Ten-Tec Argonaut VI: On schedule for ordering, shipping later this fall

I just received word from John Henry at Ten-Tec that their time frame for production runs of the Model 539 (Argonaut VI) is  on-track with estimates provided at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention.

John said:

We are running a small production run right now, working out the kinks of getting it into production. Most places call these “Pilot runs”. Pilot Runs basically get the factory up to speed with the units before we go to full scale production quantities.

He doesn’t see any reason, at this point, why they wouldn’t hit the late fall 2012 ship dates. He also said that they’re working hard to possibly take orders for the Argonaut VI at the 2012 Ten-Tec Hamfest being held at their factory in Sevierville, Tennessee, September 28-29th.

According to John, several Ten-Tec customers have said that they are going to buy a Model 539 and the Model 418 (companion 100 watt linear amplifier) when the 539 starts shipping.

I will attend the 2012 Ten-Tec Hamfest and plan to post updates on QRPer.com from there.

Sneak peek: Ten-Tec Model 539 Argonaut VI and Model 418 Amplifier at FDiM and Hamvention

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see the new Argonaut VI and Model 418 100 Watt amplifier up close and even operate them.

Though I’ll keep my comments short–I have a l o n g day at the Hamvention ahead of me–I thought I’d share a few first impressions.

The guys at Ten-Tec were kind enough to allow me to take a few shots of the Argonaut VI and the Model 418 Amp, both in Hara Arena and at Four Days In May yesterday.

Contest conditions

If you’re coming to the Hamvention, you will want to stop by the Ten-Tec booth. Through some sort of feat of engineering (or–as I first thought–dark magic!) they have a recorded chunk of 20M spectrum taken from a recent contest. They’re feeding most of their rigs with this spectrum IQ and you, in turn, hear exactly what each radio will sound like. Not only that, but you can operate the radio as if “live”–tuning, adjusting filters, bandwidth, notch etc. Indeed, you can use any receiver feature on the rig.

Additionally, they have one of the Argonaut VI’s hooked up to a Model 418 Amplifier. With these two linked, you can operate CW into a dummy load. Through this set-up I got a very good idea of how the Argonaut VI sounds and how well the amplifier works in conjunction.

First impressions are very positive.  A few notes about the Model 539 Argonaut VI:

  • Very low noise floor.
  • Excellent audio fidelity.
  • The knobs, buttons and all features are quite easy to operate.
  • The filters (especially as tested in CW) are simply amazing. I think they are comparable to the Ten-Tec Eagle.
  • I like the size–slightly larger than an FT-817, much smaller than the Argonaut V.
  • All of the important controls are right there on the front: AF/RF Gain, Bandwidth/PBT, Power, RIT, Memories, Split, etc.
  • Nice touch: On transmit, the red dot in the Ten Tec Logo lights up on both the Argonaut and ’418. See photos below.

Not many criticisms yet, but mind you, these are first impressions.

The Model 418 100 Watt Amp

Though the Model 418 was hooked into a dummy load, I was able to get a feel for how well the amp responded while sending CW.  I’m happy to say that the QSK is silky smooth. Ten-Tec has never disappointed me on this point–their QSK is a benchmark.

Tomorrow, I will post the price of the Model 418 Amplifier–as I mentioned before, the Argonaut VI pricing is at least a few months off, most likely.

Many of you asked about the omission of 12 and 60 Meters. I asked Ten-Tec about this and, in short, it was a balance of performance vs. features. Through their research, they found that 12 and 60 would be the least missed, while 160M would be a great addition (initially, they did not plan to add 160M).

In an effort to save time, I’m simply posting a load of photos below in a thumbnail gallery. Simply click on the thumbnail to enlarge each photo. Feel free to comment and ask questions if you can’t make it to the Hamvention.  I will do my best to answer.

 

The Ten-Tec Argonaut VI: the Model 539 QRP transceiver follows the legend (while we follow the spec sheet!)

I well remember first speaking with a Ten-Tec rep at the Ten-Tec Hamfest last year when the company first displayed the concept Model 539 transceiver, which was beginning to generate enormous interest.  After viewing it, I casually asked the representative what the name of the new radio would be–? When he shrugged his response, I came to the point: “Will it be called an Argonaut?” “Time will tell,” he eluded.  But in retrospect, I realized his response was not so much evasive, as it was fair–an honest attempt to protect the original Argonaut line’s name.  Ten-Tec apparently wanted to finish the rig, to vet it thoroughly, and deliver performance that would live up to the legendary Argonaut status.

