An Intro to the Shack/Antennas and
Flagship Transceiver – TS990 Resources
After many years of running the Kenwood TS870 – it was time for an shack upgrade.
The 870 has been a superb workhorse and coupled with the W2IHY 8-Band EQ, W2IHY EQ-Plus and the Heil Goldline GM5 (now discontinued), this line-up has served me extremely well for over 15 years. The TS870 is known for its great audio and coupled with the W2IHY gear it really did sound pretty good.
UPDATE for Winter 2021-22. The shack renovation has been completed with the help from my XYL Gail who’s a great decorator. She also helped choose the colour scheme. The shack wiring and all ancillary work is now completed and I’m now back on air after a few years out of action.
All the final work on the new antennas is now completed [all my own new bespoke designs that I never intended to sell]. Over the last few months I’ve been testing the 2 new main HF Yagis. My own version of a 20/17 and 15m full-sized single feed interlaced 10 element Yagi [3 on 20, 3 on 17 and 4 on 15m] is working exceptionally well. It has totally different spacings and boom length when compared to the nearest commercially available alternative [Optibeam OB10-3W] and it doesn’t need a 2:1 Balun. SWR on 20 and 17 is pretty flat and on 15 never goes above 1.4:1 – It’s bang on the nose over all bands, with gain and front-to-back exactly as per the model.
Watch out on this one – it may well be for sale as a limited production run later
What isn’t right is the 10m 6 element LOQ-WA Yagi which sits 2.5m above it. The antenna would work fine and as per model, but the separation is too low and unfortunately it interacts with the larger HF tri-bander below it. So, to reduce interaction, I’m going to turn it 90 degrees to the HF Yagi as the model shows a much more favourable pattern. SWR and bandwidth are fine, but the gain and pattern are currently poor. I recon I’m loosing about 1.5 to 2.0dbi in forward gain and a rubbishy skewed pattern.
The planned installation of two new electric tower winches planned for 2021 got delayed. These will be fitted in the Spring of 2022. As a finale, I’ll also put the 40m 4-square into service using a Comtek ACB-40 phasing box.
So – what’s going on here in the G0UIH shack?
That’s the first addition. Here’s a run-down from Kenwood UK and a PDF download of the RADCOM review from June 2013 by Peter Hart G3SJX. In addition – here’s the February 2014 ARRL QST Review by Rick Lindquist WW1ME – PDF Download.
The ‘Avalon VT737SP Audio Processor‘ is probably the world’s best know professional tube pre-amp and compressor. Used by artists such as ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘The Spice Girls’ and ‘Shakira’ just to name a few, this baby really rocks. The VT-737 has three input connectors: a front panel unbalanced quarter-inch mono TRS jack and rear mounted XLRs for the transformer balanced microphone input, and discrete high-level class-A Line input amplifiers. Alongside the pre-amplifier is the opto-compressor which features twin class-A triodes for gain matching. The amount of control for the dynamics is enough to put most compression boxes to shame. The four-band EQ isn’t parametric, nor is it the standard sweep variety, it’s more of a cross between the two. The two mid-range EQs are probably the most dynamic equalizers you will find on any pre-amplifier. Many equalizers will sound good when they are processing signals, but fail the test when they are set to flat by colouring the signal that passes through them. Not so with the VT-737. All-in-all you’d struggle to better it. See more here on Avalon’s site, read some reviews here and see what the pro’s think here.
Coming Soon – Avalon VT737-SP Tube Upgrade to premium E188CC tubes
A great audio upgrade for the VT-737SP by using premium E188CC (NOS – ‘New Old Stock’) tubes in place of the standard Sovtek 6922’s. Not the cheapest option – but wow, can you tell the difference.
Symetrix 528E Audio Processor – Secondary Backup Processor
The ‘Symetrix 528E Audio Processor‘ is not new but over the years has developed a following in the ham community as being one of the best audio mike pre-amps and compressors around. Originally manufactured in the early 1990’s by Symetrix of Washington State (USA), the 528E became extremely popular in the early days of ESSB. Although now discontinued, it is still in high demand. Probably only bettered by the superb ‘Avalon VT-737SP‘ Mic tube Pre-amp.
Klark Teknik DN-370 Professional Analogue EQ
Designed and manufactured in the UK, the Klark Teknik DN370 is a modern 30 band dual-channel EQ which is a current 2018 production model. Klark Teknik designs and develop professional signal processing and audio equipment. Located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK, the company was founded in 1974 by brothers Terence and Phillip Clarke. It developed a number of new types of equipment in the audio field, winning a Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 1986 so we are proud to run some ‘British’ hi-end audio processing gear here at Vortex.
Reviews of the DN370 say this is a superbly clean unit being extremely transparent.
The Kenwood TS990 has an in-built 18-band EQ and whilst this covers the central part of most audio frequencies, it cannot handle frequencies below 100hz and above 5.1khz. Given that the microphone response of the PR40 is in the range of 28hz-18khz, the DN340 will enhance areas where the generic 990’s EQ can’t reach.
To quote from a current owner..
“This professional hi-end EQ is a real beauty. Great controls with 45mm oil-damped sliders and fully balanced inputs and outputs it just oozes quality. It’s certainly not one of your run-of-the-mill graphic EQ’s.
First live test last night and it had the best musical sound. It’s very, very clean and superbly transparent. Variable Notch filters are VERY powerful tools, >18dB attenuation, Q=32. A couple of well located notch filters, one at 90Hz augmented by further attenuation on the relevant fader gave me -30dB (at very high Q) there for some nasty in-room resonances, and -18dB at 250Hz (notch filter alone) cleared up some endemic muddiness. The Proportional-Q (versus prior Symmetrical-Q model) seems to have reduced / eliminated “ripple” effects. The result is remarkably increased clarity and a unit that just shines above everything else.”
