Baofeng UV-5R Accessibility Review

Baofeng UV-5R Review

By Ian Spencer DJ0HF/G3ULO

December 2012

This is a review of the Baofeng UV-5R dual band 2 metre/70 Centimetre hand-held transceiver. I suppose I should start by saying what motivated me to buy one, well it was simply the price. Most dual band Hand-Helds are in the 100 pound plus range and the cheaper Woxoun around 85 pounds or so, and this new Baofeng was only 32 pounds here in Germany including postage and if ordered directly from China I have seen it as cheap as 28 pounds almost a third of the price of the nearest competitor.

And although I’m not a VI operator myself I felt that this Hand-Held might be suitable for someone with a visual impairment as it does have some voice announcement features and so I will try to test this by operating the radio with my eyes closed in the hope of getting some idea of whether it really would be suitable or not.

I didn’t expect much for 30 odd pounds especially these days where a simple desk mike often costs a hundred pounds or more and so when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. It came in a small square carton and on opening it I was presented with a very neat hand-held which didn’t look in the least bit cheap and certainly seemed externally to be up to the build standard of my other more expensive radios. The box contained the Handy plus a 1800maH Li-ion Battery pack, a belt clip, a wrist strap and an extra earpiece for silent listening and a drop in battery charger, this is nice as you can drop the whole Handy into it for charging and don’t have to remove the battery pack or use a fiddly cable to connect the charger. There was also a rather basic instruction book to round off the contents.

The main case of the handy is black (though other colours are available) and on the top you find the socket for the rubber duck antenna and a volume control which includes the on/off switch and a white bright emitter LED which allows the Handy to be used as a torch and which in practice is surprisingly bright. The antenna socket is a reverse SMA (male) type and so if you want to connect another antenna perhaps with a BNC connector then you will need an adapter, though these are readily available for a few pounds on Ebay.

The front is divided into 3 areas and at the top is an LCD Display and below that is the speaker and to the left of the speaker are two important buttons which I’ll discuss in a minute and a small green LED which lights when a signal is being received. In the bottom third are the 4 rows of 4 buttons for menu functions and entering numeric information. All of the buttons are quite a good size and raised above the surface of the Handy and have a very positive click when pressed, so that once I had familiarised myself with the layout I found no problem locating the ones I wanted and operating them even with my eyes closed. On the right hand side is a flip open cover which reveals two sockets, a 3.5mm and a 2.5mm stereo socket into which you can plug the accessory earpiece or a combined microphone/speaker. These two sockets are also used for the programming cable to connect the Hand-held to a PC for programming.

The Li-ion battery clicks firmly into the back of the transceiver and the belt clip is attached by two screws if it is required.. Rotating the volume control turns it on with a click and a voice announces `Frequency Mode’ and the LCD display lights up in Violet with a welcome message for a couple of seconds.

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The unit has two basic modes of operation `Frequency Mode’ where two VFO frequencies are displayed on the screen and you can switch between them with a small blue A/B button. Or `Channel Mode’ which uses the 128 memory channels and is selected by a quick press of the orange coloured VFO/MR button. Both the VFO/MR button and the A/B button are placed well away from the other buttons being in the middle section of the Hand-held to the left of the Speaker. On the left side of the radio are three buttons , at the top an orange button which when pressed selects the FM radio for listening to stations in the 76 to 108Mhz broadcast band or it can be switched to the 65-75Mhz band by a quick press of the band button (to the right and just below the speaker). Pressing the orange button a second time turns the FM radio off. In the middle is a larger `PTT’ button and below that a `Moni’ button which is pressed once turns on the LED torchlight, if pressed a second time the LED blinks as an alarm and if you hold it pressed the squelch is switched off, the LCD display turns blue and you hear the usual loud hiss of an un-squelched VHF FM Receiver.

In `Frequency Mode’ I typed in 145500 on the keypad and each key was announced as I pressed it as `one’, `four’,’five’ etc. I was then listening on 145.500Mhz. I pressed the PTT button and the display turned orange and I had a quick contact with a local amateur. Using the standard 4 Watts, though low power 1 Watt is also available. He said it sounded fine though the modulation sounded a little quiet. This seems to be one of the only weaknesses of the Baofeng, you do need to speak very closely to the microphone, it’s said this deliberate as when the Baofeng is used in a commercial environment (for which is was first designed) then they didn’t want a lot of background noise being transmitted if the environment was noisy. I then punched in a 70cm frequency and repeated the test with no problems at all. Later I tested it on 2M and 70cm Repeaters and it worked fine on both bands. If while transmitting you press the band button then it transmits a 1750Hz tone to open a repeater. Though you can also program CTCSS or DCS tones which are required by a lot of repeaters these days. And there we come to a bit of fly in the ointment for all users and especially if you are a VI user. Programming the Baofeng from the keypad is possible but not particularly easy. There are several videos on `You-Tube’ on how to do it but not really practical for a VI user.

Whether you are visually impaired or not, obtaining the programming cable and free software from Baofeng is a must. This makes programming the 128 Memory channels and setting other features a breeze. Here in Germany I paid around 8 pounds for the programming cable but these seem a little more expensive in the UK. Though they won’t break the bank.

I had no problem programming the Baofeng with the standard software and cable. I could do it on both my Windows 7 Professional and Windows XP Professional computers perfectly. Even though the seller had said in his advert that the cable was only for XP. That said there have been a number of items on the internet saying that people had problems with Windows 7. This seems to be down to the version of the Prolific USB driver that windows 7 loads when you plug in the cable. However I have the latest version on my Windows 7 machine and it worked perfectly, this may not be the case with some versions of the driver and you may need to install a compatible version. The free software from Baofeng works pretty well but it’s not particularly sophisticated. There seem to be a number of different versions of the software and a number of versions of the firmware in the Handy. The older models have Firmware BFB28x, the newer BFB29x and there seem to be some differences. On the website I found a version of the programming software with NEW_OLD in the name which I suspect works with all versions but has a couple of unfortunate features.

When it starts there are lots of question marks on the screen because it starts in `Chinese’ and you have to go to top menu bar and select the second item from the right to switch to English.

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Then everything magically appears in English. The only other minor problem with this software version is that in the menu bar it doesn’t have the `OTHER’ option which allows you to change the welcome message on the Handy to for example `Your Call-sign’. I think this is missing because this feature is only available on devices with the newer BFB29x firmware. As mine has the newer firmware I used another version of the software from June of this year with the name UV_5R_VIP which does have the `OTHER’ option in the menu and allowed me to change the Welcome message to `DJ0HF’.

The radio is pre-loaded with a lot of channels and you can select `Read from Radio’ to download them into the program and then delete or modify them as you wish. The only unusual feature is that you don’t enter a repeater offset but instead enter not only the receive frequency but also the transmit. So for example as receive you might enter 145.600Mhz and the program automatically displays the transmit frequency as 145.600 as well and you have to change it to 145.000 to get the 600Khz offset. Unusual but not a big problem. Once you have entered all of the simplex and repeater channels you want then you simply click on `Write to Radio’ to upload the data and that’s it. As I said the Software isn’t very sophisticated and so after it tells you it has finished reading or writing the data you actually have to click `Cancel’ to get back to the main screen rather than it going back to the main screen automatically. Sometimes I noticed that the first time I said Read or Write it gave and error but after clicking it away then the second attempt always worked without problem for me. Very important is to know on which `COMM’ port the Prolific USB cable has been configured. It usually ends up on COMM3 but this many not be true, depending on how many COMM ports your computer already has. Some versions of the software automatically see the correct port and select it others you have to choose the `Communication’ option in the menu and click the required COMM port. If you have the wrong port selected then nothing will happen and you will not be able to read or write anything over the cable to the radio.

There is another software package called `CHIRP’ which can be used to program many different types of radio but it warns that it is experimental with the Baofeng, so I tried it in read mode and it read the data from the radio without any problem but I didn’t try writing anything back to the radio in case I `Bricked’ the radio and made it useless. Anyway I find the Baofeng software easy to use and so don’t have any real reason to use CHIRP.

So if you are a VI user could you use the radio. Well assuming you can get someone to help with the programming of the channels or have a very good screen reader which will work with the software, then I think yes.

In `Frequency Mode’ (which is announced) you only have to punch the frequency and all of the keys will be announced and that’s it. You can work simplex on the channel you punched in very easily. Pressing the VFO/Memory button will announce `Channel Mode’ and each time you press the UP or Down arrow the channel will step up or down one memory channel and the new channel number is announced. So as long as you remember your favourite simplex or local repeater channel numbers then there shouldn’t be any great difficulty in finding the channel you want and using the radio.

This review is already getting very long so I don’t want to go into all of the menu items here in detail (there are 40 of them). You can program any of the facilities from the software or by pressing the `Menu’ button and then a two digit menu number. Pressing `Menu’ again allows you to change the value of the item and in some cases announces the name of the menu item selected. After setting the required value pressing `Menu’ again, announces `Confirmed’ and pressing `Exit’ takes you out of the menus.

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If you are in `Channel Mode’ then pressing and holding the scan button, starts the radio scanning through all of the memory channels and the start of the scan is announced so if you are a VI user you know the scan has started. You can stop the scan by simply hitting the `Exit’ button. In the menu’s it’s possible to select to stay on the active channel until the carrier drops and then continue scanning, to stay on the active channel for a few seconds and then if `Exit’ isn’t pressed continue scanning or to exit scanning mode completely once an active channel has been found and remain on that channel.

As I say there are so many menu options that I can’t list them all here but for example you can set the squelch level (though I have never had to alter it). Select different colours for the display for Receive, Transmit etc. Set the step size, for example 12.5Khz or 25Khz etc. Turn on VOX operation if you don’t want to use the PTT. Set dual channel watch which allows two VFO frequencies to be monitored, the radio skipping back and forth between them until one of them becomes active. Or you can do the same with 2 Memory channels. Interesting is that if you are listening to FM Broadcast radio and one of the channels becomes active then the broadcast is muted until the activity on the channel ends and then it switches the broadcast receiver back on again. You can of course set CTCSS tones and interestingly you can set them for both transmit and receive. Normally for a repeater you would only set transmit CTCSS so that when you transmit it includes the tone but on receive you don’t need it. But if you set it for receive too then if you are talking from one baofeng to another in simplex or with a group of radio’s the receiver will only open if it hears the CTCSS tone from the other baofeng and ignore any other transmissions on the frequency. You can program a roger beep and lock the keyboard and lots of other things but I think you get the idea.

So is it an all singing all dancing Handy for the VI user, well most certainly not. But could a VI user operate the normal day to day functions of the radio in simplex or on a repeater (once the channels have been set up) I think the answer would be a most definite `yes’.

