fc-4
fc+2
fc
Frequency in kHz
fc-2
fc+4
Figure 3 — Spectral display of the TS-990S
transmitter during keying sideband testing.
Equivalent keying speed is 60 WPM using
external keying. Spectrum analyzer resolution
bandwidth is 10 Hz, and the sweep time is 30
seconds. The transmitter was being operated
at 200 W PEP output on the 14 MHz band, and
this plot shows the transmitter output ±5 kHz
from the carrier. The reference level is 0 dBc,
and the vertical scale is in dB.
0
QS1402-Prodrev06
-20
-40
Response in dB
ARRL Lab Two-Tone IMD Testing* (500 Hz bandwidth, default roofing filter‡‡)
Measured Measured
Band/Preamp Spacing Input Level
IMD Level
IMD DR
14 MHz/Off
20 kHz
–21 dBm
–128 dBm
107 dB
–11 dBm
–97 dBm
0 dBm
–58 dBm
14 MHz/On
20 kHz
–34 dBm
–137 dBm
103 dB
–21 dBm
–97 dBm
-60
-80
-100
-120
-140
-160
-180
1x10 2
1x10 3
1x10 4
1x10 5
Frequency in Hz
1x10 6
Figure 4 — Spectral display of the TS-990S
transmitter output during composite-noise testing. Power output is 200 W on the 14 MHz band.
The carrier, off the left edge of the plot, is not
shown. This plot shows composite transmitted
noise 100 Hz to 1 MHz from the carrier. The
reference level is 0 dBc, and the vertical scale
is in dB.
www.arrl.org “presets” for transmit and receive audio response (such as “High Boost 1 and 2” or
“Formant Pass”), there are three configurable user settings.
Press the ADJUST key for one of those and an
18 octave parametric equalizer pops up, allowing nearly limitless tweaking within the
confines of the overarching receiver and
transmitter DSP filter settings.
The Roofing Crew
The TS-990S offers a wide selection of
stock roofing filters. A selection of comparatively narrow filters ahead of the receiver’s first mixer is a more recent wrinkle
in ham receiver technology. Narrow roofing
filters are another hedge against the effects
of nearby strong signals. The TS-990S can
automatically select an appropriate roofing
filter based on mode, but you can set it up to
insert a 270 Hz, 500 Hz, 2.7 kHz, 6 kHz, or
15 kHz roofing filter.
The TS-990S subreceiver uses the same design as the TS-590S, reviewed in the May
2012 issue of QST, and its performance is
very similar. The subreceiver operates as a
double downconversion receiver 160, 80,
40, 20, and 15 meters with a mode-appro­
priate roofing filter selected automatically
(500 Hz is the narrowest). For the other
bands it’s a triple upconversion design with
wider filters — 15 kHz at the 1st IF filter and
2.7 kHz at the 2nd IF.
Configuring Filters
A seemingly infinite variety of filter settings
are available — roofing, IF DSP and AF
DSP. The TS-990S also lets you perform
some rudimentary filter shaping — sharp,
medium, or soft. You can have either two or
three filter settings (pressing the FIL/SEL button for either receiver steps through the
choices for the current mode; pressing and
holding the FIL/SEL button brings up the configuration table).
One screen configures all filter settings,
greatly simplifying matters. Within the matrix for the selected mode are three (or two,
if selected) choices for roofing, IF and AF
filters, FIL-A, FIL-B, and FIL-C. The concentric HI/SHIFT and LO/WIDTH controls adjust
the upper and lower filter passbands inside
and outside the configuration window. A
graphical representation in the configuration
window lets you view the effects of your
individual choices.
Noise Reduction
As Kenwood has done with its other recent
HF transceiver offerings, the TS-990S provides two noise reduction modes, each
based on a different adaptive (ie, “self-learning”) algorithm, but it’s really three types.
Here’s the thing about adaptive noise reduction. Enabling noise reduction in the absence of a signal is not going to tell you very
much about how well it works. You may
hear some difference in the tone or background “sound,” but adaptive noise reduction systems need a signal to distinguish
from the noise, and once they “figure out”
which is which, the signal will emerge as if
by magic. This was especially the case with
the NR systems in the TS-990S. They work
very, very well.
activates a spectrum subtraction-type
noise reduction filter when the transceiver is
in SSB, FM or AM mode. When receiving
CW, FSK or PSK, however, the noise reduction system emphasizes the intermittent nature of CW. The second flavor of noise
reduction — NR2 — which I long ago
dubbed “crazed weasels” on my TS-480HX
because of its squealy backdrop — is a
SPAC (speech processing by auto correlation) system that, ironically, is terrific for
CW reception, although some may find the
digital artifacts bothersome.
