Kenwood TS-590S Audio Profiles - W1AEX


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Some General Observations

I purchased my TS-590S in May of 2011 and after doing the usual things that have to be done when sliding a new transceiver onto the operating bench my initial impressions were very positive. I find the receiver to be very pleasant to listen to with every mode and the front panel controls are nicely positioned to allow adjusting functions such as receive bandwidth very easily. Connection to the computer through a standard USB cable and USB port is an easy procedure if you follow the directions supplied by Kenwood. Once that connection is established, the TS-590S will talk with any program on your computer that allows you to map the audio input and output to the USB audio input and output ports of the rig. This allows you to easily configure the usual digital communication programs used by hams without the need for any hardware between the rig and your computer. It also allows you to use a few other interesting programs such as Adobe Audition to make mp3 recordings or Voice Shaper to play around with some simple voice processing with your computer. To really unlock the potential of this rig Kenwood provides a free program called ARCP-590 that provides you with the ability to control every aspect of the radio with your PC.

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One of the capabilities offered by the ARCP-590 software is a feature that allows you to visually scan up to 2 MHz of the spectrum to see what kind of activity might be present. I often use this to scan the 6 meter band to catch band openings. Depending on how wide you set the scan, you can see beacons as well as CW and SSB operators who are operating within the scan range. The picture below shows visual scans of the 40 meter and 6 meter bands on a cold November night. As you can see, not surprisingly the 40 meter band was showing heavy activity between 7.100 MHz and 7.300 MHz and while I was messing around with this page it looks like I missed another 6 meter opening! When you are paying attention, you can see at a glance from across the room if a band is open or not. It only takes a few seconds to sweep whatever bandwidth you define in the Visual Scan interface. To access this feature, simply select "Scan" from the menu at the top of ARCP-590 and then select "Visual Scan".

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One question that surfaces frequently in all the TS-590S forums is how the receiver performs when it's used for shortwave listening or even AM broadcast band listening. The short answer is that it works extremely well! The front panel RX bandwidth control allows you to easily select the following AM receive bandwidths to deal with varying receive conditions:  5kc, 6kc, 8kc, and 10kc. Note that the front panel bandwidth display will show 2500, 3000, 4000, and 5000 as you select various receive bandwidths but the actual bandwidth is twice what is displayed because in the AM mode the 590 is receiving both sidebands. The fidelity of the receiver makes listening a pleasure and if you have installed the Kenwood provided drivers and USB codec you can make direct recordings from the 590S with audio programs such as Audacity or Adobe Audition. Simply select the Kenwood USB audio codec that shows up in the recording list as shown in the picture below and you are good to go for recording whatever you are listening to.

usb codec

To get an idea of how the AM mode sounds with the TS-590S click on the link below to listen to a brief MP3 that I made of an AM broadcast station. The receiver was set for a bandwidth of 10kc for this recording:    

http://www.w1aex.com/ts590s/590_USB_codec_direct_recording.mp3

Perhaps the most important feature of the ARCP-590 program is that by accessing the DSP/Filter menu item this program can be used to create up to five different User EQ profiles for your transmit and receive audio. It surprises me that so many TS-590S owners simply choose one of the six embedded transmit audio profiles within the rig's user menu. Using several different studio dynamic microphones that I have lying around I found the embedded profiles to range from being either very boomy or very harsh with nothing pleasant in the middle. With my homebrew electret microphones I found the "HB1" (High Boost 1) and the "C" (Conventional) profiles provided by Kenwood to be usable, but they seemed to have either too much emphasis in the high audio ranges or not enough. I'm no audio expert, but I know what I like and always aim for natural sounding audio that's clear, clean, smooth and pleasant for the person on the other end. With that in mind in the lower half of this page I'll offer a couple of things that I found while trying to tame my Kenwood TS-590's TX audio.

