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eHam Forums => DXing => Topic started by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 07:30:19 AM



Title: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 07:30:19 AM
My Kenwood TS-850S is getting pretty old, I am thinking about a new rig. I am 60% DXer/40% contester. I only operate CW. Is a K2 or K2/100 a reasonable replacement for the TS-850S? It certainly is cheaper than lots of the new rigs and I am on a somewhat limited budget. A K3 or TS-590S might be nice (and more expensive), but with those rigs I am paying for SSB capability that I do not want. Another bonus of K2 is I can bring it with me on trips.

Any TS-850S users switch to a K2? NOT a K3 (I am too poor), but specifically a K2.

paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: KA5N on August 23, 2012, 08:00:32 AM
It is interesting to note that on the recent D64K dxpedition they used Elecraft K3's for
SSB operations and Elecraft K2's for CW.  The K2 is an excellent CW rig (and not bad at all
for SSB if you go that route). The K2 is easy to operate.  The 100 watt output is plenty
for most uses and if your only rig it will do most everything you need.  Of course it doesn't
have 6 meters nor 30 meters (I don't think the  TS 850 does either).  Of course if you buy one
new you have to put it together (there are expert assemblers available at low cost or a good
used one is a good deal) but after building one you find it is easy to repair (I had to replace
the 10 watts transistors that somehow got wet and shorted out).  
Go for it!!!
Good Luck   Allen KA5N


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 08:28:20 AM
Thanks, Allen. Building it is one of the main reasons I am interested in it. I do NOT like the fact that it is a tiny radio, but almost all of them out there are tiny radios. It DOES cover 30 meters. I would get 160 meter/RX antenna for it. I would probably not go 100 watts for now, I bet that 12 watts output could drive my AL-811 to put out 200 watts or so.

paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU1O on August 23, 2012, 09:30:55 AM
Thanks, Allen. Building it is one of the main reasons I am interested in it. I do NOT like the fact that it is a tiny radio, but almost all of them out there are tiny radios. It DOES cover 30 meters. I would get 160 meter/RX antenna for it. I would probably not go 100 watts for now, I bet that 12 watts output could drive my AL-811 to put out 200 watts or so.

paul

I see a few problems. My K3 is a very small radio, much smaller than I wanted to buy, but with ham neighbors encircling me and with one who is in range of a good golf shot with a 3-wood, once I read the article in QST that the blocking dynamic range was the best the ARRL lab had ever tested that was all I needed to know and let's just say I tolerate its small size.  I also ran into Bob Sherwood on the air one day and he said based on his tests the K3 was the best receiver on the market.

However, if the K2 is smaller than the K3, and I think it is, you are dealing with a really small radio. That might have changed my choice were I buying a K2. I don't know why you say MOST are small radios. My choice was between this K3 and an Icom 756 Pro 3 and that was massive compared to the K3. Even the lower priced Kenwood and Yaesu rigs look a good deal larger than my K3.

I agree about building your own equipment although it's not a kit in the tradition of Heathkit since there is no soldering. You are just using nuts and bolts, unless you need to make a modification or upgrade and actually replace a part. Then you need to take out your soldering iron. I call it "assembling" rather "building" bit it will familiarize you with the different circuits and make repairing easier provided you know how to troubleshoot bad parts to begin with.

I do contest but it's not a passion for me like DX. From what I understand of contests once you are over 100 Watts you're classified as High Power. You'd be better off shutting the amplifier and running in the Low Power category because 200 Watts will not be competitive when most guys in the HP category are running the maximum of 1500 Watts. That's what I run when the contest allows for it.

If you can afford to do so stay away from second-hand gear. You are usually buying somebody's problems no matter what reason they give you for selling. That's my experience anyway.

Good luck making your decision. I'm in the process of going through the exact process but I'm selecting a new antenna(s), rotor, and mast. I would've liked to ask the question in this forum since I don't know the people in the antenna forum but I deemed it out of bounds.  

I don't know what I'd do without the help of our forum member, W6GX, Jonathan. He owns the Bencher Skyhawk I'm going to buy and he has been most generous with email and phone help. He's a real gentleman and he's been patiently answering all my questions.

