A review of Ten-Tec’s Argonaut VI QRP transceiver, Model 539

The Ten-Tec Model 539, A.K.A. Argonaut VI

The Ten-Tec Model 539, A.K.A. Argonaut VI

And now, what we’ve all been waiting for:  the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI has finally hit the market.   Manufacturer Ten-Tec has already begun shipping the new units–I hear they’ve already sold out the first production run.  For the past two months, I have had the pleasure of beta-testing this newest QRP transceiver, and I’m ready to share my findings.  [Do please note that, other than beta-testing, I have no relationship with Ten-Tec.]

I authored a post about the Model 539 when Ten-Tec first disclosed it at their 2011 Hamfest. The reactions and questions from readers came flooding in–so many, in fact, that I invited readers to send in those questions to share with the engineers at Ten-Tec.  I presented these to the company, and posted Ten-Tec’s helpful responses.

Prototype of the Ten-Tec Model 539 QRP transceiver

Prototype of the Ten-Tec Model 539 QRP transceiver from the 2011 Ten-Tec Hamfest. Note that the speaker no longer has an externally mounted grill.

In truth, I don’t think that Ten-Tec was quite prepared for all of the interest in their modest QRP transceiver. But it was no surprise to me: I’ve always been a fan of Ten-Tec, and although I’ve not been as excited by the QRP offerings since the early Argonauts, I knew I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of this US-based radio company’s quality products.

The following review is not a test-bench review–it is, rather, a consideration of the usability, ergonomics, design, basic performance and, well, fun factor of the new Argonaut VI.  It’s only fair to note that I don’t review transceivers often; rather, I focus primarily on receiver reviews at my alternate radio blog.  But I could not resist the opportunity to investigate the newest in this venerable line of transceivers.

Size-wise, the Argonaut VI is smaller than the Elecraft K2 in every dimension.

Size-wise, the Argonaut VI is smaller than the Elecraft K2 in every dimension.

You will note that I compare the Argonaut VI to the Elecraft K2 a number of times. Why? In my opinion, the K2 is the Argonaut VI’s closest competitor. It, too, is a front-panel QRP transceiver not for general coverage. While there are a number of differences, of course, I nonetheless feel the K2 is a closer match than the new Elecraft KX3, the Yaesu FT-817, or the Icom IC-703. Plus, I have a K2 that I already know and love here in my shack, so by default it has been my point of comparison throughout the beta-testing period.

Argonaut VI: first impressions

The Argonaut VI is an attractive, simple, sturdy little radio. It reminds me a great deal of the Ten-Tec Scout outfitted with its simple front panel. The front features two knobs: one controls the AF gain, while its outer ring controls RF gain; the other controls the bandwidth, while its outer ring controls the pass band. There is also an appropriately-sized display panel, quality tuning knob (see below), four multi-function buttons, and a three-position toggle switch.

The TMB switch is a simple and effective way of giving the Argo VI's four function buttons multiple assignments.

The TMB switch is a simple and effective way of giving the Argo VI’s four function buttons multiple assignments.

A toggle switch? I can’t think of a recent front-panel radio in production that has had a proper mechanical toggle switch. On the Argo VI, this makes for a simple method to give the four function buttons a total of three one-push functions, each, for a total of twelve functions. Ten-Tec refers to this switch as the “TMB” (i.e., “Top-Middle-Bottom”) switch.

Size-wise, the Argonaut VI is smaller in every dimension than the K2 (see photos). Its physical dimensions are 2.25″H x 6.5″W x 7.6″D, less the knobs and connectors. It weighs a mere 3.6 lbs, and feels very light in my hands. The Argo VI has a sturdy Ten-Tec bail that snaps into the perfect position for tabletop operations. The display is crisp and clear, and actually contains a lot of information:

The Argonaut VI display is compact, yet crisp, clear and displays all important information.

The Argonaut VI display is compact, yet crisp, clear and displays all important information.

  • Frequency
  • 2nd VFO frequency
  • Mode
  • AGC speed
  • S Meter/SWR
  • Output power
  • Pre-amp

The display can be switched (via an internal setting) to blue (default), green, or red. One nice touch: the dot in the Ten-Tec logo is actually a red LED that lights up on transmit and ALC peaks.

Tuning knob

This is the best tuning knob I've ever used on a QRP rig

This is the best tuning knob I’ve ever used on a QRP rig

Perhaps I place more emphasis on a tuning knob that other hams. I liken it to shutting the door on a quality car: you want the door to shut solidly and feel substantial. But it may be more like a car’s steering wheel–after all, the tuning knob is how one interacts with the radio. To me, the tuning knob is often a measure of a radio’s overall quality, in my humble opinion.  As for the Argonaut VI?  Here’s the answer:  I was so impressed with the tuning knob on the Argonaut VI that I actually confirmed with Ten-Tec that the beta-unit’s tuning knob would also be used on production models. In short, the Argo VI’s tuning knob is heavy, perfectly-sized, has a light tactile grip, and is silky-smooth to operate. There is no play whatsoever in the action. I like the adaptive tuning, too–when you tune slowly, you’re changing the frequency by hundredths of a kHz; spin the knob quickly and you’ve just shot across the band. After tuning the Argo VI for a bit, other small radios’ tuning knobs begin to feel cheap.

IMG_6508Ergonomics/Usability

When I first played with the Argo VI at the Ten-Tec hamfest, I was impressed with the simplicity of the front panel. This is an important factor because I simply won’t use a radio that isn’t pleasant to use/control, and I find that too many front buttons and general visual fussiness can be a distraction. To illustrate my point, when the Yaesu FT-817 hit the market over a decade ago, I was among the first to purchase one. I liked the idea of a small transceiver that I could tuck in my carry-on and take with me as I traveled. But I ended up selling the FT-817, however, because I hated the ergonomics and multi-function buttons. Button spacing was too tight for my larger hands, important multi-functions seemed to overlap, and menus were buried too deep for convenient operation. The FT-817 had a profound impact on all other buying decisions I’ve made since, and taught me that too much can simply be…too much.

The red dot in the Ten-Tec logo is actually a red LED that lights up on ALC peaks and CW transmit. (Click to enlarge)

The red dot in the Ten-Tec logo is actually a red LED that lights up on ALC peaks and CW transmit. (Click to enlarge)

Happily, on the Argo VI the most often used transceiver functions have dedicated buttons/knobs, and the display includes everything I need. Clean, clear, straightforward–this rig provides a pleasant operating experience.

For basic operations like rag-chewing, scanning the band, switching modes, switching bands, adjusting RF/AF/BW and PBT, you’ll be pleased, too.  None of these operations require calling multi-functions or toggling the TMB switch (assuming you’re already in the “M” position).

But after spending some time on the air, I realized that there is a bit of a learning curve you’ll have to overcome before front-panel operations become entirely fluid and intuitive. To change RIT, you need to toggle the TMB switch to “B”, then press the RIT (BAN) button to toggle RIT on and off. If you hear DX working split, you’ll need to move the TMB switch to the “T” position, then set the A/B and SPL buttons; if you need to change modes or turn on the pre-amp, then you’ll have to move TMB back to “M.”

In the first few hours of  testing the Argo VI, I found it easy to forget that I had the TMB switch set to a certain position when pressing a multi-function button, thus I was sometimes not receiving the response I expected. Several times I intended to change the band, but had the TMB set to “T” and resultingly opened the output power setting, or pressed the MOD button only to find that TMB was set to “T” as I toggled A/B VFOs.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

While this was distracting at first, I soon became accustomed to changing the setting, then moving the TMB back to the “M” setting afterward. Now I find I very rarely make a mistake.

On the Argo VI, all of the buttons and knobs are adequately spaced. You could operate this rig outside with lightweight insulated gloves on, should the need arise.

All in all, the ergonomics are excellent on the Argonaut VI.

Performance

Before I begin talking about this little transceiver’s performance, I want to point out its two most obvious shortcomings:

  • The Argonaut VI lacks 12 and 60 meters (ouch!)
  • There is no internal ATU (auto antenna tuner), nor is there an option for one

If those two negatives are deal-breakers for you, I could certainly understand. You might want to consider a basic KX3 with ATU ($1070 unassembled, $1170 assembled) or a K2/10 with ATU ($1280 unassembled), instead.

IMG_6453

The Argo VI has a relatively small footprint on my radio shelf.

But if, like me, you use neither 12 nor 60 meters very often, you may not miss them.  Admittedly, the lack of 12 meters is unfortunate because it’s such an ideal band–when conditions are right–for easy QRP field operation. However, I am very pleased the Argo VI has 160 meters.

