My experiences with
Ten-Tec Argonaut-V

Last update 05/02/05


When you consider TenTec you need to think Internet. Is this a problem? No, just takes a bit to get used to when looking for details on the radio(s). This is not the standard (ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu) web page. It is more low keyed but usable.

The order was taken by a knowledgeable person, friendly, and helpful. All questions were answered quickly and in a pleasant manner. I forgot to ask about anticipated delivery and an E-mail handled that very quickly.

Delivery / Unpacking

When the radio came via UPS I opened it with a bit of trepidation because UPS has a reputation for being "less than gentle" around here. The box looked almost like it had been used as a football (sides and edges showing distinct signs of crushing).

As I opened the box I was very pleasantly surprised to find that TenTec does not use pre formed Styrofoam or the "peanuts" so prevalent in other manufacturers. They use the "large bubble", bubble wrap. Combine that with three - count 'em three - fully enclosed layers and you get the radio here, unscathed. I'm VERY pleased.


As detailed in the ARRL's review of this radio (April 2003, QST) this is a manual. Instructions are adequate to good (compared to the "big three" - Excellent!). This should be the "standard" for manufacturers to follow.

The only "problem" was that the Errata page was older than the manual and thus the information (page numbers and some of the content) were inaccurate.


The Quick Reference guide is helpful. It could be enhanced with information about what the user will need to change to get the radio on the air (a Quick Start Guide). What I ended up doing was to set every option in the quick reference guide, then started to use it.

I got the cooling fan option, and as reported in the QST article, it is a bit noisy. Installation was almost uneventful. I found that I had to fan out the wires (all six of them) to keep them from being pinched under the cover against one of the PC boards. It would seem easy for the board to have a notch in it to put the wires through.

"S" Meter. Once power was applied I noticed that the S-Meter indicated almost an S-3 of background noise with the antenna disconnected. It also read S-3 with a 50 Ohm dummy load attached. I tried the dummy load on two other radios and they both read an S-0 with the dummy load. Back to the Argo-V. After I tried all of the CW options (into the dummy load) I noticed the S Meter was down to S-1 with no incoming signal. Within five minutes it went back up to almost S-3.

I tried disconnecting the fans to see if they were the culprits. Nope.

S-meter - update As I use the radio more the S-meter seems to be "calming down" and not showing as much background noise as it did to start with. I'm not sure if I should be concerned or pleased. Something is changing and I don't know what.
Update on the update - It seems that the CPUs used are not receiving sufficient "burn-in" time before installation and shipping of the units. The amount of "calm down" by the S meter is directly proportional to the amount of run time for the radio. Oh well.

Micro Code Updates

I went to the TenTec web page to get the latest micro code update for the Argo-V and the writeup said that it had the 5Mhz support. Cool!         Well almost.

The download and install was per instructions and almost boring (read that good). The problem was that it did not support 5Mhz so I went back to the web page and found that there was a new update. Good. I tried to download that and was not able to. A quick E-mail to TenTec got a reply within one hour, impossible to find fault there, with the update included!

It turns out that you need to uninstall the previous micro code from YOUR computer before you install the new update. Not a problem but I would really like that information with the update from the web page (yea, I know - picky, picky, picky). After the uninstall I put in the new code and had it load to the Argo-V with no problems. So far so good. Except that the update did not enable 5Mhz. OR ANYTHING ELSE. In fact nothing would work. I spent about fifteen minutes taking notes as I tried to determine what had happened.

At that point I had the thought "Should I do a master reset?" Turns out, YES! As soon as I did, it took off and everything works beautifully.

I went back to the TenTec web site to see if I mis-read or forgot what the instructions say. No, I had followed the documented process. In looking at doc's for other TenTec units it does say to do the master reset after reloading the updates. Current doc's say:

ARGONAUT-V (Model 516)
1) Turn Transceiver OFF
2) Hold [MODE] button down while turning power on.
3) Display will read 'FLASH' indicating radio ready to be updated.
4) Start the Update program
5) Select the COM port to which the Transceiver is attached.
6) Choose UPDATE under the PROCESS menu.
7) Select the RUF file under the Process Menu.
8) The program will update the radio and report any errors encountered.
9) Radio Operation will resume when update is complete.
10) Please follow any special instructions noted during the update.
but the doc. for the next in line unit (a Jupiter model) says a master reset should be done. It would seem this is a glitch in their documentation.


