What's my motivation for changing at all? Well, even though I really enjoy both rigs, I know my days are limited with the Yaesu. Sure, it works perfectly now, but what about tomorrow? What about parts? What about service? It's my understanding that there's one guru in the Southeast working on them, but what if that's not an option, or affordable? Call me a pessimist but I guess I'm planning for the future (for once).
What about the K2? I love that little radio. What would be wrong with keeping it or migrating to its big brother, the K3? The answer to that question is "nothing" would be wrong with either option. Except, by the time I configure a K3 with options that mimic the FT-1000MP, I'm over 3 grand. I could do it a little at a time, but base price has risen to $1900, which is more than the TS-590S, while still missing several "options" that the 590 offers stock. As for keeping the K2, well, that's always an option. No arguments there. But after suffering a severe lightning strike (I guess there's no such thing as a "minor" lightning strike?) and discovering my K2 and associated components dead, I realized also that my troubleshooting skills are not sufficient enough to make the necessary repairs. And while Don, W3FPR was most accommodating and his prices more than reasonable, it taught me a lesson.
Plus, every now and then you have to try something new and I've been very intrigued with the 590 since it came onto the scene at the end of last year. I knew that it probably wasn't the "K3 Killer" that a few folks touted, but it sure seemed like a darn good radio for the price. And I wasn't necessarily looking for a K3 killer anyway, just a really good radio that I could consolidate to and depend on, not take a step backwards, and not leave me wanting for more.
I've also read the accounts of several respected hams who have written several positive reviews and use a 590 personally. I've contacted several of them. Hams who have used the rigs I have, as well as K3's and other top-of-the-line radios currently available. By all accounts the 590 is no slouch and offers incredible value for the price. Some have even sold their K3's and kept their 590's.
Add another person to the growing list who feels that the 590 is one heck of a radio.
Before I bought the 590 I read a lot of good comments about the radio's ergonomics. I would strongly agree with that opinion. For one, despite being compact the radio is quite heavy. It sits firmly on the operating desk and a forceful button push or an overly excited spin of the knob won't dislodge it, like happens with the K2 at times. The front panel is laid out wonderfully and after getting the radio set up, having to delve into the menu system, which is quite easy, is not necessary for me. I can easily operate the radio in low light and even in the dark, which I enjoy doing (if only I had the warm tube glow...) without fumbling around and searching for the right button or knob. I read a comment from a contester who did not own the radio that declared that the 590 was not a serious contest radio because the keying speed requires a button push and then a knob twist. I think that's an absurd statement, any serious contester uses some sort of keying interface, so adjusting the keyer speed is done how many times? None. Besides, I use an external keyer, so it's a mute point for me. The rear of the radio provides for a hand key or an external keyer input as well as a paddle input for the radio's internal keyer, which I think is pretty darn good.
The QSK, while not as smooth as the K2, is better than the FT-1000MP and much quieter. No problems there. I generally send between 25-28 WPM, I guess someone who sends a lot faster might have an issue?
The antenna tuner is fantastic, probably the best of the three rigs I'm comparing. The FT-1000MP really can take a long time to find a match and sometimes it just won't. I find that I have to move a little bit away and try again, that usually works. The K2's auto-tuner is really fast and gets a good match, but it still isn't as fast as the 590. Very impressive matching a 43-foot vertical and a G5RV. The hex needs no tuning.
The display is well laid out and you can choose between an amber background, a green background, or none at all, as well as brightness. I thought I'd be partial to the amber background but I find the green to be best for my eyes. Plenty of information. The S-meter is your typical LCD meter, nothing great but seems to be responsive. As for accuracy, I can't offer anything other than it seems to read the same as my other radios. How's that for scientific?
There's a button to select between different "setups". For instance, you might have a ragchew setup or a DX setup or a contest setup. Pressing the button will toggle between these and change the radio instantly. I have mine setup for a fairly wide width on CW and one for really aggressive, although I find myself resorting to the DSP knob 99% of the time. I guess it might be nice to set it up for QRP versus 100 watts?
