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Reviews Categories | Packet TNCs | Kantronics KAM XL Help

Reviews Summary for Kantronics KAM XL
Kantronics KAM XL Reviews: 15 Average rating: 3.5/5 MSRP: $399.95
Description: Kantronics third generation multi-modem TNC is a state-of-the-art design giving the customer operations on both HF/UHF and VHF, while supporting DSP modems and popular new modes of operation.
Product is in production.
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N7FAE Rating: 5/5 Jul 20, 2013 23:01 Send this review to a friend
I Like This Multimode TNC  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I've used a PK232 / DSP for many years, but I really like my new KAM XL. Picked up at a Flea Market for $5 - can you believe it? Works like a charm with my IC-9100 and AOR-AR-5100 on CW. I use with a MacBook Pro Laptop and RDCP software for the KAM series. This makes it really nice for me. Especially like the CW performance, a bit tricky to tune for perfect CW but what TNC isn't. I also like the small form-factor.
KQ4XC Rating: 3/5 Apr 29, 2008 06:32 Send this review to a friend
Cheap Support for an Expensive Product  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The unit itself is great, but there are no diagrams in the manual. You have to print it from the itty bitty CD ROM that comes in the package. Not even a power cable was provided. I have to find my own connectors and build my own radio cable or order one for $50 since the Buxterm cables don't have the CW Key line.

Really, for a product this good, they do a very poor job of supporting it. I would pay the extra money for the convenience of a printed manual with real drawings. I was so frustrated at how the unit was delivered I almost sent it back.
TOYBOX Rating: 5/5 Nov 4, 2007 16:52 Send this review to a friend
2-1/2 Years With Zero Problems  Time owned: more than 12 months
Outstanding data controller. Not a single glitch. Read the manual, configured the TNC, put it on the air and away it went. Mostly Ax.25 here but occasional AMTOR, and quiet a bit of RTTY.

Happy with the purchase.

Craig N4CQR
AC7WL Rating: 4/5 Feb 26, 2007 03:16 Send this review to a friend
Excellent upgrade!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Want to give it a 4.5, but alas only 4 is available. As a previous KAM+ user, I felt it was time to upgrade my TNC. I purchased the unit used in excellent condition and ordered a cable from Buxcomm. Once I received it, replaced the CR2032 memory backup battery and upgraded the firmware, no problems.

Operation is a snap. Although maligned by some users, I enjoy the terminal capability to operate PSK31. As a Pocket PC user, I can use a simple terminal program to operate portable, and some of the comments lead me to believe these folks may be new to the command line. The unit seems fairly well built, although I would have enjoyed an enclosure similar to the older KAM's as they seemed more robust, thus the 4.5 and not the 5.0 rating.

The command set is very much the same from previous versions, save for some new features, so if you have operated these units in the past, you don't face a steep learning curve. Overall, I think it was a worthwhile upgrade. I now have a very portable PSK solution which does not require lugging an expensive, heavy, power hungry laptop to operate at the beach.
VK4AKP Rating: 5/5 Jan 7, 2006 09:04 Send this review to a friend
Great but, Need's new modes!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned two of these TNC's now for a couple of years. They've both been sitting here desperatly awaiting the release of the new Q15X25 NewQpsk mode that will allow finally for decent packet speeds of up to 3000 baud on HF.
I hope 2006 will see this upgrade finally available as it's a shame to see them sitting here collecting dust.
Also if you get an older unit it pays to open them up and spray them with PCB cleaner and then seal again with PCB laquer as I have foudn the original manufacturing process tended to leave a bad flux residue that tended to eat away at the fine surfacemount component leeds inside.
Other then that, same as other reviews basically.

- Flash upgradable
- very modern ahead of it's time
- Dual port

My biggest complaint would be it needs more man hours put in to newer firmware suporting newer modes. If they fix this situation in my opinion it 's a far better option then using a sound card and dedicated PC.
KA5S Rating: 4/5 Dec 10, 2005 10:26 Send this review to a friend
KAM-XL works fine.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've been using KAM TU's since the 1980's, starting with a UTU, then a UTU-XT, a KAM, an expansion board (KAMplus equivalent) and for a bit over a year now, a KAM-XL.

I found this one at the Puyallup hamfest for a fraction of the cost new. Replacing the onboard battery and reinitializing brought it right up. RTTY, AMTOR and PACTOR operation on MARS is straightforward, though PACTOR II would have been nice. Having made some tests with local stations using GTOR, I think that may be underrated, or at least, under-used.

The XL includes a serviceable implementation of PSK31 -- at least I think it is. I use CTRL-C 5 and CTRL-C 7 commands to center the signal at 1500 Hz, and then employ my rigsí narrow CW filters. Slow tuning rates allow centering the signal to ten Hz or better. However, the KAM-XL does not include any other "soundcard" modes, though the specification sheet notes, ď...the KAM XL also includes room for new modes and upgrades well into the futureĒ One upgrade said to be in the works is Q15X25 Packet mode.

Because all processing is done in hardware and commands are ASCII character strings, the KAM-XL does not require a high performance computer; Iíve even used the 2.4 MHz TRS-80 Model 100 ( ) I bought in the 1980ís. It is sometimes very useful to have a terminal that runs 40 hours on four AAís! Any computer with an RS-232 interface and a terminal program will do; Iíve used an HP-95 with a Kantronics TU. That said, it is handy if the terminal emulator used allows programming command macros.