Key Measurements
Summary
RM
Using the noise reduction made a big difference when trying to hear relatively weak
signals on 160 meters, which can be annoyingly noisy at my location. The preselector
can also help to reduce noise by limiting the
amount of broad-spectrum noise (2 or 3
MHz away) entering the IF passband. I was
able to drop noise from about S-7 to S-1.
You cannot use the preselector in combination with the preamp.
140
20 kHz Reciprocal Mixing Dynamic Range
139
BG
138 140
20 70
20 kHz Blocking Gain Compression (dB)
104
I3
112* 110
20 50
20 kHz 3rd-Order Dynamic Range (dB)
NR1
Adjusting the NR1 control varies the degree
of desired noise reduction, while adjusting
the NR2 control varies the time constant for
that noise-reduction system. You may experience popping and distortion on CW if you
don’t have it set up just right and/or are not
tuned dead-on. NR2 can sound worse in elevated noise situations (in some instances
NR2 can overlay a crackling noise, but it really clears things up). You most likely would
not want to use NR2 on SSB, but the
TS-990S offers so many other means of
fighting noise and interference you’re sure
to find something that does the trick.
117
20 60
RM
60
2
87
140
2 kHz Reciprocal Mixing Dynamic Range
134
BG
2
133 140
70
2 kHz Blocking Gain Compression (dB)
I3
2
101 110
50
2 kHz 3rd-Order Dynamic Range (dB)
40*
I3
44*+35
20 -40
20 kHz 3rd-Order Intercept (dBm)
I3
2
35
-40
+35
2 kHz 3rd-Order Intercept (dBm)
I3
TX -20
-31
Transmit 3rd-Order IMD (dB)
-35
I9
TX -20
-57
-70
Transmit 9th-Order IMD (dB)
pr082
Speaking of noise, the adjustable APF
(audio peak filter) is excellent to enhance
readability in noisy conditions on CW —
and the narrower the better in that mode,
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
Key: *Off Scale
Measurements shown are for
main receiver only.
Dynamic range and intercept
values with preamp off.
80 M
20 M
Intercept values were determined
using -97 dBm reference
www.arrl.org
February 2014 57
although you can set three filter passband
choices. It doubles as a twin-peak audio filter for RTTY.
I used the TS-990S during the August North
American QSO parties — CW and SSB. I
found the receiver quiet, yet I was easily
copying signals that were S-0 on the meter.
The noise reduction was very effective in
both modes, with NR1 superior for SSB. Although it rolls off the high end somewhat,
you can overcome that by changing the
audio output equalization.
The ’990 offers two noise blankers to, as
the manual explains, suppress “crunching
pulse noise.” NB1 is an analog noise blanker,
while NB2 is a DSP noise blanker that works
in the IF stage. Neither works in FM. The
knobs to set the degree of blanking for both
NB1 and NB2 are on a concentric set of front
panel controls. You can enable one or both
blankers. In some cases, too high a level
will result in some signal degradation. I
found this especially true of NB2, although
for severe noise (I ran a vacuum cleaner
that generated S7 static), neither will get
you that much closer to pulling out an underlying signal. As ARRL Lab Test Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, points out,
“Noise comes in many shapes and amplitudes and is difficult to quantify.” There is
no standard test for noise blankers. The
noise reduction systems are a better bet, I
found.
Taking Things in a Notch or Two
The BEF (band elimination filter) doesn’t
make bands disappear. It applies a stop-band
filter that can shape the filter bandpass to
reduce noise or (especially) close-in interference. It’s one of the transceiver’s most
useful features. It operates like a manual
notch, applying an adjustable stop-band filter from 300 to 1200 Hz at a selectable attenuation level (20 dB to 80 dB in 20 dB
steps) that you can sweep through the passband. The subdisplay shows you where the
notch is in relationship to the signal you’re
trying to copy.
I made use of it while trying to copy a weak
signal in atmospheric noise. I moved a
400 Hz notch downstream of the signal, and
it helped keep down the static, easing copy.
The BEF and the manual notch are mutually
exclusive. The manual notch is less flexible,
allowing only a wide or narrow setting.
