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Reviews For: Elecraft K4

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

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Review Summary For : Elecraft K4
Reviews: 26MSRP: K4-F: $4099.95, K4D-F: $4999.95
Elecraft K4 Transceiver

Direct-sampling SDR, three models:

1. Basic K4 with dual receive
2. K4D adds 2nd ADC module for enhanced RX, including diversity
3. K4HD (future) adds dual superhet module for exceptional dynamic range

• Can be field upgraded to K4HD when available
• 160-6 meter, all-mode coverage & dual RX
• High-res main panadapters for both receivers, each with fine-tuning "mini-pan"
• Rich I/O complement (1 USB-B, 3 USB-A, RS232, 1 Gbps Ethernet, 10 MHz reference, external high-resolution monitor)
• Full remote control from multiple devices
• K-Pod outboard tuning knob option for VFO A/B, RIT/XIT
• Optional click-to-tune via USB mouse, with fine tuning via mouse wheel
• Bright, high resolution spectrum / waterfall, with screen capture to USB stick
• External 4K video monitor or adapter -- plug and play
• Silent full break-in CW (QSK) using PIN-diode T/R switching
• Highly effective speech processing
• 8-band graphic RX/TX Audio Equalizers
• Voice memories and receive audio record/play (DVR)
• Built-in CW, RTTY, and PSK encode / decode; TX with attached keyboard or paddle
• Clean, crisp RX and TX audio
• Over a dozen user-programmable switch functions
• Built-in context-sensitive operating manual
• Lightweight / compact size consistent with travel, Field Day, and DXpedition use
• Free software upgrades via direct Internet connection
• KAT4 ATU Option with 10:1 matching range and 3 antenna jacks, any one of which can be selected as an input for one or both receivers.
• Tight integration with KPA500 and KPA1500: Drive power saved and set per band (detects Amp Operate / Standby), Can use amp’s band buttons to change bands on K4
• Internal transverter module (future); ~15 W output
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
NT8F Rating: 2023-09-16
Amazing piece of equipment and customer support Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
After using a Kenwood TS-890S I had reservations of switching to the K4D. I found when I purchased this radio that a support group or should I say family of K4 users came along with it. This is my first SDR transceiver and never realized what SDR can have to offer. The radio has operated flawlessly and is a pleasure to operate. The user support group WEB site is actively monitored by the Elecraft design team and several major Elecraft knowledge experts. They encourage owner input and suggestions to make the K4 what the operating Ham is looking for in a radio. These suggestions are taken seriously and I have seen several incorporated in the recent upgrades. Thank you Elecraft of a GREAT piece of US engineering and your willingness to listen and make changes as you do.
WC4X Rating: 2023-09-04
K4D replaced my K3s and I'm lovin' it! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
As an old K3/K3s.P3 user, I could run that rig blindfolded! I expected the new K4D would be a piece of cake to conquer. Not so fast----!! For the first few days, I “fought” the K4D trying to make it operate just like the old K3s. However, after climbing a short but steep learning curve, I am really loving how the K4D performs and operates. It’s now been 2 months, and I am totally spoiled and glad I made the decision to upgrade. Here are a few specific comments:

Receiver---Amazing performance—I can’t quite put by finger on it, but it just SOUNDS better than the K3s with long term listenability without fatigue.
Transmitter---QSK CW is typical Elecraft---none better! SSB with the new W9GR CESSB processing algorithm sounds great on the air with significantly more punch than the K3s.
Operation---With the USB mouse and K-POD, I seldom have the need to touch the LCD screen to control things. The well documented macro command set for the K4D coupled with the ease of implementing macros has made it very easy to set up frequently used operational situations that required many steps on the K3s.

The future---I was getting concerned that even though the K3s/P3 is an excellent radio system, there will be no significant improvements or changes in this rapidly changing hobby. Knowing that the future of the K4D is limited mostly by the creativity of the Elecraft design team lead by respected active ham principals Eric and Wayne is a major factor for keeping this radio at the forefront for years to come

I know the wish list for the K4 product line is somewhat long and based mostly on user input, but Elecraft also has the opportunity to show true leadership with respect to ongoing industry efforts such as the ARRL Clear Signal Initiative---an activity designed to place industry wide emphasis on transmitter system signal cleanliness. I look forward o the day when my K4D/KPA1500 combo will have “Pure Signal” implementation and show true leadership in this important long term mission for amateur radio.

