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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Elecraft K3s Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft K3s
Elecraft K3s Reviews: 18 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $10W: 2300.- / 100W: 2900.-
Description: Elecraft’s state-of-the-art K3S transceiver offers a unique combination of ultra-high performance and affordability.

Both 100-watt and 10-watt (upgradeable) models are available. No-soldering kit; also available fully assembled and tested, the K3S is comparable in both features and performance to transceivers listing at up to six times its price.

In a first for the industry, the K3’s identical main receiver and subreceiver each feature a high-dynamic-range, down-conversion analog architecture. This allows Elecraft to provide roofing filters with bandwidths as narrow as 200 Hz, while up-conversion designs have roofing filters typically 3,000 to 15,000 Hz in width. Unlike some competing down-conversion designs, the K3 also provides 6-meter coverage, as well as continuous tuning from 0.5 to 30 MHz. Each receiver has its own bus-switching mixer, narrow ham-band front-end filters, 32-bit I.F. DSP, low-noise synthesizer, and up to five crystal roofing filters.

The K3S is the only deluxe transceiver that is targeted at both home and field use. Weighing just 8 pounds and having dimensions of 4” x 10” x 10” HWD (10 x 25 x 25 cm), it’s well-suited to demanding DXpedition or Field Day operations. Its receive-mode current drain of less than 1 amp greatly facilitates battery or solar-powered mobile/RV/marine installations. But unlike smaller portable transceivers, the K3’s user interface is optimized for ease of use, and its feature set rivals units many times its size and weight.

The transceiver is offered both factory-assembled and as a modular, no-soldering kit. Either way, K3 owners can start with a basic version of the transceiver, at lower cost, then easily add modules later, such as the internal subreceiver, ATU, and 100-W stage. To ensure identical performance of both pre-built units and modular kits, modules are 100% assembled and tested at the factory. Builders learn the radio theory behind each of the modules during assembly, and acquire skills that will enable them to easily add future modules or upgrades.

Two 32-bit digital signal processors provide true software-defined features, along with expansion memory to handle future signal processing tasks and operating modes. The operator will have full control over any operating situation, with 8-band receive and transmit EQ, stereo speaker/soundcard outputs, binaural effects, and advanced noise reduction. Also included is built-in PSK31, CW, and TTY decode/encode, so the operator can enjoy the excitement of data communications with or without a computer. The rig’s rich I/O complement includes an isolated sound card interface, front/rear mic/phone jacks, dedicated serial I/O, and band data. An optional module provides transverter in/out and RX antenna in/out jacks. The latter allow the use of RX-only, in-line filters for extreme operating environments.

Available options include: built-in 100-W automatic antenna tuner with two antenna jacks (KAT3), subreceiver (KRX3), general-coverage front end band-pass filter module (KBPF3), 100-W stage (KPA3), RF I/O unit for RX antenna, IF Out and transverter interfacing (KXV3A), digital voice recorder (KDVR3) and our all mode 2-m (144-148 MHz) all mode internal option (K144XV).
Product is in production.
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WJ1R Rating: 5/5 Mar 20, 2017 13:25 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had this radio for more than a year since I assembled the kit. It is a truly remarkable radio. The noise blanker on CW does an amazing job in reducing by about 3 S units noise on 20m from an array of solar panels about 800 feet from my antenna. The roofing filters are also able to eliminate interference from strong CW signals a few hundred hertz away in contests and can similarly eliminate interference from close SSB stations.

I waited for the K3S because I did not like the sound of the speaker in the K3. I have not been disappointed. The radio's built-in speaker has a high quality full sound comparable to my old Kenwoods and Icom 756 Pro. In this regard, the 8 band receive equalizer allows you to tailor the signal to your liking.

