About 2 years ago I bought a N3ZN ZN-8
, by far the most expensive key I've ever owned in 40 years of CW. I've loved it, with only minor complaints: (1) I had to anchor it to the desk due to my slap heavy style and (2) the cable is hard wired in, meaning to disconnect it I have to pull the plug from the back of my station setup.
At the recent Dayton Hamfest, I played with a Begali Sculpture Mono
single paddle key and fell in lust. After all these years of using iambic/squeeze keying I found that a single paddle really better fit my slap-happy style. Plus, the large finger piece was a bit higher off the table - and that just felt more comfortable, too. Plus, it was purty - but it was also expensive, about 50% more than the ZN-8 I already had. I tried to resist, but before the day was over I went back to the booth and bought the Sculpture Mono.
I've now had almost a month of use, including a bit over 500 contacts in the recent WPX CW contest and I only have two complaints: (1) There are a few letters, like F, L, P, Q and a couple of combinations of letters, where it is hard for me to "un-squeeze" since they lend themselves so well to squeezing; and (2) the Begali key is physically larger, one reason why it doesn't move around, and crowds my operating position a bit more than the N3ZN key.
It is sort of like comparing a Ferrari against a Porsche - I still really like the N3ZN key, the real major difference is single paddle vs squeeze, not N3ZN vs. Begali. But, the Begali does have a few features I like: (1) built in paddle cable jack, makes it easier to remove key; (2) comes with a dust cover; (3) a bit easier to adjust spacing; (4) bigger footprint and fingerpiece.
I've now spent more on two keys that I spent in total on ham radio during my first 15 years as a ham, but my fist is happy. So what if my wife had to work an extra couple of years before she can retire... If you want to see someone who has really gone crazy over CW keys, take a look at JE1TRV's site here
. I visited Atsu in Machida and had an early preview of his key museum, blogged here