Survey 2: If you could only own one HF QRP radio, which one would it be?

I’m asked a variation of this question several times a month (no kidding!):

“Thomas, if you could only own one QRP radio, which one would you choose?”

If you’ve asked me this question, you’ll know I have a pretty canned response because I feel it’s a very subjective question–one that’s all about one’s own personal preferences–thus the radio I choose may not be the radio you would choose. Since others’ might use this choice to make a purchase decision, I’m uncomfortable providing a simple answer.

I need to better understand the operator before making a suggestion.

Survey #2

The last survey we conducted was so much fun and quite insightful! I’ve a number of surveys in store for the next few weeks. As with the previous, Survey #2 also focuses on HF QRP transceivers.

In this survey, I’d like to explore the topic above. In fact, another future survey will as well, but the case use will be more specific, so please read this survey question carefully:

Imagine, for a moment, that money is no object and that you could own any QRP transceiver in the world. Which one would you choose for all of your various radio activities?

In other words, you can own any QRP radio in the world, but you must use it for all of your radio activities (POTA, SOTA, QTH, Field Day, travel, etc.). Some of you may need a radio that can do all of these things. Some of you may only use it for Field Day, or travel.

In addition, some of you may only use one mode, while others use SSB, AM, CW, and various digital modes!

It’s all about you and how/where/when you might operate!

Please use the form below to make your selection. It’s okay to add a radio that isn’t listed in the “Other” selection, but make sure it’s a QRP (20 watts or less) transceiver, else the entry will be  removed because this particular survey is all about QRP radios.

The survey has no place for comments, but please let us know why you chose what you chose in the comments section of this post!

I will plan to share these results later this week. Thank you!

45 thoughts on “Survey 2: If you could only own one HF QRP radio, which one would it be?”

  1. You’re killing us!? But it’s fun. The radios about the mission as much or more as the operator right? How about the next several surveys including…
    1) How many field radios do you own?
    2) Best for SOTA/backpacking?
    3) Best for POTA?
    4) Best for resort/beach?
    5) The radio you love to hate (and why)?
    6) Best for air travel? And
    7)) The radio you need that hasn’t been built yet

    I expect you’ve got these and more queued up, but it is fun to see this group’s take on it all. Thanks!

    1. Some great questions there Scott – QRP radios are tools, some have different uses to others. At least that’s my excuse!


      Richard M0RGM

  2. The TX500 because you don’t have to worry about mist and rain and it’s built like the proverbial brick… No worries in the field.

  3. Another possible question: Now that you have selected only the one QRP radio; if later you decide to have a backup QRP radio, which one would you choose?

  4. I feel like I’m back in school with the hard questions and decisions. Currently I own three “qrp” rigs. 705, 6100, 599. I’ve had the iCom for little over a year and I am very comfortable with the radio. The other two only owning for a few months I’ve not messed with much yet they all have many features I need/want. The 599 hasn’t even made it to the field yet but I really like the radio. The 6100 has promise, internal tuner being the most attractive to me but the heat issues and sometimes the front end is weak. The 705 is big/bulky compared to the others and with its girth there’s no tuner so there’s the anger that comes along with that. I’d love to have/try a KX2 but who wants to wait 16 weeks for one. I’m hoping there’s one laying on a table at Hamvention just waiting for me ?. Again, tough choices to make, so I chose the 705 because it has performed well for me and it’s at this time I’m the most comfortable with it. (For Now)


  5. Thomas,
    I own and use multiple radio’s including Kx2 & Kx3, Icom 705, X6100, QCX+ & QCX Mini’s, QDX and TR-35 as well as one each FT817 and FT818. All are enjoyable and fun to use, but my pick is the FT818 as the Only One to have for everything. Why, because it is all band, very small package and easy to carry, easy to interface and I use it as an IF rig for microwave operation from 13 cm to 24 GHz. I use tuned antennas for HF operation as well as VHF, so a tuner is not needed. The IC705 does the same thing but it is bulky and harder to pack, requires some sort of stand just to keep upright and does not have all of the connectivity as the FT818. It is much easier for me to pack a small book than it is to pack a large brick. I look forward to seeing your results.


    1. Thomas, I blew it. The question is HF QRP radio, and I took it as just only one radio. So, my choice should be the Kx2.

  6. William Harris
    I chose the IC-703, If the IC-705 had an internal tuner it would be the hands down choice.

  7. FT 818…it’s a rock! Apologies to my qcx which has unreal nice performance but a mono band?

  8. I only operate QRP. While I prefer a MTR3B for SOTA , POTA, backpacking etc, I operate from home also. My KX2 is my home and business trip rig. I love the MTR3b , but it I only have one to use for everything, I want the other bands it doesn’t offer. It is easier to pack a little lighter or find the room by leaving a non essential something and carry the Elecraft than to be stuck with only 3 bands for life. Plus it is just an amazing rig. I am spoiled by the MTR3B for backpacking, because the KX2 is in reality an very compact and lightweight rig that will do all I could want.