I use a Heil HM-12 mic. It took some effort to set the 8 band transmit equalizer to the SSB transmit quality that I like, but I now receive compliments on my transmit quality. This radio has a great deal of flexibility that allows you to alter various radio characteristics to your preferences.
W8NWN Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2016 18:58 Send this review to a friend
Kit building experience   Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As a kit, it was easy for me. I come from the old HeathKit era. I have built a lot of kits in my day but that was a long time ago, so today if you have a hard time with tiny screws and small parts, better get a factory built one. Here's a little hint: If you combine the stainless screws with the zinc ones by mistake, use a magnetized screwdriver to separate them.

The paint, fit and finish on the panels are the best I have ever seen. Individually wrapped. Excellent!. All the hardware, screws etc are very high quality and not the cheap Chinese stuff you see in the marketplace. It all goes together perfectly. If something doesn't go together right, you've done something wrong!.....

A very expensive radio. One can save a little by ordering the kit version. Which I did.

Suggestion: Elecraft needs an ordering warehouse someplace in the mid west. California is just too far away and shipping costs are too high. Elecraft might sell more radios on this fact alone.
W8MSP Rating: 5/5 Oct 4, 2016 10:03 Send this review to a friend
Simply the best  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Bought a K3S kit about 3 months ago. Easy to assemble great directions.
Wow is all I can say about performance, pulling out weak stations is pretty easy. Recently purchased a used P3 from an estate sale with an SVGA card and together the K3S and P3 are amazing. Seeing the weak ones I am able to hear and seeing how weak they really are proves the value of the K3S and at the same time proves how valuable the P3 is.
I am extremely happy with both purchases.
M6LDZ Rating: 5/5 Sep 12, 2016 02:50 Send this review to a friend
Takes the KX3 experience furthe  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Having built the KX3 a few yers ago I love the flexibility, the ability to update the firmware and add modules and accessories to it. So when a K3S came availabe as an SK sale I jumped at the chance.

It is intended as a portable contest radio for use with transverters as well as HF. In both roles it excells. Transverter setup is simple and once you have got to grips with the menu structure quite logical. Performance is a tad better than my FT500 but I miss the second receiver (which is now on order).

I have added the Kpod which gives great funcionality for writing macos and linking commands. As an early radio it needed a resistor solderd inside - heart in mouth time!

So in essence . Yes it's all it is cracked up to be and I hav eno regrets. The biggest plus, the fact you can tailor it to your owne needs and fiddle about inside adding things.

W9TVX Rating: 5/5 Jul 16, 2016 19:31 Send this review to a friend
K3S 1 Year Update  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned an Elecraft K3S for just over an year and this ‘update review’ is a follow on review to my initial impressions review of the K3S (which I believe was the first review of the K3S on eHam)

While I continue to give this radio a 5/5 rating in this review, as I mentioned in my first review, I think eHam's rating system is not granular enough. Nothing is perfect, and I would given the radio a rating of 4.8/5.0 if I were able to do so.

As usual I’ll first provide a little info on my station setup:

Radio: K3S equipped with: 100W upgrade, ATU, TCXO 0.5ppm, FM/2.8/400Hz/250Hz 8 pole filters Gen Coverage RX, Digital Voice Recorder, Ext 10MHz ref input, 2nd Receiver with 2.8 8 pole filter. In addition, I have two Elecraft SP3 speakers with which I am particularly happy. Recently I added a Elecraft K-Pod to my operating setup. The jury is still out on this accessory.

Antennas: Traffie 5 band Hexbeam at 35ft, ground mounted Steppir BigIR vertical with 42 radials - used primarily on 40m & 6m .

Amplifier: Expert 1.3K-FA solid state linear amplifier (I also reviewed this here on eHam)

Panadapter: QS1R SDR connected to the K3S's RX-OUT via a Stridberg MCA102M multicoupler and a DX Engineering Receiver Guard 5000. I also have a Telepost LP Pan 2, but I find the QS1R to be a much more useable setup. I did iniitally purchase a P3 with the K3S, but have since sold it and returned to exclusively using the QS1R. (I will shortly posted a P3 review on eHam along with the reasons on why I sold it)

Software: I started by using HRD 6.3 with the K3S, then moved to a combination of Win4KSuite, Log4OM, and DM780. Ulitmately, I ended up moving back to HRD 6.3 since it seems to involve the fewest moving parts and interfaces in my station setup. For contesting I use N1MM+, and for JT9/65 I use WSJT-X and JTAlert.

