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Reviews For: Elecraft K1

Category: QRP Radios (5 watts or less)

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Review Summary For : Elecraft K1
Reviews: 140MSRP: 279
4-band QRP CW kit
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
M0NYW Rating: 2023-09-17
Great rig one of the best! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have owned two K1 and both weren't build by me. I wish it was still in production as I would of loved to have built one.

Anyway this is a great QRP radio, nice and simple to use, I have 40/30/20/15M band module with ATU and it also has the adjustable stand. The filters work great, sounds nice and ergonomics were well though out.

If you see one, grab it. When people do let them go they regret it!

I won't ever be selling mine.....
KL7JT Rating: 2022-08-11
Excellent QRP Rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
In my opinion, this radio with its internal tuner is the most pleasant and nicely designed QRP CW rig ever made. Very good performance, very low current consumption in receive, no menus, and always a pleasure to listen to.

I sold mine to a friend who is an excellent CW op. He consistently worked a lot of DX using it from a truck on a beach with a Hamstick type antenna.

Wayne got this exactly right. Would hope they would rev it with an SMT version.
K1DWZ Rating: 2022-07-14
What a rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Read all the hype and wanted to get myself back on cw and qrp. Purchased the radio fully assembled. Am amazed at what they could include within one small package. It was the basic radio so I purchased, built and installed the auto tuner and noise blanker. Most of the time the auto tuner gives me 1:0 on 40 mtrs and 1:1 on 20 mtrs to my G5RV up only about 20 ft.
The radio is an older revision and only the latest revision of the firmware will support the auto tuner. I called Elecraft and they supplied me with the latest firmware at no cost.
Its no hype---it is a great radio with great customer service.

Here it is 17 years later and I still have the K1. It now has the 4 band module (15-20-30-40mtrs) and still works great. I will not part with this radio.

This radio prompted me to buy a K2, a K3, and a KX3. all of which I have and use.
PY1ZB Rating: 2017-09-21
Great Little Rig! Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I was one of the last buyers of this excellent QRP Rig Kit (2 band version). The built was fun and educational and lasted about 4 days to conclude, and it worked perfectly. People from mailing list helped a lot to tune the circuits and inductors.

I'm amazed how it's runs a big rig, using just reduced power, and a very nice and smooth reception. It was possible to do intercontinental QSOs with just a simple dipole antenna.

If it was still being sold, I certainly would buy another one, and also for the fun of it's build process.
K7EXJ Rating: 2016-09-25
4-bands and amazing performance Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I snagged this 4-band K1 with internal tuner from an ad on another forum for $350. Since the 4-band filters are no longer available, I was happy to get this one. The build quality is excellent and the rig performs like a champ.

My home QTH is, like so many others, noisy so I became interested in portable and field ops. The K1 sits in a fancy Walmart insulated lunch bag (a "freezer bag") we bought while wandering the sporting goods aisle; $9.47 was the price. Batteries (18665s) on the bottom, K1 in the middle with a key, and MP-1 vertical antenna, headphones, and assorted stuff on the top all separated by cardboard.

Last November, sitting in my Jeep Wrangler parked at the northern end of a big reservoir in central WA with the MP-1 vertical clamped to the front bumper, the OEM radials deployed and the K1 on the dashboard with a Bulldog key in my hand I worked the Philippines on 5 watts. That was over 7,000 miles.

I've worked stations on every one of the bands (40/30/20/15) and had a great time. Usually parked around water or on hilltops in the desert.

Over the years I've done a fair bit of QRP and still have my 1970s Argonaut 509 rig. But the K1 is just amazing with good filters, built in keyer, built in antenna tuner, and a great receiver; it is my go-to radio for field ops. Small and light (maybe not as light as some of the tiniest rigs out there but it has a decent display and a lot of options) I take it on every trip out of town and on a lot of just road trips.

Can't wait to try it out on my fishing boat. :)
N2DTS Rating: 2016-01-15
Great! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Built 3425 in about 12 hours, no issues, no missing parts, no drift, I set it for 6 watts out, RX is very nice.
The parts go together so well, everything fits just right.
I only wish they included a full frequency display and put pins on the boards that hold the surface out replacement chips, that would make assembly a bit easier.
80 and 40 meters, 150 KHz tuning range, works great.

Earlier 4-star review posted by N2DTS on 2008-02-18

I got the kit Thursday, it was done Saturday, no missing parts, easy to build, great manual, I did not do the resistance checks, or the inventory, I never do with Elecraft kits, and they always work.
If you can solder well, all the Elecraft kits are a snap, although the K2 takes a good amount of time to build....

The K1-2 (80 and 40 meters) I got workes well, I built it with the wide VFO range which tunes from 6.995 MHz to about 7.2 MHz, and tuning is a little fast but fine for me.
I like being able to cover the old novice bands.

The rig seems very stable, the filter works very well, receiver noise is moderate to low, you have way more than enough audio output.

Alignment was easy and quick, most adjustments needed VERY little tweaking!

The QSK and sidetone are tops.

While it is a great rig for its size and price, it has some bugs:

The audio based AGC works poorly with headphones, blasts of LOUD tone on strong signals are very anoying, and strong signals can desense the receiver for up to 10 seconds.
I changed the AGC cap from 2.2 to 1 UF and plan on trying less.
The loud blasts do not seem to be as much of a problem with the speaker.

The S meter is worthless, its so slow that it never reflects the actual signal strength.

Since Elecraft uses a voltage only measurment for power output control, you get low power with anything over a 1.2 to 1 swr.
The optional antenna tuner fixes that most likely.

I sure wish they used enough digits in the display to show the frequency. They could have been smaller if need be...this and the audio AGC really bug me. Just 2 more digits and you would have had a good readout....

While the K1 was likely designed to be carried to the top of some mountan, everything Elecraft makes is designed to do the most with the absolute least buttons, knobs and displays, and that can annoy one after a while.
They get such great performance out of every radio they make, and then half ruin it with their highly compressed control setup.

The KX1 has 4 knobs,
the K1 has 3 knobs,
The K2 has 6 knobs,
the K3 has 11 (some dual).

If Elecraft ever decides to make a rig that was NOT designed to backpack up the Matterhorn, and it has lots of knobs and displays, it would likely be the best radio ever made for ham shack use.

As it is, the K1 is very good, and I plan on using it in the den to copy CW while the XYL watches TV, its small, and with some batteries inside it will work weeks (on rx) before needing a recharge.
Once I get my speed up, it would be fun to take the K1 up the Matterhorn, but the K2 would do better and is only a little bigger.


Earlier 4-star review posted by N2DTS on 2008-02-17

I got it last Thursday, finished building it Saturday, zero problems, no missing parts, its easy to build.
I did not bother with a parts inventory or any of the resistance checks, and everything worked great anyway.

Three big gripes:

They should have added a few digits to the display so you could just read the frequency.

The audio AGC system just plain sucks with headphones on, I changed the cap from a 2.2uf to a 1uf and need to try even less.
It cant handle a strong signal at first, and you can desense the receiver for like 10 seconds if a really strong signal comes on.

The power output control is like the K2, it just reads voltage so you often get low output unless the swr is under 1.2 to 1.

Otherwise, its a great working rig, like the K2 was.

I just wish Elecraft would get away from minimizing everything, all their radios would be much better if they had a few more knobs, buttons, displays.

Even the K3 is on the small side, could likly use 10 more knobs and 20 more buttons.
It seems like EVERYTHING they make is designed to be carried to the top of some mountan, they dont make anything designed to be used in the shack.

Their stuff works so well, you know it would be the bomb if they made something with plenty of knobs, buttons and displays.


WB3T Rating: 2016-01-12
A few issues. Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Nice radio with all the extras but it drifts like crazy. 1100 Hz / hour as opposed to 30 - 40 for the Ten Tec or Small Wonder Labs transceivers. I made the mistake of buying an extra band board, but with the ATU and internal battery assembly it is not practical or wise to change boards in the field. So I tried to buy another chassis for my second band board, but Elecraft will not accommodate.

I wish they had not said "you can change the filter board at any time" which is why I bought it. While that technically is true, it will take a while if you have options installed that need to be removed as well to get to the band board. There is hardware involved so bring tools to the field, and hope you don't lose your screws and washers in the grass. And if you go by the assembly instructions, you are not supposed to work inside the unit without static protection so how is this field-changeable? Bring tools (Phillips screwdriver, tweezers, a wrist strap, static mat, and a good long ground rod) with you to the field, I guess. The mat could help you not lose your washers, screws, and standoffs.

They sold me a band board without a chassis, so why not a chassis to go with the board? I would have bought the whole unit together if I had known how difficult it is to change band boards in the field. So they should just sell me the rest already. But they insist on forcing another band board on me that I don't need.

So I have to knock down my rating once for the drift issue (which as it turns out is common if you do a web search for Elecraft K1 drift), once again for the limited band coverage, and once more for the poor customer support.

