We all have fond memories of our first new radio. For me, it was the wonderful Kenwood TS-520 from Japan.
Like many young hams, I started off with used radio equipment, in my case the Viking Ranger transmitter and RCA AR-77 receiver. Both dated to a previous era but worked fine for me on a limited budget. But once I started working full time at CJOB, I set my sights higher.
So, in 1974, I bought a new Kenwood TS-520 transceiver, shown above. It cost around $600 from a dealer in Vancouver. While this might sound cheap, at the time it reflected about two weeks salary, and could cost around $3,000 in today’s dollars.
Founded shortly after the war, Kasuaga Radio Company became a technology giant in Japan. You may recall it started selling ham radio gear under the Trio brand in the 1960’s, introducing Kenwood a decade later.
My Kenwood TS-520 was a big move up for the company. It was a unique hybrid radio, built with transistors instead of tubes except for the final amplifier. You may have heard of the venerable 6146B transmitting tubes. A pair of these put out 200 watts SSB PEP. Back in these days, you had to tune the final stage every time you changed frequency by peaking the drive and dipping the plate current.
Like most rigs of that era, the Kenwood TS-520 covered all ham bands of the day, but provided no general coverage or AM reception. Otherwise, it had everything I needed including voice-operated-transmission (VOX), receiver-incremental tuning (RIT) and a speech compressor for extra audio punch.
Kenwood TS-520 Performance
Receive sensitivity was great and selectivity provided by a 2.4 kHz crystal filter at 8 MHz IF. You can forget about 1 Hz resolution, though. Dial readout was to 1 kHz. No bells and whistles like noise reduction, passband tuning or notch filtering. My only complaint was strong signal intermodulation when the noise blanker was activated.
I had many pleasant hours of on-air work with the Kenwood TS-520. With a small beam I could work the world in the late 1970’s.