Yesterday, I updated the firmware in my Elecraft KH1 with a beta release we’re evaluating in the KH1 volunteer test group. This beta release includes CW message memories and CW send/receive decoding. At first blush, both seem to work really well.
I updated my KH1 while having lunch at my buddy Vlado’s (N3CZ) QTH. Elecraft makes the process so simple: download their utility, download the firmware file, connect the supplied USB cable to the PC and the radio, and make one setting change on the KH1 for it to receive data. That’s pretty much it.
I loaded the firmware right before I walked out the door and then programmed the message memories at K-3378 where I had less than 20 minutes to perform an activation (that video will be posted soon). I had no notes, no manual, and sorted out how to record the messages with no problem whatsoever. The process is very intuitive. I even recorded all three messages correctly on the first go.
I’d already given thought to what messages would go where–one message is very specific to the KH1.
Here’s what I recorded in the three message memory slots:
“CQ POTA DE K4SWL”
“BK TU TU 72 DE K4SWL”
“AS AS DE K4SWL”
Number three is there for when I need to change log sheets in the KH1 logging tray!
AS is a CW Prosign that means, “Wait” or “Hang on.” Since it’s a Prosign, you send AS as one character (dit dah dit dit dit)–no space between the A and S.
I just hit that #3 memory then take my time flipping log sheets!
On my other field radios with CW message memories, I tend to give memory #1 a CQ POTA, memory #2 a CQ SOTA, then the third memory a 73/72 message.
In the early days of POTA, I used my “CQ POTA DE K4SWL” message memory a lot in beacon/repeat mode because we had a mere fraction of the hunters we have today.
These days, I find that I only end up calling CQ POTA two or three times–just enough for the RBN to pick me up. Once spotted? I almost never need to call CQ again and if I do, it’s easy enough to do that by hand. POTA has grown in numbers so much since the early days.
There’s no SOTA CQ on the KH1 for this same reason. I find I only need to call CQ enough for the RBN to find me.
Anyway, just a random Friday note for you!
I had a problem uploading my latest SOTA activation video with the KH1. I hope to have it published later this weekend or on Monday at the latest.
Have a great weekend–I hope you have a moment to play a little radio!
Yesterday, I posted some initial notes about the Elecraft KH1 and mentioned that I hoped to perform a POTA activation later in the day.
I’m pleased to report that I was able to fit in that activation!
I’m pushing this report and video to the front of the line because so many readers are eager to see how the KH1 performs during a field activation. Instead of focusing on the park, in this field report we’ll be taking a closer look at the KH1 and my initial impressions after performing a pedestrian mobile POTA activation with it.
Packing the KH1
I had a very hectic schedule yesterday and was on the road in/around Asheville from 8:00AM to 2:00PM before an opportunity opened to fit in an activation.
After a quick trip back to the QTH for lunch, I packed the Elecraft KH1 field kit in my EDC pack (a travel laptop bag).
Herein lies my first impression of the KH1: even though I knew I had packed the entire kit, I felt like I must have been leaving something behind.
Sounds funny, but even though I pride myself on making fully self-contained field radio kits, I felt like there must have be something else I needed. The KH1 field kit just seemed too small, too lightweight, and too compact to have included everything I needed for an activation.
Intellectually, I knew that it included everything needed, but I still did a mental inventory:
Log book and pencil? Check.
Hard to believe, but it was all there.
Trust me: the first time you take your KH1 to the field, I bet you’ll feel the same way I did.
Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)
Because I was so short on time, I decided to activate the Blue Ridge Parkway which is the most convenient POTA entity when I travel into Asheville from Swannanoa.
It was cold and blustery afternoon the afternoon of November 1, 2023. At my QTH, I checked the temperature and it was about 34F. I knew it would be a bit warmer in town which is a good 1,000 feet lower in elevation, but I still grabbed my gloves on the way out the door. Glad I did!
As I mention in the activation video below, I wasn’t exactly on my “A Game.” I had received a couple of vaccines the previous day and my body was a bit achy as if I was starting to get the flu. But, of course, I wasn’t. Still… I didn’t feel 100%.
I arrived on site and set up couldn’t have been easier:
Open the KH1 pack
Remove the KH1
Attach the counterpoise and string out on ground
Remove whip from clips and attach to top of KH1
Turn on radio
Find a clear frequency
Hit the ATU button for a 1:1 match!
We’re talking a 30 second process even for someone who moves slowly.
Important notes about my KH1
Keep in mind the following notes that are relevant at time of posting this field report (November 2, 2023):
I am waiting on a firmware update to add:
CW Message Memories
I purchased the full “Edgewood” package but I don’t yet have my logging tray/cover yet. Elecraft plans to ship this within the next few days.
My KH1 is a very early serial number because I’m in the volunteer testing group.
The KH1 Speaker
I consider the Elecraft KH1 speaker to be a “bonus” feature. The speaker is small (1.1 x 0.65”) and limited in fidelity.
From Elecraft: something BIG, in an incredibly small package…!
Just this morning, Elecraft introduced the new Elecraft KH1.
