Which should you buy? The Icom IC-705 or the Elecraft KX2?

Without a doubt, the most popular type of question I receive from readers here on QPRer.com and over at the SWLing Post has to do with making equipment purchase decisions.

In the past two months, I’ve had numerous questions from QRPer readers asking my opinion about choosing between the new Icom IC-705, or the Elecraft KX2. In fact, as I started putting this post together this morning, I received yet another email from a reader asking my opinion about these two iconic QRP transceivers!

I love both of these radios for different reasons, so the answer is not an easy one.

Let’s discuss this in some detail…

I decided to make a video talking about the pros and cons of each transceiver and note the reasons why one might pick one over the other. My hope is that this will help inform a purchase decision:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Do you own both of these radios? Or did you recently decide to purchase one instead of the other? Please comment with your thoughts and opinions!

25 thoughts on “Which should you buy? The Icom IC-705 or the Elecraft KX2?”

  1. Copy and paste of my comment on the YT video-

    Awesome, honest information! I’ve often waffled back and forth on the KX2 vs KX3. I have an IC-703 with the backpack to go with it, but really want an updated rig. The 705 is appealing because the interface looks identical to my 7300, but I don’t think I would need all of those features for portable use, but it is easy to fall into the more features trap. I think the KX3 is a better option for me since I’ll be doing SSB until I get my confidence and jump into the CW deep end. Thanks for all of your insight!

  2. Form factor and features per pound sold the KX2 for me. It does SSB without a microphone. It also does PSK and RTTY without the need for an external sound card. The ATU is the game changer for me as it makes the radio very adaptable to a wide range of antenna options.

  3. I recently ordered a KX2. My decision to go with the KX2 over the 705 came down to two reasons. Size and built in antenna tuner. The 705 is a great radio as I have a 7300 and 9700 for comparison. My operating buddy has a 705 and between the two of us, it will be fun to compare the two radios side by side in The field. I almost when with the KX3 to get 6m and vhf/uhf but the size was the deciding factor there. Also, don’t ever see myself taking more antennas along to do those other bands. -73 KC7JPC.

  4. comparing kx2 and ic-705 is like comparing a Japanese and an American car.
    I’m fine with my Land Cruiser 200 as well as the icom 705.

  5. I have both radios and they are outstanding. The extra features on the 705 is why if I had to choose one over the other I would go with it.

    If I’m going on a multi day backpacking trip, I’m taking the Kx2. For just portable POTA and dayhikes, then I’m packing the 705.

  6. I have neither of these units, but having just watched the presentation about the 705 at Ozarkcon yesterday, it certainly has peaked my interest.

    Just looking at the KX2 and 705 next to each-other in your photo Thomas, i’m amazed at the sizes of each but especially the KX2!

  7. Thomas, you covered both radios very well. I have both radios along with an FT-817 I’ve had for 20 years and an Ft-818ND I recently purchased. The KX2’s tuner is really handy and will tune antennas my LDG Z-11 wont match. To me, the KX2 is sort of “fiddly” as the Brits say and the 705 is easy to operate since I use an IC-7300 every day. I love the audio from the 705 but not the KX2, at least not without headphones. I don’t do summits, just leisure travel and the 705 is just great where size and weight don’t matter much. All of the radios have pluses and minuses including the 817/818’s, but I think the IC-705 has really been a home run for Icom. John, AE5X had a great writeup on the 705 recently on his blog that hit home also.

    1. Yes indeed, John has made some amazing posts about the IC-705. Almost right out of the box, he paired it with his KXPA500!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on both radios!

  8. Great explanation. We went with the KX2. I researched ham radio enough to decide that we would probably enjoy SOTA/POTA (CW) while extending out our hiking as we travel the western states during our retirement. We made a plan to get our technician & general tickets by the end of the year along with learning Morse Code. We are still on track to accomplish each of those goals.

    I would consider adding a Elecraft KPA100 and a proper antenna system to bump it up for certain SSB POTA activations. However, that would be a goal further down the line. I want to concentrate on our daily Morse Code training.

