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Author Topic: Elecraft K1 Redux.  (Read 4712 times)

gil

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Elecraft K1 Redux.
« on: September 19, 2014, 02:26:11 AM »
Hello,

What a terrible mistake I made when selling my Elecraft K1! It was one of my first builds and probably the best radio I have ever owned, aside from the K2. I do not miss the K2 much though, since I have since bought a KX3. Then a few weeks ago Elecraft stopped making the four-band module :( Now it was impossible for me to build another four-bander. I should have known better. Some pieces of gear are not replaceable; being it a radio, a knife, a favorite flashlight, whatever... I have sold many things I had to buy back later, some up to three times (Nikon F3). So, I had to get my K1 back. Not mine really, but one just like it. Actually I did find one with the ATU and backlightning; the later, I did not previously have. The bandwidth is 80kHz, versus 150kHz in the one I built, which made tuning a bit touchy.

Even though it can only be bought with a two-band module now, the K1 is still a great choice, here are its strong points:

  • One of the best receivers out there.
  • Great filtering.
  • 5 to 7W power (all one will ever need for global range).
  • Low 60mAh receive current draw.
  • Built-in speaker.
  • RIT
  • The ATU will tune a wet noodle.
  • It's fairly small and very light.
  • Built-in Keyer.
  • Message memories with repeat mode.
  • Built-in SWR meter.
  • Many options accessible by menus.
  • It looks awesome!

Now for the cons:

  • Price.
  • No short-wave receive.
  • It drifts quite a bit until warmed-up.
  • Not at all weatherproof.
  • Switching band modules is a pain.

I have read that the two-band module is actually more sensitive than the four-band one. As to the ATU, when I say it will tune a wet noodle, I am almost not exagerating! I once tuned a 25ft. length of RG-174 coax laying on my floor... Yep, that's right, with nothing plugged-in the other end! I had forgotten to plug it to my wall antenna outlet :o

I have no monetary interest in Elecraft. I just like their radios. The K1 is one of their best, no doubt, so it is one of the best, period. If anyone has doubts about getting one, don't, go right ahead. It won't remain available forever, and probably not for long. Get a 20/40m board with it, and you're all set. Absolutely do get the backlight option. Is the K1 worth the extra $100 they charge for it compared to the competition? Absolutely. The KX1 is great too, I would not hesitate either. Ask Chris or Ray about it!

I now have a KX3, K1, MTR and Rock-Mite. That's it, done, all the HF radios I could possibly ever need or want (right... ::) ). Surprisingly the KX3 comes third as far as preference. It is undoubtedly a better radio than all the others, but for some reason not as desirable to me. Maybe because I didn't build it... My K1 shares first place with the Weber MTR. I would sell the KX3 if it wasn't the only multi-mode radio I own and the only one capable of sending emails via Winlink.

I hope Elecraft keeps the K1 available, or updates it, though they pretty much told me it wasn't going to happen. When Elecraft retires it, the price of used ones will increase significantly...

Ya'll have a great week-end,

Gil :)

cockpitbob

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2014, 08:28:45 AM »
Gil, at least you have the discipline to let things go.  I have a little trouble with that, and my wife has a lot, and now our basement has over 200 boxes of "stuff".  In one 5 year period we moved 3 times and that's when you realize how your stuff owns you as much as you own it. 
Damn shame they don't offer the 4 band K1 anymore.
I have to ask.  Why not find a used 4 band K1?  Wouldn't really be "yours" if you didn't build it?  Too much like buying a used toothbrush?

KK0G

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2014, 10:48:26 AM »
I love my K2 and my KX1! Neither one will be leaving my possession anytime soon. I wouldn't mind building a K1 if for no other reason than to be able to say I've built and own the full Elecraft line up of kits (personally I don't consider the K3 and KX3 to be kits in the truest form, they're excellent rigs no doubt, but let's be honest, a couple of hours with a nut driver slapping pre-assembled boards into a chassis is not a "kit"), but I have no real desire to obtain one since for me it wouldn't fill any role that my K2 and KX1 already fill just as good if not better. But then again, I do enjoy building kits, and it is a very cool rig..................  8)
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

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gil

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2014, 12:28:29 PM »
There is definitely something about building your own stuff. That K1 I have now will always be a bitter-sweet thing... I am sure I will be explaining to people that, no, I didn't build it, but one just like it, sold it, etc. Or maybe I'll convince myself it is one and the same :o

Letting things go is fine, but not things you will buy back later! That is a waste of money. The key is to not buy too much stuff. All I own could fit in a van... At one point it could fit in the back of my car... Next year it will have to fit in a small sailboat! We are the slaves of our material possessions.

