THE TS-590S review, story and detailed
Useful notes and operation tips:
Startup: 2/16/12 ~ Before you begin...that is just after you have set the radio in place, do not play the radio without doing a 'hard reset" right away, first order. I found that remnants of the service setup remained and that caused a small "receive audio" and "AGC floor" issue to start. I reset the radio (power on [a/b] - [a/b] to complete the reset) and everything was normal. Please check your FIRM-ware version while as do this reset.
Next: 2/16/12 ~ I suggest you take a moment and check the FIRM-ware version. Mine was V1.05 and required an update. This was also available on the Kenwood website (link below).
Computer Control: 2/17/12 ~ If you decide to use a computer controlled application, you should setup the com port or USB port on your computer first. I mention this, so I suggest you take a moment and look at your options. If you decide to go serial cable, be sure you obtain one that will work well in an RF field environment. That should also be considered for the USB cable.
2/17/12 ~ In order to use Ham Radio Deluxe, you must download the final "free" version. Now that the application will become commercial and cost you 39.95 at a minimum, I suggest you take a moment to look at ARCP-590 from Kenwood file archive. HERE
3/11/12 ~ We find some interesting details regarding the Service Mode Menu of the TS590S. Basically the service mode has been upgraded from the 570 to the 590. The proper use of this menu is documented in a PDF file that is available HERE for download. The Service Plug is shown above in the illustration.
3/15/12 ~ Take a moment and look at menus 25 and 26. These are the Transmit Bandwidth filters settings. They are adjustable from LOW CUT of 10 cycles to a high cut of 3000 cycles or 3 KHz wide. These settings are great for adjusting your audio and voice patterns. You must understand, you cannot open up the radio any wider than 3 KHz.
5/1/2012 ~ T found some very interesting facts about the TS-590 over-shoot issue. It really is not an "over shoot" at all...I really did not understand that terminology, but hey I build race engines so WTF do I know? Any way go to the link I have added here. I can detail the results after I spend more time with the radio but from what I am seeing on the Wattmeter, there is no visible spike. The article mensions a number like 113/114...I set mine to 115 so I get some ALC action but not the arbitrary power spike during initial power on. Please read the article so you don't do what a lot of users are doing. There is a possible damage issue that could arise turnning up the Rf out power. Be careful...take my word for it...don't do it. Look at the link I have placed HERE, it will open in a new browser window.
5/15/2012 ~ My settings using the TS-590 Service Menu.
I decided to run some tests of my own. I initially set the ALC reference (Menu No. 23) to 115. I had a hard time getting the AL-1500 out of bed early on. I mean when I would speak the power level was not up to par with my TS-2000, (based upon the first syllable of the word "hello"). So, I increased the reference to 195. That rendered my AL-1500 response time very quickly, but at times it would set access the "protection" circuit and close down the amplifier relay control. So, I decided to set the reference to 150 and try that. The setting allows me to run up to 1200 or better on the first "hello". The power input to BIG AL is 60 watts and I can see a full 60 watts on my digital watt meter. The wattmeter on my ATR-30 displays better than 2000 PEP.
I will try that setting...this is an ongoing work of labor and love. I have not changed any power settings as of yet (Menu No. 24) however I am considering that if the issue continues. I would like to up the power setting while lowering the ALC reference so the "over-shoot" (looks like a power spike to me) does not activate AL-1500 shut-down.
5/18/2012 ~ The final settings for my TS-590 have been recorded. My suggestion to AL-1500 users, is as follows: Menu 23 = 130 and Menu 24 = 182. These are subtle changes in the settings menu, not those dramatic 235 numbers that are totally out of control. I use a digital wattmeter, perhaps those who are looking for high power output with rapid response are using analog meters to judge their settings. Hey "bozo" you cannot use an analog meter in this situation. They are too slow...if you have a scope in your shack...use it!!!
