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[TenTec] Fw : Orion first impressions

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Subject: [TenTec] Fw : Orion first impressions
From: xbts337@hotmail.com (Rog Penrose)
Date: Tue Apr 8 19:56:33 2003
First Impressions of the new Ten-Tec ORION DSP  Transceiver
by Alan Davis  K2WS

After using the Orion for a week, these are some of my impressions. Finding 
dozens of software bugs in a $3300+ radio was quite unsettling to me, 
gentlemen.  I had a bigger emotional investment in this thing - then I care 
to admit!

I wish to address two design problem areas, VFO  control and Mode switching 
on the Orion   Most  of  the high end radios today (TS-870/950, IC-746Pro / 
756ProII / 781, FT1000 series) all have VFO tuning rates in this range:

MODE kHz/ revolution of VFO knob    Step Size
  SSB 5 or 10 kHz                    1 or 10Hz
  CW/FSK 500Hz to 5kHz                  1 or 10Hz
  AM/FM 25 to 100 kHz              100Hz or 1kHz

    With this scheme, the tuning rate is dependent on the mode (eg., SSB, 
CW, etc. ) and the step size is high enough to keep the VFO tuning smoothly, 
like an analog VFO.  Step sizes courser than 10Hz makes tuning too
digital sounding on SSB and impossible  to accurately tune in PSK31 and 
other data modes!

Now examine  what they did on the Orion!  The Step size function is accessed 
via the Menu.  Two keypresses are required each time you want to change the 
current VFO step size.

  kHz/ revolution of VFO knob Step Size (resolution)
     64    Hz      1   Hz
     640   Hz     10   Hz
     6.4  kHz    100   Hz
     64   kHz      1  kHz
    320   kHz      5  kHz
    640   kHz     10  kHz
  6400    kHz     100  kHz

In order to get about  5  kHz / revolution  with the Orion (6.4kHz/ rev.) we 
must accept 100Hz Step Size, much  too coarse.  If we use a 10Hz step size, 
then the Orion forces  a  S-L-O-W   640Hz / rev. - much too
slow for SSB work.  Then,  in order to switch the step size, Orion forces 
menu usage.

   Furthermore, when switching to larger step sizes, no rounding of the 
frequency takes place, which is more than irritating.If for example, the 
frequency is  14.177.049  while in 1 Hz step size and we  want to go to 
14.178.000,  switching STEP to 1 KHz  yields a frequency  of 14.178.049 when 
the VFO is tuned higher.  All digits smaller then the current step size must 
to zeroed manually. Keyboard entry of part of the frequency is not 

  This problem consistently appears whenever we can change step size from a 
finer to a courser resolution eg., the following controls have this problem 
- PBT, BW,  RIT,  XIT,  and  CUT  H/L.  There are no numerical limits set 
for  CUT H/L or  PBT.  If the control is turned too far,   the display 
doesn't' stop - sometimes  writing over other parts of the display!

The RIT/XIT step size changes with menu>RX> PBT/BW Step = 10/50/100 Hz.
I'd rather see it change with  VFO step size.

   The VFO shaft encoder needs to produce at least 500 counts per revolution 
if we want a 10 Hz step size AND  5kHz per revolution of the VFO knob. It 
seems to me the Orion's encoder produces 64 counts per revolution,
eg.,  64 Hz per revolution at 1Hz step size.

Instead of  changing  the VFO step size via the menu as the Orion currently 
does, I propose the following changes:

1. non-AM/FM modes would default to 5 kHz / revolution @ 10 Hz step size.
2. AM/FM modes would default to 50 kHz / revolution @ 100 Hz step size.  3. 
Menu>other>VFO-A or B Enc Rate =  slow/fast  would  double  the VFO default 
tuning  rate.
4. A panel  Push button  labeled "FINE" would  divide the current step size  
by 10, thus producing a fine-tuning mode as shown below.  Perhaps the  
VFOab>M pushbuttons could be  used  for this job, since the save to memory  
function is also in the Memory menu.

