Manager - NA4M
Manager Notes

Reviews For: Elecraft KX3

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - non QRP <5W

eMail Subscription

Registered users are allowed to subscribe to specific review topics and receive eMail notifications when new reviews are posted.
Review Summary For : Elecraft KX3
Reviews: 158MSRP: See Desciption
Elecraft KX3 Transceiver

Ultra-portable, all-band/all-mode high-performance transceiver for home, mobile, or field use.
* 160-6 meters (2 m with KX3-2M module)
* SSB/CW/DATA/AM/FM modes; 10 W+ PEP (100 W with KXPA100 amp)
* 1.7" x 3.5" x 7.4" (4.3 x 8.9 x 18.8 cm); only 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg)
* Current drain as low as 150 mA; internal battery (8 AA cells, any type)
* Advanced DSP provides dual watch, noise reduction, noise blanking, autonotch, stereo audio effects, audio peaking filter (APF)
* Software-defined radio (SDR) architecture plus optional roofing filters
* Operates in data modes (PSK31/RTTY) with or without a PC
* Includes RX I/Q sound-card outputs; works with PC RS232 or USB ports; free firmware upgrades
* Options: internal wide-range antenna tuner (KXAT3), interal NiMH battery charger (KXBC3), dual roofing filter module (KXFL3), attached high-performance keyer paddle (KXPD3), internal 2-meter module (KX3-2M), MH3 compact hand mic with UP/DN buttons, KXPA100/KXAT100 100-W amplifier and ATU

$999.95 factory assembled, $899.95 kit

Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
N1KDO Rating: 2023-09-10
11 years later I still love it Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought my KX3 in 2012. It is a very low 2000s serial number. I have most of the goodies, the roofing filter, battery charger, antenna tuner, mic and paddle.

I have taken this radio camping and vacationing, and I have had a blast making thousands of QRP QSOs with it.

The only thing I can think of that I have not done with it is make a contact on 160. Top-band antennas are not that easy to set up when operating portable!

The antenna tuner could probably tune a wet string. Recorded CW and phone messages help make QRP operation more fun. The support for the radio (like anything Elecraft) is first-rate. N6KR (who designed it) reads the forums and responds to users' questions.

Are there any caveats? Yeah. There are compromises to get so much into such a small rig. The internal speaker is barely good enough if you are in a quiet place. The internal AA batteries work well enough for a couple hours as long as you don't try to use a high-duty cycle mode. Even with the "improved" heat sink (KX3HSMDKT) you really cannot run more than 3-4 watts of FT8 (though my experience is that has been enough.) Like others have said, this rig is not dust resistant, it is not water resistant.

Knowing what I know about this rig, I would definitely buy it again. You can have mine when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
G4AON Rating: 2022-09-16
No big issues with mine, but could be better Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Since the original review, I had a problem with a broadcast station breakthrough while operating overseas. The antenna was a 30/30/15 ground plane used with an effective common mode choke on the feeder. The breakthrough occurred for around 20 minutes and was present on all bands, the ATU didn’t make any difference, neither did RF gain, attenuator, etc. The problem didn’t reoccur, but was a significant issue at the time, hence dropping a rating on here.
I've used my K2 on overseas holidays for many years. The K2 is larger than I liked and always fancied replacing it with a KX3. This year a friend was looking to sell his KX3, replacing it with a KX2 for better "SOTA" capability. I made an offer and now have a 5xxx serial KX3.

My "new to me" KX3 came with the optional audio roofing filter, I've since added the ATU board and a 3rd party "Windcamp" heatsink.

Plus points:
Excellent frequency stability, especially after running the extended temperature calibration.

Very smooth audio and no signal reduction at 200 ~ 250 Hz bandwidth.

Virtually silent operation, with only the odd relay click (handy when the OH is asleep nearby).

Very straightforward to operate and a CW OPs delight.

The I/Q output works well with the free NaP3 software to give a nice panoramic display on a PC.

Excellent SSB TX audio, the speech processing works well.

