No other name is more synonymous with high fidelity audio electronics than Kenwood. JVC is well known as in the video camera business and also in audio electronics. By the merger of the two companies into JVCKenwood, they have created a powerhouse in the electronics industry that overshadows the size of their major competitor in the land mobile two-way radio business known as Motorola Solutions.
At one time, Motorola controlled between 70%-80% of the two-way radio market with all other manufacturers sharing the balance of the market. As of the writing of this article, Kenwood is second only to Motorola who has seen their market share continue to slip over the years from their previous massive control of the market to about 40% of the marketplace.
Here are some of the Kenwood innovations:
- In 1946, Kasuga Radio Corporation was founded to manufacture electronic components and amateur radio equipment.
- In 1949, Kenwood created the very first high frequency transformer that was used in their products.
- In 1950, Kenwood created the first FM tuner.
- In 1950s, the name was changed to Trio-Kenwood to better reflect their international marketing efforts.
- In 1962, Kenwood launches the industries first transistorized amplifier.
- In 1963, Kenwood Electronics, Inc. opened their first office in this country in Los Angeles, California. This sparked the marketing of all products under the name of Kenwood.
- In 1966, Kenwood introduces fully transistorized audio products for the first time in the industry.
- In 1966, Kenwood developed the first all solid state amplifier for amateur radio that outsold all the competition.
- In 1969, Kenwood introduces the Trio TK-7100 amateur radio transceiver.
- In 1975, Kenwood introduces the legendary TS-520S.
- In 1978, Kenwood introduces VBT technology which is variable bandwidth tuning which allowed the IF bandwidth of the receiver to be narrowed to reduce adjacent frequency interference (QRM).
- In 1979, Kenwood introduces the TR-2400 which was the first hand held (walkie talkie) radio controlled by a microprocessor and featuring an LCD which was invented by Kenwood.
- In 1982, Kenwood develops the TS-930S, the first all solid state HF radio with a built in antenna tuner.
- In 1983, Kenwood introduced the world’s first dual band 2 meter / 440MHz UHF 25 watt radio.
- In 1983, Kenwood enters the land mobile two-way radio market.
- In 1984, Kenwood introduces the digital coded squelch (DCS which was compatible with Motorola’s DPL) in their new TS-711A and TS-811A.
- In 1985, Kenwood develops the KSR-1000 satellite receiver system.
- In 1986, Kenwood introduces the TS-2570A 70 watt radio with telephone interconnect auto dialer and Digital Channel Link (DCL)
- In 1986, the name Trio was completely dropped and Kenwood became known as Kenwood Corporation.
- In 1989, Kenwood introduced DSP (digital signal processing) to the TS-950SD radio.
- In 1991, Kenwood enters the European market for PMR (private mobile radio) market.
- In 1991, Kenwood introduced the TK-930 (800MHz) and the TK931 (900MHz) trunking radio.
- In 1992, Kenwood developed the public safety grade radios known as the 30 series with the TK-630 (Low Band), TK-730 (VHF), TK830 (UHF) radios.
- In 1993, Kenwood introduces the first compact HF 100 watt amateur radio model TS-50S.
- In 1993, Kenwood introduces the world’s smallest trunked portable radios TK-430 (800MHz) and TK-431 (900MHz).
- In 1994, Kenwood introduced two conventional portables models TK-250 (VHF) and TK-350 (UHF) radios.
- In 1995, Kenwood introduces the first trunking and conventional mobile radio model TK-840.
- In 1996, Kenwood celebrates 50 years of manufacturing quality radios.
- In 1997, Kenwood introduces the FreeTalk™ series FRS radios which was an instant success.
- In 1998, Kenwood introduces the VC-H1 Visual Communicator that could transmit JPEG files over the air.
- In 1998, Kenwood introduces the ProTalk™ the first military spec color dot portable radio.
- In 1998, Kenwood introduces the first dual band dual control head Series 90 radio available as the TK-690 (Low Band), TK-790 (VHF) and TK-890 (UHF) radios.
