KX3 - should I?

Looks slightly fragile and perhaps a bit heavy, what do folks think? Is it the ultimate SOTA rig?

73 Richard G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:

Yes, you should! I own one since last summer and took it to more than 60 summits. It is pricey for a QRP rig but worth its money. The receiver is better than what comes in much bigger boxes. It is certainly miles ahead of a FT-817 and has lower current train on transmit.

One thing that is not satisfactory (but acceptable) is the the tiny speaker, which is not really usefull. I use headphones anyway, so this does not bother me.

73 Heinz

In reply to OE5EEP:

Thanks Heinz

The only comparison review that I have watched was unconvincing (to me).

The more so since the comparison is of a state-of-the-art radio vs a 15 year old design (that covers more bands and costs half as much). I would like to be convinced but…

73 Richard G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:
2 bobs worth.
My KX3 is great BUT I doubt if its as water proof as some other rigs I have taken out portable. Last weekend 1 big spot of rain hit the top of the plastic cover on the screen and it slowly started to seep in under the cover. I was in my back yard so I was able to come inside and get the xyl hair dryer to evap it out. On a windy summit yes earphones are standard equipment under the wooly hat.
cu Sunday 73 Ian …
vk5cz

In reply to G3CWI:

For it to be the ultimate SOTA rig you need to define ulimate.

It’s got a better RX than an 817. Whether you would benefit from that on a summit depends on so many other things. It certainly uses less power so you can you use smaller batteries than with an 817 for equivalent operating time. The PA seems to be more efficient as well. I’ve only played with one a while back, but the ergonomics are meant to be much improved on the 817. You would need to try one for a while in a SOTA environment to be sure.

What is for sure is that it is anything but cheap. If you look at the retail price of an 817 in the UK you can be sure the dealer is making a profit and Yaesu are making a profit and the people who transport them from China (via Japan) to the UK make a profit too. Everyone along the chain makes a profit. That suggests that someone at Elecraft must be living in a Platinum plated palace, dining on roast Swan and Caviar and heating their palace by burning $20 notes!

There is a lot of brand snobbery involved. It’s exactly the same as with cars. Elecraft make good kit and there is, rightly or wrongly, a degree of superiority by some owners of those radios. I’ve had the following conversation with several (non-SOTA) people which goes along the “I have a K1/2/3/KX1/3 and wonder how you can put up with just an 817”. When I used to reply “well it’s good enough and small enough for my bag” they’ve not been convinced and continue acting smug. When I’ve said “I have a K2 I keep for best but use the 817 because it’s a bit smaller and doesn’t matter if it gets bashed and dirty” they decided I’m an OK guy.

They’re a very nice radio and if you can afford to buy one and not worry about the cost and will get the use out of it that justifies the price to you then why not. We all like owning shiny toys. However, if you have no issues with your assorted home brew rigs and your 817, spend the money on an exotic SOTA DXpedition!

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to G3CWI:

The only comparison review that I have watched was unconvincing (to
me).

It certainly didn’t convince me! When he said he was copying better on the KX3 I could hear it more clearly on the 817! Presumably differences in the frequency responses of our ears.

On a summit you can clearly hear antenna noise on the 817, it vanishes when the antenna is removed, so sensitivity isn’t an issue - greater sensitivity will just make the noise louder by the same amount as the signal. I would ask if the KX3 has better cross-mod and blocking performance, if so that could be a tie-breaker. In my particular case I would choose the 817 for three reasons: 1) it fits nicely into my poacher’s pocket (I may even be able to operate with it in that pocket!), 2) the KX3 operates looking at the sky, ready to receive rain and get its display washed out by strong sunlight - as and when! And 3) I just love the 817!

YMMV but that’s my take on it!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

It certainly didn’t convince me! When he said he was copying better on
the KX3 I could hear it more clearly on the 817!

Some of the time I was not even convinced that he was listening to the same station on each radio…

The KX3 wins on all counts in terms of its measured spec.

I suppose the main question in my mind is “will it blend?”

73 Richard G3CWI

1 Like

In reply to G3CWI:

OMG!

Dammit, Richard - I was drinking coffee!

It seems appropriate that the magic smoke is black!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G3CWI:

My first rig was an 817. I now also have a KX3. The KX3 is slightly lighter than the 817, has a built-in ATU that works well (but no VHF yet), and is a much less fiddly rig to use in all sorts of ways. However, I’m a lot more reluctant to take it out if the weather looks like turning wet, so it hasn’t had a SOTA outing yet.

73, Rick M0LEP

In reply to OE5EEP:

One thing that is not satisfactory (but acceptable) is the the tiny
speaker, which is not really usefull. I use headphones anyway, so this
does not bother me.

73 Heinz

The speaker issues are a thing of the past with the latest firmware (not that I use the speaker either!)

