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Author Topic: FT-817ND vs KX3  (Read 43643 times)
N3AEG
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Posts: 37




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« on: September 29, 2013, 03:23:38 PM »

I’m looking for my first HF radio and I’m leaning towards either the Yaesu FT-817ND or Elecraft KX3.

A little background, I just earned my general ticket a month ago.   I live in a condo (3rd or 4 floors) and have restrictions again any external antennas.   I can probably get away with an end fed wire wrapped around the balcony.  I’m also most likely going to order an Alexloop antenna regardless of this radio I end up with.  This is why I’m looking at a QRP portable radio.  Mostly I will be listening, but I still want the ability to transmit.

Having never used an HF radio, the whole concept of tuning in a frequency, filters and RIT is totally new and it’s going to be a learning experience. 

With that being said, I’ve done a lot of research into radios (both base, mobile and QRP) and have it down to either the FT817ND or KX3. 

Starting with the KX3, I sat down and figured out the configuration I wanted and then I tried to match the features in the 817 to see what a comparable configuration would cost.


KX3
----
KX3 (factory assembled) - $999.00
Internal Tuner - $170.00
Roofing Filter - $130.00
Charger/battery option - $60.00
Batteries - $50.00
Microphone - $60.00

817ND
-------
Radio - $660.00
CW Filter - $170.00
SSB Filter - $170.00
External Tuner - $130.00
ADMS Software - $40.00
(I realize you can’t put both filters in the radio, but the KX3 filter handles both)

Based on current pricing, the Yaesu is about $320 cheaper ($1,170 vs $1,488)

Each radio has its pros and cons, so I’m looking at input on which radio would be a better solution for a first time operator.   I’m not overly worried about the price difference, so I’m only concerned about the features and usability of the radio.  From what I read, the KX3 will out shine the 817ND and is 10w vs 5w.  I think right now, my preference would be the KX3.   I wanted to get some input to make sure I'm not overlooking something.


Thanks,

Leo
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AF6WL
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Posts: 129




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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2013, 03:44:31 PM »

Your are doing the right thing asking - as a by the numbers approach does not tell you everything.

I have both and can assure you the KX3 is far more more pleasurable to listen to.
Even before you turn on any noise reduction , the built in AF filters and equalization are far preferable to the wide band audio noise the FT817 puts out.
The lower phase noise on the KX3 also make the band sound cleaner.

Building a KX3 is very easy - just screwing boards together.
The Roofing filter won't be needed with loop antenna; you can always add it later.
These should bring the price closer.

You can only fit one optional filter in the FT817 ( unless you go for the W4RT board )
The FT817 must be due for a replacement soon.
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W4KYR
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Posts: 479




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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2013, 03:55:19 PM »

If you are going to work with a compromised antenna. You might need more than 5 or 10 watts to get out on some nights. If you are going to work PSK31 or CW then yes you probably can get by with 10 watts with a compromised antenna.

Why go out and spend money for the filters if might not need them? Buy whatever radio you decide on and then if you need the filters then buy them.

My personal thinking is to have two radios with one having power to 100 watts. Supposed you move later on and decide you want more power? Or suppose 5 or 10 watts is not making it on SSB but with maybe 25 or 35 watts just might.

I would not spend money on ADMS software or filters. I would spend $100 +/- on a Signalink USB and check out all the great digital modes that are out there (regardless what radio you decide to buy).

If you are going to decide on the FT 817ND . Then don't get no options for it. Save the money and also get a USED  full powered rig like the Icom IC-718, Alinco DX 70 or the Kenwood TS 50 for $500 and up.  In case you need higher power, you'll have it...

If you decide to get the KX3 it will be more modern than the FT 817ND . It has more features than the FT 817, although the FT 817ND has more bands than the KX3. Get the amp for the KX3 if you are going to go that route. But whatever you decide on, get the Signalink and you can do PSK 31 on low power and get out pretty far on digital modes. And if you go with the KX3 get the internal tuner.

And if you get 50 responses, you might also get 50 different answers.

Good Luck






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N3AEG
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« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2013, 04:24:25 PM »

My only reason for including the roofing filters into the radio is that Elecraft would install them when I buy the radio.  With that being said, exactly what do the roofing filters do?

I should have added to the initial post that I don't need the 2m/70cm bands since I already have a Yaesu FT-8900R at home.

Because my primary antenna will most likely be the Alexloop, I'm limited to 20w output.  At some point down the road, if I can figure out a way to hide an antenna, I would be open to picking up a used base station for the added power.