Earlier 2-star review posted by WB3T on 2013-01-10

After building my K1 a couple of years ago, and purchasing an extra 2-band filter board to expand the band coverage, I quickly realized that the filter board in a K1 with ATU cannot be quickly changed. To do this you will need tools with you in the field (at the very least screwdriver and tweezers) and this is NOT a quick process. Elecraft's claim that "you can swap either type in at any time" is only true IF you CAREFULLY read their product description. Yes, you can swap at any time... IF YOU HAVE A HALF AN HOUR AND TOOLS ON HAND. I would not advise doing this in the field as there are small parts that might slip away into the grass.

My solution for this problem was to call Elecraft and order a K1 kit without filter board, so I could have one with the four bands I originally selected, and one with the bands on my two-band board. But alas, Elecraft insisted on selling me a whole two-band K1 WITH the filter board I already have that is homeless. That would leave me right back where I started - with an extra board.

I now have a KX-1, K1, and K2 and I will say this: each product has had issues. Read my previous reviews to find out some of the other things Elecraft will not tell you about their products - most notably the excessive drift in the K1. I emailed with Elecraft tech support about that issue to no avail. Then I found out through Elecraft user groups that this is a known problem in the K1 design. I fixed mine by exhaustively replacing capacitors in the VFO with carefully selected series and parallel combinations of caps of various temperature coefficients until the VFO stabilized, running a one-our stability test after each change. Fixing the problem took months. Make sure before you buy a K1 that you have an extensive assortment of NPO, N750, N1500, polystyrene, and Silver Mica capacitors in all values between 27 and 2200 pF. I was only able to stabilize mine by falling back on 30-plus years as an RF engineer and a thorough understanding of reactance vs. temperature curves.

Buyer beware. Elecraft does not seem interested in the QRPer and would rather sell you something you don't need and pocket your cash. And btw, remember that the engineering team at Elecraft NO LONGER SUPPORTS the K1 and K2. According to the tech (who has failed several times to help correct technical issues), you cannot escalate to the design engineer. He has abandoned the K1 and K2 in order to work on the KX3. When the tech can't help you, you're on your own. And once they've sold you something on information that says "easy to swap," and you find out you can't, you've wasted money on that too.

Check out my web site for many photos, mini-reviews, and recommendations for some great QRP products from more supportive suppliers.

N7KM Rating: 2015-12-31
A lot of fun! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
A few weeks ago I saw a K1 listed on a swap page and having always wanted to tinker with one, I picked it up. I have a K3, and KX3 which I really enjoy, so I didn’t really need the K1. It arrived and I found it was the four bander with all the options, in perfect condition and no fix up required. When I hooked it to the antenna I was pleasantly surprised by quality of the receiver and the ease of operation. I have several great receivers in my shack and this little jewel is equal to any of them. The simple filter system out performs many of my other radios and the inherent low receive noise floor makes the K1 a standout. This has been a very enjoyable two weeks; I’m close to QRP WAS and have worked several DX stations in Asia, South America and Europe. In a nut shell the best two words to describe the K1 is “FUN” and “Simple”. Not having a DDS VFO I’ve had to live with a measured 105 Hz drift for the first few minutes, but it’s worth it. I was going to buy it, try it and sell it, but it’s going anywhere, except camping, for a long time.
WB4EDB Rating: 2015-06-21
Great ATU Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased a K1 which when I used was told I had drift problems. Don Wilhelm took care of that problem for me. When I got the rig back I threw a 32 Feet of wire over a tree branch with about a 15 or 16 foot piece of wire on ground and the ATU had no problem enabling me to have a blast making contacts. I had used only dipoles before and could not believe the success I had.
K7QQH Rating: 2015-04-30
Best of the Best Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Hello All--

I have a K1 four bander (40-30-20-15) and it is simply the best. Have worked a TON of DX with it (EU, Asia, South America, Antarctica, all over the US, etc.), but of course, GOOD ANTENNAS are a must.

Right now I am running the rig MOBILE in my Jeep with a homebrew mobile antenna, and it continues to astound me - sometimes I forget there's only 6-7 watts going out the pipe, yet it hears and works DX like I'm sitting at home! To be sure, a good mobile antenna is a must, and suggest potential operators study the excellent mobile antenna construction materials available on the internet, and/or the ARRL antenna handbook, etc. before building (you will quickly discover that most mobile antennas for sale are poorly designed overpriced garbage).

Also, hats off to the excellent Elecraft Tech Support folks - who I've used a couple of times and was able to quickly troubleshoot the two minor problems I had with the little rig.

Again, a great rig whether operating fixed, portable or mobile. You won't be disappointed.

Best 73's

Roger C.