Using the audio peak filter, which centers on
the CW pitch frequency, in combination
58 February 2014
Figure 5 — The TS-990S rear panel showing the available connections.
with one of these notch filters doubles down
on CW selectivity, lopping off noise and interference from nearby stations.
The exquisite filter graphic in the subdisplay
shows your WIDTH/SHIFT settings and reads
out the values numerically. I really appreciated being able to graphically see the notch
with respect to the signal I was trying to
read.
Tuning Around
The default tuning rate is 1000 steps per turn
of the main dial. You can reduce this to 500
or to 250, which I found about right for reasonable precision and to avoid over or undershooting. The tuning step does not
increase the faster you spin the knob.
One quick way to move from place to place
without cranking the tuning knob is to use
the MULTI/CH knob. It defaults to 5 kHz steps
for all modes except FM, where the step is
10 kHz (the step frequency is adjustable via
the menu and can be set as low as 500 Hz for
SSB, CW, FSK or PSK modes). Using the
MULTI/CH knob to change frequency will
cause successive frequencies to round off to
the nearest integer, although you can turn
this off. Just be sure that in the heat of battle
you don’t mistake it for the XIT/RIT knob directly above it.
Other navigation methods the TS-990S offers include using the UP or DOWN buttons to
move in increments of 1 MHz or entering
a frequency directly using the keypad (but
not an external keyboard). When you press
the ENT key, the numerals on the keypad
­illuminate to avoid confusion with the
band designation labels. You can recall the
last 10 frequencies you have entered this
way.
The ’990s has just one RF preamplifier setting. For SSB, CW, FSK and PSK, we mea-
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
sured an additional 10 dB of gain on the HF
bands, slightly more on 50 MHz and about
half that on the LF and VLF bands that the
receiver covers. The manual says the radio
swaps a “low-gain type preamp” and a
“sensitivity-prioritized high-gain type preamp” above 21.5 MHz, and this may account for the 13 dB of gain we measured on
6 meters. The ’990S offers 6, 12 and 18 dB
of attenuation.
Data Modes
The bottom button in the column of mode
buttons to the left of the main tuning knob
is labeled DATA. This does not enable data
modes per se but lets you configure external modulation inputs, including such
things as canned audio tracks from your
PC’s soundcard or digital mode (eg, AFSK
RTTY or PSK31) tones to the mic input,
ACC2, USB audio or optical (see Figure 5).
This functions in LSB/USB, FM or AM
modes. Successively pressing the DATA button cycles through audio input settings D1,
D2, and D3, annunciated in abbreviated CW,
if you have enabled that feature. Pressing
and holding DATA takes you to the screen
where you can configure the routing for
one or more audio sources. This transceiver is the first I’ve encountered that incorporates an optical input, although
Kenwood’s home audio offerings have included this for years.
You can customize the audio input settings
and routings in each of the three DATA registers, as well as determine which input handles PTT and which handles VOX. Of
course, you then can tailor the audio passband in seemingly myriad ways for each
individual setup. Want the contest voice
tracks from your contest logging software to
sound identical in timbre to your mic audio?
Easy peasy!
www.arrl.org Observations from NCJ Editor K4RO
After I test drove the TS-990S for a bit, I shipped it off to a real contest operator, Kirk
Pickering, K4RO. Kirk likes big radios with large front panels, and the TS-990S delivered
in this area. He also liked the rear panel, which he deemed “very clean and spacious,
with easy access to connectors.”
The waterfall display, Kirk observed, “is terrific in FIXED mode, and next to useless in
CENTER mode.” His primary issue with CENTER mode was that it does not update while
tuning, making it harder to zero in on a specific blip. He found the waterfall to be “very
helpful for contesting, both for S&P (search and pounce) and for finding a clear CQ
frequency.”
Kirk wired up his own connector for the serial (RS-232) interface. “Once I got my band
decoder configured properly, it interfaced perfectly with my station,” he said. “No issues
with serial communication or the command set.” The Kenwood instruction set is robust,
and communication never showed any glitching.
In terms of intuitive operation, Kirk was able to figure out 90 percent of the transceiver’s
functions without cracking the manual. “The menu system is well pretty thought out, and
the menus are clear,” he said.
He felt the metering was good, but he missed the multifunction meter that his own
transceiver offers, which displays a half-dozen operating parameters simultaneously.
He liked the independent MONITOR knob and the fact that it works on all modes. He also
liked the lighted MUTE button for each receiver. “Very handy when running split,” he said.
