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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | Elecraft KX1 Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft KX1
Elecraft KX1 Reviews: 92 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $279
Description: A unique 3-band HF CW transceiver optimized for backbacking and lightweight travel; only 9 oz., 1.3"H x 5.2"W x 3"D. Includes DDS VFO, internal battery, optional internal automatic antenna tuner, plug-in keyer paddle. Covers entire 20/30/30 m ham bands (30 m optional), plus SWL segments.
Product is in production.
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K0JQZ Rating: 5/5 Jan 3, 2013 05:46 Send this review to a friend
Great Trail Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built my KX1 and it was fun to build. The manual is well written and the instructions were clear. I had one part missing and an email to Elecraft had the part on the way the next day, no questions asked.
I have used the KX1 extensively over the summer doing Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations. I have used it with many different portable antennas (End Fed, Buddistick, doublets and linked dipoles) and have had a lot of fun with it. I have used it (with the VFO lock feature) in my pocket with external paddles when there was nowhere to sit.
I recently purchased a KX3 so the XYL would be able to join in on the SOTA fun using SSB however, if it was not for the XYL, I would keep using the KX1 for my main go to radio for outdoor activity. I now keep it in my truck and use it on lunch breaks or on solo SOTA activations.

1. Small
2. Ultra-Light weight
3. Rugged (It has been dropped many times / snowed and rained on and it below freezing temps)
4. Built in tuner (makes it easy to use a variety of different antennas)
5. Low power consumption (receive and transmit)
6. Has 30 and 20 meters (two of my most used bands)
7. Ability to change VFO tune rate
8. Easy to change WPM / use R.I.T. / and adjust the filter, without going through a menu
9. Attachable paddles

CONs: (this is more of a wish list)
1. Knobs: Just my preference but I find that buttons instead of knobs makes for a better “trail friendly” radio. However, the VFO LOCK feature is helpful so this is really just a personal opinion.
2. Digital Readout: More digits on the freq readout (I tend to get confused above 10,000 feet)
3. Battery: Take advantage of new battery technology (Li Po etc) with a balanced charger and/or solar option (I have found myself using small LiPo packs used for remote control cars and planes and they provide enough longevity for several hours of use.
4. Band choice: (80 Meters is almost useless to me for portable work due to antenna size) I would like to have the ability to choose the bands and if I could choose 40, 30, 20, 17 and/or 15 meters. That is more of a personal choice based on my usage and antenna deployment.
5. The memory keyer does not allow for many characters. Barley enough for a short CQ.

I will not compare it to the FT 817ND since that is a very different radio. I have used a FT-817ND and found it lacking or my purposes (heavy, battery consumption, poor CW performance and menu system) however, I am sure it works fine for others. The closest radio I have to the KX1 is the ATS4b
The ATS4 is cheaper, harder to build, more bands, no tuner, buttons instead of knobs, less power consumption, no filter, smaller and lighter and menu system extensive. If I used a tuned antenna the ATS4 is my choice. For everything else the KX1 is the go to radio.
The KX1 is one of my favorites and I will continue to use it. It has replaced my K1 and I will take it on the trail if the XYL is not with me over the KX3 due to size, weight and the fact that I do not operate SSB much.
Thanks Elecraft for a great trail radio.


M3KXZ Rating: 4/5 Jul 5, 2011 12:42 Send this review to a friend
Lots of fun  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
OK, I didn't build mine - I bought it second hand, fully loaded with 4 bands, atu, zero-beat mod and the key.

So far I am very happy with my KX1 and enjoying using it. And I definitely won't be parting with it. The performance is excellent, and after a little playing around the menu and other controls are very easy to use. The built in atu also works very well.

From operating the radio, the only thing that disappoints me sometimes is the key. I am so used to using the Palm Mini Paddle with my FT817ND, that I can't get to grips with the feel of the KX1 key, which sometimes causes me to send characters wrong.

But, I worry about even the very slightest bit of light rain. I don't feel that the KX1 is as well suited to backpacking/camping/operating on the beach etc as my FT817ND. At least with the FT817ND I can wipe off any slight dampness and feel fairly confident that the inside is still dry. And with the more delicate nature of the KX1, I always feel a need to keep it in the small Pelican case that I got with it. This actually makes the package almost as large and heavy as my FT817ND + Elecraft T1 atu. This, for me, kind of defeats the object when it comes to having a radio I can just sling in a bag and whip out on top of the hill.

