Advice on a new rig: FT-817 or KX2

I activated a summit this weekend (thanks chasers! report to follow), realized that even short hikes with my big ol’ Alinco radio are not going to happen, and put the radio up for sale. It sold in 5 min. Therefore, I am now in the radio market. I’d been doing some research, but given that SOTA is turning into my #1 AR pursuit, your input is important to me.

My chief distinguishing need: good for both ssb and cw. I plan to use cw to activate, but my hiking partner (my wife) digs ssb so we need both.

I am pretty sure it’s going to be either an FT-817 or a KX2, so I’d appreciate thoughts on making the decision between those two.

To me, UHF is a requirement to drive my 13cms transverter for Microwave SOTA and so an 817 allows for HF and trasnverter driving. I may well “obtain” a KX2 when nobody is looking. :slight_smile: But I’ll need to make some shack space first.

If you’re using only HF, it’s a no brainer - go for the KX2.

The FT817 is a jack of all trades, good if you want to do a bit of everything. You seem pretty sure that you want to do CW and SSB, the FT817 isn’t exactly the best in these two areas.

SSB, the FT817 is 3dB down on power output compared to the KX2 and doesn’t have any TX audio adjustment besides mic gain. The RX on the FT817 uses technology from about 20 years ago.

CW, the FT817 doesn’t have any keyer memories and doesn’t even have any filtering as standard. The RX bandwidth is the same as for SSB unless the optional filter is installed.

I love my FT817 but for HF SOTA, the KX2 beats it in almost every way.

73, Colin


I own and have used both. I assume you can read the specs and prices for yourself, so you’re best placed to judge how each fits your requirements and budget. I think they are both superb radios in their own way.
All I can say is that I haven’t used the FT-817 since I got the KX2 (I do still use an FT-857 when it’s a short walk and I want a little more oomph). I think the KX2 internal battery far surpasses the 817’s for lightweight activations, though I usually carry an external battery. The internal ATU in the KX2 is also a major plus for me,
If you choose the 817, PM me if you want a well-cared for 2nd hand model :wink:

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I have an FT817ND. A couple of considerations- I’ve heard some KX2 owners express concern about exposing the radio to rain or are afraid of dropping it (neither a good idea with any radio) but the 817 may be a little more rugged? and the cost of any added features vs upfront costs - for the 817, maybe a lithium battery pack, filters… I haven’t used my 817 enough to extol it, but am a happy owner so far. KX2 owners sound equally happy. If I were buying a new radio now, I would probably go for the KX2.


Thanks for the thoughts so far.

This is actually something that concerned me. I read a few reviews that mentioned that the kx2s felt a little “not robust.” I’m concerned that if it feels like a stray raindrop may do it in, I may be reluctant to pack it rain or shine etc.

As for robustness of the KX2: Tom, OE2ATN, describes fitting the Elecraft into a Peli case:

I love my 817 but only use it at my QTH. Its power concept is outdated, and you need many extras that decrease the delta to a KX2, like CW filter, ATU, etc.


I went thru this same connundrum a year ago, the big thing for me was build quality of the Yaesu vs the lightweight of the KX2. The ft817 ended up being double the weight in my comparison, but was a tad cheaper (in both cases i was using an end fed antenna, external battery etc…) I chose the kx2 because of the built in ATU etc and have managed to not break it. The speaker did pick up some lose granite one some peak, but the speaker is pretty weak on a windy summit anyway, so nonreal loss as I do use a headset. that is the only complaint i have with regards to the kx2 and definitely do not have buyers remorse. good luck with your decision, i think i toiled for a month before pulling the trigger

I have a KX3, and I don’t worry about putting it in my bag since I got the sides and cover for it. It looks like the KX2 has a similar build to its bigger brother. I think that as long as you are somewhat careful, your gear, from any manufacturer, will last a long time. I don’t think it is hard to avoid banging around or droping my radios, or keeping them out of the dirt. And on here I see people come up with elegant solutions for protecting their gear.

