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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF+UHF models) | 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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K1PMA Rating: 5/5 Feb 7, 2015 17:15 Send this review to a friend
Expensive but very good.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Let me state right here at the beginning that I do find the radio to be pretty expensive once it is loaded with many (not even all) options...mine came to about $4,000.

But although I was somewhat skeptical in the beginning (having had a 590S, FT3000, Flex 6300) after using the radio for 4 months I must say it is an excellent piece of equipment. And I am not even into CW which appears to be a real strong point of this radio.

Although the K3 will not win a beauty contest it kind of grows on you. The display is not flashy but very functional. All the knobs and buttons feel solid. I am glad the knobs are not of the 'endless spin' variety which just doesn't work for me. Since most of what I do is DX SSB the way how I sound to other and how the audio output sound to me is most important and I am very happy in both respects. I get great modulation reports even though I using just the stock mic.

There are a gazillion options one can set and I have not even touched more than maybe 10. One thing I miss is that the radio does not remember the last 3 frequencies used on a band for quick recall like the 590S does (by just pressing the band button).

The KPA500 amp is a great match to the K3. Auto band switching and easy setup, just great.

So in summary I would say if you can afford a somewhat tricked out K3 go for it, if under $2000 is your max get a Kenwood 590SG.
W3HBM Rating: 4/5 Nov 28, 2014 06:23 Send this review to a friend
Excellent but costly  Time owned: more than 12 months
Built it from kit in late 2010. Got the sub-Rx, 3 filters (5 pole) for each Rx, the 100W amp, the optional I/O but not the autotuner. Used regularly on CW, SSB and data almost every day since. Have now added the LP-Pan, LP-Bridge and NaP3 pan display system since the P3 was a bit too rich for me. A few problems keep my score from being a 5:
1) The monitor volume cannot be made to adjust along with the main audio volume; I would think this would be an option in the menus. I sent an email to Elecraft about this years ago, with no response.
2) Since I do not have high-speed internet connectivity, I have to update from a flash stick. There is no mechanism (email?) to alert me when this should be done.
3) The programmer's manual is not complete, and changes are made to the programming commands without notice. (e.g., changing from FW to BW commands.) There seems to be no command to reset the DSP filter shift to 1.5 KHz, and it must be so set for the BW commands to work properly.

I can understand that the Elecraft folks got interested in the KX3 and the P3 to the neglect of other things. However, continued attention to their "flagship" product would seem appropriate.
W4GE Rating: 5/5 Nov 24, 2014 20:59 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am a long term (since 2011) user of the K3 and have now built an entire station around the rig including the P3 panadapter, KPA500 amplifier, and the KAT500 tuner. The kits were straightforward and easy to build given the step by step instructions. I wish there had been some soldering, but the fun was in seeing how precisely all the components and chassis parts fit together. Amazing what CNC machining can do these days with tolerances!

The K3 and all other kits worked perfectly once the fuses were put in and powered up. The calibration steps were simple and the result? What can I say, amazing performance for a radio this size, and surpassing radios of 5x the size and weight (as if size and weight had anything to do with performance). For the past three years this rig has been through daily and weekly nets, DXing, and Contests with nary a hiccup. The close in band filtering is amazing, (I have the 8 pole filters), and having the data modes directly read out from the rig is slick. I have almost everything on this one and it all just works. Firmware updates keep the software up to date. It is a great rig and you can keep upgrading it over the years with the available kits. I finally got the sub receiver and decided to tell other eHams about my experience with the K3. Finally, I must say the accessory I use the most these days is the P3. It allows another dimension to working the bands. Absolutely fabulous!

