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Reviews Categories | Packet TNCs | Kantronics KAM XL Help

Reviews Summary for Kantronics KAM XL
Kantronics KAM XL Reviews: 18 Average rating: 3.3/5 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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N7HAE Rating: 2/5 Nov 19, 2015 09:46 Send this review to a friend
Disappointed  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had glitches and spent quite a lot of time back and forth with support and they were not much help. I finally discovered there is apparently something amiss with the RS232 port and it only works right when I tighten the screws holding the connector firmly in place. ??? I just don't change it. But as others have said this isn't much of an update, I still have a KAM+ and I thought there would be flash updates....NONE!! That's why I bought it! Then there is the bickering between Kantronics and one person on the RMS Express/Winlink group which keeps the KAM XL from being supported for HF Pactor while an older PK232 IS! Go figure that one! People and their petty little empires! So if I would have known all this I would have went to a DSP232 but I'm stuck, disgusted and disappointed with Kantronics and the Winlink team as well (won't mention the name but you all probably know anyway)
KA3YAN Rating: 2/5 Apr 7, 2015 05:38 Send this review to a friend
Problematic and unsupported  Time owned: more than 12 months
Let me start by saying that I am the owner/moderator for the KAM Users Yahoo Group and Trustee for a regional club, and that I have a number of years of experience with Kantronics, AEA/Timewave, HAL, MFJ, Paccomm, and SCS products. Strictly speaking about Kantronics, the KAM XL is without a doubt the most unreliable of any of their products.

For short periods of time, say a few hours, the KAM XL is not a bad product. It is one of the few devices (the only other that I can think of is the SCS PTC-II and PTC-III) that can do 300, 1200, and 9600 baud packet as well as PSK-31 natively. It is the only current offering that can do GTor (although GTor is a dead mode).

As has been mentioned on these reviews in the past, the major problem is not in the hardware, but rather in Kantronics lack of customer/produt support. No piece of hardware is perfect, but this is one of those pieces that has had major issues for its entire lifespan and Kantronics refuses to acknowledge and fix them.

So what is the problem? KAM XLs will reset on their own and default to factory settings when left running. The resets are random. Sometimes a reset will occur months after being restored, while other times the reset happens only days or hours after being restored. Aside from this being unacceptable on principle, when this happens to a device in a remote location (such as a mountain top or at the base of a commercial tower), it really adds to the frustration of clubs and operators. These installations require reliable equipment, which the KAM XL is not.

As previously noted on other reviews, the last firmware update to this device was in 2007. It is now 2015. Users have been reporting the resets since before the latest firmware release. Why hasn't Kantronics fixed the issue? Either they don't care about customer/product support or they can't fix the issue in firmware due to a physical design flaw. We know there is an issue with reliability in high-RF environments, so maybe the issue cannot be resolved in firmware and Kantronics refuses to acknowlege the problem for fear of hurting sales.

From the quote on Kantronics own webpage: "Engineered for years of dependable performance, the KAM-XL also includes room for new modes and upgrades well into the future." the potential buyer must ask...if there have been no firmware updates in 8 years, what new modes and upgrades can we really expect from Kantronics?
KA3YAN Rating: 3/5 Oct 27, 2014 13:59 Send this review to a friend
Latest firmware was 2007?  Time owned: more than 12 months
So I have had the KAM XL for a number of years now and the performance is really not any better (some have said worse) than the KAM Plus, which it replaced. I do have a KAM Plus and would say that aside from its networking enhancements, dedicated GPS/telemetry port, and 9600 bps packet, the KAM XL is not really an upgrade.

The form factor is really strange compared to other TNCs from Kantronics. It is wider than it is long. Previously all Kantronics TNCs were long and narrow. This actually makes stacking of equipment more challenging.

The main reason why I purchased the KAM XL was that I saw the potential for new modes being supported by the device. With a simple flash upgrade, you could operate nearly any mode. As it turns out, this was a simple marketing gimmick as it appears that Kantronics has no desire to update or improve upon this device. The last firmware update was in Feb 2007.

Not impressed at all with Kantronics. Does this device do what the spec sheet says? Yes. It does perform well, but just don't expect to be working any mode not already listed in the specs. It isn't going to happen in your lifetime.

It does take up less real estate than a PK-232, and it does operate both HF and VHF/UHF packet, along with the Kantronics-only G-Tor mode. It'll do reasonably well in RTTY and CW mode. PSK-31 is a real P.I.T.A. with this device, but it will do it. It will also do PACTOR I and AMTOR (anyone still using AMTOR?).

All components are surface mount and despite other reviews to the contrary, the build quality was quite good. My only issue was that the green plastic screen covering the tuning LEDs fell off a few months ago. I think it may have just never been properly adhered.

My main complaints center around expectations that weren't met by Kantronics and not really anything specific to the KAM XL operationally.

My advice would be to find a used KAM Plus with version 8.2 ROM and 512k RAM. That will do 99% of what the KAM XL does at 1/4 the price.
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.
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