A review of the Elecraft K-Pod

When I first opened the box I noticed it was packed very well and as I held the K-Pod for the first time I noticed it had some weight to it. The K-Pod is built very solid and would not move around on the radio desk as you used it. There is a tilt stand that places the K-Pod at a very nice operating angle, this stand can be removed if you would rather have the K-Pod sit flat on your desk. The VFO is very smooth and the user is able to adjust the drag if need be but I was very happy with the VFO right out of the box. There are 8 buttons on the K-Pod that can be programmed with macros, each button has a tap and hold function you therefore have 16 macros. Macros are a great way to have a one button push (or hold) to control a commonly used button on the K3. Also Macros can be used to preform a multi task function. For example I have programmed a CW Split macro that puts the K3 in CW mode, sets VFO A and B to the same frequency, moves VFO B up 2 kHz, sets the filter to 400 Hz, clear both the RIT and XIT and locks VFO A on frequency. All this is done with the push of one button. The instruction manual gives you many Macros to choose from. You can program your own and try them out using the K3 utility program on your PC. On Elecraft's website you can download free of charge their programers reference to learn more about macros and programming them.
There is a rocker switch that will allow you to smoothly switch from VFO A (LED D1 lights up) to B (LED D2 lights up) and then to RIT/RXT (LED D3 lights up) adjustments. The manual says that LED4 is user programable and you can actually control the on/off function of D1, D2 and D3 as well.
On the top of the K-Pod there are 4 connection ports:

  1.  Auxiliary outputs that the manual says can be used for an external antenna switch, amplifier and so on.
  2. DATA connector is used to connect an RJ12 cable (supplied) to the K3. 
  3. USB connector (USB cable is supplied) is used to interface the K-Pod with your PC for firmware updates and for what Elecraft calls "future" PC control. 
  4. Power connector (cable supplies) can be used to supply the needed DC to the K-Pod and I say "can be used" because via a simple mod
    (parts supplied) to the K3 and K3S  you can power the K-Pod via the DATA cable.
This was a nice addition to my K3 as for me it's handy to have the VFO control right beside the key. For contests I am able to program the first 3 (or more if needed) macro buttons for contest macros. The K-Pod worked right out of the box once powered up and connected to the K3 you had immediate VFO control, A/B VFO switching and RIT/XIT as well. It was then time to learn about macro programming.
There were just some minor issues I have:

  1. The provided USB cable provided is 3 feet which I found a bit to short, even with the front USB ports on my PC 3 feet was still very tight fit. 
  2. On first start up D4 on the K-Pod constantly stayed on. This was not normal and to correct this issue a Bata firmware had to be downloaded to the K3 or K3S if you have that model. I'm not to keen on loading Bata firmware as there could be some bugs with the software. 
  3. I have been spoiled by Elecraft and how easy it was to upgrade their products with new firmware. With your rig or P3 connected to your PC via a USB cable and a couple of mouse clicks using the Elecraft utility software you were good to go. For some reason the firmware update procedure for the K-Pod is much different.
A. All cables have to be disconnected from the K-Pod
B. Connect the USB cable to your PC
C. While holding F1 and F4 on the K-Pod plug in the other end of the USB cable to the K-Pod.
D. You now start the K-Pod utility program and update it's firmware.
 
 4. I found having the power cable and the RJ12 cable coming from the K-Pod a bit cumbersome. One of the main reasons for me doing the modification to the K3 so the K-Pod is powered via the RJ12 cable. 
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

14 Responses to “A review of the Elecraft K-Pod”

  • Angelo DePalma, KD2HPQ:

    Would have been nice if you’d mentioned what the K3 actually is.

  • Omer, AD7DY:

    Elecraft K3 transceiver. You can look it up on the Elecraft website, pretty nice radio. Happy New Year!

  • Paul kc2nyu:

    Agree, cable far too short. User community needs to figure how we come up with longer cable fix.

    73 Paul

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Angelo, very good point sometimes these things get past me.
    Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by Angelo.
    73,
    Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Omar, it’s a great radio and I also have the Elecraft KX3 as well.
    73,
    Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Paul and very nice to hear from you, my fix was to go to Staples and pickup a longer cable. They are not cheap but all is good with the USB cable now.
    73,
    Mike

  • David WB4ONA:

    Elecraft wants $250 for this thing. It’s another $15 if you want the aux-out cable. What a rip-off.

  • Colin VK2JCC:

    All these bits and pieces as add-ons you have to have to make it operate?

    Seems to me that Elecraft is trying to play the game a bit like the Iphone keep the customer paying.

    The Yaesu FT817 is still out in front.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening David, thanks for taking the time to comment. Yup the K-pod is 250.00 but it is an option that the buyer chooses to purchase, such as myself……well not really I didn’t purchase it was given to me as a gift. Would I had forked out the money for it, not sure? As for being a rip-off Im not to sure about that Elecraft makes very high quality products and this is just another.
    Happy New Year David and thanks for stopping by.
    73,
    Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Collin, I hope my post was not misleading in a way that one thinks that the K-Pod is required for the K3 to operate? It is an add on that is some icing on the cake. Kinda like a car has steel rims but a nice add on would be chrome rims. Either way the car work just fine just as the Elecraft K3.
    As for Elecraft trying to keep the customer paying…..They offer rigs that have the ability to expand if the buyer wishes to do so. If you choose a stock K3, KX3 or KX2 the price is “X” amount but in time if you want to add to the rig to improve say by adding filtering, antenna tuner, 2nd independent receiver (K3) and so on you can. On the other hand if you purchase a rig from another manufacture it could mean selling what you have and buying new.
    As for keeping the FT817 yes it is a good rig and for sure there are not to many on the market like it. Elecraft just came out with the KX2 and it is another rig that can be put along side the FT817.
    Happy New Year Colin and thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
    73,
    Mike

  • Tom K5AX:

    I bought the K-3 and it is fine for the RIT, but if you try to tune across the band with one, it keeps hanging up and you have to wait for the CPU to catch up with it.
    I watched the “processes” in the Task Manager but see no change in the CPU usage, I guess it is using its own CPU or the K3’s. Would love to be able to tune across the band freely. So my K-POD is an RIT decoration. Oh, I use it to turn on the RIT and a couple other features with its Macro buttons. But the tuning hang up ruins it. I just moved the k-3 a little closer for my short arms.

  • Tom K5AX:

    Corrections to above 12 March 2017 at 13:10 UTC Comment:
    “I bought a K-POD for my K-3 and it….

  • Lee, AA4GA:

    Good to know, Tom – thanks!

  • Geert Jan PE1HZG:

    The K-POD powers off the K3, no extra cable needed. For older K3 transceivers, you need to change a resistor in the K3, took me less than 5 minutes.

    Putting a longer cable on is easy: 6-pin flat phone cable and some 6-ping RJ12 connectors is all you need. I made a 6 ft cable with parts in my shack.

    I found that the tuning knob had too much friction and had to adjust. Also, the K-POD doesn’t work well if you don’t extend the feet because it will wobble – fix is to remove the standoff feet.

    I don’t have the tuning problems k5AX has but don’t use a PC on my K3.

    The macro manual could do with a re-write – having (conflicting) tables for K3, KX2 and KX3 in the same manual is confusing.

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