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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF+UHF models) | Elecraft KX3 Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft KX3
Elecraft KX3 Reviews: 146 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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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.
NS5U Rating: 4/5 Aug 5, 2015 17:40 Send this review to a friend
Elecraft has done better  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have very mixed feeling about this radio. Elecraft as a company, and their service, is without peer. A couple of K3's and a K2 were near perfect radios. No complaints but Elecraft missed their high mark with the KX3.
This radio is to replace my IC-703's and the small size was a large part of the decision as well as the internal batteries. The unintended consequences came as a surprise as in the past Elecraft hasn't let me down.

Application conditions in this case are casual operation. Picnic table portable.

Great receiver
Small package
Lots of features

Mechanical construction
Internal batteries
Heat dissipation
I/O connectors

The physical package is contrived. Previous Elecraft's have had unusual/innovative physical construction but this time there is much room for improvement.
Battery access is kludgy. The thumb screw loosening process to release the support feet, which are too short, is anything but elegant. Once loosened proceeding to open the case to change batteries presents the ribbon cable which is too fragile as are its connectors. The battery case and threat of shorting batteries against the hold down screws just plain yucky. The battery holders themselves are so poorly wired and physically configured makes me wonder if someone else designed it. Never expected something this weak from Aptos. The optional paddles are awkward and there is no provision for covering the opening if you choose not to use them. These issues fall short of expectations from the wizards at Elecraft.
The heat buidup problem is a design flaw resulting from the poor physical configuration. The idea of spending an additional $100 for a useful heatsink just isn't up to Elecraft's standards.
The speaker is sad. You really need something else like headphones or a powered speaker.
Relying on weak board mounted connectors is a low brow point of failure.

The rig is too heavy for it size and shape to be easily handled without risking dropping it. With such densely mounted controls and the ends covered with cables it is difficult to move around or hold in your hand. Kind of defeats the purpose of keeping it small. Again purchasing after market replacement end panels for protection of the knobs and to gain handles was unexpected and weak design. Such additions seemed unnecessary until the radio was in hand.
The rich feature set and great receiver are betrayed by poor physical design choices. Elecraft can do better. It is asking a lot and most operators will adapt to the flaws but they are flaws none the less and disappointing from a company which has managed such wow factor in the past.

The overall impression creates a suspicion the product was rushed to market.

Elecraft service and support are beyond reproach and coupled with the rig's performance make it easy to overlook the many problems. No other company equals or exceeds the high standard Elecraft sets with its customers.

This radio was a kit. I emailed support when I discovered the contacts in the battery plug were malformed and pushed out of the housing when trying to connect. I managed to reshape them and make them work but by then support has shipped an unsolicited replacement battery holder assembly. There is reason to pay more for things when it results in almost instant response and solid support after the purchase. Elecraft is like no other manufacturer of amateur radios.
DL2NEP Rating: 3/5 Jul 1, 2015 08:58 Send this review to a friend
Nice TRX, poor mechanics, unsolved hardware bugs  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
My first contact to Elecraft was an K2 with nearby all options. I was very happy with this TRX so I deside to switch to an KX3 because of less weight and smaler package. The KX3 is realy nice and the receiver is outstanding. But on the other hand there are (too) many negative points.

- small package
- many many features (PSK31 read, voice memo, ...)
- perfect receiver performance
- tuner can handle EVERYTHING

- machanic design is very poor.
- Loudspeaker is very poor and craky.
- VFO tuning noise on 10m and 6m.
- battery charger only work between 0C and 40C temperature inside the case. There are many situations charging the battery is not possible.

At all I would say the KX3 is a very very good transceiver but it is too expensive. The mechanic design should be much better!

