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[TenTec] Why Orion? (was ORION Returns)

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Subject: [TenTec] Why Orion? (was ORION Returns)
From: jimr.reid@verizon.net (Jim Reid)
Date: Sat Aug 2 20:43:15 2003
To those concerned about whether or not to leap
forth to buy an Orion:

The following essay  was written by KH7T, John Buck out
here in Hawaii to a friend who asked for his evaluation of the
Orion and Elecraft K2 radios for replacement of an older rig.
So far as I know, John and I arethe only two Orion owners
here in KH6 land so far.

His little essay is about buying either an Elecraft K2,
or an Orion.  He owns both, and gives an excellent reason
for owning each of these "world class" rigs!!  He also has
quite a bit to say about the building up of the K2,  in case
that suits your particular fancy.

I have asked his permission to share it on the TT reflector,
and he has granted same.

Here is his writing:

"The reason I have an ORION is that about 20 years ago I wrote
a white  paper predicting that the digital radio would be able to
out perform the  best of the analog radios.

The ORION is the first that meets that prediction and my
specifications.  It is really the third generation digital rig:
First,  Kachina; second, IC-756ProII; and now third,
the ORION.

It took ICOM 3 generations 756, 756pro and 756proII to get an
acceptable radio.  But they compromised the transmit too much.
So  anyway, I had to have an ORION.

The ORION with its dual receivers can do several tricks like dual
diversity reception, and binaural reception.  The band scope really
works but operates only on the primary ham band receiver.  I had
expected it to operate on the sub receiver for general coverage.
It has a good set of line inputs and outputs for computer interface
to sound card.  An adapter or isolation transformer may not be
necessary although I use isolation transformers just in case.
On psk31 I get IMD reports as high as 28 to 31.  Excellent.
It has extra Key inputs and good controls for an external amplifier.
The internal tuner option works very well but does not have
memory and only operates on the Antenna 1 connector.
Their track record on issuing downloadable control software
updates for the radio eeprom has been good.

I have the K2 with all the self contained options in one box and
the 100 watt amp and autotuner in a matching box.  This allows
me to pick up the 10-15 watt K2 with internal battery and tuner
and go any where, toss an antenna into the bushes and get on
the air.  The only thing I have to carry along are antenna wire,
Mike, and Key.

The ORION outperforms the K2 slightly.  There are a few times
when I can dig out a very weak signal with the ORION that I
cannot with the K2.

I do not have the DSP module in the K2 yet.  It will further narrow
any performance gap between the ORION and K2.

The ORION is easier to get in to trouble with poorly selected
USER options.  To use the Orion well,  you will find the learning
curve is fairly steep.

I love the Orion designed in options and uncompromised performance.
If I had a strong desire for the cleanest looking desktop system with
best performance, I would choose the ORION.

If I wanted the best portable and desktop capable unit, I would
choose the K2.

If I had to have a single box including HF through UHF, I would
would choose the 746 PRO.  But this would be a compromise
on HF performance.

I am fortunate that I had the K2 before the Orion appeared,
and then had a good excuse to get an ORION.  I will not sell
the K2 and probably will keep the ORION.

If I could only have one rig, I would probably choose the K2,
because of the portability plus excellent performance.  Also
I can fix it if it breaks.  The kit quality and documentation is
better than Heath Kit.  By the way, they are introducing VHF
and UHF converters with wonderful receive characteristics.

The K2 compromises are that extra cables and wires and
adapters for antenna switching, and computer sound interface
are needed.  The extra wires and adapters remind me a bit of
the early Radio Shack computers with external floppy, modem,
CRT and maybe even hard drive, hi.

The temperature stability spec for the K2 is 80 or 100 Hz.
This is better with the 2 box approach keeping the amplifier
out of the main K2 box.  Some people started complaining
about the 80 cycle stability when the amplifier was added so
they came out with a hybrid mod to replace a resistor sip that
brings it back down to the 10 or 20 cycle region.  Mod cost $20!
Included in new kits.   I have it but have not installed it yet.

The K2 with the 100 watt amp internal would be almost exactly
equivalent to the ICOM 735 but with a world class receiver
and better menu control options and computer interface.
By the way the K2-100 is specified down to 11 volts.  The
Orion is not  happy below 12V at the terminals unless you
reduce power.  So if you  like running on dead car batteries
you will prefer the K2.

For DX chasing I prefer the ORION but mainly because of the
dual receiver capabilities.

You may be surprised at how much reduction in band noise is
provided by either of these two receivers.  The low intermod
front end, with narrow first roofing filter just simply eliminate a
lot of the sources of noise.  In addition the excellent DSP
noise reduction algorithms subtract out a lot of the identifiable
band noise.  The ARRL has already started publishing the
effects of close in strong signal rejection at 1 or 5 kHZ spacing
in addition to the traditional 20k spacing.  See the Elecraft.com
web site summary compilation of the ARRL test data on many
of the better radios.

http://www.elecraft.com/K2_perf.htm#Main RX Table



The ORION ARRL data is not available yet but independent tests
indicate that it will be at the top of the heap.  A lot of the currently
top of the line radios suffer greatly on the close in spacing tests.

Building up a K2.

The K2 support (both factory and internet users group) for not allowing
you to fail if you build the K2 is excellent. Just be sure to read and
follow the instructions as given.  Get a binocular magnifier and a
temperature controlled iron with a display of the temperature like the
Weller EC-2002M.  There is no comparison between the head mounted
binocular stereo magnifier and a bench mounted big magnifying glass.

The few people that get into trouble try to use silver or lead free
solder, use solvents to clean flux, add sockets and generally do not
follow the instructions.  I also used a digital voltmeter and ALL
Electronics Capacitance and Inductance meter to good advantage.
Some of the small capacitors and inductors are hard to
unambiguously identify.

K2 or Orion?

Think of the price trade off as 2 to 1 plus labor when you include all
the available options.  But you can get started on the basic cw only
QRP  K2 with a 6 to 1 differential.  5 to 1 including the tools upgrade
that I mentioned.  You will quickly want the DSP, noise blanker,
SSB and Computer Interface options.  Then you can add the
portability option or the Amplifier.  If you want the amplifier in
the same box, you cannot have the internal Battery or internal
autotuner.  The amplifier and larger autotuner integrate nicely in
a single K2 size box.  I really prefer it in the two box approach.
If you do not need the portability then you can put the amplifier
in the K2 and build the external tuner as a half height unit.  This
approach would save you the cost of the internal QRP tuner,
battery and extra computer interface module.  You cannot use
(and do not need) the narrow band audio filter module with the

Used K2's are typically selling at or slightly above the cost of
the kits  although I just recently saw that one sold for less.  The
typical sale time appears to be less than one day.  There are
people building the kits for sale for low cost just because they
love to assemble the kit.  If you break a part during assembly,
K2 replaces and ships typically free.

Yes, I like the K2.  Yes I like the ORION.  I am sure glad that I did
not have to make an either/or choice.

The ORION does have a 30 day no cost (except shipping)
return policy."

All above written by John Buck,  KH7T.  Tempts me to buy a
K2,  hi;  but I won't.  Enjoying my ORION too much to dilute
my time elsewhere!

73,  Jim  KH7M

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