An internal ATU–or the option to have one installed later–is certainly a negative for those of us who like a simple Field Day radio set-up. From my point of view, other than my Elecraft KX1, I’ve never had a radio with an internal ATU; I have two portable tuners (the LDG Z11 Pro and Elecraft T1) that work wonders. The way my shack is designed, I have a remote auto-tuner outside at the feed point of my antennas and thus have no tuner in my shack–so if I had an internal ATU, I’d have to turn it off 95% of the time. If your shack is set up similarly, you might not mind not having an ATU.

If you’re concerned about the performance of the Argonaut VI, let me assure you now: you will not be disappointed. Indeed, the receiver in the Argonaut VI must be one of the best I’ve ever heard in any radioespecially in this price class ($1000).  It is truly remarkable.  I’m eager to learn how Rob Sherwood rates the Argonaut VI, but I suspect it will rank among the top few.

IMG_6479

Click to enlarge

What is most impressive in the Argo VI is its incredibly effective variable DSP filtering. I experimented with the variable bandwidth and pass band during crowded CW conditions, and found that each and every time I could zero in on one QSO and block everything else. It’s also highly effective when used with SSB. Based on the reviews I’ve read of the Eagle, this is obviously derived from its DSP architecture and has similar performance characteristics. [Future Argo VI owners, I eagerly welcome A/B comparisons of the Eagle and Argo VI--please comment!]

IMG_6494You’ll be happy with both the Argo’s sensitivity and its ability to reject adjacent signals. Compared with my Elecraft K2/10, the Argo VI’s sensitivity had an edge in every band I tested, and to my ear, the noise floor is lower on the Argo VI as well.  Most noticeably, however, is the Argonaut’s audio fidelity, which is far superior to that of the K2. Whether using headphones or using the built-in top mounted speaker, you will be pleased. The speaker delivers an impressive sound for its size. I tend to hook up external speakers to my smaller transceivers, but in this case I never felt I needed to. With headphones, the audio is even more impressive. I do wish the headphone jack was on the front panel instead of the back, though.

Though I haven’t spent enough time with the KX3 to compare audio fidelity, I imagine the KX3 and Argonaut VI would be a fair contest.

I can say that audio fidelity is the primary reason I continue to turn to Ten-Tec for transceivers and receivers. In my opinion, like Kenwood, Ten-Tec invests more resources into insuring superb audio fidelity–even at the cost (in this case) of uber-low current drain numbers (although the 550 mA drain on receive must be the lowest Ten-Tec has ever produced in a digital transceiver). The Argo VI’s audio is rich, inviting enjoyable listening for hours on end. It would certainly be a great pick for long-haul events like Field Day or 24/48-hour contests.

The back panel of the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI (Click to enlarge)

The back panel of the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI (Click to enlarge)

SSB/CW

But how does she sound on the other end? Immediately after unpacking the Argonaut VI, I caught band openings on 10, 15, 17 and 20 meters. Though I was only running 7 watts at the time (production units run a full 10W) I received great audio reports on SSB and was even  heard through a pile-up on 17M. Though I believe the default settings would have worked well, setting up the mic gain on this rig is also very easy and straightforward.

As for CW, reports have also been very positive. CW ops will be happy to note that the Argonaut VI has Ten-Tec’s silky-smooth QSK. Frankly, I expected nothing less.

Since I don’t operate digital modes often, I did not test the Argo VI in this capacity. I imagine reviews will emerge soon, but I expect them to be positive as several beta testers were impressed.

Summary

When I begin a radio review, I keep a checklist of pros and cons as I discover them to remind myself of my initial discoveries.  Here’s my list from the Argonaut VI:

Pros

  • Excellent top-of-the-line audio fidelity
  • Extremely effective DSP variable bandwidth
  • Silky smooth QSK
  • All mode with optional AM
  • Easily accessible primary controls
  • Uncompromised ham band performance (see con)
  • Quality tuning knob and adaptive tuning rate make for easy band scanning
  •  Simple front face and comfortably spaced buttons/knobs (see con)
  • Undoubtedly the best receiver of any QRP rig produced by Ten-Tec
  • Comprehensive and detailed owner’s manual
  • Made in USA
  • Ten-Tec’s US-based customer support, a major plus over many foreign manufacturers

