The Elecraft K3

Photo of the K3 transceiver

The Elecraft K3 is the main HF transceiver at N1AL. (Or was, until it was lost in a house fire.) Why did I choose the K3? Well, I have never been very impressed by rigs that are full of "bells and whistles" to the detriment of their fundamental performance. So for many years I hung on to my ancient Drake TR-7 which is the epitomy of that philosophy — excellent performance but absolutely no non-essential features.

The K3 was the first rig to come along in all those years that appeared to have enough better performance than the TR-7 to persuade me to upgrade. The dynamic range is better than the TR-7 and, more importantly, it remains excellent for all signals that are outside the bandwidth of the final IF crystal filter. Like most receivers that upconvert to a VHF first IF, the TR7's dynamic range gets much worse for signals within the 20 kHz bandwidth of the roofing filter.

Also, while the TR-7 had good phase noise for its time, the K3 is much better. And of course the K3 does have lots of useful bells and whistles and a well-thought-out user interface so that the plethora of features doesn't tend to get in the way of efficient operating.

At the time of its introduction, the K3 had the best dynamic range of any receiver ever tested by Sherwood Engineering as posted on their web site. The rig also got a glowing review in QST. As of late 2021, the K3 is no longer available, having been replaced by the K4.

The K3 was available as a "no-solder" kit that is assembled by the customer. Because the rig was designed for easy assembly, it is also easy for the customer to install added options, and Elecraft offers a bazillion of them. You could pay anywhere from $1400 to over $4800 for the rig, depending on the options you have chosen. I've generated a spreadsheet that lists several different configurations and what they cost. Just for fun, I included a K3 configured as close as possible to a stock Omni-VII, a competitive offering from Ten-Tec. (The K3 came in about $300 cheaper). It is very nice that you only have to pay for those features that you really want.

K3 options spreadsheet
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Last updated November 22, 2021