Comments

Ian DJ0HF has confirmed the following:
1 The frequency will not be read on demand. The frequency numbers are only spoken when entered.
2 The firmware appears to be very similar to the Wouxun KG-UVD1P, but the menu numbering is slightly different. I’m sorry to say that although the menu’s are very, very similar they do not have the same numbers. So for example on the Wouxon, you press ‘Function’ (which is Menu on the Baofeng) then 4 to go to the power Menu, on the Baofeng it’s Menu then ‘2’ then when you press ‘Menu’ again, like the Wouxon it announces ‘Power’ and you can use either the up or down buttons to cycle between high and low power. Like the Wouxon you can also use the one and zero buttons to set the power but unlike the Wouxon the one sets low power and the zero high power. I have recorded chapter 12 of the manual, describing the menu numbering. It is in the Related Downloads section below.
3 I tried to see if I could insert the Handy into the charger without it fully contacting the charger tabs but I really couldn’t. If I hadn’t inserted it properly I could twist the Handy clockwise and anticlockwise, if I had it fully inserted I couldn’t twist it. 4 The Wouxon review said that the Wouxon only gave about 2 seconds to enter a change after selecting a menu item before exiting the menu and returning to the normal mode. My Baofeng gives you about 8 seconds before it does this.
5 Unlike the Wouxon there is no rotary control on the top for changing frequency/memory channel or menu item. There are just the up and down keys and the numeric keyboard.

Peter MM5PSL comments:
Kelvin, You mentioned the problem of a slack charger on the Wouxun review. The Baofeng has a similar problem. The charger opening for the radio is too big and there’s quite a gap around the sides. The answer is knowing how to insert the radio. Unless by accident, only a sighted person would notice how it slots in. The radio has to be inserted with the back of the radio against the back of the opening and it slots in snugly. If it is too far forward it misses the guides on each side

Related Downloads

Baofeng UV-5R MP3 Tutorial by KA9OPL (opens a new page on Joe’s own site)
Baofeng UV-5R Chapter 12, Menu Numbering MP3
Baofeng UV-5R Tips and Hints for Eyes Free Operation by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV
Baofeng UV-5R MP3 Review
Baofeng UV-5R OCR conversion of original PDF Manual

LK10 Talking Multi-Meter

Review of LK10 Talking Multi-meter

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

The talking multi-meter has not been available in the UK for several years. Some amateurs still own the meters sold by Tandy, but I knew of several blind amateurs who dearly wanted Photo of talking meter boxto own a multi-meter that gave verbal feedback.

In December 2010 Tim GI4OPH found a talking meter was being sold by the National Federation of the Blind in the US. When I enquired about costs, it quickly became apparent an individual would need extremely long pockets to bring one into the UK. Although the meters sold for $50 or £33 in the US, because of the handling fees and the traceable delivery method the NFB use, a single meter would cost over £90 to import!

I started to gather interest from other British amateurs , with a view to making a bulk purchase. I soon had ten definite orders, and it was decided we would purchase twenty units, and RAIBC would act as an agent for a bulk purchase.

Photo of talking multimeter ready for useI spent some time looking into getting VAT and Duty excemptions, and despite phone calls and an email application to HMRC, I’m still waiting for a reply months later. A good thing we decided to go ahead with the order, regardless.

The meter itself is a very nice unit, and appears to be extremely well made. It has a LCD display and backlight, as well as a clear female voice.

The meter measures both DC and AC voltages. There are also selections for resistance, Diode, continuity, capacitance, and milliamps.

There is a ‘talk’ button on the meter and another ‘talk’ button on the positive probe. Another feature that has been highly praised by both low vision and sighted uses, is the LED light on each probe, shining directly onto the area to be tested.

The manual has been recorded by Chris G5VZ, and is available below.

Comment 1

By Kelvin M0AID
September 2013
It seems the National Federation of the Blind no longer stock the meter, and the 20 units brought into the UK have been sold. Several people have contacted me recently, but unfortunately I cannot help. I suggest you contact the NFB, http://www.nfb.org, and express your interest. If I do hear any news, I’ll post a comment here.

Comment 2

By Mastro Gippo
March 2014
Hi, I’ve seen your article about the LK10 and I’d like you to know that
I made an open source alternative for anyone needing a talking multimeter:
http://www.mastrogippo.it/2014/03/a-talking-multimeter/

Related Downloads

LK10 Talking Multi-Meter MP3 Manual

HF Vertical, dipole, and Yagi MP3 Comparison

I thought the following might be interesting for the newcomers to the hobby, and help explain why many amateurs use more than one aerial. I took delivery of one of the low cost verticals this week, and made some comparisons with my trapped dipole. For interest’s sake, I also included my yagi, just to see if the cost and effort was justified .

We mounted the review X80 vertical, from the Snowdonia Radio Company, on Wednesday evening 15 March 2011. It’s on a metal stake next to the corner of my fish pond. We used an antenna analyser, and established the 80m SWR was 6 to 1, but all the other HF bands 40m to 10m were well under 2 to 1. There were no radials used, in line with the suppliers recommendation, but I think this type of vertical might indeed benefit from them…

As expected, the X80 performed better as I went from 80m to 10m, and the dipole was better in the reverse direction.

As signal strengths are difficult for me to determine accurately, I’ve recorded MP3 comparisons over the last three days on 80m through to 10m. I’ve deliberately selected signals right on the limit, to show the capabilities of the aerials, after all, there’s little point in comparing strength 9 signals on the doorstep. I’ve used 3 antennas in the comparison.

A trapped dipole, which is 108 feet long, trapped for 40m, and fed with balance 75 ohm twin feeder, at a height of 10 metres. It is connected to the rig via a 1 to 1 ballun. I have marked this with one ‘beep’ in the recordings.

The second antenna is the Snowdonia Radio Company X80. It is a 5.8 metre tall aluminium vertical with a 9 to 1 un-un at the base. It is fed with 20 metres of RG213 coax. I’ve marked the SRC X80 with two ‘beeps’ in the recordings.

The third antenna is a 3 element Steppir at 11 metres. It is a rotary dipole on 40m and 30m, and a 3 element yagi on 20m to 10m. It is fed with 30 metres of Westflex 103, and there is a 1 to 1 ballun at the feed point to the aerial. I’ve marked this with three ‘beeps’ in the recordings.

I used an ATU once, for the X80 recording on 80m. All other recordings
are without any tuning.

On 80m, you will hear SV2HJQ in Greece. Firstly my trapped dipole, then the X80, then back to my trapped dipole. The dipole gave strength 9, the X80
strength 1.
80m
On 40m, you will hear VE2TC in Canada working some Spanish stations. I have changed the order of the antennas, so they progressively get better. Firstly, you hear the X80 with 2 beeps, then my trapped dipole with 1 beep, and then the Steppir with 3. I then repeat the X80, dipole, and Steppir sequence again.
40m
On 30m, you will hear VP2V/G3PHO in the British Virgin Islands. Firstly, the trapped dipole, then the X80, then the Steppir.
30m
On 20m you will hear HZ1ZH in Saudi Arabia. First the trapped dipole, then the X80, then the Steppir.
20m
Also on 20m, you will hear zl1BD in New Zealand, first the dipole, then the X80, then the Steppir.
20m
On 17m, you will hear KH2/WX8C in Guam. Firstly the dipole, then the X80, and then the Steppir
17m
On 15 m, you will hear V521NAM in Namibia. First, the dipole (no copy), then the X80, finally the Steppir.
15m
On 12m, you’ll hear ST2AR in Sudan. Firstly the trapped dipole, then the X80, and then the Steppir.
This station was worked using the X80 and 10 watts.
12m
On 10m, you will hear LU2NI in Argentina. Firstly the dipole, then the X80, and then the Steppir.
10m

Amateur Contact Log Accessibility Review

AC Log audio review and demonstration

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

This is an audio review and tutorial of Amateur Contact Log version 3. AC Log is a main stream general amateur logging program, but the developer Scott N3FJP has
adapted A C Log to be more accessible for visually impaired operators as from version 3.2.

Since the review, AC Log has been rewritten in C# as version 4, and N3FJP is adding accessibility with help from M0AID. This is current in August 2013.

Therefore, if you want to give AC Log a try with a screen reader, I suggest you go to the VB6 archive section of N3FJP.com and download the latest VB6 version 3.4. Learning 3.4 will put you in good stead for the not dissimilar version 4 when accessibility is fully implemented.

To download Amateur Contact Log itself please visit the developers
Website at
N3FJP.COM/ACLOG

I have made my own layout template available, below, as described in the recordings. The files in the Zipped archive must be placed in the AC Log folder, within the N3FJP folder, within the My Documents folder.

The Wave files needed for AC Log Voice Navigation are also available below, and these must be placed in the AC Log 3.4 folder, within the Program Files folder.

Related Downloads

M0AID customised layout files.Zip

Voice Navigation Wave Files.Zip

1 Setting up from a clean installation.MP3

2 Reviewing the Screen with a screen reader.MP3

3 The Main List and QSO Editing.MP3

4 The DX Cluster.MP3

5 QRZ Internet lookup and LOTW.MP3

6 Miscellaneous.MP3

Icom IC-7200 Accessibility Review

A picture of the Icom IC-7200.  The display is reading 7.072.  This model has the carry handles attached.
Accessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7200

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

December 2010

Several of our blind members have shown interest in the IC-7200. It is priced competitively as a mid-range HF base station, and is compact enough for mobile or field day use. The radio is marketed as being ‘rugged’, and my first impressions were of a compact and solid radio. Icom UK were kind enough to loan me the evaluation radio, and it was fitted with the optional carrying handles mounted on the corners of the front panel. These add to the go anywhere feel of the radio, and give a degree of protection to the knobs and dials on the facia.

The IC-7200 is a HF and 6M transceiver. It has one SO239 socket at the rear, and has CAT via USB to link to a PC. Maximum power is 100 watts, with a Tuner button allowing seamless operation with an optional external ATU.

In common with most modern Icom amateur radios, the IC-7200 has a voice chip fitted as standard. The voice chip reads Signal Strength, Frequency, and Mode when the Voice button is pressed. The menu system does not speak, but adjustments can be made to the voice synthesizer, such as changing volume. I immediately turned on the menu setting to make the Mode button speak, but I needed sighted help to navigate the menu. I was pleased to find the radio gave an audio indication when band edges were found, and this was the default setting.