  9. Hands down, it is Yaesu.-

    I use it for 23 years now, my first one was the original FT-817
    got it for 8 years, then FT-817ND for 12 years, and now I have the FT-818ND with 300Hz cw filter.-

    I worked the world with it and have great fun.
    It is the Swiss Knife of radio!!

    72. Mike

  10. I chose the IC-705 because, I own one and I really like it. It is the most fully-featured QRP rig out there at the moment and an excellent performer, especially on CW, which is my preferred mode. The only negatives IMHO are the form factor (i.e. large brick) and the lack of internal tuner. ICOM has done so many things right with this radio that it is hard to imagine how Elecraft could challenge them in the future with a new portable QRP radio (KX4??). Both the KX2 and KX3 are excellent performing radios but they are starting to show their age.
    Cheers Michael VE3WMB

  11. My choice is my KX2. Over the years I have owned and operated several qrp radios. The best part is that I am enjoying the many radios that I currently own.

    Dave KN4OK

  12. For everything/anything, it’s the IC-705. The fantastic display – especially for QTH, great interface options for digital,

    Lack of an internal tuner is a negative – as already noted, but not huge for a true “anywhere” radio. Can work bare-bones field/POTA/SOTA with a resonant antenna, or add a small external tuner (or amp w/tuner!) – a compromise either way.

    But that’s what this question’s getting at: What would you compromise if you could only have one. The 705 delivers the biggest feature set for me.

  13. The Icom IC703 because:
    1. Manufactured by a quality commercial company with an excellent reputation.
    2. All mode functionality in a qrp only rig.
    3. Built-in tuner.
    4. Portability.

  14. I own the KX2, and it still gets my vote. There are several radios on the list that do something better than the KX2 (water/dust resistant, digital, display, smaller/lighter, etc.), but the KX2 is the Swiss Army knife radio. For me, a radio that does a little bit of everything, to meet my needs, is better than several radios where each does one thing really well.

    Having said that, the ruggedness of the Lab599 is the feature that I wish the KX2 had.

  15. If the question was for only one portable rig, then I would have chosen my KX2. But because the survey also covers home use then the one radio I would hang onto would be my KX3. The receiver in the KX3 is so nice and I hope one day to pickup a PX3 for home use.

    You’re a hard task master Thomas – really I need to keep both the KX siblings, they each have their own roles. I was able to pickup both secondhand for less than the cost of a new KX3, so can’t I keep both, please? 🙂

  16. Going to have to say the FT-818 now that being said I don’t have one I don’t own one but having HF VHF and UHF all in one package and where the rules of the question are I can only have one I’d say that one would fit the bill for everything I want to do

  17. I voted for Elecraft’s KX2. It covers the bands that are most essential for HF QRP. It uses minimal battery power. It can have the ATU option making it easier to use with more antennas. It has a GREAT receiver with nice filtering and DSP. It has good general coverage capability making it handy to check the local WX forecast. It has a built-in mic in case you want to use phone modes. It’s a real radio.

  18. Definitely my KX2, I love my QCX mini. (I built a 20,30m). Again it’s a Swiss Army knife of a radio!

  19. I have a ft 817ND, ft818ND, and a kx3. For all around use I would go with my ft 818nd with my 300 hz filter and Elecraft T1 tuner. I just feel that the 818 is more versatile than the Kx3 across all bands. But it is a close choice to make.

  20. Yaesu FT-818. All bands; all modes; very rugged; nice form factor. With added side rails, bhi DSP, Collins filter, and spinner knob it’s a sweet rig. You feel like you can do anything when using this radio.

  21. I juggled between 3 radios. The IC-705, the Elecraft KX3 and the Expert Electronics SunSDR2 Pro. Believe it or not I have used the SunSDR2 Pro on several portable outings, and it has worked perfectly. It even has its own Peli. But of course, a laptop is required. So, I narrowed down the choice to the 705 and the KX3. In the end, the 705 comes out top. I have the Icom back-pack which has enough room for antennas, external batteries and the tiny Mat tuner slips into the side pocket seamlessly.

  22. That rig would be a QRPver IV.3. I already own the 7 MHz version. I would like one for another band. It will only happen when our planet is free of the Putin menace. Maybe eventually that will happen. The 1V.3 operates both on SSB and CW. There was also a multiband QRPver rig, which I regret that I didn’t buy. Long live a war-free Ukraine! For now, my favorite rig is the Elecraft KX2, which is named Little Engine. 73, Bruce Prior

  23. Lots of responses referring to the 817/818 as it has VHF and UHF. The question, however, was about an HF radio so my choice would be the tx-500. It’s small, fairly rugged (although very much NOT waterproof despite the misleading advertising), has excellent receive performance and is streets ahead of the 817/818 in features and usability.

  24. Ic-705. Small package. Decent price for all the features it comes with and does anything I would ever want to do from digital, cw and ssb.

  25. Although I own a MTR-4Bv2, KD1JV Tribander and Penntek TR-35, I chose the Elecraft KX-3 as my ‘If I could have just one QRP radio’ for many reasons:
    1. Smallest size for what it does.
    2. Internal ATU and battery.
    3. All ham bands – no band left out.
    4. Adjustable sinewave sidetone.
    5. Adjustable audio filtering and passband.
    6. Designed by and for CW ops, not an afterthought.
    7. Plain display. No annoying colors or hard-to-read fonts.
    8. Not made in China, so you have a quality product that performs well – as well as good support.

  26. I picked the IC-705 because I would also like the IC-905 as I love doing VUCC activities on VHF/UHF/SHF. I also love my Tuna can kits, but have not built all of them yet and still want to do some POTA QRPp Activations for some of my operations. There is nothing wrong with a Full 5-watt gallon of CW signal, but you sometimes want to have fun with QRPp. I did WAS QRPp 1-watt in 1987 with my old HW-9 primarily with a 40M rotatable dipole and a 15M 3-ele yagi, both mounted about 5t feet up.

  27. I have used Elecraft radios since the K2 was available. Mine had serial number 196! I have ever since wanted a small radio for mainly CW activities. The KX1 was out for some time before I ordered the kit and 4 band module. It was a fun assembly project and worked so well that when the KX2 was available I wanted to order it. My most loving wife declared that there were too many radios in the house. Mandate was,” get rid of most before getting another” I now have K3s and KX2. Happy wife, happy ham!.

  28. Well, one QRP rig only for all activities (field, home, etc.) will mean some compromises of course… I’d have to go with the 705 as it will do everything I ask it to with 160M-70cm, GPS, bluetooth (I use that a lot actually), built in sound card, spectrum display, ability to charge from any 5V or 12V source or run off of external battery to name a few.

    It does have a bit more bulk and no internal tuner, but I can live with those things pretty easily for how well it does each task I could ask.

    That’s my use case at least 🙂

  29. The IC-705 meets my needs as a new ham: Small footprint, with multi-band/mode capability with waterfall, for operationg on the desk in my bedroom and portable enough to work outdoors. These features have allowed me to explore the hobby at 82 years of age. As a POTA hunter, ssb/FT8, it was easy to start making contacts using a 32 foot wire on the ceiling or an Elecraft AX1 on the roof of my SUV. Or an EFHW wire out the bedroom window to a fence. And, as a former shortwave listner using an IC-R75 I was already familiar with I-COM features.

  30. Owned the 705 for 1 year plus. Great radio but it has USB noise problems and it’s a great package but cannot complete with KX3 on HF performance , built in tuner and voice Cw and Data modes. I have Icom 705 and KX3 on the KXPA100 and the KX3 is the closest to my K3S in operations and solid audio . I would have to vote for KX3. I also have ten tec V icom703 as well as my trusty KX1 . Sold the KX2 as again the KX3 simply has best receiver of all my qrp rigs sold the 705 several months ago. Don’t use VHF UHF and Datar is wasted upon me.

  31. It’s a great question, Thomas, and it took a lot of thought to come up with my choice – KX2.
    In the past I have been an Elecraft fan-boy. I own a K2, KX2, KX3 and a K3S, though my home station is now a Flex 6400.
    I nearly chose the K2, but I’ve used that for SOTA since I bought the KX3, and then the KX2.
    Based on my usage – all modes and a lot of QRP/P – the KX2 wins hands down. I’m 70, and though I love the waterfall on the 6400, I cannot imagine ever, ever, using a waterfall on a SOTA/POTA activation. Why would anybody? You don’t S&P on SOTA/POTA, or indeed any QRP in my opinion. You have to run . The fact you can hear them (with maybe >1kW) has zero correlation with them being able to hear you with you with 5/10W

    1. You’re definitely a cw op!!gotta actually know how to…..huh!! Zero beat. Cool rig! 72 ab8mr Rob

  32. Although there are QRP radios (many of which I own) that have specific features that I like , the one that has the best (IMHO) COMBINATION of features is the Elecraft KX2 (with internal tuner). I don’t think it excels in any single area, but has the best COMBINATION of capabilities. Sure, I wish it had a color FFT/Waterfall it I love the compact form factor.

  33. I agree that for a question like this that you will get a mireade of answers.
    I obtained my Yaesu 818 and use it for Sota and all portable activities.
    At was purchased as it was avaiable at the time but I love it.
    As the story goes what is the best radio in the world. A. The one you have access to at the time

  34. I would pick the TX-500. I use the KX2 more often, but the TX-500 I can use in ALL locations and conditions. The KX2 I can only use in decent weather. I’ve had it wet, covered in sand, etc. and no issues at all!

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