Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Advice on a new rig: FT-817 or KX2


My KX3 SideKX were very easy to install, but I hear that the KX2 plates are trickier.

The KX2 uses one end plate as a heat sink. On the KX3, the end plates only hold jacks.

The installation instructions are on-line. The first sentence is: “NOTE: The installation of any Side KX parts does NOT require the unsoldering of any connection nor removal of ANY of the boards from within the radio!”

Videos are here:



Trying to do a quick parking lot chase at work, standing next to the car. Lesson for next time, throw the antenna over the tree before connecting it to the radio. Another lesson, disconnect the antenna before walking into it.

Learned that “in front of the driver” thing 25 years ago with diaper bags.



The KX3 has RX I/Q output for panadaptor, either the PX3 or a software solution. The KX2 does not have that output, so it cannot drive a spectrum display.



Also, fishing rods.


The PX3 works well out of the box, but there isn’t much that can match the richness and fluidity of HDSDR. You will probably want a Pigknob to control VFOb on the KX3, which makes independent tuning in HDSDR much more enjoyable. Otherwise, you have to tune in HDSDR with the small encoder on the KX3, my only bugbear about the setup. If anyone knows a better solution, I’d love to know what it is.


My KX2 just arrived and I’m thrilled with its capabilities. I thought I wanted a KX3, but decided I didn’t need the extra features for my intended SOTA activities. VHF is neither my interest nor very practical far from urban areas in Colorado. The ability to add the spectrum display is nice but not an issue for me as I have two radios in the home station with spectrum displays and don’t intend to use my QRP radio at home extensively. The internal battery capacity is better on the KX2 than either the KX3 or the 817. For me, that was a big deal. I was lucky to find the Elecraft KXPD2 key on the internet reasonably priced.

I thought maybe an 817 would be an economical alternative for me, but after looking at the features, power output, weight and battery life I decided on the KX2. It’s nearly impossible to find a used 817 with a CW filter installed and that adds another $150 or so. An external battery is yet more weight and cost.

Too bad your timing is slightly off. Elecraft offered a promotional Christmas special with the KX2, tuner, charger, battery, KE7X Cady book, and CS60 tote case for a hundred bucks off. Too good for me to pass up.


I got the KX3 instead of -2 because it was going to be my base rig as well as for SOTA. I already had an MTR 3B, so I was set for a lightweight hiking rig. For easy or short hikes where weight is not an issue I like that the KX3 has some VHF bands. It certainly makes it easier when I want to play in the VHF contests. And at home, having all the features in the KX3 is great.


Hi Martin,
Receive performance from a gain point of view is less important on a summit as an activator - usually the chasers are running more power and putting in strong signals. So as long as the receiver is “reasonable” it should be fine.
What IS more important is interference rejection and selectivity. If you are on a summit and some other equipment nearby is putting out interference or if there’s a contest on, having a better receiver in terms of noise rejection is VEY important. In this point, I believe the KX2/3 are better than the FT817ND. I can’t comment on the MTR-3B/5B as I’ve never operated one - or even seen one in use for that matter.

73 Ed.


I hear RFI/breakthrough on the MTR when my 3G/4G smartphone connection is active. It’s a known issue with the type of rx design in the MTR.

Barry N1EU


I used FT-817ND for 3 years, and finally it fail to operate. I found poor workmanship inside, and sold it for parts. I considered to buy K2, but find from many people that it has parasitic receiving channels that will produce like a bird sound on some frequencies. I bought H1B1 from YouKits recently as temporary solutions, because I use mostly CW during my activations. Unfortunately, this small, lightweight and economy rugged radio does not have VHF/UHF and SSB/FM capability. I am still considering FT-857D. It is a little heavy, but it has all bands/modes, and it can be useful also for DX-peditions. I had one in the past until it was stolen.


Well as happens, fate decided it. I had intended to order either the KX2 or 3 this weekend, and yesterday I happened across an ad on craigslist for a 2 with basically everything you’d likely get if you weren’t going at it incrementally. So tuner, clock module, paddle, Lowe case, side kx and cover, mic, desk stand, and data cables. And the guy was asking not much more than the radio alone runs new. It wasn’t exactly local (St. Louis) but 4.5hrs r/t so not horrible. I figured it was either a scam or long gone, but the guy responded very soon to my inquiry. Long story short, I drove down there today and bought it from him.

In addition to a really amazing collection of keys/paddles and Collins rigs, the guy had a KX1 and KX3 in addition to the 2. He was selling the 2 because he didn’t use it much, preferring the 3. I’d never seen the KX1 in person: they’re fantastic little radios. And I’d never seen the 3 in person. While it is indeed nice, one look and I knew I’d gotten lucky to have ended up with the 2 as it’s the size I was hoping for. The 3 is small but the 2 is almost miraculous.

On the drive home we stopped off at a never before activated state park using it (there were no summits within 200 miles). We had our 10 contacts in 30 min or so, with lots of good signal reports from decent distances, particularly considering 40 was pretty shabby this afternoon. This is really my first experience with QRP, so I was pleasantly surprised. Can’t wait to get on the air with code this evening.

Again, many thanks to everyone who took time to offer advice. It was instrumental in making my decision.


Update the firmware and go have fun. I personally run an external battery for the 12 watts.


Yeah it’s up to date. What’s your goto external batt for portable?


I use a LiPo 4S 2600mah with a voltage reducer. Stays at 12 watts for numerous activations.


Hi All, I have both the 817 and the KX2 and also agonised over the decision of purchasing a KX2. It’s fair to say that the KX2 gets out more now than the 817, although I have taken the 817 overseas recently because of 6 and 2m capability.
The only issues I have had with the KX2 is a funny on 10m only where the RF out slowly ramps up on first time band selection.
They are very different radios, but here is my summary:

Glenn VK3YY.


If you want something a little simpler the LiFePo4 4S run 13.2v fully charged and pack plenty of punch as well.


Cost and availability is stopping me to go that route. Besides this battery is working good.


Glad to hear you got the KX2, you’ll love it !! It’s a far superior radio to the 817, I couldn’t get rid of my 817 fast enough when I got my KX3 seven years ago !
I got my KX2 May of 2016, it’s my portable rig now, the KX3 along with the PX3 and KXPA 100 are my base now !
I also have a K1 and KX1, still using them also, simple fun radios !
I will never own anything but Elecraft radio’s now, they are the best !!
Good luck and enjoy the KX2…You made the right choice !!
72/73 de Ed Bradenton, FL



I have the FT-817, KX2, and the KX3 and use all of them for SOTAs in the West and Midwest. On 12/22/17, I sent an email to your KD9JLV@gmail.com address in response to one of earlier postings on this reflector. So I do not know if you got it. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago but now live in Los Angeles. If you want to send me an email at wa9sti@earthlink.net, I can fill you in with my experience with these rigs.



Hi Martin,

I think you’ll find the MTR radios are a superhet, my MTR3B is. It features single signal reception and has a 4.9 mhz 4-crystal filter in the IF. The IF bandwidth is about 600 hz.

The KX3 is a SDR with direct conversion to audio. Though it is a phasing type design so can do “single signal” reception.

I think sometimes these threads about “what radio should I buy” are polls asking “what did you buy” or “what would you buy next time” rather than an objective assessment of radios against a defined set of criteria, which are not usually exposed before all the poll responses have been posted.

Still they are entertaining…

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH