My goal was to see if this new transceiver is worthy of replacing an aging, but extremely well-maintained Yaesu FT-1000MP or an Elecraft K2, with the ultimate goal of potentially replacing both.
Make no mistake, this is an excellent radio and for the money, I'm not sure that there's a better offering on the market in terms of completeness and performance, especially if you're an HF guy who wants to do some contesting, DXing, and ragchewing.
I read a lot of comments that compliment the radio, yet in the same sentence they'll add "of course, it isn't a K3", or "it's a great radio for a mid-level radio", and so on. If you read further, you'll find that a lot of them are comparing it with 15 and 20 year old designs, much like I am.
The 590 absolutely holds its own against both of the comparison radios that I have. It is not a step down, despite the fact that the 1KMP cost nearly $4,000 new in the mid-90's. But wouldn't you expect a radio in 2011 to not only be the equal of a radio designed 20 years ago, but better it in many respects? If it had come out in '95 or even 2000, it might have been regarded as one of the top-5.
But where I'm slowing down in my enthusiasm for the 590 is that it isn't a quantum leap forward. In fact, I'm left wondering if it is a half-step forward. After nearly a month of using it, I can't say that it's any better than the K2 on CW. In fact, the K2 sounds more pleasant, seems to give much better copy on weak signals (with or without DSP engaged) and has much smoother QSK. On SSB, the 590 wins easily. But I'm a CW guy, so there's a dilemma. The 590 does better on CW than the 1KMP, I think. Even though I'm not crazy about the "underwater" sound that the DSP can generate, I have an easier time copying weak stuff on the 590 than I do the 1KMP.
What still stumps me from time to time is that if I have the DSP on the 590 dialed in moderately tight and I'm tuning a band, I find myself missing weak stations because I have the width shifted too far in one direction or the other. That's not good. So, I end up having to open up the passband wider and that often lets too much through. And, I'm still battling the problem that I wrote about in my last entry with managing simplex pileups and identifying the target station. There's not an easy way to tell if one station is stronger or weaker than another if the DSP is dialed down. They all sound as if they're the same strength. With the K2, I find that this is something it really excels at.
If all you do is click on spots from the cluster, then I guess that's not such a problem, but I like to tune around from time to time.
I do believe that my ears have gotten adjusted to listening with the 590, especially when you consider what a shock it was initially. But I'm still not at the point where I would describe it as "pleasant" on CW. Passable, perhaps. Again, on SSB, it sounds wonderful, as good as the 1KMP, I think. But again, I'm not a heavy user of SSB.
I also really miss the second receiver in the 1KMP. Fighting in a pileup is so much easier even if there's no filtering in the second receiver.
One thing that I will walk away with is the knowledge that I wasn't missing anything with the radios that I was using before getting the 590. Even though the 590 ranks 9th in the Sherwood ratings, I don't think there's all that much difference that I can "hear". In fact, there's not anything I can't hear with the older radios that I can hear and copy with the newer 590. That's not an issue.
So where does this leave me? Well, if I had to decide today, I think I'd probably put the 590 up for sale and turn my attention to a K3 in a few months if I still have the itch to try something new.