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K4 & KPA1500

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KY3W, Oct 30, 2019.

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  1. KV6O

    KV6O Ham Member QRZ Page

    I bought my K3 in 2009. At the time it was a top performing rig besting the Big Three (in both RX and TX performance) and costing less money - they way I configured it. I have the 100W PA with 4, 8-pole roofing filters, along with the IF output board, voice keyer, and maybe something else. No second receiver, autotuner, 2M, etc. It's the best rig I have used on CW. Excellent receive, PIN diode keying, just built for that mode.

    10 years later, I have been able to upgrade the synth, add a P3 and I still have a top performing rig, even by today's standards. Not a bad return on my investment. It's still the newest rig I own.

    While 10 years ago, the K3 has huge bang for the buck, the market is a lot tighter today. The new K4 looks interesting, but so does the Yaesu 101D and the Kenwood 890S. 10 years ago, the big 3 were delivering mega buck rigs with mediocre performance. Today, it's a different story.

    IF I was in the market for a new rig, the choice would be a lot harder than it was 10 years ago. But a major factor that weighs in Elecraft's favor is thier long term support and upgradability. The synth upgrade for my 8 year old K3 was about $200... something like that isn't even available with the big 3. The Elecraft rigs have always been customizable, and being able to buy what you want without the junk you don't need is a plus.

    I place a lot of value on this support. It's enabled me to keep my 10 year old rig a top performer as the technology has changed. I strongly suspect that 5-8 years from now, you'll be able to go to Elecraft (or a 3rd party) and buy parts and upgrades for the K4. I kinda doubt the same is true with the current Yaesu or Kenwood radios - they will have a new radio to sell you.

    Sometimes, not introducing a new rig every year is a plus for us consumers. :)

    For those who have to have the latest and greatest on their desk, none of this really matters. But it does to me.
    WW2PT, N0TZU, KY3W and 1 other person like this.
  2. KY3W

    KY3W Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was actually referring to your comment about "the same slow, clunky display as the P3". I hope Wayne is OK with me copying this to this forum without his permission:

    David Stout wrote:

    I would like to see a comparison of the P3 and K4 in full screen mode. Is the K4 scope faster, higher res?

    Hi David,

    The K4's LCD has nearly 3x the area of the P3's, and 5x as many pixels. The resolution (pixels per inch) is about 30% greater. It's faster as well as brighter -- the K4 screen was easily readable in diffuse daylight during Field Day, while some other rigs' displays were not.

    The K4's panadapter area using the standard display format is 25% greater than the P3's. This doesn't include the per-VFO "mini-pan" displays that overlay the S-meters, when desired, for fine tuning of signals.

    Thanks to the much larger LCD, variations on the panadapter could be created that are much larger than this, at the expense of some per-receiver icons and the S-meters. So far we haven't felt the need, partly because the K4 includes an HDMI output that can drive an external monitor of any required size. This external monitor can be configured to display just the panadapter, with independent settings from the panadapter on the LCD.

    Beyond this the K4 display provides:

    - dual-pan mode (separate panadapters for main/A and sub/B)

    - single or dual text decode windows

    - far more digital signal processing horsepower (in aggregate,
    roughly an order of magnitude greater than the K3S+P3)

    - built-in IQ data streaming for use with computer applications

    - a configurable multi-band mode to allow a quick check of activity
    on your favorite bands

    - more flexibility in terms of display functions

    - overlays for various functions (e.g.: DX call station list,
    help information on all controls, RX/TX graphic EQ, alphanumeric
    keyboard for message/macro/menu entry, etc.);

    - virtually unlimited code space for future expansion; examples
    might include high-performance data decoders, AZ/EL display,
    custom station controls, image display, etc.

    In short, the K4's display is much larger and more versatile, providing the kind of control visibility and convenience that's only possible by integrating the display into the transceiver itself.

    Oh, and it's really fun to use :)


    Doesn't sound or look like the same old slow, clunky display to me.


    Merely an assumption. Could be Kenwood or Yaesu, doesn't really matter. The point is I don't think Elecraft is really any more or that much more expensive than the Jap rigs. One of the biggest things I like about Elecraft is they actually listen to their customers as to what they want on the rig as far as features. Something you won't find from a Japanese maker. You can also call Elecraft and talk to a knowledgeable person when you're having a problem. Also something you won't get from Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood.

    One final comment. Comparing a 590 to a K3 is somewhat clouded. The 590 is both an up conversion as well as a down conversion depending on band. From a performance perspective, the 590 is superior on the down conversion bands to the up conversion bands whereas the K3 is more equal on all bands. So if you're looking for contest performance on say 15 or 10, the K3 is the better choice. I've operated both, I don't think the 590 is in the same league as the K3 especially on CW. However, dollar for dollar the 590SG would be a tough act to follow.
  3. AF2Z

    AF2Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    One of the videos said it will be possible to upgrade the ADC in the K4. In five or six years that might mean a significant increase in dynamic range.
    KY3W and N0TZU like this.
  4. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    But if you check the video I linked earlier, it sure looks like it. Low update rate, low resolution, not much visual dynamic range... much like the P3.
    Well, a beginner K3S (their word) starts at ~$3100. Depending on how you sort the columns in a technical evaluation match up, the TS-590SG is arguably a more capable radio, and it is currently selling for $1250. And the latter includes a 500Hz roofing filter that the former does not.

