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Who Owns The New Ten-Tec / RF Concepts Company Now?

Time flies when you’re having fun.  All of a sudden,we’re celebrating the start of 2016.  We at Factual Amateur Radio Technology Services expect this year to be full of twists and turns in the world of Amateur Radio.

To suggest that the Amateur Radio market is one filled with all kinds of ebb and flow in the economic tidal pool is like suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t need to become President of the United States to make money.

One of the more interesting  stories we’ve followed for a couple of years now is the status of the beloved Ten-Tec  Corporation, and it’s “sister” company, RF Concepts.

Unless you’ve just crawled out of the pile of empty Oreo bags, Burger King wrappers, and beer bottles in your shack, you know all about the purchase of the two companies, known by many radio operators as leaders in their respective fields,  by RKR Designs, LLC.

You can catch an ARRL press release here, in case you’ve forgotten, or all the positive radio activity on 7200 has left you a bit confused.

More recently though, toward the end of 2014, we all learned that parts of the original Ten-Tec and RF Concepts companies have again been sold off.

One of the blog postings we found suggest that a “mysterious buyer” has stepped forward to breathe new life into the organizations, making them once again a viable source for state of the art amateur radio products.

We can’t even begin to make this stuff up, it reads like a script from a really weak plotted “made for TV” movie.  Take a peek here.

Factual Amateur Radio sought to uncover the name of the new owner.  We started with the usual collection of “notable” amateurs; like the founders of Elecraft and Flex Radio.  We even ventured into the “infamously notable” collection of characters frequenting 14.313 and 7.200 MHZ.

It took us a bit, but we believe that we’ve found the new owner of Ten-Tec.  You won’t even be a bit surprised when you think about it.

Who already is a “notable amateur radio operator”, with experience in the “fight club” of marketing amateur radio products?  Who already operates 14.7 million dollar conglomerate enterprise worth 14.7 million in 2013?

The new owner of Ten-Tec has to be none other than Martin F. Jue, K5FLU.

Martin founded MFJ back in 1972, and through numerous acquisitions now owns brands like Ameritron, Hy-Gain, Mirage, Vectronics, and Cushcraft. MFJ employs more than 150 people right now, serving the worldwide amateur radio community from the electronics capital of North America, Starkville, Mississippi.

When we finally tracked down Martin, he would neither confirm nor deny our claim.  He did add the following:

“If MFJ Enterprises were to acquire a progressive company like Ten-Tec, equipment purchasers would experience enhanced customer support, and innovative technological products, similar to the other brand experiences that we represent.”

For our money, we believe that at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention, you’ll see:

 

TOGETHER, AT LEAST THIS MONTH!

As a matter of fact, we just received this photo of a prototype from an anonymous source:

amp

 

We are reminded of this John F. Kennedy quote: “Things do not happen, Things are made to happen…”

 

 

 

 

BAOFENG PREPARES FOR PRODUCT LAUNCH IN 2016 BY LINING UP BETA TESTERS ALL BETA TEST SLOTS FULL!

ALL BETA TEST SLOTS ARE NOW FULL!  TESTERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED!!!

PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LAUNCH OF THE TRANSCEIVER BETA LATER THIS YEAR!!!!

Factual Amateur Radio has recently learned that Baofeng is preparing a slew of products targeted for the 2016 calendar year, and is preparing to engage beta testers for several of them. It is believed that the first products released will be reworked Tokyo High Power labs inspired amplifiers and tuners (see our previous entry) with a followup rollout of their new “SDR with knobs” transceivers, later in the year.

Baofeng intends to put a strong push on marketing to US amateur radio operators.  We believe that the “new”  TenTec, (RKR Designs LLC) will be the only official US distributor of the Baofeng HF products, in a similar fashion that the manufacturer has used with selecting a single supplier for their VHF/UHF transceivers. (I’m kidding….we’ve seen the likes of Baofeng and Wouxun tell every reseller that they are “special” or “unique” and the “only official supplier”)

Again, we at Factual Amateur Radio believe Baofeng intends to start customer shipping in 2016.  Their amplifier product family could become a game changer, and we suspect that their SDR radios could become the new standard for rigs of that class.

