Thoughts on Kenwood NXR Repeaters for Amateur Radio

Kenwood in its various incarnations has been a well-known name in the radio world since the 1960s. While Kenwood is well-known specifically in amateur radio for it’s HT, mobile, and base station radios, it is also a maker of repeater radios. Most well-known from Kenwood for amateur repeaters is likely the TKR-series of repeater systems which include the TKR 720/820 and the TKR 750/850. In Kenwood product nomenclature, a “7” is a 2m VHF radio and a “8” is a 70cm UHF radio.

Eighteen months ago, my primary/main club Silvercreek Amateur Radio Association decided it was time to upgrade our 2m flagship repeater. Unlike many repeaters which are nearly silent, SARA’s repeater is active and a mainstay of “club life”. Thus any replacement needed to be reliable and well-engineered.

Kenwood NXR-710 Manufacturer Photo
Kenwood NXR-710 Manufacturer Photo

Amateur radio repeaters generally are one of three things – commercial-grade, purpose-built radio systems, amateur-grade radio repeaters which are some flavor of two mobiles connected together with some sort of control board, and homebrew systems. SARA’s needs and desires were for a commercial-grade system to replace an amateur-grade system we were unhappy with. The commercial world has designed towards digital modes such as P25, NXDN, and DMR and thus “amateur friendly” repeaters are not usually produced any longer or analog FM is an afterthought for compatibility.

Following a lengthy survey of commercial options, SARA settled on a Kenwood NXR-D710. The NXR-D710 has upgraded internal radios and controller hardware in the same 2U package format the TKR-750 used. The external connector port pinout on the NXRs is the same as the TKRs and has the same I/O programmable options. Since it was designed while analog FM was still a primary selling point, it’s analog capabilities are (still) top notch. The NXR was purchased at the tail end of availability for the NXR-D710s. It was deployed in February 2023. Improvement to the already-excellent system was immediately noticeable, especially in audio quality, weaker signal reception, and squelch operation. The system has been rock-solid and well performing since.

SARA's Kenwood NXR-710
SARA’s Kenwood NXR-710

Later in 2023 I was asked to help the Wayne Amateur Radio Club with their replacement of their amateur-grade repeater with a commercial option. Working with the club, the first attempt was to purchase an NXR-710. Unfortunately the stock for the system was depleted now that it was end of sale. However after consultation with the local Kenwood VAR, the NXR-1700 was chosen.

Kenwood NXR-1700 Manufacturer Photo
Kenwood NXR-1700 Manufacturer Photo

The NXR-1700 is the evolution of the NXR-710. It is a 1U package. Pleasantly, the external connector is identical to the TKR-750 and NXR-710s and the same amateur-friendly PIO options are available. This unit is programmed over an IP network rather than a programming cable and some of the configuration is done with a web interface. However, all-in-all, it works largely like its predecessor models and just a well.

The repeater was installed in February 2024 and the change in this system was dramatic! The club is very very pleased at the improved receive and transmit performance.

All in all, the Kenwood NXR series repeaters continue to be solid performers with very amateur-friendly and -needed features.

Comments are closed.