I started a quest about six months ago to find a new radio to replace my
existing rigs (Drake R4B/T4XB and ICOM 707) and had two main
Less than $1500
Had to have a very good DSP
Also very important...
Full break-in QSK
Good phone performance (mostly for linear digital mode emission)
So I spent a lot of time reading specs, talking to people, checking
out the reviews on eHam and
carefully analyzing what i'd found and narrowed my search to three radios
from three different manufacturers: Yaesu FT-920 (or 1000 Field), Kenwood
TS-2000 and the ICOM IC-746 Pro. Each was roughly in my ballpark price
range with the features I was looking for. But as I dug deeper into the
abilities (and inabilities) of each radio I found where each one had a
tradeoff that I didn't like - didn't like so much so that I became
frustrated because it seemed like there were NO radios sold on the market
under $2000 that met my requirements!
Sadly, I couldn't find any mention of Ten-Tec by the companies that I looked
at online: Universal Radio, AES, WB0W, HamRadio Outlet and Texas Towers. I
think Ten-Tec could boost sales a great deal by putting a few ads on some of
the online ham sites like Contesting.com and QRZ.com. I discovered the
Jupiter by reading an online review about the Kenwood TS-2000
with specific mention of how much better the Ten-Tec Jupiter was. The
recent big splash by the Orion has put Ten-Tec all over the map so I think
they've managed to get a lot of attention - it's refreshing to hear hams
talking about a radio other than the "Big Three".
I visited the Ten-Tec site and started reading the specs and getting advice
from Duffy Beischel WB8NUT. A day later
I got a Ten-Tec Jupiter
TT-538! I could not be happier. It would take a hundred pages to
write up my appreciation for this radio. It greatly exceeded my
So what do I think about the Jupiter?
I know i'm in the honeymoon phase given that i've only had the radio for a
short time but my initial impression is that it's the best thing i've ever
used. I have been a Drake T4B/R4XB and ICOM 707 user for a very long time
The Drake B-line rigs, specifically the R4B, were the most user friendly
pieces of equipment i've ever used. The R4B receiver really spoiled me
because the width, passband and notch filters made it very easy to work
any station regardless of another adjacent station (AM, SSB or CW) - all I
had to do was select the appropriate passband, adjust the width and
possibly the notch and I was done. But the new rigs I was looking at were
severely lacking in their ability to filter out noise before it made it to
the audio amplifier, which to me is extremely poor design. I remember
after checking out the new rigs thinking "How nice these 40-year-old Drake
rigs are" - so I was just about to give up and get the TS-2000 when I came
across the Ten-Tec Jupiter.
The Jupiter is definitely a keeper based
on its features and functionality. It's the best money i've spent on anything
(radios, computers, cameras, food, etc.) in the last few years. It's the
only thing i've bought that exceeded my expectations.
SDR - Software Defined Radio
The Ten-Tec Jupiter is a real SDR, or Software Defined Radio. All the
hubbub going on about the GNU Radio or SDR-1000 from FlexRadio does not excite me
as much as it did before I saw the Jupiter and Ten-Tec Pegasus.
Granted, there may be more flexibility in the other systems but Ten-Tec's
radios are a complete solution.
Here's why I am a Jupiter owner...
On CW, the full QSK keying totally floored me. I've always lived in the
land of clicking relays and the ability to send 25WPM CW and receive
between words at that speed with NO relays is the other thing that totally
impressed me. I guess that's relatively a standard feature these days but
for me it was amazing. My uncle, Mel Whitten, K0PFX,
strongly urged me to check into a full break-in QSK rig and I understand why
now. The Ten-Tec solid state QSK is flawless - never a chopped dit.
The only mistake I think i've made so far was not getting the internal
tuner. I'm going to get the kit and install it in a few months after I
get more acquainted with the radio. I don't do a lot of phone work
(mostly CW/digital on the lower ends of the bands) so I opted not to get
the tuner at the time I bought the radio. However for the $1300 spent so
far I'm totally satisfied. I'll deal with not having the tuner for all
the other wonderful things that it provides.
You do not have to purchase anything else other than the radio to use it
forever. No TCXOs, no additional filters, no special cable adapters,
etc. You get all you need (plus a spare mic jack, mono-to-stereo phone
jack, spare power connector and RCA phono plug) - just give it power and
turn it on.
Why didn't I go for one of "The Big Three?"
Yaesu makes great stuff - everyone i've known has had great
things to say about Yaesu equipment. Some units have more strengths than
weaknesses, etc., you know the routine. The first radio I was really
ready to buy was the Yaesu FT-920. It had good CW capabilities, a DSP,
decent phone performance and it was fairly affordable. Unfortunately,
Yaesu likes to nickle and dime you to death with additional pieces that
drive the price up another $400-500 dollars. Then I find out that the DSP
is post-IF stage and processes audio as it comes out of the audio amp!
Argh - this is so stupid - the DSP has to cope with everything flying at
it from the receiver's front end instead of processing only what I want it
to process! Even the fancy FT-1000 Field had audio-stage DSP. So that
was the end of Yaesu for me.
ICOM hasn't been known for its stellar QSK performance and I was a bit
leary from the get-go. Worse, the IC-746 Pro is known for dying after
about 18 months of use requiring a $150 trip back to the factory for
repair. So I ditched any ICOM prospects as well.
Kenwood is a brand name that some guys would lose their
jobs over trying to defend Kenwood's honor and prestige. I'd say on a
whole they probably have a better average product than any other
manufacturer, although this seems to be slipping given the stuff they've
been putting on the market in the last five years. So Kenwood finally
figured out that IF-stage DSP is the way to do things, but they built a
radio that has a horribly-rated receiver and has a bad reputation for
suceptibility to adjacent frequency interference. Some guys who lived near
cellphone or paging company towers reported serious problems with noise
and interference from the pager company broadcasts. Others complained
about the raspy sound that the DSP pushed out when trying to wade through
the sludge when the band was noisy or during a big pileup.
I live in the sticks for the most part so I wasn't too concerned about the
intermod problems but I wasn't real thrilled about the reports of the DSP
not being up to par, plus I don't like the "melted-looking" front end of
the radio - it looks like a candle that has been stored in the attic over
a summer. So I wasn't convinced that this was the right road to go
either. Hey, you've got to have some class in the shack!
Perhaps i'm being a little harsh against the other manufacturers but I only
had one chance to get a new radio - there was no going back to the
well to swap or trade one rig for another. I had to make one choice and it
had to be the right choice - because there was no going back.
I have no regrets being a Ten-Tec owner. There is no better customer service
or support. If you have a problem, you can speak directly to one of the people who
designed the radio instead of wading through a labyrinth of voicemail
options as I dealt with from one of "The Big Three" listed above. Ten-Tec
provides full disclosure how to work on your radio and will maintain your
warranty as long as you follow their recommendations.