If It Were Christmas

With the Flex 1500 in for repairs following the power supply disaster, I got to thinking about my next possible rig.

So, if it were Christmas:

Elecraft K3 with filters and various accessories comes in around $3,500. Ouch! But that’s not so far from what my Icom-756 with two CW filters cost way back when it was new.

Of course the big advantage of the K3 is it is one of the best contest rigs ever. If I shell-out for a K3 it’s likely the last contest-quality rig I’d ever buy.

BTW some guys buy cheap rigs and wonder what’s so different from their rig compared to a $3000 rig. For casual QSOs likely absolutely nothing. You can a perfectly lovely conversation using an old Heathkit 101 if you’re on 80 meter SSB.

But almost all the extra cash goes into the receiver. Hook up a beam or full-size dipole at the right height and jump into the Sweep Stakes contest this weekend and watch your IC-706 turn over and die in the face of a wall of 40db over S9 signals. It’s not a pretty site.

KX3 from Elecraft comes in at a more reasonable $1,500 all in but this is a 10-watt rig with a 100-watt amp promised to appear someday.

The KX3 has one of the most highly rated receivers of all time. It also has PSK-31 and RTTY functions built-in. It’s a small rig.

I could afford it 🙂

TS-590S from Kenwood at just under $2,000 is getting great reviews. Best of all compared to the KX3 it has a 100-watt PA.

There are some complaints about the transmitter which some claim has a spike on transmit (All transmitters will have a spike on transmit as you can’t control the output until there is output so controlling something that isn’t there yet is impossible,) that is so prevalent that it can cause some older amplifiers to kick off.

The ARRL review found these spikes but also said a software fix eliminated the issue. A morning of searching on Google suggests that transmit issues seem to be an issue for a very small minority of commentators and that many have found no issue or no significant issue at all.

This is an extremely important point.

In Ham Radio or photography (I’ve been a pro shooter since the early 1970s) there are no end of so-called “experts”. In digital photography these folks are known as pixel-peppers. They discuss the most arcane minutia which when all is said and done is of absolutely no consequence to the actual act of shooting a decent photo. Most of their photography sucks or is non-existent.

Same for Ham Radio. There’s lots of opinion and even a few facts but when it comes to actually working stations on the air much of the theoretical discussion is meaningless. A good contest operator can make just about any radio into a contender.

Just to complicate my new rig purchase, there’s a guy in my town who is (or was) selling an IC-703-plus which is a 10-watt rig that goes from 160-6 in a very traditional package that works very well. It’s dated and would need a $150 used 500Hz CW filter. He’s selling it in A-1 condition for $500. Humm.

Then there’s the FlexRadio 6000 series of new DSR transceivers but at $6K they’re out of my price range ….for now. This may prove to be the radio of the future. Time will tell. I’ll wait 🙂

I could pick up a Flex 3000 for $1500. I love – and I do mean love – my Flex 1500. DSR  technology is the future of radio. My $600 1500 has the best receiver I’ve ever used. Don’t trust me, check out Sherwood Engineering’s receiver data page.

BTW you’ll notice no Yaseu or ICOM radios on my list.

First I’ve never liked the big box, multi knob approach of Yaseu. This is a personal preference.

And as for ICOM while a lot of contesters use them, when a local ham switched from his Flex 3000 back to an older IC-756 Pro last weekend I went up band to complain to him about his splattering across 10 meters.

When he’s on his Flex, I don’t hear him anywhere else but on his operating frequency. That says a lot to me and has influenced my thinking here.

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About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

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