Cons

  • No 12 nor 60 meters
  • No internal ATU, nor option for one
  • No internal battery nor option
  • Headphone jack on rear panel
  • Not general coverage (see pro)
  • Learning curve when using multi-functions (see pro)
  • Price of $995 is a little steep
  • RX current drain is high when compared with Elecraft K1/KX1/K2/K3 or KX3, or the Yaesu FT-817

To buy, or not to buy…

The Ten-Tec Model 539 Argonaut VI (Click to enlarge)

The Ten-Tec Model 539 Argonaut VI (Click to enlarge)

I really think the Argonaut VI is a streamlined Ten-Tec Eagle, and a very good rig. Its DSP architecture is based on the Eagle’s (in beta, we even used the Eagle software for the frequent firmware updates).

When I ask myself, “Who will buy the Argonaut VI?” I believe the answer is anyone who wants a QRP radio with the performance and interface we’ve come to expect from Ten-Tec.  If you can live without 12 and 60 meters, then you will be buying a rig that does not compromise on performance. The Argonaut VI is not a QRP radio designed for backpacking like the KX1 or KX3, but it would hang with the best in a QRP contest or on Field Day; operators would experience little to no listening fatigue with this smooth rig.

The Argo VI comes factory-assembled, warrantied, and ready to go, right out of the box.  There’s nothing to put together nor configure.

On a side note, I should mention that this is the first time I’ve beta-tested with Ten-Tec; this provided insight into the process of rolling out a new product and just how responsive and open the company is to both frank criticism and design requests. I believe all of the beta-testers would agree. Every concern I reported to Ten-Tec was eventually addressed by version 1.0 of the firmware.  That’s responsiveness I can really appreciate. Ten-Tec’s Software Engineer, John Henry, is nothing short of amazing. I’m not sure when he finds the time to sleep.

I’m happy to have had this little radio in my shack for the past two months. I’ll have to bid it farewell, though:  Ten-Tec has already sold out of their first production run, so my unit will be returned, upgraded with a new board, tested, inspected, and sold as a demo.  Alas, it’s hard to say good-bye.

I guess the proof is in the Christmas pudding:  I have to admit that I now prefer the Argonaut VI even over my trusty Elecraft K2. So, kind readers, if one of you is in the market for a K2/10 with SSB, and 160M, I may be in the market for an Argonaut VI.

It would bring tidings of great joy, indeed.  Happy holidays!

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28 Responses to A review of Ten-Tec’s Argonaut VI QRP transceiver, Model 539

  1. Roy Crosier AC9DN says:

    You discussed the tuning knob, but what about the others? I have owned two
    TenTec radios in the past and the smaller knobs on both felt as if they were
    off center or had bent shafts. This really makes a radio feel cheap. I think the
    plastic knobs were actually molded a little off-center as the shafts did not
    appear to be bent.

    When I received my 6N2, 3rd production run, the radio was in a plastic bag and
    loose in a box. No foam, wrapping, inner box or protective wrapping. There was
    no damage, but it concerns me that something this valuable would be shipped
    this way.

  2. James K8JHR says:

    As a purchaser of many new TenTec radios over the past few years, I can assure AC9DN that none of those issues has ever come up with any of my purchases. Knobs are straight, solid, and accurate. Packaging is first rate and secure. I have purchased several kits, a transceiver, a tuner, an amplifier, more kits, a speech processor, and various accessories, and every delivery was first rate and extremely safely packaged.

    Some hams are not used to the very smooth and easy working optical decoders used on various TenTec controls – and this is often confused with low quality or being sloppy. I have Kenwood equipment with sticky, stiff and what some think are tight and rich controls – and they are OK – but once I got used to the smooth, easy, effortless controls on my TT radios, I now feel the Kenwood controls are stiff and unyielding, almost hampering the ability to fine tune the control. So, it may be all in what you are used to, but TenTec quality is first rate.

    Just My take… your mileage may vary !
    Happy trails – James – K8JHR -

  3. Chuck Olson says:

    Tom -

    Thanks for the review, I tried punching in the original Argonaut 505 price (in 1972) of $288 into the inflation calculator:

    http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=288.00&year1=1972&year2=2012

    It says that equates to $1586 in 2012 dollars – so maybe the Argonaut VI isn’t that expensive ?