You can read more about my setup at

Over the past year I have continued operating primarily Voice and Data modes specifically: PSK, JT9/65, RTTY, and Olivia. I am NOT a CW operator - yes I know: ‘shame on me’. I have entered several contests including the CQ WW WPX and CQ WW DX contests, and have been very satisfied with the K3S’ performance in quite rigourous contesting environments. In addition, interfacing the K3S with digital software such as WSJT-X, fldigi, and DM780 for digital modes is trivial thanks to the USB port and built-in sound card provided by the KIO3B board which comes standard with the radio. This past year my operating mix has been about 60% digital and 40% Phone, mostly due to band conditions at my QTH. Typically I operate 60% Phone and about 40% digital.

I currently use both a Kenwood MC-90 microphone and a Heil Proset with my radio. I have spent time tuning the mic gain, compression, and TX Equalizer settings for each microphone and am happy to report that I get consistenly good audio report. In particular, the MC-90 seems to solicit the most complements.

One of the common complaints about the K3(S) is that received audio can be harsh. I have not had this experience with my radio either with the SP3 speakers nor my Heil headset. Again, I spent the time tuning the radio for each setup. I completely understand that perceived audio quality is extremely personal and what is pleasing to one may be grating to another. With this in mind you mileage may vary

Prior to the K3S I owned a Kenwood TS990S. When I first moved to the Elecraft from the Kenwood, I was very concerned about losing the large display and plethora of front panel knobs on the Kenwood to the spartan display and much smaller front panel of the K3S. As I mentioned in my first review, I was initially dismayed at the loss of direct access to most of the radios functionality; however, I rather quickly realised that the K3S was actually quite intuitive and that many, if not most, of the functions were set and forget, with all the most important functions in fact being directly accessible from the front panel of the radio.

I’m happy to report that this has remained true over the past year. Operating the radio continues to be both intuitive and very easy. To be fair, much of this is certainly due to my increased familiarity with the radio, but it is equally true to say that the logical and well thought out radio layout and software on the K3S has significantly help contribute to this familiarity.

While I do use a computer interface (HRD 6.3) to the radio, for the most part I tend to use the front panel buttons while operating the radio. Primarily, I use the VFO-A knob, TUNE button, NTCH button, passband knobs, and AF pot on a daily basis. Less frequenlty, I use the split operations buttons and VFO-B knob. I rarely if ever have to deep dive into the menus since I initially setup the radio. HRD 6.3 allows me to see the state of the radio at a glance (mostly the current power setting), and more importantly allows me to define software macro’s for setting such things as microphone grain, compression, and EQ settings at the press of a button. This is highly useful when switching between my MC-90 microphone and Heil Proset headset which require different setting for the aforementioned parameters

Of course nothing is perfect, and I wish that there certain features provided on the radio (some of which I discussin my first review and will repeat below.)

- In order to determine the current power output of the radio. One has to either rotate the PWR pot or view it on a third party radio control software. I would argue that the radio’s current power output is a primary piece of information and there are at least a couple of places where Elecraft could make this information available: The first is that there seems to be room to the right of the main VFO frequency display to display the current power setting. Should this not be possible another option would be to make is available as one of the items in the dispay rotation (currently the user can by tapping the DISP button either display the freqency of VFO-B - in which case the VFO-B knobwill change the VFO-B frequency - or with another tap a host of other information such as time, date, voltages, etc. This information may be cycled through usingthe VFO-B knob). Regardless, I’m sure Elecraft could find a way to more readily present this information

- The ability to to save and recall multiple audio profiles. By audio profile I mean RX & TX equaliser settings as well as microphone gain and compression settings. I switch between Kenwood MC-90/Elecraft SP3 speakers and a Heil Proset depending on if I am ragchewing or contesting. Each of these setups requires a different audio profile. Currently if I wish to use the radio’s front panel, I have to manually go in and setup each element of the profile each time I switch. One idea would be to add a menu option to save/recall audio profiles. Then long pressing a keypad digit would save the current profile, and tapping it would recall it. Bonus points for being able to name the profile on saving. Also bonus points for being able to assign the menu item to a PF key such that tapping the PF key will cycle through the saved profiles.

