Sunday, February 6, 2022

Ten Tec's last breath

An announcement was made yesterday that all Ten Tec radios in for repair at the Sevierville facility will be returned, unrepaired, to their owners at Ten Tec's expense.

IMO, Ten Tec hasn't been Ten Tec for many years. The attempt at keeping the company going is admirable and many of us give due credit to Mike Dishop N8WFF for his efforts in this regard, along with those of many supportive Ten Tec owners around the world.

Covid (rather than, more correctly, our response to Covid) will be blamed for parts shortages, but Ten Tec started circling the drain over a decade ago after years of would-be Ten Tec buyers began migrating to a higher-performing rig, the K3.

Elecraft became the new Ten Tec, improving upon all of the key bragging rights that had belonged solely to Ten Tec for years: clean QSK, superior receiver characteristics, unmatched customer service.

Top DXers, DXpeditioners and contesters traded their Omnis for K3's and it was "Goodbye, Ten Tec".

Despite the fact that radios are inanimate objects, they help us to create memories and therefore take on sentimental value. As a ham whose first rig was a Century 21 back in '78, I'm sorry to see this latest bit of news, even though I said my goodbye's to Ten Tec a K3-ago.




  1. My only direct experience with TenTec was a long time ago, when I picked up a PM-3 at a swap, because it was really cheap, but I soon found out that it was need of repair, and one look in the chassis convinced me that the build was no where close to the then-new radios coming out of Japan. I don't recall how I got rid of it, but I don't think I threw it out, but maybe passed it on to someone that was prepared to dig in to it and repair it. I thought, "Good riddance."

    I remember I had also 'inherited' a bad MFJ dual bander VHF/UHF rig build. It was given to me in a small wastebasket, to contain all the loose parts. You get the picture. My opinion of MFJ wasn't strong to begin with, but went strictly downhill then. I think that one ultimately ended up in the trash.

    I had an Icom IC-735 I bought new in 1986, until I finally swapped it out for the pieces/parts of a multi-band spider-boom quad at a local swap in the mid-2000s. After re-wiring it for 6 bands (20M-6M) and getting the quad up on a 40 ft tower, I ended up purchasing an Elecraft K3 in 2009, about two years after they were announced, IIRC. They were shipping from stock, and I was able to order one at Dayton as a kit, and received it and had it up and running by Field Day that year.

    I have to say that K3 was a revelation, especially in terms of receiver robustness in a multi-multi environment, and it was a veritable "CW machine". The modular design was a big win for me, as I ended up adding modules and accessories each Dayton until I ended up with a fully tricked-out K3 with 2nd receiver diversity reception, general receiver coverage, and the P3 with external display for a band scope with waterfall. A couple of years ago, I 'upgraded to a K3s, by selling my old K3 mostly stripped to a new ham in the club, and moved all the accessories and modules over to the K3s. I'm very glad that I did that, now, since Elecraft no longer sells either the K3 or K3s, and I'm waiting for their K4 to mature a while before upgrading yet again.

    A major upgrade to my station last year was to add the KPA500/KAT500 combo, and I even got a nice deal on a pair of Elecraft matching speakers, which beat the West Mountain Radio Comm speakers all hollow. This is the first time in my over 50 years of ham radio that I've owned an amplifier. It's an interesting experience, and since my quad is now over ten years old and in need of repair, this spring I'll be doing major antenna work, to get my station back in shape. Right now my antenna situation is my weakest link.

    1. Hi Dave - I bought a used PM-3 a few years ago and had the same impression as you. But this was one of Ten Tec's earliest rigs and they definitely got better, in terms of construction.

      When I bought my C21 in 1978, a buddy in my Morse class bought a Triton IV. The C21 was very basic and mostly hollow inside - lots of room - the rig could have been much smaller. The Triton was smaller, yet it had SSB and 10-80 capability and a 100W output. When I saw it in operation, I wondered how a smaller rig could do so much more than my ginormous Novice rig. A look inside gave me the answer. Its internal construction was vastly superior to that of my rig, making efficient use of the space available, even though both were produced around the same time.

      Ten Tec matured over time as they went from a 2-man (like Elecraft!) company to a bonafide and respected manufacturer of top quality rigs and amps. They even took a stab at making a 2m HT!

      Good luck on your antenna work. My tower/Yagi came down 2 weeks ago as we get ready to QSY to a new QTH.


  2. The first kit I tried building was a T-kit 1260 (6m FM rig), that I sadly was not prepared to build as a 17-year-old in 1996-7. I am not a CW op, so I don’t have any experience with Elecraft. I wanted an MFJ monobander (especially VHF), but never quite had the available funds on-hand. I know I don’t want a shack-in-a-box multi band rig.