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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF models) | Ten-Tec Orion II Help

Reviews Summary for Ten-Tec Orion II
Ten-Tec Orion II Reviews: 76 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $4295.00 With Internal Tuner
Description: Premium High-End HF Transceiver
Product is in production.
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K7NG Rating: 5/5 Jul 5, 2012 12:16 Send this review to a friend
Comparison to the TS950sd  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I don’t want to repeat more than necessary regarding the Orion-II impressions I have. I have critically compared it to a TS-950SD and have some findings in that regard that may be informative:

Main receiver.
- The TS950’s main receiver has a 12-15 KHz roofing filter followed by cascaded narrow filters in two more IFs. The Orion’s main receiver has selectable roofing filters and the rest of the selectivity comes from its DSP. The difference under crowded-band conditions is significant and readily noticeable. Assuming I had selected a roofing filter in the Orion that approximately matched the width of the mode I was using, I could hear and work weak stations nearly adjacent to strong ones, even in between strong ones. On the TS950 this was generally not possible. The TS950 has an enormous amount of narrowband rejection, but if one or more very strong stations get inside the roofing filter bandwidth, clicks, pops, and buzzes show up that can obscure and make copying a weak station very difficult.
- It was harder to use the really narrow TS950 filter (a 250 Hz. Kenwood 455 KHz filter) because of ringing. The DSP filters in the Orion are, probably, finite-impulse-response (FIR) type and they don’t ring as much as crystal or IIR filters do.
- Having very adjustable AGC characteristics also made using the Orion easier under these same conditions than the TS950, which has four predetermined AGC choices. (I include ‘OFF’ as one of the choices). High and low cut, PBT, manual notch are available on both. DSP is not present in the TS950, so the selection of bandwidth was limited but not generally found to be a problem, but auto-notch, SAF (audio peaking), and noise reduction were only available on the Orion.
- Under less demanding conditions (working the strong ones, for instance) or working on a less crowded and ‘busy’ band, where you probably wouldn’t be needing to mess with some of these functions, either receiver works fine on any mode. The Orion’s AGC and Rx audio equalizer make armchair receiving a little more mellow, perhaps.
Orion wins.

- Both the Orion in the ‘vanilla’ configuration and the TS-950 have subreceivers of different architecture and capability than their main receivers.
- On the TS950 the subreceiver only works on SSB or CW mode and has no choice of selectivity. The Orion’s subreceiver is of conventional upconversion design, lacks selectable roofing filters, but works on any mode. The Orion’s main receiver is NOT general-coverage, but the subreceiver is. The TS950 subreceiver, besides being limited to SSB and CW in a SSB filter bandwidth, is constrained to listen only in the same band that the main receiver is tuned to, as they share the preselector filter. It is possible to make the TS950 subreceiver listen elsewhere, but it won’t be sensitive because of the preselector.
- I found my particular operating style and the way the two radios access the subreceivers, plus the receiver performance, made the Orion the winner here. The best thing I found myself doing with the Orion vs. the TS950 subreceiver was listening to the Tx frequency while working split CW – something that the TS950 subreceiver doesn’t do well as it isn’t selective enough. It’s pretty much the receiver of the TS-50. The Orion uses the same DSP functions in both receivers so I could listen to ‘my’ freq in the midst of others and move around to avoid being stepped on.
- The subreceiver is the Orion’s only front-panel access to shortwave broadcasting, HF utility and WWV freqs, all of which I listen to. (Note that Tentec now offers the RX366 high performance subeceiver option for the Orion, which virtually identical with the main receiver. Losing general coverage, however, made this option unattractive to me.)
Orion wins by half a length.

SSB Transmit.
- I ran some on-the-air tests with some friends and tweaked around with the Orion mic gain, speech processing and Tx equalizer a little. In comparison with the TS950, these friends, who have known me for many years, all said that with enough fine tweaking my voice sounded exactly like me even with considerable processor added in.
- Both radios have superb transmit audio, it’s just that the Orion, with the Tx Equalizer, could be made to adjust to my voice better.
- If you’re into ESSB, the Orion can do a lot more for you without any modification than the TS950 can.
No clear winner, in my opinion (I’m not a phone guy, really).

