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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Ten-Tec 1253 9-Band SW Receiver (Regenerative) Help

Reviews Summary for Ten-Tec 1253 9-Band SW Receiver (Regenerative)
Ten-Tec 1253 9-Band SW Receiver (Regenerative) Reviews: 33 Average rating: 3.6/5 MSRP: $69.00
Description: The classic "first radio kit" is back better than ever! We've combined the very same audio output circuit of Ten-Tec transceivers with a modern FET design
for classic regenerative SWL receiving plus one-button electronic band switching. The result is an easy-to-build shortwave radio that's fun and interesting for the whole family. No alignment required! Simply install all parts as directed, put together the high quality mechanical parts and start enjoying the magic of shortwave radio. Explore 9 smooth tuning SWL and ham bands from 1.8 to 22 MHz at the push of a button! Receives AM, SSB and CW.
Product is in production.
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W1OBJ Rating: 0/5 Aug 24, 2016 11:37 Send this review to a friend
Should have known better  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
In the past I have put together many ham radio kits and I thought perhaps a project for a cold winter day I would get the ten tec 1253 regenerative short wave radio.I did not have any problems other than lousy color bands on resistors and inductors,but at 75 years of age my eyes are not as good as they once were.
I finished the kit and it just did not work. In the process of trouble shooting the wires soldered to the PC board would break and that became another time consuming thing. The powere switch fell apart and the soldering lug on the speaker fell off when soldering .so much for cheap junk.
I lost my interest in the radio ,it's not worth throwing in the junk box. Jim
KJ6MC Rating: 4/5 Aug 15, 2014 22:39 Send this review to a friend
A kit like no other!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
My kit building experience goes back to my first Heathkit DX60B, that I somehow got on the air while in high school.

After reading the reviews and the instruction manual, I did exactly as suggested, threw my confidence (but not competence) out the window and read and re-read each step of the manual until I completely understood exactly what was being conveyed.

I carefully measured each resistor, and used a 8x jeweler's lupe to decipher the color-coded inductors. It's not SMT, but a good quality lighted/magnifier lamp will become your best friend.

My only issue was with a resistor (R8?), listed as both 470ohm AND 4.7K.

The result? A fully functional, quirky, fun radio that actually works. Yes, the band switching is less than perfect and tends to skip over bands occasionally when pressed. and you need the skill of a safe cracker to get the tuning and regeneration just right. But it does give me new appreciation of those sturdy pre-superhet radio pioneers...before tuning a radio became like using a toaster.

This is not going to be anybody's favorite radio based on performance. But for the fun and adventure alone, it's well worth $93 and a couple of hours with a soldering iron!
KC2TZX Rating: 4/5 Aug 26, 2013 10:54 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good kit...OK receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After reading all of the comments regarding this kit I thought I might've been biting off more than I could chew as I've never really built anything like this before. My wife bought me a 1254 kit a few years ago and when I saw what that entailed I didn't think I could handle it so I bought this one and some other smaller, cheaper ones to train on.

I inventoried the parts and found everything was included and packaged well. I separated and labeled the parts I thought might be confusing to me later on. I followed the instructions VERBATIM, checking off each box as I accomplished the task.

I read that the pots some of you received were bad so I check each with a VOM and all checked out well.

A lot of comments were made about not being able to read the color codes on the inductors. I had trouble with a couple but if you can properly (and will easily) ID the other 7 the remaining two that are hard to read fall into place so I had no trouble there either.

The other negative comments I read here was about the two sided bandswitch board. Many didn't know what components went on which side. I looked at some videos of this unit online and saw the front of the board would HAVE to have the band LED's, and the push button bandswitch. That's it. When I looked at the board it was clear how everything mounted EXCEPT the switch. I knew it went on the front but the solder pads were also on the front. The manual didn't specifically cover it but I gathered the switch was soldered on the same side as the switch itself, not on the reverse side as every other component is. They should've pointed that out in the manual more clearly. The entire board, as others have said, should be redesigned at some point, it's kind of a mess and could use a rotary knob. You have to CAREFULLY position the board front and back to get the switch to work and it's a millimeter either way.

