Kenwood VS-3 and VGS-1
This review is for blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators who are interested in using a voice synthesizer (VS-3 or VGS-1) with a Kenwood transceiver.
Kenwood makes two voice synthesizer units, the VS-3 and the newer VGS-1. The user manual for each radio indicates which unit to use. The Kenwood web site offers manuals to download for all current radios as well as for many discontinued models.
Here is a list of the voice synthesizer options for new Kenwood radios:
Model Voice Synthesizer Option
Mobile: TM-271A None
HF Base Mobile: TS-2000 models VS-3
TS-480 models VGS-1
The Kenwood TS-990S has Voice Guidance as a standard feature that is described in a separate article. No accessory voice synthesizer is required.
The HamPod Kenwood Reader is a microprocessor-controlled device that provides speech output and accessibility for many Kenwood transceivers.
The VS-3 unit is also an option for a number of discontinued radios.
For this review Kenwood U.S.A. and the Ham Radio Outlet in Portland, Oregon, made a TS-2000 transceiver fitted with a VS-3 voice synthesizer available for testing in the HRO store. In addition to the VS-3 test, this article includes a description of the features of the new VGS-1 voice synthesizer.
VS-3 Voice Synthesizer
The functions of a VS-3 unit depend on which radio you are using. Generally, more announcements are available for newer radios with more features. The user manual for each radio includes a detailed description of what the synthesizer can do and gives instructions for plugging the unit into the transceiver circuit board. The audio level of the voice announcements is usually adjustable via a menu setting, although some older model radios have a small trimmer potentiometer. The AF gain control on the front panel does not affect the audio level of the announcements.
The Kenwood TS-2000 HF Base/Mobile radio, has a single Programmable Function [PF] key in the upper left corner of the front panel. Using a list of options in the menu, you can designate what this key does. Most voice synthesizer users will choose the factory default (VOICE1), so the [PF] key triggers an announcement of the frequency setting and, when appropriate, the number of the memory channel in use.
In addition to the "frequency on demand" function, the VS-3 automatically announces the frequency during the following actions:
• switching between the two variable frequency oscillators
• switching between VFO (tuning) mode and memory recall
• changing bands
• changing memory channels
• pressing the Call channel button.
Mode changes are also announced automatically.
When you enter a frequency digitally using the keypad, each keystroke is spoken, and then the frequency is announced for confirmation.
The VS-3 can also assist in configuring the radio in Menu mode. With each change to a different menu (using the Multi/Ch knob) the VS-3 announces "Menu" followed by the Menu Number and the current selection. For example, when you reach Menu Number 14, which sets the audio level for the synthesizer, the VS-3 might announce "Menu...One...Four...(pause)...Four" to indicate the audio level is 4 on a scale from 1 to 9. Changing the selection using the [+] or [-] key automatically triggers a new report. When you know the Menu Number of a function to be changed, it is not necessary to read the menu information scrolling on the radio LCD screen. The Menu functions are listed in a Menu Setup Table in the User Manual.
The VS-3 announcements are made in an easy to understand female voice, and after a band or channel change the automatic frequency report is convenient.
VGS-1 Voice Guide
The VGS-1 unit is a combination voice synthesizer and digital recording unit. It has all of the features of the VS-3 as well as the following additions:
• Five menu-selectable speech speeds
• To streamline automatic operation it only announces what
has changed in configuration mode and in menu entries
• Pressing a key that selects a function, such as setting
transmitter power with the [PWR] key, announces the
function name and the option
• Digital recording and playback.
The functions of a VGS-1 unit depend on the radio you are using. Each user manual includes a detailed description of the announcements.
TS-590 Multi-Meter Readings
The new Kenwood TS590S HF transceiver adds two functions to the VGS-1 voice guide:
• Voice announcements of the radio multi-meter readings—RF
power, S-meter, SWR, ALC, and COMP. The details are
in a separate article.
• A new menu option to disable auto-announcements without
affecting the use of [VOICE] keys.
For More Information
TS-590 Accessibility Review by M0AID
Kenwood voice synthesizers are well designed and easy to use. They offer a unique and useful combination of (1) frequency announcements on demand, (2) automatic frequency reports after VFO, band, and channel changes, (3) audible assistance with menu navigation, and (4) announcements by the VGS-1 of the function keys and options.
The new TS-590 with an optional VGS-1 unit also announces the multi-meter readings—RF power, S-units, SWR, ALC, and COMP.
TS-2000, TS-480, and TS-590 transceivers are used by many blind and vision-impaired hams.
Special thanks to Phil Parton, N4DRO, of Kenwood U.S.A. and Bill Eaton, K7WCE, of Ham Radio Outlet, Portland, Oregon, for making the transceiver and voice synthesizer available for testing.
Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator in the U.S. This web site does not have ads or conflicts of interest.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.