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Review of the New Kenwood TH-F6A Triband HT

By Chris Peterson, KGØBP

I recently bought Kenwood's newest hand-held VHF transceiver and, to my delight, found that it should
be accessible to most Handi-Ham members. The Kenwood TH-F6A is small enough to fit in a pocket and
transmits on the 2-meter, 1.25CM and 70CM amateur bands. In addition, it receives from the AM broadcast
band all the way up to 1300Mhz (excluding cellular frequencies) in AM, narrow and wide FM, LSB, USB and CW.

While its extended receive capabilities are interesting, this rig would not replace even the cheapest
short-wave receiver. Its performance on the AM broadcast band is tolerable, though, which means that I
need to bring only one radio to do my hamming and listen to Art Bell when I travel.

Operation of the TH-F6A is simple. The 16-key pad is laid out like a telephone keypad. Each key on the
keypad has no more than two functions and only the radios least used features must be accessed through
the menu system. For example, to program the radio to use the 223.940 Mhz repeater, with a positive
off-set and a 100Hz CTCSS tone, the following steps need to be performed.

1. Enter the frequency on the keypad by pressing the VFO (or pound) key and pressing the
numbers 2 3 9 4 0.

2. Program the repeater off-set by pressing the function (or A) key followed by the shift (8) key.
Like most VHF radios, there are three possible off-set settings. Kenwood has made programming off-sets
very accessible to blind users by sounding a low-pitched beep when the radio is set for simplex operation,
or a high-pitched beep when the radio is in duplex operation.

3. Program the desired CTCSS tone by first turning on the CTCSS encoder by pressing the tone (7) key
until the tone icon lights up on the display. For blind users, the radio sounds a low-pitched beep
when there is no tone activated, or a high-pitched beep when the radio is in tone encode, encode/decode, or
digital coded squelch respectively.

Pressing the function key followed by the tone (7) key places the radio in tone-set mode. Again, Kenwood
has made this feature more accessible to blind users than I've seen in any other radio. To select the
desired tone frequency, you simply turn the tuning knob on the top of the radio until the correct
frequency is displayed. For blind users, the radio emits a beep when the radio reaches the lowest possible
tone frequency. To set the tone to 100HZ, I simply turn the tuning knob until the radio beeps. I then
continue turning the knob 12 clicks clock-wise to select a 100HZ tone. Pressing the MNU key saves
the desired tone.

After these three simple steps, I am able to communicate through the repeater.

For Handi-Hams with mobility impairments, this radio may be difficult to use. The buttons are quite small
and are located close together on the face of the radio. My fiancée Tracy, KCØHXU, who has moderate
quadriplegic CP, is able to use this radio efficiently. However, those with larger fingers than she
may have difficulty.

Kenwood has placed the instruction manual for the TH-F6A on their FTP site at
in PDF format. I was able to read most of the manual using Jaws 4.0 and Adobe Acrobat reader 5.0,
but some portions of the manual appeared to be garbled. If Handi-Ham members are interested. I
will provide HQ with a set of operating instructions for blind users.

As with any radio, I recommend going to your friendly neighborhood amateur retailer to try out the
TH-F6A before you buy it. You might want to call ahead, though, because retailers are having difficulty
keeping the TH-F6A in stock.

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