Gear Review for the Kenwood TS-590 HF Radio...

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by BTPost, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    It has arrived, and I spent the last week getting it installed, wired and sort of learning the Human Interface, that runs this Radio. first I will out line the Spec's for the Radio.
    1. It is a 100 Watt Tx Power Radio...
    2. It uses a 32 Bit DSP (Digital Signal Processor) for both TX, and RX, between the IF (Intermediate Frequency) and Baseband. (Audio)
    3. Has a simple MOD, to make it a full 1.7 Mhz to 30.0 Mhz TX/RX Radio. (remove one resistor)
    4. It has both a Serial Port, AND a USB Port, for Computer Integration, of both Control of the Radio, some Audio connections, on the USB Port.
    5. Kenwood supplies a complete PC Based Control Program, as well as a Remote Control, that allows one to operate the Radio form ANY IP connected Computer, as well as a Voice over that streams the RX Audio out the Computers speaker, and can TX the computers Mic Audio, out on the air, via a builtiin Audio Codec.
    6. The Radio also can move TX and RX Audio, out the ACC Socket to a cheap Gaming USB Spk/Mic Module that gives direct Digital access to TNC Software Apps, like MultiMode, etc.
    7. It has a built-IN Auto-Antenna Tuner.
    8. It also cover 49.0 Mhz - 54 Mhz TX and RX from 100 Khz - 60 Mhz with ALL Modes.
    9. Due to the DSP IF, it has very effective Noise Blanker's, as well as a Noise Reduction system.
    10. This Radio needs NO Optional Filters, as all filtering is designed into the DSP, and it is totally programable, and settable from the Front Panel, on the fly.
    11. There are only two Options, offered.
    a. Optional TCXO (Temperature Controlled Oscillator) which gives the radio .5PPM Frequency Stability.
    b. Optional Digital Audio Recording and Playback to and from the RF side of the Radio.
    12. I will be making a small MOD to the Receiver Antenna Switching System to make the Aux RX Antenna Jack, a parallel Switched Receiving Antenna Output Port, for the SDR (Software Derived Radio) Spectrum Analyzer, that I wrote a Post about before.

    Basically, this Radio does everything, but make coffee, for you.

    I spent the first day on the installation, completely rewiring the 12 Vdc Power Buss to accommodate the the 20+ Amps REQUIRED to produce full 100 Watt TX Power. I up'ed the wire sizes from the Battery/Power Supply from #10 to two runs of #6 on the Positive Side, and one run of #2, on the Ground/Negative side. Then completely rewired the Distribution Power Block, that feeds the TS-590 Main Radio, the TS-690 Backup Radio, and VHF 150 Watt Power Amplifier. Each of these can draw up to 30 Amps in TX mode. I also rewired the Low Power Distribution Block that feeds the the Icom R71a Hf Comms Receiver, the R7000 Vhf/Uhf Comms Receiver, the Ham Vhf/Uhf Transceiver, the Aircraft Transceiver, (Unicom) and a Vhf Bearcat Scanner.
    Once all this was finished I they reinstalled the two Manual Antenna Tuners, the TS-590, and the TS-690, in the HF Radio Stack, and turned them on..... Yep No Magic smoke leaked out... So far so good. Now to deal with the Computer Control wiring, and Audio Interfaces to the Computer for the TS-590 and to the AEA DSP2232 TNC (Terminal Node Controller) for the TS690. I moved a 4 Port USB Hub over to the under side of the Operating Table, and connected the TS-590's USB Port, the TS-690's Serial/USB Cable, and the Plantronics SPk/Mic/USB Dongle. this brings ALL the Control and Audio into my iMac via USB.
    I had a chat with BlackCat Systems owner and author of MultiMode, a Mac based Software TNC system that should bring all the Digital Modes, Online from the iMac. There are a few level issues that I still need to work out before I am ready to try this Digital Mode stuff, on the Air, and that will happen this next week, as time permits.

    So far, this is a real dream to operate. Has an excellent Receiver, and plenty of "Talk Power" on Transmit. Having the DSP IF, and totally selectable IF Filtering, really gives me a lot better control over Noise, and Interference issues. In side by side comparisons, the TS-590, out hears the TS-690, by about 4 S Units, which totally blew me way, because the TS-690 was one of the best Receivers I have ever Used, to date.

