Author Archive

Elecraft KX3 Preview

Just heard about this little puppy. Need to save my spare pennies…

KX3 STANDARD FEATURES

  • 160-6 meter ham bands; general coverage from 1.6-30 MHz (optional broadcast-band filter module covers 0.5-1.6 KHz)
  • All modes: SSB, CW, Data (four sub-modes), AM FM
  • Ultra-compact size: 3.4″H x 7.4″W x 1.7″D; 18 oz. (less options)
  • Rear tilt feet fold up for transport
  • Custom high-contrast LCD with alphanumeric text display
  • Current drain as low as 150 mA in receive mode
  • High-performance 32-bit floating-point DSP
  • Built-in PSK/TTY decode/encode allows data mode operation without a PC; transmit in data modes using CW keyer paddle
  • Low-noise synthesizer with 1-Hz tuning resolution
  • Firmware updateable via provided application software

RECEIVER

  • Quadrature down-sampling mixer compatible with PC-based SDR (software-defined-radio) applications
  • Receiver I/Q outputs for use with PC soundcard
  • Narrow roofing filter option with four bandwidths (500Hz, 1500Hz, 2700Hz, 3800Hz) for excellent dynamic range
  • Switchable preamp (2 levels) and attenuator (2 levels)
  • 8-band receive audio equalizer
  • Dual watch over ±10kHz range; uses applicable roofing filter
  • Easy-to-use PassBand Tuning (PBT) for shift/width/hi-cut/lo-cut; roofing filters automatically track DSP filter settings
  • Automatic and manual notch filtering; adjustable noise reduction and noise blanking; binaural audio effects for enhanced receive
  • Center-tuning indicator for CW and data modes
  • Built-in speaker; stereo jack for headphones/external speakers

TRANSMITTER

  • Adjustable output, 0.1 to 10W+ (100W+ with KXPA100 amp)
  • Rugged, SWR and temperature-protected final amplifier stage
  • Optional MH3 microphone with PT and UP/DOWN functions
  • Optional attached keyer paddle with spacing adjustment
  • Switchable PA output impedance for efficient 5-W or 10-W use
  • Fast, silent, PIN-diode T-R switching – no relays
  • DSP speech processing for excellent “punch”
  • 8 band equalizer tailors passband to your voice and microphone

OTHER FEATURES

  • Built in digital voice recorder (DVR) with two message buffers
  • Internal CW keyer with 8-50 WPM range
  • Six CW/DATA message memories
  • 100 general-purpose memories store VFO A/B, modes, etc.
  • Accessory/RS-232 port for computer control using supplied cable
  • Full remote-control command set works with most amateur radio software applications (emulates Elecraft K3)
  • One-click firmware upgrades via the web (with free PC software)
  • Optional mobile bracket compatible with RAM-mounts
  • Tutorial-style manual ideal for new hams

OPTIONS and ACCESSORIES

  • KXFLE Roofing Filter Module (500/1500/2700/3800 Hz)
  • KXAT3 Internal, Wide-Range 20-W Automatic Antenna Tuner
  • KXAM3 Broadcast Band Filter Module (0.5-1.6 MHz)
  • KXBT3 Internal 8-AA Cell Battery Pack with NiMH Charger (Batteries not supplied; nonrechanrgeable batteries can also be used)
  • KXPD3 Precision Keyer Paddle
  • KXMM3 Mobile Mount Bracket
  • MH3 Hand Microphone with UP/DN Controls
  • KUSB RS232 to USB Adapter
  • KXPA100 High-Performance 160-6 meter, 100-W Amplifier; usable with most 5 to 10 W transceivers KXAT100 Wide-Range 100-W ATU with Dual Anenna Jacks (attaches to KXPA100 module)
(h/t: QRP-ARCI, W2LJ and AE5X)

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated…

I’ve been QRT (both radio- and blog-wise) for quite some time as the XYL and I have been planning and, over the past week, executing a move from Robinson to the charming little town of West, TX — that’s West (comma) Texas, population 2,690, which despite the name is nowhere near “West Texas” but just a dozen miles or so north of Waco in the central part of the Republic. According to the FCC database there are 18 licensed amateurs in West, including your faithful correspondent.