In brief, the KH1 is a five-band (40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meter) handheld QRP CW transceiver with options for an internal battery, internal ATU, whip antenna, and fold-out logging pad.
Exciting! And if you’d like to get the scoop on this new handheld radio–– along with photos––we’ve got it here.
Q: What is the Elecraft KH1?
A: The Elecraft KH1 is a compact, five-band CW QRP transceiver designed for both handheld and tabletop operation. Indeed, the “H” in the model number signifies “Handheld.”
To be clear, although it is quite small, the KH1 isn’t just a tiny radio: it’s ergonomically purpose-designed, to be a pedestrian-mobile CW station. It’s lightweight, easy to hold and use, and will fit both right and left-handed operators. With the optional “Edgewood Package,” it also includes a fold-out logging pad.
Q: How much does the Elecraft KH1 weigh?
A: With all options (ATU, Antenna, Battery, and logging pad) the KH1 weighs in at a featherweight 13 oz.
Q: What features does the Elecraft KH1 offer?
A: Here’s a feature list from the Elecraft brochure:
40-15 meter ham bands
6-22 MHz for shortwave broadcast band listening
CW mode; 5 watts, all bands
ATU includes whip & high-Q inductor for 20/17/15 m
2.5 AH Li-Ion battery & internal charger
CW decode & 32K TX log
RTC [Real-Time Clock]
Full remote control
RIT, XIT, & VFO lock
Light gray case stays cool even in bright sunlight
Three CW message memories with chain and repeat functions
Like nothing else on the market…
The KH1 design is all Elecraft and built on several years worth of design iterations. It is, no doubt, fueled by Wayne’s passion for handheld portable HF.
Again, the KH1 focuses on ergonomics that would make handheld operation not only easy, but enjoyable.
The two main multi-function controls (the AF Gain and Encoder), for example, are located on the bottom of the radio. This gives the operator easy and ergonomic access to the controls while the radio is in-hand.
The four buttons on the top of the radio default to the most useful functions one would need while operating portable. Using them to dig deeper into the menu levels, however, is also intuitive and well thought-through.
While the KH1 menus and features are naturally not as deep as those of the KX2 and KX3, it’s impressively well-equipped for a radio this size. At the end of the day, it’s a much more simple field radio––by design––than its KX2 and KX3 predecessors. If anything, it’s more akin to the venerable KX1!
The KH1’s paddles (KHPD1) are located at the bottom of the radio––they flip down for transport, and up during use, so your fingers are well away from the AF and Encoder knobs.
The KH1 has an optional internal ATU that is not as wide-range as that of the KX3, KX2, or T1, but is much better than that of the KX1. I understand that it’ll match most of what you throw at it.
Wayne told me that one of the most complicated parts of the KH1 design was the fold-out logging pad. He wanted the logging pad to be functional for one-handed operation. The indents around the loose-leaf logging sheets allow you to pull out a completed sheet and slip it behind the others in the stack.
The logging sheets are available as a PDF download; simply print and cut. No doubt, the format would be easy to modify.
This is the part I love: the KH1 is designed to operate with a telescoping whip antenna.
Basically, you unclip the whip from the side of the radio (assuming you have the ATU/whip option) and screw it on the top of the top. The ATU will match the whip antenna––there’s a mechanical slide switch that selects 15/17 m or 20 m high-Q inductance for whip––or an external antenna on the BNC port.
If you’ve been reading my field reports and watching my videos, you know I’m a huge fan of the Elecraft AX1 antenna. The KH1 basically has the option of a built-in AX1 antenna…Just take my money!
If the counterpoise is already attached and wrapped around the body of the KH1, you will be able to deploy the station and be on the air in about 20 seconds.
As many of you know, I’ve always said that the secret power of the AX1 and AX2 antennas is speed of deployment. The KH1 allows for an even speedier deployment.
This will be most especially appreciated when activating summits in the winter where exposure to the elements from simply setting up the antenna and station will often make your hands go numb.
Also, the KH1 is so low-impact and low-profile, you’ll be able to activate parks that might otherwise be off limits to an HF field installation. I know of one urban park that, with permission, I’ll definitely use the KH1 to activate; it has no park benches and no trees, just a strip of grass around a historic building in the middle of a city. Perfect for the KH1!
KH1 versus KX2?
The KH1 and KX2 are very different animals. Elecraft actually produced this comparison chart to help potential customers make a purchase decision.
My advice? If you have a KX2 on order, don’t cancel it.
The KH1 is not a KX2 replacement. The KX2 is a much more capable radio. The KH1, however, is a radio focused on ultra lightweight, low-profile, pedestrian-portable, CW HF field operation.
A KH1 review?
Yes, it’s coming! I will purchase and review the KH1 “Edgewood” package. My unit should ship next week, so look for updates and photos, and I will push those field reports and videos to the front of the line.
To be completely transparent: I have been in a volunteer group of testers for the KH1. Other than this, the only real affiliation I have with Elecraft––besides knowing Wayne, Eric, and some of their staff––is being a long-time customer. I own, or have owned, every radio they’ve ever made, save the K3 and K4 lines. And it’s Elecraft that makes my favorite field radios.