Friday, March 13, 2009

K3 memory hassles

I'd like to report that following the fixing of the transverter bugs, I am now completely happy with my Elecraft K3. But unfortunately there are still some major annoyances that need attention.

The K3 provides pretty good support for using transverters, including an offset value that can be used to compensate for any inaccuracy in the transverter local oscillator so that the frequency displayed is accurate. Unfortunately, when you set an offset, the frequency displayed when any memory is recalled has this amount added to it. So if I set an offset of 200Hz, my 2m calling channel memory now loads the frequency 145.500.200. Elecraft says that this will be fixed, but in the meantime you should set the offset before storing frequencies in the memories. Now they tell me!

Setting up memories using the front panel controls is a hassle in any radio. But just about every modern radio with a computer interface supports memory management software. Bill Coleman, N2BC, has written a great K3 management tool called K3_EZ, so I downloaded that in order to edit my K3 memories. Unfortunately - and through no fault of Bill's - K3_EZ cannot be used to manage the K3's internal memories. The memory feature of K3_EZ only allows frequencies to be saved and restored from the computer. The only way to read or set the K3 internal memories using software would be to cycle through them, one at a time, by emulating front panel key presses, and that would take an inordinately long time. What's needed is direct access to the memories using software, and there isn't any.

Another example of how the K3 ergonomics haven't been fully thought through also involves memories. When you use the VFO control to cycle through stored memories you can't listen on each memory channel as it is selected. You can't use the VFO as a channel selector on FM. You must select a memory and then press the M>V button to load it into the radio and receive it.

There is a "channel hopping" feature that lets you scan a selection of memories. This at least allows you to scan FM channels and stop on one when a signal is detected. But only the receive frequency is loaded into the radio so if you stop the scan, other stored settings such as repeater shift or DCS tone are not loaded. If you call the station heard when you stopped the scan, the K3 will use whatever settings were last selected. You have to press M>V to fully load the memory contents, and of course it's easy to forget to do this.

It's such a shame that the K3 is operationally so inconvenient to use on FM because the receiver is very sensitive and the sharp crystal filter improves SNR and rejects adjacent channel interference much better than the second IF ceramic filters employed in most amateur multimode transceivers.

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