Allow me to elaborate on Barry's answer to that question with my own
At the end of August, my station took a big lightning hit that "killed" my O1.
It's a long story I'll eventually post on my website. The short version is that
I sent the O1 back to Ten-Tec and they declared it not repairable. My insurance
covered the full cost of replacement. Since the O1 is no longer produced, I had
the option of buying a new, fully-loaded O2 (my O1 had the AT and all the
filters), a used O2, a used O1, or another brand. A friend not far from my
location had three O1s and two O2s for sale, and he was willing to let me try
them before buying, so I could be assured of getting "a good one."
After long deliberation, and consultation with several other alumni of the
now-defunct Orion beta test reflector, I decided to buy a used O1 and apply the
difference in cost to a new K3. The O1 would see me through the wait for the
K3, and hedge my bets in case the K3 failed to live up to expectations.
I've used an O1 almost since it was first released, and have used the O2
several times at a major contest station. I like the O2 color display, and I
think the receiver might be marginally better, but for my purposes (underlined
"my") I feel there just isn't enough difference in the radios to spend the
extra money on either a new or used O2. As Barry says, with prices falling like
a rock, the O1 is a great bargain. (Barry was one of the people I consulted :-)
I might have been more willing to opt for a good used O2 had the K3 not been
about to ship. I'm a big fan of the Orion design, and at the time I made my
decision felt it had the best receiver on the market -- hands down. In my
opinion, there was no other radio that could come close for what I like to do:
That said, I've been very disappointed with certain aspects of the Orion
implementation. The O1 CPU is underpowered for the demands placed on it. From
what I can tell, the faster O2 CPU hasn't improved performance significantly.
Even so, I was quite disappointed Ten-Tec didn't make the O2 CPU/display
available as an upgrade for O1 owners. That might have kept the resale value of
our radios from plunging.
But hardware isn't the real problem. Speaking as a 30-year veteran of the
software industry, and long-time beta tester of the Orion firmware, V1 and V2
leave a lot to be desired. I've not seen the source code for either, nor do I
know all the constraints under which the programmer(s) have labored, but my
sense is that both versions of the firmware are poorly designed and written.
Evidence of this is the consistent appearance of new bugs and audio artifacts
whenever previously-reported problems are fixed. This has been an issue from
day 1. It seems when they "push it in here, it pops out there." That speaks of
timing dependencies and possibly pathological connections between different
sections of code that, in turn, suggest poor design and/or implementation.
Further, it appeared that Ten-Tec did virtually no in-house testing before
releasing new versions to the beta test group. We weren't doing beta testing,
we were doing alpha testing. In essence, they used us as an extension of their
in-house staff. My impression is that the programmer(s) never ran new versions
through even simple testing -- like turning the radio on and trying all the
basic features. Every time a new beta came out we found a slew of bugs and
anomalies that even cursory testing would have revealed.
Finally, Ten-Tec's attitude toward our problem reports and suggestions, and
those posted on this reflector, was what one beta tester has called a "bunker
mentality". They almost never acknowledged the existence of a problem and never
told us whether they planned to address it or not. Consequently, we kept
sending them reports for the same bugs over and over, from one beta release to
another. My impression is that only problems the programmer(s) considered
interesting or worth investigating got fixed, and usually at the expense of
breaking something else. Ten-Tec's ultimate solution to the steady flow of bug
reports, suggestions and complaints coming from the beta test group was to
summarily disband it, without warning or communication. Most of us put in
dozens, if not hundreds, of hours over several years helping Ten-Tec debug the
firmware, without compensation. We were never thanked for our efforts, and we
were treated like dirt at the end. Oh yeah, and we were all customers, too.
Another beef I have about the Orion is that Ten-Tec doesn't provide a service
and alignment manual for it. Every radio I've ever owned has had a service
manual available. As parts age, the radio gets out of alignment. It seems a
shame to ship the radio back to Ten-Tec to get a simple task like that done.
