One year later: Did I decide to keep or sell my Elecraft KXPA100?

Using my KXPA100 during Field Day in 2020.

Many thanks to Ron (KK1L) who asks the following question after reading my post from January 2021 regarding the decision to keep my Elecraft KXPA100 amp instead of selling it:

Hi Tom,

If after a year of opportunity to reevaluate have you changed your mind? I am looking for an opportunity to wrestle with the same dilemma.

73 es God Bless de KK1L, Ron

Thank you for your question, Ron!

It’s funny you should ask. Only a couple months ago, when I re-arranged my shack, I thought yet again about selling the KXPA100 because it gets so little use as I run QRP 99% of the time both in the field and at the QTH.

The thought occurred to me that I could sell it and easily afford a dedicated 100 watt radio for the shack–either a brand new Yeasu FT-891, or an Icom IC-7300. With a little extra money added, I could even purchase the new Yaesu FT-DX10. That was very tempting.

Possibly most tempting would be to get a used Elecraft K3 or possibly a K3S; more of these have been appearing on the used market after the introduction of the K4.

Also, I had an opportunity to purchase a used mint Icom IC-7200 with a full side rail kit; I’ve always loved both the receiver and look of this particular radio! It, too, was tempting.

I came very close to posting the XPA100 on the QTH classifieds.

But then I came to my senses

After thinking about what I was really trying to achieve, I realized it would be foolish to sell the KXPA100.

My main goal was to have one dedicated 100 watt, high-performance, general coverage radio in the shack that I could also take to the field when needed. Even though I’m a QRPer, I see the benefit of having 100 watts when needed.

The KXPA100 fits that bill perfectly.

There are a few reasons why I personally chose to keep my KXPA100…

1.) I already own it

I feel like I got a great deal when I purchased the KXPA100 a few years ago. I purchased it for $800 shipped from a seller here in the US. My KXPA100 came to me with the optional ATU, all connection cables, the original manual, and original boxes. It was mint.

I hadn’t done a lot of research regarding the price of used KXPA100s until after I made the purchase, but based on the new price (they’re currently $1600 via an Elecraft), I realized I got a good deal.

If I was staring at a new KXPA100 today? It would be a tougher decision. For the price of the amplifier I could purchase a brand new Yaesu FT-DX10.

With that said, I’m sure I could sell my KXPA100 and likely fetch enough to completely pay for a used FT-DX10 (for some reason, there have been a lot of used FT-DX10s on the market–which is curious).

2.) It is “optional” amplification

Fun fact: I operate almost exclusively off-grid at my QTH. When I’m running QRP, I’m using our home’s off-grid battery bank which is solar-powered.

When I run over 50 watts, I tend to supply power from a 12V power supply that’s connected to mains power. Why? Because 100 watt radios–even while idle in receive–can draw more than 1 amp.

The Icom IC-7300, for example, is a pretty modest current consumer in the 100W radio category. It only consumes 0.9A typical in standby mode and somewhere between 1.1 to 1.25A in receive mode depending on the audio volume level.

In contrast, my Elecraft KX3–which is tied to the KXPA100 in the shack–only uses 150 mA in receive (or 0.15 A).

I’ve always called receive current consumption the “phantom load” for those of us who operate from solar and battery power. It’ll silently deplete a battery, if not monitored carefully.

With the KXPA100, I can easily and completely bypass the whole 100 watt amplification stage and only engage it when needed. That’s huge for me.

3.) It offers remote head flexibility

My shack is also my home office and it’s small. Most of my organization and storage is vertical (meaning, shelves). I only have one main desk area–one half of it is reserved for radios I review and Beta test. Bulky permanent radios can be intrusive.

My KX3 takes up very little space on the corner of my desk and the KXPA100 sits on a shelf above it. Since I can completely control the KXPA100 from my KX3 (or KX2) I don’t even need access to the front panel if I don’t need it. It’s off the table but immediately available when I need it.

