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Author Topic: The elecraft dilemna...  (Read 19635 times)
DAVER
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Posts: 71




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« on: February 22, 2017, 02:09:21 PM »

So I love building kits and I want to transition to having a more portable set up. I really want to build a k2 as Ive allways wanted one since getting licensed. But... Then theres the kx2 and kx3. From what little time ive spent with either are great and both more than enough portable for my needs. Dont need a mountain topper for example.

So the dilmna do i build a k2 which would cost a crap ton for some older tech that loses its value instantly. Or get a kx2 or kx3? And then can just use an amp while at home. What are your guys thoughts? The k2 is just so expensive by time it gets the options! And then is not as portable. And then do i need a kx3? The kx2 does everything i need but does lack of roofing filters kill it for non ultraportable use?#

73
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G4AON
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 01:51:46 AM »

I built a K2 back in about 2001, it was a great radio for CW, less useful on SSB. As you say, by the time you add the extras it's very expensive and old tech. For someone who loves to build kits and also wants a CW transceiver, it's a good kit to keep you busy for about 35 hours (basic 10W CW kit). I still have mine, but like my K1 it gathers dust...

My K2 spent a few years in Spain where I regularly operate on 30/20/15m with 10 Watts of CW and a ground plane. Recently a friend was replacing his KX3 with a KX2 for his hill walking use, I made an offer and bought his KX3. The KX3 is ideal for use from a holiday shack if you can use a mains power supply. The frequency stability is first class (there is an easy self calibration routine involving cooling it in a fridge, then warming it with a hot air blower), it is significantly more stable and accurate on frequency cal than a K2 will ever be. TX audio on SSB from the KX3 is superb.

There are a few areas where a KX3 isn't so good:

Without an additional heatsink they get quite hot, Elecraft added one eventually but the earlier ones benefit from a heatsink such as the Windcamp ones. I don't know if the new KX3 has an adequate heatsink or not.

On CW there are images of signals stronger than about 59+10 or +20, it and the KX2 are direct conversion receivers... The audio images are notched out by DSP, it is very effective at the image of your chosen sidetone frequency, but only about 45 dB down a few Hz away from that. Generally it's not an issue, but can cause you to call strong stations well off their real frequency!

The KX3 S-meter is calibrated with the pre-amp on... The pre-amp isn't generally needed so your S-meter will always read a bit low. There is no way to calibrate the S-meter in the current firmware.

The KX3 speaker is awful, why can a tiny speaker in a mobile phone sound so good, yet the one in a KX3 rattle so much? If you mostly operate SSB (or CW with earphones) it's not a problem - it doesn't resonate/rattle on SSB so much.

The KX3 internal battery holder is useless, opening the case to change batteries risks damage to the ribbon cable between the boards on each half of the case and the spring contacts aren't up to supplying much current, so you are limited to about 3W and then the battery level soon starts to bring on warnings of low battery Volts. So stick to external power.

While you can add a lot of extras to a KX3 via the accessory sockets on the side plate, they are via flimsy 2.5 and 3.5mm jack sockets, it gets quite messy when you connect a few cables.

Overall a KX3 is a nice radio to use on a bedside table, or a picnic table. It's quite novel to use in the shack too, but it's real use is /P with external power.

73 Dave
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N2DTS
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2017, 05:13:19 AM »

I built two K2's, with most of the options, including the 100 watt amp and antenna tuner in a separate case.
You should buy one just for the build, its a lot of fun to build.
Its likely the last big kit to really build, its not just sticking pre built boards together.
The DZ Sienna might be the other last big kit, much more money...

I would not say its a rig I would use in the shack a lot, all the Elecraft stuff has their annoying every button and knob does 3 (or more) things and large menu's.

The K2 makes a very nice portable rig, room inside for a big battery, nice built in tuner, built in speaker works fine.
Its ok as a home qrp rig, and the power goes up to 15 watts out I think.
Another thing about the K2 is since you built it, you can fix it if need be.

So, as a CW rig with just the built in antenna tuner, its quite good, SSB works well, but at 15 watts is not a lot of fun long term.

Get one just for the build.

 
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K4JPN
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 05:24:35 AM »

 Wink I built my K2 in 2000 and in the next couple of years added the various accessories including the 100 W amp and tuner built in the separate case.  While I have yet to operate one of the new super duper rigs, the enjoyment of building the K2 and accessories are well worth it.  I am not a DXer, but will pick up a new country when I hear one on, mainly CW QRP and some of the digital modes, also the SKCC and NAQCC Sprints.  In other words a laid back operator, who is on 3 or 4 times a week.  So if you are into hard and heavy operating I would think a rig with all the latest capabilities is the way to go, but for regular operating the K2 is a great rig, and you have the fun of building it.
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KU3X
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2017, 05:51:03 AM »

I have to agree with the comment about the KX3's internal battery. All it's good for is keeping the time on the internal clock. I use an external LiPo with both my KX3.

Building is always fun but hands down if I had to pick only one QRP radio, it would be a loaded KX3. The Elecraft 100 watts SS amp interfaces with the KX3 perfectly.
The amp"s operation is transparent to the radio. You could actually hide the amp under the table since the KX3 fully controls the amp. It's really a neat setup. I don't
have the amp but I do have both the KX2 and KX3. The KX3 became my QRP primary station radio and the KX2 is my out the door radio.

Get the KX3 in kit form since you like building. I'd call it a semi kit, some assembly required. Hi Hi

Barry
http://www.ku3x.net/portable-qrp/elecraft-kx3
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AA4PB
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2017, 06:59:03 AM »

If you want a kit that's a real challenge to build, try the Juma TRX2. It's nearly all surface mount components that you have to install yourself. If you want the best performance, sort the actual measured capacitance values for the filter boards. It'll keep you busy for a few weeks and when you are done you'll have a nice 10W CW/SSB transceiver.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
AK4YH
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WWW

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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2017, 10:55:22 AM »

Today I would rather build a K1. Less expensive and a great radio. I have a KX2 but honestly, it might be just too much radio for me. I should have kept my K2 and never have bought a KX3 and KX2...

