[CQ-Contest] If you were buying a new contest radio today...

Bill Tippett btippett at alum.mit.edu
Thu May 17 10:21:55 EDT 2007


 >which one would you buy?

(FYI my previous rigs - TS-930S, FT-1000MP, Orion)

         I would choose the Elecraft K3 over any
existing rig, including Orion II, FT-2000 and IC-7700.

 >What makes it better than its competitors?

         #1 - Value.  The beauty of the K3 is that it can
be configured very economically depending on what your
needs are.  Elecraft has cleverly configured the K3 to
be modular and appeal to many different users:

1.  Budget minded DXers who need an exceptional RX.
Include the basic K3, no ATU, KXV3 (for RX antenna
input) plus 500 Hz filter for $2149 total.  CW filter
depends on IMD/BDR measurements but most likely the
500 Hz 5-pole will be entirely sufficient based on my
experience with Orion.  Build one yourself for $1907.
(I omitted the ATU because I never use one...add $259
kit or $289 assembled if you need it).

2.  Budget minded contesters who need TWO for SO2R.
Twice the above for $4298 assembled or $3814 kitted.
Nothing on the market will be able to touch these
prices for 2 top-performing SO2R rigs.

3.  Those who need a truly high performance Sub RX
for diversity use or under crowded contest conditions.
K3 + Sub RX + KXV3 + two 500 Hz filters for $2825
assembled or $2525 kitted.  IMHO this combination
cannot be duplicated by any competitive rig due
to the quality of *both* K3 receivers (pending full
IMD/BDR measurements of course).

4.  Those who want a truly high performance
panadapter/bandscope using the K3's IF output to
an outboard SDR (e.g. Softrock 40, Clifton Laboratories
Z90/91 Panadapter, or eventually an Elecraft version).
This gets tricky to price but it's nowhere near the
$10k range of a full blown IC-7800 or FTDX9000.  IMHO
a K3 plus bandscope using free SDR software will blow
the socks off either the 9000 or 7800 (just like the
SDR-1000 does).

         #2 - Performance.  The K3's front-end is
basically an RF clone of Orion, with down-conversion
to a 1st IF of 8.2 MHz (Orion's is 9 MHz) and then a
wide range of narrow roofing filters (down to 200 Hz).
This should put the K3 ahead of all non-SDR rigs in
IMD performance, plus Elecraft has apparently done
their homework on LO phase noise.  We don't have
full performance numbers yet but here's a sample of
what to expect (Elecraft's comments below):

1.  N6KR: "But just to give you a hint:  a couple of days ago Eric measured a
blocking dynamic range of 143 dB, and it remained 143 dB at 20 kHz, 5
kHz, and 2 kHz.

To put this into perspective, the K2, IC-7800, Orion II, and FTDX9000
all have a blocking dynamic range of -133 to -135.

We can't directly extrapolate to IMDDR3, but suffice to say it will be

2.  WA6HHQ: "As an example, we're seeing third order IMD D.R. numbers on
20M at 20 kHz spacings in excess of 104 dB and 97 dB at 5 kHz with the
400 Hz filter ahead of the DSP.  These numbers are much worse if you do
not use a narrow crystal filter (400 Hz used for this test) ahead of the
DSP.  (de W4ZV - To put this into perspective Orion II has ~95 dB IMD
at 5 kHz spacing).

         #3 - Ergonomics.  I expect the K3 will be very
user friendly based on my experience with my K2.  I never
cease to be impressed by its excellent ergonomics every
time I use it.  I also feel we will discover that Elecraft
will set a new standard of responsiveness to user feedback,
and their firmware guy (Lyle KK7P) is *extremely* competent.

         Time will tell but I believe Elecraft has completely
redefined the competitive landscape with the K3 if it comes
anywhere close to fulfilling its promises.

                                 73,  Bill  W4ZV

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