WRTC Radio and Software Data
The World Radiosport Team Championship 2014 team has posted data on the radio equipment and software used by the teams. There are a few interesting take-aways for me:
The top two radios used are no surprise, the Elecraft K3 by a wide margin at 64%, and the Yaesu FTdx5000 at 7%. The third choice surprisingly was the modest Kenwood TS-590 at 6% usage. I’ve often thought this rig is one of the best in amateur radio today based on the price, features, performance, and value. Despite Kenwood getting the number 3 spot with the TS-590, there was only one other Kenwood rig used, a single TS-850. Ten Tec had a meager showing with two Orion II rigs. Various other Icom and Yaesu rigs rounded out the statistics. I find it sad that Kenwood doesn’t have more product offerings in these statistics. The data suggests that there’s an opportunity in the market for another high performance $2.5K to $3K USD compact rig.
For software I expected the N1MM contest program to be the most popular choice, however Win-Test was used in 68% of the stations and N1MM garnered only 25% usage. Perhaps it’s time I try Win-Test. Despite the price of the N1MM program being attractive, the lack of source code for this freeware program has concerned me. Win-Test costs 50 Euros or about $67 USD, however with the features listed it may be worth it. There must be some “secret sauce” in the program that hardcore contesters like.
It took me a number of years of trading and selling and buying, but in the end I have a full K-Line. I can say that after using many other radios, the K3 is now and will be my radio of choice for many years to come. It is not fully tricked out either. No second RX. With the P3 it is not needed. But the main thing Elecraft has going for it that Kenwood, Ten-Tec, Icom, Yeasu etc does not have is a tech support, second to none…PERIOD! You might pay more is some ways for out of pocket cash, but you will be buying more then a awesome radio and technology. You will be buying technical support and service that no other company can come close too… They listen and they do.
As far as the logging program. I am surprised too. I figured N1MM would be the clear choice. Need to look at Win-Test… My main logging program is Log4OM right now. Having fun with it.. And Win4K3Suite for rig control..
2 cents.. back under my rock… But that is my thoughts as to why Elecraft rules in contests and dxpeditions. Super radio and bolt on’s and second to none technical support before and after a sale.
It is interesting to see that of the three top finishers, there was only one K3 in the bunch. The other 5 radios were Icom.
1st: ic7800 ic7800
2nd: ic7600, k3
3rd: ic-756-3 ic-756-3
4th: 2 k3
5th: 2 k3
6th: ft3000 ft1000mp
7th: ic7800 ic7800
8th: k3 k3
9th: k3 k3
10th: k3 k3
Of all the contestants:
Icom is disproportionately represented in the top 10, and that is interesting. More than half of the Icom radios were used by teams in the top half, scorewise. Half of the Yaesus are in the top half of the scores, and half in the bottom. Most of the Kenwoods are in the lower half of the scores. The K3s are pretty evenly distributed through the results. I am ignoring TenTec because the sample size (2/118) is too small.
I’m not really sure what these numbers mean, other than “most WRTC 2014 contestants prefer K3s” and “Icom was a popular radio among the high scoring teams”.
Interesting analysis, Jeff. I hadn’t considering looking at that. I’m not sure what those numbers mean either, but it is interesting nonetheless. It makes you wonder if the extra few dB of sensitivity or other parameters between the Kenwood TS-590 and the Elecraft K3 made a difference, or other factors were much more significant. I know there were some competitors complaining on the WRTC group discussion board about their station locations and issues with being heard in Europe. (I didn’t dig into the threads too deeply.) I would guess this had much more of a factor than rig performance, but just a guess. I was surprised anyone used the 590 in this competition as I don’t view it as an out-for-blood contester rig. But it is perfectly sufficient for the casual contesting I do.
Harry, the Win-Test numbers were a shocker for me as well. Elecraft does have the customer service thing down and the “big three” could learn something from them. I’m not sure where Ten Tec is going.
I was not too surprised to see the TS-590 in the mix. It is a K3 want-to-be, but falls short. Not a bad radio for the money. I would still prefer a TenTec Eagle over a TS-590. Really exceptional RX, TX gets good reports, digital with the optional cable is a no brainer, internal ATU options sucks (IMHO). But I do not consider either a serious contest rig when compared to others on the list. Tentec has had issues for a while. There latest change, I am hoping, will be a positive one.
I will say I am a K3 and KX3 person, but I will not give my my IC-756PROII, IC-706MKIIG nor IC-7000. I have always liked ICOM and if it were not for a once in a lifetime trade deal I would have never had a chance to give a K3 a chance do to pricing. Once I got one and found out how outstanding it was, then forking out the $$$ for a used P3/SVGA and then pulling together the money for both the KPA500 and later a KAT500 would never have happened. The Eagle was a keeper…but given the offer I was given I had to do it.
If Kenwood intended for the TS-590 to be a K3 wannabe, they would offer a gazillion filter options, and they would have taken orders eight months before it was actually ready. (Even the USB port is an option.) While Elecraft excels at customer support, they suffer from “death by options” when it comes to pricing, and they still need to catch up with the big three on physical design.
I looked at Ten Tec rigs several times. Each time I really wanted a Ten Tec and I wanted to experience what Ten Tec fanatics say. Really. Each time I looked at the rigs my reaction was “meh”. I do like the relative simplicity of Ten Tec rigs, I just couldn’t fork over that much dough for so few features.
I see your point and don’t disagree. I just have read a lot of blogs and places where people jumped at the TS-590 thinking it would be a lower cost K3. The same goes for the Eagle…Which IMHO has a RX that is really close to the K3 in many respect. Just with limits. My issue with Ten-Tec is Ten-Tec. I have had dealing with them on the phone and in emailing over the years. I am not impressed and will just leave it at that.
The K3 is the modern day Collins when it comes to price/performance. You pay the price for the performance. However you can spread the cost out over time, or in my case some of the ‘fluff’ that others rave about, like the second RX, I just will never use so why pay a arm and a leg for it. I still have room for at least one filter..it may never be filled. The voice recorder maybe nice to have someday, but not interested, so why spend $$$ I don’t have. The bottom line is my bottom line is higher then I would have done in the past, but I have more then I ever imagined in my life having… That includes the KX3..I got used and save $$$ and the KPA100/KAT100 I got pre-owned and saved a lot of $$$$$$, but the PX3 I am paying full price and on the list for. It will make my KX3 into a real KX3-Line that matches my K3 K-Line, just a lot lower power and easier to take with me. IT will give a new meaning of what a SDR QRP radio can do..and with the AMP/ATU I can have a bigger voice when needed. Hard earn, and very scarce money now that I am on fixed income, for a hobby that I hope will last for many years. I am 66 and shooting for 30 years out of what I have.. Let the games begin…
Why was Elecraft everywhere at WRTC? I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s about the size/weight. The K3 is a great-performing radio and I don’t need to tell anyone that. But, if you’re travelling across the country or around the world to participate in one of the biggest competitions of your life, would you bring a big radio that you have to check as luggage or a small radio you can carry on and see all the way to the destination? I thought so. KL9A has said that the reason he and N6MJ used K3s in Moscow (WRTC2010) is because they travelled well. NK7U drove the pair of IC-7800s they used in WRTC2014 cross-country from Oregon. He drove them.
I’m reasonably certain that these guys would have won it if they were running K3s or FTDX-5000s or FT-1000MPs or TS-590Ses or whatever else they were comfortable with in the class of “contest-grade radios.” They just like the IC-7800s and have spent hundreds of hours with them. The best radios have lost more contests than great radios have won. Smart operating, not radios, wins.
In other topics, like K7ZOV, I frankly prefer the Elecraft “death-by-options” approach. I probably wouldn’t have bought a K3 at the price point where it’s configured the same as a TS-590S (about $500 above the base K3). Why? Because I’d rather have 2 meters than the antenna tuner.