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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Elecraft KX3 Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft KX3
Elecraft KX3 Reviews: 151 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $ See Desciption
Description: Elecraft KX3 Transceiver

Ultra-portable, all-band/all-mode high-performance transceiver for home, mobile, or field use.
* 160-6 meters (2 m with KX3-2M module)
* SSB/CW/DATA/AM/FM modes; 10 W+ PEP (100 W with KXPA100 amp)
* 1.7" x 3.5" x 7.4" (4.3 x 8.9 x 18.8 cm); only 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg)
* Current drain as low as 150 mA; internal battery (8 AA cells, any type)
* Advanced DSP provides dual watch, noise reduction, noise blanking, autonotch, stereo audio effects, audio peaking filter (APF)
* Software-defined radio (SDR) architecture plus optional roofing filters
* Operates in data modes (PSK31/RTTY) with or without a PC
* Includes RX I/Q sound-card outputs; works with PC RS232 or USB ports; free firmware upgrades
* Options: internal wide-range antenna tuner (KXAT3), interal NiMH battery charger (KXBC3), dual roofing filter module (KXFL3), attached high-performance keyer paddle (KXPD3), internal 2-meter module (KX3-2M), MH3 compact hand mic with UP/DN buttons, KXPA100/KXAT100 100-W amplifier and ATU

$999.95 factory assembled, $899.95 kit

Product is in production.
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WT8BZ Rating: 5/5 Apr 17, 2017 05:05 Send this review to a friend
My favorite again  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased the KX3 for its small size and portability. I was surprised at what a great piece of engineering this is in such a small package. The KX3 was my favorite transceiver for the first six months that I owned it, but I don't always want to operate QRP and I wanted a broader digital capability.

I purchased the full K3s line about a year ago for my home station and was not disappointed. However, I still wanted to use my KX3 portable and for travel so I purchased the KXPA-100 amplifier. The resulting bird's nest of wires and connectors was not pretty and after adding a SignaLink USB and laptop, portability was a distant memory. I know, it's my fault for wanting so much out of this small package, but it is more than capable so why limit yourself?

My solution was a custom built travel case that I can carry on a commercial airline that requires only connecting an antenna to get on the air. The total package including the 30 amp hour LiFePO4 battery weighs in at 53lbs, so it's not a backpack item, but it is water proof and easy to transport. If you have similar issues with the KX3, I've posted a YouTube video on what I ended up building:

The KX3 now my favorite transceiver again and it's something I can easily take to field day, on travel or vacations. Great piece of engineering on Elecraft's part.

N7TB Rating: 5/5 Mar 23, 2017 23:37 Send this review to a friend
The Most Versatile Rig I've Ever Owned  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my KX3 for 15 months. Overall it's the best HF rig I have ever owned. It works great on SSB and is an exceptional CW rig. There have been many reviews touting the technical excellence of the rig. I won't add to those.

Versatility is what makes the KX3 unmatched. I also have the PX3 Panadapter and KXPA100 Amp. both work seamlessly with the KX3 and makes it a great base station. I sometimes take the KX3 and PX3 for a lightweight combination running 15 watts on external LiFePo4 battery.

By itself, it is an amazing rig. I just returned from New Zealand where I took the KX3, an external 3Ah battery to allow for full 15 watts output, and a 58 ft. random length of wire and counterpoise attached to a BNC binding post and was able to work 80 - 20 meter contacts. I use the KDPX2 paddle which was actually designed for the KX2 but works wonderfully with the KX3.

I carry the KX3 in a Thinktank Photo Strobe case. All this easily fits in my small backpack.

Now that the KX2 is on the market, I looked seriously at buying it for portable use and using the KX3 for my base station. I finally decided that I could not give up the added features of the KX3.

The KX2 is a remarkable rig for it's size, but the KX3 is not that much bigger and easier to use ergonomically with features that the KX2 doesn't have.

For SOTA or backpacking the less than a pound added weight and slightly larger size is not an issue for most people. Carrying an extra 11 oz. will not make a difference. However the KX3 doesn't have the "cute factor" of the KX2.

From home station, to RV, to air travel to distant places, to picnic table portable to backpack carry, it's an amazingly capable rig.

It is very close in performance to Elecraft's flagship rig, the K3S yet so small.

Another benefit that is seldom mentioned is that Elecraft technical support is incredible and the email user's group is very helpful as well. Add to that is Elecraft continuing to add features to the rig through firmware updates at no cost. When I got the KX3, 10 watts was the maximum power output. it is now 15 watts, a 50 percent increase in power at no cost.

