KENWOOD is a renowned brand when it comes to manufacturing the best handheld ham radios in the market. With its initial product, the TH-D72A handheld APRS ham radio, it garnered a great deal of popularity amongst users, and now with its latest reveal – the Kenwood TH-D74A, there are exciting upgrades that no other ham radio can boast of.
If you’re keen on getting the best radio in the market, receiving value for your money, then the Kenwood radio is your best bet. It comes with many exciting features that make it serve the function of three or more ham radios combined. To know more about the radio, read through this review and be sure to make a purchase.
This radio is complete with exceptional features and the perks of a digital transceiver, and these features are bound to leave you – the user satisfied.
It makes use of a transflective TFT color display that offers clear visibility both during the day and at night, it also features the APRS support developed by the JARL, and D-STAR digital transceiver. With its built-in GPS, you have no issues with location tracking. Its Micro USB, MicroSD/SDHC capacity and Bluetooth support, are among its array of excellent features.
What’s more, the Kenwood TH-D74A radio comes with a mini-manual to set it up. It is the ideal concise guide filled with step-by-step information regarding the functions and features of the device. It comes with complete instructions for all modes of operation, including the APRS, D-STAR, Multimode operations, IF filters, DSP equalizer, Scanning, Echo Link GPS, TNC/KISS mode Packet, Wireless Remore control, microSD card, Bluetooth and voice recording operation.
It should be noted that the mini-manual operating guide is a lot smaller and easier to use compared to the factory instruction manual. It is appropriately laminated too for safety and resistance against water spills, can be easily pocketed and can be kept with the radio at all times – thanks to its small size. It is a vital operating material that shouldn’t be lost.
Without a doubt, this radio is the go-to radio for many and is highly rated among the top amateur radios in the United States.
Table of Contents
Considerations for Choosing KENWOOD TH-D74A Radio
The Kenwood radios are known for its rugged yet simple design. Its design ensures that its efficient operations are not compromised while trying to make it look classy. Generally, its weight is a bit more than the average ham radio, but that doesn’t stop it from being easy to handle or carry around. Right from the moment of the purchase till your first use on a field expedition, you will discover that the Kenwood communications radio is sturdy, and that’s thanks to its high-quality materials. The color transflective TFT LCD adds more finesse to the design in that it uses both reflective light and backlight for high-end visibility, no matter the external lighting conditions. Hence, reading the screen is as easy at night as it is during the day.
Another note on the design shows that the main screen layout is well organized and simplistic enough for the average user. It further comes with pop-up screens that highlight its modes and functions so that you won’t feel lost about its operations.
When searching for a product, durability is always a core requirement that must be met, and the Kenwood radio meets that precise requirement. Made of high-grade materials that allow for shock absorption and full functionality of its multiple features, the Kenwood D74A is more durable than most ham radios. Its build is rated high according to IP54/55 standards, and that is something to boast about.
Capable of transmitting a signal at three different bands, the Kenwood D74A possesses a unique tri-band functionality that makes it a must-have for most users. Bands 144 – 148, 222 – 225, and 430 – 450 MHz are the available bands, particularly the 200 bands which ham radio operators and users find extremely useful.
Rather than the standard NiMH batteries widely used by most radios, the Kenwood radio makes use of a 1800mAh Lithium-ion battery. This ensures that it lasts for as long as 15 hours, depending on its usage. When used heavily, especially its special power-intensive features, it can last up to 8 hours. But if you’re on the lookout for conserving power, you will need to deactivate the most advanced energy-intensive features when not in use, as these features drain the battery power through background usage.
With four power settings at your disposal, you can switch from 0.05, 0.5, 2, and 5 watts, unlike other radios that offer 2 – 3 power settings. Its power setting aids its efficiency and determines how long the Kenwood TH-D74A will last peruse.
