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#55804 - 12/11/05 03:03 AM Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
lmonsanto Offline

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 21
Hi all,

I just got my technicians license, and I'm looking for a hand-held tranceiver for working with the San Francisco NERT team. It's to be used for communicating between neighborhood staging areas and the emergency response district office. I also plan to have fun with it too ;-).

I'm concidering a tri-band Kenwood TH-F6A. The pricetag of $310 at http://www.hamcity.com is within my budget. I'm also planning on getting a 144/220/440 MHz. tri-band portable antenna to replace the rubber ducky. A spare battery pack would also be useful.

Any opinions and suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

#55805 - 12/11/05 05:27 AM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
xbanker Offline

Registered: 04/21/05
Posts: 484
Loc: Anthem, AZ USA
This review provides a fairly detailed look at the unit. Don't know if Kenwood's made any changes since the review was written. You'll see that he frequently compares performance factors to the Yaesu VX-5R. As you may know, Yaseu has since come out with the VX-6R.

If you navigate back to his main page, you'll find link to his review on another TH-F6A competitor – the Icom IC-T90A.

Edit to add another link: Review here of the TH-F6A in ARRL's QST Magazine.

Edited by xbanker (12/11/05 07:58 AM)
"Things that have never happened before happen all the time." — Scott Sagan, The Limits of Safety

#55806 - 12/11/05 06:59 AM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
pizzaman Offline

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 183
Loc: The Great Pacific Northwest

The quality of the top brands is all pretty good. The biggest difference for me is the user interface.

I started out with all Yaesu gear. Yaesu is very cool and sexy. Unfortunately, I quickly tired of the user interfaces. I didn't find them to be very intuitive. My memory sucks and I didn’t want to have the owners manual tethered to my wrist just to operate it. Over time I replaced everything with Icom gear. Overall it was just simpler and more intuitive for me to use. I was much happier. My weird observation: The Yaesu gear seems to cater more to an "eastern" mind. The Icom gear seems to cater more to a "western" mind. (Whatever that means). I have very little experience with Kenwood gear. When I was looking at HF gear I read some reviews complaining about the user interface on the Kenwoods.(maybe a southern mind?) I never pursued further.

I found that I could run the Icom gear without much help from the manual. The Yaesu gear was always more confusing to me. My Yaesu HT had the volume or the squelch (there goes my memory again) as a menu item. D’oh! What were they thinking? My current Icom HT has volume and squelch on a knob. As it should be. I don’t want to have to execute a string of button presses to make a simple adjustment like volume or squelch.

In ham radio circles there seem to be plenty of “function” geeks. Their philosophy: A radio can never do too much. A radio can never be too complicated. “Just give me another bell, whistle, gee-gaw, or festoon and I don’t care how far its capabilities are buried in treacherous menus with button pushes requiring both hands and one foot”. Personally, I place a higher value on simplicity and reliability. (I’m so analog).

If you are a member of the ARRL you can go to their web site for some quality reviews.

Also check out http://www.eham.net/

My advice: Find a well stocked ham radio store and play with the gear first. My guess is after a bit of playing around you'll have your answer. If you can operate it the first time without looking at the manual you’ve got a winner.

Regarding NERT. Make sure they actually have a use for you. Years ago our neighborhood began organizing and training for NERT. I was the Comm guy. I attended a local ARES/RACES meeting to find out how NERT would coordinate them. (It seems I was the first one to bother to do this) There was no procedures in place to communicate with NERT and no plans to change it. I called the county (Promoters of NERT). Same story. No procedures in place for the NERT to communicate with anyone outside the neighborhood. Within the neighborhood you are probably better off with FRS radios. Here, NERT is a great plan with no procedures to pass along critical communications. Our NERT pretty much fell apart after that.

Congratulations on your ticket!

Good luck, TR

#55807 - 12/11/05 02:11 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
Malpaso Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/05
Posts: 817
Loc: MA
I have the TH-F6A. It was the first radio I bought when I got my Tech ticket in 2001. It is a phenomenal radio, so much so that I haven't used all of the features yet. That may be it's only drawback, it has too much on it. It is easily programmable via computer with free software available on line. The gotcha is the cable interface is not free.

For accesories I have the speaker mike which I find extremely useful, a second battery pack and a AA battery pack. I built an inexpensive groundplane antenna and a roll up J-Pole, although I have found the stock rubber duck to work fine, and that has been the biggest complaint I've even seen anyone have about the radio.

In my opinion (and it's only my opinion) is to buy Kenwood HTs, Icom mobiles and Yaesu base radios.

Yahoo user group

Please feel free to ask me more specifics about it.
It's not that life is so short, it's that you're dead for so long.