Given the purchase decision again, I would buy the KX3 with no reservations.
WC1I Rating: 5/5 Oct 26, 2016 10:30 Send this review to a friend
Almost Perfect  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I finally settled on the KX3 after all the usual angst and comparisons, from QRP alternatives like the FT817, to various mobile HF units and luggable portables.

For me, the KX3 was an easy ergonomic choice, and my use of the radio validates that for my usage. It's complex, but easy to operate, with the physical controls handling most operating functions and the menu more focused on set-it-and-forget-it items. That calculus may differ for you.

My tradeoffs were against my concerns with build robustness, particularly with the left-side connectors. I also share concerns about the internal battery set-up. So I'm quite careful.

Cost, of course, weighed heavily also. It's expensive equipped with ATU, charger, and filters! ... see paragraph 1.

I have minor gripes, such as not being able to further lower LED brightness than currently allowed. It's blinding even on the lowest setting when in a darkened environment, whether the backlight is on or not. The VFO B display doesn't show the least significant digit (it tunes it, naturally). There is a small handful of menu SUB settings that are completely non-intuitive. The data functionality could use some improvement. And I share the minor irritation at the buttons not always doing their thing unless firmly pushed. On this last, I hesitated before turning off the button clicks, but since that drives me crazier than the occasional miss ...

Wonderfully compact, and fits nicely with assorted cables and mic into a Pelican 1200 case.

I'm happy with my decision and would buy it again. I might give a 4.5 rating if possible due to some of the minutiae, but this is a seriously capable radio that deserves the 5 for sheer capability in a small package.
W9AC Rating: 5/5 Oct 1, 2016 06:35 Send this review to a friend
Solid 5  Time owned: more than 12 months
One of the best designed products in amateur radio. It deserves an award for innovation. Several years of operation at home and in the field, and it always delivers.
KA1IS Rating: 4/5 Sep 29, 2016 20:26 Send this review to a friend
Good QRP radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have several Elecraft radios. The KX3 has more features than any QRP radio. But could be better.

Here are suggestions for a KX4

A dedicated RF gain dial (like the KX1 and K2) - especially with such a hot receiver that is easily overloaded.

Buttons that respond consistently. Its easy to press a button and have it do nothing. The K1 and K2 are better quality in this respect.

Better selection and layout of controls. The choice of button functions seems unusual. Too many functions on the same buttons - that could be just added to the menu instead - to make room for controls that are actually used.

More stable (wider?) cabinet. The design, although amazingly small, is unstable for its weight.

G4AON Rating: 3/5 Sep 29, 2016 01:24 Send this review to a friend
No issues with mine, but could be better  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've used my K2 on overseas holidays for many years. The K2 is larger than I liked and always fancied replacing it with a KX3. This year a friend was looking to sell his KX3, replacing it with a KX2 for better "SOTA" capability. I made an offer and now have a 5xxx serial KX3.

My "new to me" KX3 came with the optional audio roofing filter, I've since added the ATU board and a 3rd party "Windcamp" heatsink.

Plus points:
Excellent frequency stability, especially after running the extended temperature calibration.

Very smooth audio and no signal reduction at 200 ~ 250 Hz bandwidth.

Virtually silent operation, with only the odd relay click (handy when the OH is asleep nearby).

Very straightforward to operate and a CW OPs delight.

The I/Q output works well with the free NaP3 software to give a nice panoramic display on a PC.

Excellent SSB TX audio, the speech processing works well.

Minus points:
The connectors on the left hand side plate are flimsy, perhaps no worse than many other radios, but but still not good.

The receiver is direct conversion with clever audio phasing to minimise the image, this is not totally effective, especially on CW. Even after careful alignment, the in band image is only 40 to 50 dB down, an S9 +20 dB CW signal will appear 1.5 KHz (with 750 HZ sidetone) away at S5! The specification is better than the above figure, but only applies to the very narrow alignment tone, dropping to around 45 dB a few HZ off.

The internal battery facility is a joke. Even with good 2500mAh NiMh cells, after a couple of hours you will find transmitting at 3 Watts starts to give low battery warnings. The spring battery holder isn't capable of supplying more than a few mA, not 2 to 3 Amps. In addition, if you want to remove the batteries for charging, you risk breaking the weak ribbon cable every time you open the case.

The internal speaker is awful, it resonates and buzzes on CW, it's not too bad on SSB. Many mobile phones have superb tiny speakers, so why not put one in the KX3?

In order to use "dual watch" to monitor 2 freqs on the same band, you have to use earphones. It would be nice to be able to monitor on the speaker.