The front panel of the IC-7200 is uncluttered, and initially seems to have too few buttons and knobs. To the left of the VFO are dedicated controls for adjusting Band Pass filtering. A nice touch on the smaller Icom radios, allowing easy band shape changes without the need to access multi-level menus. The AF volume, RF gain, and Squelch are adjusted with the traditional inner and outer knobs. There is the Mic input, Headphone socket, Power on and off, and a shared button for Voice and Frequency Lock. The only other buttons to the left of the VFO are a block of four, controlling Mode, Band Width, Tuner, and Tuning Steps.

As previously mentioned, I engaged the menu setting allowing the Mode to be spoken when changed.

The Band Width button cycles through three previously defined widths, and is a nice feature also found on the more expensive Icoms.

I chose the 1 KHz Tuning Steps for the fast tuning button. This meant in normal use, one revolution of the VFO moved smoothly through about 1.5 KHz. When fast tuning was turned on, the tuning dial moved about 130 KHz per revolution. The microphone buttons allowed me to move easily to a round frequency, and subsequently by 1 KHz steps when in fast tuning mode. The Mic buttons moved by 50 Hz steps when in normal tuning mode.

To the right of the VFO is the numeric Keypad, with just above the keypad, three buttons controlling Noise Reduction, Noise Blanker, and Auto Notch. Below the Keypad are two further buttons for Attenuate/Pre-amp and Menu. There is a rotary outer knob controlling the Manual Notch and a Multi-purpose ‘ratchet’ inner knob for various uses, including scrolling through the menu.

I’ll go on to describe how Icom have very cleverly utilised so few controls, but there are two areas I feel could have been improved to make life easier for a blind operator. First, is the positioning of the Voice button. This is situated on the front panel and fairly close to the main VFO. It is at about 8 o’clock in relation to the main Tuning Dial. As the Tuning Dial sits almost flush to the front panel, it is very easy to accidentally touch, when attempting to check the frequency. Some of the other buttons are also close to the VFO, but I feel the very frequently pressed Voice button should be placed further away from the Tuning Dial. Somewhat compounding the problem , the frequency Lock is shared with the Voice button.

My second grumble with the layout, is the lack of separation around the numeric keypad. The three buttons for Noise Reduction, Noise Blanker, and Auto Notch are positioned above the 1, 2, and 3, of the numeric keypad. While they are slightly narrower and slightly offset, it would be more intuitive to have a separation of some kind. There is no pip on the 5 key, and I found myself locating the Enter key, bottom right, and counting buttons on the keypad from this known point. Not a major problem, but an area of the radio a blind operator will inevitably have to navigate many thousands of times over the course of its working life.

I was very interested to learn how Icom had implemented the use of very frequently used functions in the IC-7200. There didn’t seem to be enough dedicated controls, and I initially feared the menu would have to be used for even basic changes.

With the IC-7200, Icom have changed the notion of the numeric keypad being used as a three level stacking system for the bands. For example, on many other Icoms, pressing the 7 key would take you to the 15M band, where subsequent presses of the 7 key would cycle through 3 different frequencies and modes on 15M. The IC-7200 departs from this, and uses the numeric keys to control other functions. You can still get to a band directly by using a long press on the Enter key, followed by a number, but a momentary press of a number key will now control other functions.

For instance, press ‘7’ to turn compression on and off. Each press gives a beep, but unfortunately the beep tone does not differ to indicate on or off. In the case of compression, I would normally be looking for the Monitor button, so I could hear the changes through my headphones, indicating on or off. With the IC-7200, I was very pleased to find I could always reliably turn a function on by entering its set-up mode.

If the ‘7’ key is held in for about a second, the compression set-up mode is entered. You will hear a short beep followed by the longer beep, to let you know you’re in compression set-up mode. Now, this is the good part, because as I’ve mentioned, entering set-up mode, always turns the function on regardless of its previous state.

So, to guarantee Compression is turned on or off:

1. Hold the ‘7’ key until you hear a short and a longer beep. You are now in compression set-up mode, with Compression automatically turned on.

2. Momentarily press the ‘7’ key again. You’ll hear a short beep, and you’ll be back in normal operating mode, with compression still turned on.

3. Momentarily press ‘7’ again. You will hear another short beep and compression will be toggled off.

If you are sighted, and wondering what all the fuss is about. I can guarantee that some way down the line, a blind operator will forget if an option is on or off. Being able to determine this independently is crucial !

Fortunately this useful convention applies to almost every function controlled by numbers on the Keypad, and also the Noise Reduction and Noise Blanker. Hold the appropriate button in for a second, and then press again momentarily to guarantee always turning the function on.

If we actually want to change a function’s setting, simply hold the key until set-up mode is entered. Adjustments are then made by rotating the Tuning Dial. I found that one complete revolution equated to a setting of about 60%.

So, to change the Noise Reduction:

1. Hold the Noise Reduction button for a second, you will hear a short and longer beep and be in set-up mode.

2. Turn the Tuning Dial, and you will hear the decrease in noise levels.

3. Once you have found the best level for the QSO, press the button again, and you will return to normal operating mode, and know that Noise Reduction is turned on.

I found Split operating to be easy and intuitive to use. The ‘2’ on the Keypad, toggles between VFO A and VFO B. ‘3’ on the Keypad turns Split on and off, with a longer press operating A = B, and following the convention it automatically turns the function on. Once the XFC function has been enabled in the menu system, the RIT key will allow you to listen to your transmit frequency when held down. This can also be used to establish if Split is turned on.

Memory usage is not so straightforward. In theory, it is possible to use it successfully, but there seemed to be no way of easily getting to a Memory Chanel using the Keypad. I could only find a channel by turning the Multi purpose knob, and the channel number was only shown on the display, not spoken. If I wanted to access memory 44, I feel it would be essential the system either spoke the channel, or allowed me to enter ‘44’ on the Keypad.

I found output Power adjustment to be relatively easy. You hold the Menu button for about a second and hear a beep. Incidentally, holding it for a further second, would put you into the full Menu. So, holding until just the first beep is heard, puts you into a mini Menu with three options shown. These are Power, Mic Gain, and Data. You cycle through these options using the Multi-purpose knob. Very usefully, the Power option always beeps, so you know where you are in the mini menu. Adjustment to the Power is then made using the Tuning Dial.

So, the process for changing output Power is:

1. Press and hold the Menu button. A long beep is heard.

2. Turn the Multi-purpose knob until a beep is heard. You are now on the Power setting.

3. Turn the Tuning Dial. One revolution is about 60%. Turning clockwise several turns will get you to the 100 watts position, and additional clockwise turning has no effect.

A similar mini menu structure is used to adjust the various VOX parameters. Again, it is possible to make all the necessary adjustments independently, if you remember the fairly simple sequence, and can estimate the levels when turning the Tuning Dial.

In summary , the IC-7200 will voice the Frequency, Mode, and RX Signal Strength. This obviously limits menu access, but I found it was not necessary to visit the menu other than for initial set-up. There are minor issues with layout, and I think storing and retrieving frequencies in the Memory Channels would be a challenge for a blind user. Apart from these limitations, I found the IC-7200 to be very accessible. A blind operator will have to remember the layout and location of buttons, as they are not spoken, but frequently used functions are easy enough to use, and I was impressed with the keypad implementation.

Related Downloads

None

Kenwood TM-V71E Accessibility Review

Image of TMV71E with detached head and microphone on top of radio.
Accessibility Review of TM-V71E

By David Murphy 2M0TSR

This download is for an audio review of the Kenwood dual band FM radio the TM-V71E. You can hear the voice chip of the radio in action along with a review of its capabilities.

Related Downloads

Kenwood TM-V71E MP3 Audio Review by David 2M0TSR
TM-V71E Full MP3 Manual (Please Right click and Save Target As:
Rob K6DQ has prepared a fully accessible HTML manual, and related files
Kenwood TM-V71E full HTML Manual (This is a truely excellent web page with indexed links to the text and descriptions of the user manual)
Kenwood TM-V71E HTML Menus
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Microphone Keypad Description
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Front Panel Description
Handihams have the following files and audio tutorials in their Manuals section:
tmv71_layout.mp3
tmv71a.mp3
tmv71a_brochure.txt

Wouxun KG-UVD1P Accessibility Review

The Wouxun KG-UVD1P talking dualbander. This photo shows the radio tuned to 145.05 and 439.700
Screen grab of Wouxun PC control software.
Accessibility review of Wouxun KG-UVD1P

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

November 2010

The introduction of the Wouxun dual band 2M and 70cm handhelds has caused quite a stir in amateur circles. It has been favourably reviewed in RadCom and Practical Wireless, and a comprehensive set of features aligned with a price tag of under £90, make it very attractive. Of particular interest to blind users, is the inclusion of voice prompts as a standard component.

I was asked to review the handheld in August 2010, but due to high demand we had some trouble sourcing one. The radio I reviewed came from Moonraker.

Initial observations on opening the box, were of a well made, good quality handheld. I had some help attaching the belt clip and the wrist strap, but the battery pack fitted intuitively and clipped snugly into the body. The radio needed an initial over night charge, and here I ran into a problem. Whilst the radio has a nice ‘intelligent’ charging stand, it is possible to push the radio very firmly into the stand, but actually miss the contact points. There is no obvious way for a blind person to know if it is charging or not. A sighted person can see the LED on the stand, but there is no other indication, until you grab it the next morning, and find it has not charged. I’m not alone in noticing this problem, as at least one other member has encountered the same issue.

I’ve found two methods of making sure I am charging the Wouxun, and I think it might help others by mentioning them here. Firstly, the LED on the charging stand can be monitored using an audio Light-probe. These are readily available from RNIB. The second method is a trick I use to make sure my electric shaver is pushed securely into its charging stand. I use an old transistor radio, tuned to a clear Long-wave frequency, and listen for interference when contact is made. Using this method meant I could adjust the Wouxun, until I could ‘hear’ it was charging.

My experience of using VHF and UHF is limited, and I had never independently used a handheld before. My initial thoughts were that the Wouxun was very tactile and well laid out with good sized buttons. The radio spoke when I turned it on, and the numbers were read back as I entered a frequency, all good so far. I was very pleased to find the radio always returned to a known position when switched on. If you get ‘lost’, simply turn off and on, and you are back in VHF mode.

At this early stage, I discovered the most obvious limitation of the radio when being used by a blind person. It is its inability for the voice to read the frequency on the display. This is not necessarily a huge problem if you are using repeaters or you are going directly to a simplex frequency, but if you are using the rotary tuning knob, and you find a busy frequency, the radio cannot tell you where you have landed.

