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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Ten-Tec Orion Help

Reviews Summary for Ten-Tec Orion
Ten-Tec Orion Reviews: 99 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $3,300.00
Description: The Ten-Tec ORION represents an entirely new concept in high-performance HF transceivers. Ten-Tec's goal with this new groundbreaking design is to deliver the finest performance level to date from an amateur transceiver." Full measured specifications, pictures, and accessory information are available on the Ten-Tec ORION website
Product is in production.
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WT8L Rating: 4/5 Feb 18, 2012 22:44 Send this review to a friend
Some improvements... but  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had my Orion since they were introduced. I've kept up with the mods and firmware upgrades and recently, when the sub-receiver quit working, I took the opportunity to upgrade it rather than repair it. Good choice! The RX366 is a significant improvement over the stock sub-receiver. The new V3 firmware also has some improvements that are noteworthy, SAF for example.

Unfortunately, the NR and AGC are still an issue. On weaker (not weak, just weaker) signals the NR distorts the audio to the point of unreadability regardless of how aggressively it's set for. As another HAM put it, the NR is now just mostly useless rather than completely useless. On stronger signals, it does provide some relief from band noise. The AGC is also less than ideal for my tastes. The fact that the AGC and NR are interdependent is undoubtedly causing some of my grief with the AGC. I find that neither method suggested by Ten-Tec in the "optimization" guide has any meaningful affect on SNR. I spend WAY too much time playing with the decay/threshold settings trying to find the "best" setting.

Hopefully these issues will be addressed at some point in the future, but I'm having my doubts...
N1EU Rating: 5/5 Jan 30, 2012 06:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent all-around rig gets better  Time owned: more than 12 months
With dsp i.f. coupled with narrow roofing filters in a down-converting first i.f. stage, the Orion set the stage architecturally ten years ago that later rigs (K3, FT5000, TS590) would copy. Iíve had my Orion for over 8 years now. Iíve always considered it a top hf radio, although I was aware of the limitations of its subreceiver on bands with s9+ signals. I use the subreceiver intensively for diversity reception and SO2V contesting (see Iíve had the chance now to operate for several months with the new RX366 subreceiver in all kinds of conditions, and Ten-Tec has succeeded in an easy-to-install upgrade that brings the subreceiver up to the same level of performance as the main receiver, as well as providing good frequency locking between the receivers. Coupled with some new v3 firmware enhancements, the Orion/RX366 now delivers superior stereo diversity and SO2V contesting capability. The audio peaking filter (ďSAFĒ) that was added to the v3 firmware also performs very well on weak cw and ssb signals. The Orion is a stand out performer with features that should please a wide variety of hams: casual operators, dxíers, contesters, topbanders, ESSBíers. I particularly appreciate its large display with all impít info shown full-time in numeric format as well as its large front panel with easy-to-navigate interface. As a long time audiophile, Iím VERY picky about a radioís audio - the Orion receive audio quality is simply outstanding. The RX366 and v3 firmware upgrades speak well of Ten-Tecís commitment to their user base and their ability to innovate. Side-by-side with an Elecraft K3/KRX3, receiver performance is indistinguishly superb on both rigs. These two radios are undeniably the two best all-around hf rigs and choosing between them comes down to user preference (form factor, user interface, etc), not performance.
K7TXO Rating: 5/5 Jan 2, 2012 23:35 Send this review to a friend
Rudimentary greatness  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have to tell you my wife loathes TEN-TEC. Two days calling to finally place our most recent order. This is the second time she has complained they were a bit coarse with her attempts to place phone orders for surprise gifts to me (great wife!). And although not a show stopper, they don't take PayPal. Harrumph.

In contrast, the guys and ladys at ELECRAFT have always been fast to answer and entirely upbeat. Maybe it's the California weather. Oh, and they take PayPal by the way.

But... TEN-TEC has the science of radio down pat. Yes I know the K3 tests better than my Orion but I completely enjoy the control panel and controlled-results I get from the Orion. While the K3 is like having everything possible packed in a lunch box size that you can take anywhere, for my base ops I'll pick this Orion any day. I imagine I would be equally taken with a new 566 on my desk too. When I can afford too, I'll get an Eagle and take that out in the field and on the water.

I titled this review "Rudimentary greatness" because to me this describes the 565. There are functions on this rig that are less elegant in how you operate them compared to almost any other modern rig you can name. Until you absorb the logic of all (or at least most) of how to really work this rig and then you realize this rig will receive what others cannot hear or decipher in the mud. And you'll get those incoming down in the dirt signals in a workable state more quickly than other rigs too. Dual receive is WONDERFUL. Audio adjustments on rcv and xmit are terrific if you don't get carried away. And CW operating is a real joy even for a pokey operator like me.

