OKLAHOMA CITY— This week’s announcement from International Crystal has some in the broadcast world worried. Others are more optimistic that another manufacturer will step up to fill the needs previously met by ICM. But almost all of the readers who commented on the article indicated the company will be missed when it closes operations this spring.
“There will always be a need for cut-to-order quartz crystals. Something has to go in those increasingly precise TCXOs and OCXOs needed out there. Special designs and special applications will need special frequency crystals. You can’t do everything with a synthesizer, and indeed, the phase noise of a crystal oscillator/multiplier chain is generally better than all but the best synthesizers. Although ICM was a major player, I recall there being many firms out there who will make crystals and/or crystal oscillators,” one reader wrote in a comment.
Another commenter said, “Doing weak-signal work (CW/SSB) requires local oscillators that are accurate, stable and low phase-noise. Original crystal frequencies can be multiplied over 800X. Any instabilities, inaccuracies and phase noise are also multiplied. A phase-locked crystal oscillator in a good low-noise circuit far surpasses any synthesized LO in all these regards.”
Hams, AM radio stations and small-market FM stations that do a lot of remotes will likely be heavily affected by the change.
“For systems still needing a XTAL (most PLL systems still need a reference crystal in the circuit) for LMR, amateur and broadcast use, this is going to be a tough issue,” wrote one reader, and another commented, “We still need crystals to keep the quality-made legacy equipment useable not only as backup, but for frontline service in many markets, especially AM stations. I hope someone can fill their shoes...”
“Many stations I handle couldn’t keep the lights (much less the transmitter) on the air without some additional revenue generated by local sports,” one commented. “Much of that sports play-by-play comes via crystal-controlled, RPU equipment.” He noted that these stations often opt for this type of technology because it does not need to be replaced every 10 years.
“I understand the economics behind these decisions, but it is still a real shame. Broadcasters prolong the life of older equipment for lots of reasons, and that will become much more difficult to do now,” wrote one commenter.
Another reader wrote, “The loss of ICM is a terrible loss to small market radio, and will likely have a terrible effect on them.”
Regarding potential alternative manufacturers, readers reported that New Jersey-based Bomar is still in business, but the company “is rumored not to make crystals for LMR and other certain special services anymore (unconfirmed).” Additionally, Petersen Radio still grinds quartz in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Crystek is still in business. However, Sentry was previously absorbed by ICM, and Jan is no longer in business, readers report.
Another reader wrote to Mark Persons and informed him that Andersen Electronics LLC of Hollidaysburg, Pa., is able to manufacture replacement crystals for $100 per piece (significantly more than ICM’s cost of $28 per crystal, plus shipping and handling). “This seems like a lot to pay, but needless to say, it’s a small price compared to replacing (at least) the STL transmitter,” she wrote. AE can be reached via General Manager Max Massimilla at (814) 695-4428
Several other commenters expressed hope that another manufacturer would purchase ICM and continue production.