The new QTH is an old but freshly renovated 3 bedroom house with a detached garage and (praise Jesus!) trees, giving me antenna possibilities that did not exist at our suburban-hell duplex in Robinson. There’s a tripod already on the roof; it’s not exactly heavy-duty but it should be adequate for a vertical. Whether I’ll put the Cushcraft R7000 back into service or simply mount the Tarheel on the roof remains to be decided. One of my priorities is to at least get a dipole strung up for 6/10/12 meters. Not yet sure if there’s room for an 80m wire.

The shack/office is about the same size and layout as at the last QTH. There’s a large walk-in closet that I will use as a library to store some of the 8.6 million books that I seem to have acquired over the years and which I hope to have moved for the last time. I no longer have a loud central air conditioning unit outside the window of the office; however, I now live across the street from the main Union Pacific train line that runs through the middle of the state. Being a lifelong fan of model railroading but never having the room, tools or skills to build the N-scale layout of my dreams, I can now enjoy a 1:1 scale road with regular trains that shake the entire house about a dozen times a day like a coin-operated bed in a cheap motel. Must remember turn the VOX off when I’m not at the radio.

Since we’re still living out of boxes it may be some time yet before I can get the shack reassembled, antennas installed, and return to the bands — needless to say, the IARU HF contest is going to have to get along without WW2PT’s big signal, and the IOTA test in a couple of weeks will be a long shot, but I fully intend to be up and running in time for NAQP in August.

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated…

I’ve been QRT (both radio- and blog-wise) for quite some time as the XYL and I have been planning and, over the past week, executing a move from Robinson to the charming little town of West, TX — that’s West (comma) Texas, population 2,690, which despite the name is nowhere near “West Texas” but just a dozen miles or so north of Waco in the central part of the Republic. According to the FCC database there are 18 licensed amateurs in West, including your faithful correspondent.

The new QTH is an old but freshly renovated 3 bedroom house with a detached garage and (praise Jesus!) trees, giving me antenna possibilities that did not exist at our suburban-hell duplex in Robinson. There’s a tripod already on the roof; it’s not exactly heavy-duty but it should be adequate for a vertical. Whether I’ll put the Cushcraft R7000 back into service or simply mount the Tarheel on the roof remains to be decided. One of my priorities is to at least get a dipole strung up for 6/10/12 meters. Not yet sure if there’s room for an 80m wire.

The shack/office is about the same size and layout as at the last QTH. There’s a large walk-in closet that I will use as a library to store some of the 8.6 million books that I seem to have acquired over the years and which I hope to have moved for the last time. I no longer have a loud central air conditioning unit outside the window of the office; however, I now live across the street from the main Union Pacific train line that runs through the middle of the state. Being a lifelong fan of model railroading but never having the room, tools or skills to build the N-scale layout of my dreams, I can now enjoy a 1:1 scale road with regular trains that shake the entire house about a dozen times a day like a coin-operated bed in a cheap motel. Must remember turn the VOX off when I’m not at the radio.

Since we’re still living out of boxes it may be some time yet before I can get the shack reassembled, antennas installed, and return to the bands — needless to say, the IARU HF contest is going to have to get along without WW2PT’s big signal, and the IOTA test in a couple of weeks will be a long shot, but I fully intend to be up and running in time for NAQP in August.

My NRD-525 and other goodies are on the block…


Fiscal realities are forcing me to sell off more of my JRC collection, this time a mint, new-in-box, untouched-by-human-hands NRD-525 HF Receiver along with likewise mint CMK-165 VHF/UHF Converter and CFL-232 500 Hz Crystal Filter. All three now on eBay as separate auctions.