Overall, it's much better than a K2, but could be far better.
KE7KUS Rating: 0/5 Sep 24, 2016 10:17 Send this review to a friend
Very Overpriced Poorly Designed QRP Rig  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I purchased an Elecraft KX3 last year, and it was the biggest purchasing mistake of my amateur radio life. I was duped by the Elecraft hype and it cost me $1700 of my hard-earned money. Potential buyers looking for a serous portable/QRP radio should avoid Elecraft products. Instead I recommend starting with a Yaesu FT-817 and adding W4RT filters and an IF tap via the G4HUP PAT kit if you want panadapter functionality. Even after all those mods, you'll still end up spending FAR less than you would on a fully equipped KX3, have a FAR more durable radio, and have the benefit of 70cm band to boot.

In October 2015 I ordered a KX-3 kit from Elecraft, as well as the roofing filter, battery charger, internal tuner, and CW paddles. Upon assembling the kit, I found the right pot on the radio mainboard was inoperative, requiring a complete board replacement. The following month I added a 2m transverter to the radio. Upon installing the 2m transverter, I found that I was unable to transmit for more than 2-3 minutes at 2W without the transceiver shutting down due to overheating. Finally, in August 2016 (10 months after my initial purchase) I sat down to operate the radio one morning, and discovered it would not power on. Upon opening the case, I discovered the 8 internal AA batteries in the internal battery holder had exploded all over the radio. I sent the remains of the radio to Elecraft, where I was told the radio was a complete loss.

The KX-3 is a poorly designed radio from a durability & reliability standpoint. While Elecraft touts it as a superlative radio for portable & emergency operations, it is anything but. The radio internals consist of a number of stacked circuit boards with no shock/isolation mounting. The roofing filter stacks vertically on one side of the radio, but is only held in place by a single pass-through screw which supposedly keeps it in place. Even with the screw in place, the roofing filter board has a moderate amount of play when touched. The internal battery charger and internal battery pack are likely the worst design I've ever seen in an electronic component. The power wires for the battery charger are routed between two very tight spaces inside the radio, where the wires can easily become pinched and short against adjacent components. Furthermore, rather than sit at the bottom of the radio where a leak would have the least impact, the internal battery pack sits on top the internal component boards of the radio with no underlying protection, so any internal battery malfunction causes irreparable damage to the two main component boards below the battery pack. Apparently, Elecraft has also had significant problems with the battery pack mounting screws inside the radio either not being seated properly, or backing out under portable use, causing batteries to short out. There were quite a few warnings/cautions/notes about this in the kit assembly guide.

While I was certainly disappointed that my KX3 failed 10 months into its service life, I assumed a company with Elecraft's reputation would stand behind their product and replace the radio under the 1-year warranty it came with. I certainly assumed wrongly. Upon sending back my $1700 KX-3, Elecraft informed me the radio was a complete loss, but they extended the "generous" offer of allowing me to purchase a replacement KX-3 for "only" $975. The initial technician report from Elecraft failed to identify the cause of the failure, and when I inquired about the warranty coverage the "Customer Support" tech proceeded to proliferously quote the "fine print" from various Elecraft documents about how Elecraft wasn't responsible for damage caused by "non-Elecraft accessory equipment" (the batteries in this case). He also quoted fine print which said Elecraft wouldn't replace the radio if the damage was caused by alkaline battery leakage (my batteries were NiMH). Finally, he said, and I quote: "It was our conclusion that a battery failure caused the destruction of the internal boards in your radio. How this happened is undetermined, but it could have been related to the battery holder assembly and a shorted battery cell." To paraphrase: "Battery failure caused the destruction of your KX3. We couldn't determine how this happened, so we are assuming it was your fault." Despite the fact that I followed the kit assembly instructions to the finest detail (especially because of all the warnings about battery shorts in the assembly instructions), used the recommended NiMH batteries, and the radio operated normally for 10 months after I assembled the kit and used it only as a desktop base-station radio, Elecraft "Customer Support" refused to honor the 1-year warranty on the radio. During my warranty discussions, Elecraft management convened and apparently collectively decided they would revise their initial radio replacement offer from $975 down to "only $675, provided I accepted the offer within 5 days of receipt." Having already been duped out of $1700 by the company, I declined the offer.