Pete

In reply to M0LEP:
I agree as I have both rigs, once all connected I have an iPad connected via a piglet interface. I then can control the rig and log calls
As far as best RX. given a good antenna the KX3 wins every time.
The only limit is power. I swap between my IC7000 and KX3 depending on climb time :wink:
I use battery packs from Deben I use a LiFePO4 16Ah for the IC7000 gives about 3hrs activation at approx 50w TX
Very light
73
Kevin
G7KXZ

In reply to MM0FMF:
Whilst I have a KX3, it’s my shack rig not a SOTA portable rig.
For portable work my KD1JV TRXs do everything I need in a tiny light package.

In the shack the KX3 is the best CW QRP radio I have ever used, which is why I bought it. I’ve tried a 817 and was immensely frustrated with it’s user interface and lack lustre CW performance.

Cost wise you can’t really compare like for like as they are totally different beasts.

On another group (other groups are available) the following price comparison was made:

In terms of the cost, although the FT-817ND appears cheaper ($669 right now at
Gigaparts), by the time you pay for the W4RT DSP ($140), LDG antenna tuner
($120), upgraded battery and charger ($160), upgraded W4RT filters ($249). That
comes to about $649, if you do the DSP and filter install yourself. The total
price of the radio with the bells and whistles which do not achieve the receive
capability of the KX3 is about $1318. This is within a dollar of what I paid for
my KX3 ($1319). <<

Of course currently the KX3 has no 2m or 70 cm capability (2m coming soon) and so will never compare directly with the 817 for those that need such unreliable bands :slight_smile:
It does however have full CAT control, IQ output fully upgradeable firmware (I’ve had 7 major enhancements in the last 10 months) etc.

I would perhaps take mine out in good weather on “safe” summits, for instance for 24Mhz ops, but I’d probably look at adding some after market protection like the Side KX products http://gemsproducts.com/index.html

It’s horses for courses. There seem to be plenty of folks using KX3s in the field and I expect over time they will become quite a common SOTA activators rig of choice.

YMMV (Other rigs are also available)
Pete

In reply to G4ISJ:

On another group (other groups are available) the following price
comparison was made:

In terms of the cost, although the FT-817ND appears cheaper ($669
right now at
Gigaparts), by the time you pay for the W4RT DSP ($140), LDG antenna
tuner
($120), upgraded battery and charger ($160), upgraded W4RT filters
($249). That
comes to about $649, if you do the DSP and filter install yourself.
The total
price of the radio with the bells and whistles which do not achieve
the receive
capability of the KX3 is about $1318. This is within a dollar of what
I paid for
my KX3 ($1319). <<

I just looked at the advert for the KX3 (Radcom, W&S) and the KX3 is £959 built - BUT, the mike is an extra (£64.95) as is the tuner (£169.95) the paddle (£129.95) the internal charger (£64.95) and a dual passband filter (£129.95) so a fully loaded KX3 at present would set you back £1418.75 with the 2 metre adapter still to come, probably another couple of hundred. Even adding a few bells and whistles to the 817, like a CW filter and the BHI DSP, its considerably cheaper. In the end you have to decide whether the added performance of the KX3 is worth the extra dosh to you, each of us will come to his conclusion by a personal route, my conclusion is that if I could afford a KX3 I would splash the cash on a better main station rig!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

I just looked at the advert for the KX3 (Radcom, W&S) and the KX3 is
£959 built -


or as a simple kit $899. Yes I meant $s. There’s no way I would have lined the pockets of W&S when I can get it for a fraction of the cost, direct from the factory, and still be quids in even after paying the VAT (and some folks get away with that too).

my conclusion is that if I
could afford a KX3 I would splash the cash on a better main station
rig!

Exactly - it is my main station rig :slight_smile:

Pete

In reply to G3CWI:
Hi Richard,

My KX3 seems pretty good for SOTA, the only snag is that it is even less showerproof than the FT817. I keep it in a clear plastic box (one of the ones that you can get from the big supermarkets) that holds the connectors, cable and balun. I don’t need a key as the attached one is fine. It worked quite well with a balun and my doublet from 60m through to 6m using the internal tuner. When they make the 2m transverter for it, it will be even more useful.

I bought mine direct from the US and saved a little on the UK price overall but did have to collect it from the courier’s as I was out when it arrived. Their fees are not insignificant either. I bought the kit for the fun of assembling it. It did very well in the QRP serction of the 80m CC contests. With my short “longwire” it managed 75 QSOs in 90 minutes, so it is no slouch in contest conditions. The RX compares well with the FT5k for sensitivity and seems quite good on strong signals.

hope this helps

73 Mike G4DDL

In reply to G3CWI:
I own both and concur with most of the comments here.