My A3S just blew the 3rd trap in one year since buying my Alpha 8410. Cushcraft rates the A3S at either 2 Kw or 1.5 Kw but it's just marketing baloney from MF Junk. Those traps are as cheap as they come and the wire very thin. It's time to replace it before the weather gets cold here in New England.

73,

Chris/NU1O



Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 10:44:59 AM
The K2 is a you-solder-it kit, the K3 is assembled. And I DO know it is small. My TS-850S is a manly sized radio, as are FT-1000s. But many "new" radios are smallish, the Pro III is an 8 year old radio. But I want a better RX and need a "new" radio for less than $1K.

As a CW op the only knobs I really use are tuning, RF gain, and which IF filter to have in-line. I rarely even use notch, I just use my brains notch filter.


p


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU4B on August 23, 2012, 11:01:24 AM
I have a K2  - it is a great CW rig. I don't have the SSB option installed, but do have it in case I want it. I don't have a K3 , but my best buddy does and it is a very nice rig. I had shelved my K2 for several years - then when I finished it the K3 came out shortly thereafter.

If price is a concern go with the K2. If you want to build it piece by piece go with the K2. It is a great build and as you probably know support is excellent both from the company and the support group. (I had a question about a new firmware install. I asked the support group on a Sunday evening and had the answer in a couple hours.)

I have all the other options installed on the K2. Another thing I like is I can take it anywhere and operate and everything is there including battery in one package. If that's important get the K2.

If price, build, and/or ease of portability are not concerns - get the K3. They aren't going on all these DXpeditions because there's extra space. As Chris, NU1O, noted you can still build your K3 - its just in modular form.

By the way about 10 years or so ago a team of ops took K2's to Jamaica and operated SBQRP (on just about all the bands) in the CQWWCW contest. I think several of them still hold world records (and/or NA records) on the bands they operated.


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 23, 2012, 11:03:19 AM
Paul,

I used a TS-850S for about eight years, and now have the K2/10, as well as the K3.  I think the K2 would be an excellent replacement for the TS-850S.  I have the DSP audio filter, as well as the 160m kit in my K2.  I use the K3 most of the time, but do enjoy the K2 during QRP events. 

My son still has my old TS-850S, and it is has been used for Field Day by the K9YA group for several years.  Everybody loves the 850. I keep waiting for the lithium battery to crap out, but it's still going strong. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C




Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 11:25:11 AM
Thanks. I had my battery replaced on my 850S about 3 years ago, so all good there:) As NU4B noted, one of the reasons I am interested in the K2 is I DO bring my small QRP radio with me on business trips (a Small Wonder Labs SW40+), but monoband and 2 watts doesn't always cut it. 12 watts and the ability to use a different band would be nice.

I know the K3 is a "better" rig, but it will cost me more than twice the cost of a K2 and I don't need most of the features.

p


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU1O on August 23, 2012, 04:14:27 PM
The K2 is a you-solder-it kit, the K3 is assembled. And I DO know it is small. My TS-850S is a manly sized radio, as are FT-1000s. But many "new" radios are smallish, the Pro III is an 8 year old radio. But I want a better RX and need a "new" radio for less than $1K.

As a CW op the only knobs I really use are tuning, RF gain, and which IF filter to have in-line. I rarely even use notch, I just use my brains notch filter.


p

I thought the K2 was just hardware assembly like the K3. I don't think you have really much choice but the K2 given the financial constraints you set. If the K2 has anywhere near the receiver the K3 has (and I know it's good, just not how good) I can't see where you are going to find another rig for less than a grand that will work with all that QRM a contest generates. I have the 250 Hz CW filter in my K3 and it's terrific for DXing or Contesting. I probably run it too narrow as in general use I often find guys outside my passband. Either they don't know how to properly zero beat or they are running old rigs.

You know it's very small and you are prepared to do the soldering. Seems like all that's left is to pull out your credit card and order it.

73,

Chris/NU1O


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 23, 2012, 06:11:14 PM
The K2 is a fun assembly project, and the K2 gives good performance for its size.  I just checked its ranking in the Sherwood Engineering tables, and it has dropped behind some of the newer rigs, but still has very respectable specs: http://www.sherweng.com/table.html 

If you're going to be adding any options at all to your K2 (especially the DSP filter or noise blanker), you should be aware of the "Rework Eliminators" designed to make adding the options easier.  See the eHam reviews at: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/6372?page=2
or the company website at: http://www.unpcbs.com/headers/

(I'm not affiliated with the company in any way, except that I wrote the first eHam review for their modules several years ago, after building my K2.)

Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about the K2.

73,
Chuck  NI0C
 


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 23, 2012, 08:38:37 PM
Thanks for the info on the Rework Eliminators, I never heard of that.

But the numbers on that new KX-3 are amazing!!! And only $150 more than the K2 kit AND includes 160M and Dual Watch. But talk about tiny!!!

P


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 24, 2012, 05:00:05 AM
I don't know why I didn't think of the KX3 in this discussion.  One CW feature I think it has is APF-- very useful on my K3 for peaking weak DX signals.  As far as building is concerned, the kit is "modular," like the K3 kit.  I think the only thing I soldered on the K3 was the power cord, and even for that they suggested using a crimp tool (Anderson power poles).   

If you haven't already done so, be sure to look at archives of the Elecraft Reflector to see what people have been saying about their new KX3's.  Elecraft has announced their products will increase in price slightly, beginning in mid-September.

73,
Chuck  NI0C


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: KY6R on August 24, 2012, 05:32:37 AM
Unless you really want to solder, I'd get the KX3 . . . . .


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: N4OGW on August 24, 2012, 06:20:36 AM
I used two K2's for several years as my main radios, mostly for contest operating. Since then I had upgraded to K3's, although I still have one K2 for backup/portable operation. I originally used one K2 along with an Omni VI. I found that the K2 receiver was better than the Omni, so I sold the Omni to buy a second K2. The K2 receiver is almost as good as the K3, but the K3 does a little better in crowded bands.

Yes, the controls on the K2 are small. I pretty much got used to that however. For contest operation you can control many of the functions from a computer anyway. Some other considerations:

-if buying a K2, I wouldn't bother with the audio DSP. The buttons controlling it are so hard to use during a contest that I basically just left it on one setting continuously to reduce hiss. The cheaper audio filter is just as good for this.

-There is one "feature" of the K2 firmware that is really inconvenient for contest operation, especially SO2R where you change bands a lot: after a band change, the RF output power is always increased from zero (presumably to protect the finals). After a band change the RF power starts at zero and slowly comes up to whatever it is set to over a second or two. It is slow enough to make the first letter or two on CW inaudible to other stations. The result is that my call at ~35 WPM comes out as "...UOGW". In practice you have to be sure to press "tune" for a second or so (transmitting a carrier) after every band change. I can't think of the number of ?'s I got in response to calling stations due to this.

I didn't find the K2 hard to build (I built 2), but it does take a lot more time than a K3.

The KX3 looks good, but be prepared to be QRP for a while- there is no 100W amp available yet.

Tor
N4OGW


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: N5MOA on August 24, 2012, 06:30:18 AM
But talk about tiny!!!

P


It's bigger than the control head on my TS-480, Paul.


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 24, 2012, 10:15:14 AM
Looks like I am ordering a KX3 tonight, hooray! It does not come with a RX antenna input, but that is an easy fix. Hard to see much wrong with this rig. When you add up the cost of a K2 with 160 meters, audio filter, and RS-232 interface the KX3 is actually cheaper.

paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: N4OGW on August 24, 2012, 02:52:16 PM
Looks like I am ordering a KX3 tonight, hooray! It does not come with a RX antenna input, but that is an easy fix. Hard to see much wrong with this rig. When you add up the cost of a K2 with 160 meters, audio filter, and RS-232 interface the KX3 is actually cheaper.

paul

Yes, cheaper for the 10W radio. But there isn't a KX3 equivalent to the K2/100 available yet, because the 100w amplifier (KXPA100) isn't out yet. It seems the KXPA100 will be both a 100W amp and an ATU, suggesting it won't be as cheap as a K2/100 without the ATU.

