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Author Topic: Anyone own a KX3 and an Argonaut VI?  (Read 15489 times)

Posts: 254

« on: July 20, 2014, 08:02:27 AM »

I am trying to decide between either a KX3 or an Argonaut VI. It would be mainly used for portable use while car camping and as a backup rig. The main modes I would operate are CW and PSK (using a NUE-PSK).

BTW if I get the KX3 I would get the internal tuner and if I get the Argo VI I would buy it in the next week as it is on sale for $818 (with shipping) and includes a 700hz filter. If I get the VI I would also get a Elecraft T1 tuner. Buying a KX3 in that configuration is $1098 and the VI with the T1 is about $990 so there is only $100 difference.

I am aware that there a a lot of feature differences between the two rigs. The VI does not have 60, 12 and 6M. However I have never operated on 60, 12 will soon be dead and I can't see getting on 6 with a QRP rig while portable. I also know that the KX3 can send PSK via paddles but I am not very good with those and that is why I would get a NUE-PSK. The KX3 can operate with internal batteries and that is not available with the VI but I have a number of portable 12v batteries so that is not a big concern for me.

So my question is what do you like and dislike about the rigs? If you had to do it over again and could only buy one which would you get?

« Last Edit: July 20, 2014, 09:05:21 AM by N8FNR » Logged

Posts: 1679

« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2014, 03:12:59 PM »

I will only comment on 6M...  I ran for years using a TT model 526 (AKA 6n2) at 20W and before than used
a 1208 transverter (20M to 6M)  running at a mere 10W so on 6M on 10W is very doable.  That said on 6M
a two or three element yagi buys a lot of signal when on a hill and can be made very portable.  I've worked
a lot of people that were using old 551s (10W), icoms,  and MFJ9406, FT817s, and even KX3s at roughly
10W or less.

However VHF is a preference of mine and may not be for everyone so the presence or lack of 6M is
more personal choice and not a slam against a radio. 

The question I like to ask for people preferring a radio with DC to Daylight is "what antenna do you plan to use?"?
Only to get an answer like mostly 40 and 20....  Seems having every band is just excess.

With that said power is not much an issue its about the antenna and that applies to every band.

There are actually four choices.  The ArgoVI, KX3,  FT817, and FT857 for portable ops.  Each offers
a lot of different features and ergonomics.  I might add that in the woods differences in receivers are
meaningless unless its a 3A field day site.   Also since I have an Eagle, 6n2, FT817 and used many others
I can only say use what YOU like as they all work. 

Also consider what your going to use for an antenna.  Money spent there can be a great operating convenience
it if fits what your doing and where.  Examples of what I mean.  Don't bring a dipole to an island where you are
the tallest thing. On the same vein a loaded vertical works on said flat island if you use a counterpoise or can
be very near (or above) salt water.  If there are trees consider the LNR EF40/20/10 end fed half wave, cheap
and easy to deploy even if there is only one 20ft tall tree.  From everyone I know random length wires are not
terribly effective.


Posts: 213

« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2014, 09:16:31 AM »

I have owned a lot of Ten Tec gear over the past 44 years, both qro and qrp gear, and I really like their radios. But I feel Ten Tec dropped the ball on the new Argonaut 6, leaving off 12 and 60 meters. Six meters is not an issue with me, but I want a fully operational HF qrp radio, and that means both 60 and 12 meters. Right now, I have an Elecraft K2 and it is an incredible radio. But of the choices you list, I would choose the KX3 hands down because its receiver is top of the line, and it includes ALL HF capabilities.  If the  new Argonaut had 12 and 60, I would be very tempted to buy one.

Posts: 175

« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2016, 12:48:29 AM »

A couple years ago I was looking at the KX3 and the Ten Tec Argonaut VI and read this thread which I just dragged from the past.  It seems like a lot of people dismissed the Argonaut for not having 60M, 12M, or 6M, and maybe for some other quirks.  Personally, I don't spend a lot of time operating and it will probably be a long time before I get an antenna for those bands.  I imagine I'll be kept busy enough on 20 and 40M for years before I even get to 80M.  But for this reason or one of several others, there's no question that the KX-3 has become far more popular than the Argonaut.  There's probably several reasons why the market has favored Elecraft, and Ten Tec is almost totally in the weeds at this point.

