New Ham - Looking for first real transceiver - Kenwood TS-520S ?

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weirdaljr

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Hey All,

I am a new ham and, due to limited budget and time I have not gotten a real home station setup. I have just used a small mobile unit I have had, but I have been keeping my eye out for local used equipment like craigslist and similar and recently found a Kenwood TS-520S Hybrid Transceiver that I am considering.

To add some background I am a electronics hobbyist and I do enjoy repairing circuits, so I have been open to units that are in need of repair as it is a good way for me to learn the technology. That said I am in my 30s so I do not have a lot of experience with tube technology, even though I am pretty confident I would have much of a issue repairing tube based equipment with service manuals and the internet. I really do not have a specific use in mind other then trying some DXing in the future and talking to a friend on 20m about 100 miles away.

This particular TS-520S is from a local ham and in fully working condition and includes a Kenwood mic, spare tube set, and has 3 crystals installed that are included for $300. I know this was a highly rated hybrid from the 70s with excellent reviews from my research, but since I wasn't in a big rush and I wanted to find a good deal for a good quality radio to start out with I wanted to ask you all what you thought about this as my first unit as far as the quality, usability, and pricing for this particular setup.

Any thoughts, opinions, and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance all!
 

W9BU

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Just understand that the Kenwood hybrid transceivers have vacuum tube final amplifiers. The care and feeding of vacuum tubes is a bit more labor intensive than transistorized finals. If the seller is willing to spend some time with you teaching you how to use the transceiver, then I don't see a problem with this.

That said, the Kenwood hybrids were pretty good radios in their day and a good used one is fairly desirable.

Oh, you mention that you want to talk to a friend on 20m over a distance of about 100 miles. 20m is generally not a good band for that short of a distance. 20m is more suited for cross-continent or intercontinental communications. For that distance, 75m would probably be a better choice.
 

jwt873

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That radio was current when I was a new ham. I recall drooling over radios like this as I browsed through the ads in various ham publications of the day. But unfortunately I was a starving college student and equipment like that was way out of my price range :) I got by with a second-hand beat-up Heathkit HW-100

As W0BU points out, the radio has tube finals. You have to tweak and tune every time you change bands or change frequency by any large degree. A good dummy load is a must.

But one plus is that tube finals use a pi network output which allows for tuning a range of antenna resistances. Modern solid state rigs are fixed at 50 ohms which requires a tuner to match anything else.

I found a YouTube video showing what you have to do in order to tune when you change frequencies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S4mKDySqvo
 

weirdaljr

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Thanks for the youtube and information guys!

I have been reading about the tuning procedure as well, is this something to expect on all tube based transceivers?

Also, are their any obvious pros of tube finals based solid state? Any reason a tube would be better the a solid state unit I should consider?

Hows the price @ $300 for the transceiver, mic, and tube set? Great? Average?

Thanks all!
 

K5MPH

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These radio are great HF radios i have an friend that uses one of these they have very good audio yeah you will have to tune up every time you change bands you will need an dummy load but its well worth it,this radio would make a great radio for you to start out with as an new ham.....
 

k8krh

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To much for that older radio, I would hold off, look for an ALINCO myself for $50 more you can pick a used one up on qrz.com off and on. I wouldn't touch a tube radio, tubes are hard to find , rare as a hens tooth.
DOCTOR/795
 

N5TWB

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Another thing worth noting about the TS-520S is that it does not do the WARC bands (12, 17 & 30 meters).
QFT and to note that 17 meters is a personal favorite as it's usually less crowded and draws a group of hams that love a rag-chew. I think those are good ways for new hams to get their "sea-legs" on the air so having a rig with that band is a positive, IMO.
 

SCPD

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I going to be a dissenting voice to the TS520. True, in its day it was a good radio, but so were IBM computers in their day too (oh, I hear the groans!)
This Kenwood is a old hybrid dinosaur- it doesn't have anything near a modern radio receiver capabilities; its RF stage PA's are tube technology.... not that tubes are bad, but they do age- slowly loosing their thermionic emissions; they can go 'gassy', burn out their filaments, they don't like rough handling- and are getting harder and harder to find, not to mention $$. Tube amplifiers have tuning quirks- get it wrong and watch those plates go flaming orange in a heart beat.... and you "can't set it and forget it"- every QSY requires retuning (watch that plate current!) The high voltage circuitry- filter capacitors and such, in these older radio may now be leaky, unstable-- all fixable of course- but personally I have been 'bitten' so many times I don't enjoy anything that has to do with HV.
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If it is a question of money, you can get a much better transceiver for about the same price. The problem I see, as a new ham- you are starting out with a sub-par radio without the experience to know what is good and what is mediocre. If you like to work with old radios, that's great- many hams do- but most gravitate toward them as they gain experience.
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There's my cold bucket of water tossed on it, Weirdaljr. But Hey!, that's just my opinion. Regardless, welcome to the hobby and good luck to you!
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Oh, by the way, you can use 20 meters to talk 100 miles- its not a great choice, though. Select a frequency well away from the noisy crowds, like 14.345 Try it out and see what you can do- but I think you'll find 60 a much better choice for both day and night.
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......................................CF
 

Token

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I have been reading about the tuning procedure as well, is this something to expect on all tube based transceivers?
Yes. Tube based final amplifiers do require tuning, so anything that uses a tube on the output will require some kind of tuning and loading.

Also, are their any obvious pros of tube finals based solid state? Any reason a tube would be better the a solid state unit I should consider?
Tubes tend to be a bit more forgiving of odd loads. For example I often used a light bulb as a load/tuning indicator long ago, I would not dream of doing that to a modern rig today.

I like tube gear, I use it daily. However, I cannot recommend it for a new user. Some tubes are getting hard to find. Selecting a substitute is not always easy. And if you load / tune the amp wrong you will smoke the tubes.

My recommendation is to find a good solid state rig as your first. And then move to the tube gear if you want the experience.

T!
 

k9bps

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I purchased my first HF rig back in August. I went with the Kenwood TS-690S. Has the WARC bands and you don't have to deal with crystals. I spent $375 for it on ebay. It is older (not as old as the ts-520) but it works great. I'd recommend the TS-690S. just my $0.02 worth
 
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