In summary, I am loving my new K4D and am excited about its role in the future.
W2LEW Rating: 2023-08-18
Revised Not what I Expected for $5000 Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Revised 08/18/ 23: Well , I have owned the K4 for about 6 Months now, and have learned quite a lot about operatimg it. After understanding the procedure, and making the proper adjustments I have a much different opinion of it. The audio reports both transmitted and received are excellent, and I have learned how to properly adjust the noise suppresison systems. The Pan Adaptor is quite impressive when displayed on my External Monitor. I have been using my K4 as my Primary Radio over my Kenwood TS890, and the K4 is Married to my KPA 1500 and will be kept. I have added a star but can't go 5 stars because I think there is room for improvement.

I sold my Yaesu FTDX 101D to be able to Purchase my
K4-F Tranceiver. After waiting 20 days Elecraft finally shipped it out. I had previously Purchased a KPA1500, and wanted the matching Radio to go completely Elecraft.
Audio transmission Reports have been excellent so no complaint in that department. I decided to get the the KAT-4 tuner after receiving the rig which added another $500 to my investment. All of the Japanese Radios that I have bought over the past 35yrs came with an auto tuner installed. The Digital noise reduction of the K-4 does not come close to the FTDX101 in reducing hetrodynes ect. The Frequency lock button is so close to the main tuning dial that you can bump it off freq. just by trying to lock it on. Also the lock must be applied each time the rig is turned on. There is an empty hole in the case on the left side, near the carry handle. I called elecraft, and was told that it was for an Aux. Fan that they decided not to use. couldn't Elecraft afford to put a dummy screw and nut into the hole just for apperance sake. Sorry for my opinion, but I'll probably go back to a FTDX 101
W2NER Rating: 2023-08-05
Just get one! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Much has been said about all the good things about the K4 and I agree with them all. I have had MANY MANY radios (check my QRZ page) and I have to say, I LOVE THIS RADIO. This has many features other radios do not have and it can stand up next to any radio IMHO. Elecraft has put a lot of thought into this rig and it shows! I'm not going to repeat what others have said, just read the reviews, watch the youtube reviews and demo's and see for yourself. I will say, this is NOT a cheap radio, not by any stretch of the imagination. But it's worth EVERY DIME!! I'm a believer and I have moved my station to ALL Elecraft equipment..
W6CJ Rating: 2023-08-02
Good perfomance, but a few quirks and rough edges. Time Owned: more than 12 months.
(Revised 02 AUG 2023)

I ordered the K4D, internal ATU, KPOD and pair of SP4 speakers. I rate it at 3 overall..... a 5 for its great specs and performance (discussed at length in other reviews).... but just a 3 for the user interface (display, controls, etc) and for quirks. Radios are about the user interface.

The K4 is not a "knobless computer" SDR radio.
Great AF filtering, no ringing.
Dual jacks for straight key and paddle(s) (instant transition between key and paddle).
Noise blanking/limiting is effective in urban QRN/QRM.
True dual receivers and diversity reception.
Good internal antenna tuner (wider range than many).
Enough TX/RX and RX only antenna ports for most users.
Numerous USB, ethernet, and other I/O ports.
Works seamlessly with the KAT-500/KPA-500 "Power Combo" also by Elecraft. It's like having a 500-watt transceiver.
Works with a USB mouse/keyboard, and I like using a wireless mouse rather than the touch screen.
APF works great on weaker CW stations.
CW SPOT AUTO is always on target.
KPOD controller for VFOs A/B, RIT or 16 push-button macros.
Accessible customer support and online K4 user group.
Easy to update firmware via ethernet & your router.
Easy to back up on a thumb drive.
Built-in manual.
Crisp display.
Made in the free world (USA)