Bottom line - my experience purchasing and losing an Elecraft KX3 after only 10 months in service left me with the profound impression that the company only cares about getting your dollars. If you want top quality performance right up to the point you're left holding the bag because of Elecraft design/manufacturing shortcomings, this radio is definitely the radio for you. As for me, Elecraft will never see another dime of my money - I much prefer a company that stands behind their products.
N5GKV Rating: 5/5 Sep 4, 2016 10:16 Send this review to a friend
Superb in every way  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I have had mine for about 6 months after trying almost every kind of transceiver ever made. I am a long time trader and tinkerer and have loved many a rig while disliking many a rig. I don't ever see myself trading this one off. Why, you ask ---- because its simply a better idea. I have the entire station with all the accessories. I bought it from a ham who thought it simply to difficult to learn how to use. I bought the very expensive users guide from Elecraft and taught myself how to operate the little guy.... Its tough for us old guys to learn for sure but when you finally get it ---- its super rewarding. I've built a beautiful oak stand for it and the panadapter and when I become a SK, my family can pass it along to someone who will get (one fabulous rig).....
K6MTS Rating: 5/5 Aug 18, 2016 14:20 Send this review to a friend
More than lives up to reputation  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a beautiful little rig that is a blast to operate. It includes numerous features but also takes minimal familiarity to operate. Very impressive receiver, and get great audio reports.

Got mine factory built with mic, filters, cables and ATU. Latest firmware ups output to 15W. I power it with external 4s LiPo batts (use mini v/reg till below 15v).

My only gripes: Clam shell design is PITA, speaker is very poor with buzzing effect, and support legs never seem to level out. As a consumer, not a big fan of getting whacked for every basic option, but cool they are USA built and owned.

High quality, incredible amount of features in such a small package. Also more options for panadapter, amp, etc.

I have no regrets for purchasing this excellent little rig.

K1ADK Rating: 5/5 Aug 3, 2016 07:38 Send this review to a friend
Awesome radio!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Ideally - I'd give this radio a 4.5+ so I'll lean towards rounding up. I'm going to give a bit of my story behind this rig in the hopes it helps someone else make a purchasing decision (either for OR against). TL;DR pros/cons at the bottom.

I got (re)licensed after a long lapse in the hobby two years ago (and tested up past tech this time). I wanted a great radio for my first HF rig, so I went and found a used TenTec Eagle. I LOVED the radio, but I work full time and I live on a smallish suburban lot and I'm not going to erect all sorts of antennas everywhere (still looking to see what kind of horizontal loop I can get up in the trees), so my operation style is much more portable. Camping, beach / out and about, on vacation, now looking to start doing SOTA work. Off to sale went the Eagle, and I picked up a Yaesu FT-817ND as well as an 857ND. The radios are fine but their performance leaves a lot to be desired coming from the Eagle. Mostly around RX audio and quality. The Yaesu rigs are tiring to listen to after a while, especially with all the QRM and QRN around - even with an aftermarket DSP on the 817.

Enter the KX3. I've been eyeing this radio for over a year, and finally pulled the trigger. This radio is every bit as nice as my TT Eagle was (can't compare to the bigger Elecraft rigs but I'm sure the same), but shrunk down to portable size! I picked up a used one with many options (roofing filters, ATU). Right on my desk at home with a 13.8VDC supply and "ok" end fed random wire I was able to block out much of the noise AND with a decent pair of cheap over the ear headphones - enjoy the expanded audio effects of the KX3. This made listening for a couple of hours a VERY enjoyable experience. I managed to hear a gentleman from Austria on 17M and work him with 12W (even getting through the pileup on the 5th or 6th try), getting a 5x7 back from him. Not bad for the crummy band conditions on 8/2/2016 and a not particularly great antenna.

The TL;DR version:
KX3 every bit as nice a radio as my TT Eagle was (minus, of course, the 100W of internal power). Portable. GREAT RX audio quality even in bad QRM/QRN (use decent headphones). Usable at ~10W for sure, even in bad band conditions.

- Outstanding quality
- Portable
- Enough power to work portable without being frustrated (10W SSB is actually usable)
- Internal options make this a nice, neat, small package that can go almost anywhere and do 90% of what I (and probably many people) need (ATU, 2M)
- Great RX audio
- Low power consumption. Casual use without trying to save power has consistently had me below 200mA

- Internal batteries are a joke. Alkalines are a joke (enough voltage to kick 5-10W but only recommended at 3W). NiMH are a joke (not enough voltage to reliably work 5+ W). Why bother? The various combinations here are no better for TX than the FT-817ND that everyone complains about. If you're looking to mostly or only RX on batteries then they're fine. Skip the RTC/Battery charger and save a few bucks. Get an external 4S LiPo pack and a boost/buck regulator that you can set to 13.8v.
- Expensive (you get what you pay for, though!)
- Lower (~3W) power on 2M
- No 70cm

The last two are probably the reasons I won't give up my 817 just yet, but I may get there. Only true regret is not going for this radio first.
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