Update: I sold the AL-1500 and now I am running a Henry (again) with a pair of 3-500Z finals. I found that my settings as described above work fine with the Henry as well...so this seems to be the best for my voice and my style. That is the key here...not all of us play radio the same and that must be considered too. Don't take every thing you read as verbatim. You must experiment...
6/25/13 ~ The latest tips for users. I suggest that you find and purchase a SHURE A15LA audio line adapter. This very useful adapter (hi-level to lo-level) comes in an XLR package and can be placed directly into the microphone input line of your TS-590. This in-line adapter will allow you to interface your computer for digital modes or audio record playback. It will allow you to access some of the more exotic audio filters, EQ and mixer applications and directly apply them to your 590. It can be used with the ARHP in the Kenwood network for handling the remote audio. If you eliminate the ARHP and use RDP, you can decrease latency issues that seem to appear using the Kenwood LAN functions. For additional details search "VOIP" software.
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8/3/2012 ~ I have come out of the closet...no I am not gay, by any stretch of your imagination, I mean I have finished the 6 month learning curve for my TS-590. Here are the facts as gay as they may seem, the TS-590S is a winner.
Price Point: This has always been a major factor with Kenwood radios. They build BARE BONES radios that do not require a second mortgage to own. The 1500.00 price tag will certainly drop after the TS-990 makes it to market. The 590 has, for it's base price, blown away much of the competition that costs as much as three times the price, including those that you have to build yourself.
The TS-2000 had it's receiver issues. I owned a pair of them, but I found no other "all station" rig (HF, VHF, UHF) that I can honestly say I would choose over the 2000. In a word...the 590 "blows" away the 2000 HF receiver.
I have replaced my 2000 with a 350.00 used TS-450S. This is a great HF radio and is the perfect TS-590 companion. They sit well on the shelf, and because the 450 has the 850/870 front end, it hears almost as good as the 590, but without the DSP, the 450 does not have the noise floor of the 590.
Simply put...there is nothing in the 1500.00 (1300 - 1700) range that will surpass the 590...at least not today.
The Pros and Cons: These have not changed and never will. If you are an Icom user you will never accept anything made by Kenwood. But Icom lacks one thing that to me is extremely important...service. The Icom service department leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, how many times do you send out BIOS updates till you re-design the radio and tag a new model number to it? I have owned Yaesu and Ten-Tec, but I am not a fan simply because I like my radio in one "bundle".
Then there is the "over-shoot" issue. Hey Bunky, all new solid state radios are going to have this "RF power spike" issue when used with an older less expensive tube amplifier. Damn, my TS-530 and my 450 have an initial ALC spike simply because ALC is not a function of the transmitter, it is a function of the AGC circuit in the IF. The TS-590 has a 'service adjustment mode" that will allow you to "fine tune" your 590 operation into your amplifier...any amplifier. If you read my entry from 5/18 you will understand better what is happening here.
The "noise floor" issue...LMFAO. The TS-590 noise floor does not get any better than this. S/N ratio is extremely low. I have seen 40 over signals from a noise floor of S1. That is on my 80 Meter Loop and I don't claim all that low noise to be the radio. I use a decent antenna. My Loop is 23 feet away from a power pole transformer and less than that from a merc-vapor street lamp. Noise floor is not about "interference" and you are not going to improve any radio if you lower the "atmospheric" noises which are all part of the receiver. AGC is the factor and if you can control the AGC you can lower the noise floor and increase the signal levels, but to blame a radio for your poor power company equipment is simply stupid and "A" typical of today's "radio GURU". I don't care what you have for a radio, if you have a high noise floor...with the antenna connected, you are not going to improve the receiver performance by degrading the AGC circuit trying to eliminate the noise at the IF...get you ass up out of the chair and find the source.