To help facilitate the selection of Beta test candidates, Baofeng is desiring to prescreen potential users, based on the following criteria:

  • Amateur Extra Class Licensee
  • Active on HF bands
  • Strong desire to provide feedback about the product
  • Willingness to pay for shipping
  • Desire to own the unit your shipped (at no charge)
  • Strong communications skills, both written and oral

Baofeng has tasked an in country long time amateur radio operator to assist in the pre screening process.  If you’re interested in potentially being a part of the Baofeng Beta test sometime in the fall of 2015, send a note capturing the bullet points above, and the title  “YOUR CALLSIGN PICK ME”  to XXXXX@ARRL.NET.  ALL SLOTS ARE FULL!

This is a fantastic opportunity.  Don’t delay!

Geen Idee Engineering Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral!

Factual Radio was allowed to see an advanced prototype of a new product that will address some of the issues plaguing modern amateur radio operators today.  My friends at Geen Idee Engineering have created and will soon be shipping the Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral, addressing the needs of many ham radio operators.  The first version of the product will be shipping for use with Elecraft K3 and KX3 transceivers, but I have it on good authority  that the product line will be expanding soon to include other transceivers.

Meet Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral

The product fills a simple need, eliminating the requirement of paying attention to several built in indicators on the K3 transceiver, and also addresses concerns about illegal transmissions outside the amateur radio service.  Here’s a picture of the prototype version attached to an Elecraft K3:

Geen Idee Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral

Connecting the Assistant Peripheral to the K3 is very easy, there are two cables to plug into the radio, and your new best friend is ready to work for you.  The three large indicator tell you almost everything you need to know.  One of the developers explained the functions to Factual Radio:

Red Light

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The massive red LED array lights when you are potentially going to transmit outside your band restrictions.  The Assistant Peripteral can be configured  for your license class and geography, including any special affiliations (MARS, Embassy, etc). A planned option is to interface the unit to a GPS for accurate location of your radio, to insure you are operating on the correct frequency at all time.  The LED can also be configured to illuminate on band edges, and an optional speaker assembly can produce one of 43 programmable audio signals to assist you.  Just think, no more having to remember where the bands begin and end!

White Light

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The white LED indicator illuminates when your rig is set for split operation.  No need for the operator to look at the LCD display in the K3, if the white LED is on, you’re in split mode. This single feature alone is worth the cost of the entire device!

Blue Light

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The Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral’s third LED array is the Blue LED, and can be software assigned to a number of different functions  Geen Idee Engineering also plans on adding hardware to support a keyboard, coffee pot and toaster oven. The prototype was configured to indicate that DC power was being provided to the PowerPole connector on the K3, in case the connector was pulled apart during operation.

Easy Firmware Upgrade

The integrated cellular modem supports automatic firmware updates any time.  No need for pesky computers and faulty serial cables to make upgrades happen!

Ordering Information

The device will be available in a number of standard case styles to meet the needs of amateur radio enthusiasts everywhere. Although first releases will be factory assembled only, Factual Radio was informed that later in 2015 they will offer the units as a no solder kit.  Case styles include classic black, flashy chrome, and decorative gray finishes, in metal, wood, or cardboard.

Geen Idee has been gearing up for initial shipments for several months now, in fact they are just waiting for cases to be delivered.  The firm hopes to begin accepting preorders on the first of next month, and expects to begin shipment “any day” after that.  As mentioned earlier, the initial units will include  cabling for the Elecraft K3 and KX3 transceivers, but a long list of rigs will be supported early in 2016, including the Icom 735, TenTec Jupiter, and Baofeng Hurricane.  A spokesperson for Geen Idee suggested more than 235 radios will be supported.  One of the unique new modules for the device, coming in late 2016, is the connection to the operating seat with electrodes to provide a stimulating current when band edges are reached. (this option will not be available in all countries).

