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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: 22 Average rating: 4.8/5 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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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.
W8SPM Rating: 5/5 Oct 28, 2015 20:23 Send this review to a friend
The Best  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am new to Elecraft and have had my new K3S about 2 weeks and the P3 and SP3 Speaker about 2 days! I knew within 15 minutes of turning the radio on my receive quality was something I have never heard before! It doesn't take very long to realize this is probably the finest radio on the market today ? Some might have a different opinion but I've been a ham for a long time and used a lot of radios ! There is a learning curve to this radio and it seems a little overwhelming at first but it comes to you pretty quick once you start using it! The P3 was completely new to me and took a call to customer service at Elecraft to get me up to speed! It changed my style of operating completely from just spinning the VFO dial to watching the P3 for signals up and down the band ! Another big selling point of Elecraft is there Customer Service ! I would say there is no finer company out there to help customers than Elecraft ? These people know their products and more than willing to spend as much time as is needed to help you with your questions ! When is the last time you have had that kind of Customer Service when you need help ? I'm learning more every day about the K3S and P3 and looking forward to the future with this radio! Sam W8SPM- Parkersburg,WV
KD3TB Rating: 5/5 Oct 28, 2015 13:04 Send this review to a friend
Filters  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Having been an owner of a K3 Radio for over 5 years, I recently decided to upgrade and build a new K3S. This time I chose a different set of filters in addition to the stock 2.7 Hz. My original K3 had a 1.8 Hz and 500 Hz filters. After talking with Elecraft, I chose a 2.1 Hz for SSB and 400 Hz for CW. This past weekend I participated in the CQWW SSB contest and reached an all new high score for my home station. Although I can't quantify this, I really believe the receiver performance improvements along with the 2.1 Hz filter allowed me to pull out some very weak stations for additional multipliers. The 2.1 Hz roofing filter allowed me to hear them in a very crowded band. In addition I was able to break through some huge pileups with many stations complementing me on the transmission audio. My station is a K3S, KPA500, KAT500 and P3 with the Transmit Monitor. Antenna is a tri-bander at 35 ft plus vertical for the low bands.
I am really impressed with the performance and can't wait to try it in the CQWW CW contest.
K0OEH Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2015 09:02 Send this review to a friend
The kit was very easy to assemble  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am 74 years old. I found the K3s kit very easy to assemble. This little rig works just GREAT. I have used it on SSB, AM, CW, and many digital modes. The built in digital interface makes it a snap to hook to the computer and start working the digital modes. On CW the QSK is perfect in every respect.
OH1VR Rating: 5/5 Oct 16, 2015 22:14 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After owning two K3 xcvrs since last decade I wanted to be one of the firsts to own K3S (Factory made). Well, my former K3 xcvrs were bests I have ever owned. Now after two months ownership of K3S I can say that my common feeling is: K3S is still better. Unfortunately as a non technical guy I can speak only about common feeling :-)
KD3RF Rating: 5/5 Aug 25, 2015 15:17 Send this review to a friend
Choosing between K3S, KX3 or something else?  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have been an Elecraft owner since April of 2009 and have no association with the company other than being a customer. I own a complete K-Line, as well as a KX3 and feel that I can speak from experience when I talk about any of their radios or the company.

I just upgraded from my first Elecraft, a 6-year old K3 “Classic” to a brand-new K3S, serial no. 10181, and am totally thrilled with the new rig. In my opinion it is well worth it to jump to the next generation radio and get the latest and greatest in a single purchase without upgrading bits and pieces one at a time into an older radio.

Was the 6-year old K3 Classic obsolete or dated?

Definitely not!

Was it lacking in performance or giving me trouble?

Not once in 6 years of ownership!

In fact the K3 Classic performs nearly as well as the K3S, and out performs just about any other manufacturer out there with the exception of the Flex 6700 which not including the required PC capable of supporting it, costs more than twice as much as a nicely configured K3S and is only 1 dB better in 3rd order dynamic range

And if you want a high performance rig that fits in the palm of your hand, consider the ultra portable KX3. It isn’t far behind in the ratings race, so you wouldn’t go wrong with one of these either.

Justifying the purchase:

In my mind it was an easier path to simply replace my K3 Classic with the next generation K3S than to upgrade piecemeal.

I’m not a “radio snob” and am not impressed by the size of the box, how “pretty” it is, how many knobs and buttons it has, or how slick the computer interface is, but what I am impressed with is performance, durability, quality engineering, design and support, and Elecraft absolutely hits it out of the park in all of these areas.

I have owned many different brands and models including Collins and top of the line Kenwood and Icom models. And despite the fact that the Collins rigs were 30 or 40 years old, I always held them in high regard because of the quality and excellence in engineering with which they were built.

Elecraft falls into the same quality category as Collins in my opinion. Excellent quality, engineering and support, and one of the best values available today for a high performance radio from an American owned and managed company.

So if you are on the fence trying to decide, give Elecraft a shot. I don't think you will regret it.
W6GF Rating: 5/5 Aug 24, 2015 10:07 Send this review to a friend
Why did I buy this radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
One short answer. It is the best. I have designed products using the same DSP and a lot of the same hardware in the K3S. As an engineer I can give you a bunch of monbo-jumbo about the reasons the radio is superior, but it would be boring.

I will use two examples...........noise reduction.......with brand Y I could not copy station.....with K3S Q5

On transmit with radio brand Y contact..........with K3S one call

Get the message Guys

George, W6GF

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