A Couple of TS-590S Quirks Worth Mentioning

Quirk Number One: I believe that every piece of equipment on my bench has a few quirks and the 590S is no exception. The first quirk I encountered with this rig was a serious misconception among many hams about its available transmit bandwidth as a result of some awkward wording in the operating manual. It's amazing how a bit of clumsy wording can cast a dark shadow on a fine piece of equipment! The following information in the manual has caused more than a few prospective buyers to keep walking:

From Page 16 "Menu Setup - DSP Functions and Defaults"
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Potential buyers browsing the downloadable PDF manual from the Kenwood web site might conclude from the information above that the maximum transmit bandwidth of this rig is 2700Hz - 300 Hz for an underwhelming total of 2400 Hz. What isn't clear from glancing at this chart is that the 300 Hz low cut and 2700 Hz high cut values are the out-of-the-box default settings! The DSP menu actually allows you a range from 3000 Hz to 10 Hz for a total of slightly less than 3000 Hz bandwidth. Unfortunately, the restricted bandwidth myth is further reinforced by this information in the Specification area at the back of the manual:

From Page 81 "Transmitter Specification - Transmit Frequency Response"
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A quick glance at this line in the spec sheet has no doubt turned a few people away from this rig as it implies that there are severely restricted audio limitations with this transceiver. What is not clearly stated is that this is the default measured frequency response with the TX EQ disengaged in the transceiver's user menu. With the TX EQ function engaged and by utilizing the free ARCP-590 software you are given the EQ software interface shown in the image below to create up to 5 different TX audio profiles that you can adjust to your liking between 0 - 3000 cps. Note that although the EQ provides sliders that extend up to 5100 cps the DSP upper limit for TX bandwidth is limited to 3000 cps in the firmware. However, those sliders are functional in any RX Equalizer profiles you create.

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Page 32 of the manual correctly states the information regarding the transmit bandwidth, and clearly indicates that 300 Hz and 2700 Hz are simply the default values. Unfortunately, the misconceptions about the transmit bandwidth capabilities of this rig are out there and still propagating.

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Quirk Number Two: From all the rumors that are floating around it's pretty clear that Kenwood did not do themselves any favors with the way they implemented the power output meter in the TS-590S. It works fine for carrier modes such as CW or AM and seems to be quite accurate with those modes, however, the response time of the meter is not sufficient to accurately depict the power output of the rig while operating SSB. At best, it simply indicates relative power output that tracks your voice as you speak, but the meter deflection does not track with the power increments displayed on the meter. This is quite unfortunate because this behavior has caused rampant rumors about "low average output" and other unflattering comments. Kenwood must have known there would be issues about this because they actually address this in the "Troubleshooting" section of the 590S manual. Page 86 has the following entry, which pretty much tells the story:

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The truth is that the TS-590S has plenty of punch when running SSB and any peak reading wattmeter will show 100 watts of output on peaks and a very healthy high average output during normal voice operation. The brief video below shows my TS-590S running sideband into a dummy load with a power level setting of 100 watts. For best clarity, I would suggest that you watch this video at 720p HD and full-screen so you can easily see the scale on the Nye RF Power Monitor that is sitting on top of the Kenwood. It is touching 100 watts frequently on peaks and is floating between 50 and 100 watts when driven with normal speech. Note also that the ALC is deflecting appropriately and staying within the acceptable range, which indicates that the rig is definitely not being over driven. If your browser does not support 720p HD viewing with an embedded video, please click in the lower right corner of the video and watch it at the YouTube site directly.

Select 720p HD and watch in full-screen mode for best clarity


If you do not own a peak reading wattmeter and would like to test your power output in SSB mode follow Kenwood's suggestion and inject a 1000 cps tone into the mic input and see for yourself how much power comes out without exceeding the recommended ALC levels. One thing is for sure, don't rely upon the 590's built-in power output meter for an accurate representation of how much output power is being produced while in SSB mode!

