Friday, June 29, 2012

Elecraft KX3 first contact

The Elecraft KX3 serial number 371 arrived this morning. First contact was with Patrick, VK2PN, who immediately drove over, delivered a congratulatory QSL card and snapped this fine picture:

Before giving some impressions of the device, I want to moan a bit about the process of importing such a gadget in to Australia. When Gerry Harvey says that local retailers are threatened by online shopping he fails to realise what a fine job our Customs department is doing in putting people of importing goods of any value.

Once Elecraft shipped my KX3 it was here in three days, it took another 14 days to make it through Customs. Here's the trail:

Shipment Activity        Location                               Date & Time
Delivered                AUSTRALIA                              06/29/12  8:19am

Customs clearance        AUSTRALIA                              06/28/12  1:39pm
processing complete

Customs Clearance        AUSTRALIA                              06/18/12  6:41am

Customs Clearance        AUSTRALIA                              06/15/12  4:51pm

Processed Through Sort   AUSTRALIA                              06/15/12  2:51pm

Processed Through Sort   ISC SAN FRANCISCO (USPS)               06/13/12  4:43pm

Arrived at Sort          ISC SAN FRANCISCO (USPS)               06/13/12  4:40pm

Electronic Shipping                                             06/12/12
Info Received

Processed through USPS   SAN JOSE CA 95101                      06/12/12  6:11pm
Sort Facility

Processed through USPS   WATSONVILLE CA 95076                   06/12/12  4:53pm
Sort Facility

Shipment Accepted        WATSONVILLE CA 95076                   06/12/12  3:58pm

The box was accurately declared, there was no duty to pay (a little GST), and I had the correct classification. Surely there has to be a more efficient way to import an off-the-shelf product?

KX3 First Impressions

I've been looking forward to this day since May 2011. Thirteen months. I'm not disappointed. Very compact, it looks like the remote head to a larger transceiver. A few early comments, and bear in mind that I've never owned an Elecraft device before and have only had this for a few hours:

  • The knurled knob arrangement which tightens the fold out feet is instantly annoying. Opening one side loosens the knob, the other side tightens its knob. The manual has special warnings about this part and surely it can be improved in the future.
  • Mine came with rather scrambled initial settings, every band seemed different, it didn't know it had roofing filters, audio was set to stereo "effect", and so on. Took me a while to get things sorted out.
  • Works great with a Mac, the KX3 Utility checked firmware version and works nicely with PSK31 with just the included cable.
  • I love the receive audio, really quiet, wonderful filter narrowing effect. Great to have a "normal" long-press button to get back to a starting point. Looking forward to the noise reduction which is coming in a future update.
  • The built-in speaker and audio section is under-powered. Great for headphones but in a base station it is really improved by an external amplified speaker.
  • Patrick reported that my transmit audio was good and even sent a spectrogram from his K3 panadapter to show that I need to reduce the bass a little.

This is a very feature rich radio and it's going to take a while to get the hang of it. So far so good.

Update - I busted it

I found a cable from a video camera that looked like it might be handy - four conductors and it was wired out to RCA plugs. I pushed it in to the mic jack and it turned out to be too long and damaged the socket!

It kind of worked if I held the elecraft mic plug in just the right position - but it was not good.

So, I opened up the kx3 hoping to do some light bending, but it's a sealed socket. I raced down to Jaycar but 4 conductor sockets are not available off the shelf.

So now I've replaced it with a standard 3.5mm stereo socket with tip wired to the mic, the up/down and ptt are currently unconnected. There's a transmit button on the rig so it's not a big issue.

The good thing about this arrangement is that I can now use a standard PC headset right into the rig although the mic gain is rather low. I had to try a second headset as the first one didn't have enough output.

My kx3 has now been modified, perhaps it's a good step to take as I won't hesitate to do more to it in the future. Perhaps it's time to start a KX3 modifications page?

Update 2 - more contacts

Called CQ on 40m and got an immediate response. I've had several contacts now including assistance from Mal, VK2BMS, to get the transmit equalisation set up nicely to match my PC headset mic. (I cut the lowest frequency 10dB to get rid of some close mic boom).

So far the audio reports have been excellent and even running 5W has resulted in good contacts over hundreds of kilometres.

I love this radio. It's the best receiver I have and after only a few days I'm feeling very comfortable with the features and controls.

Installed the bleeding edge software updates: DSP 092 and MCU 106. All seems good. The most noticeable improvement is the action of the AGC which is much smoother. I understand this update will go live on Monday. The great thing about a software defined radio is that we get upgrades purely in software in the months ahead (there's a few features that come up as not available that I'm looking forward to including voice record and noise reduction).

1 comment:

mike said...

best i (AG6MH) havw done with my KX3 was QSO with JA1LNZ running 10 watts - a 5396.7 mi (8685.2 km)contact =]