Continue reading »" />
browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Review of Kenwood’s TH-F6 Handheld Radio

Posted by on January 17, 2012

TH-F6 Handheld by Kenwood

Kenwood’s TH-F6 is very compact handheld three band transciver for radio amateurs.  It can be MARS modified, allowing extended transmit ranges. The radio is NOT type accepted for commercial use.  The radio comes with a reasonable sized battery pack, a wall charger, and no case.  I’d recommend getting a larger Battery Pack, there are some really large packs available.  The radio has a power saver feature, which basicly turns the radio off for some many milliseconds every second.  This is a nice feature, but if it is in power save mode, you will miss the first word of a new call.  This feature is well worth the few missed words as opposed to losing the radio to a dead battery.

 

 

There are a few foibles with this radio:

  • Sometimes it will refuse to turn on.  I believe this only happens if you let the battery get really really dead.  Other than when I let the radio die, I do not see the problem.  This appears to not be specific to my radio only.  I see comments on the Yahoo TH-F6 group indicating some others having this problem as well.
  • If you replace the antenna with an aftermarket antenna make sure it has a wide base covering the area around the connector at the top of the radio.  If you don’t, you run a pretty good chance of breaking off the connector on the radio body.  Again, see the Yahoo group for more information on this.
  • Without a good low band antenna it is a brick!  If you don’t give it a good external antenna while using it for SWLing, (yes you can do this), the radio is a brick and hears nothing, or almost nothing.  If you give it a good external antenna, it suddenly sounds pretty good.  This seems to not affect the performance on the AM broadcast band.
  • The stock battery pack does not come with exteranal charge pins, thus, you will have to dismount the battery to charge it in an external charger, or plug the radio into the Kenwood supplied wall bug charger.  I thought this would be a royal pain, but it really is not.  If you get a few additional battery packs, you just swap them out if you also get an external pack charger.
  • While the radio is on charge, you can not transmit.  That is why you want to get additional battery packs, and an external pack charger.
  • I have seen one TH-F6 in which keypad was becoming disfigured from use.  The keypad is a rubber overlay, which appears to be painted on a white backing.  As wear happens, the white begins to show through.  This happened on a radio which was kept in the much too tight after market case.
  • The after market case from Kenwood is so tight it almost does not fit!  Not kidding, I thought I was going to split the canvas case open getting the radio in it the first time.  The case does not stretch, nor does it even fit the radio well, so don’t even bother to buy the canvas case.  I have not seen a leather case for it, so expect to use the radio without the case. I suspect this is why the keypad was wearing so badly in the one radio I saw which had the keypad issue mentioned above.
  • The menuing is a bit complex, but very learnable, unlike other radios I have seen.  You should get one of those nifty instruction cards for the radio.

Now lets look at the pluses:

  • This is a small radio, by small I mean really small, it will fit in your shirt pocket with room to spare.  I really like the size, it is 2.3 x 3.5 x1.3, and weighs in at 9 ounces.
  • It is very light weight, but does not feel cheap at all.  In fact it feels really solid.
  • The battery packs remove very easily, and are mounted securely as well.
  • The dials on top are split, so it is fairly simple to operate the radio from the dials.
  • Adding external Mic and Speaker is simple, there are several after market headsets designed for this radio.  They all plug into a connector on the side.
  • The MARS extended transmit mod is really simple, and almost anyone can perform it.
  • The radio is easy to use, and programmable via a computer.
  • Once programmed, the radio is really easy to use, and it allows Alphanumeric labels on the dial.
  • It does SSB!!  Yes, you can listen to your favorite low band net with this radio.  You will need an external antenna for 100 KHz. to 1300 MHz., (cell blocked), but you need one for your big expensive transceiver, so this is not surprising.  It also does both the AM and FM broadcast bands, without an external antenna.  Given I have this radio for SAR/MARS/EMCOM use, I find those features very good to have.  The radio has a built in ferrite bar antenna for use in the AM broadcast band.  The antenna is allowed to work for 80-10 Meters, but the built in antenna really does not work well for anything other than the AM broadcast band.
  • Twin radios in one.  The radio has two band, and you can listen on either, or both at the same time.
  • VOX for use with those after market headsets you will want.
  • Keyboard lock, this is very useful on a radio this small.
  • Three power levels, 5 Watts, .5 Watts, and .05 Watts.  Great for when you are under the repeater; select .05 watts and your battery will never run down.  Front panel selectable, using a single button.
  • MIL Standard: MIL-STD-810 C/D/E
  • The radio has an amazing receive range: 100 KHz., to 1300 MHz.  Cell frequency’s are blocked of course.
  • I removed the belt clip from my radio for some reason that escapes me now.

Conclusion

This is a fine addition to any ham shack, and seems to be very durable.  I have had mine for four or five years now, and still love it.  I have used it to listen to Fire, Police, Weather, Ham, and just about anything else I could think of.  Using the dual radio feature, you can listen to an emergency service, while also listening to your local repeater.  This makes it a very small package, for doing a number of very important functions during EMCOM activities.  Would I buy the radio again, no question.  In fact I am considering buying a second one as backup.

29 Responses to Review of Kenwood’s TH-F6 Handheld Radio

  1. Bill Bell/N5GQN

    I am also considering the Kenwood TH-F6A, which was what got me to this website. My current HT is an Icom 02AT, which is many years old and only 2m. I need one that does 70cm as well for Emergency Comm support for my county.

  2. Bill Bell

    There are several really good QRP rigs to choose from but I can personally recommend the Elecraft K2. One important note is that this is a kit with lots of pieces-parts. The radio has one of the best receivers on the market and has a 100 watt amp available, plus numerous other upgrades. Another very good QRP radio is made by Ten-Tec.

  3. Anonymous

    I just passed my Technician exam and I’m researching purchasing my first handheld. Since your review is a couple of years old I’m wondering if you would still recommend it? Would this be a great first handheld or would you recommend something else?

    • Dave

      I would still recommend the TH-F6A, and thank you for asking! It is still a very useful radio, and mine has had zero problems of any kind, beyond the issue if you let the battery die completely. See the review if you missed that section. Not a huge problem, but one worth noting. All in all, I am still very pleased with the TH-F6A.

    • Brian

      Correction to the review: The F6A WILL transmit while charging … IF you plug it into a 2A power source (like the lighter adapter). (It will not transmit while on the 0.3A wall wart.) It will get hot if you ragchew on 5W while charging. Most HTs will.

      I have had an F6A for 4 years. It is my “daily driver”. Seriously, I still use this as my mobile rig, with the aftermarket Diamond SRH-320 on a magnet mount on the roof.

      I got the Sangean 16′ shortwave wire antenna on a reel. I believe one company makes these, and several (Sangean and Sony among them) stencil their names onto them. I cut the clip off of the antenna clip adapter and soldered an SMA connector to the end. It does pretty fine SWL for a tiny radio.

      I did land here searching for a shutdown problem. The radio shuts down on longer transmissions (30+ seconds) when it is not plugged into 12V power. I believe either the battery has reached the end of its life, or the contacts are dirty. (The radio shut down while transmitting. I plugged it back in and it came on. I unplugged it and it stayed on. I checked the battery, and full 3 bars … but dropped to 2 bars in minutes.) I can’t really bring myself to complain about getting 4 years of daily use out of the battery. (I know people who have FT-60s, who only get a year out of the NiMh pack.)

  4. Mark Richards

    I heard one of these on the air recently and was immediately impressed with the transmit audio. I noticed a slight compression and some tailouring for communications frequency band (eq). Your review did not mention this so wondering if such was my imagination, or a fact.

  5. tom

    i have “too many’ ht’s so i didnt need another and never looked at the f6 till i heard of it on
    the yeasu 8900 forum. i got hooked quik and ordered from hamcity, a refurb for 250.
    do you guys think that was ok? they say its like new, factory checked.

    its on the way. it sounds like a great ht wiyh lots of “toy”gadget appeal as well as function.
    i just may make a 220 contact first in abt 20 yrs!
    i have the diamond 4 band but no 220.
    im looking at my .5 w icom q7 and the f6 is abt the same size!! it has the knobs of the rad shak 2 band,but smaller. and much smaller than my good old 5w hw24! that i like so much i have a backup,not worn out.

    • tom

      so i got my refurb and played a few days till i was convinced that it needed work. many inconsistancies so i sent it back. waiting for a new, new one.
      it is quite a radio and i hope the new one works right.

  6. Mike

    Great review Dave! I got mine a few months ago, long befoer I saw your review, the convincing points for me are the “recieve everything” and 220 band. And funy what Dean said about the D72 – I had that first and felt short changed, but now that I have both, I can’t seem to part with the D72! Go figure!

    • Dave

      Thank you Mike! Yes, I understand the “can’t part with it” syndrome… Every “true” ham has it! :) Take care my friend!
      Dave

  7. Marcio Colleto Boro

    olá Amigos aqui é PY2OK tenho um canal no YOUTUBE chamado thf6 onde tenho esta radio a mais de 10 anos , só tenho que elogiar o radio é muito bom mesmo .. o radio é pequeno eo mais legal , escuta banda lateral escuta tudo , é só usar um antena esterna e pronto sua banda B entra ação kkkk. só no pode deixar de desabilitar a Func : 26 … mais na banda A ela escuta as bandas de vhf / 220mhz e uhf … o radio é o melhor ht lançado até hoje .. recomento a todos , facil uso e boas funções .. 73
    Marcio PY2OK
    Brasil

  8. Theo

    Thanks for your review. Together with other reviews/info this convinced me to buy my first new handheld, the f6a.
    Received the package last Friday. Looks good and sounds great.
    73

    • Dave

      Please return here and post your comments after you have some time with the radio… It will help the next person…

  9. Dave

    Nice work, you convinced me enough to order one today from AES for $299. Thanks.

    • Dave

      Feel free to comment here, good or bad, this will help the next person! Also, thank you!

      • Bud

        I was impressed with the specs so I purchased the TH-F6 new a few years ago, I think 1 of the early units. After spending a considerable time programming frequencies in, I found that there was a “birdie” on 146.43. This is a local rag chew freg and was unusable to me on this rig.
        Took it back to the dealer. We tried 3 other ones and found that they all had the same problem. As far as I know, it has never been corrected. Soon after that, I started having problems changing channels. For the past 2 years it has been locked on the wx freq and I can not get it to change. This HT has been the most useless, expensive paperweight I have had in a long time

    • Dave

      I am in possession of my new THF6A and trying to figure out how to program it for the local
      repeaters…still has me confused, something not very intuitive somerwhere.

  10. George Simmons

    Regarding your statement about; ” Single button simplex checker. Just press the little button above the PTT switch, and you are listening on the repeater input frequency.” I’m sitting here with my F6A in my hand and I don’t see any little button. I do see that the 8 button has “REV” on it and that does show the input.
    Other than that you’ve got a good review of this compact radio.

  11. Dean

    I also have the Diamond tri-band antenna on this radio and it works well.
    You can transmit while charging, you just cannot do it at high power.

    This radio is due for a replacement / update from Kenwood.

    A few years ago I spoke to one of their staff about this at a big hamfest. I recommended that they combine the best features of the F6A and the D7AG. IOW, a slightly larger radio with the RF performance and memory of the F6A and the data capabilities of the D7AG or D72. The guy laughed and said that was a great idea and that he would be the first to purchase one. He also said that it would never happen. He said that those two radios combined are the best selling handheld that they have. I was puzzled and asked “you mean handhelds plural”? He said no. They understand that HAMS who purchase the one model, then often end up purchasing the other one too. From a sales standpoint they are making more money that way, than if they had a single model that had the best features of both.

    So Sales and Marketing practices dictate that we may still have to have a belt full of HTs.

  12. Jose

    Wonderful little radio. I’ve had it for about three years and have no regrets on this one. Added the Diamond aftermarket antenna and I highly recommend it. Able to hit the repeater 90 miles away on 5 watts!

  13. Dave

    Thanks Chris…

  14. Chris Meisenzahl (@speedmaster)

    That’s a very cool little radio! I’ve got a Yaesu VX-3R, and recently bought my 13 year-old son a $50 dual-band HT that he likes.

    Glad I found your site, nice work.

  15. charles t lester

    Could you review some of the QRP radios?
    Also the ZM-2 and the ZM_4 tuners?
    And some the new Ten-Tec stuff?

    • Dave

      Hi,

      I will as I can afford these items… I need a good QRP radio, so that is coming as soon as I get it. Will also need a tuner for it… :)

  16. Dave

    Thank you sir!

  17. John

    Great website. I enjoy ready it. 73’s John

Leave a Reply