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Reviews Categories | Keyers & CW Keyboards | K1EL WK2/WKUSB Keyer Help


Reviews Summary for K1EL WK2/WKUSB Keyer
K1EL WK2/WKUSB Keyer Reviews: 82 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $64 (kit)
Description: The WKUSB is a complete CW keyer kit, including a new K1EL Winkeyer2 IC and a USB computer interface.
Product is in production.
More info: http://www.k1el.com/
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W0CGH Rating: 4/5 Jul 5, 2015 22:50 Send this review to a friend
Great keyer!! Poor support.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've been licensed for 45 years now and have always primarily been a CW operator. Not necessarily the fastest or best CW operator, but good enough to run a decent score on Field Day or some other occasional contest ans to have a load of fun doing it.

I've been using a CMOS Super Keyer III for all my operating since it first came out many years ago, and I have always liked the ease of programmability and the multitude of embedded commands available. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and being a progressive disease, it gets a bit worse every year. While the CQ loop, contest exchange, and confirmation message can be easily prograammed into the Super Keyer III, I still had to manually send the calling station's callsign ahead of the contest exchange, and in the last two or three yeaars this has become increasingly difficlt for me to do at the 30-35 WPM contest speed that I like to maintain.

Consequently, three years ago I began looking for a keyboard keyer that would meet my needs and the following requirements: 1) use of a single keyboard for both keyer and logger interface; 2) automatically grabbing the calling station's callsign from the input to the logger and inserting it ahead of the contest exchange; and 3) embedded commands equivalent to those available on the Super Keyer III. After shopping around and reviewing downloadable manuals and so on, I purchased the K1EL WKUSB keyer.

Before building the keyer, I did some more looking at some of the common logger programs available to interface to the WKUSB and discovered that most of the loggers were incorporating interfaces to very few of the powerful features of the WKUSB. Most, for instance, had no capability of calling the six internal WKUSB memories, and thus no access to the keyers powerful embedded commands.

With the keyer sitting on a shelf unassembled for a year and a half or so, I kept pondering the future of the project and how to make it meet my needs, including writing my own logger in Visual Basic 6, a language that I am fully versed in. After carefully reviewing K1EL's software interface documentation, I proceeded with the logger/keyer interface project in earnest in January 2015, with the goal of having it ready for Field Day that June. Most of the keyer functions that I wanted to implement to meet my requirements were fairly easy. Some however were more complex, and the software document was more than a bit cryptic on some of them.

Unfortunately, even though I fully explained what I was trying to do and why, asking K1EL for help turned out to be a lesson in futility. In one case promised sample code never materialized. In another case the only response I got was basically "Why would you want to do that?? No one is doing that." Well, I explained why I wanted to do it to begin with, and to me it was a real need, not just fluff.

Well, the logger was finished in time for Field Day, and did in fact meet most of my needs. To be fair to K1EL, I think he has designed a very powerful keyer. Unfortunately, his customer service, particularly in regard to software interfacing, is rather lacking. If I could split the two, I'd give the keyer hardware/firmware a 5.0, but his interfacing support a 3.0.

Brad, W0CGH
 
K2MK Rating: 5/5 Mar 11, 2015 05:11 Send this review to a friend
WKUSB-SMT + K3 + WriteLog…Nice!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Here is a review of the WKUSB-SMT kit attached to a K3 running WriteLog.

I had long fought the urge to use an external device for my K3 since it’s not really necessary. Here’s what finally convinced me. WriteLog can key the K3 directly over its serial connection. There is a problem with WriteLog, however, where occasionally garbage spews forth when you hit a CW message key. You learn very quickly to keep your left hand on the PC keyboard so that you can rapidly hit the escape key to abort the message. During the recent ARRL DX contest it happened to me no less than 20 times. Normally it would only happen once or twice. I guess something changed in the newer version of WriteLog or in my PC to make this happen more frequently. A less annoying issue is that the K3 will momentarily transmit a tone when WriteLog is loading. This is because a short burst comes across the DTR or RTS line of the serial channel.

Both problems went away with the addition of the WKUSB-SMT. WriteLog now communicates with the WKUSB over a USB cable and the WKUSB keys the K3 key input directly. (Remember that a K3 has both a key input and a paddle input). The DTR/RTS problem went away because I can now set the K3 CONFIG:PTT-KEY input to OFF-OFF.

The kit is easy to assemble. You don’t have to install the batteries if you are only using the keyer via its USB port. Some software is included on a mini CD that I just copied over to my hard drive. One program lets you quickly test the WKUSB without using WriteLog.

