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Tuners are listed in alphabetical and numerical sequence by model number. In parentheses after the model number are the year of introduction and most recent list price, and/or the original list price if indicated by "orig" (special thanks to David Rich of The Audio Critic for copies of historical material from his reference library). Our Kenwood brochures page has images, information and specs for many Kenwood tuners and other components as well. See also Trio.
More thanks to David Rich for his summaries of detector and MPX circuits for many Kenwood tuners. Here's David with some further technical information on Kenwood and other tuners: "The KT-1000 has one RF stage, as do the KT-3300D, L-02T and L-1000T. The L-1000T lets you bypass the single RF stage, as do the Onkyo T-9090 and Rotel RT-990BX (which is the same as the RHT10). The L-02T is double-tuned at the antenna and quad-tuned after the RF. The KT-9XG, KT-1000 and KT-3300D, like the Pioneer F-91 and F-99X, Sansui TX-701 and Yamaha T-70, are only single-tuned at the antenna and are double-tuned after the single RF stage. The KT-3300D, L-02T and L-1000T have passive mixers for improved IP3 [third-order intermodulation - Editor] rejection, at the cost of sensitivity. Double- and triple-tuning also costs sensitivity since these have bigger losses than a single-tuned circuit. The Kenwood 600T and 650T, KT-7000, L-07T and L-07TII have two RF stages. [So does the KT-917. -Editor] The same can be said of the Sansui TU-9900 and TU-X1 and the Yamaha CT-7000, which have two RF stages while those companies' later designs do not. Note that the number of gangs can get to as high as nine with a single RF stage, so it is not an issue of lower cost by going to a single RF stage."
Kenwood 600T (1976, $650, front, back, Euro back, inside 1, inside 2,
back with amp, brochure, ad, block diagram, schematic 1, 2, 3, 4, detailed specs, detector/MPX scheme: pulse count detector, charge injection cancellation discrete MPX switches, MPX PLL generated 38k with HA1156 chip)
The FM-only 600T was Kenwood's first tuner to use their pulse count detector circuitry, which was designed to reduce noise, and the 600T is a very quiet tuner. It has an 8-gang variable capacitor (it appears to have 9 gangs but 2 of the gangs are tied together - it uses a 2-gang variable capacitor for a local oscillator, unlike conventional local oscillators which use a single type variable capacitor), and uses 2 parallel IF filter paths (wide/normal and narrow). Wide mode uses linear phase LC filters, while narrow mode uses a 12-element ceramic filter section (three 4-pin filters with 4 elements, or stages, each). The 600T is among the most sensitive tuners but in stock form its adjacent channel selectivity is not as good as one might expect. Most examples of the 600T can be expected to have excellent sound, in part because of the wide bandwidth, but will probably disappoint a DXer unless some of its filters are replaced with narrow ones. The catch there is that it uses the old-style 4-pin filters in narrow mode, rather than the 3-pin type currently available, so the filter mod is not a straight swap. See the DIY Mods page for information on adjusting the filters in the 600T.
The 600T's front panel resembles the KT-917's, leading some people to assume erroneously that the differences between the tuners are merely cosmetic, but the 600T is somewhat smaller and has very different circuitry inside. In addition to the IF bandwidth switch, the 600T's front-panel features include a button to switch the combination multipath/deviation meter, FM MPX filter switch, variable output knob, two levels of muting (or muting off), de-emphasis normal/25 µS and dimmer on/off. On the back panel are fixed and variable RCA outputs, jacks for an oscilloscope and an AC convenience outlet.
Our contributor Charles has a 600T story: "In my kitchen, I took the McIntosh MR 78 down and put up the 600T so I could adjust my antenna better. The 600T has a marvelous signal strength meter calibrated in 10 dB increments. It's almost worth owning this tuner (or sibling KT-917) just for the useful strength meter. The strength meters on most tuners are useless, except perhaps for tuning. I still haven't done as much antenna experimentation as I'd like, but I'm beginning to like the 600T's sound so much I haven't put the MR 78 back. To get the full benefit of the 600T, you have to use the fixed output, which avoids an extra output buffer stage. On the MR 78, the level control is simply a low-impedance pot, like a passive preamp, so it doesn't much matter. As far as DXing, unfortunately the stock 600T is abysmal, with its 'wide, wider, widest' IF bandwidth control."
Our panelist Bob aligned our panelist Eric's 600T and described the complexity of the procedure: "It was off alignment, especially in the meters. The 600T has calibrated meters, so when tuning the signal strength you get the true dB readout, and tuning the center, you get kHz off center. The meters have their own IF filter, which was off in frequency from 10.7 MHz, so when the signal was max the center was off to one side. The whole alignment is very complex and absolutely requires a whole suite of test gear to do correctly." Bob's Sound Technology 1000A FM Alignment Generator was essential to the task. See the 600T vs. KT-917 page for Bob's technical comparison of the 600T to the KT-917, the results of a head-to-head shootout between the two tuners, and a quick comparison between the 600T and the KT-8300. See detailed specs and measurements for the 600T compared to those of 17 other top tuners in our panelist David "A"'s tuner comparison spreadsheet. The 600T usually sells for $400-550 on eBay, with recent lows in the low $300s. A 600T with audiophile and DX mods, as well as manuals, sold for a record $1,325 on eBay in 5/06.
Kenwood 650T (photo1, photo2)
This extremely rare tuner is identical to the 600T electronically, but has a bronze face. The 650T usually sells for $500-700 on eBay.
Kenwood 700T (1975, $750, front, B&W, back, Euro back, inside, with amp and preamp, brochure cover, ad 1, ad 2, schematic 1, 2, schematic left, right, detector/MPX scheme: ratio detector, diode bridge MPX, PLL generated 38k with upc33C chip)
The 700T, which predated the 600T, is a very rare 5-gang tuner whose tuning dial resembles the KR-6600/9600 receivers. According to our contributor Charles, the 700T is the only Kenwood tuner that uses an analog dial to set a digitally controlled oscillator - a very unusual system that is also used in the Pioneer F-28. We don't have much info from users of the 700T, but here's an interesting S/N test sheet courtesy of our contributor Lonnie. The 700T usually shows up only a few times a year on eBay, with sale prices usually between $400 and $550. Be careful: a "very unusual" tuner is not the same as a "great" one.
Kenwood Basic T1 (1982, $200) search eBay
You have to wonder about eBay sellers who say the Kenwood Basic T1 tuner is "top of the line," because one look at a photo of the T1 will make it obvious that it's not exactly feature-packed. Our panelist Bob says, "I never saw one of these so had no idea what's inside. I always suspected the 'Basic' label was lost in translation from Japanese to American. These components had marketing intentions that appear to appeal to the 'less is more' aspect of high-end audio. The Kenwood Basic amps and pre-amps tell that story probably easier than the tuners - but I'm not saying that these components were Accuphase-quality. Simply better mid-range options than the 'all push-button' receivers that were the rage in the early 80's." Our panelist Ray received a T1 to play with and was underwhelmed, finding "nothing inside": "Two ceramic filters for FM, one for AM. The FM RF stage is enclosed in a walnut-sized box and though the spec sheet claims 0.95 µV sensitivity, the actual performance does what the contents would suggest. No signal level indicators but there's a stereo light AND a mono light! LA3350 MPX, no buffer."
But wait! Our contributor Jov has a better spin: "The Basic T1 has a 4-gang FM front end with a 3SK73 RF amp. The discriminator is an HA1137W with a double-tuned quadrature coil. The detector output goes directly to the LA3350 MPX IC input. The MPX output then passes through a pilot filter then buffered by a discrete 2SA733 common emitter buffer before the muting IC AN6135. [This piece] had an issue on both ends of the audio band. I don't have the factory schematic nor the service manual to quickly check why this issue exists. I ended up reverse-engineering some of the sections that I'm interested as I wanted to improve the THD and stereo separation across the band. There was significant harmonic distortion on the low end starting at about 55 Hz by measurement and the perceived thin sound by listening test. On the high end of the audio band there was some intentional blend that was corrupting the high-frequency separation. Kenwood specified a 24 dB separation at 12.5 kHz, I measured 28 dB. After modification, the 12.5 kHz stereo separation is now in the high 50 dBs. Mid-band is over 60 dB separation. After the modifications, the Basic T1 is not so basic anymore." The Basic T1 usually sells for $10-20 on eBay.
Kenwood Basic T2
The quartz-synthesized Basic T2 is a far better tuner than the Basic T1. It has Wide and Narrow IF bandwidth settings for FM, as well as an unusual adjustable slider control for variable IF bandwidth on the AM band like the KT-727 and KT-1100SD. It uses Kenwood's "DLLD" (Direct Linear Loop Detector) technology, their name for a phase-locked loop detector, that can also be found in the KT-990D, KT-3300D, KT-5020 and KT-6050. Our panelist Bob says, "The Basic T2 came after the KT-9XG, which has a very similar, if not exact same, signal meter display. The T2 appears to be the first Kenwood tuner to use the DLLD. This was a big change point for Kenwood, as the KT-9XG still had the Pulse Count Detector."
Our contributor Keith lauds the T2's "excellent AM section, very immune to interference/static." Our contributor Istvan agrees: "The Basic T2 is a miracle for me on AM. Just with a loop AM antenna, I can receive stations on almost every allocated AM frequency." The T2 turns up on eBay very rarely and usually sells for $20-60.
Kenwood KT-9X and KT-9XG (left, right, inside, back)
Here's our panelist Ray's review of this scarce tuner, which can be found with a silver front panel or a gold one: "The KT-9X is an early Kenwood digital tuner. Circa 1981, it seems to fit between the end of Kenwood's analog thoroughbreds of the 1970s and their mass-market mediocrity of the mid-1980s and beyond. (RFM's opinion.) Fortunately, the KT-9X's bloodlines are much closer to the former than the latter.
"The front end is quite unique as it sports 5 FM gangs but two of them are in the local oscillator circuit as the LO is double-tuned and buffered. RF-wise it has the usual single tune, FET amp, double tune, mixer line up. BUT! There is a front-panel selector for RF mode. Normal mode is as described but direct mode bypasses the RF amp, leaving a triple tuned - mixer setup. This drops the sensitivity about 15 dB, giving the front end high selectivity and resistance to overload. Great for the urban dweller. The IF stages are Wide/Narrow selectable with two 250 kHz GDT ceramic filters in Wide and two 220 kHz CFs put between them in Narrow. Further on is the Kenwood quadrature pulse count detector and the well-regarded HA11223W multiplex chip. Audio out is IC buffered and there is active LPF filtering. All this adds up to a very good performing FM tuner. As a bonus the Wide/Normal bandwidth selector also affects the AM band, giving it better than usual performance. Even the power supply is special, with a separate transformer powering the digital circuitry to keep that potential noise out of the signal chain.
"The specs are good in all aspects. Note that the narrow IF selectivity is only rated at 65 dB, but this is at 300 kHz rather than 400 kHz as is normally the case. Subjectively RFM found the KT-9X to have exceptional sensitivity in normal RF mode and to sound very good without any mods. Though it shares much audio circuitry with the KT-815, it has a much better PC board layout, with short audio circuit traces, which may be the cause of its improved sonics. There is much to like about Kenwood's KT-9X except its rarity." Our panelist Bob called the KT-9X "a very good tuner - one of the better deals that no one knows about." 2020 Update: Bob included the KT-9XG on his short list of digital tuners that get no respect. "Blue GDT IF filters, wide/narrow IF, low distortion, lots of other features - similar circuits to the KT-815, including a pulse count detector. Somewhat rare, but if you find a relatively inexpensive one, check it out. It's better than almost all the later empty box digital tuners that it can easily be confused with."
Our contributor Ed V., who "spent some time poking around the edges of a KT-9XG a few years back," added, "It is a complex design compared to other tuners, and the service manual is a bit shy on details. I had to refer to the KT-917 service manual for details. Because of the design complexity [and scarcity - Editor], the -9XG never became popular with the modders. Well, it didn't need modding. It was already there." We're not sure what the difference is between the KT-9X and KT-9XG -- we thought the "G" in the model number meant gold front panel, but some KT-9XGs have silver faces. The KT-9X and KT-9XG usually sell for just $10-50 on eBay. The KT-9X's little brother, the scarce KT-7X search eBay, might also be worth a try at just $10-20.
