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no more Sombra Labs Receivers

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no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby chips » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:11 pm

When I got home from the SubRegatta, I had an e-mail from Sombra Labs. They have quit producing receivers on 72/75 MHz and 50/53 MHz (Ham bands). Here is the e-mail:

Dear Customer,

First of all my apologies for sending this unsolicited e-mail. As you have done business with us in the past and ordered a product off our website (http://sombralabs.com), I just wanted to let you know that we've decided to close down our RC receiver business.

The last couple of years have been quite difficult as the majority of the RC enthusiasts have moved away from the traditional narrow-band receivers. As a business we can no longer justify continuing to manufacture these products.

We've already run out of the 72/75MHz versions, but we still have some limited stock of the HAM variants of the synthesized SL-8 and the crystal based Lepton-6. Due to the very limited amount of stock, we've decided not to offer any discounts on the receivers, however, we've drastically reduced the prices of all UM-1 crystals by up to 85% as we still have significant stock of these on hand.

Once we run out of the HAM receivers, we'll close down our online store and eventually the website too, please make sure that you download any relevant user guides, etc.

We're proud to have served you for the last 10 years, and thank you for your support and encouragement.

Regards,
Sombra Labs Team
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:43 pm

The same goes for all 75 MHz manufactures. Futaba is the last man standing with their 4 channel 75 MHz surface radio. I doubt this one lasts much longer, so get them while they are still available at $129.00!

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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby JWLaRue » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:02 pm

That's why some of us have been buying 'spare' transmitters and stocking up on receivers. I just bougth a couple of the Futaba receivers from Tower Hobbies as well.

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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:10 pm

I just purchased 8 75 MHZ radios from Tower and have been picking them off a bit on Ebay as well. The end will come sooner than later, I fear, which brings me to the next question; After 75 MHz goes the way of the dinosaur, what options do we have available? Can we convert the multiplex radios over for a US legal frequency? 27 Mhz is still available, but the bad part of that is every cheap walmart toy operates on 27 MHz so the frequency is riddled with interference problems. Any ideas?
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby kazzer » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:37 pm

It's a pity some common sense wasn't applied here. By supporting the big boys like Futaba and buying up their stock, one is only speeding up the demise of 75 mhz. After all, they pretty much told everyone that as far as 75mhz is concerned you can all take a hike! The quicker you buy up their stock, the quicker you'll be in the mire.
Why would you give them another dollar?

Instead, why not support a smaller company who could make a good business from this niche market? I have been talking to my supplier for a couple of years and they seem to be quite happy with the 75mhz.
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:26 pm

The reason is, Mike. I like Futaba. I like them a lot. I've never had a single problem with a Futaba radio in almost 30 yrs. I grew tired of other brands that did not perform well and caused me nothing but trouble. That's why. At this point, I am not interested in buying a brand that I have never heard of and have never seen. Your radios are probably just fine and function without fail, but with money a bit hard to come by these days, I want to stay with what I know has worked flawlessly for me in the past. Its as simple as that.
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Thu Aug 08, 2013 4:30 pm

To return to the topic at hand. It is quite obvious that the 75 MHz systems are such a small portion of the market place that manufacturers cannot afford to support the small market with mass produced items. So that begs the question, and it is one that we all need to put our heads together on; What options do we have available to us after 75 MHz is gone? I am interested in long term solutions, not temporary stop-gap measures that may allow 75 Mhz to hang on for another year or two.

1) Are there radio systems sold elsewhere in the world that can be converted to surface use?-I honestly do not know the answer to this one. I know that Jeff LaRue and Dave Welch have been able to get those beautiful Multiplex radios sold in Europe and have them converted to 75 mhz. Is this still a viable option?

2) Can we purchase systems in a used condition, or like new from sources such as ebay that would provide us a good source of 72 Mhz radios to have converted to 75 Mhz? The conversion is quite easy, and I believe would provide us an almost endless supply. The issue I see here is that we will be dealing with aging systems that get older by the day with replacement parts hard to come by in short order.

3) Alternate frequencies like 27 Mhz or XX Mhz?

Any other ideas?

