Yesterday while I was continuing my research into new rigs, my TS-850 stopped working with a dead silent receiver. I pretty much wrote off the rig thinking it wasn’t worth the repair and I would be getting out the credit card and picking up the phone to place an order for its replacement. But my good friend K3PH happened to see my rig death announcement on Facebook and posted a link to a Kenwood service bulletin about a known issue with Kenwood 850 receivers going dead. For giggles I opened up the rig and checked the “RXB” voltage point, and sure enough it had the symptoms of the issue. I replaced one culprit SMT diode with two run-of-the-mill 1N914 diodes and the rig came back to life. As if that wasn’t enough, the CW QSK is now much better, with full break actually much quieter and smoother than before. It’s like the rig has a second lease on life.
So for now the decision that seemed eminent is postponed while I enjoy my reborn Kenwood 850. I’m still mulling over the choices for a new rig, but I think I have it down to the Kenwood TS-590 and the Yaesu FT-950. Despite my initial thoughts of abandoning Kenwood altogether, the 590 seems to have some of the old Kenwood flair I liked years ago. I’ve ruled out the K3, KX3, and Ten Tec Jupiter. The Ten Tec Eagle is getting pushed out of the race. I haven’t seriously considered Icom, but perhaps I should take the extra time to look at them.
So far the Kenwood and Yaesu offerings are neck-and-neck in the race, though from review comments, going through the manuals, and my experiences with other Yaesu products, I get the feeling the Kenwood interface may be more user friendly than the Yaesu menus. I do like the front CW key jack, the separate RCA REC and PTT jacks, and the rotator integration feature in the Yaesu. I wish I had an amateur radio store nearby I could touch each of these rigs.
Last night I operated during the CQ 160 phone contest with the 850. I ran 100 watts to an inverted L with a meager seven or eight short radials on my acre lot, and I worked all but perhaps four or five stations in the midwest who couldn’t hear me. It was like shooting fish in a barrel and quite fun, and really speaks to what you can do with a modest antenna on 160.