And for those days when I am just whizzing around the bands for a rag chew, the active scope suits this mode of operation very well.

I personally would rather have a 10 or 12 gauge power lead pigtail out the rear panel rather than the somewhat light duty molex connector type pins but that's my only beef with the rig. Not enough of a beef for me to alter my 5/5 rating.

So-- You can study the technical reviews hours on end. You can twiddle with the knobs of many rigs at a radio store. But if you can really spend some time behind the wheel of a few choice radios, this T-T 565 Orion and the Omni VII I was privileged to use at the late WA2EWE / Jim McLaughlin's station in California are great.
K1ZR Rating: 5/5 Dec 7, 2010 11:59 Send this review to a friend
One of the best contest grade rigs out there...  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Despite it's quirks, the Orion I is one of the best contest grade radios I've ever used...and I've used a lot of 'em. Ten-Tec is currently working on a new rev of firmware to address several open issues. How many other manufacturers out there continue to provide firmware support to 7+ year old radios?

For approximately $1900 on the used market (as of 12/2010) you can find yourself a well equipped top performing rig that will hold it's own against the K3.
K8KAS Rating: 5/5 Sep 29, 2010 08:31 Send this review to a friend
One of the BEST  Time owned: more than 12 months
One of the best rigs I have owned in 45 years as a ham. Bought it used for $1500 over a year ago, RX and TX audio tops, Ham I bought it from had no RF ground system and an antenna that ran over head, had nothing but trouble. I have a very good RF ground system and not a hit in over a year, surprised how many hams don't know what a good RF ground is. TT customer service is great, had a question once and the man himself called me back and was great, almost couldn't get him off the phone, who else does this? For the money today you can't do better.73
K2ER Rating: 4/5 Jan 27, 2010 21:33 Send this review to a friend
Generally excellent, with some ergonomic issues  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Very few reviews here have attempted to detail some of the annoying quirks of this generally excellent radio. So I will! I have owned the Orion for about 2 months, and used it to rack up 150 DXCC countries in that short time. My previous rig was, for 17 years, a Kenwood TS-450S. Some of its basic features I miss in the Orion. Then again, the Orion kicks it in many other areas.


- Excellent audio
- Very sensitive receiver
- Tune button very convenient for ant tuner
- Continuously variable DSP bandwidth is great (I love the 900 Hz range for CW)
- Subreceiver is great for negotiating pile-up spreads trying to work DX listening "up"
- Programmable AGC is powerful
- Dual antennas, diversity Rx
- Binaural audio very cool
- Built in keyer
- Analog S-Meter
- DSP noise reduction sometimes helpful
- Excellent QSK and amp relay delay
- General coverage on subreceiver
- Two CW key inputs
- Basic RCA jack for amp keying, no custom cable


- Band sweep is not really useful to me
- Spot button is convenient but encourages obsession with "perfect" Tx frequency


Memory Functions
- Memories store only one VFO. This makes storing a split setup cumbersome. You must store VFO A and VFO B to separate memories, and of course, restore them separately too.
- No distinct VFO vs. Memory modal operation. Must restore memory frequencies to VFO in order to use them. This means you must save your current VFO settings to separate memory locations if you wish to restore them later.
- No direct numeric access to memory locations. You must scroll through them all using the MULTI knob, and it is very slow. When the rig is put into memory recall mode, the keypad is ignored. Why not allow it to be used to select a memory location?

- You cannot monitor your Tx frequency when using XIT. Also, no direct display of RIT/XIT frequency, just the offsets.
- On SSB, mic gain and average power seem erratic from band to band; lack of confidence that ALC is adjusted properly.

Direct keypad frequency validation logic is cumbersome. You cannot type ENTER 7 and have it go to 7.000 MHz. That will be interpreted as (70 MHz) and will fail. Likewise, ENTER 7004 will be interpreted as 70.040 and will fail. Must use a leading zero or trailing decimal for single digit MHz value. When entry fails, an annoying message "Frequency Not Supported" displays for a few seemingly interminable seconds. Rig should just ignore it and restore the current VFO frequency.