The KX3 and K3 are certainly not kits, I agree. Some Hams will say "I built that." No, you didn't! You assembled it. When I say I built a kit, I almost want to add "but I didn't design it." Though that isn't really necessary. After two years of electronics school in my late teens I should know how to design a simple CW transceiver, but it was a long time ago, and emphasis was on logic gates, not analog circuits. I remember the math, with multiple-unknowns equations, not fun. I would have a hard time doing it today. Of course the advantage is that I know how all the components work and  behave together, great for troubleshooting. A very carefully built kit should not require troubleshooting, but with failing eyes and after hours of concentration, mistakes happen.

The K2 was sort of like a K1 on steroids. I just like the K1 better because if its small size and overall cuteness.

As far as prepping is concerned, the K1 is excellent because of its receiver and low current draw. I wish it was waterproof though. A Pelican case will remedy that problem. I love those cases, probably will buy a big one soon for my cameras.

I would happily build a KX1 but it is hard to justify the expense with the radios I already have... Maybe just for the building experience... But I am also always looking at the next kit release from Steve Weber. I can barely see those darn surface-mount components anymore, and that will be an issue. I would love a K2 surface-mount kit in a K1 case! That would be the ultimate QRP radio! Another good kit would be the Weber Tri-Bander, but that's just a through-hole MTR, though with 15m as an option.

Anyway, I have an end-fed tuner, Rock-Mite 30, and NS-40 transmitter kits to build, so my plate is full...

Gil.

cockpitbob

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2014, 01:15:59 PM »
I can barely see those darn surface-mount components anymore, and that will be an issue.
Magnifying visor.  My eyes are 55 years old and I work with SMT parts all the time.  In the lab at work we have the expensive stereo microscopes but I like a visor better because I move my head around the work instead of moving the work around under the microscope.
EDIT: the highest magnification lens that comes with the one I linked is 2.5X.  I use a 5X for SMT soldering.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2014, 01:21:33 PM by cockpitbob »

KK0G

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2014, 04:57:50 PM »
I've studied the math and equations involved in electronics before - mostly for my Extra test - and you're right Gil.............it sucks! That's why I do as little of it as possible when I homebrew a circuit. To select a component value for example, I can either spend upwards of an hour researching the proper equation and trying to do the sometimes complex math for said equation, or I can spend 10 minutes experimenting with different values until it works. Guess which one I prefer almost every time? This is where substitution boxes come in real handy, I have several that I've picked up at hamfests for a few dollars each. I've also discovered that component value selection seldom makes much difference in most circuits, close enough is usually good enough.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

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gil

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2014, 06:51:45 PM »
Thanks Bob for the visior tip :)

I agree Chris. Especially that today radios are microprocessor driven, and they have fewer analog circuits. I will stick to kit building, but I think it is important to know basic circuits, if only to be able to build simple transmitters or receivers from spare parts. That I can't do yet. If I decide to dive into the theory however, I will probably start with tubes.. Same circuits anyway.. Which reminds me that I still have that old Ameco AC-1 to restore, darn...

Gil.

KK0G

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2014, 10:45:28 PM »
I'm definitely no electronics expert, in fact far from it, but I do enjoy building kits and home brewing simple circuits and they've all worked so I guess I'm at least competent in electronics.

I once read an article somewhere on kit building, don't remember where or who the author was, but in it he said he actually hoped you would have a problem after building the kit and it wouldn't work correctly after doing the final step in the instructions. Of course his point was that you will learn far more from trouble shooting a circuit than just following the instructions telling you to put the resistor marked red, red, violet in the R34 position on the board. He's 100% correct, when I built my K2 I didn't truly understand how the receiver circuits worked and when it came time to fire it up for the first time I was pretty disappointed when it was deaf as a post. To trouble shoot it I had to go from the instruction section of the manual to the schematic and block diagram sections, and in the process of tracing the signal from the antenna on down the line, I managed to learn how it works. Turns out it was one side of a diode that I had missed soldering to the board. Not bad, I only missed a single solder joint out of thousands! I'm now pretty confident that I could trouble shoot any future problem that ever comes up with that rig down to at least only a few components if not pinpoint the exact component.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

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Re: Elecraft K1 Redux.
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2014, 10:45:28 PM »