Early adopters will receive special pricing during the first 60 days of ordering.  You’ll be able to own your own CRAP-01 for the low introductory price of 1249.95 US dollars.  Free shipping is included during the 60 day new product period.  All Geen Idee products carry an exclusive 5.0 week warranty.  For orders of 2 or more units, customers will receive a set of Ginsu  knives in addition to their station accessory .

You can easily order your own until from their website http://www.Geenideedevelopmentsinc.biz/ordermecrap.aspx

Development Team

Geen Idee has filed several patents on the Companion Radio Assistant Peripheral, and the development team is anxious to get started on some of their other innovative products and services.  We at Factual Radio are convinced that you’ll have no idea where these folks come up with products like this.  Here is a quick photo of the senior development team at Geen Idee:

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Thanks Geen Idee, for letting Factual Radio be one of the first amateur radio bloggers to write about the new product!

How Do You Become The Best Product Of 2013 When You Don’t Even Exist?

Some of the Factual Radio Research Team pointed out the other day that we hadn’t covered anything about the hottest new product on the market, a winner of the prestigious “Best New Product” award for the 2013 Dayton Hamvention – Of course, I’m talking about the Palstar TR30A Transceiver, from our good friends at Palstar Inc. in Piqua, Ohio.

Click on this link to be transported to the TR30A Transceiver website.

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An image depicting the elusive Palstar TR30A Transceiver

 
The words describing the transceiver (from the Palstar website) are:

The Palstar TR30A is a new 100 watt transceiver optimized for Ham Band only reception using the best of legacy techniques combined with microprocessor controlled DDS and electronic switching for rock solid performance.
Optimum HF sensitivity is provided by an active mixer that does not require an RF Preamp. The active mixer has inherently strong overload performance and with no RF Preamp, the TR30A provides excellent performance for all bands, modes and signal conditions.
8 pole Collins Filters provide single-signal reception in a single conversion superheterodyne that has clarity reminiscent of direct conversion. This single conversion, using a low phase noise LO, minimizes spurious responses, reciprocal mixing and high background noise. The TR30A’s TFT implemented analog S-meter returns the operator’s ability to see and feel the received signal strength and its characteristics. Not only is it responsive, but also factory calibrated for S9 and dB readings above and below.
The Industry’s first TFT color touch screen interface is so intuitive that a licensed operator can turn on and operate the TR30 without wading through menus or studying a tedious manual.
The TR30A has one of the industry’s best transmit IMD performance, provided by a 50 Volt RF LDMOS FET transmitter final. 100 watt PEP output with IM3 of -48 dB PEP or -42 dBc is 10 to 20 dB better than today’s popular transceivers.

What was even more intriguing to our investigative reporters is that the Palstar website claims the TR30A has been awarded “Best New Product Of The Year” at the 2013 Dayton Hamvention.

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Which sounds pretty official, but is NORMALLY reserved for products that you can actually buy;  and  none of us remember even seeing this device at the Hamvention.

Inquiries directly to Palstar have, for the moment, gone unanswered. For now, we’re skeptical. None of us remember seeing the product at the show. You can’t buy one now. There is no price nor a shipped weight listed on the website.

NEWS FLASH

Latest information from Palstar is that it’s “too early” to release any information about the radio!!!!

 

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OK, many of us just can’t wait to get our hands on this, or can we? If it’s been around since 2013, and none of us have seen it yet, are we sure we want to? Not to mention, at what cost? We know that Palstar is well known for manufacturing some unique equipment, but sometimes, unique carries a special price. Take for example, the Palstar R30A Shortwave Receiver. A really nice looking radio:

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Front and Rear Views of the R30A Shortwave Receiver

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This rig carries an $895 US price tag. Based on that, how much will a transceiver fetch?

While it’s entirely possible that we might see a TR30A Transceiver at the 2015 show, there is still the question of how a product that you cannot buy becomes “Best New Product”. Our researchers suggest that one way is you simply make the whole story up. Give Palstar a call, perhaps you’ll get a better answer than we did.

