Kenwood TS-440SAT HF Transciever
Recently I have purchased a Kenwood TS-440SAT with the matching power supply (PS-50) from an estate sale from a SK. From time to time I come across equipment like this, and the price was right so I just had to snatch it up. I decided to make a post about this radio outlining what I consider to be the good, the bad and the ugly with the Kenwood TS-440SAT.
This radio was sold by Kenwood in the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s. This particular model looks like it is from 1994, so it may be near the end of the production run for Kenwood at the time. It is in immaculate condition as the SK ham that had it before me took very good care of it. He still had the original boxes, packing, and even a plastic bag like dust cover for it. There is not a mark or scratch on it.
The particular model I have is the TS-440SAT with the integrated antenna tuner in it. And I must say that the tuner does work quite well. It will tune a mismatch that is 20 to 150 ohms. For a built in tuner that’s pretty darn good. This means of course that you can tune those “multi-band” antennas making this radio ideal for field day, portable ops, and for radio n00bs as well as for people with crappy antennas. I have used this radio on 80m through 10m with a G5RV antenna and the built in tuner found a good match most of the time with the exception being on the 17m WARC band. The G5RV is immensely popular as it is sold as one of those “multi-band with a tuner” antennas, so I thought it best to test this radio with that sort of antenna.
The radio is has a great layout to it and is very intuitive to operate with no menus or function keys really. The memory and VFO keys are the only thing that perhaps you will need to use a bit to get the hang of. Other than that, everything has it’s own button and or knob to turn to get the radio to do what the operator wants it to do.
There are a TON of modifications out there on the Internet for this particular radio, and I can tell that it was modified for perhaps MARS operation because there is no limit to what band it can transmit on. I tested this on a dummy load to make sure that the signal did not escape the bounds of my shack and found that it will put full output on any frequency. For those interested in the mods, you can find them here: http://www.radiomods.co.nz/kenwood/kenwoodts440.html
I also got the PS-50 power supply for this radio, and I can say that if you can get one do so. This power supply is good and very stable. I put it on a DVM and found that the voltage was good and stable at 13.94 VDC with only a minor drop to 13.86 VDC under load. The power output connection on the back has the Kenwood 6 pin connector built in, but there is a small set of screw posts for supplying power for accessories (such as a small Timewave 9+ AF DSP filter – but more on that later!). The PS-50 matches the radio and they look really great together.
The receiver on the TS-440SAT is a synthesized triple conversion superhetrodyne design. I found it to be very sensitive and could pick out some weak stations, but also noticed that noise was bigger problem than on some other radio designs. My TS-440SAT does not have any additional filters, just the stock 6 kHz wide (for AM reception) and the 2.2 kHz filter for SSB/CW/FSK operation. There are several other filters available for CW and SSB use, you just have to find them. Kenwood has always made Amateur Radio equipment with some of the best receiver designs and the TS-440SAT is of no exception. Although this old school radio is pre DSP era, I found it to be a really good performer. I compared the reciever to my Icom IC-7600, RF Space SDR-IQ reciever, and to the oldie but a goodie Kenwood TS-830S. I found that the receiver was at least on par with all of these radios but with more noise and no good way to get rid of it with the stock filters of the radio.
The notch filter on this radio is pure junk. That’s all I can say. I generally test this by tuning to WWV on 10.000 MHz and then try to notch out the 1 kHz tone that is broadcast. I simply could not do it on this radio no matter how I adjusted the NOTCH knob with the button enabled. I was able to notch out the 1 kHz tone by using an AF DSP filter from Timewave, the Timewave DSP 9+. The 9+ is a great add on to radios such as this that do not have IF or AF DSP features or have stock crappy filters. You can pick these up around the internet now for around $100 and are a must for older radios if you are used to DSP on newer rigs.
The on-board speaker also sucks. It is a top firing speaker making it a really bad idea to sit any equipment on the top of this radio. I connected an external speaker to this radio and got MUCH better sound quality from the radio. Pair a Timewave AF DSP filter and a good 3 way speaker and you have some really good sound quality. With the DSP 9+, it removed the majority of noise that I struggled with using the radio with just the noise blanker, stock filters, and crappy notch filter. The IF shift feature does also help with noise from adjacent channel interference. I used it quite a bit on 80m when there was that booming guy 3 states away that was just splattering the band 3 kHz above the frequency I was listening to.
Transmitting I found this radio to be a good performer. I tested the radio on each band using a dummy load at the band center. The power output was strong and consistent on every band giving me a bit more than 100 watts (on 40m it was 108 watts out and on 10m I had right at 100 watts). After the dummy load tests, I connected a G5RV antenna and tuned up the radio using the built-in tuner. I called CQ on 20m and after a call or two, made a QSO with Brian K4ARD in Pensacola, FL. He gave me good audio reports and a 5/9 signal report.
Adjusting RF power on this radio is a problem, since there is no way to do so without adjusting your ALC level via the Mic Gain and CAR control. I would have liked to be able to turn down the power and tried a QSO at 5 watts without worrying about my microphone gain. This used to be the norm on older tube transceivers but this is a somewhat modern solid-state design and other radios of this era had an RF power adjustment. The lack of this control baffles me a bit. Also unlike the newer radios, there are no adjustments for quality for transmitted audio, unless you connect a different microphone/mixer setup. I was just using the stock microphone, and it still got good audio reports.
Here is a quick list that shows my PROs and CONs with this particular radio. This is based on my experience and you may or may not agree because your needs and circumstances are different, so take it with a grain of salt and internally ask yourself if these particular points matter to you or not:
- PS-50 is a great matching power supply for the radio.
- The built in AT is very good.
- Small size.
- Intuitive design and no menus. Simple to use.
- Receiver performs very well! Outstanding really.
- Solid transmitter output power.
- The silver face is nice and it is a good looking HF transceiver.
- The notch filter sucks. Pretty much worthless.
- Stock filters aren’t adequate to rid yourself of noise.
- Built in top-firing speaker sucks.
- No RF power control.
Here are some pictures of the Kenwood TS-440SAT and the PS-50 power supply:
Additionally I made a short you tube video showing my Kenwood TS-440SAT and PS-50 power supply:
Here is also a link to the user manual for the Kenwood TS-440S/SAT HF Transceiver: http://inform3.kenwoodusa.com/Manuals/TS-440.pdf
I hope that you found this little review interesting and helpful. If you are looking for one of these rigs for your shack, this should be a good little overview of my experiences so that you know what to expect. If you have one of these Transceivers or have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below. If there is question you have or something else I can test, please let me know and I can try it and post it here. I hope you enjoyed this post. Happy new year to all!
Thanks, and 73! de Nick N9SJA