Tor
N4OGW


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: AD9DX on August 24, 2012, 02:57:12 PM
Looks like I am ordering a KX3 tonight, hooray! It does not come with a RX antenna input, but that is an easy fix. Hard to see much wrong with this rig. When you add up the cost of a K2 with 160 meters, audio filter, and RS-232 interface the KX3 is actually cheaper.

paul

Yes, cheaper for the 10W radio. But there isn't a KX3 equivalent to the K2/100 available yet, because the 100w amplifier (KXPA100) isn't out yet. It seems the KXPA100 will be both a 100W amp and an ATU, suggesting it won't be as cheap as a K2/100 without the ATU.

Tor
N4OGW


While true, if I know what the OP is doing, the KXPA100's delayed release will allow him to recover his funds to buy at a later date.  Let us all know what you think of the rig, I would like to get a K2 or KX3 as a back up/ portable rig. 


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 24, 2012, 03:12:57 PM
For a 100 watt amplifier, consider this new product from Ten Tec:
http://www.tentec.com/products/160%252d6-Meter-Solid-State-Linear-Amplifier.html

73,
Chuck  NI0C


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 24, 2012, 04:00:24 PM
Today Elecraft told me that the 100 watt amp should be available by the end of this year. There is a 2 month wait (at least) for the rig anyway, my amp can give me 100 watts out and I already have my tuner. YeeHa!

Paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU1O on August 25, 2012, 04:42:41 PM
For a 100 watt amplifier, consider this new product from Ten Tec:
http://www.tentec.com/products/160%252d6-Meter-Solid-State-Linear-Amplifier.html

73,
Chuck  NI0C

$800 for a 100 Watt amplifier is expensive.  Why not buy one from Ameirtron which will cost about the same and put out much more power?

73,

Chris/NU1O


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 26, 2012, 08:43:05 AM
NU1O wrote:
Quote
$800 for a 100 Watt amplifier is expensive.  Why not buy one from Ameirtron which will cost about the same and put out much more power?

That's a fair question, Chris. It's a difference of scale.  The Ameritron amplifiers are designed to produce a QRO signal (500-1500 watts) from a standard 100 watt transceiver, while the new Ten Tec amp takes a QRP signal and raises it to the 100 watt level. 

Note that the OP (Paul, K3STX) already has an Ameritron AL-811 amplifier.

73,
Chuck  NI0C


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU1O on August 26, 2012, 11:01:21 PM
Note that the OP (Paul, K3STX) already has an Ameritron AL-811 amplifier.

73,
Chuck  NI0C


After reading all the posts again I do see he has an AL-811 and he thinks he could get 200 Watts out with the 12 Watts from the KX3.  That's a good solution until he frees up some capital.

Interestingly, I had a 3 way QSO today on 15 meters with one guy in VA, and another in MO who was using the KX3. The ham is MO was doing checks between his KX3 and another rig with 100W. I could not copy him when he was only running 12 Watts but he wasn't strong with 100 Watts to begin with. That is about 9 db of gain so it's not surprising I couldn't copy him with low power.  Conditions were much better between MO and VA and the ham in VA said it was hard to hear the difference between the KX3 and the rig running 100W.

I love my K3 so I'm biased, but if I did any operating from my QTH on Cape Cod I would buy a KX3 without hesitation.  The KX3 looks like it would be a lot of fun operating CW with a simple dipole hung from nearby trees.

73,

Chris/NU1O


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: KJ6HZ on August 28, 2012, 02:18:03 PM
Did I miss it or did nobody mention that you can't add a second receiver in the K2?  To me that's a huge deciding factor for a DX'ing rig.  Probably not as big a deal for contesting though unless you can use it to chase multipliers.  I no longer wear out my VFO A/B button trying to chase a split pile-up and have a much better idea what's going on in the pile-up by hearing both sides at once.

I would rather have a used rig with a second receiver and slightly worse RX specs than a new rig with a single great receiver, especially with my limited antennas. 

At Visalia DX University this year one of the speakers (sorry, I don't recall who) described the "game changing" performance improvements for DX'ing.  Adding a second receiver was one.  Diversity reception was another.  I'll wholeheartedly agree with the second receiver.  It will be a while before I can comment on diversity reception. 


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: N4OGW on August 28, 2012, 03:10:11 PM
Did I miss it or did nobody mention that you can't add a second receiver in the K2?  To me that's a huge deciding factor for a DX'ing rig.  Probably not as big a deal for contesting though unless you can use it to chase multipliers.  I no longer wear out my VFO A/B button trying to chase a split pile-up and have a much better idea what's going on in the pile-up by hearing both sides at once.

