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TS-590S first impressions | Radioaficion Ham Radio

TS-590S first impressions


I've been enthusiastic about the the new Kenwood TS-590 since it was first announced at the 2010 Dayton Hamvention!   I knew then that the 590 would be perfectly poised to capture two very important niche markets:

Many of us avid Kenwood users may have feared that the company might abandon the Amateur market all together.  We welcomed  the 590  and now look forward to the "big rig"  (follow-on the the TS-950 series) expected in a year or so.

Newly licensed hams who may have gotten started with a used rig but might now jump at the opportunity to purchase a new Kenwood TS-590S for only $1800!   After all, much of the competition is marketing far more expensive rigs which are out of the reach of many hams especially during these tough economic times.

My first contact with the new rig was with W4RTY "Pete" on 40 meters ssb.  Pete and I have had many contacts, so his comments were especially useful in comparing the 590's transmit audio quality with the 870 which he is accustomed to.   His first comment was "You sound just as good on your 590 as you have on your 870".    I expected his assessment as I'm transmitting at essential the same transmit bandwidth while using the same outboard audio processing scheme as I've used with the 870.   Here are several of my initial  impressions of the 590:

- Great value!

- Compact size (10.63 x 3.78 x 11.46 inches)

- Easy to use.  Nearly "plug and play" right out of the box with an Intuitive front panel and menu layout.  No steep learning curve with this rig!  Instruction manual is especially well conceived.

- The new Tentec Eagle might perform equally as well as the 590 but I doubt that the ergonomics/overall appearance/build quality will measure up.

- Superior receiver selectivity and noise reduction as compared to my Kenwood 870.   I especially like the ability to preset  wide and narrow settings and easily switch from one to the other.  However, contesters are likely to want greater selectivity.  The 590's 2.7 Khz roofing filter falls short during crowded band conditions.

- The built-in receive eq is effective in changing tonal qualities.

- Transmit audio quality equal to my Kenwood 870.  Since I employ external audio processing, I have no need to utilize the built-in transmit eq although I do find it  useful  as described elsewhere on this website.

- Disappointed with lack of IF out as discussed above.

- Noise Reduction (selectable from the front panel) is far superior to either the Kenwood 870 or the 2000!

- USB connectivity between the rig and computer works well for the digital modes such as PSK-31 as described HERE .    However, because the latency for transmit voice audio is excessive, passing tx and rcv audio between the rig and the computer perhaps works better when using conventional wiring between the rig's back panel ACC2 port and the computer's sound card.


The Kenwood  590,s menu scrolls the purpose of  item in the menu. You only need to read the manual to learn more about each item.  Most users only need to access a few things in the menu.   You can even set up the radio so only the items you want in the list are in there and everything else is out of the list.  The 590 is extremely well-built and solid...  I'm told much better than any other rig in the price class and some other more expensive transceivers.   Ergonomics are excellent. Like any hi-tec radio you get out of it what you're willing to put in. If you spend the few minutes learning what the radio can do - you will reap the benefits. It's worth learning how to drive the roofing filter system, the DSP and noise reduction.

The auto tuner tunes in about 2 seconds!.  Moreover, it remembers the last setting and tunes again instantly and tunes the receiver as well as the transmitter.  You can connect two antennas as well as  a receive only antenna . You can switch between the two antennas with the press of a button. The radio will also remember what bands you use each antenna for. e.g., you can connect a 6m beam to antenna 2 port.and a general HF antenna to antenna 1 port.  Then, each time you go to 6m, the radio will automatically change to antenna 2 port.  The receiver in the TS-590 is extremely quiet with very low noise.  All filters are included in the price. The twin DSP and Noise Reduction on the TS-590s work incredibly well.  Kenwood provides considerable free software for use with the 590 on their website.   All in all, the 590 is tops for performance and bang for your buck.

Perhaps the biggest shortfall of the 590 is the lack of IF out.   Kenwood or some third party needs to find a way to tap into the 590's IF out.   As you may know, there are many hams who use LP-Pan  ( ) together with their rigs as a panadapter.   Alternatively, perhaps Kenwood might consider developing something like Elecraft's P3 (  It would certainly help level the playing field between the 590 and Icom's various "fish finder" equipped rigs.  Moreover, it would somewhat substitute for the 590's lack of a second physical receiver.  In any event, the "big rig" Kenwood is planning will no doubt come equipped with a display along with a second receiver and lots of other features.

Comparison of the 590 and 870...

Since I own both rigs, I'm often asked to compare them...