Apart from the seemingly obvious omission of a frequency voiced readout, I initially struggled to grasp the concept of programming the Wouxun. A sighted user will almost certainly cycle through the menu system with the rotary tuning knob, and then choose an option with the arrow keys. There appeared to be a way of using menu numbers to access these directly, but I found there was no time to think about what I was doing, before the radio automatically left the menu and returned to its operating state. Fortunately, Quentin GW3BV, our Chairman, came to the rescue when we were at Newark. He found a superb document for using the Wouxun ‘eyes free’, written by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV I. It describes the layout of the Wouxun , and most importantly describes how the radio can be successfully programmed. I recommend this guide as essential for any blind user.

A good example of using the menu system by numbers, is to change the radio’s power. The Function key is pressed, followed by ‘4’, Function again, and then instead of using the arrow keys, ‘0’ can be pressed for low and ‘1’ for high power. The final step is to press Function again. In this example, menu ‘4’ accesses the Power menu, 0 or 1 select either low or high.

This is where the radio’s voice prompts really shine. Turn on the Wouxun and it will say ‘Channel Mode’ or ‘Frequency Mode’. To change a menu setting, we switch to ‘Frequency Mode’.

To change the power, we get the following audio prompts:

1 Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

2. Press ‘4’ – BEEP.

3. Press Function – POWER SELECT, is spoken.

4. Press ‘1’ – BEEP.

5. Press Function – ENTER, is spoken.

Not all menu options are spoken as with the ‘Power’, but programming is fairly straightforward, if you can remember the menu numbers. I say ‘fairly’ straightforward, because this leads me to another limitation of the Wouxun, that could be improved for all users. I’ve previously mentioned, the radio returns to its standard operating state, if you are not quick enough when changing a menu setting. I estimate the time is set at about 2 seconds. I found this to be hugely frustrating for one of our senior members, when I was explaining how to use the menu. I found I barely had time to give the next command before we heard the quiet ‘triple beep’, indicating we would have to start again. In my opinion, the menu time-out should be listed as an adjustable menu option itself. 2 Seconds is not long enough!

One of the main uses for a VHF or UHF handheld will be to access local repeaters when on the move. With this in mind I was very impressed with the voice prompts giving positive confirmation between Frequency Mode and Channel Mode. Frequency Mode is where you enter simplex frequencies and adjust the settings, and Channel Mode allows you to cycle through previously assigned memory channels. When switched on, the Wouxun will tell you which mode is being used, recalling the position the radio was in when you switched off.
When in ‘Channel Mode’, the rotary tuning control will cause each channel number to be spoken, as it is turned. Unfortunately, the actual frequency in the memory channel is not voiced, only the channel number.

Entering a repeater into a memory channel is fairly straightforward with just voice and audio prompts. Again, the main problems will be the short time allowed for each keystroke, and the need to remember menu numbers.

I found the easiest way of adding a repeater to a memory channel, was to firstly set the CTCSS frequency whilst still in simplex mode. In my case this was menu ‘16’ and then option ‘11’, giving a transmit CTCSS of 94.8.

I did not need to use repeater offsets, as I used a menu setting that allowed both input and output frequencies to be stored. Menu ‘27’ firstly stores the repeater receive frequency into a memory channel, and then using menu ’27 again allows the transmit frequency to be stored into the same memory channel.

So, the process would be to set the CTCSS first. In my case 94.8:

1. Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

2. Press ‘1’ ‘6’ – BEEP BEEP.

3. Press Function – CTCSS, is spoken.

4. Press ‘1’ ‘1’ – BEEP BEEP.

5. Press Function – ENTER, is spoken.

Next, to set the repeater frequencies:

1. Enter the receive frequency – each number is spoken.

2. Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

3. Press ‘2’ ‘7’ – BEEP BEEP.

4. Press Function – CHANNELL MEMORY, is spoken.

5. Press ‘0’ ‘0’ ‘1’ for channel 1 – BEEP BEEP BEEP.

6. Press Function – RECEIVING MEMORY, is spoken.

To set the ’input’, go through the same steps again, but this time enter the transmit frequency before you use menu 27. When ‘0’ ‘0’ ‘1’ is entered, for the channel number, TRANSMITTING MEMORY, is spoken.

The repeater settings are now stored in memory channel 1. The final step is to remove the CTCSS setting, as you are still in simplex mode. Select menu ‘16’ again, and choose option ‘0’ to turn off CTCSS.

With experience, I found I used simplex mode on either VHF or UHF quite happily. I found repeaters could be set up, and I could easily move through the memory channels, although I had to remember the contents of each memory channel.

The final step was to review the PC interface software for use with a screen reader. Again, Quentin found the software on the Wouxun Web site, and ordered a USB cable. Installation and set up was straightforward, and I started by ‘reading’ the settings in the Wouxun Back to the PC. The interface is simple, and shows each memory channel in a spreadsheet like table. I found that once a receive frequency had been added to the first column of the table, I could then tab to each subsequent column. Using a screen reader, in my case Window-eyes, I was able to read the column titles and then work out which area I was tabbing into. I could enter the transmit frequency, the ctcss tone, the power level, and whether wide or narrow FM was to be used. Using this method it is relatively easy to enter all of your local repeaters into memory channels. Once entered, these can be ‘written’ back to the radio.

In summary, my experience with the Wouxun was favourable. It is not perfect for a blind user, but with reference to an external menu list, and some dexterity in entering the settings, it can be satisfactorily used independently. If it is to be programmed with many memory channels, the Wouxun software and USB cable would be a very useful addition.

Related Downloads

PC control software for the Wouxun KG-UVD1P
Wouxun KG-UVD1P Tips and Hints for Eyes Free Operation by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV

Icom IC-7400 Accessibility Review

Picture of Icom IC-7400 with frequency reading 14.195 mhzAccessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7400

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

– May 2010.

When I start looking at a new or unfamiliar radio, I hope to find I can perform commonly used commands, without the need for menu access or multi-layered buttons. This is essential for a
blind user. Adjusting the volume, the frequency, and the mode, and having these spoken by the voice chip, would naturally come at the top of any list. Next would be the ability to adjust those very frequent occurrences like Band Pass filtering, Noise reduction, Notch Filters, ATU Tuning, Split Operation, Power Reduction. The kind of things we constantly adjust to get the best operating conditions possible for every QSO. Then would come adjustments like Mike Gain, Vox Gain, VOX Delay, and CW Pitch. In effect, the settings you might only adjust once per day.

With this notional list in mind, I try to learn if the essential commands have a dedicated control, or if I have to constantly enter a menu system. Accessibility for a blind user is not just about what Is being spoken, but whether the layout is intuitive. After all a blind operator does not have the luxury of being able to read descriptions on buttons. They must remember the position and function of every button, every knob, and possibly unspoken menu layouts and button sequences.

All of this means a radio with even a limited spoken vocabulary , can actually be very accessible if it is well designed. All of these thoughts came to mind when I first had my hands on the IC-7400!

My initial impressions were favourable. The radio is a traditional base station construction, and feels chunky and solid, and gives the impression of not being overloaded with buttons and knobs. The unit covers HF, 6M, and 2M, with three antenna sockets at the rear. The power output is 100 watts on all bands and modes.

The IC-7400 had been fitted with the optional UT-102 voice synthesizer. As with some other Icoms I have tried with this chip, the volume needed to be increased to maximum, by removing the radio’s casing and adjusting an internal pot. The UT-102 chip sounds rather stilted compared to newer Icoms with voice built in, and I found myself waiting impatiently for the complete frequency to be laboriously read through. The signal strength and frequency, are voiced by pressing and holding the lock button, and the mode is spoken as each Mode Button is individually pressed. One of my few criticisms of the IC-7400’s tactile layout, is the placement of the Voice announcement Button. It is tucked almost under, and very close to, the large VFO dial.

The radio comes with an internal automatic ATU rated at matching better than 3-1. There is a very subtle difference in the ‘clicks’ when turning the ATU on and off, with a quick press. When tuning, with a longer press, it is possible to decide if the ATU has found a match, depending on whether it has engaged ‘On’ or has failed to find a match ‘Off’. I was not overly enthusiastic about the very subtle indications I was being given for a potentially high, and therefore potentially damaging, SWR. I also found that the radio attempted tuning at full power, unless this was manually reduced.

In operation on the HF bands, I found the IC-7400 a pleasure to use. Whilst I had initially thought there were not many controls, I found there were just the right amount. The controls are very tactile and well spread over the front panel. I found I could easily adjust the Noise Reduction, the Notch filter, and the various Band Pass filtering to cut down splatter. The frequency is entered using a numeric keypad with hard smooth plastic buttons, and whilst a pip on the 5 would be useful, the numbers were well spaced. Split operating is intuitive, but no verbal indication is given.

Inevitably on a modern transceiver, there is a menu system. Unfortunately, none of the menu is spoken by the IC-7400. There are some important commands requiring menu access, but, in my opinion, these are not show stoppers. Two notable functions requiring menu adjustment are the Speech Compression on and off, and the AGC. With some practice, I believe the Compression can be turned on and off by a blind operator, but of course, a dedicated button would have made it so much easier. There is a Monitor Button, so using this in conjunction with the Compression setting, would enable an operator to hear any changes through headphones, before going on air.

I was pleased to find there is a Tuning Step Button, allowing the buttons on the microphone to step through the band in 1Khz or 50Hz steps. The Memo Pad or Quick Memory function is easy to use. The main Memory is again relatively straightforward, but none of the channel numbers are spoken, and only the frequency in each channel can be made to speak. I did not use the radio on VHF, but the fact the Duplexing, CTCSS, and other useful settings require unspoken menu access make this much less useable. Setting up repeater memories independently will be difficult, if not impossible.

The IC-7400 has a lot going for it as a multi-band, multi-mode transceiver. Because so many necessary functions have dedicated buttons or knobs, this radio can be very effectively used by a blind operator.

Related Downloads

None

Icom IC-7000 Accessibility Review

Picture of Icom IC-7000 with microphone resting on top of the radio
Accessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7000

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

April 2010.

I had been looking forward to reviewing the IC-7000 for use by a blind operator. The radio is small, and can be regarded as being a mobile or portable transceiver. The main aspects of the IC-7000 are, the 160m to 70cm coverage, the multi-mode capability on all bands, and the 100 watt output in such a small package.

The radio is similar in size to the IC-703 and IC-706, but the interesting potential for a blind operator is the inclusion of a keypad on the microphone. This gives the operator the ability to enter a frequency, and goes some way to making up for the small physical size and sparse number of controls on the front panel.

The IC-7000 comes with a detachable front panel. The microphone and headphones plug into this panel, and it clips securely onto the body of the transceiver. The radio does not have an internal ATU, and the various tuning buttons on the front panel and microphone require a suitable external tuning unit. There are two SO239 antenna sockets at the rear of the radio, one for HF and one for VHF/UHF.

