Kenwood TS-2000 review

Kenwood TS-2000


General overview

From a functional standpoint, the TS-2000 is two transceivers in one box. It is an HF transceiver that incorporates many of the features of the TS-570 and the TS-870 (while adding a few of its own), as well as a variation of the multifaceted TM-D700A. Its delineation is not quite that simplistic, however. The TS-2000 is a complex matrix of transceiver components that allows it to operate as two independent radios in one box. It can allow the user to operate on HF and either VHF or UHF simultaneously, which is something that recent offerings in the arena of 160m to 70cm all-mode radios cannot currently do. It also has the capability of operating as a full-duplex VHF and UHF transceiver for the purpose of working the OSCARs, or similar applications. What is truly unique is the on-board packet TNC that was borrowed from the TH-D7G, which has the ability to transfer data over the air at selectable rates of 1200 and 9600 bps. Tables 1 through 4 show the general specifications of the TS-2000.

Physical characteristics

Kenwood has listed a number of distinctive features in their promotional literature. However, it is my opinion that they have overlooked an important feature that definitely adds value from a consumer perspective: ruggedness. The box that houses the electronics is an aluminum casting. The fasteners are of a good quality, and the machine work is very high-caliber. When viewed in comparison to some radios that come in a thin-walled, spot-welded enclosure, the TS-2000 has extraordinary structural integrity.

The front panel is a stylistic ergonomic design. I found that everything was easily accessed, and functionally well organized. I appreciated the fact that the buttons were not too small for me to control, and that the markings were easy for me to read. Of course, the most important feature of any HF radio is how good the tuning knob feels. This one has all the feel of something superbly machined. There is no wobble that I could detect, and the motion is smooth and easy. The tuning rate is front panel menu controllable at rates of 500 and 1000 Hz-per-revolution. This tuning rate may be reduced by a factor of 10 by depressing the FINE button on the front panel. Did I mention that the tuning knob has a nice feel to it?

The rear panel is also well designed. There is a minimum of clutter. The RF connectors are placed in such a manner as to minimize coax runs from their respective circuit boards. There are two selectable HF ports, as well as a handy RCA jack input for the ham who has a beverage or two that he or she would like to employ. The really nice thing is that the RCA jack is menu-selectable. There is no need to pull the cover off and manipulate a tiny microswitch.

There is a nice feature brought forward from (if I remember correctly) the TS-570. There are two separate CW interface ports. One is the standard stereo jack for the keyer paddles. The other is a direct keying jack that functions in parallel with the keyer. This is really nice when using your favorite contest logging software. You can operate the keying function of the logging software and the internal paddle simultaneously. And I might as well mention it now: There is also a menu item that allows the keyer to override the direct keying port if the operator so desires.

Circuitry overview

As I stated earlier, the TS-2000 operates by the carefully planned manipulation of a matrix of common circuitry, as well as a cadre of dedicated components. For example, the receiver front ends and transmitter power amplifiers operate as common assets for the two receivers. There are, in essence, two independent receivers. One is referred to as the MAIN receiver, and the other the SUB receiver. The MAIN receiver's frequency is displayed in the prominent central position above the main tuning knob, while the SUB receiver is displayed in a half-sized font to the right. There is an exception to this, of course, as in the case of satellite operation, where the A and B bands may be switched back and forth, and when the MAIN unit is operating in SPLIT mode. It should be noted that even when something other than the SUB receiver's frequency is being displayed in the right window, it continues to operate normally. This is to say that the SUB function is not suspended when the MAIN section is operating SPLIT.

The audio detection of the various operating modes (other than FM in the SUB receiver) is accomplished in the final IF using DSP. The ability to set the center frequency and width of the IF DSP filter on the fly means that there are no expensive crystal or mechanical filters to purchase. However, since both receivers cannot use DSP detection simultaneously, the SUB receiver only operates on FM and AM. There are a number of audio DSP algorithms available to the MAIN receiver (which will be discussed in a bit). DSP is used in the transmit path as well. This allows the user to program special RX and TX audio characteristics from the main menu. The frequency response of the RX and TX may be tailored to the specific tastes of the operator, or, if you are a kind-hearted soul, to the tastes of the listener at the other end.

There are three RF power amplifiers (four with the 1296 module installed). All three amplifiers run class AB, allowing linear operation on SSB and AM. They are quite rugged as well. The 2m and HF/6m amps shown in Fig. 1 are on the large board on the underside of the radio, and both are capable of 100 watts. The 440 amp is on its own board, and puts out 50 watts. Here is a case where the aluminum casting design comes in quite handy. It functions well as a heatsink, and is cooled by a very quiet fan that is controlled by temperature sensors.

I almost forgot to mention the superb automatic tuner that is included with the TS-2000. This is one of the better ones that I have used so far. While most of the automated tuners intended to drive coaxial antenna circuits are limited to around a 3:1 VSWR, this one is not. It has successfully tuned circuits with an indicated VSWR greater than 6:1. It has its limitations, though, and it will tell you up front. The limit appears to be in the 6:1 range, and will refuse to tune above that. It will also send you a polite "SWR" in Morse code to let you know that the tuning limit has been exceeded (a warning to you "slow-coders" out there - it's faster than 5 wpm). I was very pleasantly surprised at the speed and range of this tuner.