When they were introduced, the Argonaut VI and KX3 has similar prices, and it was clear to most people which one offered more.  However, fast forward a couple years to the used rig market, the 539 is selling just over $600, while almost all the KX-3's I see advertised are selling for $1500, $1900, even $2800.  They're fully-loaded.  The original owners put as much as $3800 into them, buying up the entire KX3 section of Elecraft's catalog.  I have not seen a used barebones KX3 advertised for less than the new kit price.

So while a few years ago, the KX3 seemed like a better choice than the Argonaut for the same price, now the options look like an Argonaut for $650 or a used KX3 for well over a kilobuck.

The KX3 might very well be a better radio, but it's not in the same class anymore.  The Argonaut is down in the class with the FT-817ND.  It may not be as versatile, but for about the same price, it offers a much nicer receiver.  Perhaps the other alternatives might be an 857/859, or even a TS-480SAT.  They're more QRO mobile types, but the 539 wasn't exactly a QRP rig in the popular sense.  I think any of these would be a fair choice for portable ops for under $700 on the used market.

The KX3 is in a price tier with the FT-991, or the IC-7300.  While only the KX3 is QRP, a typical KX3 station is hardly backpackable.  It's not like a KX1, mountain topper, or a Rockmite.  It's a great rig for a portable station, and most portable stations, field day setups and so on aren't limited to QRP.  A modest AGM battery and one of the newer monocrystalline solar panels is enough to run a FT-991 for field day or any other outing with vehicle support.  Putting the KX3 amongst these kinds of alternatives seems more appropriate.

Posts: 875

« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2016, 08:09:49 AM »

I agree that the KX3 is not in the same class as the Argonaut VI; and a used Argonaut VI is several hundred bucks less than a used KX3. I have seen a couple KX3s go out the door recently on eBay for the kit price (you can check that by selecting for "sold listings" at the bottom of the left sidebar and searching for "KX3 transceiver" in "Radio Communication" as I just did).

Doing the same thing for the Argonaut VI returned one at $749.

Even so, the KX3 used bargain would still be more than the Argonaut VI used bargain.

And, of course, there is the eBay "crapshoot".

I am not at all certain that you can actually buy a new Argonaut VI but you can certainly buy a new KX3. At this very moment in time a KX3 kit that includes SSB, CW, FM, RTTY, PSK on 160m through 6m in kit for for $949 (and factory built for just $100 more). 10-watts QRP.

It is truly portable as a search on YouTube will verify ("kx3 portable") even after adding internal ATU. There are a lot of  accessories you can throw at it but the only thing I would add would be either the T1 external ATU ($150 or so) or the internal 20w ATU for $200. Or build a ZM-2 for $60. Or use a MP-1 or buddistick and you don't even need a tuner.

But it's still $300 more than a used Argonaut VI.

You do get quite a lot with the KX3, however. Excellent service, updates, high resale value, etc. And the KX3 can, arguably, be a top-grade home QTH rig with lots of other bits you can add if you like.

But all by itself, for $300 or so, I would say the KX3 is the better choice.

I don't have one, by the way. I have a K2 and a K1. They add up (even used) to the price of a KX3 and I often think that I might have gone in that direction but, oh well...

73s de K7EXJ
Craig Smiley

Posts: 118


« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2016, 05:52:05 AM »

If you have a chance to use both side-by-side it's worth the time.

The KX3 wallops the TenTec in terms of features.  The KX3 has so many features and functions to play with and explore that if you're into gadgets you'll be thrilled for weeks on end.  The RF/IQ output to a panadapter is a big plus as are the built-in EQ controls and stereo field of CW (signals are spread across the stereo field by frequency offset from zero beat).

The only straight up negative concerning the KX3 is that it's speaker is useless. You have to use headphones with it or an externally powered speaker.  On the other hand the TenTec has a great bulit-in speaker.

Both radios have excellent receivers specs.