Kenwood THD74A Review
Overview of Features
- Durable build that is made of high-quality materials
- Weatherproof capacity tailored to the IEC 529 IP-54/ 55 standards
- Easy to operate D-STAR repeater mode
- Built-in APRS protocol that allows for real-time data exchange amongst users
- Built-in IF receive filter
- Efficient IF output mode
- DV fast data recording and receiving mode
- High-end voice processing DSP protocol
- Clear voice recording capacity
- Supports the use of MicroSD for storage
- Built-in GPS and Bluetooth support
- Dual-frequency reception (VxV, UxU, and VxU functions)
- Rapid charging and strong battery life
- User-friendly operations and clear visibility display even in low light
- External Decode function (PC Decode 12kHz IF output, BW: 15 kHz)
- CSV Data Import / Export function
- GPS Logger mode with an unlimited amount of data stored to the available microSD memory
Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)
One of the core features of the D74A ham radio is the built-in APRS support. APRS allows you to have real-time two-way transmissions of data by making use of packet communications. Simply speaking, you can exchange messages, GPS coordinates, and weather updates through the APRS. You can send text messages using your D74A either by choosing a message format or inputting text using the panel’s keys. With the ability to exchange data, you can rest assured that the information you receive is accurate and up-to-date. This single feature stands it out from the rest.
Another significant feature of the D74A is its D-Star compatibility. This is the amateur radio communications network that uses digital voice and data protocol for ham radios. It’s an all in one network that allows you to use radio frequencies and the internet on your radio. With the D-Star compatibility feature on your D74A, you can appear online, send and receive messages, and go through call signs. This function is scarce amongst other ham radios, but the D74A is one of the few radios that feature this function.
Bluetooth and Mobile Connectivity
These two defining features allow you to program your D74A radio with ease. Aside from being compatible with Bluetooth usage, the D74A offers mobile connectivity, a KISS mode TNC access, and also makes use of external APRS software. With these two features, you can rest assured of having an active connection for the exchange of real-time data, a feat which other models of handheld radios are failing at.
Micro-USB and Micro-SD compatible
The micro-USB port allows you to charge your D74A radio. Simultaneously, the micro-SD compatibility gives you the liberty of inserting a micro-SD memory into the radio – this will enable you to store a lot of audio recordings, GPS coordinates, messages and many more. Unlike other radios that come with limits regarding storage, the D74A is a remarkable radio that transcends other radios’ limitations.
CSV Data Import / Export
Exporting and importing CSV data has never been easier on a ham radio, but the D74A has made it a lot easier by its new and improved CSV data function. With this feature, you’re guaranteed seamlessly importing and exporting CSV data such as the Digital Repeater List, Call signs, and other lists stored on your micro-SD memory.
DSP Voice Processing and Recording
DSP voice processing is an essential audio equalizing feature that significantly improves the sound quality. What’s more, it is the fact that it is easily adjustable to suit your preference. As a result, you’re guaranteed to have a clear voice recording and audio message when using the D74A radio. To record clearly, you have to determine what band you wish to record on, instead of leaving the device to scan for detectable sounds being played by its speaker. The ease with which to tweak the DSP voice processing and recording unit makes it stand out among other handheld ham radios.
Unique to the Kenwood brand, the D74A comes with the brand’s unique standard for audio quality. Crystal clear and effortless audio processing ensures that calls are effortlessly heard without noise intrusion. Thankfully, Kenwood’s years of expertise in audio engineering are still top-notch and beyond the reach of other handheld ham radios’ reach.
To ensure clear reception, the D74A prides itself with a built-in IF receiving a filter that drowns out noise and interference. The IF filter reduces interference signals in SSB and CW receptions, thus assuring you of clear and easy listening at all times.
In addition to its array of great features, the D74A is designed to thrive in less than ideal weather conditions. Due to its durability and resistance against dust and water at great levels, it has been significantly rated high with an IP54/55 rating. Be it outdoors, under the rain or the snow, or indoors with water sprays, droplets and slight heat, the D74A is weather-proof.