Minus points:
Mystery broadcast station breakthrough.

The connectors on the left hand side plate are flimsy, perhaps no worse than many other radios, but but still not good.

The receiver is direct conversion with clever audio phasing to minimise the image, this is not totally effective, especially on CW. Even after careful alignment, the in band image is only 40 to 50 dB down, an S9 +20 dB CW signal will appear 1.5 KHz (with 750 HZ sidetone) away at S5! The specification is better than the above figure, but only applies to the very narrow alignment tone, dropping to around 45 dB a few HZ off.

The internal battery facility is a joke. Even with good 2500mAh NiMh cells, after a couple of hours you will find transmitting at 3 Watts starts to give low battery warnings. The spring battery holder isn't capable of supplying more than a few mA, not 2 to 3 Amps. In addition, if you want to remove the batteries for charging, you risk breaking the weak ribbon cable every time you open the case.

The internal speaker is awful, it resonates and buzzes on CW, it's not too bad on SSB. Many mobile phones have superb tiny speakers, so why not put one in the KX3?

In order to use "dual watch" to monitor 2 freqs on the same band, you have to use earphones. It would be nice to be able to monitor on the speaker.

Overall, it's much better than a K2, but could be far better.
5B4AIY Rating: 2022-03-28
Great Receiver - But At A Cost! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased my Elecraft KX3 as a kit in 2013, and equipped it with the KXAT3 ATU, KXFL3 Dual-Bandwidth Filter, and the KXBC3 RTC/Charger. Although I like it, having retained it for this length of time, I am not blind to its compromises and shortcomings.

On the positive side, it has a superb receiver, even by today's standards, as a glance at the Sherwood Labs report will attest. Moreover, it is exceptionally free of spurious signals and objectionable 'birdies' unlike several other QRP transceivers I have reviewed. Its display is readable, even in bright sunlight, and its feature set and capabilities rival even some base-station rigs. The ATU is a very wide-range unit, capable of matching almost the proverbial 'piece of wet string'!

Having said that, there are a number of shortcomings, and by now it is beginning to show its age. The first is that the internal batteries and charger are a joke. The receive current consumption is around 200mA and a set of 2,500mA-H Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH cells will give about 10 hours of receive, but very much less in transmit. The transmit current is about 2.5A for the full power, and this quickly causes the battery voltage to drop to their nominal 1.2V/cell, which in turn causes an automatic reduction in output power to 5W. Thus one is limited to about 3 hours or so. Don't even think about using alkaline cells!

The charger is equally poor. It is simply a timed constant-current charger providing about 250mA. It relies on Ni-MH cells being tolerant of overcharge at the C/10 rate. Since the actual current drawn is constantly measured, how difficult would it have been to incorporate a facility in the firmware to accurately determine the A-H capacity consumed, and then to return the correct amount to the cells, or use a voltage-limited taper current charge?

The accuracy of my RTC is very variable. Sometimes it's very good, at other times it seems to lose several minutes over a period of a few days, and I have no explanation of this.

The mechanical design is poor. If you are going to use a clamshell construction, then there should be a hinge mechanism. In this transceiver you separate the case into its two halves, which is not always easy, and then the only thing holding it together is the ribbon cable connecting the CP Assembly to the RF Assembly. It is easy to dislodge, which then causes a number of error messages to appear when you next switch it on. The countersunk screws securing the battery holders really need a small piece of insulating tape over them to ensure they do not touch the batteries. And on the subject of batteries, I find them very difficult to remove, especially the end cells such that I have had to fashion a plastic tool to prise them out. There is then a risk of the tool slipping and damaging the printed circuit board.

The front panel and its knobs are terribly exposed, and in my case I fitted the accessory SideKick end plates to protect the knobs and screen in the event of an accidental drop with the transceiver landing on its face.

The original heat-sink was quite inadequate here in Cyprus in the summer when the ambient temperature can easily reach 42C, so, after conducting a number of tests with a variety of third-party heat sinks I ultimately equipped it with the VE7FMN model, and have not had any further over-temperature alarms.

