FCC Approves Icom ID-5100

5100The FCC approved the Icom ID-5100 on March 27, 2014.  The FCC ID for this new D-Star radio is AFJ348400.  This hopefully means that Icom will begin shipping these radios very soon.  You can review all of the available information about this radio at the FCC site.

On a similar note, Icom has also published the detailed manual at their web site.

73,

Bill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Icom ID-5100A Users Manual (Basic) Now Available!

Icom has posted the Basic User Manual for the ID-5100A on its web site.  I hope this means that the radio will be available very soon.  The manual is full of information about this potentially great new D-Star radio from Icom.

Here’s the cover of the manual.

Icom ID-5100A User Manual

Icom ID-5100A User Manual

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Transmit Audio Settings on the Kenwood TS-990

I’ve been using the Kenwood TS-990 HF transceiver for almost a year.  I’ve loved every minute of learning about the features of Kenwood’s great new flagship radio.  In addition to having a superb receiver, this rig has the ability to produce some of the best sounding “Kenwood audio” available on any HF rig without using any outboard processor.  However, as with any feature rich HF radio, there is a learning curve, and it takes a while to arrive at the best transmit audio settings for the operator’s voice and microphone.

Electro Voice RE-27

Electro Voice RE-27

After quite a bit of experimenting with my Electro Voice RE-27 interfaced to the TS-990 (and after quite a few local hams giving me advice about the settings), I came to the conclusion that I had arrived at the best set up.   There’s not just one setting to be concerned about, but after adjusting them all I arrived at the best settings for everyday use of the radio.  I use different settings when working DX in noisy conditions, but the settings I am about to describe are what I use for “normal operations”.

As I stated above, and as I also mentioned when I described my settings for my old FT-2000, these settings work for me, but your mileage may vary.  Also keep in mind that you can only get so far listening to your own transmitted audio through headphones, so I would encourage everyone to get a few helpful hams on the air with you to give you advice as you experiment.

First things first.  I always start with the Mic Gain control and make sure my transmitted audio stays within the ALC zone on the meter.  On the TS-990, you will need to set your meter to show your ALC when you transmit.  You will find your meter selection on the right hand column of your main screen.  It is the second soft button from the bottom.  I like my ALC to be right at the top edge on peaks.  I was able to achieve this with the Mic Gain control set at the center (50% or 12 o’clock).  The Mic Gain control is the center control of the far left knob on the bottom row.  I also have the speech processor activated and set at 60%.  The speech processor control is directly below the F3 key, with the adjustment knob below and to the left.

2014-03-05 20.43.27

After getting the Mic Gain set, I moved on to the Transmit Filter settings.  Next to adjusting your Mic Gain, I believe that your transmitted bandwidth is the most important setting to achieving good sounding audio.  The sky’s the limit here, but I was looking for good conversational audio – not too high and not too low.  On the TS-990, you will select your bandwidth adjustment screen by pressing and holding the “TX-FIL” soft button, located at the bottom of the right hand column of soft keys.  After a bit of tinkering, I settled on a low cut setting of 200 and a high cut setting of 2800.  The TS-990 has three programmable transmit filters, so I would encourage you to set up one for everyday use, one for DX and one just to play with.

TS-990 Transmit Filter Display

TS-990 Transmit Filter Display

Now, this is where the REAL fun began with the TS-990.  Not only does this radio have an internal graphic equalizer for transmit and receive, it has 18 bands of adjustment ranging from .3 kHz to 5.1 kHz.  This provides the user the opportunity to really tailor how their transmit audio sounds.  It also presents the opportunity to make things sound very bad!  The good news is that Kenwood has provided six pre-programmed equalizer settings, along with three user definable selections.  I would encourage you to experiment with these settings until you find one you like; however, I found that after much tweaking and adjusting, the pre-set that Kenwood has labeled “Conventional” worked best for me.  I use “High Boost 1” for DX and some nets.