    Understand that this Radio is a bit on the expensive side, ($1500US) but it is well worth it, IF one can afford this class of radio. I suspect it will out preform the Icom's that are 1.5 to 2 times as expensive. If you are running on the cheaper side, the TS-690 is still a Great Radio, as is it's similar, Little Brother, the TS-450. ( same Radio, but minus the 50 - 54 Mhz Power Amp) For Beginners, and or Low Budget, types the TS-430 is a nice Starter Radio for the $250-300US they are going for USED, these days. I have all three here, and have operated them ALL, for DECADES.
    There is one caveat, on the TS-690/TS450 Units. They have a pair of DDS Chips on the Carrier Board, that are no longer in production, and have been known to fail. I had one go out on my TS690, and it took me 3 months to find a replacement Board, on eBay. I also lost one on my TS-450, and that took about 4 months to find a replacement for it. The TS-850 uses the same chip, only there are 4 of them on it's Carrier Board. ......
    techsar and stg58 like this.
  2. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Nice review! Now to "see" if it sounds that good on the air :)
  3. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I am on every morning at 0800 local, on 14292.0 Khz USB.....
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Gear Review of the Kenwood TS-590 Part 2:

    Well, I spent a day getting the appropriate OS System Drivers loaded for the iMac OSX, and the Windoz XP Virtual Machine.
    The USB Hub that has ALL the Radio stuff plugged into it, is then plugged into a Silex Network USB Server. This lets me operate
    of the devices, from any computer on the network, OR from any computer that can VPN, or SSH Tunnel, into the Network. The four
    USB Items on the Radio Hub are:
    Port 1. TS-590 USB Control
    Port 2. TS -590 USB Audio Codec
    Port 3. TS-590 ACC Audio via Plantronics USB Dongle
    Port 4. TS-690 USB/Serial Control
    The TS-590 Serial Control Port comes in from Port 4 on another Serial/USB 4 Port Box that feeds into the SIlex USB Server.

    Kenwood Radio Control Software is a Windoz OS only, so it runs from a VirtualBox XP/VM. I loaded the Radio Control Software, first
    and then launch it and brougth up the Silex Box Control App and connected the TS-590 USB Control Hardware to the Device Manager,
    and setup the Virtual Comm Port Driver to Comm 8. then connected the Kenwood Control App to Comm 8, and hit the "Connect" button.
    Sure enough, up comes the control Screen, and things seem to be working. I can change Frequencies, Bands, Filters, Modes, Volume,
    and just about Everything that one can do, from the Manual Controls on the front of the Radio. So, Way Cool....
    Next I loaded up the Kenwood Remote Control Server App, and setup the Network Connections, that allow the XP/VM to allow incoming
    IP Connections, and Operate the Radio from anywhere on the Network or Internet. I used my MacBook running MacOSX, and a VirtualBox
    XP/VM, as my Remote Radio Control Computer, and loaded the Kenwood Control App, and got it setup, and looking to connect to the
    running XP/VM over on the iMac. Logged In and now I was controlling the Radio from the MacBook, via the iMac. everything worked as advertised.
    I also took the time to duplicate the installation, of all the MacOSX, and Windoz XP Drivers, that made the iMac work, into the MacBook, so that
    it could also be used to control the Radio, directly, if needed. I tested all that out as well. Again everything worked as advertised.

    Next things to do is getting the TS-590 Audio Codec, talking to the XP/VM in the iMac, so that the XP will play the Receive Audio, out
    it's speaker, and the Internal Mic driving the Radios. Mic circuit. Then I need to get the TS-590 ACC Audio via the Plantronics USB Dongle
    talking to the XP/VM as well. these both need appropriate Drivers installed, and setup in the Device Manager. Then duplicate that same setup
    n the MacBook, as well, and get it all tested. Once that is done, I can buy a copy of MultiMode, and load it on thew two Macs, and start looking
    Digital Signals, on the Air and get it MultiMode decoding them. then maybe try an contact someone on HF and send some stuff, via Digital Modes.

    That is where I am headed, soon... Stand by for NEWS....
    stg58 likes this.
  5. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    haha..I wonder how many got the Paul Harvey inflection....

    Glad to hear it's coming together for you. Working on the RigBlaster pro and the computer issue this evening. With a bit of luck (and a different laptop) it may work.