I initially found I had difficulty using some of the radio’s controls. The buttons on the front panel of the IC-7000 are very sleek and almost flush with the surrounding surface. After several days of use I became accustomed to this, but it is easy to unintentionally press the wrong button. I found the Function buttons, F1 to F4, along the base of the display, very hard to differentiate, but as these are virtually unusable on accessibility grounds, I tended to avoid these.

Icom have shipped the IC-7000 with a voice synthesizer fitted as standard. A press of the readout button speaks the received signal strength, frequency, and mode. The mode button can also be set-up to announce the mode as it is selected. With this limited spoken output, a blind operator relies on other audio cues, and needs dedicated controls for frequently used functions. With a radio of this size, the addition of a useable microphone keypad becomes essential.

Using just the front panel, I could control the audio volume, and the Squelch and RF gain are on a shared knob. I could alter the band Pass filtering with two concentric knobs, but the same controls are also shared for RIT and Memory Chanel selection, and I found I could not reliably use these.

Again from the front panel, I could select the Mode, and use the Pre-Amp, Attenuator, Noise Blanker, Noise Reduction, and Notch Filter. The front panel controls also allowed me to activate the voice chip and Frequency Lock, and step through the bands. The VFO itself is a good size, and fast tuning steps can be engaged.

As previously mentioned, the IC-7000 is shipped with a good sized keypad on the microphone. This usefully duplicates some of the controls on the front panel, such as the voice output and mode, but mainly offers additional controls. Of great importance is the inclusion of a good sized numeric keypad. This allows direct frequency input, and uses Icom’s stacking system for quickly moving to a previous frequency within a band.

In addition to the voice output, mode, and numeric keypad, there are buttons to toggle IF filters, tune the external ATU, and operate the memory channels. Two buttons step up and down in 50hz increments, or in 1 Khz steps if fast tuning is engaged.

The microphone also boasts two programmable buttons. In their default state they are Quick Memory Write and Quick Memory Recall. These simple functions are the only memories that can be sensibly used by a blind operator. I conclude the standard memory channels are not accessible.

With a modern radio of this size and complexity, it is inevitable many of the more advanced features will need to be set-up in the menu system. In the case of the IC-7000, the limitations of the voice chip means a blind operator will certainly need initial sighted assistance. Of more concern, is the potential need for on-going sighted help. For instance, I found power adjustment required use of the menu system. Whilst it is eminently possible to change the power, it is dependent on the operator memorising a sequence of steps or referring to notes .

To change power, a blind operator will need to use this sequence. press the AF control momentarily and hear a short beep. Press Function key 1. This highlights the last option on the menu list, so holding down F1 for a while will move back to the first entry. Hopefully, the Power option is selected. At this point, there is no audio indication of the current power level. Turn the VFO knob anti-clockwise at least two turns. This will set the power to its minimum level. From this point, every half clockwise turn of the VFO will increase power by approximately 25%. Two full clockwise turns will give full power. The final step is to momentarily press the AF control twice, giving one short beep, followed by a longer beep. If there is any deviation in this sequence, other important parameters can be accidentally changed, potentially putting the radio into an unusable state!

Other areas of difficulty are most notably in using the Split function. In its default state, Split can only be invoked through the inaccessible menu. It is possible to allocate Split commands to the two programmable buttons of the microphone, but the Quick Memory commands would then be lost.

In its basic operation, the IC-7000 can be used by a blind operator. The radio is more accessible than the IC-703 or IC-706, because of the microphone keypad. I have reservations over the difficulty in performing tasks such as changing power and operating in Split mode. The lack of memory channel accessibility could compromise repetitive VHF repeater use. Commonly used controls such as RIT, Compression, Mic Gain, and AGC, all require use of the menu.

In summary, this radio can be used by a blind amateur, but independentchanging of common functions are not possible. Unfortunately, with the limited amount of information spoken by the synthesizer, there are just not enough dedicated controls to allow a blind person independent use of the IC-7000.

Comment 1:

Hi Kelvin
Liked your review, but there is also one other useful attribute to this little radio,
it is the ability to add a television or monitor screen via its video output which
could be considered useful to a partially sighted person.
I use this facility and use a 9” wide screen television to make viewing the screen
easier.
Hope you don’t mind me adding my pennyworth.
Regards
Jerry
MU0VVZ

Comment 2:

By Trevor VK6YJ, January 2013.

I have owned the IC7000 from Icom maybe just over twelve Months, for me it fills the bill, HF VHF and UHF.

A nice small Radio, sits on the operating desk well, compared with my old IC745. One major difference between the two radios, the size, and the 7000 does not have an in built power supply.

The HF side of the Radio is strait forward, once you have the settings as you want Them, all is well. Frequency, Signal strength and mode are announced. Would be an advantage if the voice output could say more. HF works well.

Now to VHF and UHF, here is where I have difficulties in using this Radio. Simplex operation no trouble, using the repeaters etc becomes a problem. Reason for this is keeping the settings that were set, as when you go to change something on the front panel, if the correct sequence is not followed, the radio settings head off in to unintended areas, and you don’t realise which group of settings you have gotten in to. Speech is read out just like on HF, and only when pressing the PTT do you find out if you’re on simplex or Duplex.

I find the buttons on the front panel no trouble to use, the only thing is, I don’t know what they are going to do. One reason for this, is the lack of information for the blind in the Manual. If the manual was in a text or some way we could study it, I feel sure some of us might be able to work the Radio. It would be better if for example , the Manual stated ‘press F1 twice, then F4 once’, and then stated what should happen. But all we get from the PDF manual is press F1 185 then F4 177 or whatever. Too many Graphics.

A great deal of the operation can be done from the HM151 microphone, for me even this is a problem I do forget what some buttons do, unless you use them all the time. If there is a good pair of Eyes around things could be done easier. For me however, the XYL Her Eyes are as bad as mine. With an attachment, a desk microphone can be connected. Have not done this yet, a new Microphone is still in its box where I put it this afternoon when it arrived from the supplier. Summing up, a good radio only if more could be gained from the controls, does not take up much room, the Radio can get a little warm at times.

Related Downloads

None

Kenwood TS-480 Accessibility Review

Image of the Kenwood Ts-480. The face plate is sat on top of the radio body. The microphone is to the left of the body. The radio is tuned to 14.200mhz.

TS-480


Accessibility Review of Kenwood TS-480 SAT

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

February 2010

I evaluated the TS480 for use by a blind op today. In a nutshell, this radio is very tactile and fully accessible.

The design is different from other radios I’ve used. The front panel is separate from the transmitter’s body, and it is in the form of a remote head. The remote head is mounted on a metal stand, and sits at a nice angle.

The microphone plugs into the base unit via a RG45 socket, and there are options to extend cable lengths for the microphone and remote head.

The unit I used had the optional VGS1 voice chip. The VGS1 also allows 3 voice and CW messages to be recorded along with the ability to continuously store the previous 30 seconds of RX audio.

The front panel is very tactile, and I was impressed at the intuitive layout. The buttons are fairly small, and may not suit ops with dexterity problems.

The rig I used was the 100 watt version with auto ATU. The ATU tuned well, and SWR was played back in CW if a match could not be found.

The VGS1 voice chip is literally streets ahead of any other voice chip I’ve used. I chose to set the Programmable Function button to read the signal strength, and read the frequency by pressing Enter twice. The Mode is indicated with CW.

Direct frequency input is possible with the keypad, and each number is spoken as it is entered.

Common functions, such as power adjustment, are fully voiced. Simply press number 4 and ‘TX power’ is spoken along with the setting in watts. This goes for Mike gain, Keyer Speed, Processor Level, Noise Blanker Level, VOX Delay and Gain , and much more. Absolutely great.

The off and on status of options are indicated with different beeps.

This Is a small radio, possibly designed to be used primarily as a mobile rig. This means some controls such as adjusting RF Gain and band pas filters do not have dedicated knobs. Instead, a button is pressed to engage the function, and the multi-channel knob is turned. In the case of the band pass filters, even the High and Low cut frequencies are spoken by the VGS1.

The menu system is fully accessible and all parameters are spoken. It is necessary to use an external reference list to identify the various options. For instance, the default TX equaliser function is spoken as 19, OFF. You need to refer to an external list to know menu number 19 is the TX Equaliser. Movement between the parameters within the menu option is spoken. Thus, using the Band Change up and down buttons will select ‘Off’, ‘HB1’, ‘HB2’ etc. Note: HB equals High Boost.

All Memory channels are spoken, both the channel number and stored frequency. Same goes for the Quick Memories.

Split operation is indicated, and you are told if you are using VFO A or B.

As a blind operator, I always set the multi-Channel control to move in 1kh steps when turned by one click. I found that even when adjusting this step size, the step increments are spoken.

In terms of accessibility and usability, the TS480 is extrodinary. Kenwood should be highly commended.

Related Downloads

Kenwood TS-480 MP3 Manual
TS480SAT MP3 Tutorial by KA9OPL (opens a new page on Joe’s own site)
Kenwood TS-480 PDF Manual
I can work this thing.com
has the following text files in it’s ‘Amateur Radio, Multi band Transceivers’ section:
TS480S In-Depth Manual
TS480S Menus

Icom IC-703 Accessibility Review

Front view of IC703 with microphone resting on top. The radio is tuned to 14.025mhz
Accessibility Review of Icom IC-703

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

February 2010

A RAIBC 703 arrived today from ML&S stock. I’ve spent the afternoon
evaluating it for use by a blind op with G4JZL.

First off, it’s a great radio for an M3. I’ve had several contacts around
the country with good reports. The ATU tunes well. My aerials are resonant
on the bands I use, but the worst I could find was 12m on my dipole. This
showed 6-1, and the tuner tuned it fine. The front panel can be detached,
and I could imagine any disabled person being able to operate this from a
bed or chair.

The voice chip. It is an optional item and it reads Frequency and mode, and through setting a menu option, will add signal strength. The volume of the synthesizer was very quiet. In fact, I could only
Hear it properly when switching RX to dummy load. The manual refers to an internal
pot for adjustment, but we did not attempt this.

As suspected, the biggest problem I found, for a blind operator, was the lack of direct frequency
input. There is no number pad, and the radio does not support a keypad
microphone. I’ve just checked with Icom, and neither the 703 or 706 allow
direct input via mic keypad.

The problem can be addressed with the addition of a QSYER keypad. See the Comments section below.

Without an external keypad, the only way of a blind operator finding a frequency, is via the band up & down, followed by
laborious VFO spinning, and checking the voice output. The Multi-Channel
control, the one that clicks as you turn it, can be set for 1kh steps, but
going from 3.5 to 3.8 takes 300 clicks.

