As Ten-Tec was setting up at the Dayton Hamvention last Thursday, I was able to meet with their engineer (John Henry) briefly and had a little time to play with the new Model 539 Argonaut VI. As I tuned around the CW side of the 20 meter band, I recorded a short video. I’m sharing this with you here, but must ask your forgiveness for its quality and glitches; I want to make it clear that this material was recorded on my Android phone in some haste.
Moreover, this video does not do justice to the Argo VI’s audio, which is exceptional. In fact, I can’t tell a difference between its audio and that of the Ten-Tec Eagle, both of which have very low noise floors and simply gorgeous audio fidelity.
Now, just a small taste of what this receiver can do…
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.
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.
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.
With the FLEX-6000 Signature Series radios, FlexRadio brings a wealth of new capabilities to the amateur including direct digital reception, transmission and networking. At the core of all these new capabilities is SmartSDR. SmartSDR organizes all of the signal processing power in the FLEX-6000 Signature Series radios into an advanced reusable framework. First, the RF subsystems in the FLEX-6000 are virtualized as reusable hardware blocks or Signal Capture Units (SCU) with specific capabilities. SmartSDR understands the capabilities of each SCU and how to harness its power.
As data from the SCUs enters the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) at a combined rate of over 7.8Gbps, SmartSDR performs advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) on the data, splitting it into individual Panadapters and Slice Receivers. Panadapters are visual displays of the RF spectrum akin to a spectrum analyzer, but with more capabilities for the amateur. Slice Receivers are dynamically allocated full performance receivers that can be directed to the speaker or headphones for listening, or can be streamed as digitized RF to external digital applications.
Panadapters and Slice Receivers can be created and destroyed atwill. What distinguishes SmartSDR is the simplification of theseadvanced concepts into an elegant graphical user interface (GUI) that places you in complete control. Want to create an additional Panadapter to watch for possible 10m band openings?
No problem, simply click to add the Panadapter and SmartSDR directs everything from the advanced signal processing software down to the filters in the SCU to form an optimized receiver. Want to decode all of the CW signals on 40m while working DX on 20m? It’s just a few clicks away. In the future, remote FLEX-6000 Signature Series radios will be equal partners in the SmartSDR ecosystem. Imagine the capabilities: Want to add two remote receivers so you never miss another check-in as Net Control? Just click to add and combine them.
The brochure goes into great detail about the Flex 6000’s features. Its networking abilities, multiple receivers and even frequency lock that is tied into the GPS system will make this SDR stand out from the crowd.
Prices vary from $3999 for the Flex-6500 to $6999 for the Flex-6700. FlexRadio is taking deposits on pre-orders.
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.
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.
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
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!
This versatile amp shows promise, and may turn out to be a really big seller for Ten-Tec. Perhaps their biggest. Here’s why:
The Model 418 amplifier will work with almost any QRP rig on the market (new or used)
Just 5 watts in, delivers 100 watts out
It covers the full HF spectrum plus 6 meters
It has 2 HF antenna inputs with a manual switch, and a separate 6 meter antenna port that is automatically engaged when you switch to 6 meter operation
It offers an easy bypass mode
It offers auto or manual band selection
Power, SWR and voltage are all displayed on the back-lit LCD panel
It offers 13.8V DC input with standard Anderson Powerpole connection
Ten-Tec will announce the price of the Model 418 at the Dayton Hamvention this Thursday. We look forward to that, and once announced, will be sure to post it here, same day.
The upshot: If priced competitively, the Model 418 is basically a little box that can turn your Argonaut V, Argonaut VI, Yaesu FT-817, Icom IC-703, Ten-Tec Cub, Elecraft K1, K2/10, K3/10, KX3, Index Labs QRP+, or most any other QRP radio on the market into a 100 watt rig. It appears to be truly plug-and-play, too, with auto band switching.
In my case, for example, this would be a very useful product. Though I primarily operate QRP, I do on occasion like a shot of extra power, such as when conditions are bad or I’m trying to bust through a particularly heavy pile-up. I rarely–if ever–run more than QRP when operating portable, though. The Model 418 could plug into my K2/10 while in the shack, and I could pump up the wattage as needed. It would also work with any future QRP rigs I may buy. When operating Field Day with my club, I could take the K2 and ‘418, which would give me a 100W transceiver without adding the 100W module to the K2, thus keeping the K2 lighter for my portable operations outside of Field Day.
Yep, as you’ve guessed, I want one already…!
Again–just to be clear–this is not idle speculation; the facts I’ve posted above, including the spec sheet, came directly from Ten-Tec today. We appreciate that Ten-Tec has provided us with the spec sheets for the Model 539 and the Model 418 prior to the Dayton Hamvention, exclusively for QRPer readers. Thanks, fellas!