- The ability to quickly recall current settings. By this I mean: The current passband, the location of the notch filter, mic gain and compression settings. Personally, I would like it if a second tap of the DISP button would provide the ability to see this kind of data. Even adding them to the DISP information loop - as I mention for power above - would be useful

- Ability to be able to lock the Compression+Mic and Power settings separately. Today it is possible to lock all three, but in reality once I have my gain and compression set for a given operating mode, I am unlikely to change it while I am far more likely to change power e.g. when placing or removing a linear amplier in the transmit loop. Currently, It is quite easy to in the heat of battle accidently reach for the MIC knob when intending to turn the PWR knob - at least for this operator - which can be quite annoying.

The good news is that I think the above could all for the most part be implemented in firmware, and I eagerly and with baited breath await their implementation - I certainly hope I don’t turn blue and passout

In my first review, I did complain quite a vocally about the VFO-A knob. To quote:

‘One thing that I do not like about the K3S is the VFO-A knob. When I compare this to the Kenwood knobs, it feels awful. In particular, the way the tuning resistance is provided by using felt pads feels... well like two felt pads rubbing together. I know that this is probably lightweight and the radio is used on DXExpeditions; however, there must be a better way solution’.

Since that review, the knob seems to have ‘broken in’ somewhat, and while it is by no means great, it is better than it was when I first received the radio. I still feel that there is room for improvement and will say that many of the Japanese radios costing far less that the K3S do a better job.

In summary, after having owned this radio for over a year, I continue to be very pleased its performance and usability. The K3S is not a cheap radio, easily approaching six thousand dollars when purchased with the bells and whistles. Sitting in the shack it in no way has the commanding look or feel of the flagship radios from the big three Japanese vendors. However, this is without doubt a case of ‘Dont judge a book by its cover’. For each time I operate the K3S, I continue to realise that it is a very special radio that does all the important things extremely well. Finally, I usually become bored with a radio after about a year, and find excuses to start looking for the ‘next best thing’ with which to replace it. Quite honestly, this is the first time I have remained delighted with a radio and continue to look forward to using it on a daily basis. This, in this operators humble opinion, makes it worth every penny for which I paid for it.

N5XRD Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2016 12:40 Send this review to a friend
Best I have owned  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I first bought the K3S in february 2016. It seemed great but due to the fact that I had over four grand in it and the P3, I decided to sell it and buy something cheaper. I first bought the Icom 7300, but couldn'tg get it working the way I wanted to. I sold it and got the Kenwood 590SG. It was better, but I couldn't get it to communicate with my Mac computer. I gave it o a good friend of mine, and found out that HRO had not sold my K3S and had them send it back to me.

Best move I ever made. I don't know what motovated me to sell it in the first place. It is by far the best transceiver I have owned . I am 89 years old and live in a retirement apartment. No outside antennas, and I have no attic. I use an Isotron on a tripod near a window. I operate mostly PSK and some CW.
KC0TRK Rating: 5/5 Feb 23, 2016 18:25 Send this review to a friend
A Radio WOW!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had the K3S & P3 for a week. All I can say is, "WOW!" My experience with the KX3/KXAT/KXPA100/KXP3 and Elecraft's legendary customer service, all the good reports and hearing them clearly in operation convinced me to take the plunge. As one previous reviewer stated, "I wasn't getting any younger." With past experience with Yaesu and ICOM, I can say this is the best radio that I've ever owned. Out of the box, into the shack, attached to antennas, integrated cables attached and powered up-I'm on the air. Ergonomics are great, especially with my fat fingers. Everything is clearly labelled. Because of the KX3/KPX3 experience, many controls and settings seemed intuitive-but there's always more in the manual and I'll have fun learning new features. One thing that I absolutely love-besides the integration...plug and play with digital modes. HRD set to K3 and the USB cable and I'm collecting QSOs. Many, many compliments received on signal quality. One last step...the KPA500 was shipped today! Do I really need to say anything more about Elecraft's customer focus?? More on down the waterfall, so to speak.
W3QT Rating: 5/5 Feb 23, 2016 10:05 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio - Incredible Customer Service  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I replaced a very good radio with a K3s. It was a risky move as I was very pleased with my "old" rig (less than one year old). I switched for no other reason than I had been hearing so many good things about Elecraft, and, I'm not getting any younger, so I decided to go for it. Perhaps you've heard the saying, "High risk, high reward?" Well, my K3s is "high reward." I won't list reasons why I believe it's such a fantastic rig. You can read what others have written here.

