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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | Elecraft K1 Help

Reviews Summary for Elecraft K1
Elecraft K1 Reviews: 142 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $279
Description: 4-band QRP CW kit
Product is in production.
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WB3T Rating: 2/5 Jan 10, 2013 09:48 Send this review to a friend
Follow Up  Time owned: more than 12 months
After building my K1 a couple of years ago, and purchasing an extra 2-band filter board to expand the band coverage, I quickly realized that the filter board in a K1 with ATU cannot be quickly changed. To do this you will need tools with you in the field (at the very least screwdriver and tweezers) and this is NOT a quick process. Elecraft's claim that "you can swap either type in at any time" is only true IF you CAREFULLY read their product description. Yes, you can swap at any time... IF YOU HAVE A HALF AN HOUR AND TOOLS ON HAND. I would not advise doing this in the field as there are small parts that might slip away into the grass.

My solution for this problem was to call Elecraft and order a K1 kit without filter board, so I could have one with the four bands I originally selected, and one with the bands on my two-band board. But alas, Elecraft insisted on selling me a whole two-band K1 WITH the filter board I already have that is homeless. That would leave me right back where I started - with an extra board.

I now have a KX-1, K1, and K2 and I will say this: each product has had issues. Read my previous reviews to find out some of the other things Elecraft will not tell you about their products - most notably the excessive drift in the K1. I emailed with Elecraft tech support about that issue to no avail. Then I found out through Elecraft user groups that this is a known problem in the K1 design. I fixed mine by exhaustively replacing capacitors in the VFO with carefully selected series and parallel combinations of caps of various temperature coefficients until the VFO stabilized, running a one-our stability test after each change. Fixing the problem took months. Make sure before you buy a K1 that you have an extensive assortment of NPO, N750, N1500, polystyrene, and Silver Mica capacitors in all values between 27 and 2200 pF. I was only able to stabilize mine by falling back on 30-plus years as an RF engineer and a thorough understanding of reactance vs. temperature curves.

Buyer beware. Elecraft does not seem interested in the QRPer and would rather sell you something you don't need and pocket your cash. And btw, remember that the engineering team at Elecraft NO LONGER SUPPORTS the K1 and K2. According to the tech (who has failed several times to help correct technical issues), you cannot escalate to the design engineer. He has abandoned the K1 and K2 in order to work on the KX3. When the tech can't help you, you're on your own. And once they've sold you something on information that says "easy to swap," and you find out you can't, you've wasted money on that too.

Check out my web site for many photos, mini-reviews, and recommendations for some great QRP products from more supportive suppliers.

K4EQ Rating: 5/5 Sep 11, 2012 20:00 Send this review to a friend
Super Radio / Service  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Finished my K1 last week. Everything was fine except no AGC. I emailed Elecraft and got a quick response from Gary. We went back and forth several times as he offered suggestions each time but to no avail. When he finally had me measure the voltage on a certain capacitor, I discover it was unsoldered on one lead. That took care of the problem. Enbarrassing! Anyway, I couldn't be happier with his quick replies and helpful suggestions. As to the radio itself, it's quite impressive, especially on receive which is hot. I've got several other QRP rigs. but this is my new number one.
GILGSN Rating: 5/5 Jul 28, 2012 17:38 Send this review to a friend
Great kit.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I recently completed K1 #3137, and the KAT1 tuner. It is a two-band model, but I just ordered a 4-band module, and the components to convert my 2-band filter board to 80/17m. I won't be getting the internal battery option. Not sure about the noise blanker.

The kit was shipped the same day I ordered. Nothing was missing. It took me two days to assemble. I used a $10 15w soldering iron from Radio Shack, and no static mat or wrist bracelet. I did however touch a ground before handling each sensitive component. It is pretty humid in Florida this time of year, so static isn't really a problem.

Much has already been said about the K1, so I won't repeat how great it works and how good it looks. I had a little trouble tuning the filter board, but that was my fault, being too impatient. The radio worked fine the first time around. If you plan on building one, take your time. After two days of marathon building, I felt a bit twitchy.. It was fun, but would have been even better taking numerous breaks.. If I ever do it again, a K2 maybe, I will limit myself to two 2hrs session per day. When tired, you tend to make mistakes..

The KAT1 is awesome. I think it might tune a wet noodle, but I haven't tried. I did plug in an Imax2000 CB antenna, and it tuned it down to 1:1 on 20m and 1.9:1 on 40. Sensitivity took a big hit, but it worked. I suspect 15m might work decently with that antenna.

What I do regret is not getting the backlit option with the kit. Now it would be a big pain to retrofit it. I got a Pelican 1400 case for it, and it fits perfectly, with a 2.9Ah battery, wire antenna and paddle.