NOW THAT THE HONEYMOON IS OVER, WHAT’S NEW FROM RF CONCEPTS?

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The announcement made the rounds in the Amateur Radio World just before Dayton 2014. Ten-Tec and RF Concepts were “merging.”

Merging is the “polite term” that is used when one company swallows up another.  It invokes images of singing songs around a campfire, teamwork, and a real partnership.  The truth is, in the corporate world, that doesn’t really happen.  Go here to read about the merger.  During the 2014 Dayton Hamvention, you had to go to two separate locations to talk to RF Concepts or TenTec.  We’re hearing it will be different for the 2015 event, which will be the 1 year anniversary of their blessed union.

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Our Factual Radio investigators have done some good old fashioned detective work, and can share with you what’s going to be hot from the RF Concepts  brands this hamfest season.  But first, a look back into both of the company histories.

TEN-TEC

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Ten-Tec began in the late 60’s with many of their first products being geared toward the QRP CW operator.  Some of their first rigs were highly functional, but by today’s standard very simple.

Early Ten-Tec Modular Kit
Early Ten-Tec Modular Kit

Their last 40 plus years as a serious amateur radio equipment supplier have seen many changes in their product family.  Although they still have (as of this writing) a few kits, most of their rigs show up at your door ready to operate.  Ten-Tec has been no stranger to innovative amateur radio products.  It is fair to suggest that the introduction of the Ten-Tec Pegasus was the very first Software Defined Radio (SDR) on the amateur market.

Ten-Tec Pegasus Software Defined Radio
Ten-Tec Pegasus Software Defined Radio

The Pegasus was soon joined by another popular SDR radio, with traditional front panel controls – the Ten-Tec Jupiter.  Jupiters are still been sought by discerning amateur radio operators today, bringing you both SDR capabilities and traditional front panel feel.

 

Ten-Tec Jupiter SDR Transceiver
Ten-Tec Jupiter SDR Transceiver

Ten-Tec even produced a great rig for the QRP crowd.  The Argonaut series has seen many changes over the years, but until the last decade or so saw no really challengers for features an innovation.

Original Argonaut 509
Original Argonaut 509

They even tried to capture some market share with a wildly creative open source transceiver, the Ten-Tec Patriot.  This is a new and potentially very promising little rig.

Patriot Front Panel
Patriot Front Panel
Patriot Internal
Patriot Internal

 

RF CONCEPTS 

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RF Concepts has been around just about as long as Ten-Tec has, and they’ve had an impressive run of products.  Catering largely to the QRO operator, their products have remained legendary among discriminating radio amateurs.

Early Alpha Amplifier
Early Alpha Amplifier

 

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Current Alpha Amplifier

Click on over to the RF Concepts site for a listing of their products.  You’ll find them here.

You’ll find a copy of the press release on this link.

SO, WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN UP TO FOR A YEAR?

The big question on every amateur’s mind is just what exactly have these two companies been working on for a year?  You can slide over to their websites, and buy some of their existing products at an attractive price, (feels like a closeout sale to me) so what’s coming next?

Investigators at Factual Radio have been able to land the scoop, well ahead of the 2015 Hamvention.  We know what you’re going to see at the show!

THE BIG NEWS

Factual Radio has learned that the new RF Concepts is very close to signing an exclusive distributor relationship with the new BaoFeng company, for USA distribution rights of the new BaoFeng Hurricane, Tornado, and Tsunami SDR Transceivers, as well as the 3 new amplifiers that should be introduced this year.  Look for a joint press release just before the 2015 Hamvention.  It is not clear yet whether the new rigs will be relabeled  with the RF Concepts  brand(s) or not at this point.

Additionally, look for the Ten-Tec engineering team to bring forth some really creative new products surely to delight those who are just waiting to add to their Ten-Tec inspired collection of gear.  Look for a new “bare bones” SDR rig, and an exciting new radio The Ten-Tec Minimalist, we managed to grab a few engineering prototype pictures of both!

