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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Ten Tec 1254 General Coverage Receiver Kit Help

Reviews Summary for Ten Tec 1254 General Coverage Receiver Kit
Ten Tec 1254 General Coverage Receiver Kit Reviews: 22 Average rating: 3.5/5 MSRP: $195.00
Description: A compact PLL-tuned general-coverage receiver that tunes 100khz to 30mhz, AM or SSB. 15 memories and you build it yourself.
Product is in production.
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KA4DQJ Rating: 2/5 Aug 3, 2019 19:05 Send this review to a friend
Maybe it's just me  Time owned: more than 12 months
Been doing this for 50-years. It occurred to me a while back that I never built a Heathkit that didn't work in the end, but I've yet to build a Ten-Tec kit that works correctly.

This little beastie looks and functions like it should; save one thing --- it's deaf. Not completely, but the sensitivity isn't there. If it's a loud station you'll never know it, but neither will you hear a weak station. I've gone through the construction a dozen times, had friends do the same, checked/replaced components, etc. The kit is properly assembled, but it just isn't usable as a receiver.

Years ago, I formed the habit of throwing problem children in the trash and thanking my sanity for it. I ran across the dust covered 1254 the other day laying behind some books. I started to throw it, but didn't. Maybe I want another go at it! The problem really could just be me. :)
EA1ETN Rating: 5/5 Jul 8, 2015 12:03 Send this review to a friend
Excellent general coverage kit  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I loved this little receiver since i saw it the first time on the internet. Being discontinued I was able to get one from a german dealer.
Even when I'm not used to kit building, I succeded to get the radio fully operative in the first run, this tells a lot about how exahustive and detailed are the instructions provided with the kit (this shows that Ten-Tec guys spend lot of time in developing a good manual with enough warnings for the most critical parts of the assembly tasks).
The only disapointing issue was that during the first power-on the radio was very noisy and seemed to self-oscillate. After reading all past reviews on e-ham I discovered that the problem was the poor quality power supply delivered with the kit and the issue that the audio amplifier is directly connected to it. After connecting the radio to my shack 12V PS, the radio started to work really well, receiving standard time signals, ham radio on 20m and 40m and even some dx station on AM, and all this with a very poor antenna system and bad propagation. It is incredible to obtain these results even when no RF measurement equipment is used for the adjustment of the unit.
The external design of the radio is really nice, and the performances are good. This kit is a clear example of the educative part of our hobby. Thank you very much to all the Ten-Tec team for the nice experience of building this radio and the hours of enthusiastic SWL that it will provide to me.
The rating (5) is based on the good performance of the radio and the excellent assembly instructions provided with it.
VK7ZJA Rating: 3/5 Jun 2, 2012 17:36 Send this review to a friend
Buy it for the kit experience, not the performance  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Looking for a compact HF receiver for the car, and it needed to be dead simple to operate. The Ten Tec 1254 was pretty much the only such option under $300. I puchased this kit fully assembled with the Cholakian upgrade already installed.
Now while this kit as built might work fine with a full size HF dipole - I can't say, don't have such an antenna due to rental property restrictions - this 1254 was destined for the car, and needed some help for this application.
As standard, the 1254 was not especially sensitive, and needed an active antenna / preamp for use on a short untuned whip in a vehicle; a suitable preamp was built and fitted with the ability to switch it out, by replacing the off/on switch with a three position switch that now becomes off/on/preamp-on. Now the 1254 is almost as sensitive as my little Degen 1103.
Next thing to adjust is the hiss... the standard offering had too much high frequency hiss in the audio. Replacing the standard filter with a Murata CFJ455K13 resulted in much less hiss, but was really too narrow, AM was way too muffled, and SSB sounded too restricted as well. So I ultimately settled on using a CFJ455I filter - which is what Ten Tec originally specified, but then went cheap with a mini plastic case CQ filter of the same 6dB bandwidth, but poorer 60dB spec - ie wider skirt.
There's still a bit too much hiss with this filter, and will need some audio stage tailoring to help.
I've tried many other suggested mods eg: PIN diode replacement, altering the IF amp stages for supposedly better performance etc. None made an appreciable difference in my view. Best to leave these as standard.
In the end, the only mods I have fitted are:
Cholakian upgraded PIC - almost essential.
Preamp - again essential if you're using a short whip, but still useful if you have a full sized balanced HF antenna to feed it with.
And lastly a copper sheet bent into an L shape to shield the display PCB... does help a lot with the display multiplexing buzz.
I'm still considering tinkering with the audio stages for less hiss, and adding a LED bar graph signal meter.