I wish the receiver had a wide short wave range for listening. The CW filters are great, but if you choose the 150kHz tuning option, it is hard to tune in SSB conversations since the wider filter is 800Hz. Cross-mode use would be very difficult in less than ideal conditions. For CW, the 150kHz tuning range works very well. The KX1 does have a wider filter and SW receive capability.. Still, I like my K1 better for the 7W, better tuner and good looks.
K4AXF Rating: 4/5 Mar 10, 2012 06:44 Send this review to a friend
Really, really nice QRP rig.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
First of all, the K1 is a bit pricey. One could buy an IC-703 or FT-817, second-hand for what I've got invested in my K1. On the other hand, those rigs offer only one CW filter selection which, as a CW op, I find too limiting.

I built my first K1 almost ten years ago and, shortly thereafter, a K2. In the intervening years; however,my dexterity and eyesight seem to have deteriorated and consequently assembly this time was more difficult than I remembered. To the extent that I had to send the completed rig off to W3FPR for troubleshooting and repair (I had installed T1 on the KFL1-4 incorrectly - DOH!).

After using the rig a while, I found that it was drifting 100-200 Hz over the 20-minute timespan of a typical QSO. I didn't recall my first K1 having that problem> I saw a review regarding frequency drift in a K1, in which was corrected by replacing varactors D3 and D4 in the VFO. I did likewise and that brought my drift down to 10-20 Hz for the same timespan. Thinking it over, I wondered if the nylon screw/washers/nut that held the VFO inductor L1 in place might be the culprit. Sure enough I had torqued that screw down real tight. Securing L1 loosely so the PC board (like it says in the instruction book) did the trick. Now my K1 is rock stable!

I initially built the KFL1-4 set up for 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters. A bit later I added KFL1-2 set up for 80 & 40 meters (I am an avid QRP Fox-hunter and needed 80m). Later still, I added the KAT1. I have my K1 powered by a 10 Ahr SLA battery and use it with my LDG antenna tuner in the shack.

The K1 fits my needs nicely - a battery operable rig that is portable but also works very well enough for QRP contests and events from the shack. I've had it out to a portable location and with 20-foot hank of wire thrown up in a tree and with a 20-foot hank stretched out on the ground (as counterpoise), the KAT1 tuned up nicely on all the four bands. I was able to work Maine with 579 report on 30m during the recent solar flare doldrums. Not bad: I've got a spiffy little rig that works great in the shack and in the park.

N8CEP Rating: 5/5 Feb 28, 2012 08:57 Send this review to a friend
Great  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'm sure QRP would work great on a K1 on 10 and 12 meters. I certainly know 80, 40, 30 and 20 work great. I am going to try installing an X-Lock 3 circuit to tame some of the VFO drift that occurs when the radio is first turned on. Well there you go. A review of the K1 from someone who actually OWNS one.


I wish to clarify my previous review. The K1 works well on 40, 30, 20 and 17/15 meters. 80 meters is not an option.
ON6AB Rating: 3/5 Feb 19, 2012 01:08 Send this review to a friend
I don't get it  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I very well believe all reviews listed here. I'm sure the K1 is a wonderful rig.
I really would like to build one but as long as Elecraft does not include a 10m and 12m option, I'm not going to.
Every qrp addict should know the golden rule:
"The lower the frequency, the harder it gets".

I don't understand what could be so difficult including the most interesting qrp bands in a qrp rig.
Especially while we're heading for a sunspot max.
3/5, that's a deduction of 1 point per band.
ON6ZK Rating: 5/5 Jan 19, 2012 07:20 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful Rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I recently bought a second hand K1 with optional built in NB and ATU . Having used amps during contest and pile-ups I was not realy convinced about getting QRP on the air ! Well, I must admit ....the satisfaction you experience from working a station 3 or 4000 miles away with only a few watts is much more rewarding than running a KW ! These days I have my K1 on 99 % of the time. I love to play around CW on 14060 ( the QRP freq ) and work lots of stations in a row. I admit that I'm using a big 4 element yagi monoband. I going to hang up my home made wire dipole for 20 meters one of the next days. This will complete my QRP profile ! Look for you guys on the air. Oh ! by the way , I use my vanity call when I'm operating CW QRP and this is : OR0A !
Hope to see you on the air with my wonderful K1 ! It has a great receiver !
KG7RS Rating: 5/5 Jan 10, 2012 19:47 Send this review to a friend
A Great Product!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Hi Folks,

Just finished K1 #3112. What a great little radio! Truly a pleasure to build - it brought back fond memories of building K2 #1696 nearly 12 years ago. I had forgotten the quality level and precision built into these kits. The modular cabinet alone is genius.