Quirk Number Three:
The third quirk baffled me for several days. I found that the dynamic studio microphones that I own sounded pretty good with the TS-590S. My Shure SM58, which is a music industry favorite for vocal use, seemed to be the best of the bunch. However, it seemed like there was a very heavy low-end emphasis with all the dynamics and I found that I was using the software EQ to fight this "boomy" tendency rather than simply to enhance areas of the voice spectrum I wanted to emphasize for clarity and articulation. I have always found electret condenser microphones to be ideal for producing smooth audio that has clarity and presence with excellent articulation. So, I plugged in one of my ten dollar "station standard" microphones which I have relied upon with all my transmitters/transceivers since the late '70's. When I monitored the transmit audio of my TS-590S while using the electret condenser microphone it sounded horrible. The audio was grossly distorted and it seemed like it was being processed by a kazoo. It had all the characteristics of RF feedback, which was a mystery because I was transmitting into a dummy load! I dragged out my schematic of the TS-590S to see what might be causing the issue and immediately saw some possibilities in the 8 vdc line. Most rigs use a series resistor, typically 4.7k to 10k in the vcc line, to protect the voltage source from shorts at the microphone jack. That works fine when the voltage is used for low current bias purposes with an electret, but it might be unsuitable if the voltage is utilized to power devices in a hand mic that has active devices for controlling the rig. At any rate, the VCC line in the 590S has a series 47 ohm resistor that runs directly into a diode which is present to provide reverse current protection. Audio output from the electret condenser microphone was leaking down the vcc line and modulating the diode, and possibly the poly-switch the diode is in series with, which resulted in horrific distortion. The easy solution was to create an audio de-coupling circuit in the VCC line to keep audio out of the Kenwood's +8vdc components. The circuit below is what I came up with, and it has worked perfectly for me and quite a few other people who encountered the same issue:

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If 1/8 watt resistors are used along with a tantalum cap, it's possible to build the little de-coupling stage right into the connector of a microphone. I simply build it right at the XLR connector in the base of the microphones that I use. With the distortion problem resolved the electret condenser microphones proved to be good performers with the TS-590S. I finally arrived at a combination of MIC level and EQ settings that seemed to be clear and not too hard for the station at the other end to listen to. The section below is offered as a sample of what the TS-590S sounds like with one of my homebrew ten dollar microphones plugged into the front panel microphone jack.

My Humble Audio Processing Efforts with the TS-590S and a Ten Dollar Audio Chain

To be honest, there are a lot of TS-590S owners out there who have done much more and they sound much better than what I've come with, but I'll bet they spent more than 10 bucks on their microphone! The available TX bandwidth limitations coded into the DSP prevent this rig from entering the arena of Hi-Fi rigs like the TS-950 or the Flex 5000. With that in mind, my goal was to achieve audio that sounded smooth, natural, and clear when received by other stations. You might have noticed that the TS-590S receiver is capable of receiving SSB with a bandwidth as wide as 5 kc. You might have also noticed the TX EQ in the software package has sliders all the way out to 5.1 kc. Obviously, the folks at Kenwood could set the upper limit for the TX bandwidth to 5 kc in a future firmware release, or just as likely, there is probably a combination of key presses at power up that would unlock this feature. However, until that happens, the challenge is to find a balance of lows and highs between 10 cps and 3000 cps that creates a decent reproduction of your voice. By using the eleven EQ adjustments available between 0 cps - 3000 cps in each user EQ profile, I came up with a few user EQ profiles that work for me. The first video below will give you an idea of how the six embedded profiles that Kenwood provides sound. It starts with the EQ turned OFF and then steps through each of the six Kenwood profiles available in the TS-590S menu. Note that my homebrew electret microphones have a reasonably flat response with a slight amount of presence rise in the upper midrange area. In all of the videos below, the DSP was set for a TX bandwidth of 10 - 3000 cps and the MIC gain was set to "25" from the TS-590 front panel control. When I operate with these settings, the ALC normally shows no response on the meter and will rarely display one or two of the tiny hash marks on a heavy voice peak. I have found that the less flickering you see on the ALC meter the better things work out with the TS-590S.