I plugged in an antenna and the receiver came alive. Wondrous things happen when you hook up a resonant antenna. The first signal I copied was 40M CW from 7 land. Either the radio has a generous S meter or the band was really open tonight. The signal varied from S-9+20 to S-9+40.

I used this gem a bit on Field Day and now understand better what it is to have a real CW rig. I was able to pick a single station out of the hash with ease. If there were other stations packed too close you simply adjust the filter to what you need. The GREAT part is that you are not limited to one or two or three filters that you have to buy separately. The filter you get is adjustable from 200 cycles to 3000 cycles in width, in small increments, from a front panel adjustment that is user friendly.

I tried a few SSB contacts and the twenty watts into a vertical was quite usable. Obviously, a beam would have made a big difference, but this is Field Day (where you run batteries or generators and radios into temporary antennas). I'm pleased. In addition, the signal is about 6db down from a 100 watt rig which translates to about 1 "S-unit". That will seldom make a difference.


If you have use for a smaller, lighter weight HF rig, this one is not a compromise. It is a solid, fully functional, relatively easy to use transceiver. Nothing with all of these features will be completely "easy" to use but this comes close.

I have now been using this radio for over six months and I am quite satisfied with my purchase. I made one modification: I very carefully modified the opening in the microphone that allows audio to reach the Mic. element. This has proven to be a good idea. I now receive better audio reports than prior to the mod. and friends that know me have said that it sounds very natural. I removed what was a baffle in the opening and made sure I did not disturb the cloth inside that reduces the huff and puff if you are stupid enough to talk straight into it.


I purchased the TCXO option (High accuracy frequency compensation) to insure the rig would stay within the new 5 Mhz. "band" channels. As it turns out, even with the TCXO option, the rig does not meet the NTIA stability standard. This concerns me in that the ICOM 703 (latest of the ICOM offerings - also QRP) EXCEEDS the NTIA standard - without - having to pay for extra options!

NTIA standards call for frequency accuracy of plus/minus one part per million (ppm). The Argo-V with TCXO is plus/minus three ppm. Yet the IC703 is plus/minus point five ppm, comes with a built in tuner AND is far less expensive. Go figure.

When you look at the radios that do meet the NTIA standard, you find that most must have that manufacturers high accuracy option installed to be in compliance. A few notable exceptions (high accuracy included in the "base model") are the IC-703, IC-746 Pro. and IC-756 Pro.

Here we go again:

Two months ago I built the Elecraft signal generator (see the article in QST for details) to test the "S" meter on my TT-516. The S meter proved to be rather optimistic. I decided to try and correct that by adjusting the meter reading but could not find the adjustment point in the schematic OR instruction manual. I then wrote to TenTec asking where the adjustment pot is located. THREE E-mails later I received a VERY unhappy reply telling me to reduce the receiver sensitivity to get the S meter to read correctly. HORSE FEATHERS! TenTec seems to NOT understand customer service nor customer relations.

This last month I have had the "opportunity" to work on finding a new noise source in my immediate neighborhood. I now have an S6 to S7 noise level from 160M to about 30M. Not fun. During a 75M net I tried the noise blanker on my IC-746 to see if that would help. SHA-ZAM! Batman. Took the noise level down to S1. Happy camper. With that happy occurrence, I tried the noise blanker on the TT-516. Bad news. While you can adjust the noise blanker in the 516 to the point that it actually reduces the same noise that the IC-746 takes care of (notice I said reduces), it also introduces significant distortion in the received audio!

The maximum noise reduction setting on the 516 reduces the noise level by ONE "S" unit (compared to 5 in the IC-746) but adds enough distortion to the received audio that you can hardly understand what the person says (yes - SSB).

I am now convinced that TenTec does not have a product that is worth anything beyond full break-in CW. As it turns out, Elecraft is working very diligently on meeting or exceeding the full break-in that TenTec maintains. I'm convinced the when Elecraft attains that level of full break-in they will pull off almost all of TenTec's customers. Elecraft cares about customers. TenTec seems to think customers are a nusance.