HOWEVER, these concerns are more than compensated for by having a radio that makes me use CW only and I can run for hours and hours from a small LiPo battery pack.

I certainly won't be parting with either the FT817ND or the KX1 - I love both of these radios. They're both very different, but both so much fun.
AE5KA Rating: 5/5 Jan 14, 2011 19:28 Send this review to a friend
It Feels Like I'm Cheating  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This was my first kit build after the last of a slew of Heathkits (not amateur radio related) about 35 years ago. I learned a lot about kit building back then, so it probably helped me a lot with the KX1, because everything has worked properly on the first try. After the basic KX1 build, I went ahead with the ATU and 30/80 meter add-ons. As many have said the builds were very straight forward. Even winding the toroids, which I had no previous experience with, was not difficult and the whole process was very enjoyable. As for operating, this thing does wonders for the little unit it is. I've been able to QSO every CQ I've responded to. The simple screw on paddle works amazingly well, though I'm still more comfortable with the portable straight key I can plug in. All by itself it is a fine reason to learn to use Morse code.

I suppose the only real complaint I have is with the relatively high cost of the unit with all the whistles and bells, but frankly even the base KX1 would have made me happy.
WB2LQF Rating: 5/5 Aug 23, 2010 12:59 Send this review to a friend
Simply THE BEST!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I consider myself "average" in all respects, so I'll bet I'm not the only KX-1 owner who has fallen into the trap of underestimating the
capabilities of this little jewel.

Until a couple nights ago, I used my KX-1 like my other QRP rigs, both commercial and homebrew. I kept my expectations rather "reasonable" (in other words, "low") and concentrated on working the louder signals on
the bands. Did quite well, I might add...

On Saturday, I heard a VERY weak "CQ", really down in the noise. The great filtering helped out a lot. I answered K3HX just for the heck of
it and got a 559 report.

I normally use my KX-1 at home, with a Jetstream power supply for 3 to 4 watts out, and a 40 meter full-sized dipole. This was the case on
Saturday night... or so I thought...

Seems I forgot to turn on the power supply. A quick check with the inline wattmeter showed about 400 milliwatts going out. The six "AA"
batteries were pretty well run down and had been in the rig since I built it.

Just wanted to share this for the benefit of any other readers who are may underestimate the KX-1.

N0EVH Rating: 5/5 May 23, 2010 16:40 Send this review to a friend
All in one package  Time owned: more than 12 months
Have owned and operated my fully equipped KX1 for over four years. Yep, it cost some bucks but you will find all the features you need for a trail friendly radio. I tried to wear out my first set of lithium AA's and finally gave up after two months and replaced them. So if you are out and about alot you have no reason to worry about power sources.

The tuner will match most antennas especially the simple wire ones that are so portable. Everything works as advertised by Elecraft so a great rating of 5 it is. Notice a 5 rating means great, not perfect as some have assumed.

I fabricated an extended bottom case for mine and it holds 8 AA batteries. The increased voltage provides 3 to 5 watts on the trail. Not necessary, but it gives confidence!

So, shop and compare....but be sure to buy something because there are so many great places to operate out there on the trail.

John N0EVH
AA2LD Rating: 5/5 Mar 6, 2010 12:52 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic radio; great experience  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built this myself and it was a learning process but everything went well. Somehow, when I later installed the 30meter option, I screwed things up and sent the radio to Elecraft, where they checked it over and tuned it up for a minimal charge. Fantastic Service!! I have made great contacts hooking it up to my Windham 80 Dipole at 35 feet and my reports are all 599. I have two Pelican 1060 cases which are perfect: one for the radio and one for the a portable wire antenna, key, and cheat instruction manual. I have had so much fun with this radio and would definitely take it with me as an emergency piece of communication equipment hiking or on a boat (I read the article about the hiker who was disabled with a fracture and was out of cell phone range---he got a message to his wife with a KX1). If anything, this radio has made me want a K3 when I upgrade from my K2/100. Thank you, Elecraft, for great products and service.
W4VAB Rating: 5/5 Aug 13, 2009 13:11 Send this review to a friend
Big features in a very small package  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I like to operate QRP on the CW bands when I travel. Last year I built a TenTec 1340 QRP kit and took it on a trip to Colorado. It worked well but I wanted the capability of operating on more than one band and a frequency readout. I purchased the four band version of the Elecraft KX1 with the antenna tuner and had it assembled by Allen Wilcox. It is hard to believe that such a small package can provide so many features! I operated on 40 and 20 meters using a PAR 10/20/40 end fed dipole and added several new states to my list of states worked QRP from Colorado. I also had nice contacts with Hungary and Jamaica. The little rig is expensive but the performance and features that it provides make it worth the price. The only criticism that I have is that it could use a bit more audio.