Battery Life; ideally, the battery life is healthy, but you’ll need to minimize the usage of some of its advanced features. For instance, features such as GPS and APRS support are power-intensive. Hence they’re deactivated when not in use. Heavy users of GPS and the APRS protocol are advised to buy extra batteries to enjoy using the radio for long hours.
Color Display; due to its transflective design, the TFT color display is large and easy to read. No matter the amount of external lighting, the display is clear both during the day and during the night. What’s more, is the fact that the LCD is also clear without the backlight on.
ARS Compatibility; unlike other radios, the Kenwood radio possesses ARS compatibility on major frequencies, especially the 220MHz band. This allows it to function efficiently and will enable it to share GPS data easily.
D-STAR Feature; with its D-STAR feature, the D74A allows you to send messages, check on another user’s GPS data, call sign and online status, among many other perks.
Durability; although it packs considerable weight compared to other radio models, the weight and bulk allow it to withstand shock and function in less than ideal conditions. It works efficiently indoors, as it does outdoors.
Software Ease; the configuration of theD74A is easy to set up, and this is due to the clean and easy software installed in it.
Weatherproof; with a rating of IP54/55, the D74A is not impaired by weather conditions, and this is due to the fact that it is manufactured from excellent qualitative materials.
Pricey, costing around $500, the D74A is more expensive than other handheld ham radios models in the market. But for its great features, compensate for its price.
Weight; compared to most handheld ham radios, the D74A is slightly heavy.
Complex Manual; while the Kenwood-D74A is categorized as a radio designed for beginners, the contents of its factory manual are a little too complicated for a beginner. Hence, while an advanced user would find the manual easy to understand, an amateur user would be faced with difficulty in understanding and setting up the radio.
Weak antenna; the rubbery antenna of the D74A has been noted to serve poorly. Its transmission performance is weak, and as such, it is best swapped with a different antenna from a different model, for example, the Diamond SRH320A 144/220/440 MHz Tri-Band Handheld SMA Antenna.
Battery Life; while the battery life is generally excellent, using some of its advanced features such as the GPS and APRS protocol drains the battery fast. Hence, it is advised that you buy extra batteries, especially if you need to make use of its advanced features often.
Question; Where can I buy Kenwood radios?
Answer; Kenwood radios are available in a handful of areas in the US, such as Atlanta, Oakland, San Diego, Denver, and Texas, among many others. Kenwood radios are also available on eCommerce sites like Amazon, Ham Radio and many more.
Question; how do I hit a plain non-DSTAR repeater on this radio?
Answer; the the radio out of the box can easily be set up for analog repeaters, meaning that analog is the default mode. TO use the D-STAR repeaters, you have to enable the digital D-STAR mode.
Question; is this device capable of monitoring p25 mode public service frequencies?
Answer; no,it cannot decode p25 public service frequencies. You need a p25 scanner in other to listen for public service frequencies.
Question; is this radio recommended for beginners?
Answer; While the radio is designed for beginners and comes with many highly useful features for experts. It is advised that you try your hands on one of Kenwood’s lower radios, as this particular one can be quite tricky for a beginner.
Question; does the battery discharge while not in use, or do I need to recharge before each use?
Answer; to be safer, it is advised to check the battery level before use; that way, you can determine if you need to recharge or not.
While the Kenwood TH-D74A is a bit pricey compared to other handheld ham radios models, it offers value for your money. Its advanced features make it stand out from every other handheld ham radio in the market. Hence it is only expected that there’s an extra price on top.
Consider this, to get the same features found in the Kenwood radio; you will need to purchase at least three radios with different features. For instance, the Kenwood F6a would feature the all mode HF receiver and 144, 220, and 440 MHz, while the Kenwood D72 would offer the APRS protocol, and the ICOM ID 51 will bring in the DSTAR feature.
Rather than purchasing three radios, which will ultimately cost you more money, the Kenwood D74A is an all in one radio that saves you the overall cost and comes with all the features you need for a great experience.