Kenwood TS-2000 review
Accessibility evaluation of Kenwood TS-2000
By Kelvin Marsh M0AID
The TS-2000 has been well regarded by amateurs with low vision for many years. It is about 270mm wide, 100mm high, and almost 400mm deep including controls. It covers HF, 6M, and 2M with a maximum of 100 watts, and 50 watts for 70CM. It can be optionally extended to transmit on 23CM at additional cost, and has an internal ATU for HF matching. The radio has a Sub Receiver for VHF and UHF, and can be used for cross band communication.
The TS-2000 is packed with features, and its front panel and rear panels comprehensively cater for almost every need from HF to UHF. The front panel has many small rubber buttons and rotary controls, and the facia is sloped and contoured, giving a tactile emphasis to certain groups of buttons.
The rear panel has 4 antenna sockets, 2 SO-239s for HF and 6M, 1 SO-239 for 2M, and an N type socket for 70CM.
The TS-2000 was fitted with the optional VS-3 voice chip. The VS-3 has been superceeded by the excellent VGS-1 on newer Kenwoods, but gave unparalleled access to Kenwood radios when introduced.
As I’ve mentioned, the radio has an extensive number of buttons and knobs, with the Main Tuning Dial in the centre. To the left of the Tuning Dial, in the top left corner, are a block of 8 buttons for Voice, Power On/Off, Attenuator, Pre-Amp, VOX, Processor, Send/Receive, and ATU. Below this are the headphone and Mic sockets and three very small round buttons including Noise Reduction and Automatic Notch. The LCD display runs across the upper part of the panel. The 12 buttons of the numeric keypad are indented slightly, and below this, two rotary controls for adjusting band width. Directly to the left of the Tuning Dial are a further 10 buttons including Function, Mic Gain , Power, CW Keying adjustment, and mode selection. The Tuning Dial, in the middle, is on a slightly raised ‘pillar’, so you are less likely to touch the Dial when pressing buttons close to it.
To the right of the Tuning Dial are buttons for Menu, and TF-Set, used for checking the TX frequency when working Split. Up and Down arrow keys move from band to band, and you can select Main or Sub receivers. These 4 keys are in a ‘diamond’ shaped block, and along with the majority of buttons, are close together.
To the right, and again slightly recessed, is a block of 9 buttons. These include the Quick Memories, the associated buttons for Split operation, and the Memory Write and Memory Recall options. Finally, to the far right of the facia are buttons for RIT and XIT. A rotary knob for RIT/Sub receiver Tuning, and RF Gain and AF Gain for both receivers. The Multi-Channel control also sits in this cluster.
Moving back to the left side of the front panel, the majority of these buttons are also multi-purpose, and usually engage a set-up menu when pressed with the Function key. I’ll discuss this further when I describe setting CTCSS tones, but the Function key commands give very little aural feedback.
The TS-2000 has one Programmable button, conveniently placed at the very top left corner of the front panel. I decided it should voice the incoming Signal Strength. Programming it via the Menu, it can be made to voice the Frequency, or perform many other common commands.
The TS-2000 also reads the complete menu system, although a blind operator will need a method of remembering the function of each menu number. For instance, the RX Equaliser is menu number 20. Using the Multi Channel control, you can move through the menu until ‘Menu 20 – OFF’ is heard. Adjustment is then made using the up and down arrow keys. You will hear ‘Menu 20 H’ and then ‘Menu 20 B’ and so on. In this case, ‘OFF’ means the Receive Equaliser is turned off, ‘H’ equals High Boost and ‘B’ equals Bass Boost. A blind operator will need to either refer to an external note of menu numbers, or have an exceptional memory.
Having a full numeric keypad makes it easy to move to a frequency. If a direct frequency is entered, such as 3.743 MHZ, you will hear:
1. ‘ENTER’, as the Enter button is pressed.
2. ‘3’, When Three is pressed
3. ‘Megahertz’, when the decimal point is pressed.
4. ‘7’ ‘4’ ‘3’, as the remaining numbers are pressed.
5. ‘VFO 3.743’ a slight pause ‘00’, when the Enter key is pressed again.
As mentioned, I used the Programmable key to read the incoming Signal Strength, as a double press of the Enter key conveniently voices the current frequency.
I found I could configure the Multi-Channel control to move in 1KHZ steps. This also applied to the buttons on the Microphone.
Due to the Menu accessibility and the voicing of pressed numbers, the TS-2000 is very usable on the HF bands. The automatic tuner gives good aural feedback through the rattling of the relays, and a nice positive Beep when matching is achieved. S W R is played in CW if the radio fails to find a match. The radio’s Mode is also indicated using CW, USB is heard as Di Di Dah.