Kenwood KT-80 (1980, $209) search eBay
Here's our contributor Stephan's great writeup: "The KT-80 is a no-nonsense FM-only 4-gang, 3-filter analog slimline tuner (3" high) that was the least expensive Kenwood with a pulse count detector. It was available in either silver or black (KT-80B) and featured few controls: power switch, tuning knob (nice size and weighted), rec cal tone, combined stereo and auto-muting, AFC, that's it. Two ordinary RCA jacks are used for audio output, the then-usual 75-ohm and 300-ohm screw terminals are provided for an antenna, and my 'E' model also features a coaxial 75-ohm jack. Indicators are limited to stereo, 5-element signal strength and tuned/lock (the latter is brighter if the AFC is locked). Interestingly, what you see from the front are the ends of clear plastic 'light ducts' that are lit by LEDs on a PCB further up. The switches are made of the same material, which mostly serves the purpose of looking gimmicky. ;) The power switch is also illuminated, though on my sample the bulb - 8 V 50 mA, the only one in this tuner - is burnt out. A printed-on tuning scale with coarse marks every 500 kHz and fine marks every 200 kHz is provided, which unfortunately isn't too easy to read in the dark (reflecting some light from the dial pointer tends to give sufficient lighting of nearby MHz marks, but that's not ideal of course).
"Upon opening, the case didn't make the most robust impression, but it's the stuff inside that counts, isn't it? Sound and reception-wise, I'm quite pleased with the KT-80 on a dipole. It has good sensitivity, good 300 kHz and still-OK 200 kHz selectivity (non-Euro/UK models will be worse), and generally very clean audio with low noise, certainly in part thanks to the pulse count detector. Alignment isn't very far off, which I was pleased to see since the Grundig T-7000 it replaced (admittedly not a high-end model in its day) had drifted out of alignment pretty badly in spite of being a few years newer. There also is very little temperature-related drift. I noticed that with the AFC on there seems to be somewhat more bass. Given that alignment of the quadrature coil may be a good bit less than perfect now, I prefer to leave the AFC off.
"Going through the schematic, we can see that the KT-80's interior connects the FM sections of the earlier KT-615 and later KT-900, while being simplified only in the IF section. A 4-gang front end in the usual configuration with a dual-gate MOSFET as RF amp (no AGC in sight) is provided, with an air cap that shows gaps where two AM gangs would have been. An IC called SC114 is used as first oscillator and mixer. Overall, the front end is almost identical to the KT-900's. There is only one IF path which uses a total of three 3-pin ceramic filters with IF amps (discrete and TA7060P) in between, with two different (presumably matched) filter sets being used: The Europe/Scandinavia (E) and UK (T) versions used a 230 kHz GDT filter (SFE10.7MM) and two ordinary 180 kHz ones (SFE10.7MS3), while the rest of the world got a 180 or 150 kHz GDT filter (SFE10.7MZ1/2) and two 280 kHz GDT ones (SFE10.7ML) - the latter configuration would give better sound but worse selectivity and sensitivity due to higher losses. A HA1137W follows which provides additional amplification and an output for the signal strength indicator, an LC discriminator for the AFC is attached here as well. Following this there's the second mixer (presumably to a second IF of about 1.9 MHz) using an AN610P IC. Some filtering later you find the pulse count detector using a proprietary (and consequently undocumented) TR4010A IC which is also found in the KT-615/815. Another filter, the rec cal switch and the muting transistor (controlled by an AN6135) later we find the HA12016 MPX (also used in the KT-900). Behind that is a de-emphasis network (switchable de-emphasis is provided for worldwide models), a pilot tone filter (two adjustments per channel, presumably controlling notches for 19 and 38 kHz) and not much else - there is no dedicated output amp (the KT-615 and KT-900 don't have one either). The AN6551 dual op-amp is used for AFC and rec cal tone instead.
"Interestingly, the KT-80 service manual and accordingly its specs are based upon the European 'E' model, while for the KT-900 (and presumably KT-615) it was the US 'K' model. Thus, the specifications of the two models cannot be directly compared as the IF filters used differ and distortion, selectivity and (due to insertion loss depending on filter models) sensitivity will vary accordingly. A note on the power supply: Only the European 'E' and the UK 'T' models appear to have used a primary-side fuse in the power supply (for 220V: T63mA). It may not be the worst idea to install a fuse holder and fuse in other models when you're working on one anyway. (Check your current local safety regulations if in doubt.)
"As in many vintage tuners, the audio path can be shortened - if you can sacrifice the calibration tone and muting, a direct run with good coax from FL3 to the MPX would be possible (you'll need to use a coupling cap - e.g. 105/225 63V 1050 or 3.35 film and remove C33 and C40), and the overly long PCB traces from resistors R39 and R40 to output coupling caps C51, C52 can also be shortened. One would need to check whether C51 and C52 can be omitted altogether; if you keep them (I'd suggest replacing them with 105 63V 1050 electrolytic or somewhat lower capacitance - e.g. 3.35 - film types), do not remove 100k resistors R41 and R42 as these avoid getting an undefined potential (and thus possibly arcing due to overvoltage inside the caps) if the amplifier connected also uses coupling caps on its inputs (which, as it happens, is the case for the headphone amp that I use with my KT-80). The most critical coupling caps IMO are C49 and C50 near the MPX filter, which are only 3.35 but should be 105 or better 225 (225 63V 1050 types should still fit I think) for optimum performance. (Again, film caps could be a bit smaller, 4.75 would do.) The small brownish electrolytics around the MPX are low-loss types from ELNA, where many of the 'lytics and the PCBs seem to be sourced from. If they are replaced, use film types of the same value. (European manufacturers like Grundig used these, but I guess in Japan they were too expensive and locally available good electrolytics were employed instead.)"
Kenwood KT-313 (1979, $180, photo)
Kenwood KT-413 (1979, $250, photo)
The KT-313 and KT-413 are low-end tuners that are not recommended because superior tuners like the KT-615 and KT-7300 are so inexpensive. The KT-413 has 3 gangs and its selectivity, unmodified, is poor. We're told that its unusual "motorized tuning" works well but may make it difficult to tune in a weak station next to a stronger one. The KT-313 and KT-413 usually sell for $10-20 on eBay. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-313 and KT-413.
The KT-500 is a scarce little cheapie that is apparently the baby brother of the KT-800, KT-900 and KT-1000. It's another example of why "rare" does not necessarily equal "good." The KT-500 usually sells for $10-20 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-615 (1979, $300, photo, schematic)
The KT-615 has 4 gangs and 4 filters and uses Kenwood's pulse count detector circuitry. It has an FM MPX filter and Wide/Narrow bandwidth switch, but its FM mode (Auto/Mono) and muting controls are on the same switch, meaning that one cannot choose to listen to a weak station in stereo. Stock, it's a pretty good tuner, but when modified with narrow filters, it makes a huge jump up the rankings and becomes an excellent tuner for DXing. The KT-615 also has a good AM section and can often be a nice bargain for $25 or less on eBay, but on rare occasions nice ones (particularly with the rare rack handles) can go for up to $100 or so. Make sure the tip of the power switch is not broken, a very common problem with the KT-615 and KT-815. In the "ancient history" department, a perfect KT-615 modified with narrow filters sold for a stunning $256 in early 2001, before TIC and our FMtuners group helped make mods commonplace. See the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section mods for the KT-615. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-615.
Kenwood KT-727 (1985, front, back, with amp)
The rare KT-727 has 4 gangs and 2 filters. It uses a PLL detector like the KT-990D, KT-5020, and L-02T, and the HA11223 MPX chip. It has an unusual adjustable slider control for variable IF bandwidth on the AM band like the Basic T2 and KT-1100SD. Although the KT-727 has a digital frequency display, our contributor Mike M. tells us that "like the KT-990SD, the KT-727 has a rotary tuning knob instead of up and down tuning buttons. The knob is connected to a clear plastic disc with a black spoke pattern which interrupts an LED emitter-detector pair to sense rotation." According to our contributor Sam, the KT-727 "uses an analog multiplier. IC is used only for generating signal to demod sideband. This tuner is the baby brother to the [Japan-only] KT-929, sans one gang in the local oscillator and, sadly, 2 filters. Apparently Kenwood 'de-spec'd' it for the USA market." Our contributor Kurt says, "Quality of sound is #1 for me. Need that bass, treble and mid soundstage to click on all cylinders. This tuner kinda gets there."
Kenwood KT-800 (1981, $275, open, closed)
The FM-AM KT-800 is the little brother of the KT-1000 and KT-900 in the "Audio Purist" line. Only two inches high, it has digital tuning in 0.2 MHz steps, 8 memory presets, and a clock that can be displayed instead of the frequency. Signal strength is shown by an LED indicator with up to four bars. Except for the preset buttons, all of the controls (even the power switch) are hidden behind a door that pops out of the front panel. With the electronic equivalent of 4 gangs and decent stock selectivity, the KT-800 is not a bad buy at its usual price of $10-20 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-815 (1979, $440, front, inside, schematic, service manual part 1, part 2)
The KT-815 has 5 gangs and 4 filters, with the main differences from the KT-615 being the extra gang and an output level knob on the 815's front panel. It also uses Kenwood's pulse count detector circuitry. In our panelist Eric's side-by-side test, a KT-815 with narrower filters installed was the equal of a McIntosh MR 78 and an MR 80 for sensitivity and selectivity, although the Macs sounded a bit better. The KT-815 seems to be better for DXing than the KT-7500, but some audiophiles have complained that the 815 sometimes sounds a bit "thin." In their own side-by-side shootout, our contributors Tim and Ann found their KT-815 to be very "electronic, harsh and two-dimensional" sounding compared to a Pioneer F-91, which they also found "significantly better sounding and more sensitive, particularly in the public radio range." An anonymous contributor to our FMtuners group, however, posted this nice review that may illustrate the tremendous variability in different examples of 25-to-30-year-old electronics:
"I think the KT-815 is a very attractive tuner and its layout is practical and uncluttered. Internally, the circuit layout is again attractive and uncluttered. The 5-gang FM front end employs dual-gate MOSFETs as active amplifiers. There is a Touch-Action Servo Lock Tuner that works very well (grabs a station and holds it, but is defeatable). Wide and Narrow IF bandwidth selection. Double Conversion normally found only in professional-grade equipment, which results in dramatic improvement in signal-to-noise ratio when used with the pulse count detector. Pulse count detector ignores distortion by turning each FM wave into a precise and uniform pulse of energy. Pilot Carrier Cancellation subtracts the pilot signal from the audio output signal at no sacrifice to overall frequency response. The Operational Amplifier is powered by a +- dual power supply. It ensures low distortion, wide dynamic range, and low output impedance, and will withstand 300% overload. Powerful, well-regulated power supply with 1,000 microfarad capacitors.
"Sonically, in my opinion, this tuner is a sleeper. It reminds me a lot of its more expensive brother the KT-917 (honestly). Being a audiophile rather than a DXer, I am more inclined to purchase based on sonics. This tuner, like the 917, has a 'big' sound and flat frequency response (which I prefer to the colored sound of some tuners). I would rather make the tonal adjustments via my control amp myself. The soundstage is large (not compressed) and spatial characteristics are excellent (even more so than the KT-917). I could easily discern individual instruments and their placement in the soundstage. The stereo separation is an incredible 55 dB and signal-to-noise ratio is an extremely quiet 80 dB in stereo. This tuner really does live up to these specs. I at no time felt any listening fatigue - in fact, I find myself listening to it more often and, depending on the station and its music source, I sometimes forget that I have the tuner on and not the CD player! This is no exaggeration. This tuner is currently used with a simple dipole antenna in a hilly rural setting. I pick up a classical station that is more than 50 miles away with a strong multipath-free signal. The result is outstanding sound quality and a very quiet background in the wide mode. I had occasion to use the narrow mode for a jazz station with a weaker signal, and it eliminated much of the interference with an almost imperceptible change in the frequency response. Other tuners I've owned have included well-cared-for 'like new' versions of the Pioneer TX-9100 and TX-9500, Kenwood KT-917, McIntosh MR 77 and MR 74, Yamaha T-2, and Fisher KM-60 and FM-100B, and I must say that dollar for dollar, the Kenwood KT-815 is the best value of them all."
