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

Reviews Summary for Ten-Tec Corsair
Ten-Tec Corsair Reviews: 23 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $(missing—add MSRP)
Description: 160-10 Meter HF Transceiver
Product is in production.
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KG0WX Rating: 4/5 Jun 13, 2008 04:39 Send this review to a friend
Classic Ten Tec  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
My opinion of the Corsair might be a little biased
because mine is a full station and has all the options
and mods installed - YMMV.

I hesitated buying the Corsair because of some of the
reports here that talked about a noisy receiver. Mine
does have a little bit of noise but after doing a
little work & tests I found that the noise is white
noise coming from the AF amplifier stages (that's why
the PBT, aka IF shift, has no effect on the noise). I
have found a mod at:

The mod simply taps a point in the receiver *before*
those amplifier stages, feeding pure base band audio
to your PC. Works wonderful!

I also noticed that the waveform for the CW side tone
was AWFUL. Go to this web page:

With this mod I now have a nice side tone. You can also
add a trimmer pot to the SPOT button to tweak it's
side tone freq.

My Corsair has all the filters and I am fairly
impressed with the performance. I can't imagine trying
CW on a contest weekend without them!

Other features I like:

The finals use a different form of SWR protection and
as a result, you get full power (no fold back) over a
much wider range.

Built in SWR meter.

ALC & VOX controls are adjustable on the front panel.

Super fast TX/RX switching with a fairly quiet relay
- full QSK for CW.

Flexible offset controls (aka RIT/XIT).

This is also one of the few rigs I've owned that has
a processor that is really usable. I run mine at about
1 o'clock and nobody seems to notice it in my TX audio.

Despite the fact that this is a 100% solid state rig,
there is a "drive" control on the front panel. I find this
VERY useful for SWR checks - I switch the rig's mode to
"Lock" (MOX or PTT on) then advance the drive just enough
to check my antenna. Instead of putting out 100 watts for
2-4 seconds, I put out only a brief burst of low power RF.

I also have the rare model 263 external VFO (serial #003)
and if you work contests or hunt DX this is a must have!
It does all the classic functions of an external VFO but
the real bonus is that it allows you to listen to two
freqs at the same time (dual receive). I think this might
be one of the first rigs that could do that. There is
even a balance control on the front panel of the 263 that
allows you to adjust the audio from both freqs.

The Notch filter is excellent, btw....

Now - all is not beer and skittles with this setup - there
are a few nits to pick:

The PTO is a little unstable and touchy and the S-meter
takes some getting used to (works more like a AGC meter).
The stock mic is poor but I plan on rebuilding the innards
to fix the TX audio so it will match my Heil boomset. The
noise blanker is, like most rigs of the era, useless. I
think there might be a mod out there for that last one.....

Got a Corsair and can't hear any SSB traffic on 17m? That's
because on 17m you need to reverse the SSB to "SB-R" for
that band....

AM BCB interference is also an issue on the lower bands but
there is a mod out there for that, too.

I'd give this rig a 4.8 if it wasn't for the PTO but as it
is, she earns a 4.0 unless you add the 263 external VFO in
which case she earns a solid 4.5 .

All I need now is a Titan III and a Orion II to complete my

NB7I Rating: 4/5 Apr 2, 2008 17:14 Send this review to a friend
Worthwhile American Rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I picked up a well used Corsair a few months back, noisy pots, peeling paint, warbling PTO and all. After some TLC, a call to Ten Tec (They do still care) and a potentiometer off E-Bay, the old Corsair is working like new.
I disabled the klunky amplifier relay, and the QSK on slow is spotless. The AGC on fast does create an annoying pop.
Run the RF gain at 12 o'clock, and leave the rf amp off, unless you need it on the higher bands. Stability is within reason for it's age, drifts about 300hz from a cold start and then stabilizes. The counter display has to stabilize its own oscillator, too.
One noted oddity is the 18mhz band normal sideband selection is LSB. You use SSB - Reverse on this band!
All in all, it's an easy to use radio, and looks good sitting there.
N2DTS Rating: 4/5 Mar 5, 2008 20:08 Send this review to a friend
great receiver!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just got one of these, cleaned and lubed the PTO, it works well with some new grease in it.

The receiver is fantastic, on cw its great, ssb is a bit fast tuning, but it sounds good.
The filters work fantastic, as does the passband tuning, best I ever used.
Compairing the corsair to the 756 pro 3, the corsair sounds much quieter and cleaner, at least on 80 and 40 meters.
I did a/b comparisons, and its corsair hands down.
CW break in seems good, things seem stable, the rig is well built, and looks to be on the simple side compaired to modern rigs, and it looks easy to fix.
I dont have a manual yet, so dont know how Ten Tec got such good performance out of the receiver, I suspect its partly the simple design, and the pto, no dds noise and so on.

