Kenwood TH-D74A Tri Band 2m/1.25m/70cm Radio Review

Kenwood TH-D74A

The Kenwood TH-D74A is the radio you buy when you want the “one radio to rule them all” and are not afraid to spend the money to get it. Read on to see if it is worth it!

I thought about just writing that the Kenwood TH-D74A had a couple of things I didn’t really like and they everything else was as close to perfect as any handheld radio ever created. While that certainly is true, it doesn’t help my readers understand why this radio costs over $500, and is worth it. So I need to do a little more explaining.

Let’s start with what all this radio can do, and that is a lot. The Kenwood TH-D74A packs a huge punch in terms of features so let me rattle off a few.

The Kenwood TH-D74A is a true tri-band radio, operating in 140Mhz, 220Mhz, and 430Mhz all pretty well with the stock antenna. That being said, the antenna’s that come with most dual-band radios are a little better at 140Mhz and 430Mhz than this one, but only a little, and I find it amazing that Kenwood found a way to make a single antenna work pretty dang good on three bands at once.

They didn’t stop there, the Kenwood TH-D74A also has an amazing receiver that can literally listen to any frequency you can punch in on the keypad from 0.1 ~ 524Mhz, SSB/CW reception is also possible. That’s right, you can receive from 160m to above 70cm on standard FM, SSB, and even CW! Of course, you should attach a different antenna to the Kenwood TH-D74A for HF reception.

Of course, the Kenwood TH-D74A can also do their D-STAR digital technology to do things like consulting a built-in and updateable list of repeaters equipped with the D-STAR technology in your area (using the built-in GPS) and have them at the ready within minutes so you don’t have to look up repeaters ever again.

The screen on the Kenwood TH-D74A is a work of art, full color, sharp as a tack, and fairly large. One really nice thing is that many color screens on radios like TYT, Zastone, Radioddity, etc are unreadable when the backlight turns off. Not so on this radio, it is harder to read of course, but still perfectly readable. I absolutely love this.

The transmitted audio is excellent on both analog and digital. In fact, I have actually had people tell me I was using the Kenwood TH-D74A without asking because of the extremely high-quality audio. This happens mostly when in digital mode but sometimes in analog as well.

Speaking of audio, the sound coming out of the Kenwood TH-D74A speaker is excellent, and because everyone hears things differently, they include a robust equalizer so you can tailor the sound coming from the speaker to your taste. Yup, an EQ built right in. Find that on another radio!

The Kenwood TH-D74A programming software is called MCP-D74 and is probably the best radio programming software I have ever used. It keeps things grouped logically which makes finding things I need easy. I also love the fact that I can read and write configuration to a micro-SD card (my favorite), use a cable, or use Bluetooth to program the radio.

To program the radio you need to start with some documentation and the Kenwood TH-D74A manual is second to none. They include a nice, big, printed version right in the box.

Now on to my gripes, and I should point out that any gripes I have with my Kenwood TH-D74A are very very minor.

The keys on the front of the Kenwood TH-D74A are a tiny bit too easy to press. I would prefer keys with a little more resistance, maybe with a little more travel. This is more about me pressing more than one key at a time than any fault of the keypad. Maybe they could space the keys out a little more and solve the problem.

The Kenwood TH-D74A has a perfectly serviceable volume knob so why do they not use it for power on/off instead of the power button? I would much prefer that, but I am pretty old school so maybe it’s just me.

When dealing with earlier versions there were some Kenwood TH-D74A problems, specifically with charging circuit IC 585 causing the radio to refuse to charge. Newer versions of the radio supposedly fixed the issue.

Lastly, and most annoying, for this kind of money I expect a drop-in charger dangit! Come on, I buy a $20 Chinese radio and it comes with a drop-in charger, but the $500 Kenwood TH-D74A just comes with a wall wart? That’s just insulting.

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Photos

Kenwood TH-D74A Test Results:

Screen readability Excellent +
In-hand feel Excellent
Included antenna Very Good
Construction quality Excellent
Belt clip Very Good
Programmability Excellent
Transmit audio CLICK TO LISTEN
Maximum power output (2m/70cm) 3.6 watts/ 1.4 watts
Size 305 * 59 * 46 mm
Actual weight 12.2 oz
Kenwood TH-D74A manual CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
Programming software CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
Kenwood TH-D74A Overall score
Kenwood TH-D74A VNA Antenna Test
Kenwood TH-D74A VNA Antenna Test
Kenwood TH-D74A SRD spectrum analysis
Kenwood TH-D74A SRD spectrum analysis
If you are interested, click here for an article on how I test radios.

 

FEATURES:
  • APRS, real-time GPS position information and messages
  • D-STAR digital amateur radio networks
  • Built-in high-performance GPS unit with Auto Clock Setting
  • Wide-band and multi-mode reception
  • 1.74” (240 x 180 pixel) Transflective color TFT display
  • IF Filtering for improved SSB/CW/AM reception
  • High-performance DSP-based audio processing & voice recording
  • Bluetooth, microSD & Micro-USB
  • External Decode function (PC Decode 12kHz IF Output, BW:15 kHz)
  • Data Import / Export, (Digital Repeater List, Call sign, Memory Channel, Configuration)
  • Four TX Power selections (5/2/0.5/0.05 W)
  • Weatherproof IP54/55 standards
PROS:
CONS:
  • A remarkable set of features
  • Feels good in the hand
  • Great set of accessories
  • Excellent speaker
  • Excellent audio transmission
  • Beautiful screen
  • Expensive!

Conclusions

If you are looking for the ultimate in handheld amateur radio technology, then the Kenwood TH-D74A is probably what you want. No other handheld radio that I am aware of, for any amount of money, has the features, functionality, and quality of the Kenwood.
If you can find a Kenwood TH-D74A used, it will probably cost almost as much as a new one because no one wants to give them up, that should tell you something.
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I hope you enjoyed my Kenwood TH-D74A review!

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