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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: 236 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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KK9H Rating: 5/5 Jul 3, 2019 17:07 Send this review to a friend
A 9+ year owner’s perspective  Time owned: more than 12 months
This review is about owning and using a K3 for almost a decade. I bought my K3 serial #3426 in 2010 primarily to be my travel, HF demonstration and Field Day radio. I have practically every option installed except for the second receiver and I operate CW, phone and digital modes. Simply put, you couldn’t ask for a more capable, contest grade rig to take along with you. When it goes on vacation with me there is absolutely nothing with respect to capability that I wish I also had. When it is used as one of my club’s four Field Day rigs there has been no cross interference with the other stations, even those operating on the same band. We use single band dipoles separated as much as permitted under the rules. No wonder these rigs have been so popular with DXpeditions over the years. Not only is the receiver superb as has been well documented, but equally important, the transmitter output is also quite clean. As one of our club’s avid contesters says: “They play nicely with others.” The various upgrades offered by Elecraft over the years such as the improved synthesizer, internal dual preamps and the combined USB/sound card boards have made it pretty easy to keep my K3 current and almost equivalent to the K3S. With the newly introduced K4 I suspect a number of K3s will be offered for sale. If you are looking for a great portable, back up or even a primary station rig, keep that in mind.
KG9H Rating: 5/5 Jun 4, 2019 12:20 Send this review to a friend
Great performance  Time owned: more than 12 months
My station is moderate, no tower and not a contester but I like to listen a lot and have a small lot. I have been an Elecraft user since building a K2 back in the day. I think that was 1999. I have had at least three K-3's in the past but sold them to get something else (I like to trade, and always looking for a better solution). Recently with the used K-3S inflow and the anticipated announcement of the K-4, this one became available and I snagged it. This one has the second receiver, and is all filtered up in both receivers! It had some issues related to the past owner set-up (specifically when pulling out filters and forgot to reset the internal parameters) so I placed a to call Elecraft. As usual the support was over the top and they stayed with me (through many emails and calls to me) until the issues were resolved. Nothing wrong with the radio, just set-up issues. FYI, the past owner stayed with me until Elecraft stepped in. I am a CW operator and some SSB for local Midwest contacts. I compared it over the past few weeks with everything in the shack. What can I say, absolutely outstanding radio, support folks and company.
G4AON Rating: 5/5 Oct 2, 2018 12:39 Send this review to a friend
10 years, still going strong  Time owned: more than 12 months
My K3 is one of the earliest, serial #80. It has been updated with the later K3S synth boards, improved audio filter mod, gold plated front panel and PA connectors, etc. It has performed flawlessly, and integrates easily into my ham setup, including data, logging, active RX antenna and matching KPA500 for a seamless setup.

The performance of a K3 is legendary, one of the reasons most DXPeditions use them.

I wouldn't swap my K3 for any other transceiver, except a K3S.
WA6KYR Rating: 5/5 Oct 1, 2018 16:27 Send this review to a friend
great radio and as reliable as they get  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my radio for about 9 years with perfect reliability on everything but a connecting interface diode to my PC computer.
The radio worked fine in every other way. I had that problem fixed.
The k3 radio has worked flawlessly in every other respect for 9 years.

If someday I need to get the k3 fixed, the replacement parts are available because the k3s parts will upgrade my radio.
Other manufactures run out of parts for old radios and will not fix your radio. You have to buy another radio. If you want to repair the beast you have to find a third party repair service or do it yourself. I have had 2 hf and 2 vhf/uhf and 3 handhelds fail in 1- 3 year time span making them unoperatable and unfixable. One even went bad just sitting in a sealed box in the closet (not the built in memory battery )
With my k3 I have transmitted with no antenna, open circuits and about every other dumb thing I could muster with no damage to the the k3.
It seems to me with as many discrete components in a radio that it is a miracle for a radio to last 9 years (my k3 is still going strong)

I am an Elecraft fan because I know they will take care of me if there ever is a problem.
K5GWB Rating: 0/5 Oct 1, 2018 04:20 Send this review to a friend
Very Disappointed  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got this radio really decked out, close to $6K, including the P3 with SVGA optional board. That is a really nice IF monitor. The SVGA option will allow it to blow up to my 23” monitor. Really nice. Impressive.