And its made in the US!
KC0CWU Rating: 5/5 Nov 3, 2014 07:32 Send this review to a friend
very good, still learning  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I lost a 2 radio single op Ten Tec station last year to a house fire and replaced it with the K3/100 I am really impressed with the performance in busy band condx just finished the SS and did not have a situation where I could not copy due to qrm. This thing might be better than the Omni 6 plus I lost. I spent a lot of money (blue collar guy here)but quality and performance costs. If I add a second radio to the shack it will be a K3/100
73 kc0cwu..
AD4C2006 Rating: 5/5 Sep 29, 2014 10:48 Send this review to a friend
BEST RADIO OWNED  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Now owning my second K3 for almost six months.
First one after eight years of succesful use was sold to my desperate to own a K3 old friend, then I purchased this one serial 8077, first was serial 2192.
Once again my jaws are falling with its high performance. I have owned recently the two high claimed performance radios, the IC-7700 and the TS-990, I have to say the 7700 was close in performance to the K3 but not better, the TS990 not even close and not better neither, only radio I have owned that is like a K3 but bigger was the TT Orion II which for me was almost identical in performance, just few differences.
As usual, the CW on this new K3 is the best in the world, I have the 400 and 250 Hz filters on both of my two receivers and the 6.0, 2.8 and 1.8 Khz on the main receiver.
Normally my qth is a noisy enviroment, sorrounded by manmade noises and also a 33KW power line running over my home at just 40 feet up, I do have days of S9+10db power noise, that is not a big deal having a K3 RX, the NB will wipe it out without any distorsion on the received audio.
Last night there was a station from Africa on 20M that was buried in the noise with a 439 signal in CW, engaged my NB, my NR, the 250Hz roofer, then finally the dual PB audio filter and Bingo, that station sounded so clear as a 599 local station, worked it easily with no problem, normally I could never pull weak stations like I am doing now when I had the very expensive radios like the ones mentioned before.
Someone wrotte a review complaining how hard is to set the RX and TX audio using the internal EQ, I totally disagree with that, is very easy of course if you know what you are doing, best thing to do is to have a second receiver side by side that be capable to receive at least 3 Khz bandwith and do your settings to tailor your own voice to what you like, even the builtin monitor sound very natural and clear, it won't give you the exact audio you are sending out although is the best monitor I have heard.
Is it an expensive radio to own? yes and not, it all depend how critical you are in terms of performance, after all if you see today the high performance radios on the market from Japan, will cost over 6 and over 8 grand, so its not a big deal to load your K3 if you can afford it, it sure will be much better than any other one and so light that you will be able to take it anywhere.
Is it an ugly radio? Yes it is compared with a modern Icom or Kenwood or even Yaesu radios that look like a xmas tree all light up but with a lower performance, its just a matter of getting use to the physical look of your K3, after you sit and operated it for sometime you will change your mind and will see it "pretty".
Without a doubt the technical support of Elecraft is the best in this world, most of the time you will not need to send the radio out for repair because they will send you the damaged part of board if you know how to replace it shorting out the time for you to be off the air and also to save lot of money with no shiping costs and wait.These radios at long term are very reliable, my first K3 I owned for eight years only had a slight problem they fixed sending me the board that I replaced and it was just 3 days off.
I am a strong follower of Elecraft radios, I have owned for 3 years a K2 as well and it was one of its kind beating many big expensive radios.
Thanks Elecraft for helping the hams community making excellent radios.

N4EDT Rating: 5/5 Sep 2, 2014 08:11 Send this review to a friend
This is an Outstanding Tranceiver.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have had the radio for just one week. The K3 has exceeded my expectations as I moved from an Icom 756ProIII to the K3. The ability to separate desired signals from close in QRM is amazing. It hears very well.

If you are buying this radio I would recommend that you buy the Nifty manual for the K3 and the Nifty manuals for the accessories you have chosen. Use the Elecraft manual at start up to make hardware/cable connections and use the Nifty a manuals as a well organized and easy to access quick start manual.

Plan on investing some time in learning the K3's interface. As I become more proficient in operating the radio I will make some follow up posts.

Not only does it perform well, it takes up less desk space and requires fewer cables.

W6WRT Rating: 4/5 Jul 27, 2014 10:34 Send this review to a friend
Good but not perfect  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
There is a lot to like and a few things not to like about the K3. Things I like: First, my favorite thing about the K3 is actually the P3 panadaptor. Far better performance than the Spectrum Scope on my IC-7600. Not even in the same league. Expensive, but worth it. Second is the quality of manufacture of the kit. Everything fits perfectly the first time. Clearly they have taken a lot of care with the mechanical fit and finish. Third, it works beautifully, both transmit and receive. No complaints there at all. Things I don't like: First, the menu system is overkill. There are way too many menu options, most of which you will never use even if you understand what they are for. Do you really need two different ranges for the volume control? Browse the manual and you'll see what I mean. Second, when you add all the options that are standard on other radios it becomes a very expensive radio. For example, it comes with NO mike, not even a hand mike, no antenna tuner, no digital voice recorder, only one roofing filter, no dual antenna connectors, and only ten watts output. The 100 watt amplifier and the other things are all extra cost options, and they are not cheap. The MSRP of $1399 is a joke. I have nearly $4000 into mine and I still don't have an antenna tuner. Third, I really dislike the display. It uses twenty year old technology, right out of the '90s. Even disposable cell phones have a better quality display. They use those annoying seven-segment alphabet characters which are hard to read and ugly to boot. If I had actually seen the display in person before I bought the radio, I might have bought something else, it's that bad. I am giving the K3 a high rating only because it does what it says it does, not because it is a perfect radio. If you can, sit down and play with one before you buy. You might want to wait for the next generation and see if they improve the display. The P3 panadaptor has a state of the art display. Why not the K3?
NS0R Rating: 5/5 Jul 15, 2014 17:54 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I used a Kenwood TS-590 for about a year and roughly 12000 QSO's. The 590 is a very good radio. I recently sold a motorcycle and picked up a the K3/KAT500/KPA500 combo and all I can say is that between the K3 and the TS-590 there is no comparison. I am hearing things on the K3 that I never could have on the 590. The receiver is super quiet and the dynamic range is excellent. It is possible to sit within a few Hz of a S9+20 signal and block it totally without any AGC pumping annoyances. I recently used it in the IARU contest and was amazed. Truly a great radio. The tuner, amp and radio work so well together that it is really like having a 500 watt transceiver. You can't go wrong the the K3.
OR5A Rating: 5/5 Jul 13, 2014 21:09 Send this review to a friend
Great radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Recently sold some hi-end rigs to downsize the radio room. I wanted a good station that can compete with most other great radios. I've been reading about the K3 for some years but never got one until recently. I spotted a second hand K3/10 with only one 400Hz filter. After playing with it for some weeks I added the KPA3 100 watt option to make it a K3/100. Also put in two extra filters and the KVR3 voice recorder.

