Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DRMNA Exclusive - Interview with Mike of PantronX, maker of the Titus II

Loyal DRMNA readers... Here is an up-to-the-minute interview with Mike of PantronX. What you are reading is an Internet Exclusive! I am really enthusiastic about the Titus II and this interview does nothing to diminish that!

Mike, please give us brief background about yourself and PantronX:

Pantronx is a group of engineers, sales, marketing, and business people that specialize in OEM / ODM electronic controls and systems with a world wide customer base.  We generally design and manufacture electronics that are incorporated into our customer's products.   As the Chief Engineer, I have been designing all sorts of electronics for well over 35 years.

Can you tell us a little about the process taken to develop the new receiver?

We became aware of the need for a digital capable receiver by a visit from TWR representatives about three years ago. Having designed RF products and receivers in the past, it intrigued me that there were no low cost method to receive DRM.  This began research into the problem.  Initially we envisioned and designed what we call an ATU (Antenna Tuner Unit) that plugged into a 'standard' Android tablet.  Unfortunately as time and testing proved, ready made tablets had varying problems from vendor to vendor, model to model.  The decision was made about a year ago that we had to do our own Android 'tablet' and integrate the ATU into it.  Hence the Titus II was developed.

How long has PantronX been developing the DRM receiver?

Actually Titus II is not a DRM receiver.  In its present form it is a SDR (Software Defined Radio), so first and foremost it is a general purpose computer with a wide band receiver built in.  The application(s) - like any other app allow the computer to function as desired.  With that in mind, all sorts of RF applications are possible to run on Titus.  The DRM app is actually the open source Dream Linux app that was converted to run under Android.

Do you have any development / R&D partners?

Yes, our development partners world wide including America, India, United Kingdom, China, and lately Germany.  A true world wide effort.

What was the chief goal in this development?

To provide the world's first complete SDR appliance that redefines what radio is.  No longer is radio a fixed defined product that a manufacture dictates what it is and how it operates.  SDRs have been around for decades, but never in a complete consumer package at affordable price.  Although our initial market is for broadcast use, we have designed Titus to be 'hacker' friendly and allow RF hobbyist to utilize it as a low cost, high performance platform that we are sure many will port various RF application to.  A crazy idea that we feel will expand utilization of Titus to many RF uses and start many competitors with the same concept.

How do you feel Titus II compares to previous DRM receivers that have
been on the market (chiefly the Newstar, Uniwave, Morphy Richards, etc.)?

We have several of these models.  They are all dedicated appliances that do one thing and one thing only.  Titus can change formats, codecs, features as easily as installing a new app!  So today it can be an analog receiver, tomorrow a DAB receiver, and next week a DRM receiver ... or all three, and maybe an aircraft receiver, who knows!  There is no reason why not, just like on your computer,  you can have multiple apps to do different things.

What is the target price-point and what will it take to get you there?

We are working hard to keep the price of Titus II well under usd100.  With our unique marketing approach that eliminates middle men, high volume Chinese manufactures and sub-assembliers, to local assembly in various jurisdictions - everything has been on the table except lowering quality to achieve this low price.  With our various manufacturing partners all working to keep margins low, we can accomplish this price 'right out of the gate' ... no pie-in-the-sky wish of super high volumes.  We have been doing this for years.

How long will the unit operate on batteries? Are they dry cell or

Like most tablets and portable computing devices, Titus utilizes lithium ion battery.  We expect the unit under normal conditions to operate 4 to 6 hours.  Depending upon pricing of the battery perhaps more as production ramps up. Prices change all the time.  Hopefully they drop and we will supply an even larger battery.

When will the set be available to the public and in which markets? Do
you have a retail price set?

We expect to complete a pre-production run of Titus II by the end of this year for samples and testing. One can place a non-binding pre-order at http://hfcc.org/ - price under usd100 plus shipping & duty. Full production fist quarter 2017.

Is the set's firmware able to be updated by the user?

Yes, just like any other Android device by WiFi, SD card, or thumb drive.