“Sometimes you just want to quickly mute and unmute the second receiver during a DX
pileup. Nice feature.”
Kirk also observed, “The startup time from a ‘cold’ start was a bit long — long enough
to lose your run frequency at the bottom of 20 meters, should you experience a power
glitch.” He noted that it restarts more quickly once the power supply has already been
“booted” and the receiver is simply switched on from the front panel.
He didn’t like it that he could not set CW-R (LSB CW) as the “normal” CW mode. “I
don’t like USB CW tuning. While it’s selectable from the front panel, logging programs
default to the ‘normal’ CW, which is always USB in the Kenwood implementation. I would
have preferred the ability to set the radios default CW tuning to LSB.” Overall, thought the
TS-990S offered “a good receiver.”
Most of Kirk’s operating was done on the CW mode, but he received good audio
reports using a dynamic microphone popular with contesters. Receiver SSB audio was
pleasing to Kirk’s ear, with good fidelity and overall tone characteristics. Kirk also liked
the visual passband tuning indicator in the sub display, as it provided useful feedback on
the filter’s width and position relative to the center frequency. — Rick Lindquist, WW1ME
In the Box
Included in the box along with the transceiver is a thick Instruction Manual in
19 sections — one in English and one in
French. In addition, Kenwood has enclosed
the TS-990S schematic in four foldout
sheets.
This transceiver has so many features and is
so flexible that it’s well worth downloading
the 290 page PDF file on Kenwood’s website in order to search for and read in detail
about features that interest you. The manual
is well illustrated with screen captures from
the two LCD panels.
What does not come in the box? For starters, no “stock” microphone. Kenwood also
does not include an external “selector”
(programmable function keypad); you either have to build your own or buy one
from a third party manufacturer. An exter-
nal keypad, among other things, lets you
control memory and other functions while
keeping something else up on the main display.
The Inside Track
More to the point is what’s inside the radio.
Users typically enjoy pitting transceivers
against each other. We can’t generalize, but
in terms of where the rubber meets the road,
dynamic range is a suitable metric for such
comparisons. Simply put, dynamic range is
the receiver’s ability to hear very weak signals in the presence of nearby very strong
signals, and the Lab tests for that in three
different ways.
A little history: In mid-2007, the ARRL Lab
improved its two-tone (ie, two signals),
third-order intermodulation distortion dynamic range (IMD DR) and blocking gain
compression dynamic range (BGC DR) test
methods and added reciprocal mixing dynamic range (RMDR) at the same time.
RMDR represents the receiver’s ability to
distinguish one signal in the presence of a
single nearby signal. “This new test gave us
a better picture of the overall performance of
a receiver when it is subjected to a strong
adjacent signal,” explains Test Engineer
Bob Allison. As Allison points out, “In most
cases, reciprocal mixing dynamic range is
the most limiting dynamic range of the three
[IMD DR, BGC DR and RMDR] at close
spacing.”
Which brings us to the Kenwood TS-990S.
BGC DR and IMD DR at narrow (2 kHz)
spacing are both similar to other high-end
transceivers we’ve tested. At 87 dB the
RMDR at 14 MHz, 2 kHz spacing, is about
average. “As you can see, the TS-990S has
average 2 kHz RMDR,” Note that the subreceiver measured 94 dB RMDR at 2 kHz
spacing.
RTTY and PSK31/63
Remember doing RTTY the old fashioned
way? No, not that way, but by loading some
freeware on your PC and running audio to
and from your sound card? While the TS990S may not be the first radio to incorporate plug-and-play RTTY, it has splendidly
enhanced and simplified the experience. It is
literally plug and play.
Plug any USB keyboard into one of the
front-panel jacks, hit ESC to clear the bottom half of the main display, press the
­ ECODE button (F3), and you’re good to go.
D
There are two tuning displays: An FFT
scope in the main display above the waterfall, and a vector scope in the subscreen.
Press F12 (I had to look that up), and you’re
transmitting with direct keyboard input.
There are eight transmit memories if you
prefer that route. As the TV pitchman says,
“It’s that easy!”
Operating RTTY is a bit like typical CW
operation. You can’t see the whole swath of
signals you might be able to view on a PC
waterfall and must tune each in the small
waterfall. PSK31 is the same.
The audio peak filter (APF) cum twin-peak
audio filter supports both high tone and low
tone signals but does not function when
you’re decoding the signal using the transceiver.