I did take advice and used an IC socket to mount the chip...I also tried a modification by adding a DPDT toggle (center off) so I could chose to add in or take out the extra sensitivity option with L10 and C34. I brought two wires up to the switch and wired in L10 but when I tested it it actually made the receiver less sensitive. I'm thinking the long wires caused that. I disconnected it and used the supplied toggle and found it was plenty sensitive without that modification.

Regarding the wires, I didn't have any problems with the wires supplied but you might want to get more durable ones. CUT THE WIRES TO THE SPECIFIED LENGTH OR A LITTLE LONGER! It'll save you grief later...I heeded that from others and it was very good advice.

After each phase, when a test was called for, I performed it and each one was a success. One very small problem I had was when I went to test the bandswitching...the lights would jump all over the place and not in order as they should've. I saw I had an extra electrolytic cap and read the addendum and sure enough when I soldered it in over the diode on the board the bandswitching worked perfectly.

I hooked up a 10 foot antenna in my basement and tried it out and I immediately got regeneration on every band and picked up a lot of stations with the short antenna and no ground. When turning the regen knob clockwise there was a definite point where the receiver would whistle and backing it off a hair would yield pretty good reception.

My only disappointment came when I was doing final assembly. After I put the battery compartment in and closed up the shell, the regen didn't work was well as it did with the covers off. I'm assuming it had something to do with all that additional metal or maybe the battery compartment hit something in there as it's a very tight fit. If that wasn't a problem, I'd give it 5 stars. Also, on some bands, when a very strong station was tuned in (like 6020 radio China)rejection to other frequencies was non existent. In fact, one night one station ate up almost and entire band and walked all over the other signals.

One other mod I did was to wire in a BNC connector to make attaching an antenna easier.

Over-all I'd have to give it 4.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone with some kit building experience. As others have said, there is a disclaimer in the instructions that the experienced builder will have the most problems which is probably true. So, if you've been in this hobby for decades and built a lot of kits, check your pride at the door to your workshop/shack and pretend this is the first one you've ever done and I'll bet you'll do OK.
KD6HZY Rating: 2/5 May 2, 2013 20:31 Send this review to a friend
Read all the reviews before purchasing. Experiences differ.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months

Ten-Tec Model 1253 Regenerative Receiver Kit.

Everyone at Ten-Tec should have to assemble one of these.

I bought the Ten-Tec 1253 because of a positive experience with a $5 flea market Radio Shack Archer regenerative radio. It worked surprisingly well and I wondered just how good a transistor regenerative could be.

I always read the eHam reviews before buying. I don't always listen. I purchased the 1253 hoping that I would be one of the satisfied reviewers.

The Ten-Tec kit was not fun to assemble because I couldn't visualize what it was going to be. I usually strike out on my own and just put a kit together. This simple kit was not intuitive and I had to follow the tedious instructions pretty much from start to finish.

It didn't work at first and I ordered multiples of all semiconductor parts as spares. Total about $15 so not too bad. I had to replace a JFET and the board trim pot to make the radio regenerate on all bands.

It's built like a tank. Nice USofA hardware stuffed with foreign parts. You'll get proficient at final assembly after the 6th time.

The manual says an experienced kit builder makes the most mistakes. Reading the comments here helped me avoid most errors. A novice builder might not have the patience, knowledge and skill to assemble this radio and make it work. This is not a kit for the experienced builder or for the novice.

I wish I had paid attention to the reviews and taken the family out to dinner rather than wasting several days messing with this kit.