Matt
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby roedj » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:32 pm

As far as I believe there's only 3 legal frequencies in the USA/Canada that have any chance of working with R/C subs, i.e., 27MHz, 50MHz, and 75MHz.

27MHz, as has been pointed out, is a bit of a mess.
50MHz is a HAM band and while it works just fine, equipment is harder to find than that for 75MHz.
75MHz is the most common one used today for subs in the USA/Canada.

The ugly truth is we have few choices:

1) Petition the FCC/Canada Transport to allow us to use some other band that presently has users and thus available equipment which has to be converted to R/C use. Understand that it's not just the frequency band in question but it also has to be legal to use the type of radio emission utilized for R/C usage on that band. Realistically, this ain't gonna happen.

2) Accept the fact that other lesser known manufacturers are still making 75MHz gear and use that (as Kazzer said). Or, as has been done by some, purchase 35/40MHz gear from Europe and have it legally modified for use on 75MHz.

3) Get a HAM license and either modify existing equipment for the 50MHz band or completely build your own - both legal if you have a HAM license but not terribly practical. BTW, don't get any ideas of building HAM equipment for higher power transmitter outputs than is current available for R/C gear - that's illegal too.

4) Switch to R/C airplanes and go the 2.4GHz route. Don't bother trying to make 2.4GHz work for subs - you're fighting the laws of physics.

5) Take up knitting.

My two pfennigs,

Dan
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby JWLaRue » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:48 pm

Matt,

Well, aren't those options really stop gaps too as they don't address the long-term availability of radio systems operating at suitable frequencies for r/c submarine use? I don't think the problem is that we're using 75MHz (or equivalent)...it's the lack of supported product manufacturing and post sales support that's at the core of the problem.

What would be really valuable is to find a way to retain a vendor that offers new product. I'm thinking more than a run of a couple hundred Far East clones of somethingb being sold with no support...more along the lines of a company that will stand behind the product from a warranty and break/fix perspective. Of course the likelyhood of someone stepping forward and making that kind of investment is very small.

The alternative would seem to be a niche vendor that is focused on these radio systems and provides more than just a storefront to buy product. Someone with the in-house radio and licensed RF technical skills to support what is clearly a small, but very dedicated customer base.

I'm purposely 'ignoring' an alternative where some other technology is developed to provide the equivalent of the radio-based systems we use today. If someone were to come up with that kind of alternative, that would be excellent and get everyone away from things like FCC certifications.

-Jeff
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:51 pm

Jeff & Dan,

I will address both responses. First, Jeff, yes buying used equipment is a stop gap measure and I believe I pointed out that is not the best option for a couple of reasons. Converting an new radio such as a Multiplex radio, to me, is not a stop gap measure. Those radios can be readily imported, modified, and openly marketed. To me, that is a good, permanent solution.

Dan, as you point out there are maybe a few small time manufacturers that are producing 75 Mhz. It remains to be seen if these small operators can stay with the market. As fast as the manufacturing rats are jumping the 75 Mhz ship, I would not hold my breath. Maybe I am way off base here(and I do hope I am), but I predict that within the next few years there will be zero manufacturers of 75 Mhz radio systems in the market. As I pointed out in my response, and this is just my personal preferences, I like to stick with the familiar products that have been good to me. I have been bitten a couple of times by doing something different. I am not discouraging anyone from buying one of these systems. Any other interpretation of my statements is grossly misguided. If you want to buy one, knock yourself out. Its a free market and its your money.

Dan-you also pointed out that:

27MHz, as has been pointed out, is a bit of a mess.
50MHz is a HAM band and while it works just fine, equipment is harder to find than that for 75MHz.
75MHz is the most common one used today for subs in the USA/Canada.

I agree completely with what you have written about the available freqencies.

Jeff-I am not suggesting that the fact that we operate on 75 Mhz is the problem, I am suggesting what you, later, pointed out that there is a lack of solid, well known company(s) that will stand behind the product from a warranty and break/fix perspective. To the contrary, I think Dan is correct with his point, and you and I have discussed this many times before; the best option may be purchasing 35/40MHz gear from Europe and have it legally modified for use on 75MHz here in the States. The European equipment has been around for decades and is manufactured by well known, long established companies with a good track record for customer service and parts replacement. The modifications are, from my limited knowledge, quite simple. I think this may be the best option for long term viability of the hobby with good, solid equipment.

