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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Elecraft K3 Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft K3
Elecraft K3 Reviews: 228 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $1,399
Description: ELECRAFT K3 Transceiver
High Performance 160-6 Meters 100 W
Dual 32bit DSP, "switched mode mixer"
Factory Assembled or No-Soldering Kit
160-6 meter ham-band coverage; optional general-coverage filters
High-contrast, full-custom LCD with with alphanumeric text display
100-W or 10-W (upgradeable) models
32-bit I.F. DSP
Rich I/O complement (see rear-panel drawing above)
All modes: SSB, CW, Data, AM, FM
Built-in PSK/TTY decode/encode allows data mode operation with or without a PC use CW keyer paddle to send PSK/TTY too!
High performance DDS/PLL Synthesizer with TCXO reference
Product is in production.
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AA4BQ Rating: 5/5 Mar 14, 2016 06:18 Send this review to a friend
Best I've seen in 55 years  Time owned: more than 12 months

Well, it's been a long, long pleasurable run of operating since the days of homebrew, cheap, 2-tube transmitters and grandma's shortwave radio. Some reading this may never heard of a BFO but mine was just an external heterodyne signal so I could get a CW tone out of the receiver. So, the K3? Oh, yeah, I can definitely say that it's a rig beyond my wildest dreams. I ordered the K3 in kit form and ordered every possible option with one exception: The voice recorder. I definitely didn't buy this for SSB contesting nor am I qualified to rank the K3 for that purpose. But, with every other option, this little unit is PACKED tight. Building it was a challenge even though no soldering was required (something I missed from the Heathkit days). On the other hand, one look at the intricate design and miniaturization makes me grateful that I didn't have to challenge my 67-year-old eyes and hands. The assembly was tough enough but 100% successful. One thing I will say is that when you order the K3 in kit form and you also order ALL the modules at that time, you will find yourself with one thumb in one assembly manual and another thumb in the second manual. You see, if you had ordered the assembled kit and then subsequently added certain modules, you would have to disassemble the K3 in order to insert the new module. But, as you are building up the K3 for the first time, you have to maintain a certain awareness as you interrupt the normal flow of building the basic K3 while "inserting" and assembling the module to be added. In other words, you are assembling two items at once - the K3 AND the module kit too. Then you are adding the modules in the process. Just saying, this can get rather challenging considering you have two completely different sets of nuts and bolts and kit parts being assembled in parallel. And, when adding a full-featured, second receiver (including its own sub-enclosure and full set of filters) it gets to be a pretty crowded neighborhood inside that little box. Just saying. The basic K3 will go together very smoothly but a fully-packed one will be a daunting task for an inexperienced builder. With hardware this expensive, take a look inside a full-featured, fully-packed K3 before attempting it. Younger folks with more dexterity will have much less of a problem unless the youth and inexperience gives way to being in too big a hurry. I like the old saying, "If you're not paranoid, then you don't have all the facts."