The pre-configured audio profiles provided by Kenwood

The HB1 (High Boost 1) profile is usable but it sounded a bit harsh to my ears. The C (Conventional) profile might also be useful under some conditions, but it sounded too muddy and lifeless and could be difficult for other stations to understand. Using the EQ Profile creator under the DSP/Filter menu in ARCP-590 I made several profiles that seem to fit my voice along with the electret microphone I like to use. The video below shows three profiles that cut the low end region between 0 - 600 cps and lift the presence rise region between 2400 - 3000 cps. In the video, the three profiles are compared with the TS-590S with no EQ along with the High Boost 1 and Conventional profiles provided by Kenwood. These three profiles are fairly sharp sounding but they cut through noise quite well. The EQ settings for each of these three profiles are shown underneath the video.

Three user profiles created with the ARCP-590 software


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I found that most stations liked the USER 4 profile but it still seemed a little harsh to my ears so I created one more profile that provided more balance and seemed to fit my voice a little better. It's all subjective but I found that this is the profile that I use for all occasions. The video below is a sample of what this profile sounds like and the EQ settings that I used are shown in the screenshot of ARCP-590 audio EQ profile for User 5. Note that this profile has roughly 3 dB less boost in the range between 2400 - 3000 cps. It was created by setting all the sliders to -6 dB and then adjusting the range between 0 - 3000 cps for a well balanced voice response that was clear and natural sounding.

The profile I have ended up using most of the time


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This profile seems compatible with most of the stations I run into on the bands. There are certainly no reports that the audio sounds muffled or boomy now that the low end is de-emphasized and the presence rise area is boosted enough to add clarity. At the same time, people who know me say that the audio sounds pretty close to what my voice sounds like in person. I rarely resort to using the speech processor, but when it's engaged the audio is piercing enough that it cuts through fine when conditions are marginal.

Transmit audio is a very subjective topic but most people would agree that it's possible to get reasonable results with the Kenwood TS-590S. The audio EQ profile tool allows the user to boost any slider by +6 dB from the 0 dB baseline and cut any slider by -24 dB for a whopping adjustment range of 30 dB. The biggest limitation I've found is that the audio begins to exhibit a metallic ringing quality if you create drastic differences between the audio frequency ranges available. Boosting the bottom end to a greater degree than my sample profiles above does result in a fairly true representation of bass response, but with a 3000 cycle DSP high pass cut-off it gets to the point where it sounds muddy and boomy very quickly. With its current DSP transmit filter limitation of 3 kc the TS-590S won't be a favorite of users who prefer deep and wide full-bodied audio, but it does a very decent job for those who run around in the 10 cps to 3000 cps world. Maybe at some point Kenwood will get the memo that extending the upper range out to 3.8 kc or even 5.0 kc would open the door for this rig to those who like to experiment with something more than the current 3 kc bandwidth offering.

Miscellaneous Service Menu Information

The following downloads are offered as assistance when dealing with the TS-590S service menu. As a general rule there should never be a need for you to enter the service menu of your rig expect for the purpose of making a record of these critical values so that you can restore them should they ever become corrupt. The first file is an explanation of how to enter, navigate, and exit the service menu. The second file is a blank Excel spreadsheet that can be downloaded, printed, and used to record your rig's unique service menu values. The third file is simply offered as an item of interest to show the service menu values of five different TS-590S rigs. The values would not be optimal for any other rig, but they do illustrate the range of values that exist between different units. The end user should never change any of these values without access to the service manual, appropriate bench equipment, and appropriate knowledge of what's going on in there!

Downloads:

How to enter, navigate, and exit the TS-590S service menu (85k jpg file)

A worksheet for the purpose of recording your TS-590S service menu values (25k Microsoft Excel file)

A simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that displays the service menu values of five different TS-590S rigs (21k Microsoft Excel file)


Resources:

Are you using a balanced microphone with your TS-590S? Since the TS-590S front panel microphone jack is unbalanced, care must be taken to avoid RF feedback issues when connecting a balanced microphone to it. If you have run into RF feedback problems see if this page helps.

If you have not yet visited G3NRW - Ian Wades TS-590S page I would urge you to spend some time there. Ian has assembled a vast repository of set up tutorials and operating tips that have helped many TS-590S users to get the most out of their rig. Take advantage of Ian's hard work!


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