Whilst on the subject of temperature, the internal reference oscillator's frequency varies with temperature, which can be a problem with some digital modes. It is possible to temperature compensate the oscillator, but it is quite involved, and one wonders why this was not done at the factory. Are the oscillators so different in their characteristics that they must each be individually compensated?

It takes quite some time to become familiar with the User Interface. As with most QRP rigs, there's not a lot of 'real estate' available for the buttons and knobs we would like, and thus each button and knob has several functions assigned to it. Unless you frequently use the rig, you find yourself needing the quick-reference cheat-sheet.

The audio quality from the internal speaker is mediocre at best. In mitigation one could say what would you expect from a device that is so small? On the other hand, the audio available from the headphone socket is very good, especially if you use the pseudo-stereo features.

The transceiver is not well-suited to the rigours of portable operation, because the case is not sealed, and there are numerous places allowing the ingress of dust and dirt. This, of course, is only my opinion, but to provide protection I always carry it in a custom padded case, and because I do not use the paddles for CW, I've made a cover for this large hole.

The screen is the same as that used in the K3 line of transceivers, and in comparison to the bit-mapped displays in use today, is segment-mapped with a somewhat ugly character set. The internal CW, RTTY, and PSK31 decoders show their output on a small section at the bottom right-hand side, and there are only 7 characters available. However, if the transceiver is equipped with the PX3 panadaptor then the decoded text is available there.

Which brings me to its use as a base station. These transceivers make relatively poor base stations. Quite apart from the low power, and the indifferent ergonomics as a result of the lack of front panel real estate, there is the question of interconnection with a computer for digital modes, as well as a linear amplifier. In the case of the KX3, there is also the interconnection to its panadaptor, as well as an amplified speaker system. The end result is a veritable 'snake pit' of cables.

Finally we come to cost. The KX3 is a very expensive rig by any standard, certainly here in Europe, and when equipped with its matching panadaptor and linear amplifier, you are spending the same as a high-end transceiver that will have considerably better ergonomics, display, performance, and feature set.

So, to the bottom line as they say. If I were to lose my KX3 would I replace it with another? At present, a qualified yes, but only just. The decision factor for me is the receiver, it is so good that even today I do not know of a QRP rig that could compete. Sadly, the transmitter section is not so good, its 3rd order IMDs are only adequate, and if you use a linear, it's best not to use maximum output. Hence, 4 stars, excellent receiver, but at a high cost.

