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.
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.
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.
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!
Once upon a time I’d decided to join a Big Guns Gang and made a Super-Duper Powerful Vacuum Tube QRP amplifier for my 800mW QRPP homebrew telegraph vacuum tube transceiver “3T” (I promise to write a separate article or two about this three tube transceiver project later). It was not an easy decision to me because for that legendary time I’d almost a year used the QRPPpower of less than a watt[…]