Sorry to have to do this, but since I’m not a multi-billion dollar corporation I’m not on the list for a government bailout; and a particular deadbeat client of mine is apparently not hip to the most basic of free-market principles, that of monetary remuneration for services rendered (promptly, I might add…) by your faithful correspondent. And so my shack becomes even more desolate.
Let the bidding begin…

March 2010 Wrap-Up

Starting a new job this month has really cut into my quality ham radio time, but these are the sacrifices we make. Other than a few PSK contacts early in the month, all of my operation took place during the two major March phone tests. Only 6 QSO in the ARRL DX SSB, but was able to spend a little more time at the mic for the CQ WPX SSB in which I logged 69 QSOs during a few short operating stints (4.5 hours total), all on 15m which was alive and kicking. For once I was able to work damn near every station I could hear, most of them on one call, and didn’t have to repeat my callsign or report too often. In the end, 62 WPX prefixes in 23 DXCC countries for a somewhat lame total score of 8,494.
More important: I finally got to give N1MM Contest Logger a good shakedown and I’m happy to report that it worked flawlessly with the K3. I still like HRD’s logbook for general usage, but for contesting it’s a kludge. N1MM is super fast by comparison and obviously better suited for contesting. I may comment more on this later.
So… despite a limited amount of radio time, March put three new DXCC in the log –Uruguay (CX), Luxembourg (LX), and Haiti (HH) — and 16 new DXCC + 9 new WAZ on 15m. I’ll take it.

Stats through 31-Mar-2010:
All
80m
40m
30m
20m
17m
15m
Ph
CW
Dig
DXCC
83
2
43
10
67
13
38
59
5
63
WAS
50
28
49
7
48
19
21
43
1
50
WAZ
26
3
21
8
23
9
18
22
5
22

WebSDR


My bud Ulis K3LU just turned me onto the WebSDR project. Spent a little time this morning listening to W4MQ’s station, which is set up for 160m, 40m, and 20m. Very impressive — I’ve steered clear of online remote receivers in the past because they were typically a single radio controlled by a single user at a time (or, worse, by multiple users continuously changing frequency and mode, making it little more than an exercise in hi-tech uselessness). But this is different — a true server that lets multiple people listen at the same time on whatever band/frequency/mode they want, completely independent of one another. Way cool.

NCJ: What’s the Best Contest Rig?

The March/April 2010 National Contest Journal arrived yesterday, torn and tattered as always (thanks again, US Postal Service!), and with it the results of K3MD’s informal poll of top contesters asking, “What’s the best contest rig?” It’s by no means a scientific survey, nor all-inclusive, but many of the Big Guns you’d expect participated.

No surprise to see the K3 and IC-7800 at the head of the pack. What does surprise me, though, is the absence of even a single mention of the Flex 5000 — can’t figure this out. Contesters, of all operators, rely so heavily on computers and software, and the Flex is clearly ready for prime-time. It’s fairly equal to the K3 and 7800 in terms of receiver performance. It just seems like a natural fit. Is it simply because it lacks a tuning dial? Is full PC control too new a trick for these old dogs to learn? Would love to hear theories as to why none of these top contesters have jumped on the SDR bandwagon.
Also surprised to see the Orion get only passing mention (and not in a good way, either). Wasn’t that the last “greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread” transceiver just a few years ago?

All that said, I’m happy to see the K3 get the attention it deserves from the radiosport community. Contesters at this level are fickle creatures; you can’t pin the fanboy label on them. Price is rarely an issue, considering the equipment on the inside of the shack typically costs a fraction of what is spent on antenna systems. They’re not swayed by fancy front panels or clever marketing. If the radio works better than what they last used, they keep it; if something else better comes along later, they’ll switch again. It will be interesting to see in ten years or so whether the K3 has the longevity among contesters that, say, the FT-1000D has enjoyed. My prediction: Yes (but then, I’m just an Elecraft fanboy and, worse still, a poseur-wannabee contester). Only time will tell; the zeitgeist changes direction in a hurry, and the DSP and SDR technology is advancing rapidly, so something new could come along next week to knock the K3 off its pedestal.

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor