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My May 2011 QST magazine arrived last week, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an excellent review of the new Kenwood TS-590S 160 through 6 meter transceiver. This radio is of special interest to us at Handihams because it uses the optional VGS-1 voice chip that gives excellent access to the menu system and the frequency display for blind users. Some listed features are:
• 100 W heavy-duty design
• Built-in automatic antenna tuner ( 6 ~ 160 meters )
• USB & Serial DB-9 ports for PC connectivity
• Kenwood ARCP-590 Control Software
• Kenwood ARHP-590 Radio Host Program for VOIP
• CW Auto Tune
• Beat Cancel
Although the QST article does not assess the TS-590S from the standpoint of a blind user, it is an excellent overview of the radio and is well worth the read. The article has been read for our blind members and is available in the members only section of Handiham.org.
Lyle, K0LR, and I have both taken a quick look at the ARCP-590 Control Software and we think it will be blind-accessible. Of course neither of us has that rig, so we are hoping a Handiham member who owns one will do some experimenting with the various accessibility features of the radio itself and the software, and then write up the results for us to share with our readers and podcast listeners.
For another take on the TS-590S, check out the eHam reviews. These reviews are all written by users, and if you find the post by K3UL from April 19, you will be able to read what a satisfied blind ham thinks. I'll give you some useful links at the end of this story.
I'm going to just add a few words of my own to the discussion, because I've noticed that some potentially helpful information is not necessarily part of the usual review process. I know that my blind friends will be interested in what the front panel of the radio looks like. Anyone familiar with radios like the TS-440SAT and the TS-570SAT will feel right at home (almost) with the front panel of the new 590. Unlike the vastly different layouts of the TS-480SAT or TS-2000, this radio is the familiar rectangular shape with the big main tuning knob near the bottom center. Just to the left is the keypad for direct frequency entry or band selection. The keypad follows the expected 3 by 4 arrangement. Buttons for the antenna tuner, power, and attenuator (among others) are in a familiar location at the upper left of the front panel. Below them are the headphone and microphone jacks. I'm beginning to think at this point that I would have to look at the model number to make sure I wasn't sitting in front of the venerable TS-570! On the lower right corner, easy to find, is the audio gain control. The outside concentric control is RF gain, as one would expect. The upper right corner is home to the XIT/CL control, another oft-used adjustment. Between these controls and to the right of the main tuning knob are the adjustments having to do with filtering, such as the notch control, noise blanker and IF filter. Immediately to the right of the main tuning knob are the split and M/V buttons. To the lower left of the main knob is the usual frequency lock button, which doubles as the fine tuning toggle. Other familiar buttons to the immediate left of the main tuning knob are the various mode selections. This doesn't cover everything, but it should be enough to let you know that as a blind user, you will be in somewhat familiar territory if you have already familiarized yourself with the TS-570, or to a lesser extent with the TS-440.
In a sense, radios are like other technologies in that switching between models and brands can be a problem. Imagine, for example, what would happen if the main controls in cars were not standardized. If turning the steering wheel clockwise made the car turn right in one model, but left in another, or if the brake were a pedal in one but a button on the steering wheel in another, you can imagine the disastrous consequences for anyone trying to switch between cars! So one unspoken and really significant feature in the TS-590S is this familiar feel and standardization. I'm just putting it out there as one more reason Kenwood has hit a home run with this model!
For Handiham World, I'm...
Now, here are the links I promised: (See Handiham.org.)