Kenwood TS-990S Review

The Kenwood TS-990S is the company’s flagship HF + 6-meter base station transceiver. It’s expensive, there’s no doubt about that. But if you demand the very best performance and you’re willing to pay a pretty penny for it, you won’t be disappointed by the TS-990S. Let’s dive into the details in this ham radio overview.

Good

  • 2 beautiful displays – If 1 display is good, 2 displays must be even better! The TS-990s features a large main display on the left side of the unit, with a smaller secondary display near to the center.
  • Dual-receiver functionality – The TS-990S is a true dual-receiver radio, so you can monitor and transmit on two different frequencies simultaneously. This makes it an excellent radio for contesting.
  • Large, sturdy design – This entire radio exudes quality. It’s heavy, bulky, and equipped with a mind-boggling assortment of knobs, buttons, and dials, all of which are a pleasure to twist, click, tap, and use.
  • 200W of power for long-range connections – With 200 watts of power, this radio will never let you down. If you love DXing and making long-range QSOs, it’s a fantastic choice.
  • Extraordinary reception – The main receiver of the TS-990s is the highest-quality of any receiver in the 900 series, and has lots of incredible features like an advanced mixer, customizable filters, and a dedicated digital signal processor (DSP). That all adds up to some of the most clear, crisp audio you’ll find from any HF + 6-meter ham radio.

Bad

  • It may be overkill for some operators – The Kenwood TS-990S truly is a flagship radio, and it has a list of features, benefits, and functions that’s too long to fit into any single review. Of course, that’s a good thing. But the fact is that some ham operators may simply not use all of these features – and other radios could offer a better value. For example, the Kenwood TS-890S offers many of the same benefits of this radio for a much lower price. Before pulling the trigger, it’s worth thinking about whether or not you’ll use this radio to its full potential.
  • It really is gigantic – This isn’t a radio you’ll want to move around after you’ve set it up. If you don’t have a sturdy desk in a dedicated ham shack, you may want to look for something else. This beast of a radio weighs in at a scale-tipping 54 pounds, and it’s about 18 inches wide, 7 inches high, and and 17.6 inches deep.

Bottom line

Is the Kenwood TS-990S worth it? The answer is “yes” – if you have the budget for it, you want the very best of the best, and you know you’ll make full use of its powerful suite of features. If that sounds like you, pull the trigger.

But if you’re not sure that you’ll use the TS-990S to its full potential, it may be worth saving a few thousand dollars and picking up its “little brother,” the TS-890S, or even looking into a competing radio like the IC-7610. Still, though, the TS-990S is legendary for a reason. Once you’ve used one, it’ll be hard to go back to another radio.

Product Specs

Frequency range
(Transmitter)
160m band
80m band
60m band
40m band
30m band
20m band
17m band
15m band
12m band
10m band
6m band
1.8 ~ 2.0 MHz
3.5 ~ 4.0 MHz
5.1675, 5.25 ~ 5.45 MHz
7.0 ~ 7.3 MHz
10.1 ~ 10.15 MHz
14.0 ~ 14.35 MHz
18.068 ~ 18.168 MHz
21.0 ~ 21.45 MHz
24.89 ~ 24.99 MHz
28.0 ~ 29.7 MHz
50.0 ~ 54.0 MHz
Frequency range (Receiver)0.13 ~ 30 MHz, 50 ~ 54 MHz*1
VFO: Continuous 30 kHz ~ 60 MHz
ModeA1A (CW), J3E (SSB), F1B (FSK),
G1B (PSK), A3E (AM), F3E (FM)
Frequency stabilityWithin ±0.1 ppm 32 °F~122 °F (0 °C ~ +50 °C)
Antenna impedance50 Ω
Antenna tuner load range16.7 Ω ~ 150 Ω
Supply voltageAC 120 V ±10 % (60 Hz)
Power
consumption
At transmit
(maximum)

At receive
(no signal)
720 VA or less
120 VA or less
Usable temperature range32 °F~122 °F(0 °C~+50 °C)
DimensionsWithout projection

Include projection

At front leg up position
W18.11 x H6.50 x D15.75 in(W460 x H165 x D400 mm)
W18.11 x H7.17 x D17.68 in(W460 x H182 x D449 mm)
WeightApprox. 54.01 lbs (24.5 kg)
Output power
CW/SSB/FSK/
PSK/FM (AM)
200 W (50 W)
ModulationSSB:Balanced, AM:Low Power, FM:Reactance
Maximum frequency deviation (FM)wide: ±5 kHz or less, narrow: ±2.5 kHz or less
Spurious emissionsHF (Harmonics) : -60 dB or less
HF (others) : -50 dB or less
50 MHz: -66 dB or less
Carrier suppression-60 dB or less
Unwanted sideband suppression-60 dB or less
Transmit frequency responseWithin -6 dB (300 ~ 2700 Hz)
Microphone impedance600 Ω
XIT variable range±9.999 kHz

Circuit typeMain


Sub1*2


Sub2*3
Double
superheterodyne

Double
superheterodyne

Triple
superheterodyne
Intermediate
frequency
1st IF



2nd IF (FM)


3rd IF (FM)
8.248 MHz
11.374 MHz
73.095 MHz

24 kHz/ (455 kHz)
24 kHz
10.695 MHz
24 kHz / (455 kHz)
Sensitivity
(TYP)
SSB, CW,
FSK, PSK
(S/N 10 dB)




AM
(S/N 10 dB)




FM
(12 dB SINAD)
0.5 μV (0.13 ~ 0.522 MHz)
4 μV (0.522 ~ 1.705 MHz)
0.2 μV (1.705 ~ 24.5 MHz)
0.13 μV (24.5 ~ 30 MHz)
0.13 μV (50 ~ 54 MHz)

6.3 μV (0.13 ~ 0.522 MHz)
32 μV (0.522 ~ 1.705 MHz)
2 μV (1.705 ~ 24.5 MHz)
1.3 μV (24.5 ~ 30 MHz)
1.3 μV (50 ~ 54 MHz)

0.22 μV (28 ~ 30 MHz)
0.22 μV (50 ~ 54 MHz)
Image Rejection Ratio (50 MHz)70 dB (60 dB) or more
IF Rejection Ratio70 dB or more
SelectivitySSB
(LO:200 / HI:2800 Hz)
CW, FSK, PSK
(WIDTH:500 Hz)
AM
(LO:100 / HI:3000 Hz)
FM

FM
2.4 kHz or more (-6 dB)
4.4 kHz or less (-60 dB)
500 Hz or more (-6 dB)
1.2 kHz or less (-60 dB)
6.0 kHz or more (-6 dB)
12 kHz or less (-50 dB)
12 kHz or more (-6 dB)
25 kHz or less (-50 dB)
XIT variable range±9.999 kHz
Notch filter attenuation60 dB or more (Auto), 70 dB or more (Manual)
Beat cancel attenuation40 dB or more
Audio output1.5 W or more (8 Ω)
Audio output impedance8 Ω

Expert reviews

  • Laboenligne.ca reviewed the Kenwood TS-990S, and had a very positive impression of this radio. He liked the support for internet connectivity, and said that the radio is “actually quite easy to operate,” despite its host of buttons, knobs, and dials. He also he liked that most of the common functions on the radio are right at your fingertips, and that after initial setup, there’s not usually a need to navigate through a lot of menus when operating the radio. He called it an “amazing radio” overall.
  • YouTuber Oxford Shortwave Log called the TS-990S “arguably one of the best HF rigs on the market.” He liked the large size of the radio, and the “excellent quality” of all of the controls and buttons, as well as its 200 watts of transmission power. He also was a fan of the large, 7-inch touchscreen with its waterfall display and real-time spectrum scope, comparing it favorably to the Icom IC-7300. Oxford Shortwave Log also loved the dual-band design, and “superb” TX audio of the TS-990S.

User reviews

  • On eHam.net, users have given the TS-990S a rating of 4.7 stars out of 5, out of 110 total reviews. Overall, they were very positive about this radio, calling it “the best the world has to offer at any price,” saying that it’s “the best Kenwood on the market,” and praising “how amazing the receiving and filters are.” A few users also noted the huge size and weight of the radio, with one calling it a “boat anchor.”
  • On DXEngineering, the Kenwood TS-990S has a rating of 5 out of 5 stars, with only 1 review as of publication time. The reviewer said that the radio’s “fit and finish quality is beautiful,” that the 990s has a “top notch receiver that will compete with the best of them,” and that “the noise reduction using Audio Peak Filter (APF) is superb.

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