Both a USB port and a serial port are built in. So far I've not even hooked up the 9-pin serial port, opting to use the USB port only. All the logging programs I've tried, except for DX4Win work fine, but you sometimes have to tinker with the settings. A few have special interfaces, such as HRD and TRX-Manager. I'm confident that if I fooled around with DX4Win that I'll get it to work (a quick note, I did finally manage to get this working through the USB interface). Logger32 works fine too.
DSP. I'd read a lot of raves about how well the DSP performs on the 590. Well, for me, the jury is still out. For one thing, the DSP filter width settings are not adjustable on CW. You can go from 2.5 KHz down to 50 Hz, but the steps aren't always what you need (or, rather, what I need). I have a hard time finding a sweet spot sometimes. I usually end up around 600 Hz or 400 Hz when the stations are weak or in a simplex pileup.
I will say that I've had to have an "adjustment period" to get used to the 590 when using the DSP. I generally have only used radios with crystal filters and only resorting to DSP for really stubborn interference, or extremely weak stations, or noise reduction. Not often. Having to use it nearly 100% of the time for weak stations now is a change for me. Initially it gave me fits when trying to sort through simplex pileups. I simply could not identify who was who. The shift helps some, but there were times that I lost the target altogether it seemed. But I stuck with it and, after a few days, I became much, much more comfortable with it. It was NOT what I expected, however. My ears had to adjust and learn something new.
It isn't to say that the audio for CW on the 590 is bad, not at all. But I just wasn't used to the "in a well" sound that it produces with sharp filtering dialed in. I've heard the same comments made for the K3, and my very limited time using one seemed to support those statements.
As time passes and I learn better how to tune and adjust the DSP, I'm finding that it is very useful and I'm getting better at picking out the target stations in simplex pileups like with other radios. Just don't be surprised at the difference when you first try it. In fact, on a pileup the other night for a station from Bangladesh on 40 meters, the 590 was easily the best sounding radio of the three.
But let's acknowledge one thing. In this class of radios, there aren't any situations that you can't hear a station on one radio and you can the others. If someone claims that, they need to check if the antenna is connected. They're all three more than competent and able to copy weak stations in QRM or noise. For me it becomes a matter of personal preference.
One issue that I've not settled yet is can I listen to the 590 for extended periods of time and not feel fatigued? There are times that the FT-1KMP wears me out because of hiss, the K2 rarely ever, and so far, the 590 has not had an adverse effect. I need to operate in a contest environment, however.
No second receiver. But, hey, it's $1700. You don't get one for that. After using the second rcvr in the FT-1KMP, I have to admit to resorting back a few times to it while in panic mode (like when VU4PB was on) because I just couldn't find where the DX was working the split station fast enough. But that might have just been resorting to a crutch, I don't know. I expect the more I get comfortable working split on the 590, the easier it'll be. One thing I do not care for is no display of VFO-B's frequency when you're not in split mode. Also, when you first go to split, if VFO-B is on another band, the receiver is noticeably muted until you place VFO-B on the same band. I don't know if that's by design to warn you, but I use it that way and kind of like it.
No output for a PAN adapter. At least not yet.
What I'd like to see
PAN adapter output. User-specified adjustable DSP filters.
Also, I'm not a digital modes guy, but within about 15 minutes, I made a PSK-31 contact using only the USB port and DM-780 to give a fellow North Carolina on LOTW. I mimicked some settings that a kind fellow had posted online and those worked fine for me. Not much easier than that.
So, where am I in my decision making process? I'd like to think that I'm just getting started, but I know that I'm going to have to make a decision relatively soon, otherwise the bank might come knocking on my door. I can't afford to keep all three radios, as much as I'd love to. It would be awfully hard to part with the FT-1KMP, but as I mentioned at the first, I feel that I'm running on borrowed time. I could certainly live with only the K2, but I think I'd be wanting for something new after a while.
Here's the bottom line...I don't think you could go wrong with any of these radios or the K3 either. At some point I think ego starts to take over, especially if you're like me and not made of money. I can justify buying a $1700 radio if I sell two radios that will more than cover the cost. Then I can buy that Begali key I've been drooling over.