#55808 - 12/12/05 04:39 AM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
That was interesting to see that an AA battery pack is available for the TH-F6A. I've been put off by the proprietary lithium packs of the current Yaesus, and Icom doesn't seem to make a small radio in this class. I'm sort of interested in a small dual bander (2m/440) that can run on AA's. I hadn't really thought about 222mhz and am not sure I care about it. But the TH-F6A is nice and small, unlike earlier tribanders. Does anyone know if the TH-F6A lithium pack is actually repurposed from some other device? For example, the VX-5R pack is apparently the same pack used by some Fuji digicam, so you can get low cost compatible replacements. Also, does using the 4AA pack make the TH-F6A bigger by much?

#55809 - 12/12/05 01:03 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
Malpaso Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/05
Posts: 817
Loc: MA
Also, does using the 4AA pack make the TH-F6A bigger by much?

The battery pack is the BT-13, and is the same size as the regular pack.
It's not that life is so short, it's that you're dead for so long.

#55810 - 12/12/05 04:07 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
jshannon Offline

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 585
Loc: North Texas
Kenwood TH-F6A weight with PB-42L Battery 8.8 oz.

Icom IC-T90 weight 8.5 oz.


I've been put off by the proprietary lithium packs of the current Yaesus, and Icom doesn't seem to make a small radio in this class.

#55811 - 12/12/05 04:39 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
harrkev Offline

Registered: 09/05/01
Posts: 384
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
Let me chime in and say that I love my F6. I carry it everywhere. The things that I love the most are:

1) Built-in bar antenna. The bar is tiny, but it helps a LOT when listening to AM broadcast. Yaesu does not have this.

2) Dual receive. You can listen to two repeaters at the same time, or one repeater and one broadcast. This is VERY handy, and Icom does not have this.

Of course, I look ath the Yaesu models which are waterproof, and think that this is a very cool feature if you are going to be out on a boat.

Another thing is that the programming software for the F6 is available free over the web. Then, all that you need is an interface that converts RS-232 levels to 5V TTL levels. I had most of the parts for such an interface lying around. So it cost me about $5 to get my HT hooked up to my computer. Yaesul will charge you at least $35 for this honor.

My only complaints:
1) the rubber "port covers" over the mic/charging jacks is starting to wear out. But I have had this HT for 2-1/2 years.
2) Stock antenna is not very impressive. But you can fix this for less than $50.
3) The "joystick" is close to useless for me. I never use it. When setting menu options, I use the tuning knob. The stick could have been replaced by one or two buttons, leaving more room for a bigger speaker.
4) You can have one frequency set for CTCSS transmit only, and another for CTCSS transmit/receive. So, you can set the CTCSS frequency, and switch CTCSS modes, and you frequency has changed, and nothing works. This is one of those "what were they thinking" issues, but once you know about it, it is easy to fix.
5) Shortwave receive is a little noisey. Even with a S9+ signal, you will still hear some noise in the background
6) SSB filters are VERY wide. Actually, it is more like a double-side-band receive. The sound is essentially the same whether you are in USB or LSB mode. Of course, getting SSB at all in a unit this size that does this much is amazing, so I do not fault the unit too much for this. However, using SSB on a contest day is, of course, out of the question, as you will get QSOs on the "other" side band, complete with spectral-inversion garbling goodness. For listening to the occasional QSO (with the right antenna of course), it should be OK as long as the "other" side band is clear and quiet.
7) I wish that the battery meter was displayed all the time, and that the resolution of the batter meter was a little better. Not a big deal, though. Most HTs do not do this.
8) It should have television audio frequencies pre-programmed in (and marine channels would be nice too). But since you have a LOT of memories to play with in this thing, an hour of sweat can overcome this problem.

So, all in all, not a perfect radio, but I love mine a lot. I am glad that I got mine, and I would buy another one if this one died.
Darwin was wrong -- I'm still alive

#55812 - 12/12/05 10:44 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
I'm surprised to find the F6 has been around almost 4 years and the other comparable units are about as old. Mfgrs aren't introducing radios like this any more. I wonder what's up with that. And I have to say the reviews linked above aren't all that flattering. Is 222 mhz very active in most places? Buying a tribander hadn't really occurred to me before (I just wanted 2m/440). Does the F6 have a way to send DTMF tones? Does anyone care about that any more?

#55813 - 12/12/05 11:08 PM Re: Opinions on Kenwood TH-F6A?
cedfire Offline

Registered: 07/10/03
Posts: 659
Loc: Orygun
I had an F6 for a couple of years -- as others have mentioned, it's a nice radio. I'm not sure how much use you'll get out of the 220MHz band, but the F6 has a lot of other features.

Definitely invest in a "AA" battery pack; it provides very limited power, but it's good to have in an emergency.

$310 isn't a bad price at all; you might check over at Ham Radio Outlet in Oakland. Plus there's nothing like being able to go in an actual store to try the radio (and others) out.

I'll second that using the computer programming is a big plus. What a timesaver!

Whatever you wind up buying, good luck and enjoy!

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