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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: 155 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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K5DWV Rating: 5/5 Dec 11, 2017 12:54 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic transceiver  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
What can be said about this fantastic little radio that hasn't already been said? Background: I've been licensed since the late 60's with a few lapses, so I've used many dozens of radios over the years - so I know enough to be dangerous. I've used several Elecraft radios: K2, KX1, K3 and now the KX3. I ordered an assembled unit with ATU, Roofing filter, RTC/Battery, CW paddle, cable kit, and 2M module. The PX3 and KXPA100 are on my wishlist.

The radio arrived and worked flawlessly. I've used it portable many times now with the internal batteries (NiMH) as well as an external Li-on battery pack (River), an MFJ 17' whip with four radials on 20M - QRP to 15W. While conditions are currently sub-par (an understatement) I've made dozens of SSB contacts across the US, Canada, Latin America, and EU, FT8 all over the world (although FT8 is a bit like watching robots make love) and finally a few CW contacts.(my CW skills need improving). I've also worked HF PSK-31 as well as the local 2M FM repeaters. Interfacing to the computer is straightforward (with the proper cable set) and supported by most software packages. I've also become a fan of the SideKar. I also use the KX3 fixed at the home QTH through a vertical with a good ground and radial system. I have several nearby kilowatt ham neighbors and no issues.

The receiver is "lively", sensitive and the filtering is top-notch (as is the noise blanker and the notch filter, etc.). I am very familiar with the Elecraft UI paradigm and so I only needed to look at the excellent documentation a few times. The display is crisp and easily readable outdoors in bright sunlight. The TX side is excellent in all modes that I've used. The firmware upgrades over the last few years have improved the TX, RX, and functionality of the radio, kudu's to Elecraft for the continuous improvements. The antenna tuner can match a fence, I've done that and worked worldwide FT8.

Radio performance, while quantitative with testing, is also subjective: how does it sound and what is the experience using it? The KX3 audio is excellent with headphones, and the built-in speaker is surprisingly usable. RX performance is on par with the Flex 6700 and to my ears is easier to listen to than the Icom 7300 (all using the same headphones) - we are lucky to be in an age of so many excellent radios - any comparison is always subjective, YMMV.

What would I change? Not much - although an updated KX3 with internal Li-on batteries and USB for CAT, IQ and audio would simplify operations.

I find the KX3 fun to use and the portability can't be beaten (except maybe by a KX2 or KX1?). My entire setup fits into a small Eagle Creek shoulder bag with the MFJ whip strapped to the side of the bag. If you are thinking about getting a KX3, just do it! The KX3 is as relevant today as it was the day it was released!
K9OBX Rating: 5/5 Jun 22, 2017 10:19 Send this review to a friend
First Kit Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am, by all rights, a newbie ham. I was first licensed in 2012 and have since, been surrounded by elmers. Through the various elmers, I've learned to build different antennas, learned and operate CW, and a multitude of other things, too many to list. This was my first kit radio. I was told by my elmers that it is what's known as a modular kit, meaning no soldering. The kit was easy, yet time consuming (3 hours) due to the small washers and bolts. It went together very well, and very tightly. I have no doubt that it will hold up to normal use.

Once the kit was built I turned it on and WHAM everything worked!!!! I tested various things and then proceeded straight to 160 meters SSB, where i made contacts on the first try with only 10 watts. They couldn't believe I was only running 10 watts. I then proceeded to 80 meters and made another SSB contact there and then on to 40 meters CW. This is where this rig really shines. I ordered the optional ATU AND Roofing Filter. Man does it pay off on CW!!!! I've made several contacts after 3 days and even got W1AW using only 5 watts CW on 30 meters. The receive is second to none on this little rig when it comes to CW. The ATU works better than my LDG tuner for my Yaesu FT450. I have put away the Yaesu as a backup rig to my KX3. That's how good it really is.

It is somewhat expensive but it is worth every penny. The old adage of "you get what you pay for" certainly holds true with this rig.

I use an external battery and a battery maintainer at my QTH and a external battery and solar panel on the go. I really don't think I'd use the AA internal battery setup. IMHO.
N2DTS Rating: 5/5 Jun 2, 2017 19:40 Send this review to a friend
Quite good  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have been going through various radios, the KX2, the Anan 10E, the Elad fdm duo, the KX3.
I am a basic operator, I do not use many of the features of most radios, but am more interested in fidelity (noise, distortion) and ease of use.
The KX3 rates very high, its easy to learn and easy to use after a bit.
It sounds quite good, both on RX and TX, it could be better with a wider frequency response, but its fine as it is.
Unlike a real direct sampling sdr, the filters are in the audio, so they act a bit different then the
typical filter setup in other radios.

It sure would be hard to pick between the KX2 and the KX3. The 3 has 6 meters (and 160), and another 5 watts out. Its also got a lot more buttons and knobs, band up and down which is handy, RF gain, although the KX2 was surprisingly easy to use and jump from band to band using the memories. The KX2 setup is very slick, even better then the KX3 it seems to me.
The speaker in the KX3 seems ok with me, I do not expect hifi or room filling loudness, although it does seem to go quite loud.
I have made long full power transmissions on AM and the radio did not seem to get hot.
Audio reports were all very good with the hand mic and some minor adjustments with the built in EQ.

You have to like the Elecraft limited knob and button system, but its great for portable use.
Like everything Elecraft makes, it seems quite amazing in features/size/performance departments.
I guess you would have to be a very advanced user to want more features.
The only way I could see to make it better is to somehow make it a direct sampling setup.
That likely can not be done in the size and low current drain that the KX radios can do.
Maybe the KX4 will do it though...

Like all Elecraft radios, it seems wonderful on CW to me.

The battery setup is what it is, the AA batteries allow some use, on rx for a long time, and limited tx at lower powers.
For any serious use I would want a higher capacity higher voltage battery anyway.

Like all the Elecraft tuners, the antenna tuner in the KX3 is fast and wide range.

Yes, it could be water proof, and have a 50 amp hour battery built in, and be smaller, and lighter, and cost a lot less, and I think that is all crazy talk.

K6SDW Rating: 5/5 May 28, 2017 21:03 Send this review to a friend
Simply amazed  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I'd give the KX3 a 10 if I could. The receiver is simply amazing, it runs circles around my ICOM 746Pro which is no slouch.

Operating the rig requires an investment in your time to learn what all the buttons and sub menus do and don't do. Take your time, breathe deep and open the manual. If you're not willing to do that, as a ham friend who hates modern rigs, then look elsewhere.

At 15 watts the Tx is what it is. Great, but 15 watts on SSB doesn't go far.

For CW and digital I hang with the big guns.

Definitely, IMO, the KX3 makes great base station with a 100 watt amp for you voice ops. Elecraft is one of the best engineering companies and yes you pay for this technology and engineering perfection.

gud luk and 73

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.
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