Performance: For those not interested in building the kits (the other kits are much simpler - even the KPA500 was a walk in the park), the K3 is just beyond belief. For the CW operator, I really don't believe that it gets any better than this. I ragchew mostly, but who doesn't like busting a pileup. If you enjoy that as much as I do, the 2nd receiver (and I mean it's really a full 2nd unit) is wonderful. There are many uses for it. Diversity mode is a RTTYer's dream. For CW, I use the SUB-receiver to listen to the pileup guys (in the right ear of stereo phones) while using the main receiver to hear the DX station in the left ear. Since DX is usually split freq, I can use the SUB tuning to find the guy who JUST finished working the DX. This technique lets me transmit there and the DX station's receiver, having just listened there, has me centered right in his bandpass. BOOM. He hears you without having to tune on his end. Works like a charm. You don't need a tower and a beam if you have tools like the K3 and some skillz. This morning, I made a note in my log "K3 RULES AGAIN" after busting a T32WW (Eastern Kiribati Island) on my very first transmission on 40 meters. Other stations had this massive pileup going but the K3, SPLIT, SUB-RECEIVER (Loop antenna at 20 feet). I can't say enough good about it. Suffice it to say that the manual on the K3 is comprehensive. It's not as complicated as some want to make it. Take the features you need, one at a time, and use the manual to understand them. Use them and you will be rewarded. Customer service at Elecraft is second to none. The hand-holding should only be used after you give it 100%. Everyone in the customer service business knows right away if you have at least done your homework before asking someone to help. Don't wear them down unnecessarily please. If you are like me and finally can get your dream rig, the K3 will not let you down. I operate 100% CW now with trace amounts of SSB if a friend needs me to. If you are more into SSB, I can say that I have spent many hours just enjoying the EQ setups and getting my mic to have broadcast audio quality with the K3 but I don't enjoy that mode anymore. The AM days were a long time ago for me. But, again, I can tell that the K3 lacks nothing in anyway that I can see. I might add that if you are really in the mood, the P3 is a wonderful accessory. That SUB/SPLIT DX technique is much easier when you can "see" the station that the DX is actually working at the moment so you can just drop your SPLIT transmitter right on his freq without a lot of searching by ear for the guy. Overall, the K3 (now the K3S) is the zenith. I hear that unless you have lab test equipment, you won't be able to tell the difference between the K3 and K3S. So, if you can find a good K3 at your price point, you will be a very happy op. 73, Bill, AA4BQ.
N1BBR Rating: 4/5 Jan 8, 2016 14:33 Send this review to a friend
Awesome!!!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I'm really not an authority on CW rigs.
I could easily give the K3 a 5 except I don't see myself as a qualified authority.
Got the K3 in September 2015.
Previous rig was the K2 which I modified with an internal RF isolation amp to output to SDR.
I had the K2 for 5 years.
Until the K3, it was the best CW rig I ever owned.
Far and away above functionality that I would have expected. I love patching direct out of it for SDR as I use CW Skimmer heavily. There are so many features on this rig I haven't even used yet. Will keep me happy for many years to come.
Prior to the K2, I had TT-Jupiter, Icom-735, Icom-706, and Atlas-210X. I deliberated over the TT Eagle, but I hate having to drill into menus in order to change CW speed or power on the fly. Elecraft is a wonderful group!! And their products are simply ingenious.
VK4SX Rating: 5/5 Nov 11, 2015 13:38 Send this review to a friend
Synthesizer Upgrade fantastic  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am a late adopter of ELECRAFT, and was very very fortunate to have been offered a VK4BG assembled and tested 07XXXX K3, fully locked & rocked, the alluring feature was the updated Synthesiser boards, and yes, it sure does make a difference, after 2 days feeling my way, I find it will be 2 yrs before I have it all under control, what a wonderful well thought out piece of amateur equipment, every adjustment you could wish for, is catered for in the K3, the ability mix & match different microphone types etc in a simple fashion, is fantastic,

just love it,
have had plenty of quality gear to compare it to, and it has quite a few mates covered up on the bench,

the K3 & ELAD & SPE 1.3, will keep me smiling for years to come,
great stuff Elecraft.
Dennis vk4sx
W0LD Rating: 5/5 Oct 20, 2015 11:32 Send this review to a friend
Synthesizer Upgrade is Great!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had the synthesizer upgrade installed at the factory. What an improvement! I can operate within 2 Khz. of extremely strong stations under contest conditions on 6 meters. The internal preamp mod, also factory installed, really does things for the receiver on 6 meters. On HF, the receiver is second to none! If you can find a K# with both mods you don't need to buy the K3S.
VE6AMI Rating: 5/5 Oct 19, 2015 21:44 Send this review to a friend
KSYN3A Boards - Great Mod.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Recently added new synthesizer boards. Super improvement to a already solid radio. Worth every dollar!
KD8OPI Rating: 5/5 Jun 14, 2015 13:48 Send this review to a friend
A twist...  Time owned: more than 12 months
First, everything thats great about the K3 written in this thread is true. I've had mine for over 3 years and I love it. If they keep upgrading the firmware and boards as they have been, it will be the last radio I'll need to buy.

Here's a twist from the reviews here, the K3 is an outstanding broadcast shortwave receiver.

I know, I know, SWL is essentially dead in this hemisphere. But come on, if you're the typical ham reading this post you know that your fascination with this hobby at some point included listening to SW broadcasts.