CW transmit.
- The TS950 is known for its truncation of CW symbols, bad enough with an external keyer and worse with the internal one. I’ve found its’ QSK CW to be kind of ‘choppy’. The Orion QSK CW is close to perfect, near as I have been able to tell, and there isn’t noticeable truncation of the CW symbols. I adjusted the external Winkeyer to compensate for the crummy TS950 CW pretty well, but the Orion leaves the TS950 in the dust, as far as QSK CW goes.
- One thing I DO like about the TS950 CW is that its’ true monitor function lets you hear pretty much what is being sent out, whereas the Orion’s ‘monitor’ doesn’t work for CW; you only have the sidetone.
Orion wins by a landslide.

Internal antenna tuner.
- The TS950 tuner is slower than the Orion’s, but they work quite differently. The Orion tuner is supposed to work over a wider range of impedances than the Kenwood, but in practice I haven’t seen that – the Orion’s tuner is picky and sometimes wouldn’t tune where the Kenwood would at least try, occasionally succeeding. In practice, there were one or two situations where the Kenwood tuner would actually tune to the antenna and the Orion wouldn’t; in most ‘no tune’ situations the TS950 tuner would just keep grinding away and not find a good tune where the Orion tuner just said ‘no’ to start with.
- The TS950 tuner has memories, the Orion’s doesn’t.
- The Orion’s tuner makes more noise than the TS950’s does, but for a shorter time.
TS950 wins by a nose.

TX Metering.
- I really wanted to see the ALC, or a good fast SWR reading, or a peak hold power out reading from the Orion and it isn’t there. I’d love to see a multilayer fuel gauge on it.
A win for the TS950.

10M FM thru repeaters.
- Not that I use them, but I have some friends that like to use them and I want to join them if they ask: The Orion doesn’t have CTCSS for repeater access, the Kenwood does. If a transmit tone is selected, the A&B VFOs of the TS950 can be ‘locked’ together, allowing one to step through the repeater channels, keeping the correct offset. Orion doesn’t do that very simply. No difference in receive or transmit performance.
TS950 wins.

But I really do wish that the Orion had:
- Better TX metering,
- General coverage main receiver as standard (the LO design would allow this; only the lack of a bunch more preselector bandpass filters is the problem. The Orion won’t let you go past the ham bands on its front panel but can be computer-controlled to do so – but the receiver performance is subpar.
- Internal power supply to run from 120VAC , which could be disengaged for 13.8VDC supply (like the old FT-736 or the FT847 had).
- Higher stability TCXO, or better, allow locking to an external reference.
- CW Monitor
- A decent pan display. Having used an external panadaptor with the TS-950 (the LP-PAN and NaP3) I am admittedly spoiled and I think the Orion’s ‘sweep’ (band display) isn’t worth activating. I don’t care whether TenTec can or will implement anything better, because I’m not going to wait. I’m going to modify the Orion for an LP-PAN. I feel naked without that display.

I'm keeping the Orion, and though I'll miss it, I can't practically keep two HF rigs, so the TS950 is going to have a '4 Sale' sign on it.
KE7GSK Rating: 5/5 Jul 3, 2012 03:07 Send this review to a friend
My Best Transceiver to Date  Time owned: more than 12 months
I admit, the Orion II has a learning curve and if you are coming from the simple plug and play rigs it might seem a little daunting at first. Yes, it will take a little time and experimentation to master all of its features. So, if you like things simple, and are satisfied with restrictive parameters, than there are many rigs out there that will fit your needs.

If you want to experiment/think outside of the box, then the Orion II is the perfect rig for you. I’m constantly adjusting the transmit and receive parameters via the menu (in plain English) or front panel because I can, not because I have to. Those new to the Orion should sign up to the Ten-Tec reflector, the Orion Yahoo group and watch the videos at the Ten-Tec site, all three will talk to the many features and provide a myriad of performance suggestions.

I’m not big on report numbers as I tend to go for what feels right for me, but please do read the September 2006 ARRL review. I saw nothing wrong with it at all and while you read it just remember that six (6) years have passed and many firmware upgrades later this rig just got better. While you’re at it pull up the Sherwood Receiver Test Data report, as well. Six years later the Orion II is still near the top.

By the way, Ten-Tec can still provide parts for most of the rigs they have built within the last 41 years. How many foreign corporations can say that?

