TK-981 General Information

The Kenwood TK-981 is, in my opinion, the best radio in every aspect for use on the 900MHz amateur band. The radio is small, compact, easy to program, a few bells and whistles, remote face mountable, will do odd split repeaters, and are even modifiable for 30 or 45 Watts output! The radios have a 10 digit alphanumeric display, are rated at 15 Watts output, 32 Systems with 250 Groups per System, 600 total Conventional memories, and can scan 32 frequencies at once.

There are two versions of the TK-981 out there; the Version 1 and Version 2, both Version 1 and 2 radios work on the 900MHz amateur band. The version number has no relation to the frequency spread, or the ability to work on the amateur radio portion of the band, simply put both will work on 33cm. The Version 1 and Version 2 all have the same functions with regard to amateur use on 900MHz. The easy way to tell the difference between a Version 1 and Version 2 is to look at the back of the radio heatsink where the serial number and nameplate data is, if the radio is a Version 2 it will state “Ver 2.0”. Another way to tell the difference, but is not 100% confirmation of a Version 2 radio is a Version 2 has amber lettering on the front where it reads "KENWOOD", a Version 1 radio has white lettering where it reads "KENWOOD". A Version 2 TK-981 has a deep amber colored display and the Version 1 radios do not- this is not 100% confirmation and only the rear nameplate is confirmation of a Version 2 radio.

The only difference between the Version 1 and Version 2 radios with amateur 900MHz use is the Version 2, serial number 60600001 and higher, use a different PA module, which if you take a look at the "TK-981H" or "TK-981HH" section of the website you will see the possibilities of this radio.

Another noteworthy item is that a Version 1 TK-981 CANNOT be firmware upgraded to a Version 2 TK-981. There are minor hardware differences between the different version radios, and although you can write Version 2 firmware to a Version 1 TK-981, it is still not a Version 2.

The front panel keys of the TK-981 are all programmable in KPG-49D. The "SCN" button is the scan feature, the "A" and "B" buttons which are both programmable for several features such as Scan Add/Delete, Talk Around, Manual Relay, etc.. There is also the "IO" button (power button), "MON" button which is the monitor button, as well as the System up/down arrows- for scrolling through the programmed Systems, and the Group up/down arrows for scrolling through the programmed Groups.

The radio has a small coax pigtail coming out the back of the radio which terminates in a female N-Connector.

The Kenwood Version 1 and 2 TK-981 mobile radio is programmed using KPG-49D Version 4.xx which are Windows based software and work on Windows 95 through Windows 10! The TK-981 radios use the 6-pin KPG-4 USB or Serial DB-9 program cable or the 8-pin KPG-46 USB or Serial DB-9 program cable. Programming of the TK-981 radio is covered in the TK-981 "Programming" section of this website.


TK-981 Rear