K3 Killer imminent?

Kenwood Corporation recently announced the October launch of the long-awaited TS-590 HF/6m transceiver. Described in some quarters as a “K3 killer”, the new transceiver uses the novel (for modern Japanese radios) approach of a single conversion receiver with a low (11.374MHz) IF on the amateur bands to give what is claimed to be exceptional dynamic range.

The news release bears careful reading, as what it doesn’t say is as interesting as what it does. The receiver will have a 6KHz roofing filter directly after the mixer, followed by a 500Hz or 2.7KHz filter (both included as standard) after the post-amplifier. But a footnote states that “For 1.8/3.5/7/14/21MHz amateur bands, when receiving in CW/FSK/SSB modes down conversion is selected automatically if the final passband is 2.7kHz or less” which suggests that a conventional (for the Japanese) up conversion will be used for the short wave bands, AM or FM modes, the WARC bands, 10 and 6m.

I think the current obsession with receiver performance figures is absurd. I am far from being a member of the Elecraft fan club, but even assuming the TS-590 does turn out to outperform the K3 on the main amateur bands, I think anyone considering swapping their K3 for the Kenwood on that basis would be foolish.

As far as I know, the Kenwood will not have an option for a second receiver, nor one for a panadapter. It will not have the transverter and external preamp interfacing (which I use to insert the MFJ noise canceller) nor an independent receive antenna input. I doubt that it will have fully isolated audio inputs for data nor a soft ALC in digital modes that allows you to vary the power output in PSK31 without fiddling with computer mixer settings to avoid IMD problems. I’m sure it won’t have an internal 144MHz option either.

Whenever I look at the features of the K3 that I am currently using, I realize that there is nothing else on the market at a price I am willing to pay, nor which would fit on my operating desk, that could do what my K3 is doing.

The price of the TS-590 will be 228,900 Yen, or about £2,000 by the time you have added on VAT (never mind the usual exorbitant UK dealer mark-up.) If it goes on sale here at £2,499 I will not be surprised. Compared to currently available HF radios and Kenwood’s previous HF models including the TS-570 to which this new rig bears a considerable similarity, the TS-590 looks overpriced for what in the end is nothing more than a compact HF/6m radio.

A K3 killer? I don’t think so!

Julian Moss, G4ILO, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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