If you don't like the lack of knobs, too bad, that is a factor when "control processing" is part of the equation. The ARCP program that comes with the TS-590 is great and works very well. It even makes "remote" operation a piece of cake and every part of the 590 can be utilized with the ARCP, including a BAND SCANNER that will look at any portion of any band you choose. You can sit and "tweet" to your hearts content while the "scanner" looks for some signal spike on the frequencies of your choice. If you care so much about the other frequencies, buy a "spectrum analyzer" or purchase the Flex 3000.
The ARCP and the SCANNER will operate REMOTE. Try reading the "band scope" from a remote position on those more expensive radios. You can run silent and then click on any portion of the "scan" and you are there (even remote).
These are the items that are over-looked when someone mentions a 5000.00 radio doing much more. Well not in my case. I center the 590 over 3.773 MHz and set my scan rate to 20KHz. I make one scan and click on the spikes. I can set all the parameters of the scan from the receiver functions of my choice. I know the IF is not wasting it's time or energy looking at signals "pop" up and down for the sake of some "visual surprise". This is almost like looking at a picture of a beautiful woman that you will never encounter in your lifetime, or a fancy automobile that you cannot afford. Watching someone else on a band scope is great for "contesters" but how do you know the "big spike" is actually in the contest until you listen....DUH!!!
Bells and Whistles: To me accessories are my choice and I don't want to pay thousands of dollars for items I don't have any use for. I would rather monitor "MY" signal than yours. What you put into your antenna is your business and your problem. If you sound bad, I ain't gonna talk to you. I know what I am putting on the air because I monitor my signal throughout the entire RF chain. That, sir, is how a professional does things. Looking at a BAND SCOPE does not mean a damn thing to me. I don't feel any better that I can see a bunch of signals up the band, I am on one frequency and talking to one station or I am involved in a PTT net. What is on the left or the right does not matter to me. Fancy displays are expensive and costly to repair. The 590 has a "generic" screen, and it displays the required information to me, and that is all I am interested in.
I am sure the "bells and whistle" bunch will like the TS-990 far better than the 590. They will have their choice of fancy band scopes and amazing displays...but the 990 is more about contesting than the 590. The 990 will have a 200 watt output. It will have "true" dual receivers and the second receiver is no more or less the 590. In fact the primary receiver is also a 590 but for a few additional filter options. If I want a second receiver of the 590 quality, I will buy a second 590. If I want 200 watts, I will run my amplifier. The important thing is to communicate. That is what Ham Radio was all about before "social media" websites took over.
Whazzzup! Today, all our manufacturers must sell radios to an aging breed of customers. Many of us are on fixed income and cannot afford 5000 dollar "rice boxes". Hell, I did not buy a K3 for several reasons but building was not the issue, it was the overall expense. The radio starts out at a price point well above the 590 and just gets worse from there. Oh, did I consider their (Elecraft) service..."don't mention it".
What is actually going on out here is mentally some kind of extreme break-down. Amateur Radio operators are no longer operators, they have become computer specialists. They buy the latest "hot toddy" and inside six months have moved on to the next. This is "computer mentality" and the manufacturers know this. Icom introduces a new radio every 6 months. What was wrong with the previous unit that makes this one any better? Kenwood has not introduced a new radio for many years. Why(?) because they saw no reason too.
Many of our new fraternal members change their call sign the same day they order their expensive toys. That way they can use their two by one call when the station arrives. Most of the "new-bee" Ham Radio operators in the hobby today are spending $5000.00 for a radio, that will be connected to a G5RV. What is that all about? They "tweet" or "toob" complaining about NOISE and never consider the source of the noise or the antenna that is receiving the noise. They believe a "compromise" antenna is "compromise" for transmit ONLY. There is no way a 100 foot antenna is going to out-hear a 260 foot loop on 75 meters. So why would you build an antenna that is more of a 'handicap" than a "compromise". In better terms...neither buying a TS-590 nor an FT-DX5000 is worth your money if you plan to "handicap" the radio. Amateur Radio was never a "trademark" hobby. It was not intended to be an "all band ~ all mode" citizen band.