In my opinion it is too difficult for a blind op to use the memories. The
Mem to VFO function is a button found in the Menu system, as is the locating of memory channels, and the memory write. There is no
voice feedback for any of this and it is easy to get lost.

Perhaps I’m being over cautious, but in my experience, I’m directly entering
frequencies all day long. It is though feasible many of our blind operators
simply tune up and down on one band, without the regular need to find a
specific spot. I hear the difficulties experienced by blind operators, on
our Nets, all the time. Nnetting on the exact frequency, even when given
the figures, can be a real challenge. It’s a case of nudge and check the
voice, nudge and check the voice, and so on.

Comments

The radio will work with the John Hansen Millenium qsyer keypad. This keypad will work with Icom radios and Yaesu radios.
I own an Icom 703 and use this keypad with it. I also own a Yaesu FT817ND and the keypad will work with this radio as well.
One has to order the keypad with either a cable that will work with the Icom radios or the Yaesu radios.
In the case of Yaesu radios it will work with the FT817ND the FT857d and the FT897D.
These keypads give bare access to the Yaesu radios. You can switch modes and read out the frequency in CW. I had to have a sighted ham friend set the menus on the Yaesu for me.
Of course there is no speech available on the Icom 703 menus either.
73, Eric Clegg KU3I

Related Downloads

IC-703 Mp3 Manual
Icom IC-703 PDF Manual
I can work this thing.com
has the following text files in it’s ‘Amateur Radio, Multi band Transceivers’ section:
IC703 Manual

Icom IC-7600 Accessibility Review

A photo of the IC-7600. The VFO is tuned to 7.076 lsb and the spectrum display is active.
Accessibility evaluation of the Icom IC-7600

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

March 2011

I was recently able to spend a couple of hours evaluating the Icom IC-7600 owned by G4JZL. This cannot be an in depth review, but I wanted to satisfy myself the rig could be used easily by a blind operator.

My immediate impression was of a substantial piece of equipment. According to the Icom specifications, the radio is 340mm wide, 116mm high, and 280mm deep. These measurements do not include the front dials and other protrusions. The rig covers the HF bands and 50MHz and has an output of 100 watts. The Ic-7600 replaces the IC-756 series, and has many modern features such as USB to PC connectivity, allowing easy integration of digital mode audio.

In line with most modern Icom transceivers, the IC-7600 has a voice synthesizer built in as standard. The voice read-out button was conveniently positioned at the bottom right of the front panel. The incoming Signal Strength, the frequency, and the mode are voiced. The individual mode buttons can also be made to speak, but this requires a menu setting to be turned on.

With a radio of this size, I found there was plenty of room on the front panel. I found there was a dedicated control for all of the important functions of the transceiver. This is important because the Menu System is not accessible. The radio is very tactile, with different sized knobs and well placed buttons. I had the impression that some of the buttons to the top left, such as the power on, the Send/Receive, and the auto ATU, were flat and smooth, making them sit almost flush with the front panel. This impression is made on reflection as I am no longer in front of the radio, but might cause some initial difficulty if touch sensation is poor.

I also found the status of functions, such as the Processor, gave the same beep regardless of it being turned on or off. Whilst I did not thoroughly investigate this function, I suspect the Monitor facility would have to be engaged to allow a blind operator to determine if Processing was being used.

I found It was easy to select the previously determined filter widths, and adjust the shape of the band pas filtering. The Noise Reduction control is a pleasure to use. Just turn the NR on, and turn the knob to suit your preference. Functions such as the Mic Gain, the VOX delay, and the TX Power are each adjusted with dedicated knobs.

The numeric keypad makes frequency input straight forward, and there is a marker on the 5 key. The keypad is slightly recessed, and this means there is a useful tactile ridge in the casing, running down to the right of the numeric keys. This made tactile keypad orientation very intuitive. The Split operation was very slick, and the Split, Dual Watch, and the Main/Sub buttons were nicely placed.

I did not use the Memory features, but I would expect them to be just about usable for recalling 50MHz repeaters. Without voice prompts, Memory usage may well require sighted assistance.

Of particular interest, was the Dual Watch capability of the radio. This feature allows the operator to listen to both the receiving and the transmitting frequencies at the same time. If you are interested in working DX stations, you will find the operators often work Split. It is really useful to find and listen to their RX frequency, particularly if it is being continually adjusted. You can often spot a structured method in their listening habits, and it helps you call in the right spot.

The IC-7600 allows you to hear both frequencies at once, by merging the TX and RX signals into a single mono signal. A separate knob allows you to adjust the volume balance of the two incoming frequencies.

The IC-7600 can store short recordings of incoming audio. The radio is continuously recording, and pressing the Record button, and then the Playback button, will repeat the last 5 seconds of signal. I suspect that more like 20 seconds is actually recorded, and the full recording can be heard by entering the Recordings Menu. Just hearing the last 5 seconds is incredibly useful, though. If you hear a callsign, just hit the Record button. The last 5 seconds is usually just the right amount of time to capture the callsign, ready for immediate playback with a press of the Play button.

The radio can also store voice keyer messages, ready for transmission. This can be useful for often repeated phrases, such as CQ calls. With practise, both the playback and the recording of voice messages can be performed by a blind amateur, but there is no voiced feedback. Rather, it is necessary to remember a sequence of button presses. Fortunately, it is always possible to start from a known position, and there are audio cues including playback of the actual messages. CW messages can also be stored, but as this involves the inputting of characters, I suspect this is inaccessible using the rig interface, but is perhaps possible using an external keyboard.

To make the use of the message keyer much easier, the Ic-7600 will accept an external ‘button box’, plugged into the rear panel. This box has 4 buttons, and these will operate the voice and CW keyer. The big advantage being, the operator need not get the keyer menu up on the display to use the pre-stored messages.

In summary, I was immediately at home using the IC-7600. The voice synthesizer only reads the basics, but the number of dedicated controls means there will be no pressing need to enter the inaccessible menus. A blind operator may well require initial sighted assistance to set up personal preferences, but should find the radio comfortable in daily use.

Related Downloads

None

Kenwood TS-590 Accessibility Review

A photo of the Kenwood TS-590. The orange display is reading 14.200 USB
Accessibility Review of Kenwood TS-590S

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

February 2011

I first saw the TS-590S, on the Kenwood stand, at the Newark rally in October 2010. This radio had excited blind amateurs through 2010, as it promised unrivalled accessibility. Traditionally Kenwood have taken accessibility very seriously, and I had been very impressed with the speech feedback offered in other radios I had used in their current range. Using the optional VGS-1 ’Voice Guide and Storage Unit’, the spec sheet suggested even the SWR reading was available, a first to be built in as standard in a modern radio. The evaluation radio has been kindly lent to me by Kenwood UK.

The TS-590S is a mid sized unit, measuring approximately 280mm wide by 300mm deep by 100mm high. It covers the HF bands and 6M with an output of 100 watts. It has an internal automatic ATU, and two SO-239 sockets at the rear. It can be connected to a PC using a traditional RS-232 serial connector, or via USB. When using the USB connection, the radio adds an external sound card to the PC hardware, and this can be used for both sending and receiving audio via the radio. The VGS-1 Voice Guide was fitted to the evaluation radio, giving verbal confirmation of key presses, and recording/playback of stored messages.

The TS-590S has two Programmable Function buttons on the front panel. PF A is conveniently positioned in the top left corner, and by default reads the Frequency. PF B is positioned below the display and above the 2 and 3 keys in the numeric keypad, and by default reads the incoming Signal Strength.

When pressing PF A, the VGS-1 voices:

‘VFO A 14.200, a slight pause, 00’

When in Split Mode, pressing the PF A key elicits:

‘VFO S A 14.200, a slight pause, 00’

The PF A key also reads back many of the adjustable settings and Menu options, depending on the current state of the radio.

For an incoming signal of strength ‘8’, PF B voices:

‘S 8’

The Programmable Function keys can be assigned to perform many different commands, so they are not fixed to just read Frequency and Signal Strength. If you use an optional microphone with four additional Programmable Function buttons, these can also be assigned. I was delighted to find the TS-590S also allows the microphone Up and Down buttons to be programmed.

The Frequency and Signal Strength readouts are shown in the manual as Voice1 and Voice2 respectively. In line with the anticipation of the SWR readout, there is the addition of Voice3. This is not assigned to a programmable function key by default, and I chose to assign it to the Down button on the microphone. Voice3 works in conjunction with the meter display. If the SWR meter is selected and a carrier is transmitted, pressing the mic Down will voice:

‘R 1.0’

The SWR appears to be announced accurately up to 5 to 1, and if the impedance is out of range, you’ll hear:

‘R Over’

To assist in reading the SWR, I programmed the microphone Up button to send a 10 watt tuning carrier. This meant I could press mic Up, followed by mic Down and have the SWR spoken.

(For a full description of how to setup the voices in the Menu, see PA9D’s guide below. If you’re using a screen reader, the section has its own heading.)

Each press of the Meter button toggles the display between SWR, ALC, and Speech Compression. These presses give no spoken feedback, but when used in conjunction with Voice-3, the SWR, the ALC, and the Compression levels are individually spoken.

If ALC is selected, pressing the Voice3 button voices:

‘A 0’, for no signal

‘A 10’, if the level is ten

‘A Over’, if ALC is out of range

Similar voice outputs are given for Speech Compression, but with ‘C’ being used instead of ‘A’. I’m not sure how much reliance can be placed on setting the ALC and Compression accurately using this method.

The Meter button also engages the Drive feature when held for about 1 second. The Drive reduces power output for use on the LF bands, and beeps to indicate On and Off. It could be easy to accidentally hold in the ‘Meter’ button for slightly longer than you had intended, and find you are no longer being heard because power has been reduced. There is an option in the menu system to increase the time needed to hold buttons to engage second level commands, and this mightbe be useful.

The block of six buttons at the top left of the front panel, are in the usual Kenwood arrangement. They include the Attenuator, Pre Amp, VOX, Processor, Send/Receive, and the Auto ATU. These buttons turn the commands On and Off, and give aural feedback with a short high pitched beep for On, and a lower toned longer beep for Off. The Auto ATU is engaged by holding the button for a second or so, and the ATU relays can be heard clicking. Positive confirmation of a good match is given by a double beep, or SWR is sounded in CW if the impedance is out of range.

These buttons also perform different commands if held for about a second. For example, Antenna 1 or 2 can be selected by holding the Pre-amp button, and a single or double beep is heard. Holding the VOX button allows the VOX Gain to be changed, and this is with full spoken output akin to the Power adjustment described below.