    Chuck, WB9KZY

  4. k4swl says:

    That’s funny, Chuck! In the review, I say that the price of $995 is steep because many have commented that they had expected a price of $795 or so. To me, the RX is worth $995. The Argo VI will receive circles around the FT-817 or IC-703. The KX3, now, I don’t know. I can’t wait to see an A/B comparison there.

    -Thomas
    K4SWL

  5. k4swl says:

    James, I’ve had very similar experiences with Ten-Tec as well. They’ve always packed my purchases well and given A+ customer service. My OMNI VI+ has an excellent tuning knob as well, with no play in it. If they had an option to put an Argo VI style knob on my OMNI, I would consider. Of course, it would need to be OMNI sized!

    Cheers,
    Thomas
    K4SWL

  6. Stephen Walters G7VFY says:

    I can see that at $1000 does NOT present very good value for money. I have had numerous Ten-tec radios and think that of late they seem to have lost the plot…. which is a shame.

    I actually tried to order the new radio from the Ten-tec website but was greeted with the message ‘Cannot deliver your location’ (I am in the UK and am well aware that $1000 will become £1000 (about $1600) by the time this radio reaches my country. So, while I will be selling my Century22 and ArgosyII + filters ( so I can go QRP portable – I like the format of the FT817 and FT897 (I’ve also one of these up for sale!) value for money is important…. Ok, so I’ve never had a QSO on 12m, but I might want to one day…. but not on the Argonaut VI. Seems strange to me.

    What I really want is a QRP SDR that can run on batteries and sit under my Blackberry Playbook (Soon to be replaced by a Nexus7) that uses a tablet for all the user interface parts. I am sure an innovative company like Ten-Tec or Elecraft could manage that.

    I am surprised that TEN-TEC started selling Chinese Youkits radios when they could have developed something better ‘home grown’, but perhaps they were a ‘stop-gap’ until this Argonaut VI radio could be developed?

    Apologies for rambling….

  7. Roger G3XBM says:

    Do we know if Ten-Tec intends to get CE approvals so it can be sold in Europe?

    Although I am still concerned by the price – $795 or less would be much better – your review does suggest this is a very good little radio with excellent RX performance.

    I prefer the look of this one over the KX3 which seems to have leads coming out from everywhere. Nonetheless, the KX3 would appear to offer the same sort of RX performance, with more bands (incl 6m and later 2m), charger and internal batteries, internal ATU, all modes and general coverage. It is unlikely I’ll afford either though!

  8. Keith Hamilton says:

    Mine arrived today. It is without a doubt the finest QRP radio I have ever owned or operated. Period.

  9. John AE5X says:

    Hi Thomas – thanks for the very descriptive write-up. I have a question:

    I see that the “SPLIT” and “A/B” are on the top row – that’s good, but how would I put both VFOs to the same freq? Most rigs have an “A=B” button for this function and I ask because it is the normal first-step for me when tuning to a DX station.

    I’m just trying to imagine what the “button operating sequence of events” would be for me in working the DX thru a pile-up type operation.

    Tnx again & 73,

    John

  10. k4swl says:

    Hi, John,

    Good question and I actually meant to include this tid bit in the review. One of the very first stations I worked SSB on 17M was split. I quickly realized the lack of an A=B. Fortunately, the solution is simple and I guessed correctly in the heat of the moment.

    Simply hold the A/B button for a second and A=B.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  11. Jeff, KE9V says:

    I got in on the first production run and have had a few days to play with the Argo VI.

    Like you, I have an Elecraft K2 — built it in 1999 (#524) and wouldn’t trade it for anything. The receiver in the Argo is very good, and the DSP gives it some advantage over the K2. The lack of 60,12, and 6 meters is of no consequence to me though I know this is a showstopper for some.

    I have but two complaints — with the Argo VI.

    First, the 1/4-inch phone jack on the rear of the rig means i’m going to have to lengthen the cord on my headset. A minor aggravation…

    Far and away my biggest complaint is the lack of any consideration given for how to tune the thing with an auto-tuner! What I’m having to do now is to unplug my paddles, plug in a straight key, then use it to generate a steady carrier while the auto-tuner does its thing. Then I have to unplug the straight key and plug the paddles back in. And then repeat this procedure whenever changing bands or moving the VFO far enough in band to require a re-tune.