What I especially would like to share is the reason I bothered to write this review. I was a little confused over the integration of the K3s and the KAT500 tuner. After a few emails back and forth with Elecraft support imagine my surprise when "Elecraft" came up on my phone's Caller ID. THEY called ME to offer direct assistance. Craig from Elecraft was quite helpful and, again, THEY initiated the call. That's what I call customer service, not to mention self-confidence in their products. Elecraft has managed not only to make a very fine radio but also to take the "risk" out of my "high risk, high reward" switch. With Elecraft it's all reward.
W7VS Rating: 5/5 Feb 18, 2016 13:57 Send this review to a friend
5 Star  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I own a K3 and now a new K3S, plus some other misc. bits. The K3S performance is exemplary as noted in numerous other reviews (e.g. Sherwood Engineering, Receiver Test Data). What is equally important and should be taken into account by prospective customers is Elecraft's outstanding customer support. It is 5 star! Other manufacturers aspire to reach such heights. This is an opinion developed and strengthened over the last seven years and what has made me a devout believer.
AF5QR Rating: 5/5 Jan 20, 2016 17:34 Send this review to a friend
Awesome radio. Poor support experience  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Let me begin by saying this is simply an AWESOME radio. Five stars for the K3S. But I'll also tell you the company has some room for improvement in a couple of areas, so read all the way to the bottom if you're considering purchasing one.

After much nail-biting (and begging to the XYL), I bought a fully-loaded K3S, a full load of filters for both the main and sub receiver, high-stability osc, etc. I also opted for the 144 mhz module, panadapter w/SVGA and directional coupler, etc. If it was listed on the K3S product pages on Elecraft's website, its in there except for the 10mhz external reference and the voice card (both omissions to be remedied shortly). Am I rich? Nope. Just a poor working-class slob like everyone else cruising 40 meters at midnight. :) But prior to the sale I had decided that I wanted to build this radio just once, do it right, and then use it for the rest of my life. And even with the minor challenges, I'm very glad I did.

The K3S assembly is actually quite enjoyable and the instructions very good (warning: if you are really paying attention, there are some nits in the manual where the K3S bits have not yet replaced the older K3 instructions, but they are few, far between, and you'll immediately see what needs to be done. This isn't rocket science, and common sense gets you there every time). There are abundant pictures and it's just hard to get into too much trouble. The entire thing is like a Swiss watch: everything fits snugly, there are no short-cuts, and the whole radio just "feels" solid. Nothing takes any force to assemble. It either fits perfectly, or you've done something wrong. The actual assembly of my radio took me nearly a month, but much of this time was waiting for Elecraft to get my parts to me and then rebuilding the radio from the RF board (twice). More on that later...