Our panelist JohnC added, "There's been a KT-815 on and off the bench for the last six months. I can confirm that there seems to be some unit-to-unit variability in how they sound. I've corresponded with a few 815 owners and the lower mid-range appears to be what varies most. The lack of good bass seems consistent across several units and is consistent with what Jim noted in the Shootouts. Also the similarity to the KT-615 in the basic design is apparent, with the exception of the front end and the output op-amps of the 815. Anyone who wants to mod one of these should look at the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section mods for the KT-615 and 815, along with the basic mods established in the KT-7500 DIY tips.
"Here's some additional information on the KT-815. The power supply is a decent balanced supply but employs zener regulation on the negative rail. A single dual gate MOSFET in the 5-gang front end feeds the IF section which includes 4 3-legged ceramic GDT filters, MXs in wide and MSs in narrow. The FM IC is an HA1137W feeding an MC1496, through the pulse count detector and terminating in an HA11223W de-multiplexer. The op-amps are HA1457s run in balanced mode, but are not direct coupled to the outputs." The KT-815 usually sells for $65-125 on eBay. A KT-815 with some of TIC's DIY Mods went for $218 in 8/07. KT-815s with rack handles are seldom seen. See how one stock KT-815 sounded in comparison to other top tuners on our Shootouts page, and read our panelist David "A"'s Ricochet. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-815.
Kenwood KT-880 (1985, $235) search eBay
The KT-880D (see below) may be a sleeper but we wouldn't bother with the KT-880, without the D at the end. The KT-880 usually sells for $10-20 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-880D (1987, $269, service manual, schematic, audio section)
The KT-990D's much more common little brother, the KT-880D is also a decent and mostly unknown tuner. It has 4 gangs and wide and narrow IF bandwidths, and our panelist Bob likes it for reception capability and sound. Bob adds, "It appears that the KT-880D was very similar to the KT-5020, which followed it. While not exactly the same, they share some design traits like the same MPX chip, same RF front end, same buffering and lowpass filter after the detector (which I think is sonically important), and similar, if not the same, IF section. Differences are the KT-5020's PLL detector (the KT-880D uses a simple quad detector), and the KT-5020 has a buffer after the MPX that the KT-880D lacks. Is the KT-880D an overall overachiever? We'll let others decide for sure. My vote is yes."
Our contributor Stephan compared his KT-880D to an Onkyo T-4500: "For tougher (more crowded) receiving conditions, I'd prefer the T-4500, since it features one more gang, one more IF filter and a nifty channel separation correction circuit for narrow IF mode (simple but effective; look out for Q202)." Stephan also speculated, "Maybe the usual cap mods and the like would be worth a try with the 880D. On strong signals, the Kenwood with its nominally lower distortion LA1235 (instead of the LA1266 as used in the T-4500) may sound better, though that's probably more a matter of alignment." But Bob does not quite agree: "The IF chips are wholly dependent on the type and quality of quad detector *transformers* attached directly to them, and how well they are adjusted. The difference of .015% vs .03% distortion is meaningless, as the filters, quad TX and of course, alignment, will be much greater factors." Our contributor Brian Beezley called the KT-880D "one of the most sensitive tuners I've ever measured" in the detailed review on his website. The KT-880D is a bargain at its usually eBay sale price of just $20-50, with occasional lows around $10.
Kenwood KT-900 (1981, $350, photo)
Part of Kenwood's "Audio Purist" series, this little brother of the KT-1000 uses their pulse count detector circuitry also found in the 600T and KT-615/815/917 series. The KT-900 has analog tuning but has a digital LED frequency readout in addition to the analog dial. It has 4 gangs (although we have an Audio Purist brochure that erroneously claims 5 gangs!) and 4 filters and, when modified, is similar in DX performance to a modified KT-615 or 815. The KT-900 usually sells for $20-50 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-917 (1979, $1,000, photo, schematic, detailed specs, detector/MPX scheme: pulse count detector, discrete CMOS switch driven with slimed pulses (no charge injection cancellation) generated by analog means, MPX PLL generated 38k with HA11223 chip)
The FM-only KT-917 was the successor to the 600T as Kenwood's flagship tuner. The KT-917's front-panel controls are identical to those of the 600T, which led some bygone internet commentators to assume erroneously that the differences between the tuners are merely cosmetic, but the KT-917 is somewhat larger and has very different circuitry inside. The KT-917 has a huge 9-gang tuning capacitor, similar to the 600T's 8-gangs-and-a-jumper capacitor, and the 917 also uses Kenwood's pulse count detector circuitry, but the similarity ends there. Unlike the 600T which uses two parallel filter paths (Wide/Normal and Narrow), the KT-917 uses a single serial IF filter circuit with taps for the three filter bandwidths. It starts with a single ultra wide ceramic filter (there are two other ceramic filters but they're used only for meters and are not in the IF path), followed by a single tuned LC filter in Wide mode, followed in Narrow mode by four Murata "Surface Acoustic Filters" (sometimes called SAW filters, for Surface Acoustic Wave) which were specially designed by Kenwood and are also used in the L-07TII. As each filter is normally two elements, or stages, this would give the KT-917 a 12-element narrow mode, similar to the 600T. (There are two SAW filters in the wide IF bandwidth mode.)
Our contributor David Rich observes that like the McIntosh MR 78, which is "double-tuned at the input, then has a cascoded (better linearity) RF stage followed by another double-tuned filter, the KT-917 is the same except the drain - source connection of the cascode is double-tuned and the output of the cascode amp is triple-tuned. The oscillator gets an extra tuned stage to reduce phase noise and improve matching. The mixer is passive to keep the good IP3 [third-order intermodulation - Editor] rejection. The KT-917's Stereo MPX circuit is a zero-order sample-and-hold. A small pulse generated by an analog circuit turns on the MOSFET switch for a very short period of time. At that time the output follows the composite. For the rest of the time the output stays stable. This is not a switching system where the polarity of the composite is switched on 50% of the time (the older Kenwoods do that). The zero-order sample-and-hold can be done with diode networks alone and it shows up in even early tuners such as the Marantz 10B I think. It is all explained in the KT-917's manual. IC 9 is the switch (TC4066), C35 and C38 are the hold caps, and the op-amp after that is a TL 072 (IC 10). It has to be a FET op-amp to hold the charge on the cap. IC1, IC5 and IC 12 are also upgrade candidates as are all the passive in the signal path except C35 and C38 which I would not touch. IC 10 needs high slew rate and fast settling time like all op-amps in a sample-and-hold application. See Linear Tech for an upgrade of the TC 4066 (this is a high-risk move but may offer lower charge injection. It should only be done if you really understand the circuit and how a part change in the switch could really kill its operation. Remember that Kenwood dumped the timing circuit to the switch in the next-generation tuner. The last Kenwoods used analog multipliers."
Our contributor Georges tells us that the KT-917 has "two RF amplifier transistors Q1 and Q2 (Q2 being a common gate amplifier) before the diode doubly balanced mixer." And the KT-917's service manual says, "The RF amplifier section has a wide-gap, 9-gang variable capacitor for the double-double-triple tuning system (one tuning stage for ANT, and two tuning stages for RF). The CC3588DE used as Q1 is a DD-MOS FET (selected SD-306) which features low noise and superior square response over a broad input level/frequency range. It also features a high power gain. VR1 adjusts Q1's input response to its maximum linearity. For servicing adjust VR1 so that the maximum deflection of the S-meter can be obtained. In the second stage, another double-tuning circuit is coupled to a common-gate amplifier, which features a lower input impedance and stable amplification with no influence from feedback admittance."
The KT-917 is extremely sensitive but anyone expecting state-of-the-art selectivity in stock form will be disappointed. The KT-917 usually sells for $500-700 on eBay, but $800-900 or more is likely for a nice piece with rack handles. See our panelist Bob's 600T vs. KT-917 page for a further technical comparison of the KT-917 to the 600T and the results of a head-to-head shootout between the two tuners, and the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section mods for the KT-917 and how to adjust its filters. See how one KT-917 sounded in comparison to other top tuners on our Shootouts page, and read our panelist David "A"'s Ricochet. See detailed specs and measurements for the KT-917 compared to those of 17 other top tuners in David's tuner comparison spreadsheet. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-917. The KT-917 usually sells for $400-600 on eBay, but up to $700-800 or more is possible for a nice piece with rack handles.
Kenwood KT-990D (1988, $375, detector/MPX scheme: PLL detector, "Direct Pure" linear multiplying circuit with MC 1495L) search eBay
Somewhat of a sleeper until Jim's Shootout hit the presses, the fairly common KT-990D is a humdrum-looking black digital tuner. The baby brother of the scarce KT-3300D and the even rarer KT-1100D, the KT-990D has the electronic equivalent of 5 gangs, but 2 are in the local oscillator, so it's really like 4 by our traditional method of counting. The KT-990D has 2 ceramic filters plus an LC filter for the Wide IF bandwidth mode, and 3 ceramics in Narrow. The output amp is an NJM4560. There is a Direct Loop Linear Detector (DLLD), which is Kenwood's implementation of a phase-locked loop detector, also seen in the KT-3300D, KT-5020, KT-6050 and Basic T2. The "Distortion Cancellation Circuit" appears to generate a distortion-canceling signal that is mixed into the signal to correct for IF filter non-linearities.
Our contributor John L. reports, "The KT-990D has a button labeled RF Selector that switches between Direct and Distance, which is the same as local/distant. There is also a button labeled Active Reception that switches between letting the user manually select the IF and RF settings or letting the tuner automatically select those settings." The KT-990D usually sells for $100-170 on eBay. A KT-990SD, whatever that is (we believe it was the little brother of the KT-1100SD), sold for $142 in 1/07 (please post in our FMtuners group if you know anything about the KT-990SD).
Kenwood KT-1000 (1981, $450, front, back, back closeup, inside, detector/MPX scheme: pulse count detector, discrete CMOS switch driven with slimed pulses (no charge injection cancellation) generated by digital means. MPX PLL generated 38k with HA11223 chip)
The top tuner in Kenwood's "Audio Purist" series, the scarce KT-1000 uses the pulse count detector circuitry also found in their 600T and KT-615/815/917 series. It has 5 FM gangs and 5 filters (4 ceramic and one LC filter) and most think it sounds wonderful on strong stations. Note: Don't confuse the 1981 KT-1000 with the old 3-gang Kenwood tuner with the same model number (1970, $90, photo, schematic). Our contributor Charles calls the newer KT-1000 "the best sounding transistorized tuner I've heard so far," but for various reasons he feels that "DXers need not apply" (read Charles's full review in our FMtuners group). The KT-1000 has a 3-gang AM section and a jack on the back panel labeled "AM IF. out." The front panel buttons include "RF Select" Normal/Direct (like local/distant?), Wide/Narrow IF bandwidth, calibration tone, and a button that annoyingly combines servo lock on/off, auto blend on/off and muting on/off all together with auto (stereo)/mono. In other words, as Charles observed, the only way to turn off the servo lock, auto blend circuit or muting is to switch to mono. On the back panel are jacks for an oscilloscope, fixed and variable outputs, a variable output level knob and a 75 µS/25 µS de-emphasis switch.
Our panelist Jim tried to enter a KT-1000 in a Shootout but it failed its physical: "I had problems with this tuner from the start. I have a rule that a known 'sick' tuner can't be in a Shootout. Either this one needs repair, or Kenwood slipped up on this design. The KT-1000 has a so-called 'touch sensor servo lock' that is supposed to disable when you touch the tuning dial. At least on this piece, it does not. I've been inside this tuner twice. Cleaning the tuning caps, tightening screws, and working and cleaning the switches. Nothing helped with these simple attempts. The servo lock doesn't disable correctly when I push the "LOCK AUTO BLEND MUTING" button either. As a matter of fact, you can try and tune off a station and the active servo lock will aggressively hold the same station for over an inch of dial pointer travel. Very frustrating. I thought this tuner might sound like the L-02T, because they have a similar look and style, but it does not. On a first listen, it has more bass punch than the KT-815 or KT-7500, but on extended listening I just wasn't happy with the sound. The whole sound was lighter and somewhat brighter than the L-02T. The audio op-amps are listed on the KT-1000's board as IC18 and 19 and are 4557s. These could easily be upgraded to my fave OPA2604s, but I doubt it would help much. The circuit contains three more 4557s marked as IC 21, 22 and 23 and are used as part of an 'active low pass filter' network. The signal also goes through RL1, a mechanical muting relay. I'll leave this tuner to be upgraded by the more inspired among the DIYers. I can't recommend it to any of our readers."
Our panelist Eric owned a KT-1000 for awhile and had no trouble disabling the servo lock, so Jim's sample apparently did have a problem, but anyone considering buying a KT-1000 should be careful because we don't know how common the problem is. But our contributor Greg likes his: "I have a KT-1000 that works really well. I still need to tweak it, so I may be writing about that when I get it done. It's a cool design that offers the center-tuning meter and IF bandwidth options for AM reception as well as for FM. Very unusual in a modern tuner. It's a slick machine with some other unusual features, too." The KT-1000 usually sells for $100-175 on eBay, but one went for just $61 in 1/11 and two crazed bidders ran one up to $255 in 7/13. Here's a nice photo of the Japanese version, the Trio KT-1000.
Kenwood KT-1100 (1983, silver, black)
The KT-1100 is believed to have been originally sold only in Europe and Japan. The KT-1100 has 5 gangs for FM and 4 ceramic filters, and 3 gangs for AM. Our contributor Peter tells us: "Looking at the schematics, the circuitry is fairly advanced. More functions are implemented using integrated circuits than in the KT-917, like the pulse count detector and sample-and-hold stereo decoder (which samples at four different phase angles). Audio low-pass filters are Sallen-Key filters using op-amps, and not any LC filters. As usual, several capacitors and op-amps in the audio path should be replaced and the path simplified or shortened. The wide IF mode uses two identical ceramic filters, and in the narrow mode two more filters are added (another type with narrow bandwidth). All the ceramic filters should be easily replaceable. The tuner's sensitivity is among the very best, the selectivity is good in the narrow setting and very wide in the wide setting. The frequency counter is helpful but could use some trimming to be optimized. For a non-modified unit, the audio is smooth and 3-dimensional with promising low-level resolution, but compared to my modified KT-917, there is some treble smearing, most likely due to the less than optimum capacitors in the audio path and phase shift from the low-pass filters. Bass is rather OK, but could benefit from more dynamics and extension. One positive surprise is the AM section, which clearly has more than average sensitivity, and if the signal is good enough, selectable IF bandwidth and usable AM tuning meter (like the Sansui TU-X1) which adds to the usual signal level meter. The KT-1100 is a completely different tuner than the KT-1100SD, of which I have a modified unit." Our contributor Stephan reports that two "MX" ceramic filters (250 kHz GDT) are used in Wide mode and two "J" filters (150 kHz) are added for Narrow. The KT-1100 is fairly common on eBay-Germany but very rare on eBay-U.S., where it usually sells for $120 or more. See how one KT-1100 sounded compared to other top tuners on our Shootouts page.
Kenwood KT-1100SD (1985, photo)
The KT-1100SD is believed to be identical to the KT-3030, but with back-panel switches to change the voltage (120-220-240), channel spacing (50 or 100 kHz) and de-emphasis (50 µS or 75 µS). Also on the back panel are RCA variable outputs and an output level control, multipath outputs (horizontal and vertical) for an oscilloscope, and a 75-ohm antenna jack. Front-panel controls include a slider for wide and narrow IF bandwidths, record calibration tone, modulation meter control, and local/distant signal button. There are gold-plated RCA outputs on the front as well. According to our contributor Peter, the KT-1100SD has a 5-gang varicap quartz synthesizer and tunes in 50 kHz steps. It has 5 180 kHz ceramic IF filters which are easily replaced (Peter suggests 230-230-150-150-110), and 4 different IF bandwidth settings. Much can be done to clean up the audio, like a better filter for the varicap control voltage, eliminating the "distortion canceling" circuit, and using better op-amps (including the feedback loop of the detector) and capacitors in the audio signal path. Actually, it is possible to eliminate all coupling capacitors in the KT1100SD, making it DC-coupled from detector to output. "Flywheel tuning" can be arranged by modifying the mechanics of the tuning knob. Also, the muting-while-tuning should be disabled. The modulation bar graph display can be modified to show multipath level as a switchable alternative.
Before modification, Peter ranks the KT-1100SD just below the Kenwood KT-8300, but after modification it improves a lot in both audio quality and DX capability and will, in some respects, outperform an unmodified KT-917. Our DIY Mods page has more of Peter's suggested mods. Peter notes that there is also a tuner called the KT-1100D, "which looks almost like the KT-1100SD, but with AM added and with smaller buttons. I recently had the opportunity to have a look at its schematics and, generally speaking, the FM circuitry is less sophisticated than the KT-1100SD's but with some similarities." The KT-1100SD is excruciatingly rare on eBay-U.S. and can sell for anywhere from $85-200 or more, but it's usually found at the low end of that range on eBay-Germany.
Kenwood KT-1300G (1975, $140)
Kenwood KT-2001 (1971, $120/orig $100) and KT-2001A (1974, $120)
The KT-1300B, KT-1300G, KT-2001 and KT-2001A are crummy old budget tuners that are probably not even worth what you'd pay to have someone ship them. With so many decent Kenwoods available dirt cheap, why bother with these? The only reason we're even listing them is that we're tired of seeing eBay sellers call them "rare" just because they weren't listed on this site. "Rare" does not mean "good." The KT-2001 and KT-2001A had an astoundingly poor capture ratio of 4 dB, but what do you expect for tuners that sold for $120 when new?
Kenwood KT-2200 (photo1, photo2)
If you have any information on this mysterious tuner, which may have been sold only in Japan, please post it in our FMtuners group.
Kenwood KT-3030 (1984, photo1, photo2)
This digital so-called "Direct Linear Loop Detector Super Synthesizer FM Tuner" may have been sold only in Japan. It has 5 gangs, decent specs and wide and narrow IF bandwidth settings. Here's an inside photo of the KT-3030, which our contributor Peter believes is identical to the KT-1100SD.
Kenwood KT-3050 (1993, $269) search eBay
The rare KT-3050 uses the same MPX chip (Sanyo LA3401) and output amplifier (NJM4560) as the KT-5020. The KT-3050 also has the same usable sensitivity spec as the KT-5020, although some of its other specs fall short. The KT-3050 has wide and narrow IF band settings and an active reception circuit that automatically detects the best setting of the IF band and stereo/mono switch, and preset stations can be given names. There are switches on the KT-3050's rear panel for voltage, channel spacing, and de-emphasis adjustments. The KT-3050 can sell for $90-170 on eBay. Our contributor Greg reports: "My KT-3050 is the North American version -- it doesn't have selectable AC mains voltage nor de-emphasis. My KT-5020 is the worldwide version, with rear panel selectable AC mains, de-emphasis, and AM and FM channel spacing. I compared both tuners to a high-quality FM source (HDCD, EAD T-7000 transport, Threshold DAC2 digital processor) via a commercial FM broadcast setup (Orban, 'proof' mode, no processing). Both tuners were stock, no mods. Disclaimer: Your mileage might vary due to differences between production runs of these tuners, differences in your preamp input impedance, other hi-fi system differences, FM radio station differences, etc. Here are my findings by category:
HF Extension and Soundstage
Both tuners are excellent and sound extremely similar to the source. Both tuners have better HF extension than do most tuners I've tried. Both tuners fall just a touch (ever so slightly) short of the original CD's HF extension, but both tuners impart an open, free soundstage - not at all veiled nor rolled-off.
KT-3050 - identical to source except slight emphasis of the mids/upper mids (but the difference is so slight that I doubt most people will detect it).
KT-5020 - identical to source except slight loss of lower mids and bass.
Tuning and Stereo/Mono Modes
KT-3050 - Traditional tuning knob. In Auto mode, the tuner seeks the next higher or lower valid signal; in Manual mode, the tuner increments up or down one step size. Has a independent Mono button, so you can force mono for any reason. Very handy. Note: The tuner stays in this mode whether tuned via Auto or Manual.
KT-5020 - Up/down arrow buttons. Same Auto and Manual features as KT-3050, but doesn't have a independent Mono switch, so the tuner switches to Stereo mode for Auto tuning and Mono in Manual tuning. This creates one additional step for each new tuned station for those wanting to surf stereo stations via the Manual tuned mode.
Stereo Decode Thresholds
KT-3050 - Stereo light turns on at 16 dBf; stereo decode occurs at 21 dBf.
KT-5020 - Stereo light turns on at 28 dBf; stereo decode occurs at 44 dBf.
Harmonic Distortion (for 1 kHz fundamental, 100% modulation)
KT-3050 - 2nd -48 dB, 3rd <-70, 5th <-70
KT-5020 - 2nd -64 dB, 3rd <-70, 5th <-70
[The KT-5020's was consistently better; for example, 59 dB at 1 kHz vs. 50 dB for the KT-3050. See Greg's follow-up post in our FMtuners group for the measurements. -Editor]
KT-3050 -.03 dB
KT-5020 -.05 dB
Static Frequency Response
[See Greg's FMtuners post for the measurements. -Editor]
Sensitivity, Selectivity and Quieting
(Real-world, subjective test only) Sensitivity, selectivity and quieting are nearly identical for both tuners, as observed when I tuned in weak, distant first and second adjacents close to strong, local stations.
The KT-3050 is more susceptible to high-RF intermod interference by 10 dB for distant, weak 105.1 MHz station.
The KT-5020 is more susceptible to high-RF intermod interference by 10 dB for distant, weak 94.7 MHz station.
So it's a mixed bag regarding intermod susceptibility, and I can't declare an overall 'winner.' I would say that both these tuners are fine candidates for either using in stock form, or for audiophile upgrades per Jim's second-round upgrade of a KT-5020."
Our contributor Ray D. adds, "The KT-3050 did not do noticeably better than good budget models like the KT-880D or Sansui TU-S77X for DXing, so I decided it was nothing special and put it aside. After the positive addition to the TIC writeup I thought it might be worth selling since it did not really do anything special for me. It took me quite a while to get around to pulling it out and checking to make sure I did not end up with an irate buyer should something have gone wrong with it while it was idle. I hooked up the Silver Ribbon antenna and fed it in to the Cyrus system and gave it a listen. What the BLEEP! This thing sounds great. Not great 'for a digital' but just plain great. Dynamic, harmonically rich, detailed, delicate highs, tuneful bass. This setup does not allow me to judge the soundstage one way or the other. Just to get a reality check I played it for a couple of friends who have good systems (one has some 3a speakers with Linn electronics and the other some Stax and Proacs) and both were stunned. I brought out my Yamaha CT-1010, which sounds amazing when it can actually find a station, and it was no contest, 3050 all the way. So now I can surmise that this tuner needs at least a decent signal to distinguish itself from the good budget models. I thought the hoopla around the KT-5020/KT-3050 was overblown, but it appears I might have been quite wrong."
Kenwood KT-3300D (1987, $525, photo1, photo2, schematic 1, schematic 2, block diagram, detector/MPX scheme: PLL detector, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th composite distortion generators with analog multipliers)
David Rich offers this analysis of the scarce KT-3300D: "Pot adjustments subtract these internally generated distortion components from the composite using trim pots (separate pots for stereo and mono). This approach does not appear to be very helpful since it is not temperature compensated and is likely to go out of adjustment quickly, but I could be wrong about this. This circuit is how Kenwood reports such low THDs. It is easy to rip out of the unit if this is desired. The KT-3300D has a true analog multiplier based MPX. The pure sine wave 38 kHz needed for this approach is generated from IC based MPX (AN7418)." The FM-only KT-3300D tunes in increments of .05 MHz and has 16 presets, multipath output jacks and a recording calibration switch. The KT-3300D uses Kenwood's "DLLD" (Direct Linear Loop Detector) technology, their name for a phase-locked loop detector, that can also be found in the KT-990D, KT-5020, KT-6050 and Basic T2. Our panelist Jim shares lots more technical info and describes the KT-3300D's controls on our Shootouts page, where you can also see how one KT-3300D sounded in comparison to other top tuners. The KT-3300D is extremely rare (one or two per year on eBay) and usually sells for $100-200, but two bidders got carried away in 7/13 and the winner paid $305.