You can have a great deal of fun with RTTY
on this radio by itself. Ditto for PSK31/63,
for which the TS-990S offers largely the
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
www.arrl.org
February 2014 59
same feature set. Kenwood did not include
a means to use the external keyboard for
CW or include a CW decoding screen. Perhaps this could be included in a firmware
update.
Only the LO/WIDTH control functions in
RTTY or PSK, and you use it to set the overall bandwidth, so you may need to tune a bit
to find stations beyond the reaches of whatever size waterfall you have set. With tight
filters applied for PSK operation, you have
to be right on the button. This is where the
tuning aids come in handy.
The TS-990S does “true” FSK, but you can
feed AFSK input into the ACC2 connector, as
mentioned. Most contesters, I would venture to say, prefer to control the radio via a
computer program such as N1MM Logger
with the MMTTY engine for RTTY. For
FSK, you’d connect to ACC2’s FSK pins. For
AFSK, you have the choice of routing via
the ACC2 connector or a USB connection.
You can record and save the contents of
your RTTY and PSK communications
(html or text) that you have transmitted on
the radio itself. In short you can do pretty
much anything that you’re used to doing
with your PC sound card/interface setup,
just more efficiently.
Making Tracks
Recording voice tracks on the fly with the
TS-990S is easier than using N1MM Logger or similar. The TS-990S offers a generous six voice memories that retain up to
100 seconds, about 15 seconds per channel.
It’s possible to save audio files you’ve recorded on a thumb drive or other external
drive.
You cannot monitor your audio when recording voice tracks, although the receiver
mutes when you’re recording. This said, the
audio quality is excellent! But be warned:
When you play back a message, it goes over
the air, whether or not VOX is enabled!
I set up the TS-990S to play audio files on
my computer from N1MM Logger via the
USB cable. This requires setting several
levels. You have to have your VOX delay set
to practically 0 to have it drop out, so it will
play a voice track via USB. The VOX is not
locked out when you’re playing the track,
and if you hit the F key to play your track too
soon after coming back to a station (ie, before VOX completely drops out), it will not
play the track.
60 February 2014
Switching modes can be somewhat less than
straightforward. After decoding digital signals, you must press ESC to clear the bandscope and its associated F keys. The
bandscope may not be the default when
changing modes, say, from digital to CW;
it’s not fully intuitive.
Figure 6 — This view of the smaller LCD panel
shows operating frequency and mode, along
with a graphic illustrating the filter bandwidth
characteristics. The virtual analog dial skirt gives
this thoroughly modern transceiver a retro touch
from the classic TS-520S era of the 1970s.
This image is a screen capture via the transceiver’s USB port.
Way Back Cool
If you find yourself yearning for your
SWL days, the TS-990S includes a feature
that no other transceiver in any price class
offers: SWL mode. At the push of a button,
the top half of the main display instantly
transforms into a virtual vintage shortwave
receiver’s slide-rule dial (Figure 7). It
represents the face of the Trio/Kenwood
9R-59 receiver of 1960s vintage, complete
with a vertically oriented S meter dedicated
to the main receiver. The dial shows
separate pointers for the main and sub
receivers. It’s possible to switch among the
various broadcast “meter bands,” such as
31 meters or 25 meters, and the selected
band will appear above the slide-rule dial.
For the best of both worlds, you can enable
the bandscope, which fills the lower half of
the main display, but don’t expect that old
vacuum tube ambiance.
Random Observations
As I was packing up the TS-990S with some
regret, I had to conclude that if you can’t pull
out an intelligible signal on this radio, you
most likely will not be able to do so with any
other. Strong signals will sound stupendous;
so will your transmitted signal. (Can you say
“Kenwood audio,” boys and girls?)
The antenna tuner is lightning fast, and it
easily handled all of my oddball antennas.
You cannot tune the antenna with a voice
message screen up, though. Even the quick
memory recall does not work, making an
external keypad more a necessity than a
nicety, if you plan to use the TS-990S in this
manner.
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
The TS-990S offers a handy audio scope
and oscilloscope to view audio envelopes
— your own or someone else’s. You can
look at both received and transmitted audio,
making it simple to gauge the effectiveness
of your noise limiter or noise reduction settings.
