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Author Topic: New Rig -- CW Performance Factors  (Read 6048 times)
W6UV
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Posts: 1057




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« on: February 05, 2018, 09:21:25 AM »

I'm in the market for a new HF rig. I do a little phone, but am mostly digital and CW, so I'm looking for a rig that's got good CW performance.

I'm not a big fan of full QSK, preferring semi-break-in. More important to me are good filters, and in particular filters that don't ring at narrow bandwidth settings, and other CW aids like audio peaking filters. I operate in a lot of CW contests, so a good crunch-proof front end is also desirable.

I'm looking at rigs in the middle of the price range (e.g. not IC-7300 nor IC-7851 class rigs) and have narrowed down my choices so far to three: Icom IC-7610, Flex-6600, and Elecraft K3S. I'm looking for opinions on these three (plus any others that I should consider) from people who can comment on their suitability as a hard-core CW rig.

Thanks and 73, Jerry
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OZ8AGB
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2018, 09:52:43 AM »

Yaesu FTdx-3000?
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K0UA
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2018, 10:33:48 AM »

You can take this for what it is worth, but after operating my 7300 in several contests now including CW contests, my 7300 is the best CW rig I have ever owned. And that include my 756pro3 which I still own..  This talk of overload problems stems from people not understanding you need to turn off the pre-amps and run the RF gain control down just a bit. It performs very very well with many adjacent signals when I had it cranked down to 150 hz bandwidth.  That is where I operated the entire 160 meter cw contest a couple of weeks ago.

Like I said, take it for what it is worth, and I am sure it is not quite up to the standards of the other radios mentioned, but it is darned good. And it is head and shoulders above many radios from past years.  The price at under $1200, is hard to argue with.  I was thinking when I bought this rig, mostly as a spare, that it wouldn't be up to much contesting, but I was wrong.  You should buy one and just test it out. You might be surprised as I was.
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AE5GT
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2018, 10:52:29 AM »

I dont think you'll be disappointed with any of the three , what i will say is the most contesters are using K3/S 's, Flex's, the occasional Yaseu Ft5000 and Icom 785x. all of these and 7610 are $4G+ radios out the door.  K3 's can be had used for less than $2K . The last K3/100 i purchased used with a stock 2.7 filter , around $1700 . The K3 will allow you to use roofing filters for both SSB and CW in the same radio (5 slots) and you can build it up as cash permits.

If your going to contest seriously , go ahead and buy 2 radios  of you're choice... your gonna need both. Some run as many as 3 or 4. If your going to just going play around or single band contests then one or two is fine.

One additional thought . , with k3s its not neccessary to buy two " full blown" radios . You can buy one with sub and one without and save some cash.

The point i am trying to make is that if you 're going to contest seriously then you not looking at one , you're looking at a fleet eventually ,even if your just SO . Just something else to consider.
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W6UV
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2018, 11:03:36 AM »

The point i am trying to make is that if you 're going to contest seriously then you not looking at one , you're looking at a fleet eventually ,even if your just SO . Just something else to consider.

I'm more of a S&P contester rather than someone who does SO2R calling CQ on one band and S&P on another. I enjoy CW contests, but I'm not what you'd call a hard core contester.
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AE5GT
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2018, 05:36:59 PM »

The point i am trying to make is that if you 're going to contest seriously then you not looking at one , you're looking at a fleet eventually ,even if your just SO . Just something else to consider.

I'm more of a S&P contester rather than someone who does SO2R calling CQ on one band and S&P on another. I enjoy CW contests, but I'm not what you'd call a hard core contester.

Those are all pretty hard core radios.It doesn't really get any better it just costs more  . If your just going to S+P there is not much of a reason for have dual receive ,unless you just want it. I bought one K3/100  from Elecraft as a kit , with 2.8,400,250 8 poles single DSP  $2400 ? another with sub and filters/dual DSP  was over $4K. The sub is a big adder. So far i havent found a compelling need to upgrade them to S specs so i am still running them stock .