Kenwood KT-3500 (1970, $120) search eBay
The KT-3500 is an old bottom-of-the line tuner that we might pay $5-10 for, just for curiosity.
Kenwood KT-4005 (1972, $190, photo)
The 3-gang KT-4005 is the baby brother of the KT-8005 and KT-6005. It usually sells for $10-20 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-4007 (1974, $230, photo)
The 3-gang KT-4007 is the baby brother of the KT-8007 and KT-6007. It usually sells for $10-30 on eBay.
Kenwood KT-5000 (1972, $180) search eBay
Here's another example of how "rare" does not always mean "good." This scarce tuner had decent sensitivity but was the bottom-of-the-line sibling of the KT-7000. Since the KT-7000, a fairly decent tuner when in good condition, can often be found for $25 or less on eBay, we don't see why anyone would pay more than $10 for a KT-5000. However, in one of the worst eBay purchases we've seen, two ignorant bidders ran up the price of one KT-5000 from $33 to $168 in 4/15.
Kenwood KT-5020 (1990, $269, photo, brochure page, user manual, service manual)
The KT-5020 is an unassuming black digital tuner that, amazingly enough, has sound quality that many believe challenges that of the all-time best tuners. Our contributor Bill Ammons tested quieting, separation and distortion on an unmodified KT-5020 and exclaimed, "Holy potatoes, this is a sleeper!" Our panelist Jim provides lots of technical and operational info on the KT-5020 on our Shootouts page, where you can also see how one KT-5020 sounded in comparison to other top tuners. Our contributor Hank B., who owns many top tuners, chimes in: "Jim, skeptic and tin ear that I am, I had to go reread your Shootout on this fellow before committing my admittedly short-term listening impressions to paper. Suffice it to say that stunned hardly describes my reaction. Without exception, this guy excels in every realm that for my purposes is important: 1- Within literally five minutes it was obvious that its sensitivity elevated it to within the top four tuners I own; 2- Its selectivity in its unmodified and unaligned state is magnificent; 3- Though I've neither the test equipment nor the expertise to verify the operation of the multiplex demodulator or the audio section, my ears tell me that if they're not perfect, they're mighty damned close. The soundstage has the spaciousness of a good concert venue a la Carnegie Hall or the Boston Symphony Hall and the sound itself is seductively natural and lifelike; and 4- My personal 'acid test' is long-term listening and this, for me, is what ultimately separates the men from the boys. Many a fine tuner which excels in one or another realm has had its mask ripped off here. Not this Kenwood. The biggest problem I encountered was trying to keep myself listening to the tuner and not the music--it's really that good. And I don't know if all 5020s are like this one, but in it I can hear absolutely no difference in audio quality between the Wide and Narrow modes. How many tuners do you know of that can make that claim?"
Our contributors Tim and Ann write, "We found a KT-5020 in a pawn shop two weeks ago. We happened to have a stock McIntosh MR 78, fresh from a McIntosh labs alignment/refurbishment, that we borrowed from a dealer friend, so we compared the KT-5020 to the stock MR 78 and to the MR 74 we use as our standard tuner. From a sound quality perspective, the Kenwood CREAMED the MR 78 and was very close in sound quality to the MR 74. Compared to the KT-5020, the MR 78 was very two-dimensional and 'transistory' sounding on live Public Radio broadcasts. We were pretty surprised, as the KT-5020 is certainly no 'looker' and the MR 78's appearance suggests that it would eat the KT-5020's lunch, but such was not the case. Even the Narrow selectivity setting of the KT-5020 was identical, in our listening environment, to the Super Narrow setting of the MR 78, and the KT-5020 sure sounded much better in its Narrow setting than the stock MR 78 did in its Narrow or Super Narrow setting." Our panelist Eric, a longtime FM DXer, agrees that the KT-5020's sensitivity and selectivity exceed what one might expect and rival his top tuners for DXing and audio quality.
Our contributor Todd adds, "I have done some standard audiophool things to the KT-5020 (clean connectors, dampen the thin chassis, mount transformer on o-rings) but nothing electrical, and I've got to tell you that in comparison, my Magnum Dynalab FT-101A with the Signal Sleuth sounds much thinner, with less body on instruments. One could almost say 'Where did the drums and bass go?' The Kenwood's noise floor is quieter and has much better 'room feel'; with the FT-101A, the instruments sound like they are recorded in an anechoic chamber, with little reverb or depth. My comparison was done with headphones to be able to get down to the smaller details." And our contributor Greg adds, "In terms of accuracy of timbre, sound stage and HF extension, the KT-5020 certainly beats many other solid-state tuners I have. I must also agree with Jim's indirect hint that the KT-5020's bass might need to be just a touch more powerful. Like Jim says, the bass depth is there, but not quite the bass power. Of course, we're not trying to imply that the KT-5020 is the equal of a L-02T, but I think the KT-5020 offers great performance for the price." See the KT-3050 entry above for more of Greg's KT-5020 findings.
The KT-5020 uses Kenwood's "DLLD" (Direct Linear Loop Detector) technology, their name for a phase-locked loop detector, that can also be found in the KT-990D, KT-3300D, KT-6050 and Basic T2. See the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section mods for the KT-5020, and read about the performance of a modded KT-5020 on the Modified Tuner Report page. Since we outed the KT-5020 as a top tuner, eBay sale prices have usually ranged from $225-375, give or take, but one sold for $710 in 4/06 when two lunatics ran the price up from $421.
Kenwood KT-5300 (1977, $140, photo)
A very common bare-bones tuner that might be OK for those on a budget, the KT-5300 has 3 gangs and 2 ceramic filters. It has a center-tuning meter but no signal level meter. The KT-5300 is not very sensitive in stock form because it has no IF amplification, and would have to be partially taken apart to access the circuit board for mods. Our contributor Brian Beezley was pleasantly surprised by his: "These simple tuners work amazingly well. This thing has just two chips in the FM strip and a few transistors elsewhere. I was hearing all kinds of stations while I was aligning it (the downside of living on a hilltop). It seems to work great, even on AM. (Don't want to spoil my fun and actually measure a sensitivity number, and no fair listening next to a loud local.) Lots of fun for a $5 garage sale item." The KT-5300 usually sells for $10-30 on eBay and that's about what it's worth, but people sometimes inexplicably pay $75 or more for a nice one (for example, if it has a wooden cabinet).
Kenwood KT-5500 (1978, $175, photo)
The KT-5500, apparently an improvement over the KT-5300 at the bottom of the line, also has 3 gangs and 2 ceramic filters. The KT-5500 has signal level and center tuning meters and an IF amplifier that improves sensitivity. Our contributor Bill Ammons says the KT-5500 is a favorite of his because it is inexpensive and easy to modify or service, and gives excellent performance when modified. See the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section mods for the KT-5500. The KT-5500 usually sells for $20-40 on eBay, but more is possible for mint ones and in bizarre bidding wars (like when two guys ran one up to $162 in 2/16). One KT-5500 with a wooden cabinet sold for just $5.50 in 2/16. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-5500.
Kenwood KT-5550 (1978, photo)
This very rare tuner is identical to the KT-5500, but with a dark gray face. It only shows up about once a year on eBay and usually sells for $40 or less.
Kenwood KT-6005 (1972, $290, photo)
The little brother of the KT-8005, the KT-6005 uses all discrete circuitry and some say it sounds great. The KT-6005 has 4 FM gangs and 3 AM gangs and is reasonably sensitive, but it has a single IF bandwidth and is not very selective in stock form. The KT-6005 has one ceramic filter, one metal-can LC filter, and a tuned IF stage, so it should not be considered an easy filter mod candidate. The KT-6005 usually sells for $20-50 on eBay. In 3/05, an eBay seller called "oddstuff!" put up a ridiculously hyped auction listing that called the KT-6005, among other things, "Unique Rare Collectors Grade," "Best tuner they made!" and "The ultimate tuner of tuners!" It seemed that potential buyers were offended by the hyperbole and it was quite satisfying to watch that KT-6005 sell for an all-time low of $10.50 (if you can't trust an eBay seller, don't bid!).
Kenwood KT-6007 (1974, $320, photo)
The little brother of the top-of-the-line KT-8007 is a good-sounding tuner in its own right. The KT-6007 has 4 gangs, but its sensitivity is only "OK." It does have some of the same nice features as the KT-8007, including a variable output knob, combination signal strength/multipath/deviation meter and FM MPX filter button on the front panel, and scope output jacks on the back panel, but the KT-6007 lacks a headphone output and has only one level of muting. The KT-6007's adjacent channel selectivity is mediocre in stock form because it uses only one Taiyo Yuden Co. LC filter and one strange green 3-pin filter (not a Murata or Toko). The KT-6007 historically sold for $30-70, but after 2013 sale prices drifted up for unknown reasons to the $75-115 range (and one even went for $150 in 1/16).
We think the very rare KT-6040 was sold only in Europe and Asia and it's tough to find one on eBay-U.S., where $200-265 is the usual sale price range (but one sold for just $77 in 5/16). Our contributor Jeroen reports: "The KT-6040 was the successor of the KT-7020, which was the higher model of the KT-5020. The 6040 is an excellent tuner and, as mentioned by someone else, a sleeper. It is, IMHO, superior to both the 5020 and the 7020, with the 7020 being superior to the 5020. I've checked the schematics of the KT-5020 and the KT-6040, and I see many differences. The 6040 has 5 gangs (I think), 8 ceramic filters and 3 IC filters, and the distortion cancelling circuit is much more complicated. Also, the MPX chip is better in the 6040 (LA3450) then in the 5020 (LA3401). The 5020 has a combined FM/AM IF IC (LA1266), while the 6040 uses separate IC's (LA1235 and LA1245). The KT-6040 is a new design, stepping away from both the KT-5020 and the KT-7020/KT-990D." The KT-6040 is one of a very few tuners that use GaAs FETs, as do the Burmester 915 and Hitachi FT-5500MKII.
Our contributor Rudy said, "I recently owned the KT-6040 and it's a definite sleeper. In stock form, it's already excellent for both sonic and DX performance. This should be a top-rated digital tuner, on par with the Yamaha T-85." And our contributor Sinan said, "I never heard a tuner with a better S/N ratio! Also extremely low distortion with an amazingly quiet background, but the Sony ST-S555ES has the edge in detail and stage width/depth." Our contributor János says that the KT-6040 "was my first serious tuner. Afterwards I bought a KT-9900, Onkyo T-4650 and T-4711, Revox A76, Creek T40, Hitachi FT-5500 MKII, Sony ST-J60, Denon TU-580RD, and Yamaha TX-900. None of the above is too bad, but if I would be forced to have only one tuner, I would choose the KT-6040, based on RF performance (none of the above is better), convenience and sound. A remote would be missed - others have better ergonomics." János added, "For me, the sound of the KT-6040 is clearly better than that of the T-4711, but the user friendliness is better for the T-4711, e.g. regarding the RF and IF settings for stations from the memory." But hold the phone - János acquired a Yamaha T-85 and did a shootout:
"The T-85 surprised me with clearly better reception ability than the KT-6040, mainly detectable as a better signal-to-noise on weak signals (both with and without blending). In the number of enjoyable stations (sound quality-wise), this means about 18 vs. 16 at my location. The sound of the T-85 seems to be more diverse - I mean depending on the station or on the program material (modern pop/rock, classical music, speech, etc.), it seems to me that it can offer more differences in the sound than the KT-6040. Bass is clearly more powerful on the KT-6040. I cannot decide which is more true/correct, whether the KT-6040 is exaggerating or the T-85 is 'shy.'"
Kenwood KT-6050 (front, left, right, back, inside)
The excruciatingly rare KT-6050 was apparently the successor to the KT-6040, and we believe it was sold only in Europe and Asia in or about 1993. The KT-6050 uses Kenwood's "DLLD" (Direct Linear Loop Detector) technology, their name for a phase-locked loop detector, that can also be found in the KT-990D, KT-3300D, KT-5020 and Basic T2. We believe it has 5 gangs and 6 ceramic filters. The KT-6050 has Wide and Narrow IF bandwidth settings, dual antenna inputs, an RF attenuator with 7 steps from 0 dB to -15 dB, and a hi-blend circuit. Marketing materials referenced an "advanced active reception circuit" to react to adjacent-channel interference, a defeatable circuit that we assume automatically chooses the optimal settings for all of the above functions. There is a digital signal-strength meter in dB, and the tuner has RDS and is remote control-capable.
