TS-130S Review by KA1LR

The Kenwood TS-130S

Kenwood TS-130S review

When Kenwood introduced the TS-120S some time ago, it was an instant success. There weren’t many rigs like it available at the time and Kenwood’s engineers managed to cram an incredible number of useful features into a very small box.

After WARC, Kenwood decided to upgrade their HF transceivers to include the new amateur frequency allocations, and the TS-130S was one of the first of the improved rigs to appear on the dealers’ shelves.

Not content to merely add a few new positions to the bandswitch, Kenwood listened carefully to TS-120S owners and included some useful new features in the package. For example, when mobiling an HF rig, every Watt of transmit power counts, and the lamentable omission of a speech processor from the 120S has been corrected in the 130S. Many CW operators like to be able to choose between wide and narrow CW filtering, depending on band conditions. With the 120S, once the narrow filter is installed, it is automatically selected whenever the mode switch is in the CW position. CW operators have been placated by the addition of a wide/narrow filter switch on the front panel of the 130S. Small changes? Maybe, but they can make a big difference if they happen to be important to you!

After owning an Icom IC-701 for over a year and using a Yaesu FT-707 for the last several months, I thought I would round out my experience with small HF rigs and get a Kenwood TS-130S Here is what I discovered.

The Features

When you sit down in front of a 130S for the first time, it doesn’t take long to discover that while it is small, it is a complete rig In fact it incorporates almost all the features of much larger transceivers like the TS-820S, Here are a few of the facilities available to the operator of the 130S: full filtering available for both CW and SSB, i-f shift, RIT, speech processor, complete VOX facilities, built-in relay for linear-amplifier switching, digital and analog readout, 25-kHz calibrator, noise blanker, and 80-10 meter coverage, including the new WARC bands. Not bad for a rig of any size!

The good stuff isn’t just inside the rig. There is an extensive line of matching accessories for the 130S, including several different types of remote vfo’s, an external speaker for hi-fi audio fanatics, several microphones, an antenna tuner, a mobile mounting bracket, a monitor scope, and a phone patch Kenwood has understood for years that hams I ike to have a lot of accessories to choose from for their stations (are you listening, Icom?) and they are doing their best to provide them.

When the 130S arrived, it saw a couple of months’ service in the 73 ham shack, where it performed well. Its microphone, remote vfo, and linear amplifier connectors are compatible with those on the TS-830S, allowing fast changeover for both rigs. In side-by-side comparison with the 830S, the 130S fared remarkably well. Any differences in sensitivity were deemed inconsequential, but the 830S was a slightly better performer in the selectivity department. Our admittedly subjective tests indicated that when both rigs were tuned to the same frequen-

cy, under certain conditions adjacent frequency “garbage” caused slightly more interference to the 130S than it did to the 830S. Otherwise, the 130S kept right up with its bigger brother The i-f shift is several orders of magnitude more useful than similar controls on some other transceivers. It really works! The internal speaker provides better than average audio quality, although it occasionally rattles when driven to the high levels favored by some staff members. When the rig is plugged into an external speaker, it provides typical Kenwood hi-fi audio at any practical level The headphone jack on the front panel is wired to accommodate either mono or stereo headphones. Transmit audio was good with the three microphones we tried —a D-104, a Shure 444D, and a Yaesu hand microphone,

Kenwood deserves praise for the quality of the 130S instruction manual. Lots of practical information is provided on installation and use, for mobile as well as fixed operation As is typical with Kenwood products, no service and alignment procedures are included in the instructions; you’ll have to buy a separate service manual for that information. For emergency repairs by those hams brave enough to work on the 130S themselves (see interior photographs), complete schematics and a block diagram are included with the rig.

On the Road!

While the 130S is perfectly at home on the ham shack bench, it really comes into its own when installed in a vehicle. I operated it for several weeks from my car and grew very fond of it in that mode of operation. I sat it on the front seat beside me and ran the power lead directly to the battery It draws too much current to use with my noise filter, and I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t hear the alternator whine I hear with other rigs that aren’t connected through the filter.

One feature that I found indispensable in mobile use was the speech processor —it can make a real difference on the other end of the QSO With the processor on or off, adjusting the mic gain for the proper level using the ALC meter is a simple task. The ballistics of the meter allow sure and fast reading. The mic gain should be readjusted when the processor is turned on or off The noise blanker did an excellent job of cleaning up ignition noise and I left it on all the time.

A characteristic that I found less than admirable was the limited bandspread of the main vfo knob. Tun ing in a signal while jouncing down the road is a challenge—one flick of the knob and you’ve jumped ten kHz! I eventually learned how to handle the knob with reasonable dexterity, but bandspread is an area in which the 130S could use improvement Whatever one thinks of the bandspread, it is important to note that frequency stability is not a problem—the rig occasionally became airborne when my driving got, ah, shall we say, over-enthusiastic, but the frequency never drifted.

If the poor bandspread really gets to you, it might help to know that Kenwood offers a nice digital frequency controller that allows tuning of the rig from push-buttons on the microphone.

The real test of the transceiver came on the yearly pilgrimage to the Dayton Hamvention in the infamous 73 Magazine 5-100 van. We installed the 130S on a countertop in the back of the van, connected up a D-104 microphone, and used a Hustler mobile antenna to distribute the rf. The 130S did everything it was supposed to and more, shrugging off a couple of nasty spills onto the floor of the van, a fall of about three feet! A solar disturbance prohibited us from working any DX that weekend, but stations all over the United States were worked, mostly on forty meters.


Considering the price and performance of the 130S, it represents an excellent buy for either fixed or mobile operation. It faces a lot of competition in the small transceiver Kenwood TS-130S reviewmarket, but the current crop of rigs is so varied in concept that each has its own devoted following. If ease of operation, good audio, and a wide range of accessories strike your fancy, the TS-130S might be the rig for you! Paul Grupp KA1LR 73 Magazine 1981 –

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