WriteLog has a selection for the K1EL keyers in its port setting menu. If your PC doesn’t already have the proper USB driver for the WKUSB there is a link in the instructions that can be followed to permit downloading the driver from a website. The final result is clean error free CW. I highly recommend the WKUSB-SMT.
 
K8BZ Rating: 5/5 Jan 27, 2015 04:29 Send this review to a friend
Great contesting tool  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Keyer arrived quickly after it was ordered. Assembly was quick with just a soldering iron and a few basic hand tools.

This keyer shines as a contesters keyer to interface with a PC logging program. It is a fine stand alone keyer but there are lots of those on the market. This keyer interfaces with my "every day" logging program N3FJP's AClog, as well as N1MM that I use for contesting. The keyer sets atop my PC in a cabinet behind closed doors, out of sight and out of mind. All control is from the logging programs, or it could also be controlled from a basic program that comes with the keyer.

For those who may want to send texts longer than can be stored in the keyers memory, just save the desired text in a note pad file and copy and paste the text in what ever program you use to control the keyer, but that's not the type of use this keyer was engineered for, even though it could be used that way.

If you enjoy contesting and want to move beyond handing out a few points, this keyer will help you become competitive, if you are interested enough to integrate your rig, logging program and keyer and utilize the features they provide. If that's the case, this keyer will not disappoint.
 
N0UA Rating: 4/5 Dec 22, 2014 07:05 Send this review to a friend
Memory Space?  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Great keyer except for one flaw. Memory space is totally inadequate (total of 200? characters). 1024 or 2048 characters would be appropriate in our gigabyte world. I wanted to setup a few standard scripts for our ARES net. Not to be with the limited 200+- character memory. Get a USER manual before purchasing.
 
K8BZ Rating: 5/5 Nov 28, 2014 05:09 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
With older rigs I used the MFJ-490X memory keyer for general operating and CW contesting. It works well and has the ability to increment the serial number in a contest exchange and has lots of other features for CW weighting, right or left hand operation, de-incrementing a serial number etc. but it required hand movement from the logging program to the keyer and at times I discovered I logged several contacts when the serial number got out of sync with the logging program. Not Good.

When I upgraded to an IC-7600 for my primary rig I didn't think I would need another external memory keyer as the 7600 has one built in. It is a very good keyer and can be used for DXing and contesting with the ability to increment serial numbers while contesting. However, using the rigs keyer for contesting requires a lot of hand movement between the logging program keyboard and either an external keyboard plugged in to the 7600 or the 7600's memory keyer push buttons. Too much hand movement and fast paced accuracy is required and leads to fatigue and a high error rate.

I do my general logging and most contest logging with N3FJP's ACL general logger and Jeff's other specific contest log programs. The logging programs have a CW memory key feature that allows you to key the rig from the single logging keyboard with the F-Keys. Callsign insertion, serial number increment, auto saving to log, and may other features are included in the programs CW keyer feature. Use of the log program CW keying feature requires an available RS-232C com port or a USB to Serial interface as well as a simple 2 transistor keying interface between the PC and the rigs straight key jack. This feature uses the PC's processor to do the digital magic to send the keying voltage via the USB port to the USB to Serial interface to the keying transistors to key the rig. Adjusting the timing features in the program can be tricky and it might not be possible to adjust the timing for good CW dot/dash ratios, and there are occasional hiccups and unexpected timing anomalies.

Long story short; in order for me to be able to spend hours in a contest and be competitive, or sit through a long DX pileup I needed the ability to do my logging; calling; contest exchanging from one keyboard that resulted in good CW; with good timing and no hiccups or unwanted timing issues.

The marriage of the WinkeyUSB keyer and any good logging program, whether it's N3FJP or N1MM etc. fills the bill.

When you look at the WinkeyUSB keyer it doesn't look like much. The entire device would fit inside the MFJ-490X memory keyer with lots of room left over. It has 4 memory buttons on top and just one speed pot control in front. The rear panel has 2 key outputs and can be configured to select 1 of 2 rigs to key. It has Push to Talk outputs for each of the rigs. An external key jack and a USB connector complete the rear panel features. There is no external power (wall wart) jack on the keyer. 3 internal AAA batteries power the device when operated as an independent keyer. When operated in conjunction with a PC via a USB port the keyer is powered by the available voltage in the USB port, which electronically switches the internal battery pack off line. If you don't intent to use it as an independent keyer you don't need to install any batteries.