Hugh, W4VAB
KC2RSP Rating: 3/5 Jul 6, 2009 02:49 Send this review to a friend
Good concept... but  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I was excited as usual to try new toys for my up coming general upgrade. So I got to try this wonderful thing for several weeks. It looks really nice and its fairly small. This seems great for practicing CW.

I never tried a non imported transceiver, or as some bitter white men call them a "rice box". I have yet to find any food in my other "appliance" radios... sigh, because I could have gone for some white rice, they are expensive in the market. But I noticed imported Radios make a great tray for a Sushi lunch.. so maybe we can start calling them "sushi trays"? =)

I didn't build it, so I don't have a mis placed loyalty to it nor do I hype up a product simply because its "Proudly made in the U.S.", so my views are honest/objective. I liked this product purely due to its uniqueness. Its small, draws little current and looks nice. Though I hear some home made units draw even less power, smaller and they are water resistant.

But as others have said, if bought new the price does seem very high for what it does. It also feels flimsy. There was even a rattle inside the unit, but it seems to work OK anyway. The key doesn't feel as nice as some larger keys, but it seems to get the job done, especially for a novice like me who hasn't been spoiled by some really nice key.

The bottons and display does seem a bit cheesy for this pricey unit, but again it gets the job done.

The unit is simple enough that it can be repaired in the garage given the proper test tools. And this seems to be a big plus for a lot of old hammers from the days when most units were maintained at home.

I would recommend this to new hams or cw wannabes that want to practice for CW. Practicing on the PC using the keyboard or mouse sucks.

I would have given it a 5 out of 5 if the unit was tougher and had water resistance. It wouldn't hurt if the display was a dot matrix LCD with more features. The sound could be a bit cleaner. And if the unit was even smaller it would be great, because its current size makes one wonder if taking the 817nd, which is a little larger, maybe worth the trouble.

I'll probably get this if and when I get my general and I am fluent in cw. Because I am not much of a rag chewer, but I wouldn't mind keying a very short conversation.

Maybe a lithium rechargable battery that attaches to the unit so I wouldn't have messy wires?
K7FD Rating: 5/5 Apr 19, 2009 17:45 Send this review to a friend
KX-1...time for an outing to the park!  Time owned: more than 12 months
Spring is here with summer not too far behind! Now's the perfect time to grab the KX-1 and head out for some portable fun; this radio HAS IT ALL for the QRP CW enthusiast...

Don't be fooled by its small contains MANY features and pleasant surprises for the operator. Not too mention a receiver that is music to the ears, complete with built-in adjustable filtering.

So pack a lunch, pack the radio and find a park bench! You'll have the most fun per buck that can be had on the ham bands, guaranteed!

73 John K7FD
WD6DBM Rating: 5/5 Nov 28, 2008 17:12 Send this review to a friend
The Gold Standard  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The radio is great--you can read the other reviews. What I want to mention is Elecraft support, which is superb! I got prompt email responses with my questions, and really good advice. The manual is the best out there, period. It's in the Heathkit class of builder manuals. When I plugged my newly completed KX1 into my 40M antenna, I promptly worked a station 1000 miles away on 2W using the internal battery pack. What fun! Even if you don't like winding toroids (like me) you can get an excellent set of toroids for the KX1 from thetoroidguy (order form is in the KX1 kit). I put in the tuner and 30M options, and I would say definitely get the tuner, it is so easy to use! I love this radio.
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