Did I mention the K3S is simply an incredible receiver? I can hear things clearly that the TS-590S and TS-2000 completely miss. It's "ears" are amazing and it even makes cheap antennas perform well. (The auto-tuner will do 10:1 or even better at full output. Not efficient, but you never know when you'll need to use the bedframe for an impromptu radiator). The K3S's ability to "whop and chop" noise and tight-in signals and spurs with the DSP's bandwidth hi/low/width control lets you do things impossible on conventional radios. Got someone closeby who is yammering at a kilowatt just a few kc's away from your DX? You can dial around them very nicely. The noise blanker works nicely too, as does the noise reduction feature. The AGCs don't pump and the preamps and attenuators are very effective. After an hour of use, the front panel feels intuitive and you're doing things without thinking about the mechanics of it. Transmitted audio on AM and SSB (and FM!) is first-rate. Lots of audio adjustments are available if you're a tweaker, but the box-stock EQ and the Elecraft hand mic sound far better than I ever expected.

But the real gem is the P3 panadapter with SVGA option. Guys, if you're still spinning the dial hoping to catch your DX as you screech past on the VFO, you are missing a lot of QSO's. With the P3 you just spin-up the display bandwidth to 200kc's, "mow the lawn" with the REF LVL control so you get a meaningful waterfall signal, and then you wait for something new to appear on the display. Now you can pounce. Scroll the VFO marker to overlay the DX's signal and you're on the DX. This takes maybe 3 seconds, so you can get in and out before the sharks gather.

Now for the Ugly bit. I thought long and hard about posting this, but in the end decided this wouldn't be a fair write-up without it. I had a problem, and it escalated to stupid proportions. Simply put, the Powerwerks PS that was supplied by Elecraft exhibited a turn-on surge condition where it would spike to about 20 volts for a couple of hundred milliseconds. Ouchies. Yes, I measured the supply before using it, but I didn't scope it during turn-on, which in retrospect was a mistake. So halfway through the build I powered-up the unit for a smoke test. The first time I did this, everything was fine because the supply was already on and I just plugged the 12-v pigtail into the powerbar. Green lights and the radio came alive. Wondermuss!!! But the *second* time I powered-up (at the COMPLETION OF THE BUILD, naturally), I had the radio connected during power-on and that surge bricked the RF board. After some troubleshooting, it was discovered the transorb on the 12-volt input bus had shorted. It protected the RF board (mostly), but I would need to completely disassemble the radio to replace it. No big deal really, since I'd assembled it once already, and I could do it again, right? But after a week of waiting on my parts and hearing from Elecraft "just be patient, the parts are enroute", I finally was forced to push the issue a bit. At that point Elecraft finally came to the conclusion they had sent my replacement parts to another ham in So Calif with the same last name. When I asked Elecraft to send me the parts again, they responded that I should PURCHASE MY OWN PARTS FROM THIRD-PARTY SOURCES AND INSTALL THEM IN THE RADIO AT MY OWN EXPENSE.

You can't make this up. That was their solution to my problem. Call Digikey or Mouser and deal with it. Wrong answer.

That response resulted in me drafting a letter where I inquired as to Elecraft's official position on warrantee in the presence of third-party parts. I'd just spent in excess of 8 grand on a box the size of a toaster and I was NOT going to have them come back later and tell me "oops! Sorry! No warrantee". I addressed the letter to the two hams who own the company figuring somebody down the food chain was being silly. I was polite but firm, and the courtesy of a written reply was requested.

I never got a reply, but they FINALLY sent the replacement part. The punchline? The part was less than three bucks, the delay had cost me two weeks, and that bum Powerwerks supply I bought from them hasn't been replaced. Apparently that's not covered under their warrantee, even though I bought it from them along with the radio. I'm still shaking my head about that one.

So. In the final analysis, the K3S is truly a GREAT radio and the P3 panadapter makes for more fun than is legal in Utah. It's everything I had hoped for and quite a bit more. (I'm still learning how to use it more than two months after I started using it every evening!). But in the end that "legendary" Elecraft support that claims "we won't let you fail", did indeed fail me rather miserably. YMMV.

All of these things considered, I'm going to forgive Elecraft their petty service sins and I'm going to instead focus my final score firmly on their product. I buy radios to use the radio, not to dwell on internal corporate screw-ups. So the K3S, and the P3 Panadapter get a solid 5 stars from me. It is hands-down the finest radio I've ever owned.
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