Adrian, 5B4AIY
G8ITB Rating: 2021-07-14
Could have been so much better! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Three years ago I bought a used fully loaded (with every possible option and extra) KX-3/PX-3/KXPA-100 combo! In quite reasonable condition and for a reasonable price - not a hyper-inflated one. This was for use on SOTA/holidays/days out in the country. Elecraft prices outside the USA are frankly, seriously expensive! In the UK with a single distributor/dealer, you have no choice but to pay the cash!
I had read all the Eham reviews, and reviews elasewhere; and certainly would never have bought the KX-3 kit at new prices. But; I was willing to 'give it a go' and see if the majority was right.
Immediately, I noticed that Elecraft appeared to have 'moved on' to new projects and the KX-3 line was just a so-so product; not a comercially unique situation. The line is touted as 'portable' and 'field friendly' - Yes; only if you are in a camper or tent; otherwise it has more holes in the case than an Edam cheese. The NiCad battery system was out of date even then, pay extra for a microphone - and everything else - poor audio quality on receive. It could have been a little bigger and thus more ergonomic; both in use and function! The auto ATU is excellent though. Interlinking with the PX-3 and KXPA-100 is a nightmare of leads.
To be fair; at it's design date it probably was a really good design - but time has moved on and it could be bettered today! Sadly, none of the major producers seem interested in a decent, well thought out version of the FT-817/IC-703 concept - the IC-705 isn't quite it!
I agree with the comments of some (the minority) of reviewers that it held promise, with great advertising, but sadly never achieved it.
The fact that the KX-3 line is extremely expensive, and holds a cult status, is not a reason to believe that I actually made a good purchase, even at a vastly reduced price!
My kit will be on the market soon; hopefully to someone who thinks more of it than I ended up thinking.
Richard G8ITB.
AC8S Rating: 2021-07-11
BEST HF RADIO I EVER HAD, for sure!!!! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
What can I say? This radio is incredible!!! If you buy this radio, be sure to have Elecraft put in the antenna tuner!!! Folks, I have tried all kinds of antenna tuners, and they tune antennas with swrs of up to 10 to 1. This antenna tuner inside the KX3, could tune anything! I would have had to leave this wonderful hobby if it wasn't for this radio! I live where there are huge antenna restrictions, but this radio, tuned a piece of coax, and I was able to stay in my favorite hobby. Thanks to the antenna tuner inside this awesome radio, this thing gets out with swrs of 22 to 1, I kid you not!!!! On 40, I have made cw contacts, all over, with an swr of 22 to 1!
This update as of Saturday, July 3, 2021, at 9:10PM. I have never, never been able to work any out of town stations on 40 or 80 meter SSB. That is, until tonight! I have a 262 foot 10 inch dipole inverted v combo, on my balcony, but only have 33 foot of room, to string it out, but because of coiling, I don't need all the room. So, I hooked up the antenna to the radio, and it matched the antenna, using that internal antenna tuner, and the swr was below 2.0 to 1! I heard K2C, a special event station, in Rhode Island, celebrating the 13 colonies, on 7.216. So, I called him, and he HEARD ME!!!! I'm in Michigan, and all 15 watts of this radio, reached him, and I worked him, I was thrilled!!!!!
This next update is as of 1:14 AM Sunday, July 11, 2021. I worked 4 stations on 20 meter SSB yesterday, all out of town! I worked them in the IARU HF Championship, with my 15 watts, using this radio!!!!
The only thing I don't like is, on 10 meters it's 12 watts, and it should be 15 watts, and on 2 meters, it's only 3 watts, and it should also be 15 watts. But this radio is, so far, (and I have had a few hf radios in my ham life), but it's the BEST, radio. Buy one, you'll love it!!!!! Trippy, AC8S
WA9GQT Rating: 2021-05-18
An Amazing Top Drawer Small Transceiver Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I would describe the Elecraft KX3 as a miniature K2 on steroids!

I purchased a used Elecraft KX3 from a local ham just after Thanksgiving 2020. I was always dreaming on getting a KX3 someday. Even though it is pricey, I was satisfied to pickup this used KX3 with ATU and the 2 meter option at a very reasonable price. I was looking for a QRP type transceiver with more power and SSB to replace my KX1 on trips in our small travel trailer.

I have an Elecraft K2/100 and also an Elecraft KX1 4 band radio. So I do favor Elecraft radios especially since building my K2 in 2001 and adding the 100 watt module in 2002. Basically my K2/100 is a K3/100 in a K2 box, since I have all the optional boards including DSP.

All the KX3 features are amazing. I have been using it more than my K2/100 since purchasing it. I usually run 5 watts on CW and 10 watts on SSB. I have made some very interesting contacts to date including one on 17 meter SSB to the Island of Hoy, Scotland receiving a 5x8 report!

The KX3 receiver compares very well to my K2 receiver which is one of the quieter receivers ever designed. I like the possibility of using digital modes without the use of a PC. It does a better job on SSB than my K2 since SSB was an afterthought on the K2. It is great to be able to tailor audio with the DSP. The roofing filter and other DSP features make the KX3 equivalent to other SDR radios.

I look forward to taking the KX3 on our travels throughout the US.

Definitely 5 stars!!! No cons so far.......