Hopefully in the next 3-4 months I'll start studying for the Extra exam.  After than I plan to start learning CW so at this point I'm pretty much going to use SSB and maybe play with the digital features.
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KK0G
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2013, 04:39:12 PM »

If you say the cost difference has little impact on your decision then it's a slam dunk.......... get the KX3, it has a FAR superior receiver. For portable work the KX3 is also much more trail friendly with it's controls on top rather than the front panel. Current draw is also a big concern for portable work and the KX3's 150 mA is 3 times less than the FT-817's 450 mA.
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WX7G
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2013, 05:01:42 PM »

I've owned two FT-817D transceivers and I presently have a KX3. To me the FT-817 is a toy that's cute but it's not much fun to operate. The CW keyer speed control is accessed by a menu while the KX3 has a dedicated CW knob. The FT-817 runs 5 watts SSB with no speech processing while the KX3 runs 12 watts with very effective RF speech processing. The KX3 is a real radio that's suitable for any type of operation including contesting.

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W4KYR
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2013, 05:04:14 PM »

The KX3 does PSK31 out of the box. So you might not need the Signalink unless you want to work other modes. Check out Youtube, they have videos about the KX3. This will get you more familiar with the radio and its operation.

As far as antennas, some people swear by the Buddipole, others prefer end fed or dipole. Videos about these antennas and more are also available on Youtube.

This might interest you:
"3846.9 mi PSK31 on .1 Watt ! "

http://radiopreppers.com/index.php?topic=470.0

Some ham was able to have a contact with just  1/10th of a watt using the KX3.
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AF6WL
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Posts: 129




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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2013, 06:57:55 PM »

My only reason for including the roofing filters into the radio is that Elecraft would install them when I buy the radio.  With that being said, exactly what do the roofing filters do?

The roofing filters are low pass filters that are switched in before the A-D converters.
The only make a difference differentiating weak signals in crowded bands with strong signals e.g. field day and contests.

When you use the wide span SDR functions with a external PC you won't be using the roofing filters.
There is an advantage in buying them at the get go, as Elecraft will do the IQ response cal for you radio and the your filters. You can do this yourself if you buy them later, but you need a signal generator.
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K5TED
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2013, 07:16:05 PM »

The FT-817ND or any other low power rig including the Elecraft is a bad choice for first HF rig unless you plan to spend fruitless hours with your compromised antenna making very few, if any contacts on a normal day.

If you have $900 to spend on a brand new radio, buy a FT-450D. IF filtering, Roofing filter, internal ATU, 100w, HF+6m.





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N2RRA
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2013, 08:05:09 PM »

The FT-817ND or any other low power rig including the Elecraft is a bad choice for first HF rig unless you plan to spend fruitless hours with your compromised antenna making very few, if any contacts on a normal day.

If you have $900 to spend on a brand new radio, buy a FT-450D. IF filtering, Roofing filter, internal ATU, 100w, HF+6m.







Problem here is....as he clearly states his living conditions a 100 watt rig is sure to create problems for him and his neighbors guaranteed. Even 50 watts is most likey going to do the job at reaking havoc. In some cases dependent on frequency range may exclude the issue, but sure the RFI is gonna screw with his rig, power supply, TV, radio etc....

Running QRP will be the safest for him both operating and keeping his neighbors clueless.

Don't let the nay Sayers tell you that QRP is not for the beginner ham. I started out running QRP and even though the solar cycle was much different then the QRP woes were still very much present. In fact if you look me up on YouTube I have many videos that prove all those nay Sayers that QRP is not gonna work under the worst conditions quite contradictory. Last 10 years have been the worst and still able to bust pile ups with 5 watts against guys running 1500 watts with yagis on 50ft towers.

All in the field with compromised antennas!

If you don't care about the 2m/70cm band and money's not an issue then the KX3 is the way to go hands down if it's gonna sit on your desk. If you plan on going on hikes and stuff the KX3 is the way too go, but the FT-817ND is for me because it's all bands I use rolled up in one. I've even contested with it and has it's lack of filter capability compared to the KX3 stop it and me from high contact numbers during a low weak solar cycle? HELL No!

That too I prove in my videos!

So if money is not an issue buy both. If you wanna see what a 100 watt radio is gonna do for you In your apartment that would be a good idea. Just crank it down to QRP if need too.