Its when you're in the trenches , and some guy w/2Kw fed into a 8 element tri stack on 20 pointed in your general direction has decided to park 250hz away, while you being called by a ZA running QRP in the CQWW that you find you want  that extra rejection/dynamic range (you might not get that second chance this year) .


Bottom Line is i dont know that you need to spend 4K for S+P work , there's lots of good radios out there for less Kenwoods , Icoms , Yaesu , Elecraft  ect... 
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KE6EE
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2018, 06:43:56 PM »

Bottom Line is i dont know that you need to spend 4K for S+P work , there's lots of good radios out there for less Kenwoods , Icoms , Yaesu , Elecraft  ect... 

Operating skill is paramount. Which includes knowing how to use any particular radio really well.
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KL7CW
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Posts: 376




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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2018, 09:40:43 PM »

I have been mostly a CW op since 1954. My main rig for about 25 years was my very nice Ten Tec Omni VI plus.  About 18 months ago (for no real good reason) decided to take the plunge and bought a new partly loaded Elecraft K3 S.  I have been very happy with my choice.  Now I do not operate in multi transmitter contest stations or go on DX peditions, and I live in rural Alaska with no other active hams within miles of my location.  So I am sure my old rig would have worked perhaps something like 99% of the DX and also contest QSO's I have worked with the KS 3. I am still learning to use many of the features and sometimes they can make the difference....like week DX on 160 or 80 meters buried in the noise, etc.  I had the money to spend so chose the K3S.  I am sure something like a used K3 would also do a great job.  Many Elecrafters upgrade from a good K3 to a K3S.  I also see K3 rigs for sale.
     So I am just saying that a K3 or K3S would be a rig most CW ops would be very happy to own.  I have the P3, which I find helpful.  Some folks may prefer one of the Japanese rigs with the built in color display and a larger front panel and many more knobs.  Do choose a rig with very good QSK, even if now you only use semi break in.  Also good QRQ cw, even if not necessary now.  To me the CW roofing filters sound very "smooth" to my ears and I like to use them as my primary BW control, and supplement it with additional DSP features occasionally when the going gets really rough.
      Bottom line, a good 2K buck rig (or possibly 1K) will do most of what we require, and the additional bang for the buck as you go up in price to say 5 K or 10 K does not give you a rig twice or three times as good....so do not break the bank
              Rick   KL7CW
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K3TN
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2018, 03:26:57 AM »

If you look at the Sherwood receiver tests (here)  you'll see the Flex 6700 and the Elecraft K3S are the top rated and the 7610 is a respectable 12th, about 10db below the other two in the ranking criteria, narrow spaced dynamic range.

So, as others have said, you are comparing 3 very good cuts of steak - your personal taste will make the difference.

I switched to a K3 about 7 years ago (after years with Kenwood HF rigs), very happy with the choice. The ergonomics of the ICOM and Yaesu rigs just weren't my cup of tea, I find that true today when I guest op at stations with Yaesu 5000s and any Icoms. I was very interested in playing with SDR but decided I wanted at least a few knobs and switches - these days I'd have to add the Maestro. In fact, I'd even like the K3 a bit better if it had even fewer knobs/buttons and a front panel more like the Maestro.

One other factor others can weigh in on is their experience in reliability and service. I have owned 3 K3s at various times.
The first two of the three have had failures and had to go back to Elecraft, one of them multiple times. Out of 3 service events by Elecraft, they couldn't find the problem and shipped the radio back to me - where the problem immediately showed up. My current K3S is now 2 years old and has been failure-free. I also own KPA-500 amp and a KAT-100 tuner - both of those also had to be sent back for warranty work - no service problems on those.

So, my experience with Elecraft rquipment is a higher failure rate than on my Kenwood HF radios, and not so good technical service capability. Elecraft has great tech support if you have technical questions (both directly to Elecraft and through the Elecraft community) but repair service not so good.

