Review Wouxun KG-UV920R

Note: this model has been replaced by the KG-UV920P.  See here and here.

The long (very long!) awaited KG-UV920R finally hit the stores. I was able to get hold of a review sample, which was kindly supplied by Bamiporto.nl. This is the European version, which means that TX frequency range is limited to EU amateur bands, e.g. 144MHz – 146MHz and 430MHz – 440MHz. After a week of clinical stuff (measurements) and a few days of real life playtime, I decided that it was time to put some things on paper, make a few pictures and dump spectrum analyzer images onto a USB stick.

What’s in a name?
There are ham operators who will only buy one brand and defend it in such a way that Apple fanatics suddenly look reasonable. Personally I don’t care much about brand names; almost every respectable brand has found a place in my shack. I admit, lately I’ve been very, very cynical about this Wouxun. Too cynical probably, but not without reasons. Communication with Wouxun stalled, initial specifications vaporized, and the final price level ended up way higher than any of us expected. Yet every radio deserves an honest review, so here we go.

Organized chaos in the shack while working on the KG-UV920R.

Wouxun KG-UV920R inside. Note the empty spaces next to the stock filters. Room for optional ones? The large empty space is presumably where the optional scrambler goes.

Look & Feel
If looks were the most important factor, I would have fallen in love instantly. This radio looks good! There are hard-to-miss signs that the engineers did some serious thinking here. The front panel is detachable and can be mounted under two different angles: slightly upwards and straight. The latter is what we’re used to and the best option when the radio is mounted under a shelf. When mounted under a car dash, the tilt option will be great. Completely separating the front panel from the actual transceiver is possible too, and a long extension cable (RJ45 on both sides) is part of the package. Front panel on top of the dash, transceiver in the boot.

There are two speakers built in, one for each VFO. Interestingly, they’re not the same size. Two external speakers can be connected at the back, and you might want to give this some thought. Depending on the stations listened to and the volume level, the internal speaker set resonated a bit at times.

When the separation kit is used, both internal and external speakers become either unusable or impractical. That’s why Wouxun added a third speaker, which is located at the back of the microphone. Switching from one speaker system to another can be done from the menu. Keeping them all working simultaneously is possible too.

The antenna connector is SO-239, which is surprising. For obvious reasons I would have preferred to see an N-connector here, but I’m pretty sure some users will love it – quite a few people seem to have eternal troubles when assembling N-connectors and revert to using PL to N adapters. Please don’t, read this instead.

Buttons & Knobs
Wouxun did their best to squeeze as much ‘direct access’ buttons on the front panel as possible. I can’t fault their arrangement, but the buttons are on the small side. This has implications for the readability of the typeface used to describe the various functions. Even with good eyes it’s hard to read what all those buttons do, so memorizing their function is a good idea. Three rotary knobs take care of frequency and audio levels.  Most functions can also be accessed from the microphone, and to prevent accidental changes a ‘lock’ switch is added.

Less bloated, better specs
Wide band receive died during the design process, which saves me a lot of time. Although many potential buyers were specifically interested in this feature, including me, there was a possible downside. Front ends in such ‘I can do it all’ radios tend to be rather poor and can turn a ham’s life into hell. A good example of a poor front end can be found in the Kenwood TMV-71, a radio which (more or less) can’t receive anything under S9 in RF polluted areas. Unfortunately I live in such an area. On the bright side: this QTH is an excellent testing ground for receivers. I could only hope that the Wouxun engineers put some work in designing a good front end. Well, they did.

Receiver
The KG-UV920R is very sensitive, no doubt about that. On 145.000MHz  the radio came to life at -128dBm, which is as good as it gets. On 435.000MHz a signal of -125dBm was needed to replace noise by a signal. Sensitivity is generally better on VHF than UHF on most radios, so no surprises here.

Selectivity is better than most of my other radios – both the Kenwood TMV-71 and Alinco DR-635 had to bow to their new master. In situations were a certain amount of splatter was normal, the Wouxun kept its head cool. Only my Yaesu FT-8900R can match this, as well as the FT-7800/7900 series. All the strong out-of band signals present here were handled surprisingly well, and enabled me to hear a distant 70cm repeater which I haven’t heard in years. Wow.

Transmitter
If you like radios with sufficient power output, the Wouxun KG-UV920R will neither disappoint nor excite you. Measurements done at 145.000 MHz and 435.000 MHz respectively.

VHF Low: 5.3 Watts, Mid: 28.0 Watts, High: 49.5 Watts
UHF Low: 4.1 Watts, Mid: 25.2 Watts, High: 34.1 Watts

TX audio is fine; listeners noted that there’s an emphasis on the higher parts of the audio spectrum. No distortion to report.

Harmonic Suppression
This is the one area where I didn’t expect to encounter problems, but did. Not as dramatic as the Baofeng UV-3R, but Wouxun should really have a look at this. They can do much better.

Second harmonic, VHF, ± 47dB down. Disappointing.

