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K2 Impressions – Part 2

Did I mention the K2 is a really nice CW radio? Well, it is.

While the performance aspects of the K2 are probably of the most interest to the average operator, I’d like to digress for a moment to a less visited topic – The K2 is really an engineering design marvel.

I’m admittedly not qualified to judge the circuit design, although the radio certainly does the job. What I find amazing is the high quality of the design of the physical assembly. This seems most impressive because it is in the form of a kit. That the kit can be assembled and calibrated with a soldering iron and a VOM is really an achievement. The designers of this radio have really created something special. Given the widespread popularity of all of the Elecraft products I think that is a widely held opinion. That it is really something special would be obvious, were folks to stop and think about it.

The modular design allows the radio to be cobbled together in pieces, something that carried forward with the new K3(although the K3 pieces come pre-assembled). The K2 chassis is also not one piece, but several pieces which can be removed as needed. The case is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, all joined with screws into small aluminum blocks. Simple, yet functional. The main board is attached to the case via the same blocks. The individual module boards are plug in pieces, which have sockets that mate to pinned headers on the main board. These mated sockets provide the circuit connections between boards. The only exception in my box, the KPA100(the 100 watt amp section), has four cables rather than pinned sockets. Yet it is easy to remove the 100 watt section to access the base K2.

The parts layout on the boards seem to make sense. Things in areas surrounding the pin headers seem a little tight, but there is an awful lot of circuitry crammed into a very small space. With the KPA100 removed, things inside seem more roomy. I must admit, I think my rather shaky hands would have a bit of difficulty soldering some of the closer pads. The 100 watt amp is bulky – maybe the “user mod” which places the tuner and the KPA100 in a separate EC2 enclosure has merit. There is a lot of “stuff” inside a K2/100.

Given the limited amount of space available on the small front panel, I think the button design and layout is sensible. The buttons all have multiple functions, based on whether they are tapped or pressed and held in. So the user ergonomics are not as good as a physically large radio, but I find they are probably a very good approach to the required compromise. I didn’t much care for the OEM tuning knob, but I hijacked the knob from my dead FT-840, less a circle of plastic trim on the rear of the Yaesu knob. That turned out to be an excellent exchange – the tuning is now somewhat smoother.

I like the fact that K2 was designed to be taken apart and re-assembled by mere mortals. It is not mandatory that someone be a mechanical genius with the patience of a saint to get into the internals of the device. Even the amount of re-work that is required to add certain modules is kept to a minimum. It is much easier to service than any of the commercial radios I have been inside of – plus the trouble shooting is well documented.

Over all the K2 is simply an ingenious design. The fact that it was cobbled together by a small cadre of designers is quite impressive in hindsight.

-more- at the K2 Impressions series

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