Maybe contesters cant solder? Most hams are pretty pathetic when it comes to constructing things. I have heard every excuse under the sun as excuses by seemingly intelligent hams for reasons why they cant build a simple thing like a K2. Most are too lazy and cant be bothered but they even poor excuses for their lack of basic electronics skill.
I have used just about every radio on the planet, and while the Elecraft products are far from ergonomic their performance is excellent. The K2 in noisy low band CW conditions performs better than my K3. Contesting requires a big ergonomic radio with with every feature falling to your hand in the form of a knob. Would I use a K2 in a contest, no because its user interface is poor and awkward. However as general purpose fun everyday radio I can live with all the rigs shortcomings especially for the performance it delivers. The K2's receiver when aligned properly makes a excellent CW radio. Its weak signal detection is unmatched frankly and so for these reasons the K2 makes an excellent radio. I suppose what contester can hear a S1 signal in a contest? Only stations like K3LR and W3LPL everyone else is a alligator surrounded by splattering or clicking alligators and cant hear anything much below a a S5. So does a K2 or any high performance radio really matter when most contest stations cant copy any signal below S5. So why use a poor ergonomic radio whose key performance advantage cant be exploited. But outside of contest weekend its a pleisure to use a radio like the K2 that makes weak signal reception easy. Its even even better you dont have a digital DSP receiver wearing your ears down.
Life is all about balance and this applies to the tools we use for radio. There is no swiss army knife radio that has a tool for every operators need. Its fortunate we have such a vast array of tools that we can buy. If you a CW only op and a casual non contester the K2 makes a excellent radio.
Anyway Elecraft is missing the boat manufacturing these small radios with such poor ergonomics I agree with your contention. If the K2 was available in a configuration and looks of the FT950 it would be a massive hit. The trouble is that Yaesu designed a very nice box and packaged the FT950S features very well. Its just unfortunate that they put such a crap receiver with such a poor audio amplifier in the FT950.
The same goes for Elecraft, building such a good performing radio and then putting it into such a awfully user unfriendly radio is hard to understand. While I can understand the radios original design intention of being a portable/QRP radio I fail to understand why they want to persist with manufacturing radios for portable use. The majority of hams want radios like the FT950, FT2000 or bigger radios with lots of knobs. Until manufacturers realize this and that they are fighting against what their customers want they going to do badly. Now we find Yaesu going down this same stupid road with useless small radios like the FtDX3000 and FTDX1200. All poor features and poor performance. All Yaesu had to do was build the FTDX5000 receiver into a radio like the FT950 and they would have had a massive hit. They then could have offered an external speaker and a pan adapter like the P3. They also could have built in a SO2R interface for another FT950/FT5000 receiver. They then could have sold hundreds of more radios as pairs of radios. These radio companies are lousy at marketing because they getting some front office blonde to design their radios not real hams. A radio in this configuration would have been hugely popular. But no they give us a crap box like the FTDX3000 that needs a pair of chopsticks for operation. Old radios like the TS850 and TS990 and the FT1000D are popular for good reasons, they big and represent what a real radio is. A big box with knobs. These are the radios that contesters want. Not multifunction pieces of junk that have poor features that deliver nothing and no receiver performance and that fit into your pocket.
I had high expectations from Elecraft but they seem to have mind set that their own and not about capturing the wider ham market by making products that hams want and not what they want to force feed us in terms of UN-ergonomic unfriendly radios thats not in every hams taste. It seems only Kenwood has the balls to stick to the big knobbed radio concept. Now if Kenwood was smart it would produce a cut down TS990S without the built in screen and produce the TS990S in the form of the TS950SDX with all the bandscope and speaker accessories in external boxes. There are many ways you can spin a top range product into a cheaper model that still produces money. Oh Yaesu did have the brains when it produced the FT1000D and FT990 and even radios like the FT920. Now they seem to want to make all their radios as versions of the FT817 making each new model 1 inch bigger. These companies are really pathetic at understanding the ham radio market very well. We dont want to even start talking about Tentec who seems to be totally lost. Their best product was so screwed up by them that you cant even imagine them ever coming back with a big decent radio. It just seems ham radio companies are making radio for the sake of it rather than making by design or for functionality. These companies have definitely dropped the ball, it so bad that I think they cant even see the ball. I often wonder if their are even active hams designing these products they are so badly designed. Either this or the designers are being screwed by the cost cutting departments it so obvious how badly these radios are being designed or having the design investment recycled.
Every ham that I speak to wants the very best product why do ham companies fail to understand this essential point? Everything in life that I want to buy be it a watch or a car I can buy cheap, good, medium and the best. In ham radio all that you can seem to buy is crap, crap, more crap and the same crap from last year rebadged. Ham radio manufacturers are the only companies in the world who make their products and features worst as a marketing feature! Every other company tries or strives to make their features better or improve upon them. Ham radio companies are they only companies who fix things in one model and then break and destroy the very feature in the next model. It goes on and on and on. Then they say they cant make money or complain about tight fisted hams. My money will flow when they make products that earns the respect of my dollars that I worked hard for. I dont have to throw my money away on crap that performs badly and is hold hat. I can only imagine how long a company Apple would last if they used the marketing and manufacturing strategies of ham manufacturing companies. Imagine buying a car that is worst than last years model claiming that its new but is just the same design from 5 years ago. You would be laughed out of the car industry but this what we get from ham radio companies.
The fix is really simple. Design radios that work better every year and consider how the radio will be used. The formula is that simple. You dont make a radio with no ham band buttons and call such a radio ergonomic!
I love my '950 but I don't do much CW. I don't like it on full break-in, I find the relay chatter rather annoying. The reciever is more than adequate for me, I usually run the bandwidth down to 300 Hz and it's good enough for DXing and casual contesting.
Since when does the FT-950 use mechanical relays for T/R switching? I don't own an FT-950, and I don't have a schematic in front of me so I can't say for sure...but I sincerely doubt that it has any relays. I had a 920 and it didn't use relays either, but the QSK performance was the worst of any radio I ever owned. It wasn't because of relays though. There were mods that supposedly improved the clicking and popping on T/R, but they addressed the timing of the audio muting as I recall. Didn't seem to be worth the effort as the IF filtering was terrible anyway. That's why International Radio sold a dual filter conversion kit.
K2 will leave the Ft950 for dead.
The K2 will leave most of the Japanese radios for dead on CW. This is before we start talking about receiver dynamic range numbers.
The K2 is a sweet CW radio and its RX performance on weak signal CW is excellent.
You will not be disapointed with the K2 on CW. The K2 on weak signal is just very good. In my opinion its better than the K3.
I owned a K2 and found its vaunted CW performance to be highly overrated. Guys that build K2s are justifiably proud of them, but that doesn't necessarily make them great radios. The K2 doesn't perform very well in strong signal environments. You can't even change the CW pitch without aligning the receiver. Not to mention the ergos are terrible. Don't find many contestors or DXers using K2s. Why do you s'pose? The K2 was a nice little QRP rig. When it gained a 100 watt PA, it was playing in a different league.