TS-990 18 Band EQ Pre-Sets

TS-990 18 Band EQ Pre-Sets

Again, your mileage may vary, so use the User 1 through 3 pre-sets to create your own settings.  To activate your transmit equalizer, press the “TX EQ/SEL” button.  In the center right of the main screen you will see a box labeled “TXEQ” with an arrow pointing to your selection.  If “Conventional” is selected, your will see a “C” displayed there.  If the EQ is out of line you will see “OFF” after the arrow.  Press and hold the “TX EQ/SEL” button and a list of available pre-sets will be displayed.  Use the arrow keys to select the present you want.  If you want to adjust any of the selections, move the arrow keys until your selection is highlighted, and then press the “ADJ” soft key (F4).  You can then adjust each of the 18 bands with the sliders.

TS-990 18 Band EQ Adjustments

TS-990 18 Band EQ Adjustments

By the way, another cool feature of the TS-990 is the built in Audio Scope.  You can use this to view the characteristics of received audio, but it will also show you your transmitted audio characteristics as well.  With the bandscope active (“SCP” key) , press RF/AF (F2) to display the audio scope.

 

TS-990 Audio Scope
TS-990 Audio Scope

 

So, there you have it.  After completing these settings, everyone I have spoken with has given my great audio reports.  I see no need to use any outboard audio equipment with this radio, and believe that with the broad customization that it provides, most users will be able to find a setting or settings that fits all of their operating needs.

In summary, here are my settings I use with the TS-990 for transmit audio with my Electro Voice RE-27:

  1. Mic Gain at the center (50%)
  2. Speech Processor Activated and set at 60%
  3. Transmit Filter Bandwidth low at 200 Hz and high at 2800 Hz
  4. The 18 Band Equalizer for Transmit is set to the “Conventional” pre-set.

Have fun playing with the transmit audio settings on your Kenwood TS-990!

73,

Bill

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Eham Review of the Kenwood TS-990

I’ve had my Kenwood TS-990 for almost a year.  I’m still loving this radio and continue to greatly enjoy all of its unique features.  I’ve used a lot of HF radios over the years, and this has the best receiver I have ever heard, hands down.  When I had only been using the radio for a week I wrote a review on eHam.  The review is still accurate and relevant, so I thought I would post it here.

I have had the TS-990 for only a week, and I’m sure this review may be a bit premature; however, I wanted to share my thoughts about this fine transceiver for those who are considering making an investment in one.  Although I have had it for a short time, I was able to spend a majority of the first four days I had it delving deeply into its features, so this review comes after quite a bit of operation of the radio.

For frame of reference, I have owned a number of great HF radios over the past 25 years as a ham.  I think any reviewer is influenced by what he or she has previously used.  While I have never owned or extensively used an IC-7800, IC-7700, FT-5000 or FT-9000, I have owned and used the IC-7600, FT-2000, FTDX-3000, Flex-3000, Flex-5000A (dual receiver version) and many other less expensive HF radios.  One of my favorite “radios of the past” if the FT-1000 Mark V Field.  I can say with all honesty that the TS-990S is by far the best transceiver I have ever owned and operated.  It’s simply a great rig.  While this review cannot touch upon all aspects of this radio, I will try to cover my experience operating it as much as possible.  Please also keep in mind that the review of any radio will depend on the antenna system to some degree.  I used only a SteppIR vertical and a Pixel RF Pro 1B loop (receive only) while learning to use my new radio.

Having gotten the preliminaries out of the way, here are my thoughts (I am not a CW OP, so my comments are limited to my experience with SSB on the TS-990):

Look, Feel and Ergonomics

This radio gets an “A+” in this category.  The front panel layout is logical and the two LED screens are clear and show no signs of pixilation.  The meter is as responsive as an analog meter.  Moving from control to control is easy and intuitive, and gets easier as you learn the layout.  I especially like the touch screen aspect of the main 7 inch LED screen and band scope.  I really have no complaints about ease of use of this radio.  By the way, this radio is BIG and HEAVY, coming in at just under 60 pounds.  The menu system is easy to learn and use and is well laid out.  Many of the front panel controls take you to settings screens with a press and hold.  The scope and waterfall are crisp and clear.

