Since my mobile HF install, I was inclined to get an HF rig that was a bit more ‘portable’. I realized that the 590SG is a pleasure to operate directly from the radio itself. Operating the radio through my laptop, would have been cumbersome and unsafe. I have no doubt that a radio control software program probably isn’t the best thing to be operating while mobile. This would essentially prohibit me from ever operating while actually mobile in the truck. So I took a recent trip to Ham Radio Outlet in Plano, TX and planned on using their radios on display to finalize my choice of mobile HF rig.
I pretty much narrowed it down to the Kenwood TS-480SAT or the Yaesu FT-891. The TS480HX would’ve required rewiring, and I prefer having an inboard tuner in case when I’m operating stationary mobile HF I decide to use a multiband antenna that requires a tuner of some sort. I sat down to play with both radios, and immediately noticed that the audio was a tad bit clearer on the Yaesu, but not to the point to where I would say that it’s ‘better’. Actually, some may prefer the AF DSP found in these radios to IF DSP. As K0BG points out on his website, Kenwood has ironed out most of the issues found in earlier radios that contained AF DSP, thus resulting in a great radio. The menus within the Yaesu usually required entering 2-3 menus to change common things like filters, notch, mode, etc. The 480 was very much like my 590, in that most of your commonly used buttons for operating are found directly on the faceplate. This is a huge plus in my book especially when in a mobile environment. Ease of use & ergonomics are just as important to me as the radio architecture. The speaker was also found on the base unit of the 891, whereas the 480 has the speaker on the head unit, albeit facing rearwards, there is a headphone port directly on the head unit for easy attachment to headphones or an external communications speaker. I actually found the audio to be more than acceptable, even with my truck on & running.
I ultimately ended up picking the Kenwood TS-480SAT. The only thing that pushed me over the edge was actually operating the radio hands on. There is no amount of internet research that can replace hands on experience, although I do understand a lot of folks don’t have easy access to ham radio stores! I’m sure both radios are stellar performers, but after 45 minutes of operating them, I was without a doubt, interested in the 480. (I even dabbled with the Icom 7100 a bit – had to give Icom a chance!)
Different strokes for different folks though… I think the 891 will probably appeal to prior Yaesu owners that don’t necessarily have a need for VHF/UHF in an all in one radio. I actually prefer the separation of HF & VHF/UHF in my radios, though some prefer the opposite! Some hams have even noted a few bugs in the radio for digital modes, which probably happens with new radios that enter the market. Hopefully a firmware fix will fix those issues for the Yaesu owners! The faceplate components just felt sub-par on the Yaesu compared to the Kenwood. The Yaesu faceplate is much smaller though, so if your limited on space in a smaller vehicle, the 891 might be a better option, size wise it reminds me of the 857d, but the 891 is actually a smidge smaller and half a pound lighter!
Initially I thought about titling this blog post Yaesu FT-891 vs. Kenwood TS-480SAT, but to be fair, I’ve come to realize that those kinds of comparisons only confuse the potential radio buyer! This is why I needed hands on. As you’ve probably encountered, you’ll encounter folks who love/hate the particular rig your looking at – point being – get your fingers on one and use it! Don’t take my word for it 😛
Since the 590SG went back into my home shack, I had to make the hard decision to sell my Flex 3000. I was more interested in having mobile HF & having the 590SG as my primary rig. I would like to keep all of them, but to be honest, i’ve realized that i’m actually one of those guys who likes knobs and buttons! The Flex 3000 really made me realize that, which is a shame because the Flex is such a powerful little SDR transceiver. To add to the mix, I kept having PC problems with my Windows machine, if it wasn’t one problem, it was another. I think maybe I’ve held onto this PC a bit too long… 7 years… not too old… but still upgraded. Maybe one day when I’m retired i’ll start one of those vast ham radio collections, but not today OM!
(I’ll be taking the Flex to an upcoming hamfest, but the ad is up on QRZ for anyone that’s interested. It’s actually still under Flex’s precertified warranty, it’s also a late 2013 model, which is when they stopped making them. I’m including $50 worth of XLR microphone cables with the radio. $900USD shipped. Please contact me if interested)