Kenwood KT-6500 (1978, $200, photo, service manual, circuit board, schematic) search eBay
The KT-6500 was a new addition to Kenwood's 5500/6500/7500 line (there was no equivalent model in their 5300/7300/8300 line). Some say it sounds great, but it only has 3 gangs and 3 filters so it'll never equal a KT-7500 even if modified. The KT-6500 usually sells on eBay for $30-60, but as low as $10 or as high as $90 are both possible. Note: one could buy a KT-6500 cheaply and use its wooden cabinet for a KT-7500. See our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-6500. See our DIY Mods page for a writeup and photo of a KT-6500 modified with a tube output. The Trio KT-6100 (photo, closeup, back), which tunes the Japanese 76-90 MHz FM band, is cosmetically identical to the KT-6500.
Kenwood KT-6550 (1978, photo, service manual, circuit board, schematic) search eBay
This very rare tuner is the same as the KT-6500, but with a "gun metal" color front panel. Typical sale prices on eBay are about the same as for the KT-6500.
Kenwood KT-7000 (1970, $250, front, back)
Kenwood KT-7001 (1971, $310/orig $280, photo, ad)
These clunky-looking 4-gang tuners reportedly sound good, but don't quite match the performance (or looks) of most of Kenwood's later tuners. They are also very likely to need at least an alignment, and perhaps repair as well, when found on eBay. Both have variable output knobs on the front panel, and the KT-7001 has two levels of muting. The KT-7001 claims "4 crystal filters." On the back panel, the KT-7001 has one set of RCA jacks for an oscilloscope and another pair to connect a tape deck (we haven't checked the back panel of a KT-7000). Our contributor Paul Bigelow finds the "humble" KT-7001 one of his most interesting tuners: "It is early '70s solid state, 4 gangs, and has a mix of *crystal* and LC IF filters and a totally discrete MPX and output stage. It really is a reality check: it doesn't have 'stock' (chip) IF, MPX and output stages which, I feel, can generate a certain amount of 'sameness' among tuners. The KT-7001 is very much a statement unto itself and I think it sounds very, very good. It's not an RF champ but its sensitivity is so great that only a small antenna is needed and that's the secret to using this tuner (at least in a semi-urban environment): keep the antenna short and it will still pick up the weaker stations and not fill the noise floor with the trash from images." The KT-7000 used to sell for just $10-50 on eBay (one even went for $1.00 in 11/08), but sale prices have trended higher since 2013 to a typical range of $60-100 (with a high of $188 in 3/11). The KT-7001 used to go for $30-75, but the more recent range is $90-130 (with a low of $59 in 5/16 and a high of $164 in 11/13).
Kenwood KT-7020 (1990, photo, German info sheet) search eBay
You can search, but you're not likely to find this big brother of the renowned KT-5020 on eBay U.S. because it was sold only in Europe and Asia. The KT-7020's front-panel buttons include RF Selector (Direct/Distance), FM IF Band (Wide/Narrow), Auto Stereo/Mono, Sens Level (High/Low), and an "Active Reception" button that appears to be similar to Onkyo's APR system. When Active Reception is engaged, the tuner makes its own decisions for the Direct/Distance and IF Band settings. There's also a recording calibration tone button, 10 preset buttons which allow for 20 preset stations by means of an A/B button, and a Tuning Mode button that makes the tuner seek out the next strong station rather than going up or down by .025 MHz. For example, with Tuning Mode in Manual, a spin of the knob takes you from 107.1 to 107.125 (readout says 107.12) to 107.15, 107.175 (readout says 107.17), 107.2, etc. It's useful to be able to detune slightly when a desired weak station is adjacent to a strong local.
Our panelist Eric found his KT-7020 to be quite sensitive and more selective than most stock tuners. Our contributor Fabio says, "The circuit of the KT-7020 compared to the KT-5020 seems quite more complicated with the distortion canceler circuits, discrete components MUX (multiplier, op-amps, etc.)." Our contributor Jeroen adds, "Strangely enough, under the hood the KT-7020 is the same as the KT-990D. I own both the 990D and the 7020 and the PCBs are exactly the same with exactly the same components. My hypothesis is that the design of the KT-6040 was meant to be for the KT-7020, but it somehow got delayed and due to time constraints they took the design of the 990D and used it for the 7020." The KT-7020 tunes the European AM band, with 9 kHz spacing, and for use in the U.S. requires a step-up transformer to convert the power source from 110 volts to 220.
Kenwood KT-7300 (1977, $260, photo, schematic)
The KT-7300 is a solidly built tuner that weighs a ton, and the consensus is that it has excellent sound. With 4 gangs and 3 280 kHz (wide) filters in stock form, the KT-7300 has the potential to be a decent tuner for DXing (but not as good as a modified KT-7500) when tuned up and modified with narrow filters. The KT-7300 is virtually identical, cosmetically, to the KT-7500, even though it's not even close to the same tuner electronically. It has a variable output level knob on the front panel, plus an FM MPX filter and separate muting and auto/mono switches. On the back panel are jacks for an oscilloscope, a 75 µS/25 µS de-emphasis switch and an FM detector output jack. The KT-7300 has one IF gain stage and there is easy access to the circuit board for mods.
Our contributor Bill Ammons reports that the KT-7300 is a great tuner for weak-signal areas but not as good a performer where there are a number of strong signals. See Bob's Filter Corner for a description of Bill's PCB filter mod, see the DIY Mods page for information on DIY audio section and power supply mods for the KT-7300, and read about the performance of a modded KT-7300 on the Modified Tuner Report page. See how one KT-7300 sounded compared to many top tuners on our Shootouts page. The KT-7300 can usually be bought for $30-70 on eBay (with occasional lows of under $20), but over $100 is possible.
Kenwood KT-7500 (1978, $310, photo1, photo2, owner's manual, service manual, schematic, PC board)
The KT-7500 has 5 gangs and 5 filters, with one filter being used for the wide IF bandwidth setting and 4 for narrow mode. It is a very DIY-friendly tuner and will sound terrific when its audio section is updated. It will also blow away most unmodified tuners (at any price) for DXing with a few narrow filters installed. The KT-7500 has a variable output level knob on the front panel, plus an FM MPX filter and separate muting and auto/mono switches. On the back panel are jacks for an oscilloscope and a 75 µS/25 µS de-emphasis switch. Our contributor Joe did an alignment and some mods on his unit and reports, "After tuning across the entire FM band, I can now see why everyone says these can be excellent DX tuners. The ability of the tuner to pull in weak stations in full quieting is phenomenal! I have two KT-7500s and a KT-9900, which is virtually identical to the KT-8300. The KT-7500 is a very respectable tuner and performs with only slightly less quieting than the top end models." And our contributor Radu concurs; after modding his KT-7500, he says, "For a middle of the range tuner, I always have been a bit puzzled about the tone of the TIC review. But no longer. It's remarkable with how much ease this is able to pull in some difficult stations most of my other tuners squeal and grunt about."
The KT-7500 usually sells for $60-100 on eBay without a wooden cabinet, or up to $125-150 with a cabinet. KT-7500s with DIY audio section and power supply mods as described on our DIY Mods page have sold for $170 to over $300. See how one stock KT-7500 sounded compared to other top tuners on our Shootouts page, read about the performance of a modded KT-7550 on the Modified Tuner Report page, and see the Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-7500. A description and great interior photos of extensive mods to a KT-7500 can be seen on our contributor Mike B.'s website, and our contributor Lee's mods are posted on AudioKarma. Still more mod instructions, with great photos and PowerPoint slides, can be found in our FMtuners group.
Our contributor Bill Ammons had some thoughts on filter mods for the KT-7500: "Here is an idea for the KT-7500. I have upgraded several of them and have gotten excellent results. For the CF1 position I use a filter adder PCB and two 280 kHz FALL series low GDT filters. This will give you very low distortion in the wide IF mode and much better selectivity. In the Narrow IF mode, I have been using 4 of the GAXX 250 kHz filters. The only problem with the GAXX series is the high insertion loss (~12 dB). I have a two filter PCB that spans the two series filters and has gain to make up for the extra filter loss. The last two filters do not need a PCB. This ends up giving you (with alignment) about 55 dB of separation in narrow, and under 0.2% distortion." Our contributor Stephen says, "I finally got around to listening to a recent eBay purchase, a stock KT-7500. This is my second time around with this tuner. The first had some hard time on it, and I found it lacking. This one was a pleasant surprise, and much better than I had hoped for. No match for my Rotel RT-870 or my KT-8300, but much better than the previous KT-7500. I finally can see why it's such a nice candidate for some mods."
Kenwood KT-7550 (1978, photo, service manual, schematic, PC board) search eBay
This rare tuner is identical to the KT-7500 but with a bronze face. They are seen once or twice a year on eBay and usually sell for $80-120, slightly more than the average KT-7500 price (with a high of $202 in 1/07). Our contributor Ken M., who owns several top tuners, had a chance to listen to Jim's modded KT-7550 (see the DIY Mods page for details of the mods, and read Jim's review of its performance on the Modified Tuner Report page): "I listened to the Kenwood and it's VERY impressive. Stereo separation, soundstage, highs and mids are outstanding. Especially impressive is the lack of grain in the mids and highs. The highs were very natural-sounding compared to my Sansui TU-X1, which I find to be artificial (I'd love to know whether that is just my sample or true of all the TU-X1s). Bass was there, but not with the definition, punch and dynamics of the Accuphase T-109V. My guess is, this is power supply-related. I was getting quite a bit of background noise and the KT-7550 did not have the DX capability of the Accuphase, but I think both of these were antenna-related and not tuner-related, although I used the same dipole as I used with the Accuphase."
Kenwood KT-8005 (1973, $390, photo)
The KT-8005, Kenwood's top-of-the-line tuner at the time (replaced after a year by the KT-8007), is a solidly built, 25-pound FM-AM tuner with a 5-gang, 2-FET RF front end. The KT-8005 uses two 4-stage filters, early ceramic type, in small metal boxes labeled "MuRata Ceramic Filter" on the top. Each of these filters is equivalent to two modern 3-pin ceramic filters. The specs in the owner's manual say 100 dB alternate channel selectivity and it performs like it, with excellent selectivity as well as sensitivity. Instead of a chip, the MPX section consumes an entire board of discrete components. The audio output stage is also all discrete transistors, and many feel that the sound, when the tuner is properly serviced and aligned, is wonderful.
Our panelist Jim, who admits to a prejudice against early transistor designs, says, "It was interesting to have this two-tone tuner on my shelf. I see the common heritage of the silver and bronze Kenwood tuners that came later." This tuner, like any other 40-year-old piece of equipment, is unlikely to be in perfect shape as found on eBay, so anyone considering buying a KT-8005 should either check it out first or budget some money to have it aligned. But our panelist Bob adds, "The 8005 and 8007 seem a lot better [when in typical 'as found' condition] than the earlier KT-7000 and KT-7001, which seem to need parts/repair to work well, rather than just an alignment." See the KT-8007 writeup below for more of Bob's comments on the KT-8005. The KT-8005 usually sells for $50-120 on eBay, with an inexplicable all-time high of $373 in 8/13.
Kenwood KT-8007 (1974, $420, photo)
The KT-8007 was Kenwood's top-of-the-line unit produced just after the KT-8005 and right before the KT-8300. It was the first Kenwood with a deviation meter that would also be standard on later top models like the KT-8300, 600T and KT-917. The differences from the KT-8005 are in the MPX circuit: the KT-8007 uses a chip-based HA1156, while the KT-8005 uses an all discrete MPX board. Other than that, they are very similar in appearance, features, and function. The KT-8007 has a 5-gang front end, 2 4-stage ceramic filters (equivalent to 4 modern 3-pin filters), and a discrete output stage that combine to make one of the best-sounding tuners around. A bit of trivia: the KT-8007 uses basically the same tuning knob and selector buttons as the 600T, with a combination signal strength/multipath/deviation meter, variable output knob, muting off/level 1/level 2 switch and FM MPX filter. The KT-8007 also adds a front-panel headphone jack, which the 600T does not have. It also has scope output jacks on the back panel.