Recently, cheap upgrades to my shack have enabled me to hook up a few of my old 80's era portable SW receivers to my small antenna farm (S9 31' vert. with 34 ground radials, Cushcraft MA5B, Comet Gp-9). So, Ive been playing around with them, trying to find a way to use them in a useful way (I think a dedicated PSK reporter server for Jt65 will fill the bill). Anyway, for giggles, I wanted to see how the K3 would do listening to SW broadcasts by comparison.

Well, it was mind-blowing (for me at least). In combination with the P3, finding carrier waves is like shooting fish in a barrel, adjust your filters, put on the DSP NR, and whammo - shortwave broadcasting that is deaf to my admittedly bygone era receivers (Sony 2010, Sangean 803A) is easily copyable from surprising locations.

Example: While I need all the prayer I can get, I dont listen to Vatican Radio, in part because its always been difficult to receive - even with God's help apparently. Well, on the K3 I can hear vatican broadcasts in 3 different languages to the middle east and Africa. Granted, its not exciting - but those of you who know of what I speak understand that to even get Vatican radio broadcast to the US isn't easy; and here the K3 was pulling it off beam.

Wanna listen to VOA? Good luck, its designed not to be heard in this country on purpose. The little receivers just don't have the dynamic range to pull it off from a big antenna. With the K3, I was pulling in VOA broadcasts (jammed and unjammed) to Africa and the Middle East, in English from Botswana. Again, the expectation on smaller receivers is you just cant do that - and that expectation is correct. You cant - but you can with a K3.

All up and down the SW dial I was just fascinated at how well the "out of band" performance of the K3 was. Stations that I've never heard from broadast locations and target areas far flung across the globe were pulled in by the K3.

So, if you're so inclined, give it a shot. Its a wrinkle of the K3 I never explored and was happy I did.
W2BLC Rating: 5/5 Apr 26, 2015 16:30 Send this review to a friend
Best I have owned  Time owned: more than 12 months
The combo of the K3 and P3 puts this rig in the leagues with the super high dollar rigs. It is the best I have had in over 50 years on the air. You can custom order with/without all the various add-ons. You can add them later if you wish. Factory help is fantastic - just a phone call or email away.
AC2FV Rating: 5/5 Apr 26, 2015 14:06 Send this review to a friend
Get One!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have the K3 with pan adapter, 100w, filters, etc. Absolutely killer radio. Get off the fence and buy one, you won't be disappointed.
JG1RVN Rating: 5/5 Mar 19, 2015 21:23 Send this review to a friend
New KSYN3A with K3  Time owned: more than 12 months
Elecraft relieaced New KSYN3A last Jan 2015. It becomes nice C/N ratio ULTRA-LOW PHASE NOISE. I bought KSYN3AUPG = KSYN3A Synthesizer Upgrade Kit for K3 and Sub RX. When you install KSYN3 you should use new firmware MCU 5.14 / DSP 2.83 / FPF 1.19, 2/26/2015. The KSYN3A significantly improves the K3's already excellent RX and TX phase noise at close carrier spacings. The new KSYN3A covers 100kHz-500kHz, so now you can receive 472kHz band by K3. It is Great, K3 did it again!
QRPNEW Rating: 4/5 Mar 6, 2015 22:12 Send this review to a friend
Improving all the time  Time owned: more than 12 months
Just updated the K3 with the new Synthesizer. This upgrade puts the K3 right on the top of the receiver food chain for receiver contest performance. This update along with the DSP board upgrade has made the K3 a very good to excellent general purpose all round radio.

The Synthesizer upgrade has not improved the RX audio IMD. Its still poor on the K3. Maybe Elecraft will offer an upgrade for the audio amplifier chain that improves the K3 even further in this area.

The only other upgrade that the K3 needs to make the K3 the best radio on the market is a upgrade for the 100 watt amplifier. This would improve the TX crud and IMD on transmit.

Buying a K3 with all the improvements offered to date has made the K3 one of the best buys. Rather than buying a new radio, just upgrading it has saved me from having to buy a new radio to keep up with technology performance improvements. Knowing that my K3 will have phase noise performance as good as the 15 thousand dollar Hilberling and new Icom IC-7851 radios makes me very positive about investing in the Elecraft brand which was a rocky road after feeling very disappointed.

The K3 is a mature product now that will delight discerning radio owners. It is great that Elecraft is committed to improving and offering upgrades to the K3 platform. Please keep the improvements coming its the cheap option for me considering the performance that you get when buying upgrades to the K3.

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