Around the same time I got the Acom 600s and it works great together. I first used the solid state linear amplifier only with 12 watts from the K3/10 and already that was a killer 450 watt combination. The only thing is that when switching to the 100 watt module, it's a bit hard to drive the Acom 600s since this amplifier don't need a lot of drive. Using the 100 watt module the K3/100 does match great with my other Acom 2000a, a really fantastic combination.

Most positive things about the K3's performance has been written before, here are my remarks using the radio for a while:

- I regret the lack of a second antenna input without having to buy the tuner. I have matched antennas and don't need a tuner but want a second antenna connection. Elecraft should have an option to add just the second antenna.

- Using radios like recent Icoms and the latest Kenwood TS-990s I had the luxury to have both an rs232 and CI-V or USB connection so more than just a single connection could be made at the same time to interface a computer, antenna (like steppir or ultrabeam) and an amplifier. I miss that on the K3 a bit but I got one of the amplifiers now connected to the ACC bus using band data.

Things I like that a lot:

- dual headsets or combo headset/speakers
- modular system, start and upgrade later on
- great support, great community around K3
- fantastic cw, good ssb
- direct connection for heil headset
- many options for remote control
- some features not found on any other rig
- lightweight
- compact still very good ergonomics

To me the K3 is a very good performer in many respects. I like the radio a lot. Recommended.
VE4AMN Rating: 5/5 Jul 13, 2014 20:38 Send this review to a friend
Value for Money  Time owned: more than 12 months
My previously owned radio was an FT-1000mp, which I enjoyed for 10 years. I have owned a K3 for a year and a half, built from a kit. I have since upgraded it to include the tuner, more filters, the general coverage option and the P3. The K3 sits on the desk along with my TS-830s and other Kenwood hybrids, plus my HW-101 (the nostalgia rig that started me in ham radio).
I will organize my comments into three sections – the build, the operation, and the challenges:
1. The build. This is not a hard rig to build. There is no soldering, but you need to be in a ZEN state of mind. Make sure you have the time and mental space to proceed carefully. Invest in the anti-static mat and wrist strap and proceed carefully and slowly. Stop if you are tired or being interrupted. Once you pass the intermediate electrical checks, you are well on the way. The reward is a radio that comes alive when you press the power on.
Calibration is straightforward, but you need a decent computer, internet and USB cable. Cheap and generic cables (computer, RF, etc.) are a rapid path to frustration.
2. The Operation. Buy the full operating manual by Fred Cady KE7X. The rig is a top performer in all respects. Compared to my Kenwood’s, the audio is light, but this has always been their strength. On headphones, the audio is very good (I use Kenwood HS-5 and Sennheiser HB212 Pro ). I now also use Bose Companion 2 speakers and the sound is full.
Some specific observations include:
• The equalizers on RX and TX, with the monitor function allow me to tailor the audio. I regularly receive unsolicited positive comments on the TX and so comments about not being able to fine-tune the TX audio are a puzzle.
• I really appreciate the ability to slice and dice the RX. Along with a DSP that can be tailored, this rig really shines in managing QRM. The P3 is a brilliant piece of gear for “point and shoot” QSY and isolating signals, especially in CW and digital modes...
• The CW with dual pass band is wonderful, the decode works pretty well… the limit really being the quality of the sending;
3. The Challenge. This rig is not a simple appliance and you can make it perform badly by not adjusting the menus properly. Some of the complaints made here about the audio appear to be by those that have not read the operation manual deeply enough. The tap/touch keys do take some time to get to know. I do find that sometimes I make changes that I need to puzzle my way through.
With pan-adapter and all the options, this rig is about $4000. Given the performance specs and the learning obtained by assembling your equipment, this is great value for money.
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