Quirks and Rough Edges:
The fans seriously need to be quieter - we can't all wear headphones or should not have to blast the speaker volume to hear above the fan noise. I may void the warranty and install quieter Noctua fans.
Awful pops in speakers/phones when turned on/off - none of my other much cheaper radios do this.
Needs user-vision-friendly adjustments of the display, including the ability to:
- Remove unwanted or distracting screen clutter (my
cheaper Icom radios can do this).
- Change font size of frequency numbers.
- Reduce or dumb down waterfall/spectrum size.
- Select "night" display mode or other colors.
- Adjust trace, waterfall & spectrum colors.
Add a voice annunciator for hearing-impaired.
Hoping for General Coverage to be implemented for the GEN button.
Need easier ways to change memory channels - look at how Icom does this with the MULTI knob or UP/DOWN buttons.
The KPOD and VFO knobs have a rough or gritty feel and sound when turned, due to the felt washer braking system - also the knob dimples do not turn independently (as in my cheaper IC7300 and IC9700 radios whose VFO knobs have a much better feel)
NOT MARS CAPABLE after TX mod. Not full TX from 2-54 MHz, like other radios after MARS mods. (TX on some non-ham freqs with my K4D caused reduced power, radio locking up, excessive IPA, or blown fuses) after performing the TX unlock furnished by Elecraft, and this impacts legitimate MARS or other non-amateur operators - hoping for an upgrade for this problem. Expanded TX or "MARS mod" means all of 2-30 or 2-54 MHz, and not a few hundred KHz above/below the hambands like the radios of 50 years ago.

My K4D was worth the wait and cost. I'm not too worried over the quirks and rough edges that I discussed - Elecraft listens to user input, pushes out updates for its radios, and the K4 is still very new.


W8LYJ Rating: 2023-07-02
Software Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have had my K4D serial #172, 96th production model for a long time.
It does exceed my expectations. However the software is not finished. I am still waiting for the improved NR software and implementation of the linear predistortion
AE7G Rating: 2023-07-01
Great in a field contest setting Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I used this rig at Field Day this year after having only a few months to become familiar with the operation. I also own a K3s.

The K4D performed flawlessly and we racked up some serious points. The K4D is well protected and works well in a multi station environment.

We had about a third more QSO's than in recent years than with the K3. While we did not do an a/b comparison, my subjective judgment is that the K4d simply performs better.

We were very easy to get heard. We were frequently at the center of pileups.

Great rig and strongly recommended.
N4KH Rating: 2023-05-13
Great Radio Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I'll try not to duplicate what others have said at length about the K4. To sum up what I like about this radio (I have the K4D version with ATU): awesome performance, CW operation, audio, and display in a compact light weight package with lots of I/O. The ability to use macros to program custom functions is great. A worthy successor to the K3 (which I still own as well at present). I personally find the display and control layout very intuitive and easy to navigate; I can't think of anything major I would change except perhaps adding an option to display only VFO A to free up more space for things like the mini-Pan. No T/R relays in the signal path is so nice, just like the K3, K2, and other Elecraft radios. The CW filtering is sharp and extremely clear with virtually no ringing. There are a few minor kinks to still work out in the firmware but I'm confident those will come in time. Elecraft does regular firmware updates including beta releases to try out and provide feedback on. Doing the updates is as easy as connecting an ethernet line to the back of the radio. As a previous owner of an FTDX101D, I'll say the only thing that the K4 doesn't quite measure up to versus the 101 is the DSP noise reduction, which was pretty amazing on SSB on the 101. However, a better DSP NR algorithm for the K4 is supposed to be in the works.

The K4 users group is very active and provides a wealth of information, including participation by Eric and Wayne at Elecraft.

The K4D was well worth the wait.

73, Jim N4KH
DL1IAO Rating: 2023-05-12
Perfectly Sized Contest Radio Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
My primary interest is operating HF contests and over time I was fortunate enough to use most top-of-the-line radios, including an ICOM IC-7851. I was hoping that some day one of the manufacturers would design a radio with the following features:

- Great sounding RX, especially in CW
- Great sounding built-in CW keyer capable of Iambic-A and a software controllable DVK for SSB
- Perfect CW waveform, effective speech compressing and built-in narrow TX filters for RTTY
- Waterfall display which really works for contesting
- Well documented and rich API to enhance the radios functionality with popular contesting logging software
- Multiple USB and isolated audio in/out ports
- All in a portable and stand-alone package with software updates coming

In my opinion Elecraft nailed it with their combination of a modern SDR and a classic frontplate-based user interface complemented by time-proven Elecraft technology such as the ATU which is very capable and low-loss compared to other radios. The K4 is unique when it comes to portability, connectivity and further development including a very active and helpful forum on with people like N6TV being regulars.

