My new radio, Elecraft’s KH1

Back in February, I ordered a new radio for my birthday, an Elecraft KH1. There is a waiting list for this radio, so after a four month wait it was finally delivered on on June 13, 2024. In this journal entry I describe my first few days with the radio and share my general impression so far.

In this journal entry I describe my first few days with the radio and share my general impression so far.

I opened the box and within minutes had my KH1 tuned up to listen while sitting on my back patio.

The Elecraft KH1 Transceiver

The KH1 is an HF radio primarily designed for pedestrian portable CW operation. It is a QRP radio which means that it’s maximum operating power of 5 watts. While CW only, low power operations might seem limiting it opens up all kinds of possibilities. With this radio I can operate anytime and anywhere; the whole station is in your jacket pocket.

The KH1’s specs are as follows:

  • Operates on 15, 17, 20, 30 and 40 meters HF with an external antenna
  • Operates on 15, 17 and 20 meters with the provided whip antenna out of the box
    • I’ve purchased the AXE1 extender which allows operations on 40 meters with the whip antenna
  • 5 watt power maximum (for context my home station operates at 100 watts)
  • Super solid construction and design; it is made in the USA

Family trip to Southern Maine

After taking delivery of my new field radio there as no time to head out and use it. Friday was the last day of school for my two teenagers. My son, Josh, had a baseball tournament in Old Orchard Beach, Maine which was a great excuse for a family weekend away to kick off our 2024 summer.

My first few days with the KH1 on our family vacation really demonstrates the radio’s value as an anytime, anywhere radio. Our weekend in Maine was a wonderful family vacation. The KH1 allowed me to get a little radio time in as well. We had some brief trips to the beach between baseball games, amusement park fun and culinary excursions. The KH1 allowed me to get on the radio as well.

With KH1’s anytime, anywhere capabilities, I could get on the air between baseball games, beach excursions and amusement park fun.

1,871 mile QSO

I made my first KH1 QSO with K5OHY while sitting on the beach.

The KH1 is the little radio that could. 5 watts of Elecraft power made the 1,871 mile round trip. It was almost 8pm and we were on the 20 meter band.

HF propogation was surely aided by the salt water. But the contacts that can be made at such low power are amazing.

POTA operations at Ferry Beach State Park

The next day the family went to Ferry Beach State Park. Solar weather conditions that morning made radio operations difficult. Our time at the park was limited so I was not able to get the 10 contacts required for a POTA activation. Nonetheless, I had a great time and enjoyed the contacts I did make.

I hope to get back some day because the park is gorgeous.

Here is my setup when I’m at a park with available picnic tables. My kit has the following items:

Time and conditions prevented me from activating Ferry Beach State Park that day. No worries! I activated a local park today. I plan to follow up with another journal entry on that soon.

General thoughts after 4 days

I’m really happy with the KH1. I am a relatively new CW operator but it is clear to me that Elecraft has built a really elegant, fun to use CW transceiver. The QSK or break in is really smooth. When I’m using the earbuds the tones are pleasant to my ear. The filters are useful for both hunting (i.e., searching for stations calling CQ) and for calling CQ yourself.

A map of the QSOs I made from Ferry Beach State Park.

KH1 stock paddles

I’ve read others complain about the KH1’s paddles online. I found that once I made some adjustments using the provided L-wrench, it is a very serviceable paddle. I plan to use my CW Morse SP4 for tabletop operations but have had no problems using the KHPD1 that ships with the KH1 while standing or sitting without a tabletop.

KH1 logging utilities

Once home, I loaded up the KH1 Utility software and viewed the logs collected over the weekend. Here is the raw text log from a QSO with NA4A. I made this contact from the top of Whipple Hill while I was walking my dog, Daisy.

   {240618-2254-20CW}  W1YTQ
   {240618-2255-20CW}  W1YTQ
   {240618-2256-20CW}  W1YTQ W1OYTQ W1YTQ BKDEW1YTQ ITR55N55NQQBK
   {240618-2257-20CW}  EE

You can see that I sent my call sign a few times. Then once acknowledged I sent a standard POTA signal report. I meant to send UR 55N MA BK but the decoder interpreted it as ITR55N55NQQBK. A U is ..- while IT would be .._-. Clearly I need to practice my spacing.

Connecting and downloading my logs to my computer was quick and easy. I’ve included a screenshot of the KH1 Utility program running on my Linux laptop.

Great food and fun with family

The KH1’s quick setup and pedestrian portable capabilities meant that I could get some radio sessions in while spending time with my family. The baseball tournament and sightseeing left no time to find a spot, setup an antenna and connect and operate a radio. The KH1’s one minute setup allowed me to do it all and enjoy my Father’s Day weekend with family and friends.

If you find yourself in Southern Maine, I highly recommend Holy Donut and The Lobster Claw. Our day started with some amazing donuts and our lunch on The Claw’s patio was delicious.