Neumann TLM 103 Microphone
The Neumann TLM 103 is a large diaphragm condenser mic used in many professional recording studios. I had originally planned to use one in the setup but quickly found out that that it was far from optimum for radio/shack use. Often regarded as a studio ‘Workhorse’ and manufactured by Georg Neumann (Berlin), Germany. The Neumann name is one of the most famous in the broadcast industry and mics such as the famous Neumann U87 need no introduction. Our own Neumann was the TLM103MT Studio Set. The ‘MT’ suffix refers to the microphone finished in black rather than silver/nickel.
As mentioned above, I purchased a great second-hand TLM103 but found that it was so overly sensitive. During testing it was picking up everything in the shack [and the kitchen]. you could hear a pin drop at 20 meters. Add my ‘Blower Fan’ on the HF amp into the mix – it was just real overkill. Even the downward expander and noise-gate couldn’t cope. The ‘103’ is an excellent mike in a controlled studio environment – but using a very super sensitive condenser mic in a noisy shack, then it just wasn’t the correct route.
So – after a week of pondering, I settled for the Heil PR40 dynamic mic. I also looked at the Electrovoice RE20 and RE27 plus a whole host of other mics. After reading some reviews, many said the RE27 was overly ‘bright’ and the RE20 didn’t seem to be freely available. I chose the PR40 firstly because Bob Heil understands the needs of the ham and the pattern on the PR40 is very forward facing.
There’s literally no noise when you go off-centre and the rejection to the sides and the rear is first-rate. It’s also covers a really nice wide bandwidth from 28hz up to 18kHz. If I need any additional EQ’ing – then the DN370 can take care of that.
Kenwood TS990 Resources and Files
User Manual – Download (63Mb)
User Manual (INCLUDES NEW 2019 V1.23 FIRMWARE UPDATES) – Download (82Mb)
User Manual (INCLUDES NEW 2023 V1.26 FIRMWARE UPDATES) – Download (93Mb)
Service Manual Part 1 – Download (8Mb)
Service Manual Part 2 – Download (10Mb)
In Depth Manual – Download (17Mb)
Amplifier Keying – Wiring Data – Download (0.1Mb)
Kenwood USB Audio Manual V1 – Download (0.4Mb)
Kenwood USB Audio Manual V2 – Download (0.4Mb)
Kenwood PC Control Command Manual (Rev 1.0 – 2015) – Download (0.8Mb)
Virtual Com Port Driver Setup – Download (0.8Mb)
TS 990 Sales Brochure 2013 [Kenwood UK] PDF – Download (2Mb)
TS 990 FT-8 Settings – Download (1Mb)
Kenwood Software Links and Documentation
Current TS990 Software Direct from Kenwood – Link here to Kenwood’s site
TS990 – ARCP 990 V1.04 Download (36Mb)
TS990 – ARCP 990 V1.04 – Info PDF Download (0.2Mb)
TS990 – ARUA 10 V4.00 Download (6Mb)
TS990 – ARUA 10 V4.00 – Info PDF Download (0.2Mb)
TS990 – Virtual Com Port Drivers (Win10) Download (1Mb)
TS990 – Virtual Com Port Drivers (Win7/8) Download (6Mb)
Kenwood Network Command System (KNS) Revision 2 – Download (1Mb)
Kenwood Network Command System (KNS) Revision 3 – Download (1Mb)
Kenwood TS-990 Mods
MARS Mod and Expanded TX (Tnx PA2DB) – Download (01.Mb)
Add an IF Output port to your TS990 (quite involved) – Download (3.3Mb)
Retransmit Recorded Receive Audio (Tnx WD8DAS) – Download (0.1Mb)
Transmit Output Power (Tnx WB4JWM) – Download (0.1Mb)
Noise Blanker 2 (NB2) revised functionality – Download (0.1Mb)
Who said the TS990 Noise Blankers didn’t work – Check this out (132Mb Video .mp4)
Current TS-990 Firmware
PDF list of all firmware revisions (Up to V1.26 September 2023) – Download Here (4 Mb)
The latest firmware (V1.26) September 2023 – Download Here (13Mb)
Firmware Tip!! – Your USB/Memory Stick should be formatted ‘FAT32’ for the TS990 to read it successfully – ‘DO NOT FORMAT NTFS’ (The TS990 does not have an NTFS file system!). When you have formatted your USB stick, place the firmware ‘zip’ file in the top-level route directory.
Older TS-990 Firmware Versions
- Add a second SP 990 Speaker to your line-up (Tnx ZP5BVK) – Download (0.1Mb)
- Upgrade the insulation material [this upgrade retains the original Kenwood driver] in the
SP 990 using a K99A ‘Phonema‘ upgrade
- Upgrade the driver in the SP 990 using a ‘Phonema ‘GPH-X90
- Upgrade the insulation material AND the speaker driver unit in the SP 990.
Our ‘Homebrew’ version sounds exceptional and less than half the price of trying to import ‘Phonema‘ units from EU. Internal acoustic materials by QTA Systems, Cambridge – UK
See much more here on how the project came together.
- TS990 Transmit Audio Setup by AB4BJ – Download (0.2 Mb)
- Join the Kenwood TS990 .io user group here – a multitude of 990 owners and real-time user information.
More links and resources will be added when available.
Do you have a TS990 related item to share? – if so send it to us for inclusion on this page.
This page and links last updated October 21st 2023.