The KX3 is superior in performance, but less ‘sealed’ than the 817 and perhaps less robust than the 817. The 817 is built like a tank. One of the reservations I had before buying the KX3. I take my KX3 to the field in a Pelican Storm case.

The 817 also has the advantage of 2m/440, but it doesn’t take much to throw a HT in the bag for SOTA.

Given the cost differential, it’s a tough choice. Certainly the 817, especially on the used market is a good value. I paid $425 for my 817ND and added the CW filter and Elecraft T1 tuner to complete it. All told, about $600. KX3 with options was about $1250.

Aside from environmental sealing concerns, the KX3 shines over the 817 in the following areas:

Internal ATU - I used an extarnal T1 tuner for the 817 + cable.

Larger Display/ User Interface - Just about everything you need is visible or accessible with the single touch of a button. Less ‘layered’ in submenus. KX3 display is BIG. 817 display is a thumbnail.

Power Consumption - draw on RX with the KX3 is about 200mA. Draw is more than twice that on RX for the 817. This is a big advantage. With eneloops internally, I can operate the KX3 for at least several hours. The 817 internal batteries are near worthless, meaning you’re packing along another battery or two out of necessity. I don’t recall ever being able to use my 817 for more than 1 hour with the internal batts. Aside from wanting emergency backup power, I would have no trepidation with taking the KX3 (fully charged) to a SOTA expedition with no extra batteries.

Features - KX3 has the ability to encode/decode PSK & RTTY in the field, internal clock, great filtering, dual watch, programmable message memories (CQ SOTA)…

RX - the receiver in the KX3 is very sensitive and eerily quiet. You’ll hear more weak stations with the KX3 without a doubt.

So, while the KX3 may not be the ultimate SOTA rig because of packaging, its technical advantages outweigh this IMO. That said, I wouldn’t think anyone with a budget limited to the 817ND range would be disappointed in that radio. It may be a little long in the tooth in terms of more modern design/features of the KX3, but it is a solid, rugged all band/ all mode radio certainly capable of making many SOTA expeditions. I have not sold mine.

Good Luck & 72,
Chris
KQ2RP

In reply to KQ2RP:

I am bit out of topic.

My personnal experience show weight is a major factor in SOTA. You need to carry light equipment, as your need water, food etc…

Had several rigs for SOTA. FT817, PFR3, K1, HB1A and now HB1B.

I think the 817 is bit bit heavy. You’ll probably need a tuner and battery. As soon you want to bring a 5 amp/h lead acid, you got about 4 pounds more to carry. Lighter batteries are more expensive. I liked the 817, but thought it was on the heavy side and I dont really like SSB.

The PFR3 is a fine little rig. Liked it.

The K1 was a great SOTA rig. The one I bought had a lil drifting problem. I finally sold it. I should have look for a lighter battery at the time, but did not.

The HB1A was a bang for the buck. The 4 stage CW filter was OK. Unfortunately, mine had a VFO problem but the seller changed it without questions.

I am now using the HB1B. For a CW only op, this is a very interesting choice. The variable CW filter is absolutely great.

For 30 bux, you got a litium ion battery and charger which will last approx 1 hour of operation, and I mean lots of transmitting here. The current model got a charging plug in the front, so you can charge the internal litihum ion battery without the need of removing it from the rig. Abt 60 minutes of operation is enough for my average SOTA activation. I believe this is the best kept secret at the moment. And I am not linked to them in any ways.

I think those folks learned lessons from the past and the chineese rig seems solid and reliable.

For 249 bux, its a great choice IMHO.

Your milleage may vary…

In reply to KQ2RP:

Chris, doesn’t the dual watch work on your 817 (row 5 button C)? Also I have a set of 2650 mAh batteries in the battery box, with the green wire mod so that they can be recharged in situ, giving a couple of hours of SSB operation, though I agree the battery pack that came with it was a joke! I don’t know of any SSB HTs for 144/432!

The KX3 sounds a great rig for use from a picnic table, but I think it will take time to decide from experience if it is robust enough for summit conditions. No doubt people will be sharing their experiences.

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to VA2SG:

I am now using the HB1B. For a CW only op, this is a very interesting
choice. The variable CW filter is absolutely great.

For 30 bux, you got a litium ion battery and charger which will last
approx 1 hour of operation, and I mean lots of transmitting here.

Not sure which battery you have but I get at least four hours solid operating out of mine! Tom M1EYP uses one too and I think he gets about the same.

73 Richard G3CWI

In reply to G8ADD:

Brian,
Dual Watch on the KX3 allows one VFO in each ear (with headphones). As far as 144/432 - SSB doesn’t seem to be popular among SOTA ops here in the states. Mainly FM. FWIW, there are many of the more prolific SOTA ops here using the KX3, though I don’t think any would consider it storm friendly (or the 817 for that matter). Though, if weather was in question, I’d probably opt for my 817 over the KX3.