  6. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Paul Harvey was someone I listened to every day. The REST of the Story, was one of my favorite programs. So, yes, i caught it, he will be missed.
  7. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Sounds like a nice radio, Kenwood makes solid gear.
    What are you using for antennas?
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I have a Dipole cut for 3220 KHz, at 60 ft, and a Dentron Manual Tuner on the TS-590.... The TS-690 has an MFJ Roller Coil Tuner, feeding a 5BTV Trapped Vertical, that uses the steel Cabin Roof for an RF Ground. The Tuners give excellent Band Coverage for 160 - 10 Meters.
  9. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Ok... Here is the latest update on the TS-590, and the integration into a complete Station Operation. I have finally figured out how to get the Audio Codec talking to the WindozXP Audio Drivers, which intern communicate with the Mac OSX Audio System thru the Virtual Machine Drivers. All that means is the Receiver Audio is coming out the iMac's Speakers, and is controllable via the software. I also have the Tx Audio connected thru the same drivers and the Mac OSX Audio Input selection DOES drives the Radio Mic Circuit, and it is supposed to. That takes care of Voice Mode. I have a copy of MultiMode, loaded on the iMac and it also can play the Receiver Audio, and drive the Transmitter Mic Circuitry as it should.

    Now I have complicated this whole process by adding a TM-710A VHF/UHF Radio to the Radio Room. This Radio has some very cool features that I want to bring into the Integrated Radio System.
    1. The TM-710A has 1000 Memory Channels. This allows me to program, ALL the Ham, Marine, Public Safety, Fire, EMS, Business, and MURS Vhf Frequencies. I can also program in ALL the Ham, GMRS, FRS, Marine, and Business, Uhf radio channels used in my AoO. The Radio also can receive all the Aircraft AM Frequencies, used around this AoO. The Swiss Army Knife of Vhf/Uhf Radios....
    2. It has a Kenwood Sky Command II Interface and firmware. This allows the Radio to be a Transporter Control Device for the TS-590 when Interconnected.
    3. When in Sky Command Mode, a Kenwood TH-71A Handheld can be used as a Remote Controller of the TS-590 from anywhere, that is in Uhf Range of the TM-710A/TS-590 combination. This includes Total HF Radio Control, as well as Tx/Rx Audio and PTT. The TS-590 can be operated by using the HandHeld as the Mic/Spk and Controller. This Handheld Radio, Also has 1000 Memory Channels, and is programmed with a duplicate Memory Channel lineup as the TM-710A.
    4. I just concluded a deal for a TM-700A, (the earlier version of the TS-710A) except only 200 Memories. The plan is to install this radio, as a Mobile Unit, in the Rhino, and use it also as a Sky Command II Controller for the TM-710A/TS-590 combination.

    Now the challenge is to make the Sky Command II work, with all the other Computer Integrated operations of the system. The plan is to have this ALL Done before AlaskaChick returns, and or, finds out about it....
    kellory likes this.
  10. J.R. Fisher

    J.R. Fisher

    Are there other
  11. J.R. Fisher

    J.R. Fisher

    Are there other ones out there that are as good and how do the prices compare?
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Yes, there are equivalent and better as well as lesser, both in capability and price. Picking a radio is a study in and of itself, beginning with "What do you want it to do?" Your question tells me you are more of a neophyte than I am. You might read thru the "getting started" threads, see if some of your questions are better answered there.
  13. J.R. Fisher

    J.R. Fisher

    Thanks I will do that. I host a radio show on every Saturday morning at 10 am PST. If you go to that link, you can see the current shows and past ones. One of the subjects we discuss is how the government really can't help much in disasters so I thought this would be a good subject to cover. Feel free to call in at 646-378-0280. You sound like you have a lot of knowledge. Thanks for your help!
  14. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    You should read the SECURE Phone thread, in the Advanced Comms forum..... It would make a very fine show on your BlogTalk show.... or maybe MonkeyNet, would be another Good show.... we did one of those on "Gold Is Money" (GIM) last year..... .....
  15. J.R. Fisher

    J.R. Fisher

    Do you currently do a radio show and if so, how do you build your audience?
  16. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Nope, I just do teaching of Comms, and Communications related topics, when asked. I spent 40+ years in the RF Comms Biz in various capacities... both as a Regulator, and a RadioMan & Tech, in Marine, Aircraft, and Bush Communications in Alaska.
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