I live under WOAI’s powerful transmitter which is in the next county. My antenna is not real good but it is serviceable. When working in my shack on other things I listen to WOAI strong signal but it isn’t strong enough to cause the automatic ATTN to pop on. It least it hasn’t for the couple of years I’ve had this radio and listened to WOAI.

Well, one day recently, I turned the K3 on, and couldn’t hear anything. Checked the antenna, couplings, the station setting. Couldn’t hear anything else. I cranked up the RF gain and audio gain and hear WOAI way down in the noise floor. To make a long story short, the auto ATTN clicked in ON ITS OWN. The PRE/ATT button has no effect, it will not disengage the ATTN. Entering the MENU I went to the ATTN setting. It was at 10 db. No wonder I can’t hear anything. Supposed to be adjustable with the VFO A in this menu. No dice, the display says N/A, and does nothing. I can’t turn down the ATTN and cannot shut it off. It is on, on all bands all the time, I can’t shut it off on any band, any mode.

Researching this on the web I found there are many other K3 owners who have had the same problem and cannot get the ATTN to come down any or shut off at all. This radio is now completely USELESS. I have gone through a number of “fixes” for this, as recommended on the web, but they didn’t work for those hams or myself either.

I am disgusted with the idea of shipping it back to the factory to see if they can over come their design flaw. As it is, I cannot sell this piece of junk to an unsuspecting ham. I might could have it upgraded to the K3S and Elecraft would have to address the problem and then I could sell it and buy something else. Even repaired and working as it is supposed to, I can’t bring myself to keeping it. I am done with Elecraft.
W8LGZ Rating: 5/5 Jun 26, 2018 05:54 Send this review to a friend
Shouldn't have waited so long  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Picked up my K3 in January this year, and I have to say, I love this radio! I've owned many of the big 3 radios over the years, and the only one, in my opinion, that has come close to this one *for me* is the TS-590S(G).

Some folks complain that it's just a "plain Jane" black box with a dated display. For me, this radio does everything I need/want it to do. The display does exactly what it's supposed to do, displays information. Yes, the display on radios like the IC-7300 (just sold) and such are nice to look at, and are useful, but *for me* not necessary (Although, the P3 is a great tool!)

After using the K3 for 6 months now, I have to say, the more I use it, the more sense it makes. All of the controls are logically laid out, and the menu system (mostly set & forget) is easy. All of the needed functions and controls are on the front panel. Once configured the suit your needs, there's little need to go back to the menus.

As I said, everything about the K3 just makes sense, don't know why I waited so long to take the plunge!
K9NZ Rating: 5/5 Sep 29, 2017 14:32 Send this review to a friend
The Best  Time owned: more than 12 months
This my 6 year update, I still think the K3 is a top preformer,I have made DXCC on 160 meters as well as 80-10 so I would say weak signal is the K-3's forte. But as with any radio the heart beat of the station is antennas, The higher and bigger the better. I still like my Kenwoods and Yeasu. But there is a reason top dx'ers and contesters use the K-3 it's one of the three at the top of the heap.
Just my thoughts
KT5D Rating: 3/5 Sep 14, 2017 10:33 Send this review to a friend
Needs fixes  Time owned: more than 12 months
Given the age of this radio and the fact it has been updated to the "S" model, it is very unlikely any additional improvements will be made unless they are carry overs from the S model. It is entirely possible my main complaint with the radio has been addressed with the S model but I don't think so.

The radio is difficult to listen to for extended periods of time. The audio is harsh. Also, I hear a high pitched hiss from the speaker as well as headphones used with the radio. I have had a friend or two listen to see if they hear it as well and they do. This noise is not present while listening to a signal of S5 or stronger. Tuning a quiet band listening for weak signal DX can be very fatiguing after awhile. The noise reduction offers very little help. Perhaps this is of no consequence when operating other modes such as digital. Operationally the radio performs well in all other respects.

Esthetically it is a plain black box. The display could stand to be updated to something more pleasing to the eye. Most all radios of today show little imagination in the way of artistic appeal. Some of the old tube radios from the fifties and sixties were truly beautiful (Collins S line equipment for example).

The price is pretty high for a radio that does not offer significantly better performance that its competitors. I am still perplexed that a multi thousand dollar radio (when accessories start to get added on) comes without a microphone!
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.
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