Back to DSP

Part of the genius of this radio is the way in which it does signal processing. In this radio there is not one, but two independent DSP chips (see Photo J). They both run at a clock speed of 100 MHz, and actually communicate with each other when performing their individual tasks.

I have already mentioned that the operator may select preset frequency contouring for receive and transmit audio from the menu. What I did not mention is that the soon-to-be-released ARCP2000 radio control software will provide the ability to personalize one of those menu items. I hope to have a separate feature on that software in the near future. (I wrote this review during and after the big earthquake here in Seattle, so I didn't get a chance to review the software.)

As for the IF filters, there are default settings that come up when a given mode is selected for the first time. You may then select the center and width of the filter for that mode according to your own tastes, and the radio will remember that setting from then on. You don't need to re-enter these settings every time you turn the radio on. For your convenience, the center frequency and filter width are set using two vernier knobs in the lower left-hand corner of the front panel. The front panel shows both analog and alphanumeric displays of the filter settings.

Another aspect of the power of this formidable DSP engine is the ability to reduce broadband noise and coherent interference. The MAIN receiver enjoys two types of noise reduction filters. The first, called NR1, is a linear adaptive filter that is similar to that found in many modern transceivers. What is noteworthy is that the threshold of NR1 mode is front panel selectable, or may be left in the AUTO mode. I have played with this a bunch, and found that leaving it in the AUTO mode works fine for me, especially when working SSB and FM. I should mention that the SUB receiver can employ this filter as well, but only this one.

The others are not available

The second mode is NR2, which is a correlation algorithm that has a variable duration of 2 to 20 msec. This is an excellent filter for CW use, but takes a little time to get used to. I have found that a setting of 8 msec is ideal for the type of CW operating that I enjoy, which ranges in speeds from about 18 to 30 wpm. It also took me a little time to get used to the mechanical artifact sound of the background noise. It sounds more like a babbling brook than the soft hiss of a Collins 73S3. Not to worry, though. It will sound normal to you in no time.

The TS-2000 has three, count them, THREE digital mechanisms for getting rid of those pesky 40m AM carriers and careless tuner-uppers. The first is an automatic notch filter with a variable threshold that can be controlled from the front panel. This is useful if there is some distortion or other modulation characteristics present on the unwanted carrier. There is also a beat-canceler, which leaves the IF passband alone, and removes the note from the audio. It is an adaptive filter that can handle more than one beat note, and will automatically shift frequency in synch with those tones that drift about. If you're like me and have been frustrated by the efficiency of these types of unwanted tone removers, especially when they work so well at also canceling the station you want to listen to on CW, then fret no more. The TS-2000 also has a MANUAL beat canceler. This is great! I finally have the ability to notch out that nudnik who likes to tune up on me when I am in QSO on CW. What a blessing, and it works very well. And what's better is that it doesn't introduce a lot of distortion to the passband like the analog notch filters do.

There are some additional features associated with the DSP engine in this radio, like the vernier control of the AGC, that you can discover on your own.

Additional features

This radio is so feature-rich that if I were to describe all of them, this article would cease to be an operator's review, and become a rewrite of the operator's manual. But there are a few that should be mentioned, the first of which is the memory and configuration management capability of the TS-2000. There are 300 memory channels available, which are easily programmable from the front panel. Let me tell you that this is a real blessing. These channels may also be programmed with an alphanumeric name tag (also from the front panel) that facilitates easy recall of just why-in-the-heck I saved each frequency and mode. These memory channels may also be grouped and scanned in 10 subgroups. This is quite handy for segregating the frequent- from little-used channels in the scanning process.

If you are in a hurry, and don't want to fiddle with programming a specific channel, there is also the QUICK MEMORY function that may be used in the VFO mode, and provides convenient storage of 10 channels for quick retrieval. It has been very handy for me in contests, and in pileup management. It stores things like frequency, RIT settings, operating mode (CW, USB, etc.), and interference rejection modes.

There are also two generic memories for storing the basic configuration of the radio. If you operate the radio as both a mobile and base station, the entire configuration of the radio (all of the menu-controllable items) may be stored for those two operating environments. Another use would be simply to differentiate between primarily CW or SSB operation, or between contesting and rag-chewing. You get to choose, and it's all commanded by a couple of front panel keystrokes. One of the things that I feel is commendable concerning Kenwood is that fact that they DON'T charge their customers for memory control software, and make it available in downloadable form on the Internet. If you go to the http://www.kenwood.net web page, you can download a program called MCP2000 that allows for simple programming, storage, and retrieval of these formidable memory functions. Figs. 1, 2, and 3 are screen captures of MCP2000. Fig. 2 shows an expanded control panel that allows detailed programming of each memory channel shown in Fig. 1. Fig. 3 shows how each menu memory setting may be programmed without having to go to a separate panel for providing the programming detail. This software is a must. I highly recommend it, and it's FREE.