Finally, a little comparison to the rigs I’ve owned. I can only compare the Orion II to the transceivers I’ve owned so far, but with the latest firmware upgrade (Vers 3.029), it has bested my Icom IC-7700 and Yaesu FT-1000D and easily out performed my Yaesu FT-2000D. Are there features I miss about the aforementioned rigs? Sure, each radio had particular features I enjoyed but at the end of the day, the Orion II’s performance won out.
K8AG Rating: 5/5 Jun 23, 2012 17:29 Send this review to a friend
Best rig I have ever used.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Latest software is a significant improvement over what was an excellent rig. It must be adjusted properly to get a quiet background. Cranking RF Gain to 100% doesn't work for the better radios. Ringing is almost completely gone even at very narrow bandwidths. Lots of band stacking. Perhaps not perfect yet. But its getting awfully close.
N7UX Rating: 5/5 May 10, 2012 18:07 Send this review to a friend
Superb  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I came to the Orion II from a Ten Tec Omni VI+ and a Yaesu FT1000MP so I am accustomed to using a good quality transceiver. I was afraid I would seriously miss the FT1000MP but I have not looked back once since the purchase. I did buy my Orion used but it came with all the filters as well as the new sub receiver installed. I am totally impressed with both receivers in this rig. The only thing my Orion did not come with was the built in tuner. The SAF filter alone is worth the price of admission. Admittedly, I do like Ten Tec rigs (I also have an Argonaut V in the shack) I have also owned several Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom rigs but for me nothing beats the Orion II on receive.

73 all de N7UX
K7FD Rating: 5/5 Apr 6, 2012 21:12 Send this review to a friend
Orion II ***** Five Stars  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Having owned several Ten Tec radios in the past, I was familiar with Argonaut 509, Triton 544, Argonaut V, and the RX340 HF receiver. I still own the Argonaut V and up until recently, the RX340. What prompted me to purchase the Orion II was a generous trade-in offer from Ten Tec on my RX340...

It's good to know Ten Tec is willing to offer a reasonable trade-in allowance, even for a Ten Tec radio purchased in 2004!

The Orion II arrived 5 days UPS ground after Ten Tec's technicians inspected & accepted my trade-in. It was well packaged; upon close inspection, I was completely satisfied it had survived, at least cosmetically, the shipment. The acid test would be applying power...

After a quick solder job, I connected the supplied power cable to my Astron 30 amp PS and pushed the Orion II's power rocker switch. The front panel lit up like a Christmas tree, beautifully decorated with bright LED indicators here and there. The analog S meter's amber glow gave it that 'real radio' look and feel. Of course the LCD panel was a sight to behold - pictures of the Orion II do not do justice to this beauty! I settled on LCD color option 3, sort of a hunter green and mocha mix. It really looks sharp.

My particular Orion II seems to have gotten a 'knob' upgrade compared to pictures in magazines, literature, and on the web. The six small knobs are all black satin with a rubber texture. No chrome around the knobs. The VFO A and B knobs are also black satin, with rubber outer rings. Again, very sharp looking, not cheap in appearance in any way.

The Orion II arrived with the latest firmware upgrade, V3.028. I know very little about the firmware but the enclosed addendum sheet outlined changes and improvements made. One addition is SAF, Selective Audio Filtering. I tried this feature tonight on cw; it peaks the intended signal while attenuating audio outside the SAF region. It works like magic, pulling a weak signal up for easier copy. Apparently, the SAF works on SSB signals too...

Received signals, especially on SSB, are stunning. NR noise reduction, at setting 3, exhibits no discoloration of audio...& the signal just pops out of speaker! The stronger the signal the better it sounds with the NR button engaged...

There are many menu features, each one explained in great detail in the manual, which I have not yet explored. Suffice to say, it appears to be a radio ready to serve even the most seasoned operator! I would say elite contesters and dx'ers would be pleased looking at the menu's even though much of it is out of my league...

The Orion II gets five stars from this op...

73 John K7FD

KB3RSB Rating: 5/5 Mar 6, 2012 14:20 Send this review to a friend
great  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
love my orion great recive great audo , tech support exelent a little pricey but you get what you pay for,easy to operate once you get use to every thing, thanks ten tec
KO0Q Rating: 5/5 Nov 18, 2011 06:44 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Product  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned the Orion II for about 2 years and cannot be happier with the rig. Very easy to use with hefty knobs to turn. Menu and operation works flawlessly.

My only peeve is I wish it had an ALC connection on the back for my amp. No big deal, but just a wish.
KA4ICK Rating: 5/5 Nov 13, 2011 20:44 Send this review to a friend
Ten Tec’s Flagship Radio Continues to Fly High!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I always dreamed of owning a top gun radio and those dreams became color with the introduction of Ten Tec’s Orion II…

I first laid my eyes on the Orion II at Ten Tec’s hamfest several years ago. Having the Original Orion, will this second generation bring anything to the table besides a color screen? Would it be as impressive in my shack?? The short of the answer is Yes!!!!; and exceeds expectations!

To set the stage, I am experienced with all of the most recent Ten Tec HF rigs and with some of the more modern "other brand" radios. My favorite modes of operations are SSB/ESSB ragchewing, DXing, CW, AM, and digital modes. I even enjoy the major contests only to listen for and pounce on those rare contacts I need. And recently, I have enjoyed chasing DX on 160 meter CW.

Precision is the rig's middle name; no guessing at any of the controls such as mike gain, PBT, etc. So no guessing games here going between settings for different operating styles or modes; i.e. Each control is represented by a number; want to do 20wpm in cw, set the control to 20.

The rig's foot print looks exactly like the original Orion, but once you power it up, those thoughts of the original Orion is gone as the color screen lights up! The receiver is what sets this new model apart from the rest as you can snuggle right up next to a strong signal during a contest, for example, and use the appropriate filter to block them right out.

You will find the radio is very easily configured. You use a simple, well laid out menu to set up things that do not change very often. This menu uses plain English that is easily understood and not some code system. The radio itself has a solid "feel". The Orion II is also highly customizable. For example, the AGC can be fully adjusted for Hang, Decay, and Threshold. There are so many other customizable options that will enable you to adjust the radio for your operating style or propagation needs. But you can just as easy take the defaults for great performance out of the box.

I have heard several Orion II's on the air and can honestly say that the transmitted audio is what caught my attention, since I love listening to great audio. The Transmit BW and low freq roll-off along with a TX EQ adjustments allows for customary tailoring of your desired transmitted audio. And of course the Monitor feature allows you to hear your adjustments through a set of headphones. The mic input is the same as a Yaesu 8 pin connection. The receiver is flat down to 50 hz without the need for any external equalization. This is a perfect choice for a “still in production” radio with out of the box ESSB capabilities.

Working CW is so smooth. I watched the Ten Tec video on the Orion II before buying and actually went back and forth on the QSK demo portion. Was the QSK really this smooth and click free? Yes! The transition is very smooth and the weight adjustments add to your personal preference with the built in keyer.

The receiver is so quiet and can be adjusted so that the background is reduced so that a received signal "pops" out of the noise. This is especially true with noisy band conditions, for example, on 160 cw listening for that rare DX contact.

Also, during recent contests, I had the opportunity to see how "bullet proof" the receiver’s front-end really is. During these contests I had several opportunities to snuggle up to a strong station, and quickly via a front panel control, reduce the bandwidth, and also the Pass Band (if needed) and hear a very weak station just a KC away; and work them very easily! This little non-scientific front-end test quickly reduced my anxiety concerns of the rig's ability to hear as well as the higher priced rigs on the market.

Having a second receiver sure makes it nice working split in the pileups. A set of headphones will allow you to utilize various split modes, taking advantage of the second receiver. You can select within the menu to listen to one receiver in one ear and the other receiver in the other, for example. You can also take advantage of diversity reception with the second receiver to hear the best reception from either receiver if you had two antennas connected to the radio.

The firmware releases have been subtle, but quick and well communicated along with frequent user interaction with the software developer himself. This customer service is a reflection of the great customer satisfaction and support Ten Tec is famous for. I am not aware of any other off-shore radio manufacturer exhibiting this kind of support.

I also utilize the accessory jack on the back to interface my computer with the Orion II for recording and also for data mode communications. The input/output levels are very adequate to drive the computer applications (computer audio recorder, PSK-31 program, etc.). The levels can be controlled via the menu if needed.

In conclusion, I continue to be very impressed with the Ten Tec Orion II. Due to the flexibility, operability, and solidness of the radio, I feel it is one of the best values on the ham radio HF market today. You have the ability to operate from the default settings straight out of the shipping box, or have a full functional software controlled rig with the aid of your computer and software to take full control of the Orion II. The Ten Tec Orion tradition continues with their flagship offering!
W3WW Rating: 5/5 Aug 31, 2011 16:35 Send this review to a friend
YES - Awsome Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
Every one is entitled to an here's mine.

After 5 years with several of the finest (7700, K3, 7600 .. etc) radios, I am firmly convinced the Orion II is the overall ( price, features, performance and reliability ) most outstanding radio on the market today. After having the opportunity to compare radios side by side, I find myself gravitating back to the Orion II because of the superb audio, menu flexability and ultra quiet receiver. If the Orion II receiver is properly adjusted via the menu settings, nothing can come close for any type of operating preferences. I have been able to enjoy a CW ragchew with this radio that I could not have with competitors radios. I am a 99% CW operator but I find myself listening to SSB due to the exceptional audio quality of the Orion. Not so with the others.

As far as I'm concerned this is without a doubt, the most exceptional radio on the market today. Try it.....You will be astonished !!!!

Good Luck & 73, Don
AB1KC Rating: 5/5 Aug 30, 2011 09:09 Send this review to a friend
Awesome radio!  Time owned: more than 12 months
Ten Tec Orion II

Having owned my Orion II for almost two years I now feel as though I am familiar enough with its use to write this review. As with any complex device it takes a bit of time to develop an accurate assessment of the rig but here, a few things stood out immediately. Coming from a K3 to this radio the first thing I noticed was that the audio was much nicer to listen to. There are those who would complain about any dsp processing, but I am a child of mediocre analog radios who switched to dsp with my first Icom 746 Pro. I understand that this may not have the smooth sound of a Sherwood Engineering modified R-4c Drake but it is certainly much nicer to listen to than any radio I have owned before. I think it is head and shoulders above the K3 in audio quality. I spend a fair bit of time listening and this is important to me. I even participated in a “blind” listening test between a K3 and an Orion with a ham who thought that I couldn’t tell the difference and I could pick out the Orion every time. It is just that nice.

This brings me to the second favorite part of owning this radio, Ten Tec itself. I can not imagine the difficulty they must suffer through in trying to deal with the “amateur public” (I am including myself here!) but they have shown me nothing but an unwavering desire to support their products. I am amazed at the ease I have in contacting people to help with my “issues” and concerns. I am forever a Ten Tec customer as a result of the way they have helped me on numerous occasions. That is not to say that I always like what I am told, “No you can not have…... modification made to this rig, it simply will not work” or that an issue is in my own implementation of the rig into my shack. They always take my calls though and they are always helpful.

Beyond these attributes there are things about the rig that I just love: simple to use menus with names that make sense, button layout that is easy to learn and use, features that are fun to play with like diversity reception (yes I realize that the two receivers are not phase locked and are different in abilities but it is fun nonetheless!), an infinite number of ways to combine two receivers and three antennas etc. I just really love this rig!

In summary

The good:

Company support
Audio quality both rx and tx
Ease of use
Menu structure/ control software
Technological prowess of Ten Tec
Physical size (big is good!)
Made in USA

In every review there needs to be some constructive criticism so here goes:

The tuning knobs are not my favorite things. I’d like to find a way to give this radio the knobs it deserves, something more like what Icom uses on their 7700 and 7800 would be really nice. How about an accessory knob at a ridiculous cost? FWIW I find that the knobs are not really out of round as many people complain but rather the skirts are sometimes less than perfectly centered on the knobs. You can remove the knob and play with the mounting screws and get them pretty nice if you like. I’d just prefer a really nice heavy and smooth knob.

Band scope, I suspect that this is being addressed now (hints on the Ten Tec Yahoo group). If not it is not the biggest deal as I now use an SDR radio and N4PY software to get a really nice panadapter display of the band. Point and click tuning is awesome, you have got to try it!

I would personally enjoy having more direct information from Ten Tec regarding development of software and accessories for the radio. Maybe that is la-la land but it would be nice not to feel so “in the dark”.

Ability to save radio settings in non-volatile memory. I hate doing an update and then trying to remember just how I had the radio set up. Here again the N4PY Orion software has this feature so this isn’t such a big deal.

No single radio can be perfect for every user and I suspect that all radios have their issues. I find this radio to be a delight to use and I would recommend it highly.

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