I give it a 4 as it lacks some modern features I suppose, but the performance is VERY good in my book.
So far, its the best receiver for CW I have run into, better then the pro3, better then the K2, at least it sounds much better...

It has the advantage of being very inexpensive, its very nice looking, you can play around inside the radio, there is even a lot of extra space in there, and the sound out of the receiver is very good by todays standards, its easy to listen to.

WK9L Rating: 5/5 Jun 8, 2007 12:22 Send this review to a friend
Great CW Radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I always enjoyed using this radio, The band pass tuning is one of the best ever made, And I am not a Ten Tec fan. But this radio for its age
is a very good all around rig. I dont have any fancy test gear I am just going on what my ears
heard and the reports I got.
SM6VJA Rating: 3/5 Apr 2, 2007 11:24 Send this review to a friend
Good, not great  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought a Corsair I to have me a decent radio after my “hot-rod” FT-301 got tired after 30 years of service. The Corsair has the sharp 12-pole roofing-filter and the 250 Hz filter for CW mounted. When I read the reviews I got a picture of an old school high-performing rig that even today beats lots of new radios in performance.
So, what do we have here? Let us start with the good news:

My first impression working it was that it performed well in crowded contests and pile-ups. The interference from strong stations nearby was not bothering at all. In other words, the oscillator phase-noise is good and the selectivity of the filters is good as well. The QSK, notch and noise-blanker are also doing the job as far as I have needed these functions. A good fundamental performance is definitely there.
Looking at the Corsair I receiver design with radio-engineering eyes, TenTec´s philosophy has been to spend your money on the best possible strong signal performance (intermodulation) and suppression of adjacent channel interference.
Now, let´s take off that TenTec -hat…

Negative #1:

The receiver is a bit too noisy. When the conditions are quiet and you need to copy that weak DX CW-signal so badly, pulling in the CW-filter will not help you out.
It will not make the weak signal climb out from the noise. The narrow filters will only help to clean up the channel from QRM. The signal-to-noise ratio does not improve at all… This is a drawback of the chosen design philosophy where strong signal handling is put ahead of receiver noise. So, the higher noise is a part of the plan.
I measured MDS –figures in my lab and found it to be -123 dBm for both SSB and CW. This is an OK MDS-figure for shortwave use and corresponds to a noise figure of 14 dB. The CW-bandwidth is roughly 10 times lower and should give an MDS in the -130 dBm region, which does not happen. This design philosophy is not as bad as it may seem. The atmospheric noise is in the most cases dominant and makes the receiver MDS less important. BUT in the cases when the antenna-noise and signals are low, the receiver noise nearly dominates the atmospheric noise, which is wrong.
A noise figure around 10 dB would be desirable for the 10 meter band. A slightly different gain distribution in the receiver would solve the problem without degrading the strong-signal capabilities by much. Adding a good audio-filter will help digging out the weakest signals. Turning the NOTCH to around “7” also reduces the noise a bit.

Negative #2:

When the conditions are great and you connect the radio to a good multi-band vertical antenna, you will hear BC-QRM among the desired signals. The damage is done and no RF-ATTENUATOR will help.
I don´t know what they were thinking at the TenTec-office that cold Monday morning when the Corsair frequency-plan was made. The bad choice of down-converted sidebands is surprising when one can see that a lot of good thinking has been done when designing this radio. It is OK up to the 10 MHz band. The receiver image-frequencies for 28-30, 24, 21, 14 MHz end up at 10-12, 7, 3 and 4 MHz region, where we have strong broadcast-stations. The fixed front-end filters are not sharp enough to stop these image-signals. More than 100 dB of image rejection would be required to make a S9+50 dB broadcast station vanish. My YAESU FT 301 from 1976 has the same old 9 MHz IF, but they were clever enough to put all the image-frequencies above the received frequency. By doing so, the less sharp front end filters above 14 MHz becomes good enough. And there are no BC-stations in the image-region 32-48 MHz. And USB/LSB stays the same whatever band you operate.
The transmitted signal is quite “dirty” with a lot of spuriouses that will grow strong when a
1 kW linear amplifier is added.

Negative #3:

The AGC pulls up to maximum RF-gain and distorts the received signal when QSK-TX is used. This is very annoying when there are strong stations on frequency.

This is absolutely not the best radio made by man. But it works well and with some know-how it can easily be improved to be a really good performer. After modifying the RIT/XIT to reach up to +25 kHz for split operation this radio gives me what I need for DX-working. It´s a good radio for the $250 I gave for it, I´ll keep it. I think there are radios as good or better for that money. A FT-102 DM could have been a better choice…

I rate it 3. That’s where it stands today, not in 1985.
FROMABQ Rating: 5/5 Jan 11, 2007 09:50 Send this review to a friend
Great CW Rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been using the Corsair for about 2 years now and operate CW almost exclusively.