If it was going to be rainy, I wouldn’t bring the KX3 since I don’t have a good way to keep it dry, but thats not a big problem in W6 land.

I have the KX2 with the end handles and cover. I have a Pelican case for it as well as a padded Nalgene bottle case that it and the mic slide into easily. I don’t purposely go looking for rain but when forecasted I use the case.
I do SSB and love it for that. Light, small footprint, self contained when battery is in.


That sounds interesting. Commercial product or homebrew? Do you have a pic of it?

Commercial. Lookie here

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There have been fears about the KX3 and KX2 not being robust since they were first shipped. Those are not backed up by facts.

I’ve been on the Elecraft and KX3 mailing lists since the KX3 was announced, almost seven years ago (May 2011). I’ve never seen a report of a KX3 or KX2 being damaged in the field.

These radios were designed for field use. The designer (N6KR) has been designing field radios since 1993, with the NorCal 40.

I highly recommend the SideKX plates and cover. Get the originals, they are better made than the Chinese copies and not that much more expensive.

My KX3 has fallen off the roof of my car onto pavement twice and still works fine. I do have the SideKX plates and my car is a Miata, so it wasn’t a huge drop. But still…



I think you will be happy with whatever you choose. I was in the same boat as you at one time. I went with a used 817nd. I could have waited and saved a little more for a kx3/kx2 but didn’t.

I went from a 857d to an 817nd. And now the 817 is taking a back seat to an MTR. It never ends. Hahaha.

I’m happy with the 817nd. Made lots of contacts with it for SOTA.

Roland K7FOP

My two penneth (as an FT817ND owner).
If you need HF, 2m and 70cm - FT817ND.
If you need a solid, strong radio - FT817ND.
If you will only operate 80m - 10m and would like a little more power (10w) and a better receiver - the KX2.
If you will only operate 160m - 6m and would like a little more power (15w) and a better receiver - the KX3 (by the way, with the KX3 there is also a 2m transverter option).
If you are using an antenna that needs an ATU, either the KX2 or KX3 - as they can have an ATU built in - the FT817ND would need an external ATU.

73 Ed.

KX3’s do fail due to the case, the Elecraft offerings are definitely less rugged than other commercial units.

My friend Dom has killed his KX3 a number of times -

At the end of the day, if you make allowances for the fragility of the KX3/KX2, like most activators do, there shouldn’t be a problem. There seems to be a healthy market in add-ons to improve the Elecraft rigs for outdoor use.


12W now!

Regarding weather protection, I tend to stick to VHF/UHF when it’s wet (waterproof handhelds). The 817 does feel more robust but the SideKX panels and cover help on the Elecraft (no idea why they aren’t standard). I always use a headset (better sound quality, doesn’t disturb others as much and better battery life).

If you want a radio that will do all modes all bands though…(final plug for my 817ND :blush:)

As others have alluded to don’t forget to include all the extras in your budgeting (filters, ATU, SideKX…)

It is also worth mentioning that the FT-817 has also been known for blowing its finals, so you could argue that it isn’t particularly rugged either. Although the problem has been improved with the 817ND.

Having said that, I have one of the very early 817s and (touch wood) I’ve never had a problem.

At the end of the day, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Both the Elecraft and the Yaesu are good radios, but the Yaesu is overdue for a replacement. Particularly with the growth of “adventure radio” in general and SOTA specifically, the market for it must be there!

A small number and only the original MK1 (out of production for 10+years?) excerbated out of all proportion due to internet folk-law.


Hi all,
a related question regarding receiver performance:
Can anyone make a statement regarding the actual or theoretical differences between the receivers of

a) KX2
b) FT-817ND
c) MTR-3B/5B

I have limited experience, but my feeling is that there is not much of a difference between the FT-817 and the MTRs, except that the FT-817 has more options to control the amplification at various stages via RF gain, IPO, and an attenuator.

Would an KX2 improve my ability to work weak signals on summits? Or would it just be better in a noisier environment?

73 de Martin, DK3IT