I found this report on the packet BBSs on the Elecraft K2 transceiver kit.

Frank G3YCC

From        :LX0RL @LX0PAC.LUX.EU
To          :QRP   @U     L
Date/time   :20-Aug 14:14
Message #   :22760
Title       :ARRL preview abt Elecraft K2
R:990820/1414z @:LX0PAC.LUX.EU [Bourscheid JN39AV] bcm1.41e

To:   QRP @ EU
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First Looks: The Elecraft K2 SSB/CW HF Transceiver Kit
By Rick Lindquist, N1RL, Senior News Editor
June 1, 1999

The other day, we had the pleasure of a visit to ARRL HQ by Elecraft Chief 
Operating Officer Eric Swartz, WA6HHQ. Nice fellow that Eric is, he also was 
intuitive enough to know that--once the pleasantries were out of the way--we 
wanted to see the radio. "Show us the radio, Eric," we chanted in unison. 
Eric, just in from the West Coast, wanted directions to the men's room. "Show 
us the radio!" we insisted.

Not reluctantly, Eric produced a fully built Elecraft K2 transceiver, the one 
that thousands--especially in the QRP community--have been drooling over for 
the past two Daytons. ARRL Lab Test Engineer Michael Tracy, KC1SX, a bit of a 
QRP buff himself, twitched perceptibly in eager anticipation of getting the 
radio into the Lab's "screen room" for some nuts-and-bolts testing. ARRL 
Product Review Editor Joe Bottiglieri, AA1GW, envisioned product review lay-
outs and opening paragraphs. I grabbed the camera. But first, we politely 
reined in our enthusiasm long enough to let Eric run down the radio's fea-

He started by setting on the table a bare K2--no wires and just a loaded 
telescoping antenna (not by Elecraft) affixed to the BNC connector on the 
rear apron--and pushing the power button. Whoa! It sprang to life, and a sig-
nal emanated from the top-mounted speaker (OK, so it was W1AW across the 
parking lot, but a signal nonetheless). Surely a trick! We grabbed for our 

But no! A 2.9 Ah internal gel-cell battery is a $79 option. As we relax our 
guard, Eric proceededs to tell how, at another demonstration that took place 
inside a Chinese restaurant, a K2 with the internal battery option was used 
with the same simple antenna to work a station down the Coast a few hundred 
miles. Talk about favorable first impressions! 

This is a Kit??!!
OK, for those of you who have been totally preoccupied with Y2K preparations 
and or have not been to Dayton the past couple of years, the K2 (no relation) 
is a full-featured transceiver that you assemble--like, build? Y'know? With 
your hands and with solder and simple tools? 

Those too young to remember the glorious "Heathkit Era" of Amateur Radio (ap-
proximately from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s) may, of course, be unfamil-
iar with this concept that Elecraft (it's pronounced like "elegant") intends 
to reinvigorate. (Now, please, let's not have everyone who ever built a Nor-
Cal 40 or of the other fine QRP kits out there write and tell me that kit-
building is alive and well, etc. We know that. But, let's face it: The K2 
represents kit building on a higher plane--one not visited in Amateur Radio 
since the days of the HW-101.) 

The K2, as many of you already know, is not a cutesy single-bander you'll 
build in a night to take backpacking running 1 W to a piece of #32 thrown up 
in the pines. It's like, well, a real transceiver (you can look at the pic-
tures now) that--in its standard configuration--covers 80-10 meters (160 with 
a simple $29 option), and probably not a project for a first-time kitbuilder 
(Elecraft calls it an "intermediate" kit.). The basic kit is probably light-
weight enough to backpack--just 3.3 lb--covers CW only, and runs 10 W output. 
Economical add-ons give you a noise blanker, SSB, an internal autotuner or a 
higher-power amplifier (you can't install both at the same time) and other 

"We have tried to build in most of the larger-rig features," Eric says mod-

Bottom line? For now, at least, the basic K2 kit sells for $549. The SSB op-
tion is another $79. The noise blanker is $29. The internal 10 W autotuner is 
the priciest option at $125. 

A high power amp, currently in the testing phase, should be available soon. 
own the road, Elecraft hopes to offer a QRP-level 6-meter transverter for the 
K2, although that's not a hard-and-fast promise at this point. 

The single-conversion receiver makes use of ham-band double-tuned bandpass 
receive and transmit filters plus IF crystal filtering (these are tunable 
filters, so you can set the bandwidth to suit your tastes), a doubly balanced 
diode mixer, and IF-derived AGC. There's a preamp too. The radio can be com-
puter-controlled. It has dual VFOs. 

The transmitter can be backed down to around 0.5 W or so for QRPp fans, and 
it has push-pull power amplifier transistors that Eric says are overrated and 
fully SWR-protected. The radio has a memory keyer (nine memories too!), with 
iambic A and B modes. In tune with the true QRP mindset, the K2 is designed 
to minimize power consumption in all modes. The front-panel backlighted LCD 
display can, in fact, show you the voltage and current draw numbers--
something you won't find on your Yaesu, Kenwood, or ICOM. 