Our panelist Bob recommends the KT-8007 for "deep bass, extended highs, and a very clean midrange that has an incredible sound on uncompressed jazz and classical music." Another contributor agrees, telling us that his KT-8007 has exceptional sensitivity and a warm sound that he prefers to that of all his other tuners, including the 600T! Bob adds, "The MPX chip in the KT-8007 makes it much less likely than the KT-8005 to go out of alignment in a way that disturbs the audio sound. In a nutshell, the KT-8007 is more reliable, and is similar in many ways inside to the KT-8300, except that the 8007 still has the single IF path. Of course, it looks nothing like the 8300, cosmetically. The board of discrete MPX stuff in the KT-8005 has a much higher drift rate over a long time, whereas the chip in the KT-8007 basically never needs alignment."
Bob adds some info on the KT-8007's filters: "I suspect they were specially matched and graded by Murata for Kenwood, as they have special markings, and this was their top-line tuner back in 1974. An IF sweep in place would show you if they're still OK. Also good distortion numbers (meeting or exceeding KT-8007 distortion specs) would give you the same verification. I actually have a couple of these old filters here, bought from a surplus place, and took them apart. Nothing special inside, just ceramic filters in a metal box. I think each one is equivalent to two 3-pin 280 kHz filters. As you put more filters in series, the bandwidth decreases, hence these are rated 240 kHz @ -3db. You would need to sweep them to be sure." The KT-8007 usually sells for $120-200 on eBay. Bear in mind that the 8007's little brother, the KT-6007 (see above), is a bargain at lower prices.
Kenwood KT-8155 (1979) (schematic, service manual part 1, part 2)
The KT-8155 is the extremely rare dark-gray version of the KT-815.
Kenwood KT-8300 (1976, $380, photo, inside, owner's manual, service manual, audio section 1, audio section 2, RF section)
The KT-8300 was a great tuner when new, very sensitive and selective even in stock form. It has the classic Kenwood silver-faced styling (the "gun metal" gray-faced version of the KT-8300 is the KT-9900), a powerful front end with a 6-gang tuning capacitor, and the potential for top-quality sound after an alignment. The KT-8300's front-panel features include a button to switch the combination multipath/deviation meter, a wide/narrow IF bandwidth button, MPX filter switch, variable output knob and two levels of muting (or muting off). On the back panel, there are fixed and variable RCA outputs, scope outputs, a 75 µS/25 µS FM de-emphasis switch and a dimmer on/off switch. Inside, you'll find two independent filter paths, very much like a 600T (which it somewhat resembles) but without the "middle" path. The KT-8300 uses two 4-pole linear phase LC filters for the wide IF bandwidth setting and three 4-element ceramic filters for narrow mode, rather than the modern 3-pin type.
Our contributor Bill C reported: "The KT-8300's sound is good, with nice stereo separation. There is a little noise on the quiet sections. This could be an alignment issue or possibly IBOC hash? I did notice that the signal from the fixed outputs is particularly strong on this tuner -- much stronger than tuners like my Pioneer TX-9500II and Sherwood S3000IV. I had to dial the preamp volume back on the 8300 compared to the other tuners. It seems to be at a level comparable to the McIntosh solid-state tuners like the MR 74 and MR 78, both of which are also very 'hot' on the outputs." Our contributor Stephen replied: "My KT-8300 does have a somewhat high fixed output level, but not much higher, if I recall, than a T-85 Yamaha. It's also not even close to my Rotel RT-870 which has the highest output level I have ever encountered on any tuner, which includes any of the Mac tuners I have owned. As for the KT-8300's noise levels, mine is very quiet, although it does pick up some HD noise on occasion. As you've mentioned, yours should improve after alignment." Our panelist JohnC concurs: "Yes, on an HD-infected station, the KT-8300 is a bit noisy, but this can be minimized with a proper alignment." See a summary of JohnC's basic mods to the KT-8300 on the DIY Mods page.
Our panelist Ray "had to play some DX games with the KT-8300 vs. the Pioneer TX-9800 and Optonica ST-7405. The TX-9800 won the pure sensitivity challenge, but not by as much as with most. When I tested them for adjacent-channel performance, the TX-9800 and KT-8300 could both ignore the adjacent, but the ST-7405 had lots of interfering hash." Ray also entered the KT-8300 in a DX shootout with the TX-9800, Denon TU-800 and Technics ST-S8, with the results summarized in our writeup for the latter tuner. In our FMtuners group, our contributor Ryan C. tells how audiophile mods transformed his KT-8300. See how one stock KT-8300 sounded compared to other top tuners on our Shootouts page. See the 600T vs. KT-917 page for Bob's quick comparison between the 600T and the KT-8300, and see our Kenwood brochures page for more about the KT-8300. A description and great interior photos of extensive mods to a KT-8300 can be seen on our contributor Mike B.'s website.The KT-8300 usually sells for $125-200 on eBay. A black-faced KT-8300 (huh?) sold for $275 on eBay in 9/15.
Kenwood KT-9900 (1977 or 1978, photo)
Sold only in Europe when new, the KT-9900 is identical to the KT-8300 in every way except for the 9900's worldwide voltage capability and the color of its front panel, which is usually "gun metal" (a metallic medium gray) but we've also seen it rarely in bronze. The KT-9900 and KT-8300 share the same owner's and service manuals and the circuit boards appear to be as identical as the front panel controls are.
Our contributor Jeff R. did a shootout: "After a few months, we have decided that our KT-9900 is a better-sounding tuner, by a slim margin, than our Sansui TU-717 in our system. I have no way, either by instruments or knowledge of the use of any instruments, to prove that either tuner is operating at peak performance. Except for LED lamps, they are as-found, likely stock tuners. Also, our preference of the KT-9900 over the TU-717 has nothing to with the Sansui not sounding good -- it does sound great. When I flip the switch from 1 to 2 and 2 to 1, we all agree the Kenwood has more of a depth of sound. I am not sure what that is called, imaging maybe? There is just something more going on, more like the band is in the room somewhat at various places or centered at different times. The Sansui doesn't seem to do this quite as well, and doesn't seem to expand the sound as deep.
"The Kenwood seems much more sensitive to antenna aiming. I couldn't tell you which is more selective. I live in a hole here in Tulsa, surrounded by stations, and they are all uphill, or over the hill. Having said all that, once either finds another station, the other will tune right into to it, and usually not much difference, other than the quality of the 'soundstage,' imaging, or whatever that depth quality is called. I never recall being able to say this one got 100.5 in OKC and that one didn't. They both did, but neither was very listenable. The one thing that throws it all off for fair is I do not have a dB meter to set the outputs of both tuners the same for a certain volume setting on my preamp. Dialing the Sansui up a bit always seems to catch it up, very close, to the Kenwood sound, but the KT-9900 always has room to go. Again, I wouldn't say anything bad about the Sansui, we just think we hear more with the Kenwood. It hasn't one thing to do with measuring anything objectively. Three of us hear it the same, just our humble ears' opinions."
Our contributor Dave N. did a similar comparison and agreed with Jeff's conclusion, while Hank A.'s personal shootout came out the other way, and our contributor doug s. says that his KT-9900 was "one of only a few out of more than 100 tunas I have sampled over the years that I found lacking in soundstage depth enough that I wouldn't want it for serious music listening. It was not refurb'd, but it worked fine - excellent reception." Our contributor János had one and after alignment but without any mods, it had "still worse RF capabilities (a bit worse sensitivity and clearly worse selectivity, although the Revox has only a single IF) than a KT-6040 or the Revox A76." The KT-9900 usually sells for slightly more than KT-8300s on eBay, $160-300 or higher, with a high of $449 in 2/13. To add to the confusion, there's a silver-faced KT-9900 that was sold under the Trio brand name (see the Trio listing).
Kenwood L-01T (1980, photo, ad, block diagram, specs and manual page, detailed specs)
The L-01T is an extremely rare FM-only tuner that is seldom offered for sale in the U.S. Our panelist Jim was lucky to have a chance to play with one: "The inside of the L-01T is amazing, with two potted transformers and 3 full wave bridge rectifiers for 3 totally separate regulated supplies. The first, +12V, feeds the first oscillator circuit (assumed to be the local oscillator feeding the mixer), a dedicated supply back to the transformer for the ultimate in LO stability. The second and third, fed by the other transformer, has separate windings for the MPX/audio section (+/- 16 volts) and the +14 volts for the front-end IF section. This very healthy power supply sits on its own board. There is a pivoting arm for the dial pointer wires to move freely. There are 7 gangs in the front end, as follows: antenna in, switch, single tuned gang, double diffused MOSFET gain stage, single tuned gang, JFET buffer/follower, switch, triple tuned 3-gang section, transformer coupled into a balanced mixer. The switch, not seen before in any high-end Kenwood tuner, allows bypassing the first 2 gangs and the MOSFET gain stage for less front-end intermodulation (IM) distortion with high input signal levels. Finally, two gangs are used in the local oscillator, which is buffered and also includes a touch switch-controlled varactor-tuned feedback stage from an IF IC, looking very similar to the KT-917's distortion reduction circuit.
"I only see 4 filters but the block diagram shows them as 'either/or' in filter selection. The detector is the Kenwood pulse count detector [described on the block diagram page - Editor], and the MPX decoder is the sample-and-hold switching type, again, very similar, if not identical, to the one in the KT-917. The top and sides are well done plywood and plastic. The bottom is fiberboard with plastic or aluminum sides. The framework supporting the circuit boards and FM front end is either copper or copper-coated aluminum. The only steel I found was the potted transformer cans, screws and the tuning dial balance wheel. Kenwood was VERY serious about non-magnetic influences inside this baby. If I owned this work of art, I would replace all the steel screws with brass screws and change out the resistors with steel end caps in the audio stage, put in new audio caps, sit down and listen to music. The sound is pretty good, stock, with better-than-average bass and a good midrange, but more than necessary sibilance in the highs."
Our panelist David "A" adds, "I learned that the L-01T was actually made in two distinctly different versions. The early European tuners, serial nos. E #00800001 through E #00800071, had a substantially better second oscillator/mixer that performed significantly better than the one in the other version of the tuner. I think that this may account for some of the disagreement between owners of this tuner. European units in this range can be expected to sound better because the better dual conversion circuitry (2.4 MHz vs. 400 kHz) allows the pulse count detector to do a better job. I suspect that the tuner in Jim's Shootout is not from this range of units or it would have likely placed higher. I would expect the sonic difference to affect the imaging, frequency extremes and depth perspective." Here is an interesting review of the L-01T, and read David "A"'s several commentaries on the L-01T on our Ricochets page. In a 2002 note that presaged his later discoveries about pulse count detectors, David said, "For RF, I still haven't found a tuner that really does the whole job right. I think that the L-01T with lower noise FETs in the RF, a redo in the pulse count detector and a little audio work may have more absolute potential than the L02T."
See detailed specs and measurements for the L-01T compared to those of 17 other top tuners in David "A"'s tuner comparison spreadsheet. L-01Ts have generally sold on eBay for $900-1,200, but $1,500 or more is possible and one went for just $646 in 5/10. An early European L-01T with a low serial number went for a breathtaking $1,800 in 7/05.
Kenwood L-02T (1982, $3,000/orig $1,800, photo1, photo2, inside, front AGC, Hi-Fi News review, detailed specs, detector/MPX scheme: active IF, PLL detector, first order sample and hold, MPX PLL generated 38k with TR7040 chip)
The solidly built FM-only L-02T has a 7-gang front end and is a phenomenal tuner. Based on a review of the schematic, David Rich had said that he would avoid the L-02T because it's "as far as you can get from the KISS ["keep it simple, stupid" -Editor] principle." However, our panelist Jim calls it "a masterpiece" that he found comparable to the McIntosh MR 78 for DXing, with better sound than the Mac. Our panelist Eric agrees that the L-02T is a dream machine in all respects from a DXing standpoint. One of the L-02T's nice features is a signal strength meter that reads from 0 to 100 dB. Its tuning range goes down to an unusually low 87.4, allowing one to tune in the audio portion of TV channel 6 (at 87.75) or pirate stations transmitting below the normal FM band.
