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Reviews For: Kantronics KAM Plus

Category: Packet TNCs & Digital Multi-mode Controllers

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Review Summary For : Kantronics KAM Plus
Reviews: 13MSRP: 399
Dual port, multi mode TNC
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
G4AON Rating: 2022-04-16
Working great! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Like several owners, my KAM Plus failed and I had to fix it.
The problem was the -Ve supply i/c, U15, or probably conductive dirt under the socket. I replaced the socket, U15, and the associated electrolytic capacitors. The electrolytic capacitors were reading high ESR. A quick fix can be to add a pull up resistor to pin 1 of U15, which is left floating and can shut down the i/c if there is leakage to ground.

An other problem can be a lack of suitable software. Kantronics Support suggested Terminal BPP, a Windows 10 split screen terminal program that is easy to configure and is “donation ware”. With this software running Pactor 1 and Amtor is a breeze.

I have mostly used this modem to decode marine Navtex, but it works well for ham 2 way data comms on both Amtor and Pactor.

K8BZ Rating: 2017-11-28
Excellent Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have owned my Kam Plus since I purchased it new in December of 1996. I have had it on the air for over 21 years. There have been a couple brief periods of time when I was not working packet but for the most part it has been on the air daily for 21 years. It has never had a software upgrade and is version KAM-2F325278-8.0

Current use:
VHF port is on 2 meters. I use it to handle sysop duties at 3 remote packet BBS sites, and assist with the same a some others. Not a lot of packet operators on vhf any more but a few do get on from time to time.

HF port is on 20 meters. I send and receive message with hams all around the country on HF mostly by posting message in their bulletin boards and they do likewise.

I keep a vhf/hf packet gateway in operation during daylight hours when I am not using my primary hf rig for other purposes.

I am now retired but when I was still working I had a packet station at work and I would access my home packet station using this Kam+ and remotely setup auto forwarding of message to my friends on hf and vhf. It was a blast.

This tnc was also used on satellite operations through the hears. I have exchanged packet messages with the MIR space station, the International Space Station. These were messages left in the bulletin boards and replies were received.

I was a Navy MARS operator twice during the gulf wars and sent and received MARS traffic via a pactor bulletin board with this tnc. The hf tuning indicator makes tuning on hf easy.

The RTTY, and CW modes are easy to use and it's one of the best CW readers I have ever seen. Much better than FL digi on CW. Back when hf rigs were not as sophisticated as they are now I did use the RTTY mode of this tnc.

As I am writing this review, I see the "Mail" light is on so I checked my terminal program and see that a Colorado BPQ packet station is connected on the 20 meter hf port and is forwarding messages to my mailbox.

This tnc has pretty much been used for everything that it could possibly be used for and I can't find a thing negative to say about it. No it doesn't have all the newer sound card modes, but those modes weren't conceived of for another 10 to 15 years after this tnc was manufactured.

These tnc's and packet radio in general are NOT obsolete. It is the longest surviving piece of ham radio gear I own. I use it every day and if it ever fails I will replace it with a Kam XL. But the way it looks, it may outlive me.
ZL4AX Rating: 2015-09-10
The Best but getting Creaky now! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I still have the brand new KamPlus V8.2 that I bought in 1995. It's as perfect as the first day. Nothing has come along to overtake it as the best dual-port multimode ever made. Don't even look at the other inferior, deafer, antiquated items made by other manufacturers. No comparison now, and never was.
However, it is now 2015. I've had a dozen more of the older white-cased and new black-box KamPlus units in the last couple of years. Be aware that the aparrently 'new' black box model is in fact, the same circuit board as the old model, screwed inside a new style case! Many are starting to fail and require big repairs. This is mostly due to the seven electrolytic capacitors drying-out. These in turn destroy the U10 voltage regulator chip and may also take down two transistors. Repair is a big job, involving lots of components and testing. They often fail again within two years.
The model has been the 'top of the game' for twenty years, and still is. But be ready for big failures. Time's up, I'm afraid! Compared to the faultless Kantronics KPC3's made in the same decades, the old KamPlus is no longer reliable.
KA3YAN Rating: 2015-07-23
A consistently reliable multimode TNC Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have personally owned and used many TNCs over the years. Each device has their own quirks, some being strengths and others not so much. The KAM Plus is without a doubt one of the top performers.

If the KAM Plus had 9600 baud packet, it would be my number one pick in terms of function, affordability, and fit-n-finish. Because of the lack of 9600 baud packet, it loses out only to the SCS PTC-IIex. At half the cost of the PTC, it's a very marginal loss. If a user never has a need for 9600 baud packet then I would recommend the KAM Plus in a heartbeat.

As you can see from the date that I'm writing this, the KAM Plus is no longer in production. All KAM Plus units that are available are only available on the used market. The great news is that the KAM Plus is so robust that they rarely need any service. The device has a large support base of fellow KAM Plus users, so questions can easily be answered via the KAM User's Yahoo Group.