Receiver

This radio has a great receiver.  There are many ways to tweak what you hear.  I have had no problem pulling in weak stations.  I have also had no problem eliminating interference from those stations that are strong and close by.  I could spend pages describing the different ways to tweak the receiver, but here is a list of highlights:

  1. Noise Reduction – the two adjustable settings are very effective and work well.
  2. Receive EQ – What can I say?  An 18 band EQ provides many options for tailoring the received audio.  There are numerous presets here, or you can configure one of three user configurations to your liking.
  3. Auto and Manual Notch – Very effective and work well.
  4. BEF – I have only played with this a little, but it works as the manual states.  I hope others will provide more about this feature.
  5. RX Filter – The three customizable filers have numerous combinations to allow the user to adjust the filtering to their liking, depending on operating conditions.  This allows great customization for user preference.  The roofing filters do a very good job.  The passband settings are variable and can be saved within the RX Filter settings.

Transmit Audio Settings

Like the receiver, the transmit audio settings can be customized in almost limitless ways.  Here are the highlights (By the way, I use a Heil Classic with this radio):

  1.  TX Filtering – You can use as much or as little bandwidth as you want to start the process of tailoring the audio.  The range here is 10 through 4000 Hz, which is very broad, indeed.
  2. TX EQ – Just like on the receive side; the rig has an 18 band TX EQ that can be customized in many ways to tailor your TX audio.  There are numerous presets and several user customizable settings.

The Mic gain and Processor settings are also widely customizable, such that any user of this radio can configure the transmit audio without the need for any outboard audio equipment.  As mentioned above, I use the Heil Classic mic.  With the proc on, the TX EQ “conventional” setting and TX filtering set at 200 on the low end and 2900 on the high end, I have received some very good audio reports.

By the way, you can observe receive and transmit audio on the built in audio scope.

Computer Interfacing

With this radio, you have three ways to simultaneously interface with a computer:  COM (DB9), USB and LAN (Ethernet).  I have all three running – the DB9 with my SteppIR controller, the USB for my logging program and the LAN to control the radio with the ARCP-990 software that is free from Kenwood.  This software is particularly nice as it provides a “clickable” band scope feature.  The radio has native full remote operation from a distant computer with the Kenwood software.

Other Features

With this radio, you can decode and transmit PSK, RTTY and CW on the internal screen.  You can attach a USB keyboard to one of three USB ports for operation of digital modes.  You can also plug a USB memory stick into one of the front USB ports to backup all of your radio settings.  The radio has digital video output (DVI) that I have used to output to a DVI monitor.  The result is a high definition view of the radio’s main screen on the monitor in front of me.  This is very nice when using the radio for PSK or RTTY.

This radio also has a complete and independent second receiver, which the documentation says is a TS-590.  The second receiver works well and has all of the same customization available as the main receiver.

The radio has four antenna inputs and an input and output for a dedicated receive antenna.

There are many more features, too numerous to list here.

Things I Don’t Like So Far

No radio is perfect.  There are a few things I don’t like so far.  The manual suffers from poor translation into English and could use improvement.  While I love having the separate receive antenna input, it is an “all or nothing” proposition.  In other words, if the receive antenna is selected, you must use it on all bands and in the sub receiver.  I hope Kenwood will fix this with the next firmware update.  I would like to see a few more customizable PF keys on the front panel, but Kenwood does have a schematic in the manual to allow you to build an outboard keypad for the PF keys.  For now, these are my main issues.

All in all, this is a great radio – the best I’ve ever owned.  From my perspective, Kenwood has raised the bar with their new flagship entry.  To me, it has been money well spent.

AB4BJ_TS990_MAY2013

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Eham Review of Studio 1 SDR Software

 

I’m having a lot of fun using Studio 1 SDR software with my Perseus receiver and Pixel magnetic loop antenna.  I recently posted a review of the Studio 1 software on eHam.  Following is the text of the review.