- Almost complete lack of color in buttons, display, and lights to distinguish controls and aid operation.
- No tactile tuning feedback, i.e. it would be helpful to have detents on tuning knob to ease precise tuning by counting clicks. Or a separate knob/mode for that behavior.
- Significant audio volume difference between headphones & speaker outputs
- SSB monitor not loud enough to be effective
- Bandwidth / Passband display graphic difficult to interpret
- Rig outputs no sidetone when neither VFO is selected for Tx. To hear one's key before transmitting, one must hold down the PWR button, which turns it off. But in this mode, the rig still keys the amplifier. Go figure!

Feature Hype
Roofing filters are sometimes not as effective as the hype claims. I heard an S9+40 CW signal on a frequency, and even with the narrowest roofing filter switched in, S-meter still deflected to nearly S-9 with audible "clicks" as far away as 4 KHz in either direction.
W2DWL Rating: 3/5 Nov 8, 2009 16:28 Send this review to a friend
Could be better  Time owned: months
The radio could be one of the best I have ever used, with its excellent filtering and hot receive and pass band tuning; but with all the bells and whistles you would think Ten Tec would have a better manual. They should hired a professional writer. To even find how to get into memory mode has been a nightmare. So we don't use it. So what good is all the bells and whistles if you can't read how to use them. Also, I had some problems with the 2nd receive as it works when it wants to work. To justify what this rig cost it needs some help. The Jupiter is a better rig for the money and ease of operation.
N2FQ Rating: 5/5 Sep 26, 2009 19:27 Send this review to a friend
FB CW Rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Being a Jupiter owner with it's simple menu system
and QSK, I jumped at the opportunity when
an Orion I came on the market. As has been mentioned, what a super CW machine. Lots of
flexibility with antenna selections, dual
receivers, QSK and again the simple menu,
straight forward firmware upgrades, etc.

I haven't had the need to contact TT since
it's been working flawlessly. It does
what they say it does and very well.

Aesthetically pleasing according to the xyl,
a win win.
PA1AP Rating: 4/5 Mar 28, 2009 04:08 Send this review to a friend
great design  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Have been using the Orion for a couple of months now and I keep being amazed by its performance.

The concept behind the programmable AGC beats all other compromised AGC implementations I have seen so far. They have answered the question of moving the AGC threshold to a level above the band noise, which means the signals you hear (above the band noise) are not distored by AGC compression as is the case with most other rigs out there. This combined with very good front-end and good filter shape factors makes casual communication as well contest conditions a pleasure to work with...

I found the rig very easy to use and learning curve has been short. Menu's are well organized and one does not have to dive into multiple sub menu's to get something arranged.

The orion might not have the best looks (its huge) but i got very attached to its straightforward operational model and all buttons and knobs are positioned exactly where they should be.

With the dual receiver, working split is a no brainer and while tuning into the frequencies you dont have to miss anything. Sometimes i find myself listning to the dx station on sub rx and the pile-up on main rx. Swapping sub rx with main rx just requires pushing two buttons. Same applies for the transmit frequency which can be attached to either sub or main frequency by pushing one button. And all is clearly displayed by the button led's.

The rig has its special behavior and sometimes the firmware would give up on me. Running firmware 1.372 provides excellent receiving functions (RF AGC, RF Notch/NR) however there are certain conditions which would result in the need for a power cycle. Running firmware 2.x some of the great features as available in 1.37x are changed and dont work as well but refresh / control performance has been improved significantly. Ten-tec announced that an update will be released soon. Looking forward to that.

73, pa1ap
K4DZR Rating: 5/5 Mar 17, 2008 17:50 Send this review to a friend
GREAT RIG FOR ME!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have used the Orion long enough to be comfortable with its many functions. The menu system is easy to learn and easy to use. I have operated SSB, CW and AM with great reports. The receive audio is smooth. The built in speaker is FB but I fill the room with quality audio with an outboard speaker. I have all the optional filters installed so it has been fun playing with the various bandwidth, PBT and filter settings. If you like trying different setting for different conditions, you will love this radio. The noise blanker has worked well at times. I use the memory frequencies often when switching bands. Memory frequencies are recalled in a "small" sub screen at the bottom of the main screen. The built in memory keyer works well including the voice memory system. CW QSK is FB although the relay is a "tad" more noisy than my Omni VI. As others have said, read and study the manual. You will be frustrated somewhat if you don't(as with many modern transceivers). The TenTec reflector has some good reading also. The rig works great with Ham Radio Deluxe and also with DxLab Suites. With the latter, clicking on a DX spot sets the Orion to the proper mode & frequency. If the spot is operating split, the Orion automatically goes to split function and all you do is call. I have version 2.062a firmware installed. It works well for me. This is a great operating and sounding radio and the "pre-owned" prices are good. Have fun if you try one!
'73, Jerry K4DZR
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