Some TS-990S users employ virtual COM
ports to control multiple devices or to
interface with multiple programs. Most
operators will want to interface the trans­
ceiver with their shack computer, and you
can do this using a USB A/B cable from
the rear panel or female-to-female
RS-232C serial port cable, also from
the rear panel. You also can connect the
TS-990S to a compatible Kenwood
transceiver this way. There’s an Ethernet
port on the rear apron as well, although you
can’t use it to download firmware upgrades.
Its primary use is for operating the radio
from a remote location. Kenwood offers
free software.
The TS-990S supports Kenwood’s Sky
Command System II, which lets you remotely control the transceiver from another
location using Sky Command System IIcompatible Kenwood VHF/UHF transceivers. One transceiver, which Kenwood
designates as the “commander,” is the remote control unit. The other, which Kenwood calls the “transporter” serves as an
interface between the commander and the
TS-990S. Using Sky Command System II,
you can only control the main receiver
There are 3, 5, or 10 quick-recall or “scratch
pad” memory channels. In quick memory
scan, the receiver will scan through all of
them. As with several other terrific features,
though, you cannot have the spectrum scope
or the waterfall on display while scanning.
For 60 meters you need to set up the five tuning frequency channels in individual memories and use the MULTI/CH knob to access
each. Since no band registers are assigned to
60 meters, you may want to set up CW and
SSB memories, as appropriate.
The
PF
(program function) buttons are
www.arrl.org DXing, while nearly 30% said their primary
application was ragchewing.
Figure 7 — Here’s something I’ve not seen before. In the SWL mode,
the top half of the TS-990S main display replicates a 1960s vintage Trio/
Kenwood shortwave receiver.
handy, and two hardware PF buttons, PFA
and PFB, are available on the front panel.
(You can program the others via the menu
and actuate them via an external keypad or
keyboard).
Most of the subreceiver controls are distinguished on the front panel by light hatching
behind the controls.
Another nearly 16% said they used their
TS-990s for contesting. This seemed appropriate. The TS-990S struck me as more of
a DXer’s radio. It’s a level or two more
complex from an operating standpoint
than many other contest-worthy radios,
and, like some of today’s software, it offers dozens of features (with more possible
through firmware updates) that many contest or casual operators will never want or
need to take advantage of. (See the sidebar
“Observations from NCJ Editor K4RO”
for additional thoughts from a contester’s
viewpoint.)
and end point frequencies for each mode,
and it can be a bit tedious.
This said, it’s a very good high-performance
transceiver that will satisfy many needs for
those whose budgets can accommodate the
cost.
All Told…
According to an informal reflector poll
among TS-990S owners, about 55% indicated they mostly used their radio for
Manufacturer: Kenwood USA Corp, 3975
Johns Creek Ct, Suite 300, Suwanee, GA
30024; tel 310-639-4200, fax 310-5378235; www.kenwoodusa.com.
You can place limits on the output power by
band — for example in DATA mode, where
you may want lower output for 100 percent
duty cycle.
See the Digital
Edition of QST
for a video
overview of
the Kenwood
TS-990S HF
and 6 Meter
Transceiver.
Some may want a larger subreceiver tuning
knob. The MUTE button is a nice touch.
AUTO mode lets you configure band plans, so
that when you tune, say, from a CW subband into the phone subband, the radio will
automatically switch to the correct mode.
Setting these up involves entering beginning
New Products
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and Electronics Group
The Journal of the Cave Radio and
Electronics Group (The CREG Journal),
published by the British Cave Research
Association (BCRA), is now available online. Communicating between a cave and the
surface is a formidable challenge yet it’s a
common requirement for underground explorers and it plays a vital role in coordinating cave rescues. With the growth of interest
in low frequency radio in recent years, radio
amateurs and electronic enthusiasts can make
a contribution in this area. Many of the cave
radios currently used by the world’s
volunteer cave rescue teams were developed
by radio amateurs. Price: £4.00 per year (four
issues) online. For more information, or to
subscribe, visit http://bcra.org.uk/pub/
cregj/.
Solderless BNC Connectors
for LMR-400 Cable from Times
Microwave Systems
Times Microwave CST-400 cable prep tool
and either the CT-400/300 or HX-4 (with
Y1719 dies) crimp tools. Price: EZ-400BM-X, $13.50; EZ-400-BM-RA-X, $15. For
more information, see your favorite dealer or
visit www.timesmicrowave.com.