 

Ten-Tec SDR Barebones Radio?
Ten-Tec SDR Barebones Radio?

 

 

The New Ten-Tec Minimalist?
The New Ten-Tec Minimalist?

BOTTOM LINE

Look for several exciting splashes from the new RF Concepts Company, and all their brands.  And remember, you heard it here first at Factual Radio!

 

 

 

A NEW CLASS OF AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE COMING SOON!

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GET READY TO HIT THE BOOKS! A NEW CLASS OF AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE COMING!

There are about 140,855 Amateur Extra Class hams in the USA who thought they were done taking tests.  Although some might be, there will be a percentage of those amateurs who will begin studying for the next round of incentive licensing brought to you by our good friends at the FCC.

Prepare yourself for the Amateur Master Class Exams!

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Factual Radio has learned from a well placed source that the FCC intends to release details in an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule-making) in the spring of 2015.  It turns out that they have been working on this program for more than 2 years!

INCENTIVE LICENSING REVISITED

The real goal of any “incentive” program is quite simple, really.   It’s all about money.  Even if only some of the nations 140,000 plus Extra class licensees pursue the Masters Class license, there’s revenue in this for everyone, especially after you explore of a few of the details that have leaked out.

LICENSING DETAILS

What we know so far:

  • Must be an Amateur Extra Class Licensee for 10 years or more
  • Will require both a written and practical examination
  • Will carry a separate fee schedule
  • May include new band privileges exclusive to Masters class licensees
  • May also offer other perks relative to vanity callsign upgrade
  • May also include “speciality” endorsements

 

TIME IN GRADE

The general feeling among those in the industry that have quietly supported the new license class is that amateurs should have “paid their dues” with time as an Amateur Extra before being allowed to pursue the Masters class license.  This is very consistent with receiving an advanced degree from an educational institution.

PRACTICAL EXAMS

Examination for the new license class will include both a written and a practical examination.  Applicants will not only be required to answer a 100 question exam, with questions pulled from a 1200 question pool, but must demonstrate ability in several areas related to amateur radio.

Details on the “practical” side of the new Masters test are a bit sketchy, but it’s been suggested that it might include things as simple as soldering on a PL259, drawing a block diagram of a superheterodyne receiver, or troubleshooting a PSK31 configuration.

NEW VE TEAM REQUIREMENTS

VE testing teams will be required to have at least 3 Masters level amateurs to administrate  the practical exam.  The written test will be allowed to be given by Extra class VE members.

Because of the new testing complexities, and the desire to make a little extra money, the Masters license will require a 60 dollar application fee.  Testing fees are being hinted at being another 60 dollars.

SPECIAL FREQUENCIES

There is a strong potential that some new amateur radio frequency allotments in the US may be assigned to Masters class amateurs only. We have no details on what those might be at this time.

OTHER PERKS

One of many new additions being considered is that Masters license holders would be able to change their callsign ahead of any other vanity requests for the same call.  The example that was explained to us was, say that the callsign N0ASS became available.  If multiple folks applied, Masters applicants would jump to the head of the line, and then be sorted by their application time and date.  Additionally, the 1 year wait to recycle old callsigns would be waived for Master class amateurs.  There are some other options being considered for Masters class amateurs as well, although we were not offered any details.

SPECIAL RATINGS

As part of the new Masters class licensing incentive, there has been much discussion about offering special endorsements for fields of study.  Each would require yet another testing fee, and a separate (but written only) examination.  Specialty ratings may include:

  • Digital Focus
  • Universal Operator (CW Test of some sort)
  • Mobile Operations (special focus on mobile antennas)
  • Builder (general  equipment construction expertise)

The Master class ham earning these ratings would be entitled to list them after their callsign, for example N1XX, DUMB.

THE REAL MOTIVATION

As already mentioned, this new program stands to raise a significant amount of cash for the Federal agency, as well as spur industry related sales of new training materials, study guides, and potentially even new equipment.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming NPRM, and be sure to weigh in on the discussions that will most likely follow!  When we latch onto more details, we’ll post them here!