But what really makes the K4 stand out for me is its crisp and clear yet not fatigueing audio. The same is true for the TX path where it features a raised cosine waveform for CW, CESSB and narrow AFSK and FSK filtering.

Another aspect where the K4 shines is its powerful API which allows easy programming of most functions from the keyboard when using Win-Test contest software and LUA scripts by N6TV (as an example).

I’m delighted to finally have a smoothly functioning 8-message DVK out of the box and an excellent waterfall display with auto reference level, two fixed modes and easily variable span, functions which are very important to me.

Also, most users will find that the K4 is a stand-alone device. I’m very picky about CW keying but I love the built-in keyer with Iambic-A mode. Unlike other built-in keyers the one in the K4 feels very responsive. I also find that I can get along without external RTTY devices and setting up either FSK or AFSK is very straightforward.

Like any other radio the K4 is not perfect but even in its current development state I do not see myself reverting to any of my previous radios. I do wish to see improvements such as ATU on/off per band, storable filter settings, storable AGC-F for SSB, VFO counts per mode, a more effective NR such as the one NR0V designed for ANAN, pure signal and a little wider CW APF which works better for faster CW. However, none of these are showstoppers for me. For some you may find workarounds using the K4s API.

It is true that currently you can buy a pair of ICOM IC-7610’s, another very popular contest radio, for the price of one K4D and you would still need to buy the ATU option. However, no other radio has given me the amount of fun I’m experiencing with the K4 and no doubt it will mature over time with more software updates.

Please note that this review may represent a somewhat special user case affected by the perfect symbiosis of the K4 and Win-Test contest software with its powerful scripting language.

73, Stefan DL1IAO
F6DEX Rating: 2023-05-02
Unique qualities Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
The unique qualities of the K4 are a very rich interface (software, hardware), a configurable high precision band scope and a programming language (macro commands). In Split, the band scope is almost enough on its own without the help of the second receiver. The sound is of good quality like all SDRs but unlike many SDRs (built around an integrated computer), the RX/TX delay is very short and QSK mimics an analog RIG thanks to a very elaborate software implementation. The CW filtering may be slightly less efficient than that of the K3's 200Hz or 400Hz quartz filters, but the DSP itself is better (especially APF, Notch...). The K4 is also equipped with a configurable NB with different bandpass filters which is unique. The implementation of NR is average (but I have never found this feature very useful or effective on any transceiver). Even compared with a K3 + KSYN3A, the advantage of K4 (in terms of phase noise) is noticeable.

The high-resolution display is appreciable and the user interface satisfactory, but the configuration can be very complex, this being linked to the many possibilities offered.

In 2023, the development of the firmware is complete. Elecraft may add other +/- or marginally useful functions but, from my point of view, there are no significant gaps or glitches, especially since R33 which definitively solves the problem of clicks in CW.

The mechanical construction is light (both an advantage and a disadvantage). Its construction is modular and seems quite easy to maintain, especially since Elecraft provides close support.

Nothing is perfect but nothing significant either that could change my positive rating. The front panel rises slightly when you remove the headphone jack; we also wonder why Elecraft has maintained a 6.5mm jack (without an integrated switch) at the cost of an electronic headphone detection system (like on smartphones) which does not always work perfectly. The VFO button is not very pleasant but can be assisted by the excellent K-Pod. The keys are unlit and feel still a little spongy to the touch (however in improvement compared to a K3). There are also quite a few annoying pops and clicks, especially when you turn off the K4 with the headphones on your ears... and yes, the (stock) fans running continuously (but switchable) are a bit annoying.

The K4 is expensive. However, if you look at the competition, none offers all the integration possibilities of the K4 in an amateur station. If you do not need diversity reception, I recommend the basic K4 which is more than enough (I have never used diversity with my K3 equipped with the second RX). The ATU is also recommended because it adds 3 antenna sockets.