A65GY Rating: 2021-03-11
Overpraised and overpriced. Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
A few months ago, I acquire used KX3 in genuine condition from 43 hundred range. Comes with KXFL3, KXAT3, KXBC3,Heil Proset headset, MH3 and KXPD3. I have purchased the radio after long time of research and reading all of the praise peans on eham and all over internet. Intention was to refresh and upgrade portable equipment from Ft-817 and Xiegu G90 which I successfully use for some time. Following is my assessment of the product in the light of intended and designed way of use which is portable QRP.

So, what is the impression? I have no idea what this radio was built for and where it should be use to get full advantage of the design. It's somewhere between portable and base device, not doing any of these jobs really good or in a way that will justify price of this product.

As a QRP portable device:
1) Mechanical design is NOT suitable for portable/field use. How can you take this radio to the forest or beach if it's made like colander? The number of holes is just horrific. Look at the external power connector - hole in the side panel is 2.5 times bigger than plug diameter -why? There are holes and gaps around the case thru which you can see PCB - this is portable/field radio, by what means ? What was the intention behind such design, back yard operation, hotel room only ?
Someone here wrote that this radio feels MFJish, and this is really good description. However, many MFJ products have better mechanical feel, and they don't cost 1400$.
2) Power supply is idea and concept of unknown intention. Why in 2011 someone puts there 8xAA battery holder, if 18650 cells are existing from mid 90s ?? This kind of power source is worth less than the weight and place it takes. Another hilarious thing is KHBC3 "battery charger" for 90$. This circuit gives you possibility to charge batteries internally with 250mA current if you will be able to provide >13.5V external power. There is no automation and no protection for charging process, you have to guess your discharge level and set the timer in the radio... In 2011 design.
3) As a radio:
- sensitivity is OK,
- selectivity is OK,
- UI/ergonomy OK,
- useless internal speaker (starts to produce buzzing even on moderate volume levels, flimsy mechanical construction contributes to this greatly),
- useless for MW reception (you hear stations on frequencies where they should not be, even when you switch ATU to preselector mode in menu),
- useless as 630mb RX, same reason as above, you receive B-cast on 470-480kHz which is actually transmitting above 500kHz
- low audio power - with dedicated Heil Proset, with weak signals and small antennas, there is not enough volume available to overcome moderate ambient noise when operating anywhere outside,
- archaic display design - you have PSK/FSK decoder and coder build in, but display have only 7 alphanumeric fields ?? brilliant...
- display back light is too bright for comfortable night (dark environment) operation and not adjustable,
- AF and RF gain done by the same encoder, you guess to which functionality you assign the knob lastly (no information on display/led), so you press it every time to check whether it's now controlling AF or RF. You press it and your display shows AF or RF settings for only a second...
- TX heat dissipation - without aftermarket radiator there is no such feature provided by manufacturer,
- last but not least - irritating VFO NOISE...
Of course, I have newest firmware, of course I have done "Tunning Noise Suppression Modification" and set VFO NR menu option to ON. The noise is present on every band from 20m up.
Electraft states in the bulletin that to further reduce VFO noise you can select RX SHFT menu to 8.0kHz - which will disable your Sub Rx capability and your roofing filter. So first they charge you 170$ for a roofing filter option and then you are advised to disable it to make radio function properly. This is the famous state of the art technology ?
Funny fact is that you will find plenty of people over internet, saying that indeed radio have VFO tuning noise but that's OK, because they don't hear it that much, it's not distracting to them or they got used to it - LOL, it's 1400$ radio, what to expect...

So maybe this radio could be and should be used as exciter/receiver together with external amp in stationary/mobile operation ?
Maybe... But you will end spending over 2000$ to build the set with 100W output and no build in spectrum scope (buying dedicated spectrum scope will throw you above 2600$ level...) - and you will still have VFO tuning noise, limited user interface capabilities and other "portable design" limitations.
If you plan to use it that way, do yourself a favour and buy used higher-class 10-20 years old radio. You will spend way less than 2000$ with far better results and less frustration.