4.) My KX3 is already a high-performance radio; the KXPA100 makes it a 100W transceiver

If you check out the receiver specs on Rob Sherwoods Receiver Test Data table, you’ll see that the KX3 is still in the herd of top performers.

I have the CW roofing filter installed on my KX3 and I must say that it’s the best-performing radio I currently own. I can work weak CW signals that are parked next to blowtorch signals. The adjacent signal blocking is incredible. The FT-DX10 and K3 do have slightly better specs per Rob, but we’re talking very negligible differences–fairly undetectable outside the lab.

On top of this, I already know and love the KX3 interface. I’m so used to operating my KX3 and (especially) KX2, it’s second nature to make adjustments while operating.

5.) It pairs to all of my QRP radios

Being a guy with a fair amount of QRP radios, it’s icing on the cake that the KXPA100 easily pairs with almost all of them. I plan to set up my IC-705 so I can swap it out with the KX3 from time to time.

6.) It’s an Elecraft

This means that I know I’ll have

  • excellent customer support,
  • good resale value,
  • solid performance,
  • knowledgeable staff in the event of a future repair,
  • and a healthy supply of spare parts that are super easy to order.

I can pick up the phone, call Elecraft, and get an incredibly knowledgeable person on the other end when I encounter a problem.

I’ve had such a positive experience with Elecraft and have been a customer since…what…2007? They have never let me down.

Summary

So there you go, Ron! This is why I decided, once again, that the KXPA100 is a keeper.

I don’t see ever selling the KXPA100 at this point.

21 thoughts on “One year later: Did I decide to keep or sell my Elecraft KXPA100?”

  1. I watched one of K8MRD’s video where he talked about the same thing. Having a modular system gives you many more options.

    1. It offers a level of flexibility that’s very much appreciated in the field. K8MRD is right. Not always, but this time. (This is my test to see if K8MRD reads the comments!) Ha ha!

  2. Very nice blog. Makes me rethink keeping my FT2000D and external ATU (MFJ). I’ve considered selling them and just keeping my QRP gear, especially when I receive my KX2 prayerfully soon, on next week or 2. Being more modular and having the opportunity to have 100w if really needed sounds great. Still gotta think this over. So thanks Thomas for the push.
    73
    Wb8yxf

    1. I’d encourage you to keep the FT2000D for a while before making a decision. It’s nice to have a 100W option. I promise, though, once you get the KX2, it’ll become your favorite rig. It’s the bee’s knees! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      1. Thank you for those thoughts. FT 2000D will stay for now, though I have just been informed the KX2 will be another 4 weeks, past the original 8 weeks. Mine was ordered 12/5/2021. So still in the waiting mode!!
        73
        wb8yxf

        1. Oh no…

          I spoke with someone at Elecraft recently and asked about their lead time. They’re out there for sure and I think demand is up.

          I hope somehow they’re able to get it to you earlier. Again, it’s worth the wait, I promise. 🙂

          Cheers,
          Thomas

  3. Funny you should post this article since I am seriously thinking of purchasing one. In fact, I almost pulled the trigger last night (I may do it today!).

    I am thinking the same thing that I will start using my KX3 as my home base station that can also be brought into the field especially on the various field days.

    When I purchased the KX3 (I bought both the KX3 and KX2 at the same time since I could not decide which one I wanted! In retrospect I am glad that I did) I purchased it fully loaded with the VHF module and Panadapter (which is great). I am currently using it in my house primarily for VHF, although, believe it or not I actually connected the AX1 to the KX3 indoors for 20 meters and it worked! However, I still need to rig an outdoor antenna.

    I live in the Chicago metro area and the winters can be brutal. Although this year has not been bad, the problem is that whenever I go into the field it is not the cold that gets you but the constant wind in combination with it.

    I would be very interested in seeing how you used the KXPA100 in the field with the KX3. Especially how you pack it up and transport it.

    BTW these blogs and your channel are great. I have had great success with the products and methods you have recommended.

