The Elecraft KH1 or KX2? Which one should you buy?

Even before I started taking my Elecraft KH1 to the field and generating reports and activation videos, I started receiving questions from readers and subscribers about how the KH1 might compare with other field-portable radios.

At least 70% of all of these questions asked specifically about the venerable Elecraft KX2.

Making a purchase decision

I’m not surprised so many are trying to make a purchase decision between the KH1 and KX2.

For one thing, the KH1 and KX2 represent some of the smallest, most compact and lightweight shack-in-a-box HF field radios on the market. We’ve a lot of QRP field radios to chose from these days, but few have options for both internal ATUs, internal batteries, and attachable paddles. Very few are as light and compact as either of these two radios.

Another reason for the comparison is that many are in the long queue to purchase a new Elecraft KX2. At time of posting this article, if you place an order for the KX2, you are going to wait a few months for delivery.  The KH1 also has a lead time, but it’s likely shorter than that of the KX2 (check out the Elecraft Shipping Status page for more info).

Comparing models

While the KH1 and KX2 have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many respects.

We radio ops like to compare features and specifications and Elecraft knew the KX2 and KH1 would be compared frequently, so they created a handy chart:

Click here to download Elecraft’s KX2 v KH1 comparison chart (PDF).

At the end of the day, though, I would argue that one’s enjoyment of a radio has more to do with how well it fits the operating style of the owner.

The KX2 is one of the best portable QRP field radios ever made, in my humble opinion. It’s a little high-performance machine that can handle any mode you care to use between 80-10 meters.

The KH1, on the other hand (pun intended), is designed to be an exceptional handheld radio for pedestrian mobile use and as a super lightweight, low-impact, field portable station. It’s essentially CW-only and operates on 5 bands (40-15 meters).

If you can be honest with yourself about how you plan to use the radio, it’ll help you make this purchase decision.

For example, if you never see yourself operating pedestrian mobile–you’re more of a sit down at a table sort of op–there’s a good argument to go for the KX2. If, however, you’re an avid SOTA/POTA portable activator who is primarily a CW op and you like the idea of a super quick deployment and handheld operating from anytime, anywhere, you should consider the KH1.


To dig into this comparison a little deeper, I decided to make a video where I discuss the differences between the two radios and also speak to different styles of operating and which radio might suit that style best:

Click here to view on YouTube. 

I would be curious which radio you prefer and why. Please consider commenting!

Thank you!

I hope you found this post and video useful.

As always, 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.

Patreon supporters have access to 100% ad-free, and downloadable videos for off-line viewing via Vimeo. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files. This is how your support truly helps this site and channel!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

19 thoughts on “The Elecraft KH1 or KX2? Which one should you buy?”

  1. I chose the KH1. For me, the KH1 represents a new breed of radio. It’s like an HT for HF. I can wear the pack that’s included with the Edgewood package on my belt and take it anywhere. I don’t even need to find a place to sit down to use it. The setup time is so quick that I can see myself doing impromptu POTA activations in pockets of spare time. It has everything I need and none of the stuff that I don’t need (e.g. battery hungry waterfall display).

  2. i have made hundreds of Sota Summits with my KX2, but the higher the summits the place for antenna will be smaller, so i am waiting for my orderd KH1

  3. Hi Thomas,

    I’m not yet a CW op but…

    What’s the status of log pad refills for the KH1? Could this be a business opportunity to support



    1. The Elecraft site has a downloadable PDF that lets you print out your own log sheets. It’s handy to have a small paper cutter like the Fiskars one I keep in my desk drawer, to trim the paper to size.

  4. Initially, I was quite excited about the KH1. Now, I think it’s an aspirational purchase. How many people are actually going to make CW contacts while standing on a summit with no place to sit down?

    I’m VERY happy with my KX2. I can use the AX1 antenna on those rare occasions when I really need something that small. Multi-mode is almost a necessity for me.

  5. Definitely KX2.
    KX1 doesn’t have the full capability of KX2. KX1 are only good for portability and has no guarantee that you can get a good QSO contacts. Yes the antenna is really cool tiny but those it has gain and efficiency. You might still need a lengthy piece of wire to add to make it a little better. Just my opinion.