My conclusion:
By all means it's not a bad radio in general, it's just overpraised, overpriced and build in the way which severely limits usage in portable/field day condition. Don't get fooled by hundreds of peans wrote by Elecraft worshipers. There are better, or at least more cost-efficient ways to spend 1400$ for portable/qrp gear and far better ways to spend 2000-2600$ for base station.
Rating: Poor.
K4MJV Rating: 2020-02-08
Amazing ... Yeah, I said that! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Full disclosure - I love Elecraft gear. I have owned a KX2 and KXPA100 for a while and have always enjoyed using them. When a local ham asked me if I would be interested in purchasing his KX3 I jumped at the opportunity. No regrets. This one is fully loaded from filters to the 2 meter option. I cannot believe the audio quality. I have had nothing but good audio reports.

This radio is really going to be my shack radio. Setup with the KXPA-100 and the PX3 it should serve my shack well. While I may take it portable from time to time I am going to reserve that use for my KX2.
AB0R Rating: 2019-12-19
Very happy with my purchase! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
My KX3 was assembled by me. I am a new ham. This is my first HF radio. I installed every available option including the 2m module.

I have found the radio to be excellent. I can hear very well and the menu and settings are very intuitive to navigate. Filters and NB are effective and don't color the sound too much.

I am using mine with an 80-10m EFHW Dipole. The built in tuner works although my antenna doesn't need it except on 160m.

The applications Elecraft provides are easy to use for memory programming and backing up the radios settings and even for cw decoding and sending via keyboard.

Audio reports on HF and 2 meters are generally good to excellent even though I am mostly using just 7 watts on HF and 1 watt on 2 meters.

I found in comparing it to other radios that it has many advanced features and is certainly the most full featured in it's class. Being able to add the PX3 panadapter and the KXPA-100 amp only adds to that.

And the best part of the KX3 is the company that makes it. I am very impressed with the support provided by this company.

What I would change: I would add a USB-C port for an internal sound card and I would put in a better speaker and maybe a little more power for output audio as well with a menu option to use line out or powered output.

That's about it. 5 stars for sure.
M7MCQ Rating: 2019-07-10
LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
The KX3 is IMHO the Rolls Royce of QRP radios. In fact, I think that the RX on this little beauty is better than ANY other HF I've had.

I've often been listening to a signal on another radio, then switched the antenna over to the KX3 for a quick comparison and been amazed at the difference!

I've done "On The Fly" comparisons with the KX3 and Icom IC-7100, Flex-3000, Yaesu FT-897D and everytime the KX3 won hands down. It makes me think that I should sell everything and just use the Elecraft :-)

Apart from having AMAZING EARS, it's also incredibly compact and draws TINY amounts of power in RX mode. When out hill-walking, I use an 8.4mAh LifePO battery and it lasts me all day long!

The built-in tuner is pretty awesome too. It can tune a piece of wet string! Although I normally take a dipole with me that is resonant on 20/40M, I sometimes use an endfed wire and the tuner makes light work of getting great SWRs.

The built-in speaker is truly DIRE! They say it's only there as a backup but please, my cheap mobile phone can belt out amazing audio at high volumes, so there's no real excuse for putting such an atrocious speaker in a high-end (expensive) radio.

The built-in battery pack is pretty useless but I guess it might help you out one day (I wouldn't bank on it though).

I have the 2M board in my radio and although it's only 3W output, it's handy to have. I tend to tune the 2M calling freq on VFO-B while I'm playing HF, so I can catch any SOTA shouts.

The radio feels like a high quality piece of kit but isn't as durable as say an FT-817. There's no way you'd just chuck the KX3 into a rucksack! I have my rucksack carefully divided with protective foam dividers and velcro straps to make sure the radio stays in its little cocoon. I'm also aware that there are little ventilation holes that might permit tiny critters from the grass into the radio. When I get home I always open it up and have a look around with a can of compressed air. Don't want anything living inside it, LOL.

Anyway, apart from that, I LOVE this radio and hold it in VERY high regard. And being SDR, it's easy to update/upgrade the firmware.

Go buy one!!

73, M7MCQ.