I would rather have a used rig with a second receiver and slightly worse RX specs than a new rig with a single great receiver, especially with my limited antennas. 

At Visalia DX University this year one of the speakers (sorry, I don't recall who) described the "game changing" performance improvements for DX'ing.  Adding a second receiver was one.  Diversity reception was another.  I'll wholeheartedly agree with the second receiver.  It will be a while before I can comment on diversity reception. 

Yes, the K2 doesn't have a second receiver, but you can add a tap to the IF for a SDR receiver (I did it on mine). That gives you easily a panadapter which is even more helpful in a big pileup.

Tor
N4OGW


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NU1O on August 28, 2012, 03:33:49 PM
I don't have a second receiver installed in my K3. Perhaps it's a case of not knowing what I'm missing out on but I do have the Panadapter and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.  I don't have diversity reception, either.

73,

Chris/NU1O


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on August 28, 2012, 08:11:36 PM
If I had the money to buy a rig with a second RX I wouldn't be buying a KX3, I'd get a K3!!! But the KX3 does have "Dual watch" +/- 15 kc; better than nothing. I too have never had a 2nd RX (or panadapter) so I also don't know what I am missing.

Paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: NI0C on August 31, 2012, 06:09:05 AM
NU1O wrote:
Quote
I don't have a second receiver installed in my K3. Perhaps it's a case of not knowing what I'm missing out on but I do have the Panadapter and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.

Same situation here, Chris. 

I have tried using my K2 as a second receiver with the K3, by splitting the Rx antenna between the two, and routing the audio to stereo headphones.  It was fun for a while, but I never liked hearing the pileup at the same time as the DX, either mixed together in both headphones, or routed separately, L/R. 

For weak signal DX work (especially on 160m), I want both ears concentrating on just the DX.  The panadaptor does a great job of displaying the pileup visually-- I don't need or want to hear it at all times.  Of course, when I do want to hear it, I use the "REV" button.

I've have wanted the second Rx in the K3 when using APF on weak DX.  (APF requires using the FINE tuning rate (1 Hz increments), but I never want to use FINE for tuning the pileup!)

Quote
I don't have diversity reception, either.

Neither do I. Now there's perhaps the best reason for the second Rx in the K3; however I don't have much room on my property for experimenting with receiving antennas. 


73,
Chuck  NI0C



Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on September 13, 2012, 01:11:36 PM
FWIW, i bought the Kenwood TS-590S a few days ago. It's got all I need in one box, no need for additional tuner, 100 watt amp, etc... As it is it is SO small (compared to my TS-850S), it will take some getting used to. But I like it fine so far. Not in love yet, but fine. My first foray into DSP; not sure I like it.

paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: PD2R on September 13, 2012, 01:54:18 PM
Did I miss something? In a previous post you stated that you were buying a KX3. What made you change your mind if I may be so bold to ask?


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: K3STX on September 13, 2012, 09:05:29 PM
Frankly it came down to money. The KX3 is VERY small, that (to me) is a real negative for my only home rig.
But $900 for the 10 watt radio. It does not have tuner or 100 watts to drive my amp. That would be another $300 or so. No RX antenna, so I either build a switchbox or buy a DX Engineering RX antenna box. I love DX Engineering, but now another $175.

For the same price is a ts-590, a 100 watt rig, built-in tuner, built in RX antenna port, and it is larger. The specs are good enough for me, not a K3 or KX-1 but close enough. I was in love with the KX3 as a portable rig, but that is a lot of money. If I get more
Money I might build a KX-1 for /p. but that is a different story.

Paul


Title: RE: K2 as main DX/contest rig?
Post by: PD2R on September 13, 2012, 11:14:48 PM
Well Paul, I totally get were you are coming from. The KX3 (which does have an ATU by the way) is a great little rig. Probably the best in it's class. But if I had to choose only one rig which would stay in my shack for the vast majority of the time, I would want something with a little more power and a bit more knobs and little less menu's.

I own a K3 myself and have used a TS 590 during field day. I was very impressed with this rig. I especially like the receiver and the receive audio but also was positively surprised how intuitive it was to use.

I hope you have lots of fun with your new transceiver.