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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: 154 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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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.
KF9MP Rating: 4/5 Jun 16, 2016 04:34 Send this review to a friend
Decent but flawed  Time owned: more than 12 months
Mine is almost 2 years old now. Very nice design concept with a flawed delivery. I also own the PX3 display unit and the 100 watt amp. I am going to add the internal tuner soon.
Not too long out of warranty the radio stopped responding to frequencies programmed into memory so I had to send it back for repair. I will advise the outcome of that expense.

Design flaws:
1. The VFO tuning knob is too thick, always manages to block your view of the lower right corner of the display.
2. Installing the eight AA batteries inside for portable operation is awkward and puts your radio in a situation where you could very easily do significant damage to the radio.
3. It overheats easily.
4. The auto tuning feature for the CW decode is wonky, overshoots and de-tunes itself.
5. Using the amplfier and panadapter creates a huge mess of wires all around those units.
6. Reception in the lower portion of the AM broadcast band is rather poor, the receiver becomes deaf down that low.
7. Operating position is odd, you really need to make some sort of stand for the radio, it lacks a natural using position. Laying on its back the VFO knob blocks your view of the display, sitting leaning back means you cannot use the attached morse key, standing upright to fully see the display means the speaker is covered.

The design concept is very good but using the radio has some oddities. Despite mine being sent back for repairs just out of warranty I still give it a 4 of 5 for overall CW and SSB performance and in use as a general coverage SW receiver.
KC7VOU Rating: 4/5 Mar 16, 2016 18:18 Send this review to a friend
I figured out how to wire an external key!!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'm not sure, after reading the manual and talking to the people via E-mail that they are from around here. My wife has said I can confuse simple conversations into stuff no one can understand......... That said. I am happy with the rig. Worth the price. I own a motorcycle and this rig is a take anywhere talk to the world rig. but......I've been trying to connect up an external straight key. I have been Emailing with the company rep and I don't think they are from around here (if you know what I mean). If you want to wire a straight key to this rig. Use the convenient key 1/8 plug or receptacle on the left side that's what its for. Wire one side of the key to the tip of a stereo plug wire the other side of the key to the middle ring of the stereo plug. Do not touch the ground. Key1 should be set to hand. Other than that the KX3 is a great transceiver. I use the paddles and they work great no one misunderstands me because of my "fist". I live in Arizona (no trees)and use a slope-er di-pole the ends are a foot off the ground the middle is maybe 12 feet off the ground. I actually get out and talk to the world with the KX3 so I would give the rig a 5 but I do not have an easy time reading and interpreting the manual. it's just a bit off. I'm an older person so maybe the problem is just me.
KE4D Rating: 5/5 Oct 3, 2015 13:30 Send this review to a friend
superb  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had my KX3 for a couple of months now. I have an FTDX 1200 at my home QTH, you may see it on the ad pages soon. I've owned a K3, two K2, two K1s and now the KX3. Great little rig. I built the HR50 amp go go with it but I'm thinking of going ahead and getting the KXPA100 and Pan Adapter especially, if I sell the FTDX 1200.
This is a great rig for QRP and I've had a bunch of QRP rigs over the years. Great size and full featured. I worked a bunch of CW contacts from my camper in CO over the last couple of months running 1 or 2 watts to a 32 foot vertical. THe built in ATU does a great job too.I also regularly checked in to a 40 meter traffic SSB net in Texas running 12 watts with the same antenna.
I really like the built in paddles and have no issues at all with them. Great rig, superb service from Elecraft. Buy American!
VU2JE Rating: 4/5 Sep 19, 2015 11:18 Send this review to a friend
Breath of Fresh Air  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is a nice radio indeed.. as I use it, I find myself not using the ft857 sitting next to it..
The receiver is good, and reports on the transmission are good as well..
I couple it with a 100 watt linear to boost the power..
It is a new style of radio with a different design.. once I had a problem with a jam in data mode which was resolved with tech support from elecraft sending me a firmware upload..