Building my 4-band K1 took around 30 hours including parts inventory (no shortages) & grouping/organizing parts for quick retrieval during assembly. Errata sheets which were previously issued have now been consolidated into a very recent revision of the K1 owners manual. There was one Errata sheet for the 4-band module. The main manual (which covers assembly & alignment of the 2-band module) refers the builder seamlessly to the 4-band module manual and back with complete clarity. The radio worked perfectly the first time without issue. Alignment was intuitive and not overly critical. I did have to rewind the 33-turn VFO toroid as the PWB pads for the leads suggests spacing the windings to cover less than 90% of the toroid. The leads were pulled tight, soldered and clipped precluding the turns from being spread out later. Upon checking the VFO frequency range, I quickly learned it would not tune high enough to allow coverage of the low end of the bands as my installation wouldn't allow more than 75% toroid coverage. I rewound the VFO toroid to cover the entire toroid and left one of the leads slightly long to "reach back" to one of the two PWB holes to compensate for the wide-spaced holes. This did the trick - the VFO would now tune high enough to allow the VFO to tune to the bottom of the bands and a even a bit below. I considered removing one turn which likely would have resulted in a similar improvement.

I can add very little beyond what others have said about the K1. The key thing that impressed me is the outstanding signal-to-noise ratio. This is a very quiet yet very sensitive receiver. Background noise is quite low and very weak signals easily stand out. This radio just begs to be operated. It's cute, intuitive and quite capable. I find it far more enjoyable to operate for long stretches than my mainstream Japanese transceiver due to greatly reduced white noise.

There have been many comments made about frequency drift in the K1 - and this has been the primary reason I've abstained from messing with one over the years. My K1 is essentially drift-free. I wonder why some ops experience drift ranging from noticeable to profound with the K1 - perhaps variations in components and/or installation. Also, I haven't yet operated this radio in the field where it will be exposed to temp extremes. I suppose some drift is to be expected with a non-synthesized design such as this but my example has been very stable.

Key words of advice to prospective K1 builders - Identify & organize/group all parts before starting to build. Properly strip all toroid leads and ensure no enamel lead insulation enters the plated-thru hole in the PWB before soldering. Take your time and enjoy yourself.

The K1 has been around quite awhile and is still among the best multi-band CW kits out there. I hope it will be around for years to come. This is a substantial project which will give a new builder a complete building experience - and - a serious transceiver once completed. Considering the well-executed design and exemplary construction manual, I would consider the K1 suitable (and recommended!) for a new builder - with or without an Elmer standing by.

73, John, KG7RS
KC5CQD Rating: 3/5 Sep 11, 2011 19:56 Send this review to a friend
Enough with the Eratta Sheets!!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just completed my third Elecraft kit and my second K1 and it worked great at power up. No problems, whatsoever. The radio is a definite "5" but I have to admit that the "Eratta Sheets" like to drove me nuts! Come on, Elecraft....isn't it time for a revamp of the main instruction book? With the kind of money that is shelled out for one of these latest was $650.00, fully loaded...the last thing we need to be doing is living in fear of not transcribing some "change order" from an Eratta Sheet to the instruction book and thereby ruining the entire project! Not to mention having to shell out another couple of hundred bucks shipping it back and having a technician figure out the problem. It's a great finished radio but the assembly was much less than enjoyable due to all of the "Eratta Sheets" and my constant fear of missing something written as an after-thought. Considering what these kits cost, the instructions should be simple and straightforward with no guessing on the part of the customer.
K4YND Rating: 5/5 Jun 23, 2011 10:01 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful Rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I recently finished #2999. It was my first kit and I had very little trouble. Don from the Elecraft reflector helped me with a couple of small issues. ( I had a jumper in the wrong position) It is total satisfaction to hear crisp loud CW coming out of a radio you just built. Slowly building one is very relaxing. Whenever the XYL would turn on a cooking show, I would slip over the work station and put a hour in. In a short time I have already worked 12 states. My first contact on 20 was England. I hope to buy a k2 in the next year.

Here are some the things I like
1.) built by me
2.) Radio has a commercial look and feel to it
3.) All the features you need to work cw
4.) small lightweight low current drain- cant wait to take it camping
5.) drift - not a issue 200hz or so.. Just move it back to where it should be and it tends to stay.
6.) Price- not bad when you factor in the 20- 30 hours of great fun I had putting together.
7.) Elecraft support!
8.) quality of the parts
9.) you dont need any fancy test gear

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