Gil.
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DAVER
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Posts: 71




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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2017, 02:19:56 PM »

A lot of good info there...

I thought about the juma kit but had a hard time finding info on it and the lack of rf knob bothered me. Or is there a function for it? I like knobs Sad

Yes the K1 would actually allready be orderd f it came in the 4 band version still. Although when propogation is blasting its fun to work over the 1k miles per watt ssb! So wouldnt mind having it there even if not allways used. Although the bitxs provide plenty of sideband fun on there own Smiley

thats where the k2, kx2&3 come in. Let me research the juma a little more...

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AA4PB
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 03:11:08 PM »

The Juma doesn't have an RF gain control but I've never experienced a case where I needed it, even on the 3 element Yagi. Once you have a Juma up and running correctly, be sure to upgrade the firmware to 5B4AIY's latest version for lots of extra features.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
N2DTS
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Posts: 735




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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2017, 03:25:15 PM »

I found the K1 agc in stock form very poor, liked the Sierra better in that respect.
I would go for the K2 over the K1 to get all the bands and a good display, and room for a good battery inside.
I just love how the K2 goes together, it has to be the peak of kit building.

I wonder why they dropped the 4 band option, or the KX1, what happened there?


Today I would rather build a K1. Less expensive and a great radio. I have a KX2 but honestly, it might be just too much radio for me. I should have kept my K2 and never have bought a KX3 and KX2...

Gil.
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AC6AN
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Posts: 42




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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2017, 03:41:02 PM »

So the dilmna do i build a k2 which would cost a crap ton for some older tech that loses its value instantly. Or...
A few points regarding "old tech"... Go on youtube and look for Sierra vs K3. You'll be the judge.
Here is another one. Today I was trying Icom 703 on 40 meter voice. QRN, QSB and a very weak signal forced me to use the IF shift and aggressive DSP NR and it was not comfortable copy.
Pulled out the "old tech" K2. Armchair copy.
But that was no fluke.
First time I listened to CW on a K2 prototype I thought it was broken. Then out of nowhere a pure CW tone emerged.
Haven't had that experience with my TS-850 or IC756 pro II, both utilizing multiple DDS and cleanup filters. High tech?!
Remember that guy, what's his name. Something Einstein... "Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler" (I imagine it was with a heavy German accent...). Amen!
I'm not an Elecraft groupie but I appreciate the brilliant design trade-offs in the K2 for its target market: QRP main radio that is also small and portable. Nothing is perfect, the K2 comes close.
And then what other radio is still selling after 18 years in almost the same configuration? There is something to be deduced from product longevity and true customer loyalty.
K2 is a keeper in my book.


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AK4YH
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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2017, 01:44:39 AM »

The K1 is still a good buy as a two-bander. I will be looking very hard at the Weber MTR4b from LNR Precision... I have the 3b and it is a great little radio. The 4b draws only 15mA on receive and has 80m!

Gil.
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WB0GAZ
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Posts: 62




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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2017, 05:45:39 AM »

The original poster asked a question about KX3 and roofing filters. My experience may provide some insight (from CW operator perspective):

I used my KX3 during field day a 2015 at a really large contest station (multiple towers, beams on 40M, phased array on 80M, and so on), here in rocky mountain area. Numerous really enormous signal levels, particularly on 20 and 40 meter bands! The station has otherwise won a number of large contests and is well regarded.

I experienced no problem at all due to lack of roofing filter (I didn't include one in my kit), and still don't have a roofing filter (I still have the KX3). However, I did run into a DSP firmware bug where the total attenuation (ultimate rejection) of the DSP filter with even-bandwidth (xx00 Hz) CW bandwidth settings was not adequate - you could hear (and in some cases see S-meter movement) on very strong signals well outside the intended CW passband. I raised this with Elecraft at the time, and by fall of 2015 they indicated they could reproduce the problem (I provided a procedure using benchtop RF test equipment which they duplicated in their facility), but they indicated at the time correcting the bug was not a priority vs other activities (I was disappointed), and after several back-and-forth with senior people there, I gave up pursuing the problem.

So, I'd go ahead and opt for the KX3 given the choices you enumerate (K2, KX2, KX3) - the KX3 provides IF out (the K2 and KX2 architectures don't enable this) as well as supports VHF operation, and I am (with exception of the DSP bug) very happy with my unit.

Dave
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KB1GMX
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2017, 07:55:42 AM »

Before you assume the K2 will loose a lot of value after being assembled look at what
they are going for used.  You might be surprised, they don't go cheap.  If you can get
near the radios in question and use it you may have other preferences for the choice.

Digital radios are interesting but like others have noted they can have bugs and
newer designs are tied to surface mount and other tech.

If you building a kit the K2 is a serious build for a very good radio.  If you just want to
assemble as in screws nuts and cables then KX2 or KX3.

If you only CW then the K1 or KX1 are choices too.


Allison
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N4OI
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Posts: 351




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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2017, 08:09:13 AM »

Agree with the K1 decision.  K2 would be nice, but it is over twice the price, even without options.  The K1 is an excellent CW-only QRP rig that I often use during the CWT mini-tests (with compromised attic dipole).  I suspect my power out is a bit north of 5W, so the difference compared to the K2 at the receive side of the QSOs is not significant much of the time.  And the K1 has been trouble-free since I built it over 10 years ago...

73   Shocked
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