Now, it appears they’ve done it.  And the name?  Yes, folks–Ten-Tec has officially christened the new rig the Argonaut VI.

Introducing the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI

Ten-Tec, having been made aware of our avid interest in their new product, has been kind enough to provide QRPer with a preliminary spec sheet for the Model 539, and they’re permitting me to post it here, for the first time, today (see link below).  As you can see at the top of the page, it very clearly states that the ’539 will be called the Argonaut VI.

Ten-Tec also allowed us access to the spec sheet for the new Model 418 Amplifier, which (to keep this post brief) will be featured in this separate post.

Click here to download the Ten-Tec Model 539 preliminary spec sheet

Ten-Tec tells us that the receiver on the Argonaut VI will perform much like the one in their Ten-Tec Eagle (Model 599). But you can hear it for yourself at the Hamvention: There, they’ll have a recorded contest playing over all of their rigs–including over the new Argonaut VI–so that hams can listen to and compare their receiver performance.

Specs

You can download the Argonaut flier that Ten-Tec will hand out at the Dayton Hamvention by clicking here. It covers these vital specs of the radio:

  • Modes: CW, LSB, USB, AM
  • Receiver Type: Double Conversion, ASR
  • RIT: +/- 8.2kHz
  • CW Keyer built in: Curtis Mode B, 5-50wpm
  • Typical receiver sensitivity: < 1 uv
  • DSP Selectivity: 100 built in DSP filters from 100Hz.
  • Dynamic Range: 91db
  • Display: Multicolor back lit LCD
  • Rf Output power: 1 to 10 watts
  • Transmitter Duty cycle: 100% for up to 10 minutes
  • Frequency Coverage: 160 through 10 meters with the exception of 60 and 12 meters.
  • Power Requirements: 9.5-14 Volts DC (550ma on receive, 3 amps at 10 watt TX)
  • VFO: Two independent “VFOs” for single or split operation
  • Speed Sensitive VFO tuning rate
  • Frequency Stability: +/- .5ppm
  • Memories: 100

Availability and Price–?

The Model 539 Argonaut will be available late fall of 2012. Though the software is in final stages and almost ready for Beta testing, Ten-Tec says they are still ironing out the parts list and firming up lead times and prices. They will not, alas, have a price for the Model 539 Argonaut VI at the Hamvention, but say that they will have firm pricing on the Model 418 Amp by then (more on that here, and to come).

Some questions answered…

The Model 539 will only draw 550 mah on receive unsquelched. That’s not as low as an Elecraft rig, but for a Ten-Tec rig (that consumes a little extra juice for audio fidelity) that’s a fairly miniscule number. Especially considering that its predecessor, the Argo V, consumed nearly double that figure on receive.  In fact, I’ll bet it’s the lowest receive current on any digital/DSP transceiver they’ve ever produced. Indeed, this Argo VI is almost as good as the venerable Yaesu FT-817 unsquelched. As a result, I imagine this new-generation Argonaut will be a great radio to take to the air on Field Day, or even to take backpacking/HF-packing.

If the price is competitive, and that’s still an if, this could be a real winner for Ten-Tec, offering high-performance on a QRP budget. If so, this may be an affordable way to get into a top-quality new radio whose performance is benchmark-able.  Couple it with the Model 418 Amplifier to provide 100 watts output as needed…Quite promising!

The Argonaut VI (and Model 418) will be on display at Dayton, and will be fully-functioning.  I’ll be one of the first visitors at their booth in Dayton Friday morning, and plan to post further details (and possibly a few photos) during the Hamvention.  So, check back and follow the tags: Ten-Tec and Dayton.

So, what could the Argonaut name mean for this rig, in terms of performance? Time will tell! 

••••••••••••

Just to be clear, all of this information came from straight from the horse’s mouth at Ten-Tec and is accurate-to-date.

We’re grateful to the folks at Ten-Tec for giving QRPer a preliminary look into these two products prior to the Hamvention, and allowing us to post their sheets so our readers can take a first peek. Thanks, fellas!