[RFI] K3 and KX3 User Interface

Jim Brown jim at audiosystemsgroup.com
Sat Feb 22 01:54:50 EST 2014

On 2/21/2014 5:30 PM, wa3afs at nycap.rr.com wrote:
> I do find the K3 and KX3 a little daunting when it
> comes to finding something in the menus.

I'm a real OT, got started in 1955, and I've used a bunch of radios. 
I've owned and used radios like the FT100D, IC7000, and IC746 where you 
need to go deep into menus to do ordinary things. The Elecraft radios 
are not like that. Everything you need for day to day operation is on 
the front panel. There are knobs to set the IF bandwidth, to shift the 
IF, set the RF and AF gains, turn the preamp and attenuator on and off, 
set mic gain, tune RIT and XIT, tune the 2nd VFO, set the power out, mic 
gain, keying speed, and so on. If you're in the menus with these radios 
to do operational things, you haven't RTRM.

Menus in Elecraft radios are used almost entirely for configuration and 
setup -- do you want to use a mic on the front panel or at the rear 
panel, telling the radio what roofing filters are installed, whether it 
has a tuner or power amp installed, what the speed is for the serial 
port, and so on. You also need a top level menu to set VOX sensitivity. 
Once you've set the radio to work the way you want it to, everything you 
need is on the front panel.

RTFM is a simple solution, and it's a decent manual. I'm a VERY active 
contester and DXer, and I can go for a month without touching a menu 
unless I change my setup.

Is the user interface a bit different from the JA radios?  Sure -- the 
JA radios are different from each other, and Ten Tec is different from 
all of them. But Elecraft's differences have excellent human 
engineering, are geared to the fact that the box is smaller, so there 
are fewer knobs on a smaller front panel, so fewer knobs must do more, 
and most knobs (and buttons) have multiple functions depending on 
whether you give them a short push or a long push, and on what mode 
you're in. And nearly all those functions are silk-screened onto the 
front panel!

For example, one knob is Mic Gain in SSB mode and CW keying speed in CW 
mode. Another sets output power, compression in SSB mode, and monitor 
volume (CW sidetone), and you push the knob to cycle between those 

Right after the K3 went into production, it went on the VP6DX trip to a 
remote island, and the trip leader, K3NA, spent 16 minutes talking 
through the radio with the operators. With only that short training, all 
of them found radios they had never seen before very easy to operate.

Another advantage of these radios for ARES is that they are very stingy 
about using power -- the lead designer (and owner) N6KR, got started 
designing backpacking radios -- so they are the ideal radio to have 
around when we need to get a lot of operating hours on batteries.

73, Jim K9YC

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