The TenTec VI has something unique about received audio that makes working weak stations far more pleasant than the KX3 for me.  When a station is near the noise level I find it easier to work on the TenTec.  It's not necessarily hearing it better but the output is easier to work with and less fatiguing.  The NR works differently to pull a signal out of the noise and it doesn't ring like the KX3's APF.

If you work a lot of weak signal CW I think the TenTec VI is the winner.

I think Elecraft has really created something unique with the KX3.  I love using it portable.  The internal batteries and ATU allow me to simply carry it with an end-fed antenna, paddles and ear-buds and I'm up and running in 5 minutes compared with hooking up batteries, tuners, etc. with the Argo.

So if you're primary purpose is easy portable ops then the KX3 is the winner.

They are different radios.

Get both  Smiley

Lower your Power and Raise your expectations

Posts: 557

« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2016, 05:37:09 AM »

If money is not an issue, get the KX3. It has so many more features.  If it's a matter of having to save a few buck and there is a slight delay as to when you can get the KX3, it's worth the wait. When it comes to operating on the internal batteries with the kX3, you won't make many Q's. I found the internal batteries are mostly good for keeping the internal clock running so I have a clock when I go portable. The internal batteries are a nice touch but have a very limited operating time.
If you are on the fence when it comes to purchase price of the KX3, maybe the Agronaut is all you need. But remember, you can get a bare bones
KX3 for a reasonable price and add features later.

Good luck with your choice.
Barry, KU3X

Posts: 817


« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2016, 01:59:07 PM »

Don't dismiss 6M. It is my favorite summer hiking band. I have owned the Argonaut VI and The Elecraft and see no comparison. I would choose the KX-3 every time. It can serve not only as a wonderful portable rig, but will also be in the top of its class as  a fixed station rig.
Add an amp and the panadapter and very few rigs can compare with its specs, regardless of price. My KX-3 drives my SPE Expert amp to almost 1KW.
Dale W4OP

Posts: 1679

« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2016, 02:41:34 PM »

Like I said earlier I looked at the Argo VI and its a Eagle jr (lower power fewer bands).

Oddly for portable work especially if I on 6M I have a few home brews that beat most.
Though a close second is the FT817  or the M526(tentec 6n2 as in 6 and 2M). depends
on power, travel distance, and of course weight limits.

For picnic bench portable a 33Ah AGM and my Eagle with my trusty
20ft breem pole or a tree  EF40/20/10 or for 6 only the EF6 work well
and is a simple affair.   The whole setup isn't light but it is under 35pounds
and that not at all bad to carry a few hundred yards or more. 

Lots of variables.  I've seen and played with the KX3 and its a interesting radio, the Argo VI
however has a much friendlier user interface and is a good radio.  But its bigger and might
be less suited to backpack ops.

Note I have 160 though 432 as possible portable frequencies, some are rarely used
like 60M, 30M, and 12M.  Others are contesting and schedules use like 432.  A few are
fairly impractical for portable work like 80 and 160M due to antenna size though I
haven't ruled it out yet!   So often a radio that can do 40/20 and maybe 10 and 6 will do
more than I may need.   Even at home where antennas are not an issue the old
M544 Tentec Triton a pre WARC  radio with no 160, 60, 30, 17, 12 or 6M is used
more often than radios that cover WARC bands.  If I want a QSO better to be
where many can be found.  That and I have a PRC1099 that tunes 1.6 to 30
and it was rare I used many of the possible bands, but it did let me work on what
bands I needed or wanted.

The general what you want the radio to do vs what can it do.  Usually your choice of
band is dictated by terrain, antenna, band conditions, and weight.  if your indoors
then it may be band conditions and available antenna.  Haveng every band is nice
but is it really essential?


Posts: 14

« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2016, 07:39:57 AM »

Hey Zack,

So I can't comment on the KX-3, but I've been using the Ten Tec Argo VI for over a year now. What sold me on the Ten Tec was the lack of complex menus. The operation is simple and straight forward. The performance has been outstanding and the audio is a joy (compared to my FT-817nd). The variable filtering is great and it's been a great CW rig.

The sole reason I did not go the KX-3 route was cost. As we slide into a solar minimum I kinda figured I'd buy a new QRP rig when the flux peaked above 100. By then I kinda figured all the major companies would be out with their "latest-greatest"....

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