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.