K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities
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K3WWP - Reviews of QRP Rigs

This review of the KX3 transceiver was written by John H. Shannon, K3WWP.

Quite frankly, if you are serious about QRP OPERATION, this is the rig you should have. The KX3, along with a companion panadapter such as the PX3 will make operating QRP the pleasure it should be. No fiddling with a rig that has tiny hard to use/see controls/displays that only operates one, or perhaps only up to 4 bands. This rig covers them ALL from 160 through 2 meters (2 requires an extra add-in board).

It is available in either semi-kit or assembled form. The semi-kit does not require any soldering. It's just a matter of assembling some parts and some printed circuit boards. It's a snap and only takes a couple hours if done very carefully. There is about a $100 dollar savings with the kit.

Perhaps one of the greatest features is the upgradable firmware. When features are added or changed on the KX3, a simple Internet driven download updates your rig. No need to buy a new rig every so often. All you need is an Internet connection and the easy to install and use KX3 Utility program.

The display tells you everything you really need to know at a glance. Just to mention a couple things you won't find on other rigs unless you use a full power big rig that is cut back to 5 watts for QRP use. You can see at a glance the frequency for both VFOs or a readout of the RIT/XIT frequency. When you set the speed of the built-in keyer, the speed replaces the VFO B readout while setting. The display clearly shows all the settings and options of the extensive menu system when it is in menu mode.

Split frequency operation is second nature once you use it a couple times. An added perk is the ability to split the headphones so for example, you can hear the DX station (VFO A) in your left ear and the pileup (VFO B)in your right ear. That enables you to hear who the DX is working and when you do, VFO B is set to call on that frequency when it is your turn.

Have trouble zero beating a station? The KX3 has a visual zero beat indicator to assist you. In fact it will zero beat a station automatically with the push of a button.

A whole book could be written about the KX3 and its features. In fact the operating manual is such a book written in the easy to understand Elecraft style of manuals. I'm not going to duplicate that book here, but I do want to mention a few more features.

The (optional) built in antenna tuner can match virtually anything made of metal (within reason) on any band, and once set it remembers the settings for that band/antenna combination and immediately goes to those settings as you tune. The memories remember not just a band, but different segments in the band to make up for the differences in impedance as a band is tuned.

The (optional) roofing filters along with the built in DSP filtering which goes down to a 50 Hz passband make splitting crowded signals almost ridiculously easy. You can separate strong signals within only a few 10s of Hz of each other. If the signals are clean as they should be, you don't even know the adjacent signal is there. Need to narrow things even a bit more to pick out the audio on a weak signal? There's an APF or Audio Peaking Filter that does just that. It narrows the audio pass band to only several Hz.

There is a built in keyer that sends perfect CW with an external paddle or a (optional) little paddle that plugs directly into the rig. The keyer has several easily programmable memories with an option to repeat the message such as with a CQ message.

The noise reduction and/or noise blanker are a great help in a noisy location. They are not perfect (I've never seen any that were), and there is one minor annoyance. The blanker can cause a very strong signal to splatter just a bit. That may be the only negative thing I can find after using the rig since October 2012.

The PX3 panadapter I mentioned adds to the ease of operation by allowing you to immediately see what is on a large segment of the CW section of a band (or the whole band depending on the settings), allowing you to quickly bring a signal into the passband of the KX3 to see who it is. No wasting time tuning an empty band listening for signals. I'd love to know how many hours I've saved since using the PX3/KX3 combo. I'm sure my streak of working DX each and every day for 1,980 days which ended on 8/1/2018 would not have been possible without the KX3/PX3 combo. Or it would have taken MUCH more air time otherwise.

If your main interest in QRP is operating (and many have other interests such as homebrewing, etc.), and you want to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, the KX3 is for YOU. A bit pricey, but still less than buying a big rig and setting it to 5 watts. Oh, the KX3 goes up to 10 watts (I believe - I've never tried it above 5 watts) and down to 100 mW in 0.1 W steps.

I have no idea how it works with phone or other digital modes since as most of you know, I only operate Morse Code, and always will. If your Morse copying is not up to par, the rig will even decode it for you. I have an excellent decoder between my ears so I don't need that feature. I have tried it just to see how it works and it really needs a fairly strong signal without QSB for good copy. There is one time I might use it. That's when I have a non-ham visitor in the shack who wants to copy what I'm sending or what I'm hearing.

Well, I said I wasn't going to write a book, but I'm getting close because I am so enthusiastic about this little rig. Yes, little.., Not only is it a great home rig, but a great portable rig as well in a 3.4 x 7.4 x 1.7 inch package. I've gotten at least 4 hours of portable time in a contest that involved a lot of transmitting using a 7Ah gel cell.

If you don't have a KX3, and get a chance to use a friend's, you'll definitely want to get one of your own, I'm sure.

When you are through reading this review, close this window to return to the QRP Rigs index - or - click here to go to my home page if you came here from elsewhere.

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