In closing...if this is frustrating for you to read, imagine how I must feel writing it? The TS-590 with all it's bad marks from the "gurus" of the sport, is in my mind one of the classic radios of the new millennium. It will go down in history as did the TS-520 and 530. It will stand the test of time up against the FT-1000D and all the "pro" radios you can own. I know, I tested them, and while I did not own some of them...I can honestly say, you will never regret purchasing a TS-590.
Go ahead and buy whatever...it is your money. If you buy a radio...any radio, for the sake of impressing your neighbors you are simply an idiot. Don't expect anyone of us to read an opposing review about your radio if you have nothing good, or bad, to say about it. "Is the 590 the perfect radio?" No, but the FT-DX5000 is not any more than the ICOM 7800. My concerns are how much I get for my "budget" income. If that is all I base the 590 on, well, in my simple mind, it was a great choice.
But it was MY choice not anyone else...
1/23/13 ~ Here I am again, and I have, yet another call sign. I won't go there, but just to let you know, the new call is W3GAS.
Ok, enough of that...I wanted you to know that the 590 is still my primary receiver. It plays so well that I have almost no complaints. Almost means, there are a few things that I would like in addition, but they are not worth mentioning and they have been addressed in the TS-990, but I will never be able to enjoy that radio unless I hit the lottery, and even then the 990 purchase would be far down the list of priorities.
I rag chew (goof off) on 80 meters with the Cam Radio nuts (net). A bunch of old men who have nothing better to do than appear as "grumpy farts" or "dirty minded seniors". Basically we are harmless and just have a good time...all the time. Laughter is the greatest single gift God has given us.
Anyway, what I wanted to mention was receive audio. This is important. First of all, the TS-590 uses digital audio and, up to the final AF stage it is processed heavily throughout most of the receiver chain. There is a very nice receive EQ that is adjustable via the ARCP program, but if you use it improperly you will upset the radios very fine receiver functions...those are the HO-LO WIDTH, SHIFT bandpass settings. Let me explain. The knobs (yes the TS-590 does have knobs) located to the left of the AF/RF controls are very important. But for you to see this you must have a computer connected to the output audio of the TS-590. The audio must pass into your sound card via some type of interface. A simple NP capacitor will handle the decoupling, but a better interface would be a LOW impedance to HIGH impedance transformer. This would give you decoupling and match the 600 ohm input to most soundcards. I use an oscilloscope. My shack scope has an output jack that is directly coupled to the vertical amplifier output. I simply take this output into my computer. It works great for digital modes and eliminates all sorts of issues that too many of the "fancy toy" interfaces have. This is complete isolation and buffered output from the radio. The Vertical gain control on the scope controls the computer input gain, so there is no HIGH LEVEL output distortion inserted to the computer sound card.
Now follow along with this, the computer output is delivered to a TEAC 2A mixer board. I monitor levels using the MB-20 VU meter accessory. That allows me to tailor the input to a 15 WATT low distortion Creative Labs amplified set of speakers. I recommend the Inspire S2, T10 or the T3300 series systems.
TIP: The E-MU 0204 USB interface is a really nice interface for the TS-590 to your PC or MAC.
Sorry for the delay...
The output from the TEAC is delivered to my Inspire T10 and also into a Creative Labs 15 watt modular sound amplifier, generally used for mobile MP3 file player devices. This gives me a couple of options when listening. The Separate Creative Amplifier is taken off at the TEAC monitor. That bypasses my EQ and allows me to hear the sound as tailored by my Kenwood radio. That feeds a nice set of speakers that are Realistic from Radio Shack (back when they actually made products). The other output from the TEAC is delivered to the T10 via my Numark EQ2100. The balance of BASS and TREBLE is controlled at the TEAC 2A mixer board.
