I’ve had the Elecraft KH1 in my hands now for a little over 24 hours. I had hoped to squeeze in a POTA activation yesterday, but the stars did not align. I had way too many dad responsibilities on Halloween.
I hope to correct that today with a POTA activation, if I can squeeze it into a hectic afternoon. It’ll be a cold, blustery one for sure!
Yesterday, I did fit in a couple of opportunistic contacts with the KH1 along with some morning on-the-air time in the home office while working on projects.
Since I’ve gotten so many questions about the KH1 since Monday, I thought I’d share a few random answers and notes here.
Does the KH1 work on a desktop?
Quite a few of you have written in to ask how well the KH1 works on a desktop. Some have mentioned that they like the size of the KH1, but don’t see themselves doing the pedestrian portable thing.
The answer is, the KH1 works really well as a small desktop transceiver.
In fact, yesterday morning, if I made contact with you, it was with the KH1 on my desktop while I was plugging away on spreadsheets in the office.
Elecraft designers cleverly positioned the AF Gain and Encoder knobs so that they’re accessible when the radio is lying flat on its back.
As you can see in the photo above, the key plug is positioned between the two knobs, but there’s enough separation there that you don’t feel your key cable is in the way while making adjustments. Of course, the rest of the controls are on the top, so they’re very accessible.
To be clear, I prefer using my KX2 or KX3 on a desktop (they were designed for this), but I feel the KH1 works quite well.
In fact, for the average 30-60 minute park activation where I’m connected to a wire antenna? I see myself using the KH1 on a tabletop. I’ll operate pedestrian portable when doing SOTA and fitting in those little opportunistic and impromptu radio sessions.
The ergonomics of the KH1 are excellent. It was designed to fit in the palm of your hand, and it does this perfectly.
I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about the KHPD1 keyer paddle…what the action is like, how well they work, etc.
Keep in mind that these paddles were intended to work in pedestrian portable environments where the entire radio could be moving around a bit while transmitting.
In fact, Wayne (N6KR) noted that the paddles were designed to key accurately in high vibration environments. I see his point: using precision paddles with contact points that are spaced closely, you’d probably transmit unintentionally while in the hand.
The keyer paddle action is “softer” than other paddles I’ve used including the KXPD2 paddles. That said, when adjusted to your liking, you’ll find that they get the job done effectively.
When I first put the KH1 on the air, I had no issues keying accurately right out of the gate even though the paddle action was softer than I expected. I even made a contact while I was walking down my driveway (being careful that the 13′ counterpoise was trailing behind me and I wouldn’t trip on it).
Mark my word: I’ve no doubt in my mind that there will be numerous third party, 3D-printed paddles in the KH1’s future. Key/paddle preferences are such a personal thing.
The front panel controls and menus are like nothing else Elecraft has produced yet.
While waiting on your KH1, read through the online manual thoroughly. When you receive it, walk through the basic functions with the manual next to the radio before hitting the field.
Having previous experience with Elecraft radios won’t help you a lot here: this is a completely different user interface.
That said, it’s pretty darn intuitive and all of the important field adjustments (AF Gain, Tuning, Keyer Speed, ATU, Message Memories) are top-level. It won’t take long to learn the ropes.
Of course, I’ll demo some of these things in my activation videos.
My KH1 lacks a few advertised features that will be pushed out in a firmware update (Elecraft is working on them now).
At time of posting (November 1, 2023) three features are still missing:
- CW Message Memories
- Internal Logging
- CW Decode
I’m especially looking forward to the first two items: CW message memories and internal logging!
Another random note: I really love the KH1 display. It’s simple, easy to read in the field at any angle, and high-contrast enough I don’t need my reading glasses.
The display is very Mountain Topper-esque which I consider a major positive. You’ll want to read up on the the display items–it’s quite information-dense (again, a big pro in my book).
The real KH1 game-changer?
It’s kind of wild having a radio that packs away so small it’ll fit in your pocket and is at-the-ready to hop on the air anytime, anywhere.
As I pack it this morning in my EDC bag, I keep feeling like I might be leaving something behind, but pretty much everything is already attached to the KH1: the antenna, the key, the battery (inside), and the counterpoise (wound around the body). It just slips in its padded pack, then in my EDC bag.
Wish me luck fitting in an activation this afternoon!
It’s an extremely busy day for me and it’s possible my plan could be derailed if anything in my schedule runs late. Normally, I wouldn’t try to fit in an activation today, but I do want to show you how this KH1 plays in the field. Plus, I want it to do its first POTA activation!
I’ve never filmed an activation while pedestrian portable, so this will be a new experience. With any luck (and with the help of a local friend’s bandwidth) I hope to have a short video posted sometime tomorrow. Fingers crossed!