Before I bought the keyer I was not quite clear on how the keyer could be used and interfaced with a PC. The manufacturers web site seemed a little vague, or maybe the technology was a little over my head, and after downloading the construction manual it just didn't seem a clear as it should be for a construction manual. If you have every built a Heathkit from scratch though, nothing can compare to a Heathkit assembly manual. But the reviews on eHam.net gave me confidence that it was a simple project despite the manual. The required tools are a fine tip soldering iron, wire cutters/strippers, and a mini-phillips screw driver.

Such was the case. The keyer was assembled in an hour or so with no hitches or glitches. All documentation comes on a mini-CD and it was helpful to have a Lap-Top PC on the assembly work bench to view the instruction during assembly. The Lap-Top was also helpful as there is a keyer test program on the CD to test the keyer before it is assembled in the cabinet. If you never intend to use the keyer independent of a PC you don't even need to install the speed pot. But if you don't, then there is an empty hold in the front of the cabinet. The speed pot is electronically disabled when the keyer is controlled by a PC so you don't need to worry about the speed pot setting interfering with the desired speed as set by the PC. So I don't see why anyone would omit the speed pot install. You never know; you may want it some day.

There was lots of information about downloading drivers for the USB interface and how to install them for the PC to communicate with the keyer. But all I had to do was plug in the USB cable and the PC "Found the new hardware" and self installed the proper driver and the keyer worked right out of the gate. It came with the proper USB to keyer cable. It did not come with a cable to plug the keyer in to your rigs manual key jack. That makes sense because every rig does not use a 1/4 inch jack for the manual CW key jack. The keyer uses RCA type jacks for the key and PTT outputs, probably because they can be PC board mounted and take up less space inside the enclosure. So in my case I needed an RCA to 1/4 mono jack between the keyer and the rig. I happened to have a few already, but if you don't have one they provide information on where to order a ready made cable. But if you can assemble this keyer I'm sure you would wire a 1/4" and RCA jack on your own cable.

Now the WinkeyUSB keyer set atop the PC inside the enclosed PC cabinet and all control is sent from the N3FJP logging program. I do not have a key plugged in to the WnkeyUSB. My iambic key is plugged directly into the keyer input jack of the transceiver. Adjusting the keyer speed from the N3FJP logging program is as simple as holding the up or down arrow keys and watching the key speed display in the logging program increase or decrease accordingly. The 1 through 12 F-keys can be programmed with any desired text, including callsign insertion from the callsign field of the logging program, serial number insertion from the logging program, as well as common prosigns, and a CW loop that will repeat your CQ call or beacon or whatever at any selected interval. All contest operating can now be done by selecting one of 4 or maybe up to 6 F-keys and the only manual typing is to enter the other stations callsign, all from a single keyboard with flawless CW.

If you have worked a November Sweepstakes, Field Day or a DX contest back in the "Good ol' days" of paper logs, manual dupe checking, hand keys and/or bugs you can really appreciate what a different world contesting is today. If you search and pounce a few QSO's in a contest once in a while you wont have much need for this keyer. But if you want to compete in a CW contest this keyer is a "must have".

73

 
N3PDT Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2014 18:31 Send this review to a friend
A wonderful, modern keyer  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have nothing but superlatives for this little keyer. Not much to assembly. Interfaces easily with modern computers. Running it stand alone is easy, so is running it with N1MM logger.

Highly recommended.
 
KI5IO Rating: 5/5 Feb 28, 2014 12:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Keyer  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Straight forward kit, easy to assemble, test and install.

My FT2K-D has a built-in keyer, but the WKUSB gives me far more options.

Excellent product.

73,

Nolan K.
KI5IO
 
KF2T Rating: 5/5 Feb 27, 2014 08:20 Send this review to a friend
Elegant Solution  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I'm a long-time CW guy. I've got to hand it to the guys at Hamcrafters - this keyer is exactly what I am looking for. Straightforward, simple to use, and quite powerful. Assembly was quick and painless, even with my older eyes (an illuminated magnifier helps). Interfaces very well with my logger (MacLoggerDX), too.
 
G4AVN Rating: 5/5 Jan 15, 2014 02:12 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have managed to build the keyer, got it going last night 14 Jan 2014. Failing eye sight and shaking hands, yet still managed. Although I am not the cleverest person in the world, everything that is required to build and operate this piece of equipment is on the mini disc enclosed. Well done Art and Steve.
 
WK2W Rating: 5/5 Jan 13, 2014 16:20 Send this review to a friend
Good, Simple Design  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Assembly is very fast and easy. The keyer is a simple, straightforward design that does what it's supposed to do without unnecessary features. The assembly manual includes complete schematics, and the mini CD that comes with the kit includes everything necessary to get it running.
 
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