    I am curious what antenna you would recommend for the Elecraft KX2/KPA100 SSB POTA operations. Based on your recent selections, I am guessing you would recommend the CHA MPAS LITE instead of the CHA MPAS 2.0 with MICRO (50W CW & 100W SSB).

    1. Yes, no doubt I believe you made the right choice for your operating style. Especially with CW, the KX2 makes for a very compact package and it’s a pleasure to operate.

      Regarding antennas, two antennas come to mind:
      – Yes, I think the CHA MPAS Lite would fit the bill for your adventuring. It’s compact and effective. Not only can you set it up as a vertical, but also like a random wire antenna. The KX2 ATU will work perfectly with it.
      – If you want a wire antenna option too, you might consider the Par End-Fedz EFT trail-Friendly.


  9. All depends on what you want to do with your transceiver in the field. As I only do HF on the outings I do, the IC-705 needs too much extra’s to even come close to my full option KX-2. Decide on the goal, then choose the radio, then buy.

    Both radio’s are expensive ! If you ever decide to sell your radio I’m pretty sure the KX-2 will have a higher money return then the IC-705, so I think you are also better of with the Elecraft.

    As both are NOT made to be dropped, the IC-705 looks fragile in its all plastic case compared to the all metal case of the KX-2, I think the KX-2 will survive a drop on a rock where I doubt the IC-705.

    What both lack : both don’t like water, something both constructors did not get I guess when they decided to make a field radio, in the field it sometimes rains, is smoggy, wet, damp, icy or snowing, it was a big opportunity to marvel, both missed the chance …. ..

    Have you ever contacted Icom for service ? They are slow or not answering.
    Have you ever contacted Elecraft ? They are fast, they DO answer, moreover they do it in a friendly way. Already twice I was offered a solution which didn’t cost me a cent, real service from real people with a heart for amateur radio !!

    1. You’ve a real point there with Elecraft service. In fact, the few times I’ve contacted them because of a part breaking (one component issue in the K2 and on KXPD2 paddle post came loose and fell out) they sent me replacements for free.

  10. I ordered an IC-705, due to it’s wide band coverage and sweet display (though the display may prove to be a liability, as you pointed out, Thomas). I’ve never been one much for computer-assisted digital modes, though I’m becoming more interested in modes such as WinLink and JS8Call for field use. Events over the past few years have brought “emergency” communications to my attention, and the 705’s single cable (or wireless) connection a computer are a big plus for these modes. (QRP vs. QRO for emergency comms is a moot point in this discussion, as both rigs are QRP.)

    I’ve owned a K2, KX1, K3 and KX3 over the years, so I’m familiar with Elecraft rigs and their service, and have no complaints. My outdoor time anymore isn’t likely to be ultralight packing, but rather day hikes, car camping or renting a cabin. The small amount of additional mass & bulk of the 705 over the KX2 are largely irrelevant for these activities.

    Mass-produced and off-the-shelf Icom HT batteries (and clones) are a benefit as well. Icom sells (separately) a compatible pack with 65% greater capacity than the one included with the rig, if one wanted to keep an attached battery, versus external. Also, as Thomas mentioned about the KX2 in the video, I see no reason why a solar panel (properly regulated) couldn’t be attached to the 705 either, giving you 10 watts out, as well as keeping the battery topped off.

    I still have a hankering for a more compact rig as well, but I’m not in a rush. I’m curious to see what the QRP Labs QSX all-band, all-mode transceiver looks like, if it comes to fruition.

  11. Elecraft service has been anything but stellar these last few months, especially on repair returns. Bear in mind the KX2 is getting very long in the tooth and is likely to suffer end-of-life as far as components are concerned quite soon. After the K4 bottleneck is cleared, I would assume they will try to compete with Icom and axe the KX2 and KX3, if they survive the mental exhaustion of jumping technologies and methods.
    My new IC7610 is remarkable. Icom do have the lead ahead of all the others (Kenwood, Yaesu, Elecraft) although some of the newcomer SDR makers are doing impressive things!

  12. I bought the FT-818, KX3 and IC-705. I now own just one of them – the 705 of course!

    The FT-818 is just unbeatable if you’re on a budget – nothing touches it at that money!! And the KX3 is WAY over at the opposite end of the scale costing a small fortune when you add the optional extras (yes that means a microphone) : filters, 2M Board, etc.