In normal use, the TS-2000 can indicate most settings, if only by a process of elimination. For instance, to adjust the power, the Power button is pressed and power adjusted by turning the Multi Channel control. None of this is spoken, but providing you have correctly pressed the Power button, giving a high pitched beep, each ‘click’ of the Multi Channel control will change the power by 5 watts. So, to set 10 watts output, turn the Multi Channel control anti-clockwise until you hear a beep indicating the 5 watt minimum has been reached, and then turn one ‘click’ clockwise to set 10 watts. Finally, press the power button again, giving a low pitched beep, to leave the power adjustment.
Mic Gain is adjusted in a similar way, but each ‘click’ moves by 1%. As the gain can be set from 1% to 100%, there are potentially 100 ‘clicks’ to be counted. There is no way of finding out what the current setting is, unless you count the ‘clicks’ until a limit has been reached. For example, if you count 30 ‘clicks’ in the clockwise direction and then hear a beep, you can deduce the Mic Gain was previously set at 70%. Not very practical, but at least possible.
When pressing buttons to the left of the Tuning Dial, the on or Off status of many options is indicated using a high and low beep tone. This is particularly useful when, for example, entering the Power adjustment mode. One notable exception though is the Speech Processor. There is no difference in beep tone to indicate whether it has been turned On or Off. While you can physically hear the difference you make to the incoming audio with many of the settings, there is no aural feedback for a blind operator to know if he is transmitting with Speech Processing. The only method I found of knowing if I was using Processing, was by listening to my own transmission through headphones, with the Monitor function engaged.
I found Split operating to be accessible. The Voice will not indicate if you are using VFO A or B, but in practical terms this doesn’t matter. Pressing the A/B button will switch to the alternate VFO, allowing you to enter the TX frequency. Press A/B again to return to the RX frequency. Press the Split button, and you can start operating. Each time you switch VFO, the frequency is spoken, but pressing the Split button itself gives no audio feedback. Fortunately, pressing the TF-Set key will allow you to listen to your Split transmitting frequency, and you hear a beep if you are not in Split mode. The TF-Set button is also of course useful for checking the DX station is actually listening on your transmit frequency or for checking the repeater input, but I found the button always Voiced the frequency when both pressed and released. This became annoying, as when I wanted to quickly check the TX frequency, the voice was continually obscuring the incoming signal. In this case, less audio feedback is better.
There is little doubt the TS-2000 stands out from the rest of the competition, with its good accessibility, and its ability to operate multi-mode from HF to UHF. In the VHF/UHF environment, it is important to have good Memory accessibility , as potentially many repeater frequencies will be stored in memory. Hear, I found the TS-2000 was very accessible. Memory Channel numbers are spoken, along with the stored frequencies. When using 2M, the radio even knows when repeater frequencies are being saved, and automatically sets the input and output off-set. The Quick Memory accessibility was again excellent.
As previously mentioned, there are no spoken prompts for button presses involving the Function key. This means , for example, there is no aural feedback to select a CTCSS tone.
A CTCSS tone is usually selected by pressing Function followed by 6 on the keypad. A list of possible tones is displayed. Once the correct tone for a repeater is selected, the Function and 6 are pressed again to leave the CTCSS list, and the settings can be written to memory. Along with there being no spoken feedback, there is no difference in beep pitch to show the CTCSS list has been engaged.
Incidentally, I found I could often set the CTCSS tone for a repeater, providing the repeater was in use. I could enter the CTCSS set-up mode with Function followed by 6, and then use the scan button to automatically find the correct CTCSS tone. Again, there are no spoken prompts, it’s very much a matter of trial and error.
In summary, the TS-2000 gives excellent access to the vast majority of its features. A blind operator familiar with the layout could easily set this radio up from scratch. Access to the Menu and the Memory Channels, and the band range from HF to 70CM on all modes, make the TS-2000 very attractive. The TS-2000 can justifiably be called a ‘shack in a Box’, but with that label comes complexity. There are lots of small buttons that could accidentally be pressed, and to get the most out of it, a blind operator will need a good memory and access to notes for both the Menu and front panel layout. One command to definitely remember is the partial reset. This will retain the Menu and memory settings, and will get you back to a known position if you get really stuck!
As an additional note. If the operator uses a PC and connects via the CAT interface, Kenwood supply an exceptionally accessible MCP program for the TS-2000. The MCP allows the radio to be configured, including the unspoken Function key settings such as CTCSS, and for the Memory Channels to be easily populated. Once changes have been made using the MCP, they can be written back to the radio and the created file can be backed up, in case a full reset is ever required.