Packet terminal node controller

One area where Kenwood has been out front in the development of technology for us radio amateurs is in the inclusion of packet terminal node controllers (TNCs) in their transceivers. They started with a handheld (TH-D7G), and quickly included their flagship dual-band mobile (TM-D700A). They have closed the product line loop with the TS-2000. The TS-2000 service manual states that the TNC is the same one developed for the TH-D7 by Tasco. It appears to me, at least, that this is the same product that has gone into the TH-D7 and TM-D700, and the Alnico DR135TP. Only minor variations in the command set for the TNC in each radio exist. Kenwood's statement about the derivation of the TS-2000's TNC appears to be right on the mark. Although there is no obvious way to connect a GPS receiver to the TS-2000, the GPS commands found in the TH-D7 instruction set can be observed when sending the DISP command to the TNC in the TS-2000. I am hoping that a future "blue-wire" mod will come forth from either Kenwood or the general amateur community that will allow GPS interface via one of the unused ACC ports (hint, hint).

The TNC itself is a modest performer, and has been well chronicled in other reviews that feature the radios mentioned above that also have it on board. Interface between the TNC and a PC or laptop is accomplished via a DB-9 serial port on the back of the radio. No high-priced level converters are required. In the case of the TS-2000, the TNC's function is enhanced by its ability to access the DSP chipset to provide some prefiltering when operating AFSK at 1200 bps. At 9600 bps, the TNC has a direct analog route to the outside world via the FM modulator and discriminator. KISS mode for TCP/IP is included, and I can vouch for the fact that it seems to work quite well at both baud rates. I had an opportunity to test it on the local TCP/IP network that is run by Puget Sound's WetNet Experimenters Group.

Although the APRS functionality found in the TM-D700 is not included in the TS-2000, there is yet one very unique and useful internal function that it can perform. It is called the Packet Cluster Tune (PCT) function. This is really slick, and it works like this. The user sets the SUB RX to the local DX packet cluster frequency, sets the SUB RX as the data band, and turns on the PCT function. When a packet cluster DX spot announcement is received, the frequency, callsign and other related data appear in the SUB window. The information is also automatically written to the QUICK MEMO pad for later retrieval.

The PCT function may be configured by front panel menu commands to do the following. First, it will provide an announcement to the operator in the form of a beep, a CW recital of the callsign, or (if you have the optional VS-3 voice synthesizer unit installed) a voice announcement of the same. That's not all. You can also set this function to automatically set the radio to the frequency from the DX spot that is displayed in the SUB window. If that sounds like a potential inconvenience, the radio may also be configured to only change frequency when commanded to do so by depressing the SET button. I showed that function to some of the members of the Redmond Top Key Contest Club, and they got a big kick out of it. I have to admit that I have used that function quite a few times myself. It really helps to keep the traffic density down on the packet cluster channels, as this is a passive feature (meaning it doesn't require any transmitting). With the dual radio personality of the TS-2000, the monitoring of the packet cluster channel is uninterrupted while carrying on a QSO on HF.

Wrap-up

There is much more that I could write about the features and performance of this radio. I intend to write a separate review on the anticipated ARCP2000 remote control software that is soon to be released with their introduction of the "box" version of the radio. You heard me right. By the time you read this, Kenwood will have released the TS-B2000, which is a blank-faced version of the TS-2000 that may be controlled by the ARCP2000 software on a PC or laptop, and via the R2000 remote control head (borrowed from the TM-D700). In that review, I will also talk a bit about the following features:
  • Sky Command II
  • Crossband repeat
  • Remote control
  • Microphone control
  • Direct FSK operation
  • Satellite operation
  • User-defined digital filtering of RX and TX audio

Until then, I encourage you to have a close look at this fine radio for yourself. My neighbor did, and went in and bought one for himself, and he is very critical of radios - their performance and features, that is. That in and of itself is a testimony to the impact that this rig can have on hams who come in contact with it.

The bottom line is that Kenwood has not just produced an excellent radio. What they have done is to further the state-of-the-art in affordable amateur equipment. And I will stand by my assertion that this radio provides a very high level of features and performance for its price, which, by the way, is currently about $2,270 over the counter. When I first heard about its impending introduction, I was certain that the price would easily exceed three kilobucks. Having said that, I believe that the price including the optional accessories such as the VS-3 voice synthesizer, the DRU-3A digital recording unit, the R2000 remote kit, and the soon-to-be-released UT-20 1296 module, will drive the total cost over that mark. However, these are optional items that can be purchased later based on a value-added decision that concerns your own operating needs and desires. The radio as it stands today is quite impressive.

Congratulations and thanks to Kenwood for maintaining their vision, engineering and manufacturing skills, as well as the financial commitment required to continue to provide innovative products to the amateur radio marketplace.

 

Article originally available here http://elkel.ca/kenwood_a/ts-2000_review!.htm by d r.o l s e n.r i ck 

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