- The only real advantages of the 870 are it’s larger size and confidence in it being a time tested rig with a well earned reputation.  Transmit audio quality is essentially a draw between the 870 and the 590.  The 870 has IF out whereas the 590 does not.

- The 590 is superior to the 870 in the following respects:
.... Superior receiver with somewhat better selectivity than the 870 but not as impressive in crowded band conditions as a fully loaded K3.  Just having the one 2.7 roofing filter for ssb leaves some hams wanting more .
.... Noise reduction on the 590 is impressive.
.... Although I don’t use it, the auto antenna tuner is better.
.... Like the 870, the 590’s build quality, front panel layout and menu system is superior to radios costing 3 times as much.  Built like a BMW!   Not withstanding the rig’s smaller size, I feel it is even superior to the 870.
.... Although I’m not a CW guy,  I’m told that the 590 is a joy to use on CW.
.... Digital ops with the 590 are really slick with just a USB cable and no need for a interface.
.... User programmable custom TX and RC eq in the 590 works very well... better than the 870.
.... I’m told that the 590 is much better for use be sightless hams
....  As much of a “plug and play” transceiver the 870 is, the 590 is perhaps even more so.      No steep learning curve with this rig.  Getting setup for digital ops is especially easy.

I am a typical rag chewer and purely from that prospective I can’t say that the 590 is all that much better than the 870.   I’ve had my 870 for 15 years and still like it a lot.    So much so that I doubt I will sell it anytime soon.  However, the 590 is, after all, a very modern transceiver and unquestionably the best value out there in a new radio!     However, if you prefer a more quantum leap forward, you may want to consider waiting the “Kenwood Big G” expected to be announced at next nears Dayton Hamvention.


Received audio graphs like the ones above can be useful but only provide indicators as to transmit audio performance.   "Hearing is believing" but even that is subjective as we all tend to have our own perceptions of what sounds good!  The 870 trace above was graphed  on 40 meters 9/27/2010 courtesy of AD4C "Hector".  Later on Hector graphed the 590 on 10/13/2010 also on 40 meters.  In both instances, the same outboard audio processing scheme was used as well as the same transmit bandwidths of 100-2600 Hz..  What conclusions, if anything can be drawn from comparing the two graphs?  Well, not much as both graphs do appear mostly similar to one another.  However, the 590's graph appears flatter overall and with less peaks and valleys.   Moreover, the 590's filter skirt on the high end seems sharper with a somewhat steeper drop off at about 2700 Hz.

KG9OM TS-590S sound bite - recorded on 17 meters courtesy of NA1A "Duke"

Assessment of the 590's transmit audio quality without external audio processing...

I tend to prefer the use of external audio processing gear as described elsewhere on this site.   I'm often asked why and I simply respond by saying that I enjoy experimenting with the equipment and interacting with other hams who feel the same way.   My aim has never been to achieve superior sounding transmit audio as that is far too subjective.  After all, we all have a preferences as to what sounds good and not so good.  Moreover, most modern day transceivers sound great without the need for very much other than a good quality microphone and the use of proper operating practices.  Such is the case with the 590 where I've tested this aspect with several hams including N1LQ "David" who concludes:

•  That the 590 with a Heil PR-35 dynamic mic straight into the radio is hard to beat especially when using the 590's internal "user" programmable TX EQ settings such as the ones that I use as described elsewhere on this website on the "setup" page.

•  That the 590 with a Heil PR-35 directly into the rig, but with the TX-EQ settings turned "off" (flat) is acceptable but noticeably not as desirable than when using the programmable settings.

•  That the stock Kenwood hand mic that came with the rig performs very well although with less fidelity than the Heil PR-31 which is to be expected.

590 on Ancient Mary...

"Kenwood has finally hit a home run on AM with the new 590".   Not my words but the words of WB3FAU "Russ" on 7.29 recently.  Five other hams on frequency agreed.  As usual, they were all running vintage gear.

I adjusted the 590 AM car level to "10" which produced 200 watts "safe" carrier output from the Al-80B linear. A mic level of "14" was about right to cleanly modulate the carrier. It was "plug and play", just like everything else on the 590.

AM sounds wonderful on the 590's receiver. However, as expected, the only receive shortfall on AM is rejecting nearby s9+20 ssb sigs. Not a big deal though as perhaps even rigs costing twice as much (and more) might also struggle under similar circumstances.

Try it for yourself.

All firmware updates insall easily...

Click Download to get yours.   While you are at it, you may also want to download and install the latest update to the ARCP-590 control software, etc.


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