    The lack of this simple feature is a showstopper for me and the Argo VI cannot become my main QRP rig until they fix this omission. As unbelievable as it seems, it’s as though the engineers at TenTec have never used — or heard of an auto-tuner!?!

    Hopefully they will fix this with a firmware update very soon or this one may have to go back to the factory.

    73, Jeff

  12. k4swl says:

    Hi, Jeff,

    I’m with you on the headphone jack. I use headphones quite a bit, actually.

    Check with John Henry at T-T regarding the tune function. I bet there is a way to make this happen. Since I was using the mic to test SSB, I could simply hold down the PTT key in CW mode and it would give a steady carrier. I may be wrong, but I thought this was addressed in beta. Again, John would know.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  13. John AE5X says:

    I think most autotuners will do their thing with a string of dits – all of LDG’s do.

    If that’s not a solution, simply place a momentary “Normally-Open” pushbutton switch in series with your keyline. I had to do that with my Winkeyer USB since it’s controlled by my contesting software when plugged into the USB port.

  14. Jeff, KE9V says:

    Thomas, John — thanks for the input/ideas.

    I’m using the Elecraft T1 tuner so will have to try the series of dits trick. I’d hate to have to buy a microphone so I can trigger the auto-tuner. :-)

    73 de Jeff KE9V

  15. k4swl says:

    Hi, Jeff,

    I was just in contact with John Henry at Ten-Tec regarding shipping my unit back. I happened to think of your question about tuning the T1. He said that he will add a “tune” function to a firmware revision. He’ll just need to determine the best way to access the function (i.e. which button to press and hold, or just allow users to assign it to a user button (B/USR)).

    He’s also adding VOX per customer requests.

    Cheers,
    Thomas
    K4SWL

  16. k4swl says:

    Jeff–BTW, I have the T1 too. What an awesome little ATU. Been using it with my K2 and even with my KX1 (for 80M) though it has a cool little internal ATU of its own.

    -Thomas

  17. Jeff, KE9V says:

    Turns out that the T1 will in fact trigger on a string of dits. So I am able to tap the tune button on the tuner then send a string of dits and it does its thing. I had no idea that would work like that. I’d still prefer a button option on the Argo — so will look forward to what they come up with for it in firmware.

    Thanks to you and John. Back to playing on the air! :-)

    73, Jeff

  18. Bob, K4TAX says:

    On the CW tune issue, the radio comes with a 8 pin DIN connector. The PTT command is on that connector, pin 3#, hence a switch, toggle or momentary, can be used to activate transmit. I use this connector to connect my straight key thus not needing to unplug my paddle. I also have a mike with the radio so pressing the PTT does the same thing.

    The receive audio using the internal speaker is absolutely the best I’ve heard from any amateur transceiver. In running PSK-31 I find that I can indeed run 10 watts output with excellent IMD reports. It is not necessary to back the power down for this mode.

    Using the Tentec hand mike, internal speech processor on #4, I always get “great audio” reports. I suppose this also alludes to the quality of the audio chain as found in the PSK-31 operations too.

    Missing a couple of bands, 60M & 12M, is no deal breaker for me. It is small, lightweight, easy on the DC, both RX and TX, and has a super performing receiver with a very efficent DSP system and great sounding audio.

  19. Ned W8VFM says:

    Thomas: Thanks for your fine review of the 539. I have built several K2′s and have sure enjoyed them too. I still have one of my K2′s along with a Eagle. I will order a 539 later in the Spring, next year. I got to see and play with it at the Ten-Tec hamfest. I will be watching for Jeff’s remarks on the 539 after he has used it a few months.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Ned W8VFM

  20. Mark says:

    I can picture this radio as my next QRP contest rig for many reasons. Right now I run a K2/100 with a KAT100 and have the QRP lid with tuner if I want to use the radio /p. the new Argonaut 6 seems to solve my minor gripes and nitpicks with my K2.

    1. Audio. The internal QRP lid speaker is OK, but the QRO speaker is unusable. Even with Bose headphones the audio is just ok.

    2. RX performance. While the K2 is excellent, the A6 will likely be spectacular.

    3. I had an Argo 556 and LOVED the Jones filter. Turn the knob and get just what you want. This would be nicer than the K2.

    4. My antenna farm requires a wide range tuner and my backup radio needs an LDG auto tuner anyway, so lack of an internal tuner is no big deal. My /p antennas are all PAR Electronics End Fedz so I’m good on that front.