Hereâs a little story: The used O1 I bought had been back to the factory a
year ago to fix a bad VFO encoder. At the same time, several hardware updates
were done and the radio was supposedly checked out. All this was documented on
a Ten-Tec work order provided to me with the radio. The rig sat in its return
shipping box after service until I bought it. When I fired it up, there was a
constant, low-level tone in the passband and the USB/LSB audio didn't sound the
same. I figured there was an alignment problem. I called Ten-Tec and the
technician I spoke with hadn't seen that particular symptom before and could
provide no guidance. I asked if he could send me alignment instructions, and he
said there were none -- not even for the Ten-Tec service department! He said if
an Orion needed alignment they had to play it by ear or send it to the
production people (i.e., the factory) because they were the only ones who knew
how to do a full alignment. Rather than send the radio back to Ten-Tec, I
decided to gently tweak a few pots with labels that seemed related to the
problem. I figured "Carrier Balance" was a good bet and started with that one.
Sure enough, it was slightly off and it was a simple matter to set it to the
right position to eliminate the tone. But I sure wish I hadn't had to grope
around in the dark to make a simple adjustment to the radio. Why should I have
to spend >$200 in round-trip shipping+insurance and an hour of Ten-Tec's bench
fee for that?
I should add that this radio also had a bad reed relay which caused
intermittent transmission dropouts. I replaced it myself. Makes me wonder just
how thorough the post-service check-out procedure is.
Bottom line, for some time I've felt that Ten-Tec doesn't really stands behind
the Orion. A few months ago, this put me in an awkward position because I
needed a replacement and it was still the best contest receiver available. When
the K3 came out, I studied the specs and have been lurking on the Elecraft
reflector for quite some time. I agree with those who have said that the K3
receiver performance will probably not be dramatically better than the Orion.
After all, they're based on similar designs. I also agree that small knobs are
going to be a problem for some K3 owners, as will the very limited small, fixed
LCD display. On the other hand, the Elecraft designers carefully analyzed the
shortcomings of the Orion and have addressed many of them. Further, the
Elecraft firmware engineer appears to be far more technically savvy than his
counterparts at Ten-Tec, and his attitude toward bug reports and suggestions is
180-degrees opposite to Ten-Tec's. He doesn't get defensive, is very prompt to
fix problems and post new releases, and if a suggestion is good, and feasible,
he will commit on the spot to implement it. I'm sure it helps that he's a
founder of the company and has a stake in its future.
Time will tell whether Elecraft will follow through on their promises and will
maintain their excellent, customer-oriented attitude. But for now, I'm very
impressed. That's why I ordered a K3. I feel there is a better chance of
Elecraft improving the radio and extending the value of my investment than
there is of Ten-Tec doing the same for the Orion. At this point, I don't know
first-hand whether the K3 will compare with the Orion for contesting. Early
reports are encouraging, but I have to hear it myself. I'll have three radios
to compare: the K3, the Orion and the FT-1000D (no slouch with the INRAD
roofing filter mod.) I have no idea which two of the three will ultimately
become the best pair for contesting. I do, however, feel good about the K3 from
the service and support perspectives. That means a lot to me.
I know a lot of you are die-hard Ten-Tec fans and will defend the company no
matter what it does. I'm expecting massive, emotional flames in response to
this post. So be it. That may be a reason why Ten-Tec let quality slip so badly
on the Orion: they have a super-loyal customer base that accepts whatever it
gets and won't challenge Ten-Tec to do better. But the K3 and other SDRs
working their way into the market may prove the danger of resting on one's
73, Dick WC1M
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Barry N1EU [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 2:59 PM
> To: Discussion of Ten-Tec Equipment
> Subject: Re: [TenTec] Orion Repaired and Back to V1.373b5
> Denny, I'm actually quite happy with my 1.373b5 O1. My only real
> issue with the O1 is the subreceiver and that's identical in the O2.
> So the O1 is the bargain as far as I'm concerned.
> Barry N1EU
> On 12/14/07, Dennis OConnor <email@example.com> wrote:
> > Barry, you considering an O2? If not, reason?
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