So what this allows me to do is tailor the incoming audio from the Kenwood and adjust according to conditions. Let me offer an example. If there is a 1000 cycle beat signal on the received frequency, I simple back down on the 1000 cycle gain at the EQ. This renders subtle control over the frequency "audio band-pass" I am passing through my receiver. It works like a most all bandpass filters but it offers level control that is not available at the receiver. The TS-590 has a great EQ built into the ARCP, but like so many of the "fancy" radios, it is not real-time. So the adjustment must be done through the menu. That is fine by me, and because I may want a tighter control, this is my way of working with an EQ.
Listen to me when I tell you that you are wasting power and "voice expression" when you open up that radio beyond 3KHz. You probably sit there and scratch your head, but follow along here. I want you to download a program. I have the link listed here...SOUNDCARD OSCILLOSCOPE (click here). Ok download and install version scope V1.41 from the website. I suggest you choose the English Version. This is not freeware but for private users such as "yourself" it is free to use. Well you are an Amateur, am I correct in that assumption? Good! Now lets us look at the program for just a minute. When you first start the program there is an unusual disclaimer, click on "continue". The program will open up to reveal various controls that represent of all things, an oscilloscope. If you are connected to your sound card via the "line Input" you will have to make one setting. Click on "Settings" tab and set the "input" for "Blue" connector, unless you have an external E-MU running on your USB port; if so it will show up in your "input" listing.
Now your "scope" should be active and a noise pattern should be visible on the "Oscilloscope" screen. The next stage is important. Click on the "Frequency" tab and note the 0-2000 Hz range across the bottom of the scale. Slide the ZOOM button halfway. Now position the slider, a bar to the right and below the upper end of the scale...slide it all the way to the left...you should see the scale collapse to about 1000 cycles. Now slide the ZOOM again (to the left) until you see 0 to +/- 3000 cycles. This represents your receiver BANDPASS. What your radio hears will appear inside this BANDPASS. If you set your receiver to 7125 KHz (remain in SSB) and you spot a CW signal it will appear inside that 3KHz BANDPASS as long as it is below (LSB) or above (USB) the center frequency set on your receiver. You can adjust the receiver and watch the signal as it ,moves across the BANDPASS. Now, set your receiver to CW mode...did you notice the BANDPASS decrease dramatically? You should because you are only receiving 500 cycles or so. Go ahead, advance the ZOOM to about 3/4 to the right. Adjust the slider so that you see 0-500 cycles. You are looking at the receiver BANDPASS. Any adjustment you make to narrow that BANDPASS will be displayed on your computer screen. Now look at the pattern...is it clean, is there a chirp, is there any AC hum or RF legible there...do the same with PSK-31 and of course SSB. Have some fun for a change.
But get the point, while you read this...I want you to tune to one of those ESSB operators. You know the "wide as hell and he ain't gonna turn it down no more" dudes that thinks he can sound like a HI-FI SSB or AM signal without a carrier. No this is not DSB, it is ESSB and it sucks. This mentality is all horseshit! Look at your filter, is your SSB filter in 2.4 or 2.8 or 3.0 if you have one? Now set the SOUNDCARD SCOPE to display 0-5KHz wide. Tell me how much of that 5 or 6 KHz wide "jackass" are you seeing on the scope? Well Bunky, if your filter is 2.8 KHz and he is playing at 5 KHz, you are only hearing a little more than half his audio and half his signal level as well. I hope this gets your attention because you soon realize that your receiver has a lot more to do with the other guys audio than he does. And, you begin to realize that "pinching" up the filters can render a nice attractive "YL" voice into "Minnnie Mouse". It will also make Walter Cronkite sound like "Goofy".