I have been using the Studio 1 software with my Perseus receiver and Pixel RF Pro-1B magnetic loop for several weeks.  Prior to obtaining my copy of Studio 1 I used the native Perseus software, HDSDR and SDR-Console (V2) to access my Perseus receiver and listen to a wide variety of transmissions.  I like all of these software packages, but so far Studio 1 is my favorite.  I will not comment here on the issues raised by other reviewers about customer service and similar issues, as since my purchase I have had no reason to communicate with the author of the software.  I did communicate briefly with him about the demo version and found his response to be timely and professional.

The real focus of this review is the features of Studio 1.  Yes, this software is expensive, but in my experience it has been money well spent.  Because the software and USB security dongle (for copy protection) have to be shipped from Europe, it took about two weeks for my software to arrive.  The software came in a small box with a CD and the security dongle.  The “read me” file for installation that was contained on the CD (and that can be downloaded from the web site) was straightforward and easy to follow.  The installation of the security dongle drivers was without incident or complication.  Installing the software is easier, as it only requires the creation of a folder on the hard drive for the manual copying of several files and folders.  To get the software to work with the Perseus receiver only required the manual copying of a few extra files from the supplied CD.  After this, the software came to life and worked perfectly with my receiver.  By the way, even though Studio 1 can only be used on the computer where the USB dongle is connected, you can load the software on multiple computers and simply move the dongle to the computer you want to use for SDR listening.

To me, one major benefit of this software is the ability to customize multiple work spaces that can then be saved and selected on the fly with a drop down menu.  I use multiple monitors on my PC and was able to create several different work spaces that took advantage of the 3 monitor landscape depending on how I wanted to operate the receiver at any given time.  This is a very nice feature that will let you place the main screens of the software front and center or out of the way with a simple click of the mouse.  Some operators may not like the fact that the radio has multiple floating windows for different functions; however, I find this very handy because it allows more flexibility and versatility depending on your available screen space and operating needs.  Once I got the hang of this feature it was very easy to use and experiment with.  The sky’s the limit with the number of work spaces you can create and use.  I also believe this is the best looking SDR software on the market to use with SDR receivers.

The Perseus is a highly rated SDR receiver, and Studio 1 takes advantage of this technology with its filtering and other features.  Of the four SDR packages I tested, I was able to get the best sound from Studio 1.  It is easy to insert multiple effective notch filters with a click of the mouse.  There are preset buttons for bandwidth or you can customize the bandwidth by sliding the edges as shown on the scope.  I prefer the functionality of the Perseus software for changing bandwidth (turning the mouse wheel), but the Studio 1 package is superior in most other respects.  The adjustable noise reduction control is effective at eliminating some of the harshness of the received signals.

With Studio 1, you can create multiple memory banks for storage of frequently used frequencies.  I found these easy to program and access by selecting the “MCTR” command on the RX Control to associate the open bank with the selected work space.

The spectrum scope and waterfall are easy to view and can be viewed together or in combination.  The default color scheme is good, but there are other colors available.

Tuning in a frequency can be accomplished multiple ways.  You can use memory presets, click on a signal on the scope, scroll the mouse wheel on the digital frequency indicator on the screen, or type the frequency with the keyboard.

There are many more features available that make this software a pleasure to operate and listen with.  Like any software or hardware, there are some features that are missing that I would like to see.  In many SDR packages I have used, you can choose to have the selected frequency remain centered on the scope and dial.  Studio 1 will not do this, and depending on how you have zoomed in or out, the selected frequency can move off the visible scale and computer screen.  As mentioned above, I would like to be able to adjust bandwidth by parking the crosshairs in the center of the selected frequency and use the mouse wheel to increase or decrease the frequency.  I would also like the ability to save custom bandwidths in the filter section of the RX Control panel.  Studio 1 does not have a full manual available.  While I find the software to be fairly intuitive, a manual would be nice.  Fortunately, there is a 21 page “Quick Start Guide” on the web site that covers many of the features.  This guide was last updated in September of 2013.

All in all, Studio 1 is the best SDR receive package I have used.  It is expensive (most others are freeware) but I am not disappointed by the large price I paid to own this software, as I immediately recognized that in many respects it is superior to the other packages that are available.  If you have a high-end receiver and antenna system for SDR listening, adding Studio 1 will enhance your SDR experience.

studio1

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment