First impressions of the Kenwood TM-281



Kenwood TM-281

Kenwood’s small mobile rig is packed with some nice features including:

  • Frequency Coverage: 144-146 MHz TX, 136-174 MHz RX
    201 Memories (100 with alpha-tagging)
    25/65 Watts RF Output
    High-Quality Front Mounted Loudspeaker
    Built-In CTCSS/DCS Encoder/Decoder
    Rugged, Compact Design to MIL-STD 810G

Rig needs 14A on High Power and 8A on Low Power. RX Drain is near 1A. 

Dimensions:  160 mm (W) x 43 mm (H) x 126 mm (D) – excluding projections

After the necessary (need to know) information lets move for the first impressions and the usability of the rig.  After unpacking the rig first I noticed the N-connector behind the radio.. okay this wouldn’t be a problem as everyone have N to UHF adapters @home right?  So for me the N-connector was not an issue, but for some people it may come as a surprise. Wish every connector would be at least N.. hi.   Mounting the rig under my desk was easy and fast, no extra bolts or anything which required rocket science engineer to finish these tasks. It took about ten (10) minutes to get on air after the package was opened on my desk. 

After the mounting it was time to power up this beauty. Firstly I noticed the very clear RX Audio which was very pleasant to listen to (no need for external speakers) Also the position of the speaker (front) would make this rig nice to install on in example  DIN-spot @mobile installations. Next step I noticed (well actually I heard from fellow HAM) was the TX audio which he gave thumbs up. “very clear Mikko, 59”.  After some ragchewing I was running around opening the repeaters and going through of various of the menu-items.

For the first impression only cons I’ve found (depends do you get used to it or not) was that Squelch was behind Function+Rev button and changeable only via software menu. Actually Squelch seemed working quite well on level one but time will tell.. also stuff like “Smartsearch” on Yaesu was not found on Kenwood.

Last time when I blogged about Yaesu FT-1900 I went through programming rig manually fully but this time I ordered programming cable separately. I will update this blog entry after I have received the cable and dwelled into the abyss of programming this tiny monster.

Few links:

More talk about TM-281:




I promised to get back within the blog after I tested the software programming on this tiny rig. Software itself is called MCP-1A and it is made by Kenwood.  It only works under Windows (slight maybe for virtual or wine) and to make things easier I honestely suggest you run it on native WinOS. Cable is either easy to make yourself (rs232 +usb adapter maybe) or you buy one, I chose the later. First starting the MCP-1A you notice big difference compared to made in china software for rigs like baofeng and wouxun. Program is stable, rather fast and it didnt die while configuring the rig. Programming is very clear and you are up and running in 5-10 minutes. I used kind of same idea for programming as with Yaesu’s ft-1900 and filled banks with HAM simplex, repeaters and then some stations for pure RX enjoyment.  You can get more information on the links below, I hope you good times with tm-281!


UPDATE: after succesfully running this for some time im having some problems with the factory made mic. Problem is related to TX which for some reason is not activating at all the time. Seems I am forced to get me a new mic.



Keep the bands safe!

73 de OH2FXD

Thoughts about Yaesu FT-1900 Mobile Rig

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Yaesu FT-1900

Yaesu’s tiny 2 meter mobile rig comes with many features including:

  • 200 Memories (6 Char limit) + 8 Memory Banks
  • Max 55 Watts Output
  • DTMF
  • CW Trainer

and many more..

RX/TX coverage is from 136 to 174Mhz and seems to have quite nice RX sensitivity. Radio requires 13.8 VDC when running at full steam (11A). Supplied microphone is Yaesu’s MH-48 with backlit +DMTF capable keyboard.  For my setup I added the Yaesu MLS-100 external speaker for extra kick, more information about it later.  So after the boring stuff lets face some facts and my views about the rig, its usability and configurations.

Dimensions for the rig: 5.6 x 1.6 x 5.8 inches. So suprisingly small for a 55W rig 🙂 Easy to fit even for newer cars. Sadly front panel wont come off so cant hide the rest of the radio under the seat.  Radio should draw max 11 amps so even use of cigarette lighter socket is possible. I was planning to use rig with 25 Watts only.. so no worries about blown fuses.  Radio has normal SO239 connector in the back. For antennas I chose to  use Nagoya mobile sticks with car and Diamond SG-7900 at home.

I got fast fond with the “rugged” look of the FT-1900 and the mic felt very nice in hand. Was also positively suprised that the mic connector was on front panel and not at the side.. makes installing it much easier.  And even the internal speaker sound is OK and can wake up your wife middle of the night if you don’t appreciate your life and keep it quiet. Buttons on the radio can feel a bit tight at start (at least the squelch) but I am sure in time they will feel much better. Screen is very easy to read and can be dimmed to suit your eyes for night driving.

Programming the rig is easy task after you get the basics. Of course you can be lazy and fiddle with your computer and proper programming cable. I chose not to and wasted a few hours with manual trying to get all usage out from the tiny box 🙂  Memory Bank-settings are nice and this is what I did:

Home Button: 145.500 (2m CQ freq)

Then I first programmed all  simplex, radio-amateur repeaters and others in to the FT-1900 memory. After that I also used different banks  for different stuff:

  1. Bank: repeaters
  2. Bank: simplex
  3. Bank: others (for RX fun)

Use of memory banks will give you good advantage when you want to scan only just repeaters etc.. And of course you can scan the whole memory range too!

TIP:  Use SmartSearch! Get to know it well.. very nice feature when traveling in a new place and you don’t know where all the local gangs hide.

I’ll keep it short with the Yaesu MLS-100, think my seek for the ultimate mobile speaker has just ended hi 🙂 I am mostly using speaker with my 2m rig’s or with  the 10m mobile radio.  I have not tested it so much on SSB but for FM its a nice performer at least.

Few links:

More talk about FT-1900 –                                    

More talk about MLS-100


Keep the bands safe!

73 de OH2FXD

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