    73

    Bill Cosgrave

    1. Thank you, Bill!

      Last time I used the KXPA100 in the field was likely Field Day in 2020. I may take it out for fun some day and do a little QROish work (maybe 50W or something) just for fun. Perhaps even take it on a SOTA activation. Hmmm…I’ll have to give this though. QRO in the field doesn’t excite me, but it might be fun doing it nonetheless.

      I can tell you that when I did take the KXPA100 to the field, I wrapped it in a small blanket and put it in my backpack. It’s durable!

      Another great thing about ht eKXPA100 in the shack is that it’s quiet. There’s no fan. And the integration with the KX3 is seamless. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  4. Hello Thomas, “boots” for your QRP rigs is very wise! You choice is well thought out. I have an FT DX10 and K3 and the little KX3 is NOT far behind either of those rigs. I will say the DSP on the FT DX10 is much better than the two Elecraft rigs, but the K3 and KX3 have fantastic QSK switching, pick which one you want. As an option for the field, since some one asked, the HF pack 35w PA is great, though you do lose the great pin diode switching, but in return you gain power when you need it! Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you, Richard! If you ever felt inclined, I would love your thoughts on having spent time with the FT-DX10. A mini review to post? No pressure though, OM! :). That radio does intrigue me.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  5. I like the way you are thinking Thomas. But it doesn’t apply to me as I am moving from QRO to QRP. But I have always done things backwards; it is sort of in y DNA.

    I have an IC-7300 and an FT-891 in the shack. The 891 can serve as a field rig when I want to go QRO and it isn’t too heavy for that role. It is a very popular and capable field radio.

    I currently have a Xiegu G90 for QRP in the field and I’m hoping to get another QRP shack in a box later this year. My goal is to be able to walk into any location and throw down a QRP radio with built in battery and tuner, attach an AX1 and start transmitting.

    I am making a big commitment to QRP for all field work. I just registered QRPguy.com and QRPguy.net domain names. I will be changing my Youtube channel to reflect the move to QRP aspects of POTA and SOTA. That should be easy as I don’t have any content on the channel yet.

    1. Brilliant, Marshall!

      Yes, so the KXPA100 is the only 100W radio I currently have. Well, I do have an IC-746 Pro in my radio “library” that can be lend out to other people who need to get on the air or just want to try it.

      QRP is incredibly rewarding to me and, frankly, I’ve no motivation to operate more. That’s one of the reasons the KXPA100 still gets very little use. But I do like having it there. 🙂

      Let us know which shack-in-a-box you choose! (I’ll admit I’m biased toward the KX2, if you have the budget.)

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  6. I have been pondering the KXPA100 for a year or so, and have not been quite sure enough about its mission to spend the money. I may get there eventually, as I can appreciate the potential versatility of being able to use with many radios.

    For now I have gone on a different tangent. Knowing that my use of an amp would be limited to the shack, and finding that I could get a loaded K3 for the price of a new KXPA100, I recently ended up with a K3. I know this is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison, but I am liking the K3 as much as I like the K2 & K3. It is nice that they are essentially the same UI, and it does QRP just as well as it does QRO. 🙂

    I am still pondering the KXPA100.

    1. I must admit: if I were buying new, I’m not even sure the KXPA100 would be on my radar. It’s spendy (what, $1600 with an ATU?). The K3 is a solid rig and I’d love to have one. I suspect if you purchased the KXPA100, since you already have a K3, it’d get little use. The K3 is pretty darn field-portable, too. Just ask any DXpedition op!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  7. Honestly, I was half-hoping you’d sell it so I could get a decent deal on a used KXPA100 🙂

    I ended up building a HARDROCK-50 this past fall, and I plan on building the ATU for it sometime soon. It would have been nice to round out my KX3/PX3, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

    1. Ha ha ha! Sorry about that, OM. 🙂

      I’ve heard good things about the Hardrock-50. Plus you got to build it!

      1. It really is a great amp – I put 1.5W in and get 50-70 out depending on the band.

        If you can stand the 3dB hit on the signal, I’d argue it’s even better than the KXPA for a wide range of QRP rigs, since it has a carrier-operated relay mode, just in case your QRP rig doesn’t have a PTT line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.