    Price-wise, the 705 is the piggy in the middle. It represents astounding value for money by including a MAGNIFICENT array of features which put all other manufacturers to shame!

    As others have said, Icom really are streets ahead of the competition these days and that’s because THEY’VE LISTENED to what their customers are saying.

    My new FT-DX101D doesn’t even have a clock, LOL!! Or a QSO Recorder or a built-in server for remote control. And here’s my little 705 with all those features and MORE!

    Well done Icom.

    1. The IC-705 is truly an amazing radio and, no doubt, the most advanced portable transceiver on the market!

  13. I understand the latest 705 software made it a wireless connection to a computer controller.

  14. Hi Thomas,
    Loving your videos of Sota & Pota.
    An interesting comparison, but there is one thing I would like to know, being a CW op like yourself.
    What is the filtering like on both.
    Which has the better narrow cw options.
    Do either come with CW narrow filters?
    When the bands are very crowded, eg contests, how good are they at withstanding closeby stations.
    I noticed one of your videos called QRM I think you were using the 705 and it appeared it was suffering.
    So which has the better front end and filtering?
    Perhaps you could do a video on all your rigs to see which is the best?
    Cheers and 72 Mark G0NMY

    1. Hi, Mark,

      Thank you.

      Both the KX2 and IC-705 have excellent filtering and the CW bandwidth can be made incredibly narrow (I’ll need to check the actual numbers when I’m back at the QTH). Suffice it to say, they’re both designed with CW operators in mind.

      I’ve used both the KX2 and IC-705 in RF-dense environments like Field Day and found that they both handled adjacent signal interference quite well. Per Rob Sherwoods RX test data table, though, the IC-705 has a small advantage over the KX2 in this regard. In use, I’ve never noticed much of a difference, though.

      I do, in end, prefer the audio and filtering of the IC-705. But in practical field use, both radios are incredibly capable. I find the KX2 much easier to take to the field because it’s such a compact and lightweight “shack-in-a-box.” The IC-705 has many more features, though.

      I will put it in my notes to take both radios out some day and try to do a field comparison.


  15. I just ordered an IC 705 because I like to play with different QRP radios. I also have a YouKits 4 band, KX3 and a KX2. If I could only have one QRP radio, it goes without saying the KX2 would be my choice. Why?…Because other than the antenna, the radio is 100% self contained. Built in nice size battery, ATU, built in mic and with the paddles attached I can work not only CW but PSK as well. As for an antenna, all you need is a BNC to banana jack adapter and some wire and you are on the air. Can’t do that with the 705. No ATU built in, no mic built in, the battery is almost half the capacity of the Elecraft’s internal battery and on receive the 705 draws a lot more current.
    If you don’t mind carrying around a big container to store all of the needed accessories and the 705, then the 705 may be a better choice because it has important features the KX2 lacks.
    For me, I like to operate QRP portable in the KISS mode and the KX2 is the only 5 watt radio that can do that.
    Barry, KU3X

  16. Loving the Tom Bihn travel tray(?) in the background.

    Any different views based on the KS3 vs. the IC-705?

    I’m new but have decided to go with a potable set up fro the satrt – but will be using it as my main rig from home too…

    1. I’m a massive fan of Tom Bihn! I can’t count the number of their products I have–likely nearly a dozen travel trays, 3 HLT2s, 1 HLT1, and several packs, and bags.

      Comparing the KX3 and IC-705? Oh golly. That’s a long video answer. 🙂 The nutshell would be go for the radio you think you’d enjoy the most. If you like the color display and form factor of the 705, go for it. If you like a more legacy look, go for the KX3. For digi modes? IC-705 hands-down, it’s just so darn easy. CW? The KX3 with a roofing filter is still a benchmark on Rob Sherwood’s RX Table!

  17. Nice review. One item the KX2 offers over the 705 is a dual receiver (on the same band) thus the ability to have one receiver output to one ear and the other receiver output to the other ear. I’m a DXer and I often chase DX that is operating split. I definitely would miss the dual receiver function.

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