Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elecraft KX2 on a SOTA summit

I was fortunate enough to use a KX2 on a couple of SOTA activations with SOTA friend Steve, WG0AT.

I believe this is another home run by Elecraft. The radio is easy to use, the tuner tuned my End Fed from 80 to 10 meters, the radio is light weight, easy to use and compact. It is not much bigger than a KX1.

I used it a lot on PSK31, CW and SSB. I used the internal mic and the external Elecraft mic. The specs including price of the radio can be seen at the Elecraft Web site.

KX3, KX1 and the KX2

WG0AT running a pileup on SSB with the KX2

Light weight
Built in tuner
Easy to use
As with all Elecraft Radios great QSK
Small size
Internal Battery with long life


Does this replace the KX3? In a word, no. If I did not have a K3 the KX3 would be my main station. It is that good and fun to take portable. I can see the KX3 in our RV or beach house/cabin in the future.

I do not have a KX3 but the XYL lets me use hers on joint SOTA activations. She is also kind enough to let me pack it. Since Lynn and I plan to do more 14ers this summer this will be a welcome addition. It takes up less space than a water bottle and is pretty much self contained. Add antenna, plug in paddles/mic and your good to go. My next project is to research a small mic for it.

KX1 vs KX2 for size comparison (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on SSB/KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ running a CW pileup on the KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on the trail (photo by wG0AT)

Thought I would include this assessment between the LD-11 and KX2/KX3:

Not my words but I agree with the facts as stated.

- LD-11 has over twice the KX3's or KX2's current drain in RX mode
- it has no internal ATU- no internal battery
- no RTTY/PSK/CW decode/encode- no attached keyed paddle
- uses relay keying for CW (very noisy!); KX3/KX2: PIN-diode, silent
- very small LCD with a tiny "panadapter" function (very low-grade compared to the PX3)
- only 2 knobs (5 on the KX3, 4 on the KX2)
- only ~12 switch functions (40+ on the KX3, 24+ on the KX2)
- very small, non-weighted tuning knob (KX3 has a weighted knob w/optical encoder)
- much lower power output (5-8 W; KX3 goes to 15 W on most bands, KX2 goes to 10 W)
- no integrated 100-W amp option- poor RX and TX performance (if it's "based on the LD-5" as they claim; the LD-5 did very poorly in its QST review; check their keying problems described by the ARRL)
- no dual watch or stereo audio- no user-programmable functions
- can't be used HT-style (/PM with quick-disconnect ground wire in the case of the KX2)
- easy to accidentally turn power on in pack
- not compatible with popular PC remote control/logging apps
- no extended temperature compensation (they're stuck with +/- 2.5 ppm; we can provide +/- 0.2 ppm)
- minimum supply voltage of 10.5 V (KX3/KX2 can go down to 8 V)
- no real-time clock (optional on both KX3 and KX2)


  1. I am really looking forward to the KX2. The KX3 is just a tad too big.

  2. As a heavy backpacker I agree that the KX3 was a bit to large... I'd love to try a KX3 out for a trip or two.

  3. Elecraft would have to do this to me! Looks amazing...maybe one day. The base price is good but I would want all the bells and whistles. Thanks for sharing Frank.

    1. Matt, I have had every radio that Elecraft has made. They do this to me every time LOL. Thanks for reading Matt. 73

  4. >Does this replace the KX3? In a word, no. If I did not have a K3 the KX3 would be my main station. It is that good and fun to take portable. I can see the KX3 in our RV or beach house/cabin in the future.<

    What in specific would you lose by moving from the KX3 to the KX2? What would you miss?

    Bill KQ4YA

    1. Bill, I think the specs are now published on the Elecraft web site so you can the see the specific differences like no 160, 6 or 2 meter bands on the KX2. For me, the KX2 does not replace the KX3. I will have both. You needs are most likely different than mine. 73 and thanks for reading my blog. Frank K0JQZ

  5. Thanks Frank, I had seen those differences but I assumed - incorrectly - that there must have been some other factors when you said that it wouldn't serve as a replacement for the KX3 for you. I appreciate the response and have enjoyed seeing your website.

    I am just back from a month long trip to Europe - my KX3 crapped out on the second day. (It could happen with any radio, so that's not a mark against it, but it was sure disappointing considering all the hassle of going through multiple security points as well as carting along a lot of accessories other than the radio. Just my luck). Bill KQ4YA

    1. Oh OK Bill, I think I did not understand the question that well. First of all, sorry to hear about your KX3 I hope you or Elecraft repair it soon.

      My personal reason that the KX2 will not replace the KX3 is because the KX3 is my wife's radio. She is KC0YQF and has been using it for most all of her SOTA activations. She has become rather fond of it. We are also looking for a cabin out West and if we find what we want the KX3 will reside there. I should say that I have the PX3 as well as the P3 for the K3 and really enjoy having a visual representation of the spectrum while operating. I thought about selling some of my Steve Weber designed radios but still enjoy them so I will hang on to a few of them. They are smaller than the KX2 without many of the features. Thanks for the clarification Bill, 73, Frank K0JQZ

      PS, I will have a video in the next few weeks that will show a situation that the KX3 / PX3 would be a better choice over the KX2.

  6. >PS, I will have a video in the next few weeks that will show a situation that the KX3 / PX3 would be a better choice over the KX2.<

    I've bookmarked this page so I'll get to see that - I look forward to it. I won't be picking up a KX2, it's too similar to my KX3 for that to make sense (for me), but I sure see the beauty of the thing. I do wonder if - since I do think the two are awfully similar - the introduction was a good marketing idea. Lets assume there are x number of people who want to buy a radio like that from Elecraft. My guess is that most will pick one of the two radios and few will buy both. That's not criticism of Elecraft, just a thought. I spent a lot of time working in marketing and at advertising agencies and it seems a logical worry. The company would be adding cost by manufacturing the two different radios but perhaps not increase revenues by a large factor. I'll hope I'm wrong and also readily concede that Elecraft will know a heck of a lot more about its market than I do.

    By the way, my KX3 arrived at Elecraft Friday - I think their backlog is about 2 weeks - so won't be long before I get it back.

  7. Now that you have had a few months to bake this in further, would you please comment on the durability? I know your Colorado mountains are just as rocky as the Sierra, and I tend to be fairly hard on gear (constantly doing bad things to my LD-5). I'm not talking about tossing it off the side of the hill or anything. Do you feel you have needed to treat this like walking on egg shells, or as long as you are not tossing it around, and it stays protected inside your backpack it'll handle most normal abuse and give you a few years? Also you say it tuned up your EndFedz easily for all frequencies. IF you have a different antenna for home use b/c I would use this at my QTH as well as backcountry use, does it tend to have problems tuning a second or third antenna? (another complaint about my LD5). Thanks for the review!

    1. Jamie, the KX2 is in the small case offered by Elecraft and I just throw it in the backpack. I have dropped it a few times but not hard enough to dent the case. It is scratched up pretty good. I too am pretty rough on gear.

      I was unaware that the LD5 had a tuner but the KX2 tuner seems to work well on my portable antennas and also works well with my Terminated Dipole and ground mounted Vertical at home. I am confident that it will tune anything an Elecraft T1 will tune since they are the same basic tuner. I mostly operate CW so I need QSK (LD5 does not offer this) and my XYL uses SSB so it gets a good workout on those two modes. I have on occasion used the PSK31 function and have no complaints about its performance.

      Thanks for reading and 73