My construction tips are: 1: An Otter full spectrum light and magnifying lens will resolve the colors on the inductors. 2. Go ahead and mount the LED's on the display boards but leave 1/4" of lead uncut. You may find you need to extend the LED depth on final assembly. 3. Replace R6 with a high quality 10 turn trim pot. 4. Tap the mounting holes for the battery compartment and exterior case and use regular 6-32 screws. 5. Throw away the provided stiff brittle hook up wire. It will bring only grief. 6. Use sockets for the IC's and transistors. I cut a standard DIP socket for the transistors and the audio chip. 7. Don't add more than an inch of wire for the L10, C43 modification as it will cause unwanted oscillation. 8. Read the other eHam reviews for additional tips and good ideas.

Bottom line, the old Radio Shack Archer kit works better and is easier to adjust than the Ten-Tec 1253. I am disappointed.
WB3T Rating: 5/5 Nov 15, 2012 18:24 Send this review to a friend
Follow-Up  Time owned: more than 12 months
Like all new toys, I played with this for a while and now only use it occasionally on a nightstand with a short indoor antenna. Tonight I decided to put it back in the shack and connect a real antenna and I am once again surprised at how well this radio works. As I read through some of the old posts I see a few dissatisfied kit builders, and to them I would say use a dipole, vertical, or other "real" antenna. The difference between that and a "chuck of wire" antenna is huge.

Tonight I listened in on CW and SSB QSOs on 160, 80, and 40 meters. It does take some tweaking of the RF Gain, Regen, and Fine Tune controls to get it in, but that's half the fun, and the whole reason to build a regenerative receiver! For good measure I listened in on an 80 meter AM QSO as well, and as I write this, I am listening to SWBC (Voice of Russia). Earlier I picked up China and several other DX and domestic SW stations.

This is a good, inexpensive, and fun radio to build and use. Now if you're looking for a "set it and forget it" shortwave receiver for casual armchair AM listening, there are other choices but in this price range you won't get CW or SSB.

If you like listening to a radio you built and you want ham reception on a budget, this is tough to beat. But it IS a hobby radio.

I recently dusted off my old 1957 vintage Heathkit DX-40 novice transmitter and was thinking of picking up an old tube receiver to use with it this year on Straight Key Night, but I may try using the Ten Tec regen instead. Talk about nostalgia! This is why I listened in on CW QSOs tonight, to see if the radio could hold a frequency and a readable signal. It passed the test.

In 1975 I bought my first shortwave/ham receiver when I was a young, broke father with a lazy wife who wouldn't get a job if the Earth caved in. I had to settle for the Radio Shack Globe Patrol regen, and it was a nightmare made of plastic. This Ten Tec is actually usable for light to medium duty ham use, especially if you really want to build your own and are on a budget. It is way more stable and way less frustrating. It's solidly built on an aluminum and steel chassis and in the world of regen, mechanical integrity = frequency stability. It is built like a tank.

As an extra, the manual is a fun read. It's not only a construction manual, but a bit of a radio history lesson and circuit theory tutorial as well. I just re-read it after having it stashed for two years and enjoyed it over dinner.

FUN FUN FUN. Love it. And I have built literally hundreds of kits since 1963. (Not an old f@&t, I just started young.)

I have done a few radio videos on youtube, I may do one soon for this to show how well it can work when used with a proper antenna. Look for aerobob427.


K8JHR Rating: 4/5 Jul 10, 2012 12:39 Send this review to a friend
Overall good kit experience  Time owned: more than 12 months
Overall, this was a good kit building experience. The manual needs updating, as it is a photocopy and there is an errata sheet that changes a few of the instructions along the way. Much better to build the manual in a word processor, and save it as a PDF file, so it can be quickly and easily updated whenever a change is made. Having to mark the instructions with the changes is too old fashioned and inconvenient.

The kit goes together pretty much as set forth in the manual, but the band switching scheme is a bit fiddly and tedious - there must be a better way to accomplish the band switching circuit - maybe with a multi pole, multi throw rotary switch, but that can be confusing, as well, so I guess TenTec picked its poison.