On the plus side, the receiver does sound generally quite nice, its very easy & intuitive to operate, fantastic clear display, ergonomics are very good given the size, has plenty of scope for performing mods of all sorts, and results in a reasonably well designed, good looking & useful end product. Plus you get that "I built it myself" satisfaction, and learn a lot about receiver design along the way.

So overall impression?
As a kit, I can see the poor manual would be frustrating for a beginner or even intermediate constructor. Persistance will pay off in this regard though.
As a receiver, the end product is OK. For the price & effort you put put in, its comparitive value isn't as good as some of the better quality portables getting around eg: Degen DE1103 / Kaito KA1103, or Tecsun PL600 or PL660. For example, if you pay $200 for the 1254, you don't end up with twice the receiver that $100 typically buys you. You'd buy the 1254 not for its performance, but for the kit building experience - or like me you had a very specific reason for buying it (size & easy / uncluttered to operate).
YS1RS Rating: 3/5 Sep 27, 2011 21:54 Send this review to a friend
Very good for its price! Manual quality extremely poor  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
My first Ten-Tec kit. I have experience building kits so didn't run into difficulties. The kit came complete to last component. It works extremely well for its price. Replaced my Radio Shack (made by Sagem) SW receiver with flying colors.
The manual is a photocopy and poorly made. Diagrams are not readable at all. All problems I had were due to poor quality photos in the manual.
The display is noisy, yes, it is but is even noisier the small and poor quality power supply.
One morning, the power supply was simply dead! I did what I should have done the fist day: cut the cable and connect it to my Kenwood power supply. No more noise (checked it with same oscilloscope I used before). Stable clean voltage. A friend told me they used to sell them with nicer bigger and better filtered power supplies before.
I would not recommend this kit to a beginner unless they make a better manual or at least and electronic version to download. Too many addendums and corrections that you easily forget this or that.
Nice thing about the manual? You run tests for each building block you finish and if you pass then you are OK and can continue. I like that.
On the other hand, quality of components and cabinet is superb. Works extremely well and audio is very very good. Sensitivity is also very good.
Not recommended for Hams that are CW audiophiles. You can not tune in steps under 250 hz. you have to compensate with a clarifier but it is still too wide. For ham phone conversations or to listen to SW transmissions, is the best for its price.
Regarding the failed power supply... I could have called product support and they would have sent a new one but I am outside the US, long time waiting for replacements and of same quality as the first one... I better use my Kenwood Power Supply.

Will I buy another Ten-Tec kit? Yes I will. Quality is very good. Now I know what to expect from their manuals but even with that, I enjoy building their kits.

NB5VO Rating: 1/5 Aug 31, 2011 05:33 Send this review to a friend
Poor manual, parts hard to identify, didn't work  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The price of this radio was ok for a kit. However, the diagrams in the manual could not be read for the most part but it had some redundant diagrams that if you were an engineer you could figure it out. It did not work when assembled and I have built tranceivers before and this is the first thing I ever built that didn't work. The resistor color bands are very poorly marked and made mistake of 47k instead of 4.7k because orange looked like red, get it. Sent it in and they said bad pots, whatever that means, as both were working perfect when I sent it in. Also one 4.7k was 47k which I missed when I rechecked it as first I put all 4.7k in 47k places. Charge for repair was $100 making this radio cost $300 which is of course silly for a radio like this. Also the radio passed all electrical tests and still didn't work as the manual only lists very few voltage check marks. It didn't mention to install a crystal insulator in one crystal until the very next line it said to install a crystal with the insulator. I could not remove the solder from the holes so had to remove the crystal and put wires on it isolating it from the board. Also, it said a voltage from one pin of the IC should be 5V when that pin went to GND! I would not buy any Tentec radios after seeing what kind of care they put into this thing.
AB7KT Rating: 5/5 Aug 7, 2011 16:50 Send this review to a friend
Really Nice  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I built this somewhere between six months and a year ago. I didn't have much trouble putting it together but as has been mentioned: the manual leaves a lot to be desired. Mine worked right out of the gate.
I have used it for listening around the ham bands, listening to the AM broadcast band, as well as for actual CW QSOs in conjuction with various transmitters; mostly QRP but I have used it on AM with the DX-100 and Johnson Valiant.
Yesterday I installed the upgrades from Ed Cholakian. Having the ability to tune in much smaller increments than 2.5 kHz is well worth the effort and cost of the upgrades.
This is a great kit, and a good low cost receiver that I find very useful in my shack. I really think that Ten Tec ought to update this kit with a new PIC and re-write the manual. Yeah, it has been around for a long time but I think it is still relavent and Ten Tec should continue selling it in an upgraded version.
KJ6MC Rating: 4/5 Feb 27, 2011 20:32 Send this review to a friend
A terrific, if flawed, receiver.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As the other posts have mentioned, putting the Ten Tec 1254 together was an adventure. But by taking great care, using a high-power magnifying glass (to read the poorly-printed manual) and the simple process of elimination (for identifying parts), I was able to get this up and running in about 14 hours total time. Yes, it has birdies, and the noise floor seems pretty high...but for $200 it's an honest-to-goodness superhet, and as cute as all getout! Beware: triple check before soldering on the plated-through circuit board. Should you have to remove a component after it has been soldered into place, be ready for an real adventure. I purchased the 1254 Basic upgrade kit from Ed Cholakian, and it was worth every penny to be able to adjust the dial scan rate...and more memory to boot! The low power requirements allow me to run this from a 12v Li-Ion battery from out in the backyard, away from lamp dimmers and noisy computers. A nice radio, a wonderful experience...but no, it's not perfect.
DXTUNER Rating: 3/5 Dec 10, 2010 17:18 Send this review to a friend
Great receive above 5 MHz, but otherwise...  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I'm rating this as a receiver only, because I bought it already built. First off, this is a teeny-tiny little receiver. The Palstar R30 is like a boat anchor compared to this. But the 1254's exaggeratedly miniature size adds to its 'cuteness', for lack of a better term. Like others have said, here and elsewhere, the 1254 has mighty strong audio for its size. You go too far with the volume knob and this little radio will literally dance all over the top of your table. (I mean this in a good way - I think). However, I always had somehwat of background 'hiss' with mine. Not horrific but noticeable.

It really surprised me the sideband reception in the 6, 7 and 8 MHz bands. Stupendous, really - very strong and clear reception. But, for some reason or other, I couldn't get that level of reception below 5 MHz or so. And I pulled-out all my low frequency antenna tricks, including ferrite the time I was down to the MWBC Band I found the reception close to poor. I don't know if that's inherent, or something the builder did wrong.

Because the sensitivity seemed to tail-off below 5 MHz, those loud 'tonal birdies' became a major issue - every 5 kHz or so a loud musical tone. (Good reception negated these tones above 5 megahertz). So, for this reason alone, I can only rate this a "3" as a general coverage receiver. A lot of my preferred listening is on the medium wave frequencies.
KB7SP Rating: 2/5 Aug 7, 2010 12:56 Send this review to a friend
Mediocre  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Note: I am an experienced kit builder, having built numerous kits (as well as non-kit electronic projects built entirely from schematics) beginning back in the '50s. The most involved kit I ever built was a Devtronix Paramount organ (3 manual, 32 note AGO pedalboard, 123 stop tabs, computer capture preset system) which consisted of 243 printed circuit boards; 11,677 resistors; 9,065 diodes; 2,175 capacitors; 894 transistors; 562 pots; 447 inductors; 97 ICs; 5437 wires; and 70,000+ solder joints--and it worked just fine after the replacement of a few faulty diodes and one faulty IC. I have a pretty good idea of what is involved in kit-building, and what comprises a good instruction manual.

The TenTec 1254 radio/kit seems quite well-engineered. The radio performs acceptably, although it seems not particularly sensitive, no more so overall than a Sony SW7600GR portable with its built-in telescopic antenna (which can be bought for about the same price as the TenTec 1254 kit). I give the 1254 three stars based on performance.

The 1254 manual is best described as "a disaster." It appears to have been "printed" from a not-very-sharp master copy on a not-very-sharp black-and-white copy machine, making it difficult--if not impossible--to read the part ID numbers on some of the schematics. Parts identification is too often a problem--especially given that some parts, although appropriate, do not match the descriptions. There are numerous scraps of paper on which notes and addendum items appear. The manual also contains several typos and errors; although some errors have been corrected, in at least one case the "correction" is erroneous. The manual is, in my opinion, such a disgrace that TenTec should be embarrassed to have it carry the company logo. Based on comparison to the many other kits that I have put together, I give the manual one star.

I give the kit-building experience itself two stars. Why not more? Because of the difficulty of reading the schematics, difficulty in identifying some parts, and because it seems to me that the order of parts installation could be made more logical.

Overall average: (*** + ** + *)/3 = **

Don, KB7SP
M3LCA Rating: 4/5 Apr 12, 2010 18:35 Send this review to a friend
not built yet but looks good  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Ordered the 1254 kit from Ten Tec 's UK agent .
Arrived well packed with a very comprehensive manual.
Still reading manual and wondering if I've taken on to much with this kit and perhaps should have bought a more simple kit as it's over 45 years since I've done any electronics building and they were scratch built valve ( tube ) sets.
Anyway will write a final view when it's built and I hope working ok ~ by the look of the manual they cover every aspect of the build in a can't go wrong sort of way.
Wish me luck !!!
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