While I have nothing against the highly upgradable PK-232 originally offered by AEA and now by Timewave, in terms of portability, the KAM Plus takes the cake at about a third of the size. It does lack the ability to be upgraded for soundcard modes like the PK-232, but it makes up for this shortcoming in that it can be used as a gateway between VHF and HF.

Most original KAM Plus (white box) units can be had for less than $150 and most of the later model (black box) units are available used for less than $200. At this price you really get a lot of bang for the buck.

The last bit I want to touch on is the replacement of the KAM Plus, and that's the KAM XL (we won't discuss the KAM 98 as it really wasn't a true replacement). The KAM XL was Kantronic's successor to the venerable KAM Plus, but due to severe reliability concerns, I cannot recommend it to any radio amateur. I do own one and most of the time it works flawlessly. The key being "most of the time." If you're wanting a device that can be left unattended, possibly in varying environmental conditions (hot/cold), the KAM XL will disappoint. These problems have been identified to Kantronics Tech Support, and Kantronics have neither acknowledged the issue nor offered their customers any solutions. This leads me to believe that Kantronics knows there's an issue that may not be "fixable' with a simple firmware update. Bad news for KAM XL owners.

Look for a used KAM Plus and you won't be disappointed!
NX8P Rating: 2010-06-02
Great TNC!!! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned my KAM Plus since the early 1990s and I just purchased new software for it at the 2010 Dayton Hamvention. I bought the ROC Digital Desktop from installed it on my Mac laptop under VMware running Windows XP and connected it to my KAM Plus with a USB to serial adapter. It works great!!!! It connected right up and configured itself perfectly! It is like having a new TNC. I'm glad that CSS Incorp. still supports my old TNC! They were also very helpful and friendly at the Hamvention. I'll keep my KAM Plus for a long time to come. Great TNC and still supported with software ten years later. Even does PSK31 now! This is the '57 Chevy of TNCs!
TOYBOX Rating: 2007-11-04
Excellent Piece Of Equipment Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Been running a KAM+ on HF for years. Never a single problem. Very flexible and reliable piece of equipment. Reading the manual will enable you do make the most of this controller. There is no reason that you can not configure this controller to your specific need. And it is a workhorse.

Craig N4CQR
WP4O Rating: 2004-12-11
no support from Kawin Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Kawin program doesnt work with the Kam 98, so dont try it.. Kawin works great with other Kantronics modems but sorry to say no luck with the Kam 98... What say Kawin ? lets make this happen.... regards...
OK1DX Rating: 2003-09-09
Plus & Minus Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I used the KAM+ with 3 different firmware (up to 8.2) for about 6 years, then I changed to PTC2e. Of course, the PTC2 is in most views better (but also for double price), but I still miss some nice features of KAM+...
Plus: simultaneus HF port and VHF packet port. Rare feature of cheaper TNCs, sri supported only by few terminal programs. Adjustable HF tones that allows easy operation with most radios. Large enough local BBS with great feature for autoforwarding msgs to/from local BBS. Small dimensions (I took it sometimes when operated /MM). Large tuning scale. Separate independent connectors for VHF packet and HF. Good host mode (description available from Kantronics on request - I wrote a simple terminal program for my usage...).
Minus: necesity to use narrow filters in radio, otherwise strong nearby signal significantly reduces sensitinity of AF input (500 Hz filter recommended). The audio input sensitivity is not very high and not sufficient for some radios (usualy the KAM+ receives OK, just scale doesn't react as necessary). The freq width of tuning scale is less than 40 Hz (!!!) that makes exact tuning to 170 Hz shift signals very inaccurate (I modified the circuitry - some resitors - and I was able to increase the width to about 140 Hz, but optimum would be about 220 Hz...). The VHF packet port is 1200 Bd, no chance for higher speed. No clock signal available for connection to external Manchester modem. Random reset (but not very often) resulting in lost of all parameters and BBS contents (mostly by slow/varying power supply down). It is necessary to open the box when you need to adjust TX audio level (when you close the box, be carefull to LEDs!). Higher level elmag QRM (poor filtering of in/out signals/wires). Amtor operation with higher error rate (comparing with PK232 I used before).
Of course, there is no support for new modes like PSK31 and PactorII, but it is clearly because of missing DSP and you must accept it.
73 Pavel OK1DX/KF9VM
NB6Z Rating: 2001-08-07
A good buy! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have operated my KAM+ for 8 years using V7.0 firmware. Never had a problem with it! The only thing that could make it a better TNC is a true DSP front end. For the price it is the best available...
WB7QXU Rating: 2001-05-20
Great TNC Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have owned a Kam Plus for many years and Upgraded it to the 8.2 Version. I found it decoded RTTY great, and easy to use. I found that weak Signals on RTTY were hard to decode. I put a TimeWave 599zx inline with it and WOW it made signals come alive. and made RTTY A Real Joy. I am just waiting for Kam to come out with a TNC that will do all Digital Modes. I did have one problem the Switching FET went bad and would not key my rig, I called KAM and they gave me tech information On the phone pronto! supper easy fix, and they give out Tech support Fast and Friendly and prefer to help you fix your Kam then send it in. It also will do G-Tor. Not popular but works well in very poor conditions.