Overall build quality is high, and components seem high quality. I disagree with the previous reviewer who thought it was difficult to determine which side of the board the parts go on... I am a new kit builder, and it was painfully obvious which side one was working on. I suspect a novice builder will carefully follow the instructions, while an experienced builder may tend to out-think the designer and quickly populate the board and start soldering because he knows how it goes... while the manual expressly recommends otherwise. As the other reviewer says, the board is printed on only one side, so it is fairly easy to identify which side is the business side at any given moment.

The radio works as it should, but regenerative receivers are inherently fussy and difficult to tune, but with a little practice, it works rather well for an inexpensive kit.

Economically, you can buy better radios for the money. I believe modern manufacturing processes have developed such that it is cheaper to just build the dang radio, at the factory, than to mess with assembling all the parts for a kit, so you should not buy this kit if you are looking for a finished radio that is worth the price. You are paying for the kit experience, and the extra handling kit assembly requires of the kit vendor. It is a fun little radio to run, but not the best rig for the money. I think some reviewers expected it to be more radio when finished.

Overall a good kit-building experience and the resulting radio is fun to play with - mine sits on the nightstand and I mess with it when I have trouble sleeping during the night. Antenna is a 50 foot (+/-) random wire closed in the window sill, and running out to a tree in the yard.

I give it a rating of 4 because the manual and instructions are adequate, but should be better, and some of the construction is a bit fiddly and does not have to be.

Just MY take... // K8JHR //
W8RMV Rating: 3/5 Mar 9, 2012 15:31 Send this review to a friend
Fun PITA  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Expectation will decide whether you like this radio or not. My instruction booklet was clear but it did have too much errata. The radio is a big departure from a superhet. The fun part is being able to tune what was not there a second ago at a previous setting. The PITA is when you can hear a signal but unable to tune it in. I feel that the sensitivity is not quite there on my unit. But that may be operator error. Paul at TT was very nice & a big help. I had a bad RF gain pot & he got it out to me in a couple days. Then he told me that TT has changed a few resistors on the more recent kits. R2=680 (was 6.8K) and R8=470 (was 4.7K). This permits regen to occur much easier on the top 2 bands. You can just tack them over the existing resistors or under the board as there is a 10:1 ratio of resistances. Close enough for government work & regens. That change helped a lot!! I also put in a toggle switch in the left front for the extra sensitivity option. I then put a fabric washer behind the main tuning knob to dampen its feel. I put some black stretch fabric over the speaker before mounting it to the case top & then sealed the frame around the edge with coax seal tape. A good true earth ground will help a lot with this regen as it does with a lot of receivers. Lastly I added a SO-239 to the back. The 1253 will not replace any of my receivers, but I am glad I have it. Whenever I feel like a challenge, I pull it out & play. If I could give it a 3.5, I would. 73!
KA4DQJ Rating: 2/5 Dec 23, 2011 18:21 Send this review to a friend
Caution Experienced Kit Builders  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
All I can offer at this point is a warning to experienced kit builders... your experience will work against you. I think psychologists call it "negative transfer", where past experience is an impediment. 35-years and dozens of kits from all manufacturers didn't help me a bit. In fact; it may have done me in right off the bat.

I read the instructions, which offered a chance to go build the bandswitch board first. A small board it is, so I decided to finish it first.

The bandswitch board (one with all the lights has components mounted on BOTH sides. Ten-Tec refers to the sides as FRONT and BACK. A correctly assembled board will have both components and solder on both sides. The problem is that the board is NOT screened that way... the screening is for a single-side board, with all component locations marked on one side.

There is a 3-column chart identifing which side each component is to be mounted/soldered on, despite the single-sided component printing. I found that both the text and the low-res diagram in the copier-grade instruction manual added to my confusion. If you successfully built the kit I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Long story short, I had the components mounted incorrectly, (which was really correctly), changed them back to correctly (really incorrectly), and when it came time to mount the board to the chassis face I realized that I had still reversed the front and back of the board, so that the board and controls wouldn't fit or function. Except for the fact that the finished board wouldn't fit the panel holes, I still can't swear from the assembly instructions which is the front, and which is the back of the board.