    1. Hi, Joy,

      The KH1 can use either the whip or any other antenna you can dream up when connected to the BNC. So far, though, I’ve had no issue making contacts on the whip where I live–in fact, each time, it’s been pileup situations. I’ve also worked some serious DX with this setup while doing SOTA. With a little technique, you can also be heard in a pileup. 🙂

  6. As a KX1, KX2, and KX3 owner, I felt the initial tug to order a KH1 but resisted the urge. While the form-factor is definitely a big factor in one’s ultimate choice, I’m afraid the four missing bands are a big enough difference for me. My lack of proximity to SOTA destinations also colors my opinion. All my portable operations are standstill, so KX2 is the route I’ll take (for now)

  7. My recent experience using the KX2 as if it were a KH1 (ie, with a telescoping whip antenna) has me re-thinking my KH1 purchase.

    I’m thinking the KX2 makes for a pretty good 8-band KH1 with twice the power and SSB capability. For the price of the KH1, I could take my KX2 to a lot of places…

    I think there will be a lot of KH1’s on the used market in 6 months, as the “new factor” wears off, and those who bought it as a novelty realize that they don’t fit the niche for which the radio was designed.

  8. I own and treasure my KX2. It’s features & performance are hard to beat. It’s well worth the wait and the price.

    I now own 10 highly portable QRP field radios. For me, the price and my operational style are both factors. I’m playing POTA. My days of backcountry adventure are restricted to my Jeep and a park bench.

    I’m certian the KH1 is a great field radio. But it’s not a KX2. And for the price, I’d need to sell a couple of radios, to justify buying a KH1.

  9. I thought hard about the KH1. But then reality set in. Like others, I don’t see myself doing pedestrian anything. I recently received my KX2 and I feel it serves my purposes better. Anything that can be done on the KH1, can be done on the KX2 and more. I think the KH1 is more of a niche or novelty radio designed for a specific purpose whereas the KX2 has more general appeal.

  10. I consider myself as a casual operator, not a SOTA or POTA guy.

    There are places I could operate with a KH1 that would be unsuitable for a larger more elaborate set up.

    Install the antenna in position, unwind the counterpoise, find a band and frequency, hit the tune button and TX. Could not be more simple. It’s coming at the right time in the solar cycle.

    The KH1 represents a new frontier. Sure, it’s a niche radio that won’t appeal to most operators. Reminiscent of the Ten-Tec 509 I owned in the late ’70’s.

  11. As a long-time KX1 user, I know that my decision to order a KX2 is the right one for me. Waiting 3 to 4 months is tough though 😉


    Michael VE3WMB

    P.S. I am primarily into POTA, not SOTA and my pedestrian mobile operating days are behind me.

  12. I’d love to have a KH1 “just because,” but for me I think the KX2 is the better choice, and not just because I already own one. Thomas, reading about your KH1 exploits has inspired me to get out more and do /PM with my KX2, and I have confirmed what I already knew — that it’s great for that purpose. One obvious advantage that the KX2 has is SSB, especially since it’s usually easier to find POTA stations using that mode. Busting a small POTA pileup while /PM is no problem with the KX2 and AX1 (especially if you announce “Pedestrian Mobile”).
    For background, I’ve been doing /PM on and off for over 20 years. I started with an FT-817 worn on its strap around my neck, a home brew L-network tuner designed to attach directly to the rig’s SO-239, and a 20-foot fishing pole loosely wrapped with wire. Later I designed a forerunner of the AX1– a shortened, loaded whip that connected directly to the rig’s SO-239 with a right angle adapter, but that was intended for portable use, not /PM. (The design was inspired by the Hustler mobile antennas.)
    Even later I made a wooden pack board to carry the fishing pole antenna and a 6 AH gel cell battery.
    The KX2 has taken my /PM ops to a new level since it can be carried like an HT, and I’m able to make the AX1 work on ALL bands, 20 through 10 meters (20, 17, 15, 12, and 10). I find CW /PM to be a lot of fun, and I’m not talking about just standing around, I’m talking about walking while sending and copying. I attach my paddles either to my belt or to the small shoulder bag that holds my 4.5 AH Bioenno battery. (Logging is done with a digital recorder.) I even worked a bit of 10 and 15 meter CW DX during the recent CQWW ‘test while walking around the farm. (See my blog for details.)
    Still, I’d like to try out a KH1 some day, and maybe I’ll eventually own one. It looks like so much fun!