But, as you see I keep buying Elecraft products - they way the K3 works is just a very good fit to the way I operate, both in contests and in my day to day operating.

Hope that helps, 73 John K3TN
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John K3TN
NI0C
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2018, 05:39:09 PM »

I'm a big fan of the Elecraft K3, which I've had for nearly ten years.  Mine is s/n 1061, which I built from a kit.  It's never failed.  About a year ago, I sent it to the factory to install major upgrades, including the second receiver and auto-tuner. I have five roofing filters in the main Rx: 2.7K, 700, 400, 250, and 200 Hz, and three in the second Rx: 2.7K, 1K, and 400 Hz.  The DSP APF (Audio Peak filter) works very well, as does the DSP NR (noise reduction).  I also use the P3.

Before I acquired my K3, I used Kenwood and Ten tec transceivers.  The K3 is everything I ever dreamed of in a CW transceiver.

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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G4AON
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2018, 06:19:23 AM »

I have a K3 (early model) and a KX3. The K3 is an excellent "system" radio with a lot of connectivity, some lesser radios lack the ease with which you can integrate the radio into a comprehensive station. The KX3 is a very sweet little radio with excellent CW capabilities, if anything I prefer using the KX3 for casual CW...

A K3 will work nicely with a KPA500 or 1500, setting the power level on a per band basis when the linear goes from standby to operate. The linears also use diode c/o, no clicking relays when keying and of course you get QSK the whole way with the linears too.

The original K3 came out in 2007, there have been a number of revisions/improvements since then. Most can be incorporated into the older radios, but can catch the buyer out if purchasing one as a second user. A new K3S will avoid worrying about those issues.

My K3 dates from November 2007 and it has never let me down. I have done around a dozen official mods/upgrades including replacing the synthesizers for the lower noise ones now found in the K3S.

I have always found Elecraft support to be second to none, and cannot understand why American hams would consider buying Japanese when they have Elecraft and Flex...

73 Dave
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KC8Y
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Posts: 539




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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2018, 03:26:49 PM »

I'm NOT a "...hard core..." ham or into any contests or achieving any awards.  Have been licensed over 45-years.

I just use my ic-7200 for CW and digital work; love the filtering system on it

Ken KC8Y
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N9AOP
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Posts: 950




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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2018, 10:36:31 AM »

If you decide on the K3S you will not be disappointed.  Put as much or as little into it as you need now.  You can always add to it either by ordering the parts and doing it yourself or having the factory install them.
Art
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PD2R
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2018, 08:43:01 AM »

I have had the K3 and it certainly is a great rig. There was one big thing that I did not like, the look and feel of the rig. Now I know a great looking rig will not bring in more QSO's but after 8 years I finally decided to part with it. Partly because I wanted something new, partly because things changed in my life. I used to operate at contest stations that required to bring your own rig or do contests field day style. It was for that type of operation I decided to get the K3 and for that it has served me well.
Now that I have a young family (boy of 5 and a girl of 11 months), I no longer have the time to go do contests for an entire weekend. I'm lucky if I can put in a few ours. So I have decide to upgrade my home station and get a decent antenna so I can do some contesting from my own QTH. That said, I didn't want to invest any new money so I had to sell the K3. For the amount of money I got for it, I could buy a very little used IC 7300 and I have ordered an Optibeam OB6-3M which I think is one of the best antennas for my small lot.

Having operated the 7300 just for a couple of hours, there was one thing that impressed me hugely. The bandcope with the waterfall. Even on the small (but sharp) screen of the 7300, it makes tuning a breeze. S&P is no longer the same.

Like others have said, you can't go wrong with any of the rigs. But if you decide to go with The K3(S), get the P3 as well or use the IF output with some kind of SDR receiver. Trust me, it's not just a fancy gadget.

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