Does the set fully function as a legacy analogue receiver as well?


Do you think DRM30 has proven itself via the decade-plus of HF/SW and
AM/MW (and LW) testing?

Yes, time for testing is long over.  The format works rather well.  We released the Titus II at the HFCC conference in Miami FL a couple of months ago.  With an engineering model, we went outside the hotel and received flawlessly a DRM30 test signal from the Vatican in Rome some 5000 miles away in the afternoon.  It sounded like a local FM station.  Most likely, that same signal would have been heard as well into Panama and the eastern parts of the US.

Is there anything else you would like the readers to know? 

Well, they can find more info at http://titusradio.com/

Mike, as a DRM fan, I'm really excited! As an over-all "radiophile" this looks like an amazing "piece of kit". What more can I say except thanks for granting us an interview!

Thanks for the help and we appreciate all that you guys are doing.

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) Demonstrated Simultaneously on Two Continents

DRM Press Release

17th October 2016                                                                         Contact: pressoffice@drm.org

This year’s annual General Assembly of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union will be hosted by the Indonesian public broadcaster, RRI, in Bali. DRM will feature not only in the meetings of the specialised committees but also concretely with a live medium wave transmission on 20-24 October from one of the RRI MW transmitter in Denpasar, Bali on 1206 KHz. The DRM broadcasts will feature special messages for the ABU participants, presentations on RRI, DRM the emergency warning functionality, music, as well as the Journaline service accompanying the audio, allowing listeners to look-up the latest news on demand, free-to-air, on their receiver screens and in multiple languages simultaneously.  The DRM demo run by RRI is actively supported by GatesAir, Transradio, Fraunhofer IIs and RFmondial key members of the Consortium.

In parallel, Babcock International (member of the DRM Consortium) will transmit BBC World Service content in DRM short wave from Singapore on 11995 kHz (25 metre band) at 05.00-07.00 GMT or 13.00-15.00 local time.

After last year’s DRM medium wave trial, north of Jakarta, this is another chance to enjoy the audio qualities of DRM, and, as Mr Frederik Ndolu, member of the RRI Supervisory Board said:” to show RRI’s commitment in understanding what is the most efficient solution for getting the best programmes, in the best quality to all our listeners, wherever they are in our vast country.”

Almost at the same time with the big gathering on the tropical island of Bali, the General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (24-27 October) will convene in Havana, Cuba. It will mark a significant moment as the Digital Radio Mondiale Consortium has announced it will be bringing the first live digital radio signal transmission to Cuba, the Caribbean region and parts of northern Latin America, and even as far north as Florida. The broadcast facilitated by Babcock International will come from the BBC via its Atlantic Relay station. The DRM transmission will be in the 13 meter-band on 21720 kHz and will carry BBC World Service programmes in English. Additional multimedia features of DRM will also be demonstrated on radio receiver screens. The DRM broadcast will go from 4 p.m.–6 p.m. GMT, 12.00-14.00 local time on Oct. 24 and 25.

Ruxandra Obreja, DRM Chairman, feels that: “this is a great opportunity to introduce DRM to the Caribbean nations, to highlight some of its great benefits, like the emergency warning functionality, so much at the top of the agenda for the people in this region of the world.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Place your Titus II pre-order now!

Put in your pre-order for a Titus II. HFCC is facilitating these pre-order/interest requests...

"Availability: Pre-production batch - 4Q/2016, regular production - 1Q/2017

Price: Under 100USD plus shipping and local duty/taxes not included

Payment methods: Wire transfer for larger quantities, PayPal works too, but the buyers would need to add PayPal bank fees"

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gospell GR-216 update

Update from Haochun Liu of Gospell:

"...It is expected to have GR-216 ready for production by the end of this year but this is estimation. We wish to present good product before we bring it to public for external evaluation and review."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Gospell GR-216 receiver at IBC 2016 in Amsterdam

Just a sneak peek. I think the new style is quite attractive and I can already tell that the larger, multi-line display will be a significant improvement.