I like the rig a lot. My Corsair is configured with all four optional filters and an external VFO. The receiver is excellent and the 500 Hz and 250 Hz filters provide great CW selectivity. On transmit the rig often gets unsolicited, great reports on its CW tone.

There are two aspects of the rig that I especially like.

First, the rig is simple to operate but provides all the features I need, including passband tuning, XIT and RIT via offset control, an effective audio notch filter, AF and RF gain control, an attenutator, and complete, continuous control over transmit power from QRPp to full power. No endless menus and setup features. Just well-laid-out knobs and switches that make for quick, efficient operation.

Second the external VFO provides some features you only see on much higher priced rigs. One of the best features -- when a DX station is operating split the external, VFO allows me to listen to both the DX station and the pileup simultaneously with a balance control to set the relative gain at the two frequencies.

Some quirks –

As others have mentioned, the audio-derived AGC tends to pop with a strong signal and this can be annoying. But this can be dealt with by balancing AF and RF gain.

The main transciever’s PTO drifts significantly when the rig is first powered up until temperature stabilizes.

CW operation is also somewhat different from other rigs. The Corsair displays receive frequency, not transmit frequency, with the result that the operator has to do a little mental arithmetic to tune to a specific transmit frequency.

All in all I’ve been very happy with the Corsair.

Mike - ke5akl
VE3CI Rating: 5/5 Sep 22, 2006 18:38 Send this review to a friend
Beautiful design and excellent performance.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned the Corsair (bought it used) for at least 10 years and find the design is still top notch. It uses direct single conversion to 9Mhz with an excellent balanced mixer and separate front end bandpass filters for each amateur band. The IF uses a true bandpass filter system with a second cascaded xtal filter. The 500hz or 250hz filter can be moved across the 2500hz bandpass with precision. In addition the IF is followed by an audio notch filter and then an audio derived AGC circuit. The result is magic when working CW or a digital mode like PSK. I note that one of best performing receivers available today is the Elecraft K2 ... and I see that they use a similar design to the venerable Corsair!

As several other reviewers have mentioned, the PTO (analog) takes a little time to warm up and stablize. I solved the problem by using Xtal control ! The external VFO allows the selection of 4 different xtals. I chose them to put me on my favorite CW and PSK frequencies. Using a computer sound card and software such as MixW it is possible to work 2.5Khz around each of the xtals. Instant stability!

PS .... the transceiver also looks really nice. A real winner. When the time comes to retire the old transceiver I think I will have to take a serious look at the elecraft K2 as it is the only rig available today that uses the same design approach .... with modern touches like digital frequency control ... I will also have to brush up on my kit building skills!
W9ATB Rating: 5/5 Sep 13, 2006 13:55 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I recently bought a Corsair with the 250hz cw filter as a back up to my fully filtered Omni V. I have had nothing but excellent reports on what a clean cw signal this radio puts out. It has an outstanding quiet receive and of course TT's legendary QSK. I can't comment on SSB as I don't own a microphone. It does take a few minutes to warm up but that is not a problem. For the time being the Omni V is my backup to the Corsair.
N6GEO Rating: 5/5 Dec 1, 2005 22:29 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding Rig!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I normally operate QRP and normally operate a NorCal 40A (backpacking) or a Yaesu FT-817. Now that we're in the bottom of the sunspot cycle, I've been forced to go QRO. After a bit of research and some fortuitous shopping on eBay, I scored an exceptionally clean Corsair with filters. This rig is everything people say it is; a simple to operate xcvr, with good QSK, an exceptionally quiet receiver, SSB audio with speech processing that gets unsolicited compliments, and it has passband and notch filtering that really works! Although I already own one of those modern DSP audio filters, I don't find that the Corsair needs it (in fact, I leave the DSP on my FT-817).
Despite the fact that I could afford to spend more and have an up-to-date rig, I'm really enjoying this Corsair and I think I'll cruise through to the cycle upswing with my "retro" station!
WA2MGB Rating: 5/5 Jul 29, 2002 00:09 Send this review to a friend
CORSAIR: Superb All Americian Rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I recently added the Corsair (I) 560 to my shack. Handsome rig, beautiful warm receive. This is my first TEN TEC and I'm VERY pleased. I've received many great comments on the audio, esp using the original issue EV made mike. Easy to operate, and great SERVICE from Ten Tec... call them on the phone...they'll answer any question! This 1983 vintage setup cost me 500. including original PS and remote VFO. A pleasure to use. This is a keeper, side by side with my Drake TR-7. Enough bells and whistles to keep anyone happy.
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