Thursday, May 19, 2011
Ten-Tec Model 1054 Shortwave Radio - A Follow-up Report
After more than a month waiting on back-order, I finally got the aluminum case for my Ten-Tec Model 1054 shortwave receiver. Regular readers of this blog will recall my earlier post discussing the construction and operation of the kit. See http://inkarlslab.blogspot.com/2011/04/ten-tec-short-wave-receiver.html for the original discussion of this receiver.
From what was portrayed on Ten-Tec's website, I thought I was getting a custom fitted case for this project. What I actually ended up with was something totally different.
In the shipping carton I found what amounts to a simple LMB box - like I could have gotten ANYWHERE. No instructions, no hardware, nothing. Not even the rubber feet I'll need to keep this thing from scratching a table top. In order to use this, I will have to BUY my own screws, PC stand-offs, rubber feet, ... and I will have to drill holes in one side of the box to match the cutouts in the front panel that came with the radio itself. The box is deeper than the circuit board, so the headphone jack on the rear will NOT work. I will have to buy a panel mount headphone jack to mount on the rear panel. The paint is a soft, flat finish that will scratch/rub off in short time, unless I coat it with a protective clear coat.
The front panel that came with the radio is about 1/4" smaller in either dimension than the panel side of the box - so if I want the silk screen labels that come only on the front panel, I'll have this weird raised edge showing around the edges of the box. Contrary to this case being custom fitted to the kit, it would be a kluge from the start.
I'm thinking of adding a couple more switches for an active op-amp filter, audio limiter, and NE5532-based audio amplifier. Thus, BEFORE I even use this case, I will get the thing electronically in whatever FINAL configuration I want. Given what I must do to actually make this case usable, I might be just as well off buying a somewhat bigger box to accommodate the front panel controls I might be adding. In that event, rather than have to fight with Ten-Tec to do a return, I'll keep the box they sent. With a decent paint job it would be a perfectly good box for a future project.
In other news, Ten-Tec's service department STILL has not returned ANY email I have sent them regarding the erratic operation of the regeneration control. With the last email, I carbon-copied their sales department, hoping that the prospect of an upset customer and possible lost future sales might prod them to go stir up some action in the service department. No dice there, either.
Also, a friend called Ten-Tec recently to do an order. They were really nice on the phone until they got his credit card number and completed the order. Afterwards, when he tried to ask a couple questions, they COULDN'T WAIT to get him off the phone. They basically gave a paying customer the "bum's rush".
Ten-Tec has turned out to be LAME, LAME, LAME!!! What a bitter disappointment; I've heard so many good things about them over the last 30 years.
Any Competition out there?
If Ramsey Electronics had a decent product, I'd go with them. Their customer support was much better than Ten-Tec's when I have contacted them. Their prices are pretty good, too. They sell custom-fit cases for many of their kits - cases that actually fit and look pretty good. The issue I have with Ramsey is poor circuit design on some of their kits. Ramsey has got to stop using those noisy NE602 type chips as mixers in the front ends of their ham receiver kits! The 40 meter direct conversion receiver kit I got from Ramsey suffers from horrible internal noise. While I understand the NE602 has a low parts count, is inexpensive, offers a built-in VFO, ... that does one no good if the circuit noise is so bad you can't hear anything else. Marry the NE602 mixer with a LM386 audio stage and you have a nice white noise generator, NOT a working radio. After considerable hours spent trying to tweak that for something approaching acceptable performance, I finally gave up on it. THAT, and the fact Ramsey doesn't offer a shortwave radio kit with decent band coverage, is why I went with Ten-Tec this time!
There are a couple of possibilities I might check out at a future date. NOTE: I have NOT dealt with ANY of these folks listed below, so this should NOT be taken as an endorsement of these companies or their products.
Hendricks QRP kit - go to http://www.qrpkits.com/index.html
Elecraft Kits - go to http://www.elecraft.com
Small Wonder Labs - go to http://www.smallwonderlabs.com/
If anyone reading this has had any experience, good or bad, with the above-mentioned companies or their products - I'd love to hear from you.