The images here are actual screens captured using the program. See the RUN/STOP button located in the lower left corner of the window. With some audio in the display, click this button. Now click the "save" button in the upper right corner of the scope display. Choose a name and save. You will have two .JPG images saved, one will be color and one will be B/W. You can send these to friends, or guys you think sound terrible. Give them a subtle hint. If you notice the image to the left, there is nothing between 500 and 1200...the intelligence is gone. The cut-off range of the SCOPE goes well beyond 2.8 KHz, because I have the TS-590 set to 3400 and this guy is blowing a lot of audio above 2857...it is wasted to most any average operator with a 2.6 or 2.8 KHz filter. Look at his peaks around 200 cycles. That is "BOOM-BOOM" if there ever was any and no human voice (outside Barry White) will produce that level in their God given voice on a Amateur Radio transceiver.
There are a lot of great features in this program. You can indeed setup your microphone EQ using this application. Set the scope to see 2.8 KHz and pattern your audio to cover as much of the spectrum as possible, but leave room at the bottom and the top...somewhere around 100 cycles to 2.6 or 2.7. Most filters in receivers can be sloped tuned, but you are trying to make communication, so why split hairs with too much audio below 1500 and no intelligence above? Set your EQ to compensate for DX and RAG CHEW. Remember, you don't know what that guy in Lostapoopa (very rare) is using for a receiver. So, you must deliver the most usable signal you can, and then you hope his filters are happily listening at 2.4 or less. It is about time to get smart and EQ the TX and the RX to improve the audio inside 3KHz. Forget the "wide crap" those ego-maniacs are running. Besides, you are courteous and considerate...right(?)...you use a dummy load and you listen first ...right(?)...yeah "good luck in the contest".
6/24/13 ~ I have added a new link to the review. I was looking around for information on updates for the ARCP and I came across this site. There is a wealth of information here...some I have covered and much that I have not. Take a look at The W1AEX 590 Resource (here). The page offers some "general observations" regarding the 590 and goes into some great detail regarding the visual band-scan and the audio device functions. It is interesting how he renders and details his audio settings. He also takes advantage of Excel spreadsheet applications and the TS-590.
Note: I still endorse and recommend the use of Christian Zeitnitz Soundcard Oscilloscope.
This application makes a great tool for adjusting your transmit audio. It has a audio spectrum display and filtering that will help dramatically with your microphone setup. The program is "free to use" and can be found (here).
3/10/14 ~ This will probably be my last entry on this page. After all I am 71 years old and my opinion is better left to myself. I am in the winter of my days and I am going to do the best to enjoy what time on the radio I have left here.
There are a lot of resource pages on the Internet that relates to more than one radio. The TS-590S is just another one of them. Everyday some new (How new can these damn things be?) radio comes on the market. It claims to be so much better than the rest (or its previous model). Perfect example...the newest FLEX radio that everyone awaited, only to find out, after a year, the damn thing is no better than the previous model!!! This happens when a manufacturer gets greedy and egotistical about the products they release. Making a better mouse trap took almost 5000 years (but the original still works). What is obvious to me is the number of used radios that are "not" selling. The price for twenty year old transceiver has gone UP, not DOWN. This works like increasing minimum wage. Sooner or later there is little value between USED and NEW. You can only ask so much for a radio. Losing 30% on a 1500 dollar investment does not hurt as much as losing it on a 10,000 dollar layout of cash. Why is it every time Icom brings out a new radio, the previous model drops by 30% in value? Who can afford to lose 3000 dollars every six months?
The happy operator is the guy who makes his hobby work for him. What fun is it if all you do is "play radio" at the expense of your credit card?
My TS-590S will be the last "new" radio I own. I possess three of the best Kenwood radios they ever offered. The TS-180S was an experiment that brought us to the TS-950SDX...I don't own a 950 or a 990 if that matters, but the 590 receiver was incorporated into the 990; as was the 950 receiver incorporated into the TS-450S. So my 180, 450 and 590 will be my final legacy. Those radios and the rest of my junk will be scattered all over God's earth after I am gone...and frankly...I will not have a thought in my mind to care!
My 590 has allowed me to join in, every night, with a few very well chosen friends. The investment was worth it, not for the sake of the radio, but for the friendship I have managed to maintain over my time on earth...all that, simply because I could hear them!