I will keep mine but I would never buy it again.
K5UX Rating: 5/5 Jun 30, 2015 20:17 Send this review to a friend
Ham radio is fun again  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've owned my KX3/KXPA100/ATU/PX3 for a couple of months and Elecraft has done it again...produced an outstanding product at a price point that doesn't break your pocket book. Ham radio is fun once again and a real pleasure working QRP. As I got older and started downsizing my station, Elecraft was a perfect fit. Great specs and small enough to fit just about anywhere in the house or in your backpack. I've owned the "heavy iron" rigs and also some of the latest SDR's, but have yet to find anything that approaches the KX3 when you compare features/price with the other manufactures. Product support is extremely important and they have a couple of very active user forums that provide a venue for just about any question relating to the Elecraft product line. If you can't find what you are looking for there, it's easy to get in touch with someone in tech support.
KB1UYR Rating: 5/5 Jun 30, 2015 11:16 Send this review to a friend
I love it after getting used to it!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I own my KX-3 now for more than 1 1/2 years and after a learning phase and some issues I started to love it.
I bought it with the ATU, optional NF "roofing" filter and the microphone.
The first impressions were amazing, I never owned a portable TRX that was even close to it. To get used to the menu took just a few hours, to understand and learn all the functions a little longer. But there was one issue I really felt upset about...the VFO noise, due to the optional filter. I finally removed the filter, as the recommended "solutions" never fixed it 100%. After more than 6months I read about a software update that should fix the issue, so I installed it again and it was really gone. From that day on I just love this tiny radio and take it with me on almost every business trip. In January 2015 I finally could no longer resist and ordered the PX-3 and the 2m module. I never was 100% happy with software panadapters and don't want to miss the PX-3. It does need just a few mA's and works perfect for me. After installation of the 2m module, I noticed an Frequency offset, so I did the official temperature compensation procedure with the XG50...worked perfect, now it's spot on. I struggled with the 100W amplifier for a while. It's really expensive compared to other ones, but finally I got it to have the full KX-3 line. The amp works like a dream, I got it with the ATU option and basically that's my portable setup.
My FT-817 and my IC-7200 are basically now just sitting on the shelf. In the shack I usually use my TS-590S, but even there from time to time I set up the tiny KX-3 and just enjoy it.
So I would definitely buy it again. Yes it is not cheap, but there is no competitor in its class with even close performance. I owned the IC-706MK2, I tried a friends IC-7100 over the weekend ==> no comparison.
WA7NDD Rating: 5/5 May 27, 2015 11:37 Send this review to a friend
Radio is fun again!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've owned the KX3 and PX3 for a month and have not turned o my Kenwood TS-590s since I received it. It is just fun to play with a full featured radio in a small package with a big display. Don't worry I will get back to the 590 - on occasion.
AD0HT Rating: 4/5 May 4, 2015 17:03 Send this review to a friend
1.5 years owned  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my KX3 for about 1.5 years now - I really do enjoy the radio, however it has had several quality issues.
1: Battery holder wires over crimped and broken at the crimp points - this issues was known to Elecraft and replaced easily and promptly under warranty.
2: The KXPD3 "Precision" paddle - the paddle I received worked - often on its own (sending uncontrolled dits) making CW communication impossible. My paddle was replaced easily and promptly under warranty. I am out of warranty now and have not had a chance to fully test the replacement paddle - fingers crossed that it work as it should and will last for years to come.
3: Radio feet thumb screws - be careful with these such that when you open/close the feet that these screws are reasonably loose - the left one tightens the thumb screw when closing the foot, the right one tightens when you open the foot, and if these actions over stress the thumbscrews they break off leaving the foot itself dangling from the radio and un-removable without taking the radio well apart. Elecraft replaced the screws and feet under warranty (even though my warranty had expired about a week prior).
4: MH3 mic failure (several months out of warranty) this is a 4 pin mic and Elecraft indicates no replacement parts are available, but they will sell original owners who are out of warranty a new MH3 for $30.00 (about 1/2 off new). The MH3 mic is in my opinion of extremely low quality - mine was certainly not heavily used. The mic rattles (on inspection the internal rf choked was slapping around) and seems to suffer for the same over crimping problem as the battery holder wires. I did not (yet) decide to take the $30 replacement deal as the MH3 is such a low quality (fit/finish/operation/durability) that it seems a waste of the cash. I have read that others have had issues (different from mine) with the MH3 mic, but that also noted the mic internal wires were damaged upon inspection.
"In the red wire there was also a gash so it seems there was a fault with the original wires. The exposed copper of the green wire was shorting to the uninsulated copper shield wire when the cord was flexed.:
Please note that the internals of my MH3 do not match that provided in the link, so some upgrades must have been made at some point, but the quality of the mic remained low.
5: The internal speaker is buzzy, rattles and is nearly un-listenable and as far as I know, is not fixable, however head phone audio quality and other features for headphone use are excellent.
1: Very fun radio to operate "especially" when the transmit features work (MIC/paddle).
2: Excellent receiver (compared to my mkIIg and FT897), probably similar to (probably better) my former FT-101 zdmkIII.
3: Excellent customer service (in or out of warranty to the original purchaser). Knowing the cons I encountered in a new radio, I would be hesitant to purchase a used model or would negotiate the price anticipating replacement of the low quality parts/workmanship I described above.
Other comments: Originally I had hoped to add the 2m module and 100w amplifier, but given the issues I encountered, I decided to buy (used) the mk2g and the 857d for non-qrp qso's.
KG9H Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2015 04:15 Send this review to a friend
Don't fool yourself with it's size  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is my third KX3. Each time I sold them, I did not have the Roofing filters.
Do yourself a favor - purchase the KXFL3 OPTION.
If you do.. you will find yourself pushing the "big" rig aside and listening more to the KX3.
See the Sherwood reviews on the receiver.
The support on this radio is simply amazing, as compared to any other manufacturer.
I built a K2 back in 2000 back in February 2000, it is still a go-to CW radio for me.
Summer will be fun for me with the KX3 into my AlexLoop. See you on the air. Frank KG9H
WD1V Rating: 5/5 Apr 9, 2015 03:36 Send this review to a friend
Elegant Design  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This radio is very special in so many ways. It has a feature/function set that isn't seen in any other radio at this price point - and - its RF receiver and transmit performance is up there on Mt. Everest. My TS-990s has been turned off since my KX3 arrived. My top "wows" are 1) size and weight 2) SDR (running free NAP3 in minutes) 3) Receiver with headphones is spectacular and not fatiguing. Love the spacious delay on SSB. 4) Craftsmanship - its like a piece of jewelry 5) User interface is intuitive 6) Get great reports on CW, SSB, and PSK-31. I've owned K2s and a K3 - very happy with them. KX3 is concentrated compressed engineering. I'm a very proud owner.
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