The EZ-400-BM-X BNC male straight connector and EZ-400-BM-RA-X BNC male
right angle connector for LMR-400 coaxial
cable are crimp-style connectors that do not
require soldering of the center conductor or
braid trimming. They are compatible with the
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
www.arrl.org
February 2014 61
Technical
Short Takes
by
Mark
Spencer,
WA8SME
Steve
Ford,
WB8IMY,
[email protected]
HF Projects HF Packer-Amp
promptly answered either by e-mail by
HF projects or via their Yahoo
Group. If your amp project goes
astray, HF Projects offers a
“Safety Net” repair service for a
$69 flat fee (including parts). It is
fair to say that this level of support is exemplary.
Jeffrey Fritz, WB1AAL
It is amazing how many contacts can be
made across the world with less than 5 W
of power, a technique known as QRP. All
it takes is a decent antenna, patience, and
the right conditions. But there are times
when conditions aren’t great and a
few more watts make a difference.
That is the premise behind HF
Projects HF Packer-Amp Version
4. It adds punch to your QRP
transceiver.
The HF Packer-Amp is physically
small, easily fitting into a carrying
case. Running off 12 V dc, the
amp is useful for portable, mobile, or fixed operation. It runs as
a Class AB1 linear amplifier using
two low cost IRF510 MOSFETs.
The amp takes up to 5 W input and is
specified to produce 20 to 35 W output
from 10 to 160 meters including 60 meters.
A band switchable LPF using 5% 500 V
dip mica style capacitors filters the amp’s
output.
The HF Packer-Amp is a construction kit
including all circuit boards and parts. A
nice looking black and white silk-screened
metal case is included. The well-written
and illustrated construction and operational
manual is available as a PDF download.
The amp can be used for SSB and CW.
(Higher duty cycle modes such as PSK31
require an optional fan.) Unfortunately,
changing between CW and SSB modes
requires an internal jumper change. That
means removing the six screws that secure
the top case to the amp base. It’s not difficult, but it is something of a chore. A CW/
SSB mode switch on the front panel would
have been a nice addition.
The amp can be RF-sense triggered or use
PTT from the transceiver. (The CW and
SSB jumper change is not needed if the
amp is triggered by the transceiver. The
amp will simply follow the delay-time set
in the rig. Both the FLEX-1500 and the
The finished amplifier easily
passed ARRL Laboratory spectral purity tests. In terms of output power with 5 W input, the Lab
measured a maximum of 52 W on
160 and 80 meters and a minimum of
23 W on 10 meters. The average output
across all bands was 35 W.
Yaesu FT-817 transceivers have the ability
to directly trigger the amp.)
There are cautions to be aware of when running the HF Packer. In fact, HF Projects
offers a list of “Do’s and Don’ts for
Successful Operation:”
Do set the band switch to match the transceiver band.
Do install the CW jumper for CW operation. Remove it for SSB.
Do not exceed 5 W input drive.
Do not touch up the antenna tuning with
the amp in the online (bypass off) position.
Do not operate with a VSWR > 2.0:1.
It is a good idea to be conservative and obey
these warnings or you may wind up replacing a pair of blown MOSFET finals.
Though MOSFETs are not expensive
(Mouser sells them for less than a dollar
each) and you can replace them yourself,
simply using precaution is easier.
Building and Testing
It took me about 12 hours to build the amp.
When I needed to troubleshoot, I found
support readily available. My problems
were quickly resolved and questions
Once constructed, tested, and adjusted, it
was time to put the amp on the air. I fired up
the HF Packer on 40 meter SSB from my
West Virginia home using a dipole antenna.
I immediately made contacts with hams in
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Fort Wayne,
Indiana. None were DX, but under the circumstances (rather poor conditions at the
time on 40 meters) all the reports were
good. Each of these stations gave me from
an S-7 to a 10 over S-9 report.
As for DX, my first contact with the amp
gave me a 57 report from Switzerland. Not
too shabby with 20 W without using a dipole! The same afternoon I checked into a
20 meter net. The net control was located in
Naples, Florida, about 950 miles from my
station. When I told him what I was running, he reported, “There was a little QSB
at the end of your transmission, but your
signal was completely readable. I must say
that your HF Packer is really getting the job
done.”
“Getting the job done” says it all. There is
really little more that we can ask of our gear.
Manufacturer: HF Projects, 5802 Miller
Valley Dr, Houston, TX 77066; tel 281-4679424 (between 8 AM and 9 PM CST);
e-mail [email protected]; website
www.hfprojectsyahoo.com/hf-packer
amp.html. $259.
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
www.arrl.org
February 2014 65
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