While the K2 might have been designed with the QRPer in mind, it's positioned 
for the broader amateur community. Elecraft would not survive on the good 
will of the QRP community, Eric concedes. Elecraft (which is Eric Swartz and 
QRP guru Wayne Burdick, N6KR, of Wilderness Radio and NorCal fame) is not 
planning to face down Kenwood-ICOM-Yaesu. But the guys have given up their 
day jobs, so at the very least, they've got chutzpah. 

Eric is not afraid to face up to his (much) larger competitors with the K2: 
"This blows away an IC-706 or TS-50 in terms of receive specs," he declares 
at one point (more on that point in just a bit). From what we observed in a 
relatively short demo, though, the big boys could learn a few things from 
Elecraft's approach. 

Eric says that with the K2, Elecraft is "re-evangelizing the Heathkit ap-
proach." Does the K2 represent a paradigm shift in the Amateur Radio market-
place, then? No, Eric says, not a new paradigm but maybe an alternate one. 
"We're kinda back-door oriented," he says of Elecraft. The company--which 
plans to offer additional kits and K2 options down the road--thinks there's 
still a lot of that Heathkit spirit around. The K2 brochure invited us to 
"Put the Fun back into Amateur Radio." 

The K2 features "no-wires" construction, something you might have wished you 
had by the time you were deep into building your DX-100. There's no point-to-
point wiring required in building the K2. 

The K2 has a home in the shack of the typical 50-100 W ham too, Eric says. 
Beyond that, the K2 will engender "a whole family of products" including some 
test equipment under the Elecraft name. All told, Eric says he wants the K2 
to be the "workhorse kit"--the HW-101, if you will--of the next millennium. 

Melding with your Radio?
There's plenty of room inside the attractive box to add options--including 
those of your own invention. Elecraft encourages that kind of thinking and 
says it gets a lot of neat ideas from its customers. (So far, most K2 custom-
ers are the 100 or so field testers who bought and built the initial batch of 
kits, then provided feedback to the company that resulted in further refine-

"When people personalize it, they relate to it differently," Eric says of the 
K2. Maybe it was just some of that West Coast stuff getting in the way, but 
Eric says K2 users develop "a bond" with the radio, and they're not afraid to 
fix it themselves. (The radio eases this by providing built-in diagnostics--
and no, your current HF radio doesn't have that either.) 

Users already are coming up with ways to modify the K2 as well. "I've already 
got guys modifying these like crazy," Eric says. A reflector is available via 
the Elecraft Web site ( for users to compare notes. 

Among the field testers, the average time to build the radio was 35 hours. 
(At one point, Eric referred to the field testers as "100 salesmen out there 
selling the rig for us.") To build the K2, you'll need a soldering iron, com-
mon tools, and a digital voltmeter "period," Eric says. The manual we saw was 
a top-drawer spiral-bound publication that offered clear, step-by-step in-
structions plus all the necessary user information. It provides enough addi-
tional information to also qualify as an educational tool for the radio, so 
the builder should learn a lot by putting one of these units together. 


While we won't have a complete--or "official"--set of laboratory data for the 
K2 until we buy, build, and test (and perhaps bond with) our own K2, we can 
say the preliminary numbers were on a par with those Elecraft has been tout-
ing on its Web site. The blocking dynamic range was in the 130 dB vicinity, 
while two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range came in at around 96 dB (yes, 
better than the TS-50 or IC-706). Receiver sensitivity on HF was better than 
-130 dBm. Nice indeed. 

I actually worked the K2 that Eric had brought along with him to HQ. He fired 
up the radio on 20 meter CW using the little portable antenna while I jumped 
in my mobile outside in the parking lot for a short QSO. It sounded quite 
good at close range. 

Were We Impressed?
Yes! So much so that we finally stopped asking questions and let Eric 
"freshen up" (but not before relieving him of the radio to put it through 
some preliminary tests.) The K2 clearly is not the "Garden Burger" of Amateur 
Radio. It's more than a niche radio or a QRP "toy," although if you called it 
"the ultimate QRP rig," Eric would not argue with you. New Age Heath? Maybe, 
but that's a bit too spiritual for our tastes. From what we have seen, the K2 
looks and sounds like a lot of fun--with a bit of learning thrown in--and 
that's a good part of what Amateur Radio is all about. (Right about now, some 
of you old timers are probably saying, "It's about time! Hrrumpf!") 

The "QRO" power amplifier is not yet available, so we have neither an antici-
pated price nor any idea of how well it performs just yet. It is expected to 
become available later this year. Stay tuned for a full-blown review in QST, 
by which time we'll have a better handle on whether our first impressions of 
the K2 turn out to be lasting ones. 

Now, where did I put my low-wattage soldering iron? 

Manufacturer: Elecraft LLC, PO Box 69, Aptos, CA 95001-0069; 831-662-8345;; Pricing: K2 (CW, 80-10 meters, 
10 W), $549; SSB option, $79; 160-meter/second receive antenna option, $29; 
noise blanker, $29; internal battery option, $79; internal 10 W antenna 
tuner, $125 (you can install either the 10 W autotuner and internal battery 
or the high-power PA). 

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