Video: What are the differences between the Elecraft AX1 and AX2? Should you buy one?

The Elecraft AX1 paired with the KX2.

During the months of January and February 2023, I’ve given my Elecraft AX1 a thorough workout. As I mentioned in a previous post, I thought it might be fun to take the AX1 out on a good 30 days worth of activations.

Turns out, I’ve had such brief windows of opportunity to play radio recently, the AX1 and now AX2 have been valuable tools in my field kit. They are, no doubt, the quickest-to-deploy and most portable antennas in my collection.

The Elecraft AX2 paired with the KX2.

If I only have a 20 minute window to squeeze in a quick park activation, the AX1 and AX2 make a valid POTA activation–with 10 logged contacts– a reality.

I originally purchased my Elecraft AX1 in the spring of 2020 and have used it extensively since then. In January 2023, I finally caved in and purchased the most recent addition to the AX family, the mono-band AX2.

Elecraft AX1 vs. AX2

Since I’ve been publishing numerous field reports recently using the AX1 (with more to come) and since Elecraft has included both the AX1 and AX2 in their February 2023 Specials, I’ve received questions from readers asking:

  1. “Should I buy an AX1 or AX2–?”
  2. and “If so, which one should I buy? What are the differences?”

At first, I simply pointed readers to the concise comparison guide that Elecraft publishes on their website (linked below).

I realize, though, that there are characteristics of each antenna that you might only discover after actually using them in the field.

I decided to make am unedited video–based on a few notes–not only describing the differences and similarities of the AX1 and AX2, but also if either would potentially benefit you as a field operator or traveler.

One quick note about resonance…

One point I touch on in the video is that both the AX1 and AX2 antennas are designed to be mostly resonant on 20 meters.

Small verticals like the AX1 and AX2, that use coils to electrically “lengthen” the antenna, have a higher Q than, say, a large aperture quarter or half wave antenna. In practical terms, this means that the window of resonance is narrow and more fickle than, for example, an end-fed half-wave.

A lot of factors can affect the SWR on higher-Q antennas like the AX1/AX2 including:

  • the type of terrain,
  • height off the ground,
  • length of counterpoise,
  • configuration of counterpoise,
  • and, most notably, the operator’s own body capacitance.

You may find that the AX2, for example, is natively resonant on 20 meters at one location, but isn’t at another location. This is quite normal. It’s also the reason why Elecraft states that both antennas are designed to be used with an ATU.

If you are pairing the AX1 or AX2 with a radio that doesn’t have an ATU (or you can’t use an external one), then you might consider making a simple capacity hat. Check out this field report and video where I paired the AX1 with the IC-705 and used a capacity hat to sort out the SWR.


As with all of my videos, this one is unedited and commercial-free. If you’d like to skip through the video to the parts you might find most relevant, simply hover your mouse over the YouTube time line and click on the chapter indicated:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Another note here: I have no affiliation with Elecraft, but pushed this article and video to the front of the line to help those who are consider taking advantage of Elecraft’s  AX1/AX2 February 2023 Package Deals.

I hope you find the video helpful. I’ll try to answer any other questions you might have in the comments of this post.


Thank you

I hope you enjoyed this comparison video.

I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

15 thoughts on “Video: What are the differences between the Elecraft AX1 and AX2? Should you buy one?”

  1. Hey Tom, as always another awesome comparison video. I have a special interest in this video because I just purchased an AX1 based on your recommendation of the February sale.
    My only question is, do you have any pointers on ways to deploy the counterpoise? I remember with the Buddipole I had years ago, setting up the counterpoise for resonance was elusive.
    Any tips, such as raising the counterpoise above the ground or other ideas for AX1 resonance are appreciated. Thanks again for all that you do and by the way, I really enjoyed the talk on bags over at HRCC.

    1. Hi Dennis,

      I have a KX3, and I just purchased the AX-1, and it works fine. I was in Georgia for work last weekend and worked stations in Texas and Maryland with it. I also did some receive testing in my hotel room with it and while I didn’t attempt to make any contacts, I was copying stations from Europe on CW, and they were quite loud.

      Mark KM3P

  2. Superb discussion and video! When I ordered my KX2 last year I didn’t (initially) order the AX1, but after watching several of you videos I called Elecraft and asked them to please add the AX1, AXE1, and AXT1 to my order. Couldn’t be happier! I typically use mine with the AXT1 mounted on a Manfrotto PIXI mini-tripod and six feet of RG316. That’s perfect for picnic table portable. Regarding very low profile ops that you talk about in the video, I’ve actually used the KX2/AX1 in HT configuration with my CW Morse Pocket Paddles strapped to my leg and a half-sheet clipboard on my lap, plus earbuds of course, and my equipment bag between my feet. Essentially occupies no more space that a single person seated on a bench and generates almost no sound so very stealthy and lots of fun!

  3. Curious what tripod you are using in your antenna kit for the AX1/AX2? In the brief view from your video it looked very compact as well.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Another fun antenna (I guess it’s a knock-off of the AX2), is the DS-1 from It works on 20 and 10m, and I bought the 40m add-on coil. I’ve done numerous successful activations with it, mounting it on a picnic table using little fold up tripod (I use a Pedco “Ultrapod” that I got on amazon). Like the AX2, the whole thing fits in the palm of my hand, and I always carry the whole setup in the water bottle pocket of my pack when I go to a park. And, besides all that, you get to have the fun of building it! 73 Skip K4EAK

    1. I plan to build one of these. I haven’t ordered it yet, but it looks like fun.
      I’d love to see photos of your DS-1 deployed and with something next to it for scale. Curious how big it is when transporting.


    1. I have, yes, but it’s been some time. I need to plan to do an SSB activation again soon. The results were pretty good. I think the contacts may have come in a little slower than they would have with a wire antenna, but I easily got the number needed for the activation and then some. 🙂 CW is as productive on the AX1 as it is with a wire antenna in terms of the number of contacts.

    1. I was *just* looking at those mounts myself! Thought it might be great for mounting the AX1 on a summit.

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