Ten-Tec uses a high-quality plated-thru board, which is disadvantaged in that misplaced parts cannot be easily corrected. An entire board full of misplaced components is essentially junk; either impossible or impractical to repair.

So, I called to re-order those parts of the kit I had botched. Uh-oh, it's Friday after hours, so I'll try the website. Sure enough, there it is... a page headed with "Parts Request. Nice! Except that the entire webpage contains on a single sentence, "There are no products in this category."

So, after a re-evaluation of my desires and priorities, I dumped the kit into the junkbox.

So, I didn't get very far into building this particular kit, but my take is that it uses very odd construction practices with instructions that are less than clear on what appears to be a xeroxed assembly pamphlet. But, one excellent point in the instructions which is repeatedly made is to forget what you know and follow the text (if you can understand it).

I can second that. When you set down before this kit, make certain you have left your knowledge, your experience and even your common sense at the door. For you old guys, this ain't no Heathkit. Then again, what else is?
KG5IF Rating: 4/5 Dec 8, 2011 23:02 Send this review to a friend
Good kit worth the money  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Iíve been eyeing this receiver for a while and after looking at NG9Dís you tube video I called Ten Tec up and placed and order. A few days later the kit arrived. I found the kit packed well, no missing parts, good quality pc board and the kits case is very professional looking. This was my first kit since my Heathkit days while serving in the Navy. For me this was a two day project a good diversion on a rainy weekend. A few things aided my success with this kit. Reading the manual before starting assembly, following the instructions, good lighting, and a Weller WES51 temperature controlled soldering iron (worth every penny) and Kester 63/37 solder (much better than 60/40). After installing parts and doing the tests during assembly the kit was finally constructed. The kit comes with an internal battery holder for 8 C cells to provide 12 volts or you can run it off a good 12V supply. On my external 12 volt supply my kit draws only 40ma. Connecting a short piece of wire brought signals booming in during the evening and an 80meter dipole dramatically increased the number of signals heard. During assembly I installed the radio with the extra sensitivity option. The manual goes over this topic in detail and there is an option to install some standoffs to allow the sensitivity option (a capacitor and inductor) to be easily added or removed. In hind sight Iíd suggest this route as the increased sensitivity makes the receivers regen and RF gain control setting much touchier. Pay close attention to the inductors itís easy to get them mixed up. I found it was best to sort them by band and lay them out in order as to not confuse them. The colors are difficult to read against the green background of the inductor. TenTec also included a fix for the key bounce on the band switch which apparently was an issue on earlier models. Installation of this cap seemed to cure the band switch issues and it switches from one band to the other as it should. The only drawback I saw in this kit was the manual. It had a couple errataís showing changes and the manual appears to be photo copied. Iíd suggest to Ten Tec to update their manual and include a new rev of the manual any time changes are made. Other than the manual this kit was a fun kit to build and operate. The controls take a little getting used to. For the price and being a regen receiver it was worth the price and Id buy it again.
NZ5L Rating: 1/5 Oct 18, 2011 16:34 Send this review to a friend
Save your money  Time owned: months
Recently completed this kit (now $89 + S/H) and was expecting great things. I did the progress checks and they all checked out OK. It went into "regen". The bandswitch button made the little green LEDs dance around the panel. OK, hook up 12V and an antenna and ----awful! Broad as the proverbial door, with the strongest foreign stations even bleeding over into adjacent bands. Sound quality alright on strong stations, but can never quite separate them. Maybe I'm using too much antenna - a very long wire. Anyway, it has made me realize why you don't see many regens around anymore. I should have used the money to take my family out to a nice restaurant. As for the "fun" of building a kit, it is the most effort for the least result I can imagine. Fool me once, etc---.
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