Here's Jim's full review: "The L-02T is big, heavy and industrial-looking, a cut below analog beauties like the KT-917 or Sansui TU-717, cosmetically. Ergonomically, the knobs are a touch too shallow for ease of control. The tuning dial is only 5/8 of an inch deep and the other two round controls are only about 1/4 inch deep, compared to 1-1/4 inches deep on a KT-917, 1 inch deep on a TU-717 or 7/8 inch deep on a Kenwood KT-7500. Now for the good news: The L-02T is sonically the best stock transistor tuner I've listened to in my system. It has very good bass and a rich, full midrange, not rich or full like a tubed Mac MR 67 but a more neutral sound as you would expect from a transistor tuner. The treble isn't hot or irritating but does have some extra sibilance due to all those old electrolytics in the signal path (if I hadn't heard the difference after putting in new caps in other tuners, I wouldn't see it as a problem). The audio stage uses four 8-legged op-amps (4564 DA) supported by four 16-legged op-amps (MB84066B). I am going to guess that more care was taken aligning this tuner before market, which may partially account for the great sonics. In an A/B test, in narrow mode, the L-02T (with stock filters) matched my KT-7500 (with hand-picked narrow filters) in its ability to grab weak signals without splatter from surrounding stronger stations."
And here's our panelist David "A"'s full review: "The L-02T is a very good tuner but does not have sound quality equal to the Sansui TU-X1 or the Pioneer F-26. In terms of sound, the L-02T is a lot like a Yamaha CT-7000, but with better separation and tighter (but not deeper) bass. I think the L-02T is overrated and overpriced compared with a number of tuners. It is quieter than most tuners and is excellent in regard to most RF characteristics, but it was a little disappointing for a $1,000 tuner. I think it has pros and cons relative to the other top Kenwoods, but overall I think it is about as quiet as the KT-917 and has the best bass of the Kenwoods. I can see why a number of people like it, but for audio I'll stick with the TU-X1 or F-26.
"In my own systems, the L-02T is a little light on the bass end (although less so than the other Kenwoods that I have actually owned). I find the bass much better than the Sequerra and CT-7000, because it is very tight and does not detract from the all-important midrange. However, the bass of the TU-X1 and especially the Technics ST-9700 is definitely superior in depth. It lacks the shimmer, air or whatever you want to call the ethereal 'you are there' quality of the F26. The L-02T's midrange is more harmonically rich than the other Kenwoods', but is not as harmonically rich, vibrant or alive as the best tuners in this regard (TU-X1, F-26, etc.). One area where the L-02T excels is imaging and depth. It puts most other Kenwoods (and most tuners from any maker) to shame in this area. Even the KT-917 doesn't equal the L-02T's imaging, but we are talking about a huge price difference typically. The L-02T has a low-noise front end (although not detectably lower than the KT-917) and it is less picky about antenna quality.
"One problem with all of the Kenwoods (and most tuners in general) is the shielding! In Denver, where we have the National Bureau of Standards clock (WWV) broadcast at 10 MHz with 10,000 watts, there are images of the 440, 500 and 600 Hz tones that appear all across the FM dial. They intermodulate terribly with the desired stations and only those tuners with excellent IF shielding like the Accuphase T-100, Pioneer TX-9100, Yamaha CT-7000, McIntosh MR 78, and Technics ST-9700 really avoid the problem. While this is an extreme issue in the Denver area, it is indicative of the shielding problem that most designers totally ignored. The L-02T is better than the KT-917 in terms of WWV overload, but not in the top 10 of tuners in my experience in this regard. I don't like the L-02T's construction, layout or shielding practices at all! Nor do I like these attributes on any of the Kenwoods (I believe that these characteristics combined with AF design and pulse count detector problems account for why the Kenwoods are not better than they are stock). The KT-917 and the L-01T are lower in IP3 or RFIM than the L-02T is, which is also a pet peeve of mine. I prefer the ability to switch the front end from high gain to high RFIM rejection like the L-01T, the Yamaha T-2 and the Rotal RHT10 allow (to name a few). Overall, the L-02T is a very fine tuner, but I was expecting (hoping for) more...."
See detailed specs and measurements for the L-02T compared to those of 17 other top tuners in David "A"'s tuner comparison spreadsheet. The L-02A (photo1, photo2) is the amplifier that matches the L-02T. See how one L-02T sounded compared to many other top tuners on our Shootouts page, and there's lots more from David "A" on our Ricochets page. This site has dozens of high-resolution photos of the L-02T, inside and out, before and after mods. The L-02T is seldom seen on eBay-U.S. and usually sells for $2,000-3,000.
Kenwood L-03T (1982, photo)
The 7-gang L-03T is a rare tuner that we believe was sold only in Japan. It tunes only the Japanese FM band, 76 to 90 mHz, and modifying it to tune the North American FM band would be difficult and expensive, at best. An L-03T sold for $556 on eBay-U.S. in 4/05, the only one we've ever seen offered. If you have any information on the L-03T, please post it in our FMtuners group.
Kenwood L-07T (1978, $625, photo1, photo2, detector/MPX scheme: quadrature detector, charge injection cancellation discrete MPX switches, MPX PLL generated 38k with HA1156 chip)
The FM-only L-07T looks identical to the L-07TII described below, except that it's gun-metal gray in color rather than black, and its rack-mount holes are open on the outsides. Those two differences make the L-07T more "industrial-looking" than the L-07TII. We believe that the circuitry of the two tuners is mostly identical, but the L-07T uses a quadrature detector rather than the L-07TII's pulse count detector and also lacks the two extra ceramic filters that apparently run the L-07TII's meters. Here's a photo of the inside of the L-07T. Like the L-07TII, the L-07T has a 7-gang tuning capacitor and is also very sensitive and quite selective even in stock form (spec'd at 100 dB alternate channel selectivity in Narrow). Any filter modification should probably be done by a pro because the L-07T contains two Murata "Surface Acoustic Filters," specially designed by Kenwood, for the wide IF bandwidth setting and 3 older-style 4-pin ceramic filters which have 4 stages each for narrow mode. The L-07T is scarce on eBay and can sell for anywhere from $160 to over $400, but $200-350 seems to be most likely. The matching amp is the L-07C.
Kenwood L-07TII (1979, $625, photo, brochure cover, brochure page1, brochure page2, with L-07CII amp, detector/MPX scheme: pulse count detector, IC based MPX HA11223)
The L-07TII is a sleek, narrow, black, rack-mount style FM-only analog tuner that looks very different from the classic silver-faced Kenwood components. It has a 7-gang tuning capacitor and two independent IF filter systems for the wide and narrow IF bandwidth settings, and is very sensitive and selective unmodified with alternate channel selectivity that exceeds 100 dB out of the box. Any filter modification should probably be done by a pro because the L-07TII contains two Murata "Surface Acoustic Filters," specially designed by Kenwood (top row in photo), for the wide IF bandwidth setting and 3 older-style 4-pin 280 kHz ceramic filters which have 4 stages each (the center one in this photo was replaced as part of a mod) for narrow mode.
Our contributor Brian Beezley points out that "narrow filter replacement is easy in the L-07TII despite the stock 4-pin filters. The PCB has six holes for each filter, each set correctly spaced and wired for a pair of 3-pin filters. So you can install a total of 6 filters in narrow if you want." The two normal 3-pin, 2-stage ceramic filters (lower right in the photo) are apparently used only to run the meters and are not in the IF signal path. Here's a wider shot of the inside of the L-07TII. The L-07TII uses Kenwood's pulse count detector circuitry, like the 600T and KT-615/815/917, and sounds extremely quiet. Post-mod, it is comparable to a modified KT-8300 for DX performance, but maybe not quite as sensitive as the 600T. See how one L-07TII sounded compared to other top tuners on our Shootouts page. The L-07TII is scarce and usually sells for $250-400 on eBay, with occasional highs over $600 for mint ones.
Brian reports: "The L-07TII is the most sensitive tuner I've yet measured (50 dB quieting at 15 dBf in mono and 36.5 dBf in stereo). With its three stock 4-pin ceramic filters replaced by two new 3-pin 110s and one 150 (and 3 jumpers) in narrow, it is also the most selective (50.5 dB adjacent-channel selectivity). But on an outside antenna, the tuner had a fatal flaw: background noise on strong signals and no hint of weak signals that other tuners received clearly. This was due to front-end mixer overload. Adding AGC to the two RF amplifier stages dramatically improved performance in my high-RF location - no hint of mixer overload remained. This tuner is one of the few with a post-detection filter good enough to suppress HD Radio self-noise. You won't be annoyed by background noise due to the stereo decoder responding to HD Radio sidebands as stereo subcarrier signals. With its pulse-count detector, 1 kHz THD measured 0.03% in wide and 0.5% with the modified narrow filter. I cannot hear any difference in audio quality between the two filters. The center frequency of the surface acoustic wave filters used in wide is somewhat below 10.7 MHz. But since the detector linearity does not vary with the IF, you can tune to a slightly different frequency to center the signal in the wide IF filter. I modified the tuning-meter driver so that minimum distortion occurs in narrow when center tuned and in wide when tuned to the leftmost edge of the center tuning segment." Finally, Brian points out, "The poor intermod performance I found in actual use for the stock 7-gang L-07TII should caution against relying on a simple capacitor-gang count to estimate tuner susceptibility to signal overload."
Kenwood L-1000T (1991, $1,100, photo, front AGC, brochure, specs, detailed specs, detector/MPX scheme: see David Rich's comments below)
The rare L-1000T is a solidly built FM-only digital tuner that was Kenwood's attempt to recapture its '70s-early '80s glory. It has a 6-gang front end, 3 IF bandwidths, and other features comparable to the Onkyo T-9090/T-9090II and Denon TU-800, but without their extreme selectivity. Our contributor Miklos gives us a tour of his L-1000T: "Beautifully built, special braced chassis and a minimum of controls on the tuner itself. In the inside photo to the right is the front end, at the top are the two antenna inputs, and along the front end to the left is the IF section. On the left side is the massive PS, at the top left corner is the standby PS transformer and beside it to the right is the motor-driven output level control. The unit is big and heavy, and its footprint is a bit larger than the 600T's. All of its controls (except the standby/off, tuning and tuning mode selector) are built into the remote control. It tunes in 25 kHz steps and is very selective, in comparison to my other (unmodified) tuners." Our contributor Ed Hanlon remembers hearing about the L-1000T in 1991: "It ran very hot, and was basically a computer. I recall that you HAD to have the remote, or you couldn't use all the functions." Our contributor Jeff, who prefers the sound of his L-1000T to that of his L-07TII, confirms that the L-1000T would be almost impossible to use without the remote.
Our contributor Nick says that his L-1000T has "the best audio quality of all the digital tuners I've heard," including the Yamaha T-85 and Sony ST-SA3ES. Another contributor says he owned one around 1995: "One of the most unique tuners I have ever seen or used. Very selective, but the sound was not among the best I have heard. It was about as quiet as I think a tuner can be." The L-1000T was indeed one of the quietest tuners around, and might be a world-beater for DXing with narrow filters installed. David Rich adds: "The L-1000T looks like it might be the best Kenwood ever, maybe the best tuner ever, once past the front end (the best front end is the KT-917). The L-1000T has an RF amp bypass (like the Onkyo T-9090) to reduce front end IP3 but at the cost of sensitivity. Everything in the KT-3300D but the 38kHz MPX now has dual PLLs to generate a very, very low jitter pure sine wave source to drive the analog multiplier. The L-1000T has better construction than the KT-3300D. Please note that I have never seen this thing in the flesh. I am just presenting info based on the manufacturer's specs and the schematics. If you pay a fortune for one on eBay and it turns out to be a bomb, do not blame me."
See how one L-1000T sounded compared to other top tuners on our Shootouts page, and read our panelist David "A"'s Ricochet. See detailed specs and measurements for the L-10001T compared to those of 17 other top tuners in David "A"'s tuner comparison spreadsheet. The L-1000T is seldom seen on eBay and can sell for anywhere from $325-600 or more. Kenwood is supposedly still selling the remote, for about $70.