  13. Since the question is KX2 vs KH1, and the KX2 seems to be getting the most love so far, here is how I see it.

    First, I have a KX2 SN 172, so I have kept it a long time and like it. But let’s look at what the KH1 vs. KX2 bring to the table. The KX2 takes up almost twice as much space (including protrusions) 44.7 cu in vs. 24.4 cu in for the KH1. The eye test? My iPhone with leather cover that I carry in my pants pocket most of the time is larger in height and width than the KH1 and is .75 inch in depth vs. 1.4 in for the KH1, so the Elecraft will very reasonably fit in my pocket. The KX2 will fit in my pocket, but barely.

    The KH1 with all accessories weighs 13 oz, the KX2 with all the accessories I have is about double that. The minimum RX current is 50 to 70 ma for the KH1 and 135 ma for the KX2 which is around twice as much draw on the battery. The TX power is 5 w. for KH1, but 10 w. for the KX-2 (but not for long with the internal battery).

    The KX2 allows operation on the 80, 60, 12 and 10 meter bands that the KH1 doesn’t, but to me (for QRP portable use) 80 and 60 are not very useful. 12 and 10 meters would be nice to have but are bands that are open only sporadically and in some parts of the sunspot cycle, rarely open at all.

    The big issue is not having SSB on the KH1, which I am sure will be a deal breaker for some (though using CW for QRP field operations makes QSO’s much easier to come by and IMHO, more fun). This is a matter of personal operating style. I own a KX2, but if I were using it QRP portable it would be only on CW anyway.

    The KX2 fully loaded is $1600 and the KH1 Edgewood is $1100.

    To me, it comes down to having SSB and a few extra bands vs. extreme portability. If I could only own one, I would go KH1 if most of my operation was QRP portable or KX2 for multimode portable/home use. Actually, what I would REALLY do, is get the KH1 for field use and limited QRP home operations and a 100 watt transceiver such as the Icom IC-7300 or Yaesu FT-710 for most home SSB/CW operations.

    FWIW :), Kevin K3OX

  14. Sadly I sold my KX2 in early 2021 for a measly $750. I regret that sale! I have a KH1 on order and I am excited about the idea of rolling up to my POTA spot and BAM being on the air within minutes of extending that counterpoise wire. I also envision me taking the KH1 with me on business trips and easily activating nearby POTA spots. It is definitely a niche radio and I find it not really comparable to the KX2. I really hope the KX4 that is coming soon will have a built in soundcard for digi modes ! 72 de Jon K7CO

  15. All radios are niche radios if you think about it. I don’t think many FTDX-101’s are used for SOTA operations :).

    As far as a KX4 goes, it kind of already exists, it’s called an Icom IC-705. It does about everything (except internal HF tuner), 160 meters through UHF, sound card, GPS, all mode (digital with external computer/smart phone), easily swapped internal battery, highly flexible spectrum scope etc, at the cost of size, current draw and weight that would be expected.

    I would love to see Elecraft beat Icom at their own game and maybe they will.

    As far as the KH1’s cost, the LNR Precision MTR4B costs $370 and is usually sold out! It is barebones and hairshirt and CW only with nothing internal but the radio. If you don’t need the KH1’s tuner, whip antenna, internal battery, paddle and charger etc., the base KH1 is $550 and adds an extra band (I would say two because the MT has 80 meters which is to me not that useful in a QRP field portable), has niceties like a volume control, tuning knob rather than up/down buttons, general coverage between 40 and 15 meters with provisions for SSB reception (the MT only receives the CW segments of the ham bands it covers) and so forth. And you can still add the internal features you desire later if your operating needs change. At that, the KH1 is only around 25% larger than the MTR4B. Almost sounds like a bargain when you look at it :), $180 dollars buys you a fair amount of benefit, in my view.

    73, Kevin K3OX

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