Between the headphone socket and the numeric keypad is a vertical column of three buttons. If pressed momentarily these allow adjustment of Mic Gain, TX Power, and Keying Speed. If held for about a second, the buttons adjust Carrier Level, Monitor On/Off, and VOX Delay. Some of these buttons are also Mode dependent, and perform different commands if CW is selected.

All of these adjustments have spoken output. If the output power level is to be adjusted, press the Power button. A short beep is heard followed by:

‘TX Power 100’

Turning the Multi-Ch control anti-clockwise by one click, voices:

‘95’

The power is reduced by 5 watts. There is a reassuring beep if the Multi-Ch control is turned beyond the 100 watts maximum and the 5 watts minimum. A final press of the Power button gives a longer beep, to show you have left power adjustment mode.

To the right of these buttons is the numeric keypad. As we have come to expect from Kenwood, this is fully voiced. Each individual key press is spoken, and the new resultant frequency is announced. Kenwood has adopted a three level band stacking system for the various numbers on the keypad. A press of the ‘3’ will take you directly to a remembered frequency on 40M. The next two presses will cycle through two further stored frequencies on 40M, with a third press cycling back to the original position.

I found the numeric keypad buttons to be well sized and well spaced, with a tactile indication on the ‘5’ key. I would though prefer to find more space around the numeric keypad, making it easier to differentiate from the buttons above and to the left and right. I found I needed to account for these surrounding buttons, before I reliably entered a direct frequency.

It’s worth mentioning here, the TS-590S has hard smooth rubber buttons, and there is no unpleasant dragging on the finger tips, when moving from button to button!

Mode changes are made using a column of buttons to the right of the keypad and directly to the left of the Tuning Dial. Feedback is given in CW. If the CW mode is selected, you will hear Dah Di Dah Dit.

The Tuning Dial sits in the Centre of the front panel, And has a drag adjustment just below. The Dial sits on a slightly raised plinth, and this helps prevent you from accidentally touching the dial when locating buttons close to it. The Tuning Dial has a useful indent, and moves 10khz per revolution in standard mode and 1khz in Fine . This can be adjusted. Using the Menu System, I was also able to assign 1khz tuning steps to each click of the Multi-Ch control.

To the right of the Tuning Dial is a block of some twenty buttons. The first row of five buttons operate the IF filters, Noise Blanker, Noise Reduction, and Notch filtering. These buttons use beeps to indicate position 1 or 2 and a longer beep for Off. If for example, the first Noise Reduction filter is selected, holding the button for about a second enters the adjustment mode. The current setting is spoken, and it can be changed using the Multi-Ch control.

The second row has four buttons. These are Split, TF-Set, and A/B. The Final button is the first Message button, in a vertical column of four.

Split works as you would expect, transmitting on VFO B, and adding ‘S’ to the spoken Frequency announcement. You hold the TF-Set button to temporarily monitor the VFO B frequency. The A/B button toggles between VFO A and B, and when held, equalises the second VFO with the primary.

Split frequency operation gives good feedback, but I personally found the continual voicing of the current frequency to be tiring and unnecessary. For example, when holding the TF-Set button, the VFO B frequency was announced, and then the VFO A frequency was announced on the button’s release. If you are working a DX station using split frequencies, it is likely you will be pressing the TF-Set button every time the DX station gives a report, and you will be searching for the frequency he is listening on. You will be concentrating on the various signals, and having the frequency automatically announced every time will be a distraction.

I found two practical ways round this problem. Firstly by turning off the voice completely in menu B. I cover this more fully when I discuss the menu system, and the ability to switch between menu A and menu B. The second method was by turning off automatic Voice announcements. This option is well thought out. Basically, all speech is turned off unless one of the PF keys is pressed. The TF-Set key will no longer speack frequencies, the number pad will not speak, and the menu system will be silent. Although I could not fully investigate this function in the limited time I had the radio, I found that although the menu system was silent, pressing PF A, voiced the menu option and setting. If I pressed the TX Power button, only the beeps were heard, but pressing PF A, spoke the usual ‘TX Power 100’. In effect, the verbiage was dramatically reduced, but speech could be called upon if needed!

The third row, again has four buttons. Memory/VFO, Memory Write, and Memory to VFO. The final button in the row is the second Message button.

In line with previous Kenwoods, I found the Memory system to be fully accessible. It is easy to find memory contents and move them to the VFO. It Is easy to store frequencies in either previously used or vacant channels.

The fourth row has three buttons, with the last being the third Message button. The first two are Quick Memory Write and Quick Memory Recall. These are very accessible, with channel numbers and contents being spoken. A Menu option allows you to choose the number of Quick Memories to be used.

The final row contains the MHZ, Scan, and Menu buttons, with the last being the fourth Message button. Beeps are heard to indicate if the MHZ and Scan functions are On or Off, and in the case of the Scan, the band noises indicate the band is being tuned.

The Menu, gives typical Kenwood accessibility. In general, it is excellent, although it is necessary for a blind operator to refer to an external list of descriptions for menu options. For example, adjusting the voice chip volume is accomplished using menu number 6. As you scroll through the menu, you will hear:

’06 4’

This means you are on menu 6 and the volume level is 4. There is no spoken indication to tell you that this is the voice volume setting.

Two useful menu features are, the ability to place commonly used options in a Quick Menu and the ability to maintain different settings in two separate menus.

If you frequently adjust the voice volume and say the RX Equaliser, you can add both to the Quick Menu. When turned on, only these options will appear, in this case, options 6 and 31. This makes it much easier to remember your commonly used options!

Another useful feature is the ability to have different settings in Menu A or B. For example, I could set the radio for DX operating in menu B. Once in the menu system, pressing the A/B key switched between menu A and B, giving one or two beeps to indicate which had been selected.

As previously discussed, there are four Message buttons, in a vertical column, to the right of this block of buttons. They allow messages to be recorded in voice or CW mode and were perfectly accessible for both recording and playback. With the option turned on in the menu, the fourth button will play back the last continuously recorded 30 seconds of incoming audio.

There are three buttons, set horizontally, at the top right of the radio. RIT, XIT, and Clear. Beeps indicate if these functions are turned on or off.

Below the RIT, are two further buttons. These control the various AGC options, and when in FM mode, allow the operator to select CTCSS tones. I found these to be fully accessible, with the CTCSS tones being spoken.

The right end of the front panel hosts the usual knobs for RIT, Squelch/Manual Notch, Multi-CH, and AF/RF Gain. Concentric knobs also allow adjustment of the band pass filters. The filter band widths are spoken every time an adjustment is made. Whilst initially useful, I felt the voice might interrupt the incoming audio, as adjustments are made for best reception. This is prevented if Automatic Announcements is turned off.

I was particularly impressed when preparing the TS-590S for its return to Kenwood. I pressed the necessary keys to perform a re-set, and was astonished to find I had full voiced feedback. I was able to choose between the various Full and Partial re-set options.

As the radio is likely to be popular for blind operators, I decided to briefly look at the ARCP software. It is difficult to fully assess how easy it would be to ‘only’ use the software to operate the radio, but personally, I would envisage the software as complementing the traditional interface. It is much easier to press buttons on the radio itself, than to hunt around a screen in a timely manner. The software starts to become extremely useful, though, in changing less frequently used settings and in getting full Menu descriptions.

I found the software can be installed without the need for the TS-590S to be attached. There are many commands that obviously will not work, such as the menu system, but it can be roughly tested before a purchase is made.

I found the ARCP software to be straightforward to install and use with my Screen Reader. Using the Tab key, it is easy to move through the commands presented on the screen. Hitting enter on the Menu button makes this area very accessible , And shows the menu system with descriptions. Utilizing the Windows Pull Down menus, makes it possible to store data from the radio on the PC in the form of a backup. It can then be written back to the radio if required. One big advantage of using software, is the ability to browse round looking for little used features. I thought the ARCP software was excellent in this respect. During my limited explorations I found I could also assign many common commands to Function keys on my PC keyboard. For instance, F2 could be made to bring up the direct frequency input form. F3 and F4 could change between LSB and USB. F5 could change the mode to CW. F6 could make the radio voice the frequency etc. I found Memory management a little more difficult. I was hoping to find a table allowing me to input all of the Memory Channels in one go. I am perhaps missing something obvious, but I could only find ways of laboriously moving from channel to channel one at a time.

Conclusions. In my opinion, this is the most accessible rig currently available. I could find no major accessibility issues, and indeed, most settings give good feedback. At last there is a radio on the market, where a blind operator can learn what SWR the rig ismeasuring. I was particularly impressed with the ability to turn off Automatic Announcements, there are possibly some improvements to this area, but the feature is welcome, and demonstrates an understanding that more speech is not always better. In conjunction with the ARCP software, a blind operator has access to virtually every setting and feature on the TS-590S. A remarkable achievement, and Kenwood should again be highly commended.

Assigning voice parameters to the PF buttons

By Andor PA9D

July 2014

Setting up the different Voice parameters in the TS-590 takes a bit of work but if you understand what is actually happening isn’t too difficult.

The menu system descriptions within the VGS-1 are not very clear and will require you to have a list of menu numbers and descriptions ready to find the correct menu for the given option.

For the programmable function keys A and B and the up and down buttons on the standard MC-43S hand-mic supplied with the rig, there are four menu options to set the actual function coupled to these buttons.

And yes that does include the actual up and down functions that the up/down keys perform by default HI.

The menu numbers are:
– 79: PF-A (left of the on/off button)
– 80: PF-B (above the number 2 and 3 keys on the numeric keypad left of the main dial)
– 85: down button
– 86: up button.

Next to these 4 function settings, the TS-590S has four additional function key settings. These correspond to the four programmable function buttons found on the Kenwood MC-47 hand-mic and are labelled PF1 to PF4 (probably the MC59 as well with numeric keypad but I can’t verify that as I don’t have one).

These four function keys are programmed under menu’s 81, 82, 83 and 84.

For all function keys the following VGS-1 information is important:
– code 200 or voice-1: reads out the frequency, current menu option and value when in a menu etc.
– code 201 or voice-2: reads the S-meter setting on receive and ACL and speech processor output on transmit
– code 202 or voice-3: reads the SWR value on transmit ranging from 1.0-5.0 or OVER on too high SWR, this function is new for the TS-590 and not available in the TS-480 models unfortunately.
One extra code of interest is code 204 which will switch the TS-590 into CW mode and sets it to transmit a 10 watt carrier wave.

My setup is as follows:
– menu 79 is set to code 200 (default)
– menu 80 is set to code 201 (default)
– menu 85 is set to code 202
– menu 86 is set to code 204

Effectively this means that pressing the up-arrow will set the rig into the CW 10W transmit carrier mode, pressing the down arrow in sequence after that will readout the SWR value and pressing the up-arrow again will return the rig to the previous mode and power settings in receive mode.