    5. I don’t do FM, AM or 60m. I’d miss 12m but could put up a dedicated antenna for 12 and run the feed to my backup rig, an IC-746, which is my primary 6/2 ssb/CW radio. No 12 is solved.

    6. SSB on the K2 is really so-so. The filtering for RX is not so hot. The A6 should totally fix this.

    So, assuming the claims are right, I’d have great audio, fantastic RX, and an easy to use control set. What’s not to like?

    73,
    Mark K2QO
    FN03ra

  21. Bob, K4TAX says:

    Mark; I agree on every point. The receive audio, while using the internal speraker, is some of the best I’ve heard from any transceiver. Very clean and well rounded sound. The transmit audio with the internal speech processor {I use #4} gets “great audio” reports when using the Tentec hand mike. The 709A mike even sounds better. The DSP BW system along with the PBT system, all the way down to 100 Hz BW, makes for sharp and clean CW with no noted distortion. The Auto Notch makes hetrodynes just go away with no noted artifacts. And one can run a full 10 watts output on PSK-31 with a super clean signal.

  22. ron Zond says:

    hi

    I have the Argo V, one of the first production runs. Does the VI have provision
    for updating the software?. If so, does it use USB rather than the clunky serial
    port?

    Ron
    K3MIY

  23. Bob McGraw - K4TAX says:

    Yes, the Argonaut VI does use USB communications for firmware updates as well as control from software programs such as N4PY. Works really nice.

    73
    Bob, K4TAX

  24. Bob McGraw says:

    The first productin run sold out within a couple of days. I understand that the 2nd production run is nearing completion and should be available for purchase and shipment around the 1st of Feb.

    The performance of the 539 during the 160M CW Contest is best described as “amazing”.

    73
    Bob, K4TAX

  25. Martin Zeigler says:

    Great review and comments. Thanks. I would like to know if you think the 700hz CW filter would greatly improve separation or would the variable DSP itself be adequate?
    73
    Martin
    N1PGP

  26. Tim says:

    After all my complaints about the radio in some posts here somewhere, I bought one yesterday. I recently sold my IC-703+ after trying a Jupiter in my RF noisy apartment. There was definite improvement in received signals. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to use 40 meters if the Argonaut’s receiver can do better?

  27. BillAnderson says:

    First off, let me say I LOVE Ten Tec gear and have owned a lot in the last 40+ years. But I want a FULL featured qrp radio, and leaving off both 60 and 12 meters is a serious error on the part of Ten Tec. Right now, their Eagle offers the most radio for the money. I have a K2, serial number #3XX, one of the first kits issued, but it has been totally updated. There are a lot of features of the Argonaut VI that would appeal to me over the K2, but not having 12 and 60 meters is a serious design flaw and a fatal handicap as far as I am concerned. Sorry, Ten Tec, but you let me down for the first time in 40 years.

  28. Stephen Walters G7VFY says:

    I have to say, have TenTec gone a little bonkers? (I am a TenTec Scout 555 owner)

    1. They seem to be producing radios that are, basically, badly thought out, badly marketed, and pre-announced so that if you have a foolish urge to buy one, you can’t. The TenTec Patriot is virtually invisible on their website. No Spec… No means to pre-order… nothing.

    2. In my opinion, TenTec needs to scrap the 506, 507 and the Argonaut 6, their biggest turkey so far. They need to do some proper market research to find out what their customers REALLY want, need, and can afford.

    3. With cheap, widely available radios like the X1M pro and other similar Chinese radios, if they don’t do something radical they will be in serious trouble. Innovation is the key here, something the Chinese clone makers struggle with.

    4. In my opinion, TenTec should be focusing it’s efforts into producing an innovative KX3 killer, perhaps using an android tablet or smartphone as the display and allowing users to write their own apps to extend the radio’s functionality. I have see several reviews of the Argonaut6 and user interface is DREADFUL. And, what is this nonsense with missing ham bands??? What were they thinking???

    I tried a few of the big radios at some events a while back and they felt rather plasticy with poor finish. I notice that there are many sellers on ebay selling weighted metal replacement VFO knobs. Call me old fashioned but if spend four figures on a radio, I do not expect a cheap plastic knob and radio that feels like it’s in a cheap budget hifi cabinet.

    Scrap the lot and start again.

    Stephen Walters

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