Thoughts on Elecraft KX2 Transceiver for SOTA

After some time getting used to operating the new Elecraft KX2, it was time to take it out on a SOTA activation.   With a break in the weather, Federation Range, VK3/VN-029 looked like a good choice as it qualifies for the current winter bonus.  It is also a nice walk of around 9 km return from the Lake Mountain car park.

Trying to keep things light, the only antenna taken was the 40/20/10 metre trapped/loaded End Fed Half Wave which was supported by a 7 metre squid pole (of course, the usual medical pack, emergency shelter and water were packed as well).  Two sets of home made,  3 cell 18650 packs came along for power, one internal and the other as a backup.  The radio, spare battery pack and microphone fit pretty well in the Action Cam case from Target.

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Once on air, the KX2 is very easy to operate with a big display, it’s nice to see the ALC, SWR, RF power out and S meter all at the same time without switching functions.  The battery capacity display is a real help for pacing the activation if you are short on power.  One thing that has always annoyed me about activating is getting the UTC time each time you put an entry in the log, the clock on the radio makes this easier.  I guess one solution is VK3ZPF’s portalog, which have used a couple of times.  Other solutions for UTC in the past have been GPS Navigator display, mini LCD clock  and mobile phone.

Reported audio was good and a comment was made that it sounded much like previous activations with the FT-817.  The microphone is a bit disappointing as mentioned here. I had heard that the internal speaker of the KX2 distorts at lowish volumes, but found it fine during the activation.  The KX2 has a few little gaps an a few holes in the case, I might have to make a few bungs or covers for these.  I can see ants filling up the radio (Mt. Selma or Mt. Reynard) or moisture splashing in while operating.  The FT-817 is better in this regard, despite having Mt. Reynard ants exiting for days later after an activation.

On the weight side of it, the KX2 with internal battery weighs 535 grams.  The FT-817 with internal battery weighs 1170 grams.  The overall physical volume of the KX2 is a bit less as well.

After the activation and a following short activation at Mt. Gordon, the battery capacity used was 0.6 Amp Hour (of a 2.2 Amp Hour pack).

Despite the FT-817 and KX2 being very different radios, here are some noted pros and cons of each radio:

FT817 Pros:

  • Cheaper.
  • 160m, 6m, 2m and 70cm bands.
  • Pretty durable, only problem after 4 years of SOTA was the power button rubber.
  • Good TX audio.
  • Two antenna sockets. (useful for two bands)
  • Nice mechanical construction.
  • Versatile radio.
  • Proven radio.

FT817 Cons:

  • High receive current consumption.
  • Heavier.
  • Small display is hard to read.
  • Small knobs and buttons.
  • Getting quite old now but holds up well.

KX2 Pros:

  • Low receive current consumption.
  • 10 Watts output.
  • Easy to read display.
  • Larger controls widely spread out.
  • Rich software features such as filters, voice memories.
  • Battery amp hour + current display, clock.
  • Metering in general
  • Nice form factor.
  • Lightweight.
  • Can use hand held with internal mic and whip antenna.
  • Good support for software updates and utilities on the Elecraft website.

KX2 Cons:

  • Price. (at least in Australia)
  • Gaps in mechanics.
  • Microphone a bit sup par in mechanics for price. (gaps in plastics, wobbly pressel)

The KX2 is certainly going to get some use in future SOTA activations!

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Hut ruins at Federation Range

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2 Responses to Thoughts on Elecraft KX2 Transceiver for SOTA

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    Thanks for the comparison Glenn. And i note the snow is well and truly gone on Lake Mountain. Do you have any comments on the comparative performance and general ‘sound’ of the KX2 receiver c.f. the Yaesu? I expect they have similar sensitivities, perhaps the KX2 software defined filters makes a difference. If you had to listen to either for a long period, which would you choose?

    • vk3yy says:

      No snow whatsoever on Lake Mountain now, I recall there was some snow in October last year. The KX2 does sound quieter than the ‘817 but would need to do a bench test. I experimented with the noise reduction quite a bit although for the noise at my home, it didn’t make much difference. I found the KX2 nice to listen through earphones compared with the harsher sound of the ‘817 through phones.

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