Haven't owned many rigs but so far my Yaseu 950 is the best cw rig I have ever used.It has two key jacks which lets me switch paddles , narrow filters etc etc.It does not cost as much as other radios which was a factor. You have to go into the menu to change the power level which is not so bad since I seldom run qrp, other than that once its set up your done, just use it. i really like this radio.
If you are considering a K2 vs a K3 here are some things to think about.
Originally Posted by VR2WAR
Keep in mind the K2 is about a 14 year old design, with improvements along the way. The K3 is up to date.
With a K2 you need plug in accessory boards for many things that are included on a K3 - DSP, 160 meter coverage, audio filtering, clock.
I believe there are no AM or FM modes in the K2.
No 6 meters in the K2.
Selectivity is MUCH, MUCH better in the K3. Continuously variable down to 50 hz.
K3 has receiver equalization, 8 bands.
K3 has audio peak filter.
K3 has a high performance notch filter (manual and automatic).
K3 has the bility to do true 2 receiver diversity. If you are a serious cw operator this is a tremendous tool to have available.
Tremendous noise blanker performance. See my video on youtube.
K3 AGC - you can adjust decay time, hold time, threshold, slope.
K3 MACROS- with Macros you can set up a large number of commands to be executed by pushing one button. Ex: set mode to cw, set power to 5 watts, go to 14060, turn on the attenuator and narrow the bandwidth to 100 hz, and lower the monitor level for headphones.
To my knowledge, I could be wrong, no other rig made can do this.
K3 CW waveform is ALMOST PERFECT, it is developed in software not hardware.
I own a K3 and had a K2 for one month. I would give 10 votes for a K3, and two votes for a K2. That would be if you want a lighter, smaller rig for travel. Also battery consumption is about 1/4 in the K2. But performance? No way. Elecraft spent a lot of effort to make the K3 a great cw rig. CW is not an afterthought at Elecraft.
Forgot another thing. K3 has "audio effects" mode. You can set it to a few different modes, where you get delay of one output wrt the other. In your headphones the cw is supposed to be easier to copy under some conditions.
All the features I listed above, except for dual receivers are included in the base, 10 watt, K3.
I think the K2 is really appealing as a CW rig. Of course, it can also accommodate SSB, but for the CW purist it is nice having a CW-only rig. It is also one of my favorite looking rigs, along with the Drakes. They have similar color schemes, BTW...
Originally Posted by VR2WAR
The K3 does have some important CW advantages over the K2: the NR/NB works wonders with CW signals (though SSB guys don't seem as enthusiastic about it). The K2's NR is very basic; it works only on light-dimmer type noise as far as I can tell. The K3 NR quiets most everything and the CW signals just come out of nowhere; almost spooky!
Also, the K3 has an APF (audio peaking filter, a more recent recent feature, implemented in software) that can work like magic on some weak CW signals
Another thing: the K3 has a QRQ mode that can do full QSK at 50wpm+ speeds. If QRQ is important to you you'd probably want to choose the K3 over the K2 (or most other rigs).
I don't know about the K2 sounding cleaner than the K3. Perhaps "warmer", but it is a pretty subjective judgement. You have a lot of leeway to tailor the K3 audio with adjustable AGC parameters (threshold, slope, decay, etc.) and the 8-band RX equalizer. Some have complained that the K3 is harder to listen to for an extended time; or at least with the earlier K3 models. It never bothered me. But there have been hardware improvements in the audio circuits since the earliest models.
Some people make the mistake with the k3 of cranking up the RF gain to max. You really need to back it off and, on the lower bands, even select the attenuator. Preamp and full rf gain is not the way to go. Keep this in mind if you get a chance to try one out.
One more thing: the K3 has a binaural mode setting (using stereo headphones or speakers), an audio effect that appears to separate cw signals spatially. You'd probably have to try it to know if it is useful or not. But it is another way to tailor the sound.
Used 100 watt K2's are showing up all over the place for less than $1000 these days. I have been using mine for close to 6 years and I use it for CW about 90% of the time, and once in a great while I'll run some PSK31 on it. I'm virtually never on SSB. My K2 receiver is the best CW receiver I think I have ever used. I have never regretted buying this radio.