Just too many options and too many variables to consider unless you just dive into the radio of your choice. There's never an easy solution nor can anyone predict what's best for you.

Just buy a radio and see for yourself.

73 and good luck!



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K0JEG
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2013, 06:35:14 AM »

The KX3 does PSK31 out of the box. So you might not need the Signalink unless you want to work other modes. Check out Youtube, they have videos about the KX3. This will get you more familiar with the radio and its operation.
Quote

Also does a fair job of decoding CW, and can use paddles for sending PSK31.

And they still say they're going to release the 2 meter module, which will get you all but 70cm.

But the price is still going to be a great deal higher since you're not going to find many on the used market. I watched the classifieds boards and Ebay and found a decent FT817 for a lot less than the new list price a few months ago. A cute radio, but very hard to use if you're not used to Yaesu's menu system, and the buttons are overly small for my hands. I think for SOTA activation or other portable use the KX3 is the way to go. For digital/weak signal modes in a house the FT817 could be just the ticket if you're starting out.
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N1DVJ
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2013, 07:44:53 AM »

You really need to consider what you want the radio for...

If it's for performance, then it's hands down and the KX3.  And the KX3 does offer some ergonomic advantages, like a built in ATU.

If you think 2M and 440 is important, then go with the FT-817.  There is something to be said for a 'slingable' radio with a shoulder strap, at least for 6M and up.  But don't think you're going to have that on HF.  And any ATU you consider will be external to the 817.

I personally have an FT-817 and a K2.  Different radios, with different enticements.  I have an external ATU for my FT-817.  I built the T1 from Elecraft for it.

Since you imply you are going to use this in your home, which has issues, I'd say go the KX3.   But if you were buying this to be a 'hiker' radio, then the FT-817 might fit better to your needs, but realize the FT-817 totally sucks when it comes to battery life.  If you are going in and 'setting up', then the KX3 might be a bit better fit.  Since I don't own a KX3, I can't say for sure, but when I camp, I've previously carried in my K2 (with built in ATU) and one of those 'lunchbox' batteries to jump start your car.  Lasts for the whole week easy at the Boy Scout camp.  I made a 40M dipole with 24ga speaker wire split I throw in the trees and feed with real light duty 300 ohm twinlead, then have a bannana post to BNC plug for the back of my K2.  Works gangbusters.


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N3IG
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2013, 08:11:45 AM »

     I have both (just got the KX3), the 817 has 2 meters and 70 cm but if you have a radio for these bands the KX3 blows it away on hf with all the options. The tuner in this radio will probably load your balcony rail if metal (would not be real efficient but would do it).

     Some will say to just buy a cheaper 100 watt rig and turn it down but in your situation I think you are going right direction. Reason being that you can get a 12 volt SLA battery and a LNR 10-20-40 end fed antenna for a trip to the park. A wire in the trees is going to give better performance the your compromise antenna at home. Don't get discouraged with the ones that don't reply because it just makes the ones that do more exciting.
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N1DVJ
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2013, 11:05:26 AM »

First off, the Elecraft tuners will tune up an amazing variety of antennas.  While some manufacturers say 3:1 is the max they will tune, the Elecraft tuners usually tune 9:1, and the tuner portion of the new 100W amp says 10:1. 

And don't worry about what is good or bad.  A bad antenna is still better than no antenna.  I've tuned up a downspout as a stealth antenna.  On a camping trip I just clipped an alligator clip to an electric fence (after making sure it was inactive!) and used that.  In one building I took an old IF transformer and unwound it and threw a small weight into a tree.  Heck, that stuff was light enough that if people walked into it they probably thought it is just a tough spider web.  But hey, it works!  Sure, wire from an IF transformer (the OLD stuff, like from a 1930's tube radio) that was a phenolic tube with multiple donuts on it, it won't last, but you should be able to get a few days of operation from it.  You'd be surprised what you can 'sneak up'.  Hey, at one point I made a 15M dipole and duct-taped it to the ceiling of my bedroom, diagonally, and let it drooped down opposing corners.  Worked a number of eastern states up through Virginia from Ft Worth with that, running only 50W.

Eric and Wayne from Elecraft used to show the K2 at shows by just plugging in a telescoping whip into the back with the ATU.  Something is better than nothing, so just play and have fun.

It may be crap, but it will be your crap, and it will still be better than no crap!


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W4KYR
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2013, 12:08:48 PM »

Helium balloon + Wire + Late at night = Good Signals and no nosy neighbors
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