Some of the keys seem a bit less than ergonomic and confusing to use, and a little bit of consumer research and rationalization might be an idea..

Still all in all, really good to see something new and different which is a pleasure to use as well.. keep it up elecraft and all the best
KC8HXO Rating: 5/5 Aug 24, 2015 17:32 Send this review to a friend
Superb  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Top notch. Soon to be released (now available to test) firmware update will allow 10W output down to 10V on the batteries! More swagger for the little gem! All the superlatives have been used up. They all apply.
AA4OO Rating: 4/5 Aug 19, 2015 07:14 Send this review to a friend
Nice Portable CW rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had the KX3 almost a month. It is a step above all the previous radios I owned and the first QRP radio I've owned especially with regard to operating CW. Having non-menu driven front-face controls for changing CW settings and a pin-diode full QSK are big changes for me compared to my previous rigs.

The display is enormous given the size of the rig and shows me everything I want to know. The tactile feedback on controls is generally ok but a bit mushy sometimes.

I've used it portable a few times but mostly from the shack. When portable its ATU is simply amazing at matching my random long wire. Others have reported that the internal batteries don't last long but for me they've been good enough to operate fully from internally batteries for 2-3hrs at a time but I spend more time listening than sending.

Almost all my time with the radio has been CW. I've tried a few phone contacts but haven't had much success at QRP SSB. I've tried PSK from the paddles on one QSO. It was kinda neat. The memories work well for contesting and are easy to use without going into any menus.

Deficiencies are few considering it's size but things I'd like to see are:

- Two separate knobs for RF and AF gain controls. I find that I'm frequently pushing the single button to switch between RF/AF gain due to working weak copy QRP stations.
- The built-in speaker is pretty useless. It buzzes and is not clear and there's no amp to drive an external speaker. My Yaesu HT's have the same size (or smaller) speakers and they sound great so I know a small speaker can be good with the right design. I have to use earbuds/headphones for other than casual listening.
- I can hear a lot of digital artifacts at higher volumes through good earbuds. I assume it's just the aspect of a SDR architecture but I hope a future firmware update will clean that up. It's annoying to me. If I turn down the audio or use cheaper headphones I can't hear it but I can't hear weak signals as well either.
- I switch frequently between paddles and straight key. That requires entering the menu to change. Cheap radios such as the YouKits recognize the difference when you plug in a straight key or paddle so I'd like to see a firmware update to support this as well. I plan to wire up a phono plug for the proprietary front paddle connector to get around this but I'd prefer the radio to support from the Key1 jack.

The portability is what makes most deficiencies acceptable. It's just an amazingly portable HF rig. With internal batteries and the ATU options I'm not aware of anything that compares to it for just pulling out of the bag, plugging in a wire and operating.

Good job Elecraft. Keep up the good work
GM4WCE Rating: 5/5 Aug 17, 2015 12:39 Send this review to a friend
Amazing little package  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The KX3 is a very well thought out radio. The kit is easy to assemble, took me around 6 hours going slowly and carefully. The quality of the components is top grade and the finished product is solid and has a really great feel to operate with all controls feeling positive in action. The internal ATU will match just about anything, really useful for portable operating. The receive performance is good as can be seen from any of the professional reviews, but a feature that you do not see mentioned often is the binaural audio. I use the "delay" setting and it makes a huge difference to readability of weak signals. I listen to the SW broadcast bands alot and the binaural audio makes these stations so much better to listen to. I have not enjoyed using a receiver as much as this since the days of my old HRO, and this is in large part due to the binaural audio.
I have the built in paddles, battery charger and the filter option. All of these work well. I bought the KX3 as a rig for use outside but I use it frequently in the shack as I find it so good to listen to, and so easy to operate.
It is expensive, but you are getting a top grade, up to date piece of equipment which will not need replacing for many years.
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