Kenwood TS-950S versus TS-950SDX, SSB/Phone only?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by VE3GZB, Jan 16, 2020.

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  1. VE3GZB

    VE3GZB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Last year I scored - by sheer luck - a good TS-950S and I'm in radio heaven!

    I can't believe the amazing receive quality, the ability of this radio above all others I've ever owned to pick out a phone/SSB signal out of the forest of hash which characterizes my QTH. The audio quality is fantastic and it's so easy to listen to!

    Set side by side with other transceivers - including the IC-7300 I sold last year - the 950S is an absolute champion! It sails easily through the ++20 over QRM we get here and doesn't break a sweat.

    Recently I learned of an opportunity, albeit quite expensive, to get a clean 950SDX.

    The only thing I use the 950S for is chasing DX in pileups. I don't use the second receiver. I don't participate in contests. Tinnitus kept me from learning CW so SSB/Phone work is all I use it for.

    With this in mind, is there any practical advantage for me to seriously consider the expense in upgrading to the 950SDX over the 950S?

    73s, VE3GZB.
    K4AGO and W9RAC like this.
  2. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Im a Kenwood type guy regarding SSb, Yaesu when it comes to CW. I have owned 3 Kenwood TS 950 SDX's, one new, one used, one a VooDoo modded, #33. I have always had a soft spot for the 950 SDX. Having never owned the S or SD I personally could not make a comparison between those rigs, they cannot be upgraded to a SDX. It falls short when compared side by side to my TS 990s OR Yaeus 101d, expectedly. I have been aware of some of the earlier 950's SDX's having a cold solder joint issue which was cured in the later production models. Its a great rig, lots of fun to operate and I would consider buying a 4th one at some point. Also be warned the TS 950 SDX has a reputation of a very high TX overshoot which has destroyed many a amplifier, especially solid state ones. The SDX has many features and really very EZ to operate. Below is a link reviewing some of its features that I have used before. Do remember its getting a bit of age on it so some cap repairs and the like are not out of the question. Id look for a later serial number and be certain to address the TX overshoot if considering a amp in line also. Enjoy! 73 Rich
    VE3GZB likes this.
  3. VE3GZB

    VE3GZB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Funny you mention the TS990S. I bought one a few years ago hoping it would be the ultimate, the "ONE" that would last.

    I ended up selling it after several frustrating months of trying to wrestle Phone signals out of the QRM here, nothing in the 990S would manage it. But the 950S can handle it with ease. I wonder what the difference is.

  4. W2JKT

    W2JKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    The 950SDX is an incremental upgrade over the 950S, but that increment is pretty big. Almost everything in the SDX is an improvement over the S, most notably in the DSP, subreceiver, and AGC (which can be automatic on the SDX). I have not compared the two myself but I have a 950SDX at home and on SSB it it literally light years better than anything else in my shack except my TS-870, which is almost but not quite as good. It handily blows the doors off of my TS-590SG and everything I have on down from that (590S, 850, 690, 440, 430)...

    SDXes are coveted and don't come up for sale often, and the only way you're going to be able to upgrade to one is if I don't find it first. :)
    NL7W, K4AGO and VE3GZB like this.
  5. VE3GZB

    VE3GZB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm trying to figure out if it's worth $3000 to find out just how much better the SDX is over the S. I'd hate to have to dig up that much cash and lay it out only to find for my usage and my purposes that the improvement isn't so great. It's too cold now for me to sleep in the dog house.

  6. W2JKT

    W2JKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Okay well I said they were coveted, but they aren't coveted that much. I paid $1100 USD for mine on ebay (maybe I just got really lucky) - it was not pristine, but only had minor issues which were easy to get around. And, while I would love to have a second one, I'm not paying $3000 for it haha.. For that money I'll take an 890 for a spin.
    VE3GZB likes this.
  7. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Likely your inexperience with the newer rig is at fault. I have been fortunate enough to test most of the high end rigs side by side, including the 990s vs 950 SDX. The TS 990s is not a plug and play rig, it requires a experienced OP to handle it properly and some hands on. The TS 950 S/SD/SDX is a much much simpler rig to handle but has far less features and capabilities of the 990s. I prefer dual VFO receiver rigs so the 890 has never been a consideration. The prices of the 950's have dropped considerably in the last year. A mint 950 SDX can be found without much effort in the 1800 range these days. If your managing with the 950s Id keep it and leave it at that. 73 Rich

    this one can be had for 1600 I bet
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020
  8. VE3GZB

    VE3GZB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well I went ahead and bought the SDX. Now I have the 950S and the SDX side by side on my radio bench.

    I've only been comparing them side by side for a day now. Both radios are reset to factory defaults now. My initial impressions are that the copy quality on SSB is better on the 950S than on the 950SDX.

    At this early point I can't discern any overwhelming and obvious advantage in high QRM conditions and in normal conditions of the SDX over the 950S.

    I'll keep testing and comparing them for the next little while and when I've concluded comparing I'll decide whether to keep both or sell one.

    73s, VE3GZB

    W2JKT and W9RAC like this.
  9. KD0CAC

    KD0CAC Ham Member QRZ Page

    One issue with testing a couple of , what 20-30 ? radios , is the components in those , especially electrolytics .
    And the earlier gear most affected .
    So you would have to go through both radios and calibrate align - so that your comparing apples to apples ;)
    K4AGO and VE3GZB like this.
  10. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have owned 3 SDX's. I have never owned a S or SD so I would have been unable to test side to side. The SDX did receive better than several rigs I did happen to have at the time, also new. I did compair a new SDX to a new 1000d, a new mark 5, a new 870. The SDX out performed all on RX. It did fall considerably short of the TS 990s and FTDX 101d, expectedly. I still have a soft spot for the SDX provided it is of a later build and has had two mods. One, the vox which is next to unusable from the factory and two has a major TX surge. 73 Rich
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