- In 1998, Kenwood introduces the TH-D7A, the first 6 watt amateur portable radio with built in TNC and APRS software.
- In 1999, Kenwood incorporates the Fleetsync ANI and selective calling system / status system to the TK-780 (VHF) and TK-880 (UHF) radio.
- In 2008, Kenwood develops jointly with ICOM the NXDN digital transmission protocol that is capable of utilizing a very narrow frequency channel of 6.25KHz.
- In 2009, Kenwood introduces their NEXEDGE network that was capable of networking 6 sites.
- In 2010, Kenwood upgrades their NEXEDGE network to operate up to 16 sites.
- In 2010, Kenwood introduces its first ATEX certified analog two-way radio.
- In 2011, Kenwood develops its OTAP system for NEXEDGE digital radio systems.
- In 2011, Kenwood upgrades their NEXEDGE network to operate up to 48 sites.
- In 2013, Kenwood launches the TS-990S amateur radio base station.
- In 2015, Kenwood launches the NX-5000 series radios that are a combination analog, NXDN digital, DMR and P25 mobile and portable radios.
- In 2016, Kenwood introduces the new TH-D74E VHF/UHF dual band amateur portable radio.
- In 2016, Kenwood introduces the new WD-K10 DECT (digital enhanced cordless telecommunications) intercom systems.
- In 2017, Kenwood introduces the new NX-3000 series multiprotocol digital radios capable of NXDN and DMR.
- In 2017, Kenwood announces the availability of their Generation II NEXEDGE network that is capable of networking up to 1152 sites.
- In 2017, MRA is the first in the world to order a Kenwood Generation II NEXEDGE system.
- In 2019, MRA is the first in the world to order a 2nd block of 48 sites for the Kenwood Generation II NEXEDGE system.
- In 2019, Kenwood provides the worlds scalable single site 64 channel NXDN trunking system at the Istanbul Airport.
- In 2019, Kenwood launches the heavy duty TK-3701D dual PTT dPMR 446 radio.
- In 2019, Kenwood launches the low tier NX-1000 series radios for NXDN conventional and DMR.
Kenwood had two company business units that focused on different aspects of the communications. Let’s start with the Kenwood amateur radio equipment line. Later, we will deal with their professional land mobile radios.
Kenwood started in the radio business manufacturing radios solely for the amateur radio market. As a result, their history in amateur radio goes back to 1946 when the company first started making radios. This means that Kenwood has been making amateur radio equipment for over 75 years which gives them a long and rich history in the world of amateur radio. Amateur radio is the breeding ground for people who love to operate, build, experiment and design radios. Many of the breakthrough developments in electronics and radio have been made by amateur radio enthusiasts over the years, which has benefitted the state of the art to a huge degree.
In the early 1980s, Kenwood entered the professional land mobile two-way radio market. Their initial entry into the market was minimal, placing their toes into the market to test the viability of the business before committing a huge amount of capital to make a big splash into the business. After introducing their first radio, they found a viable and vibrant market that was hungry for quality radio equipment. So Kenwood pursued engineering more radios for the commercial radio market and soon gained a reputation for making a quality product. By comparison, their radios were small, flexible and reliable which continued to capture the interest of savvy consumers of radio communications equipment. By the end of the century, Kenwood had made a big name for themselves and had established Kenwood as a huge force in the land mobile radio market.
Kenwood has its own unique history of corporate restructuring. Here are some of the significant events:
- Kenwood establishes itself in 1946 as Kasuga Radio Corporation.
- Lafayette Radio Corporation in the early 1960s rebranded the radios from Kasuga Radio Corporation, LTD (aka Trio) and sold the radios through their catalog.
- Kenwood grows to the point where it earned a spot on the Tokyo stock exchange and started selling shares to the public.
- Kenwood acquires Ariete, an Italian manufacturer of kitchen appliances to enter that market.
- Kenwood amateur radio equipment is used in 1995 on the MIR space station
- Kenwood becomes Japan’s first supplier in 1997 of car mounted DAB receivers
- JVC Corporation and Kenwood Corporation join forces in October 2008 to form JVCKenwood Corporation.