One complaint has been the CD/Web page manual. A quite recent manual update on the Kantronics Web page now includes actual drawings of the board and jumper locations. You still have to look to find things, and for some reason Search doesnít work in the Kantronics PDF.

The XL was for a long time produced with no labels on the connectors, but it apears they now have silkscreened labels. And here I was getting used to black Sharpie! An EPROM update was released in November, available at

The XL uses a 16 bit 75 MIPS ADSP 2185M DSP chip with 80 kB of onboard memory and two serial ports.
Its HC12 system controller has 512k of Flash memory and 512k battery-backed RAM, and the XL includes a 480K mailbox. I confess to not having used the mailbox, nor have I (yet) tried the built-in APRS interface. Itís no sin to have equipment that does more things that you need!

KG4ODX Rating: 4/5 Nov 21, 2003 10:40 Send this review to a friend
GOOD TECH SUPPORT  Time owned: more than 12 months
Thought I would add my 2cents here, I own 2 Kantronics KAM LX's One is in service as a BBS state gateway and is uses Winlink 2.9 software. The 2nd Kam is used on the ham bands and uses PacTerm for windows.
I gave a 4 rating for these reasons
1. DSP, does it or does it not have DSP, I still
wonder about this too.
2. The manual is hard to understand, the author
I think assumes that the user fully understands
the digital modes. The "obvious" is left out!
One example is the pin jumpers explanations
(J2: Sets Port 1 Receive input impedance. Open
=10K ohms, closed=620 ohms. Default: Open)
This information is great I guess but it does
not explain under what circummstances to use
one option over the other.
Ken at Kantronics has been helpful every time I have called the Tech line. Not a hint of sarasum ever, he has all been helpful and polite. Like the manuel tech support skips over the "obvious"
so I have learned to ask "stupid" questions.
The KAM XL's are working great and I have no complaints with the KAM XL.
KF2OY Rating: 1/5 Jun 23, 2003 19:49 Send this review to a friend
Unimpressed  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Showed up with chassis screws sticking out (not driven "home".... that should have been the red flag. Built on a Friday afternoon.

This price-class product in this market place should, at bare minimum, be provided with hard-copy documentation. Even the CD-ROM manual was obviously cut and pasted from earlier product. Pinouts and wiring diagrams practically useless as presented. You really have to read a bit to clarify what the poor "diagrams" attempt to convey.

Additionally, it's pretty clear they could care less about I/O. Every connector is "build your own" and evidently sourced by an agressive buyer (CHEAP!)... same goes for the supplied wire scraps.

If you don't need the horse power of this unit, it is definatley not worth the "Kantronics" hassle-factor.... It's as if you need to know the "special handshake" to get this box to do anything but monitor VHF packet....

It now sits in the closet. Bad decission, but it might just be me. Perhaps I should figure it all out and write a "Kantronics Survival Guide, Don't Buy One Without It"....

KC4IVG Rating: 5/5 Jun 18, 2003 17:53 Send this review to a friend
Great!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought a Demo at R&L and its a nice machine! Ive owned or own 3 PK-232's 3 PK-900's and in the past have had KAMs and MFJ-1278's

This new XL beats em all! I dont know about the poor PSK-31 problem with past users but the new one is pretty awesome and trouble free. I run PACKTERM 98 with mine. I cant ask for anything more!

If you havent run an all mode like this before theres a lot of manual that comes with it and a lot to learn....but its a really fun machine!
AA2BN Rating: 4/5 Nov 23, 2002 00:38 Send this review to a friend
Good PSK-31 Performance  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I was lucky to find an open box / demo unit for about $100 off list. I bought the KAM XL, primarily because I wanted a computer independent solution for PSK-31, and the Motorola EVM56002's are getting pretty hard to find. Since I run primarily Macintosh, I didn't even bother with the demo software. I use ZTerm running on an iBook with OS X 10.2 to interface with the KAM XL.

I have to admit that the interface for the PSK31 mode is rather, er, kludgy. You input a series of CTRL-C directives to change the passband and center frequency. Usually, by the time you get this sorted out, the station sending has ceased transmitting. The work around I found is to send the following series of directives:


which yields a center frequency of about 1000 Hz, with a passband of about 80 Hz. Adding a macro to ZTerm to do this with one keystroke was trivial. Then, I tune around the PSK sub-band trolling for signals. When I set the filter bandwidth on my K2 to 100 HZ, this combination really kicks butt! Running some of the panoramic spectrum sound card programs (like DigiPan) allows the receiver AGC to start pumping the desired signals strength when a strong nearby station keys up. By going the narrow band route, I find that I have no trouble working weak PSK31 stations under crowded band conditions. I've been able to make a lot of QSOs running 5 watts. I also added macros to ZTerm for other frequently used functions like CQ, brag file, etc., so I don't really miss most of the sound card program amenities.

I have also been satisfied with the 9600 baud performance, using the KAM XL to modulate a Yaesu FT-817. While I have not conducted any formal testing, the FT-817/KAM combo played well with my Kenwood TH-D7A(g) on 440 Mhz @ 9600 baud.

I'd really like to find some other Kantronics users to try some experimenting with the GTOR mode. I understand that theoretically it's supposed to have outstanding weak signal performance, but I wasn't able to find anyone one else to test this out with.

All the other functions of the KAM XL are as good as, or better than the ones provided on the KAM Plus, which the review unit replaced at my station. The only thing that kept me from giving the review unit a 5 was the goofy PSK31 user interface.


John AA2BN
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