    This is the problem with much of our hobby these days. People just aren't willing (or able?) to do the simple quantitative comparisons to compare equipment and designs. You "don't think" the Elecraft is more expensive? A quick web search shows otherwise. And yet you say that I'm the biased one.
    If you have tried that, and that was your experience, I'm glad it worked for you. It took me close to two years to convince them that the P3 had a critical and crippling flaw in the CAT port code. After all those months of trying to tell me that it was my fault, or the computer's fault, or the software's fault, or the serial converter's fault, or a cable flaw, they finally looked at the code, and sure enough, there was a bug. They repeatedly dismissed my detailed bug reports, even though listening to me would have made their product better. That's not "listening to their customers," as you say.
  5. KV6O

    KV6O Ham Member QRZ Page

    No doubt the 590SG represents one of the biggest "bang for your buck" values out there today. But if you're going to compare it to the K3S, the K3S has the option for a second receiver, 5 roofing filters (each), 2M, a pan adapter, etc., etc. If you don't want/need that stuff, for sure buy the 590GS! But if you want to expand/upgrade without having to do a forklift replacement, the K3S might represent a better value over the long term.

    Really though, perhaps a better "call out" would be to compare it to the Kenwood TS-890S. How do they justify that price when THEIR OWN RADIO scores better? OK, it's one measurement, but seriously, don't you think their flagship SHOULD score better?? I think Kenwood is more accountable to Kenwood than Elecraft!

    Bottom line, if I had $1250 to spend on a radio, it would be the 590SG. Not an IC-7300, that everyone seems to be gaga over. For a few hundred more, you get a vastly more capable receiver in challenging conditions. Kudos to Kenwood for delivering such high-end performance at such a low price. Competition is a good thing for the consumer!
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
    N0TZU likes this.
  6. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes I noted that as well and think it’s a great advantage.
  7. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    In terms of having a second receiver, that's true. The individual receiver isn't more capable, though, with only a few dB difference between them, and the SG actually outscoring the K3S in some of them. They are definitely in the same performance class, dB to dB.

    The K3(S) gene line certainly has more extensibility than the SG. The K3's back-panel RF I/O board was fantastic. I used it extensively before I sold all my black boxes to put together a station that didn't give me so much hassle. That said, if I want an SO2R setup, I can still stack a pair of SGs for less money (SO2R box included) than a K3S. So like I was saying much earlier in the thread, the performance value just isn't there with e-craft. That certainly won't dissuade anybody from buying black boxes, and that's fine. Everyone has their preferences. :)
  8. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    It’s a bit like vehicles. There something for everyone’s taste and budget.

    Some people buy intending to keep for a long while, so long term reliability, service, parts, and accessory availability are very important. Others like to have a new vehicles every two or three years and don’t really care about the longer term.

    The K3 isn’t perfect, and when that happens the support I’ve gotten has been great, though I’ve needed very little.

    Recently of the four small multifunction front panel encoders on my K3 has gotten a bit unreliable so I emailed Elecraft about buying four to replace the whole group at once since I would need to take the panel apart anyway. Within one day they replied with the part number and cost for four and a link to a web page for exactly that order. I bought immediately, at a total cost with shipping of $32, and received them a few days later.
    KY3W likes this.
  9. K1VSK

    K1VSK Ham Member QRZ Page

    For a minute there, I thought I was reading about your TV.
  10. KY3W

    KY3W Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've spoke with several guys on the air that had Elecraft product issues and they all said their experience was positive with tech support. My friend Mike built a K3 kit and had an issue. The man he spoke with stayed with him on the phone for 2 hours to resolve the issue. Then sent him a new part to replace, which fixed the problem. I am sorry you had a bad experience. The point I'm making is at least with Elecraft there is someone to talk to at all. My experience with Icom was put it in a box and ship it to us. We don't do phone calls. Unlike 30 years ago, I could call Icom and did when I had problems with my 745 and 751A. They often sent me parts for free. That tech support has completely stopped.

    The K4 pan adapter looks better than my 7600. I never had a problem using the P3. I guess I was so focused on the signals I never gave a thought as to how poor the display looked because the display was doing what I want it to, unlike the 7600's. Of course, I'm a contester. The pan adapter is a tool for me not a painting on the wall when I'm rag chewing.

    Comparing a 590 to a K3 from a monetary perspective is pointless. The K3 simply has more features. Price is a concern for all of us but it's far from the only thing I look at. Performance and features is why I buy a rig. The 590SG and 7300 would be unacceptable for my type of operating. It wouldn't matter if they were $500, I still wouldn't buy one because they would sit on a shelf.

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