               (FINE = off)           (FINE = ON )
             kHz/ revolution     | kHz / revolution
MODE       of VFO knob    STEP | of VFO knob     STEP
  menu>other  slow     fast SIZE | slow      fast  SIZE
  SSB/CW/FSK  5kHz  10kHz   10 Hz| 0.5 kHz  1 kHz   1Hz
  AM/FM      50kHz 100kHz  100 Hz| 5   kHz 10 kHz  10Hz

  5. Larger step sizes (1, 5, 10, 100kHz etc. ) might be controlled with the
   "COURSE VFO" knob,  much like Kenwood's "VFO CH" knob. The "Sub AF" knob 
could be used for this purpose.  The  "Sub AF" function  might be controlled 
with the Main AF knob and the Main/Sub Rx push buttons.  The new "COURSE  
VFO"  knob shall  have programmable step sizes, making large integer  
excursions quick!  Menu>STEP would be back in business.

     Another problem is mode switching on the Orion.  Either have dedicated 
pushbuttons for USB/LSB, UCW/LCW,  UFSK/LFSK  and AM/FM  that's four
Buttons OR when the "Mode" button is pressed the mode menu STAYS ON until 
"Mode" button is pressed AGAIN.  Then, we can switch from upper to lower 
while  listening and so forth.  Mode switching is too important to be hidden 
in the menu.

  Other bugs----

     There are glitches in the operation/display of certain controls.
Thecontrol/display interaction is often inconsistent, too fast or slow, some 
rotating controls have no minimum or maximum limits.  For example,
  1. the PBT knob can be turned, turned, turned until the passband window 
falls off either end of the display and the "PBT: -nnnnnnn" readout grows 
  2. The H-CUT knob is identical in function to the BW knob in USB. The 
L-CUT knob is identical in function to the BW knob in LSB. The CUT control
Should not allow widening of the original passband, only cutting it.  I 
think Kenwood's Slope Tuning is a superior alternative.  In SSB, one knob 
adjusts the low frequency  cutoff  and the other knob adjusts the high 
frequenc  cutoff.  It's simple, intuitive and it WORKS.

  3. The NR function readout is flaky when Multi is turned too far.
4. Monitor level is not loud enough - even when set to 100.
5. Panel legend for headphones, key and ALC are invisible in low light.

  There are other software problems too eg.,
1. the slow update rate of the Bandscope, compared to
     Icom's 756Pro's bandscope.
2. the chunky, crude display below +/-  18kHz scan
    width on the Bandscope
  3. The Analog S-meter occasionally pins for no
      apparent cause.
  4. the USER profile load/store function takes more
     than 15 seconds to work, should be instantaneous!
  5. the USER1 and USER2 buttons should be in the Menu,
      if accidentally pressed, the radio locks up for 15

  These anomalies are totally unacceptable.  I expected  MUCH MORE from 
Ten-Tec then this.  I spent $3300 for what I thought was a world class HF 
transceiver.  I waited nine months for delivery.  I was promised delivery in 
October, November,  Christmas time, mid-February and early March - each
time  I was told the control software wasn't quite right.  TenTec would not 
release the Orion until it was 100 percent perfect. On  March 25th, the 
Orion was released and mine was delivered that Saturday, March 29th.

     I defended  Ten-Tec on the air, supported the Orion project from the 
beginning,  read everything I could get my hands on,  talked with Doug
Smith and Ken Hopper a beta tester during those winter months of waiting. I 
wanted to see an American manufacturer back in the fray.  I sincerely 
believe that the Orion was released  prematurely.  I had an cordial 
conversation with Jack Burchfield, President of TenTec explaining my 
impression of the radio.  He honored my request to return the Orion for a 
full refund, including accessories.

    Perhaps, maybe, in a year or so, Orion will  mature into a top 
performer. However, I do not recommend purchasing  an Orion at this time 
until the control software and other issues are completely resolved.

        73, Alan Davis K2WS

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