I have left the menus 81-84 as is as I’m not using an MC-47 hand-mic with the TS-590,
so no use in changing them.
VY 73 de Andor PA9D

Comments

This review is for the TS590S, but the rig was updated to the TS590SG in early 2015. The complete SG manual has therefore been added to the Related Downloads section below.

Related Downloads

TS-590S MP3 Manual
TS-590SG MP3 Manual
TS-590 PDF Manual
I can work this thing.com
has the following text files in it’s ‘Amateur Radio, Multi band Transceivers’ section:
TS590S Manual
TS590S In-Depth Manual
TS590S Menus
TS590S Front Panel

Kenwood TS-2000 Accessibility Review

Kenwood TS-2000. The main frequency is reading 14.200 USB and the sub channel is reading 435.000 FM
Accessibility evaluation of Kenwood TS-2000

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

December 2010

The Ts-2000 has been well regarded by amateurs with low vision for many years. It is about 270mm wide, 100mm high, and almost 400mm deep including controls. It covers HF, 6M, and 2M with a maximum of 100 watts, and 50 watts for 70CM. It can be optionally extended to transmit on 23CM at additional cost, and has an internal ATU for HF matching. The radio has a Sub Receiver for VHF and UHF, and can be used for cross band communication.

The TS-2000 is packed with features, and its front panel and rear panels comprehensively cater for almost every need from HF to UHF. The front panel has many small rubber buttons and rotary controls, and the facia is sloped and contoured, giving a tactile emphasis to certain groups of buttons.
The rear panel has 4 antenna sockets, 2 SO-239s for HF and 6M, 1 SO-239 for 2M, and an N type socket for 70CM.

The TS-2000 was fitted with the optional VS-3 voice chip. The VS-3 has been superceeded by the excellent VGS-1 on newer Kenwoods, but gave unparalleled access to Kenwood radios when introduced.

As I’ve mentioned, the radio has an extensive number of buttons and knobs, with the Main Tuning Dial in the centre. To the left of the Tuning Dial, in the top left corner, are a block of 8 buttons for Voice, Power On/Off, Attenuator, Pre-Amp, VOX, Processor, Send/Receive, and ATU. Below this are the headphone and Mic sockets and three very small round buttons including Noise Reduction and Automatic Notch. The LCD display runs across the upper part of the panel. The 12 buttons of the numeric keypad are indented slightly, and below this, two rotary controls for adjusting band width. Directly to the left of the Tuning Dial are a further 10 buttons including Function, Mic Gain , Power, CW Keying adjustment, and mode selection. The Tuning Dial, in the middle, is on a slightly raised ‘pillar’, so you are less likely to touch the Dial when pressing buttons close to it.

To the right of the Tuning Dial are buttons for Menu, and TF-Set, used for checking the TX frequency when working Split. Up and Down arrow keys move from band to band, and you can select Main or Sub receivers. These 4 keys are in a ‘diamond’ shaped block, and along with the majority of buttons, are close together.

To the right, and again slightly recessed, is a block of 9 buttons. These include the Quick Memories, the associated buttons for Split operation, and the Memory Write and Memory Recall options. Finally, to the far right of the facia are buttons for RIT and XIT. A rotary knob for RIT/Sub receiver Tuning, and RF Gain and AF Gain for both receivers. The Multi-Channel control also sits in this cluster.

Moving back to the left side of the front panel, the majority of these buttons are also multi-purpose, and usually engage a set-up menu when pressed with the Function key. I’ll discuss this further when I describe setting CTCSS tones, but the Function key commands give very little aural feedback.

The TS-2000 has one Programmable button, conveniently placed at the very top left corner of the front panel. I decided it should voice the incoming Signal Strength. Programming it via the Menu, it can be made to voice the Frequency, or perform many other common commands.

The TS-2000 also reads the complete menu system, although a blind operator will need a method of remembering the function of each menu number. For instance, the RX Equaliser is menu number 20. Using the Multi Channel control, you can move through the menu until ‘Menu 20 – OFF’ is heard. Adjustment is then made using the up and down arrow keys. You will hear ‘Menu 20 H’ and then ‘Menu 20 B’ and so on. In this case, ‘OFF’ means the Receive Equaliser is turned off, ‘H’ equals High Boost and ‘B’ equals Bass Boost. A blind operator will need to either refer to an external note of menu numbers, or have an exceptional memory.

Having a full numeric keypad makes it easy to move to a frequency. If a direct frequency is entered, such as 3.743 MHZ, you will hear:

1. ‘ENTER’, as the Enter button is pressed.

2. ‘3’, When Three is pressed

3. ‘Megahertz’, when the decimal point is pressed.

4. ‘7’ ‘4’ ‘3’, as the remaining numbers are pressed.

5. ‘VFO 3.743’ a slight pause ‘00’, when the Enter key is pressed again.

As mentioned, I used the Programmable key to read the incoming Signal Strength, as a double press of the Enter key conveniently voices the current frequency.

I found I could configure the Multi-Channel control to move in 1KHZ steps. This also applied to the buttons on the Microphone.

Due to the Menu accessibility and the voicing of pressed numbers, the TS-2000 is very usable on the HF bands. The automatic tuner gives good aural feedback through the rattling of the relays, and a nice positive Beep when matching is achieved. S W R is played in CW if the radio fails to find a match. The radio’s Mode is also indicated using CW, USB is heard as Di Di Dah.

In normal use, the TS-2000 can indicate most settings, if only by a process of elimination. For instance, to adjust the power, the Power button is pressed and power adjusted by turning the Multi Channel control. None of this is spoken, but providing you have correctly pressed the Power button, giving a high pitched beep, each ‘click’ of the Multi Channel control will change the power by 5 watts. So, to set 10 watts output, turn the Multi Channel control anti-clockwise until you hear a beep indicating the 5 watt minimum has been reached, and then turn one ‘click’ clockwise to set 10 watts. Finally, press the power button again, giving a low pitched beep, to leave the power adjustment.

Mic Gain is adjusted in a similar way, but each ‘click’ moves by 1%. As the gain can be set from 1% to 100%, there are potentially 100 ‘clicks’ to be counted. There is no way of finding out what the current setting is, unless you count the ‘clicks’ until a limit has been reached. For example, if you count 30 ‘clicks’ in the clockwise direction and then hear a beep, you can deduce the Mic Gain was previously set at 70%. Not very practical, but at least possible.

When pressing buttons to the left of the Tuning Dial, the on or Off status of many options is indicated using a high and low beep tone. This is particularly useful when, for example, entering the Power adjustment mode. One notable exception though is the Speech Processor. There is no difference in beep tone to indicate whether it has been turned On or Off. While you can physically hear the difference you make to the incoming audio with many of the settings, there is no aural feedback for a blind operator to know if he is transmitting with Speech Processing. The only method I found of knowing if I was using Processing, was by listening to my own transmission through headphones, with the Monitor function engaged.

I found Split operating to be accessible. The Voice will not indicate if you are using VFO A or B, but in practical terms this doesn’t matter. Pressing the A/B button will switch to the alternate VFO, allowing you to enter the TX frequency. Press A/B again to return to the RX frequency. Press the Split button, and you can start operating. Each time you switch VFO, the frequency is spoken, but pressing the Split button itself gives no audio feedback. Fortunately, pressing the TF-Set key will allow you to listen to your Split transmitting frequency, and you hear a beep if you are not in Split mode. The TF-Set button is also of course useful for checking the DX station is actually listening on your transmit frequency or for checking the repeater input, but I found the button always Voiced the frequency when both pressed and released. This became annoying, as when I wanted to quickly check the TX frequency, the voice was continually obscuring the incoming signal. In this case, less audio feedback is better.

There is little doubt the TS-2000 stands out from the rest of the competition, with its good accessibility, and its ability to operate multi-mode from HF to UHF. In the VHF/UHF environment, it is important to have good Memory accessibility , as potentially many repeater frequencies will be stored in memory. Hear, I found the TS-2000 was very accessible. Memory Channel numbers are spoken, along with the stored frequencies. When using 2M, the radio even knows when repeater frequencies are being saved, and automatically sets the input and output off-set. The Quick Memory accessibility was again excellent.

As previously mentioned, there are no spoken prompts for button presses involving the Function key. This means , for example, there is no aural feedback to select a CTCSS tone.

A CTCSS tone is usually selected by pressing Function followed by 6 on the keypad. A list of possible tones is displayed. Once the correct tone for a repeater is selected, the Function and 6 are pressed again to leave the CTCSS list, and the settings can be written to memory. Along with there being no spoken feedback, there is no difference in beep pitch to show the CTCSS list has been engaged.

Incidentally, I found I could often set the CTCSS tone for a repeater, providing the repeater was in use. I could enter the CTCSS set-up mode with Function followed by 6, and then use the scan button to automatically find the correct CTCSS tone. Again, there are no spoken prompts, it’s very much a matter of trial and error.

In summary, the TS-2000gives excellent access to the vast majority of its features. A blind operator familiar with the layout could easily set this radio up from scratch. Access to the Menu and the Memory Channels, and the band range from HF to 70CM on all modes, make the TS-2000 very attractive. The TS-2000 can justifiably be called a ‘shack in a Box’, but with that label comes complexity. There are lots of small buttons that could accidentally be pressed, and to get the most out of it, a blind operator will need a good memory and access to notes for both the Menu and front panel layout. One command to definitely remember is the partial reset. This will retain the Menu and memory settings, and will get you back to a known position if you get really stuck!

As an additional note. If the operator uses a PC and connects via the CAT interface, Kenwood supply an exceptionally accessible MCP program for the TS-2000. The MCP allows the radio to be configured, including the unspoken Function key settings such as CTCSS, and for the Memory Channels to be easily populated. Once changes have been made using the MCP, they can be written back to the radio and the created file can be backed up, in case a full reset is ever required.

Related Downloads

TS-2000 Front Panel Layout
TS-2000 PDF Manual
Handihams have the following files and audio tutorials in their Manuals section:
ts-2000_quick_guide.txt
ts2000_1_overview.mp3
ts2000_2_basic_setup.mp3
ts2000_3_frequency_entry_and_front_panel.mp3
ts2000_4_memories.mp3
ts2000_5_setting_pl_tones.mp3
ts2000_6_receive_audio.mp3
ts2000_7_setting_power_and_mic_gain.mp3
ts2000_8_subtransceiver.mp3
ts2000_9_notes_on_cw_operation.mp3
ts2000_quick_daisy.zip
I can work this thing.com
has the following text files in its ‘Amateur Radio, Multi band Transceivers’ section:
TS2000 Quick Guide