If the smaller manufacturers can survive and fill the niche while proving that they are worthy of patronage due to producing quality products with outstanding service, then that is the most desirable option. The more product that is available from different manufacturers, the better quality they will be.

Jeff-What are the two units available for conversion from Multiplex? I know both you and Dave Welch have a unit. I played with Dave's last year at the Regatta. It is a VERY high end product and fit my hands very well. I loved the sticks on them. They were extremely smooth. I think that we need to seriously investigate this route and see what is possible.

Dan-I really don't want to go the 2.4 ghz route with airplanes. I have a few of those. I don't enjoy them as much as subs. The last option is completely out. I can't knit worth a darn!
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby JWLaRue » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:58 pm

Matt,

re: stop gap and 75MHz - okay, no problem, that's not the way I read your response. My bad. I appreciate the clarification...we're clearly on the same page!

Sorry, if I created the wrong impression around current generation Multiplex radios. There aren't any new production Multiplex Royal Evo radios being made that aren't 2.4GHz. Not having seen one, I don't know if those units can be converted. The ones that you see BD and I using are the previous generation Royal Evo and Profi 3000/4000 series radios that were available in the usual air frequencies, allowing a very inexpensive conversion to 75MHz. The Evo's use a daughter card configuration that makes it simple to make changes and very easy to swap crystals for channel changes. The Profi's use an Rf module similar to what Futaba uses...both BD and I did a swap-out/conversion to use one of the scarce HiTec Spectra synthesized 75MHz modules.

-Jeff
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby KevinMc » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:10 pm

Like everyone else here I'm also quite worried about the future of our hobby. I have a good enough "stash" of radios that it'll be a loooong time before I run out of options so it's not for my own sake that I'm most concerned. The real source of my worry stems from the fact that it's increasingly difficult for newcomers to find sources of equipment.

Thor wrote:...the best option may be purchasing 35/40MHz gear from Europe and have it legally modified for use on 75MHz here in the States. The European equipment has been around for decades and is manufactured by well known, long established companies with a good track record for customer service and parts replacement. The modifications are, from my limited knowledge, quite simple. I think this may be the best option for long term viability of the hobby with good, solid equipment.

At the risk of being seen as raining on the parade, I don't think this option will buy you any more time than looking to 72MHz/75MHz equipment in North America. Don't be fooled, 72MHz has one foot in the same coffin as 75MHz, and I expect that all the other sub-100MHz frequencies are in the same boat. 2.4GHz is not just a North American "problem", it's used world wide and that's part of the reason that all the manufacturers have jumped on board. Even Multiplex is going that way, so get 'em while you can.

Like you, Matt, I'm a die-hard Futaba guy and have been for more than 20 years. Having said that, I run my Trumpy Kilo from one of those W-FLY radios and love it just as much. Your mileage may vary.
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:18 pm

Okay, that makes sense. Have all of the European manufacturers abandoned the other frequencies and gone to 2.4 GHz? Futaba plans to continue the manufacture of the 27 MHZ Tracker radio. Those can be converted to 75 MHZ.
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby Thor » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:31 pm

Kevin-you are correct, 72 MHz is going away as well. 2.4 GHZ is displacing both and most all other frequencies. What I was saying is that there is quite a supply of 72 MHZ systems out there from sources like Ebay that can be converted. Yes, they will be mostly used systems and the equipment will be dated. I never criticized the W Fly system in any way. I simply stated that I am not comfortable buying a system that I have never heard of, let alone seen. It was taken as some sort of attack by the individual that markets that system.

If that's all we have left in the market place in the future, I guess I may have to consider that as a possible alternative after my supply of Futaba radios drys up....which is going to take quite a bit of time. My bet is that there are no suppliers of these systems in the near future. The market is so very tiny.
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Re: no more Sombra Labs Receivers

Postby KevinMc » Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:41 pm

No criticism taken/assumed Matt, I just wanted to let it be know that I have one and get as good service out of it as I do my Futaba 9ZAP.
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