- Kenwood develops the first mobile digital broadcast receiving system in 1999.
- Kenwood moves its sales, marketing and systems division to Atlanta, Georgia.
- Kenwood releases its first P25 digital transceiver in 2001.
- Kenwood develops a network interface module (NIM) for digital broadcasts via satellite in 2002.
- Kenwood develops an alliance with ICOM in 2005 to jointly develop a digital wireless communication system (NXDN).
- Kenwood acquires certification in 2005 for the international standard for quality management ISO 16949.
- Kenwood announces its intension to acquire all the issued and outstanding shares of Zetron in April 2007, a manufacturer of mission critical and control systems.
- Notice of the establishment in 2008 of Kenwood Holdings, Inc.
- JVC Kenwood Holdings, Inc changes to JVCKenwood Corporation in 2011 and absorbs it subsidiaries Victor Company of Japan, LTD, Kenwood Corporation and J & K Car Electronics Corporation.
- In January 2012, Panasonic decides to sell the majority of its 24 million shares in JVCKenwood which will take Panasonic from 19.28% to 1.75% ownership.
- Kenwood announces KSDP (Kenwood Solutions Developer Program) in 2012.
- Kenwood acquires E.F. Johnson Technologies, Inc. in 2014.
- Kenwood acquires Radio Activity in 2017, a Tier 3 DMR and simulcast radio solutions provider.
- Kenwood closes its Atlanta office and moves the operation to Dallas, Texas into the EF Johnson Technology offices in 2017
- Kenwood acquires a minority share in 2018 of Tait International, LTD, a specialist in critical LMR and LTE communications solutions.
- Kenwood and Donna Sports announce Kenwood’s 3 year sponsorship of MotoGP.
- Kenwood sells it Zetron division in April 2021 to Codan for $45 million in cash.
- Kenwood moves it warehouse from Dominguez Hills to Lakewood near the Long Beach Airport in December 2021.
Here are some of the radio models manufactured by Kenwood over the years:
Kenwood manufacturers a huge variety of radio models, more than any manufacturer other than Motorola. Each model of radio is typically offered with a wide variety of options to suit must radio consumers. Often Kenwood has some of the highest specifications and offers more options than most other manufacturers. Kenwood believes in standardization and open competition, continually earning a customer’s business over and over again each time they need to add to their existing system. Even though Kenwood may be the only supplier of a particular item, but they do not take advantage of the customer to charge them an extra high price. They charge a fair price for the equipment and services provided.
So the question about Kenwood’s product line arises time and time again. Do they make a good product? Is it reliable and does it last? For most products, the answer is a resounding yes. The product is typically solid in its design and construction. Kenwood does not over design their radios or make them overly complicated just because they can do it and manages to achieve a high level of product integrity. Kenwood does not believe in the policy of planned obsolescence. Kenwood tends to develop software upgrades to their products which do not obsolete older products on purpose. The newer firmware in a radio cannot be read by older programming software, but the dealer can upgrade their older software to the newer software at no charge for the newer programming software. The newer programming software will work on the older firmware in the radio, thus making it convenient to use the newer software for all the older versions of the same radios. The older radios are generally upgradeable to the newest version of the software at no charge, so that all the radios will act the same and are capable of the same features as the older radios. Kenwood’s subsidiary Johnson Technologies who specializes in the public safety market has a perpetual license policy which allows one to take a software license from an older product and transfer it to a newer replacement product. If a radio is lost, stolen or destroyed, the software license can be moved to the newer replacement product. This policy from Kenwood is a complete reversal of the policies that emanate from Motorola.
In summary, Kenwood has been a major force in car electronics, amateur radio and in the two-way radio business since their entry into the market of two-way radio in 1983. Now, Kenwood seems to be acting like Avis (who advertised that they were the #2 car rental agency) concentrating on becoming the leader of the two-way radio business. Today, Kenwood makes a range of products including home audio, car audio, car entertainment systems, amateur radio, DECT wireless intercom systems and professional two-way radios.