K2-from parts to DX


Subject: K2-from parts to DX
Jeff Gold (JGold@tntech.edu)
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 11:41:37 -0600


All,

    For those of you waiting on the outskirts or just like finding out about
new kits, here is my latest thoughts on the Elecraft K2 kit. I was one of
the approx. 100 field testers. Wayne Burdick (of Norcal 40, SST, Sierra
fame) and Eric Swartz (famed Dxer, or at least I have a picture of him scuba
diving with some exotic sounding call :*) Decided to take a list of QRP kit
builders wants and wishes, synthesize the results and make the "dream" kit a
reality.

    I have built almost every kit on the market for the last 8 or so years
and written reviews for some of the ham magazines. The quality of kits now
available is incredibly good. This includes parts used, instructions
provided and how the product functions if built according to plans. QRP kits
are a pretty competitive market with such great suppliers as Oak Hills,
Small Wonders, Wilderness Radio, S&S Engineering, Emtech and Ten Tec (I
apologize if I have left anyone out). Kits for monobanders are down as low
as $50 if you provide your own case. Many good kits with cases are around
the $100 range. Oak Hills now even makes a 5 band kit. Norcal QRP club is
always coming out with exciting quality kits.. don't know how Doug and his
group manage.

    I had a list I keep of what I would really love from a QRP kit. I have
always found if I have a fancy do it all commercial rig (like my X-TS850SAT,
or even Omni VI) and I build a monobander, I end up spending all my time
operating on the rig I built. So it would stand to reason if someone would
manufacture a kit that was a multi-band rig, had 2 vfos, memories, a built
in memory keyer, scanning functions, also could be used portable with built
in tuner, battery and would have provision for computer interface and
tranverter, I would get the functionality I desired, plus be able to operate
with all the nice features on a rig I built myself.

    Well the kit Wayne and Eric not only had most if not all my dream
features (either now or planned), but had some I hadn't thought of (like
scanning). They built and tested a number of versions before the big Field
Test (how many companies do that)
I read the specs of the new proposed kit. I had been one of the first on
line for the SGC-2020 and was really excited about it.. I had a qrp+++ and
liked it, but had some problems with the rig and one part go bad.. and no
support. As the SGC2020 was about to come out (or this is the way I remember
it), the K2 was becoming a reality. I have built Wayn'e original Norcal club
Norcal 40s (both club versions, and the commercial version from Wilderness
radio). I also built the SST. The rigs he designs seem to be really fun to
build and they always stayed in my shack longer than any other kits. So
ended up cancelling my SGC2020, and sold a few other rigs.

    Eventually got my K2 kit. The manual is huge, but one of the best done
pieces of documentation I have come across. Wayne and Eric even set up a web
site and mailing list so the Field Testers could communicate and make
suggestions to improve the manual and let everyone know of any problems that
arose. The email on from the group once the project got started was huge. I
decided to let a number of other get ahead of me (and my 14+ hour work days
also was a consideration). I became overwhelmed with my work schedule and
the huge number of suggestions. I almost decided to not participate. Eric
and a number of the builders got back to me and gave me immediate and
positive support. I decided to not read the suggestions until they became
"official" Elecraft revisions. I then took the official suggestions and made
changes in the manual and such. For a project this size, there was a VERY
small number of actual changes.

    The support provided by Wayne, Eric and the group was phenomenal. If you
had a problem, post and within minutes to an hour most likely have a
suggestion to diagnose problem and solve it. I went through and built slower
than I usually do making sure all parts align correctly with identifying
codes pointed in the same direction. Also checked and made very sure parts
seated correctly and the correct parts were in their place. The quality of
all parts, directions and PC boards was absolutely top of the line. This
rates at the very top of my list of kits that are pure fun to build. The PC
board is the best layed out board I have come across. This was very
important for the RF board that housed a very large number of parts. Usually
for a board like this you would expect the manual to break the building up
into sections and have detailed lay outs of that section. This in fact was a
suggestion before I really was into building. When I started building,
notices that you could very easily identify the placement of the parts by
the fact they were so logically placed and placed in sequential order of
BUILDING. The directions were very clear and unambiguous. For me this is
extremely important. I build to relax at this point. I don't want to have to
figure out what the author means by the directions. Any places in the manual
that were questionable (I didn't have any after the initial corrections)
were picked up by the very astute building group. They really ripped all the
procedures apart and came up with excellent suggestions. There seemed to be
a real cross sections of builders. From hams that could design circuits to
novice builders. Couldn't ask for a better test group.

    I finished the kit and alignment with very minor problems. I had to go
back and resolder some legs on the LCD, this was my fault not the kits.
Everything came to life in each power up section. I usually get nervous and
excited about the "smoke test" part of building. This kit provides new
levels of excitement as you get to the sections where you test what you have
built. There is a lot of computer stuff on this rig.. and lots of the
alignement is done by the rig. It is an amazing design for a kit. The
digital volt ammeter, frequency counter and other instruments to align and
test are built into the rig.

    Wayne had always been an inovator in his kits in that the controls and
jacks were built onto the board. This saved the final wiring steps of the
controls and jacks.. messy and my least favorite. This kit is the same way.
No external wiring.

    Tune up can be frustrating for some new builders. Somehow.. magic or
whatever.. Wayne and Eric got this rig to do most of the tune up by itself,
or by using the menu system. I believe there are only a few places for
manual adjustments. There is a very broad adjustment for the coil for the
receiver, then one for the VCO voltage (using the built in meter it is
extremely easy). Then for each band there are two inductors that need to be
peaked using the built in meter or prefereable a QRP capable wattmeter. I
used my OHR, the peaks were very sharp and easy to do. I checked afterwards
with my scope, and actually found it easier to do with the Wattmeter. Very
clean looking TX signal on the scope. The rest of the adjustments are very
clearly defined in the manual and you basically just use the menu system.

    Interface design.. this rig is easy to use with our without a manual. I
don't usually have time, energy or desire to go thru the manuals that come
with rigs. I still haven't read the manual for my TS850SAT that was shipped
this week, and probably never would have learned to use all the features. I
programmed the scanning funtion yesterday in about 1 minute. learned the
split function this am while chasing DX.

    Ok, how does it work. FANTASTIC, how is that for a summary. I have a
Corsair I next to it that has both SSB and CW fitlers. I consider the
receiver in the Corsair to be one of the best I have used. So far, if the
Corsair can hear it, so can the K2. I have done switching tests and noticed
the difference (in highly non-technical terms) is that both rigs will hear
very weak signals equally strong.. the difference is that the K2 appears to
bring the signal more to the front and push the noise more to the background
(signal to noise ratio? I think in computer terms of foreground and
background). The rig is very easy to operate. The tuning knob has a good wei
ght and feels very nice. I have gotten excellent reports on the quality of
my signal. I have also listened to it on the corsair and it sounds very
sweet. The bands just started opening up here this am.. and worked a bunch
of DX before work.

    So far I love the rig and glad I got rid of my TS850. This kit was a
blast to build and it is as much fun to operate. I can't wait for the
accessories.

72,
Jeff, AC4HF


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