Third harmonic, VHF, ± 54dB down. Not good.

Second harmonic, UHF, ± 58dB down. OK. Third harmonic undetectable.

Other noteworthy features
– Cross-band repeat. Works as advertised, no issues.
– Compander. An interesting system which limits RX noise, and enhances TX audio (compressor) for long distance QSO’s.
– Nice FM radio.
– Scan. Finally a scan system with a sufficient scanning speed.
– Optional scrambler. Illegal for HAM use, but could be interesting in other fields of communication.

Bugs
Changing frequency or volume is done by rotary encoders instead of mechanical switches and pots. In theory this system has a lot of advantages, such as precision and lack of crackling noises caused by wear and tear. Unfortunately the encoders used in the KG-UV920R aren’t always responding properly. Sometimes they go wild when adjusting the volume, sometimes changing the frequency just doesn’t work, or works the other way around. Very annoying. After checking with Ruud from Bamiporto.nl, it seems that it’s not just a problem with my review sample. Ruud will inform Wouxun about my findings.

* Small addition: just before I  wanted to repack the radio, I noticed that there’s another problem when using the rotary encoders. When changing the frequency on one VFO, audio on the other VFO mutes for a while. No other radio I know does this.

The verdict
The good: user friendly design, excellent receiver, good audio on both RX and TX.
The bad: Harmonic suppression disappointing. Rotary encoders are unreliable.

Bottom line: this radio still needs some work. The KG-UV920R isn’t a bad radio, but for €299.00 I expect it to be as good as the competition. That’s not the case – yet. If the described problems are solved, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one.

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24 comments on “Review Wouxun KG-UV920R

    • bonjour je vien acheté mon wouxun kg-uv920r et jai deux problémes avec le TX .
      en modullation les ami me recevé comme une voi de canar ,comme si je parlé en pincent le nez .
      la modullation pas nette.
      le deux éme problémes en TX avec 5w le ventillateur et tombé en panne au bou 1h00 de fonctionnement en TX .
      le ventillateur je les branché directement avec une inter esterne et soudé sur lalimentation 13.8v interne du TX .
      moi je pance le wouxun kg-uv920r et un peu fragil en TX .

  1. Pingback: Wouxun KG-UV920R | YWD - blog

  2. bonjour Jai mon manuel du wouxun KG-UV920R il et en english
    si il a une personne qu’il pouré me le traduire en francais et de me l’envoyer en PDF sa ceré sinpa pour toute les OM .

  3. hi, thanks for professional and easy to understand review, there is a way to program memory with pc or only manual entry?
    have a (rear and quite) fan or running hot?
    for the quality of solder and component can suggest or not in a 4×4 offroad car?

  4. Just a small note – Hans, we are ham radio operators, not HAM radio operators. Ham is not an acronym.

    Thanks for the review btw.

    • “… the word ham was applied in 1908 and was the call letters of one of the first Amateur wireless stations operated by some members of the HARVARD RADIO CLUB. There were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy and Peggie Murray. At first, they called their station Hyman-Almy-Murry. Tapping out such a long name in code soon called for a revision and they changed it to HY-AL-MU, using the first two letters of each name.

      “Early in 1909, some confusion resulted between signals from Amateur wireless HYALMU and a Mexican ship named HYALMO, so they decided to use only the first letter of each name and the call became HAM.

      http://www.qsl.net/wd4bis/newham/nhp9.html

  5. I purchased a 920R in Sept 2012 and within 24hrs of having it out of the box it started to fail, the fan on the back fell apart and its memory and associated display failed not showing correct info even though programmed and factory reset….! ! ! Just received it back from repairs now the radio takes itself off frequency when in FM radio mode a few 100Khz at at time….. Checking its original specs 2010 it was to have LF AM radio 500khz to 2000khz and LW 150k to 1500k and HF 2-30Mhz Rx,, nor does the radio similtainiously RX and display signal strength as stated…. that and intermittent remote head cable there is NO way i could recommend this radio due to its HIGH price $$$ and missing features.

    • Sounds like you got a lemon. Which, to be honest, happens now and then (regardless of the brand). On missing features: yes, it sounded too good to be true.

  6. Have purchased a 920p-and have had no problems with it.
    The mic gain is a little hot, if you don’t keep it about 3 to 4 inches away when talking.

  7. When you are using cross band function the audio is very strong. Do you know how can fix it? I’ve fix audio in RX changing two resistor before internal amp. and solve it! Dou you have schemas of unit?

  8. I just purchased a Wouxun KG-UV920P-A and when I turn it of the screen shows the message V-FAUT and Poweroff. How can I reset it?

  9. For the info of everyone having problems with their KG-UV920P giving V-Faut PowerOFF / Battery low error, kindly try the instructions presented in this video:

    ‘Solution to Wouxun KG-UV920P V-Faut PowerOFF error ‘

    I hope that helps. Warm regards from the Philippines.

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