Elecraft KX1 vs. Ten Tec HB1B

NOTE: Far more detail on these two rigs is available on Thomas K4SWL’s website here.

With Ten Tec now selling a YouKits version of Elecraft’s KX1 I thought I’d take a look at how the two compare in basic features.

Numbers don’t tell all but they’re a good place to start:

Some other differences:

  • The KX1 offers a built-in autotuner for an additional $120. This greatly adds to the convenience of a rig designed for portable use given the wide variety of antennas that may be implemented by owners.
  • The HB1B is already assembled for those who have no interest in building their own equipment.
  • The HB1B also has a 4-pole filter. This may not seem like a big advantage over the KX1’s 3-pole but the KX1 does suffer from adjacent sideband interference of strong signals.
  • Elecraft’s support is well-known and universally respected. Their online forum is also extremely helpful for those needing it. Tough to put a $ value on that asset…until you need it! How will Ten Tec’s support be for the HB1B? Not being a kit, similar levels of support probably won’t be required.

I have a 3-band KX1 and have taken it on many business and backpacking trips (most recently here). It’s a fine, reliable rig and, with its built-in tuner, offers a complete station in a single box – but at a price. A 4-band KX1 with tuner is a whopping $510. Add Elecraft’s paddles for the KX1 and you’re up to $580.

The KX1’s everything-in-one-box is a wonderful thing but it comes at the cost of flexibility, ie the KX1’s internal autotuner can only be used with the KX1. If I had it to do over again, I’d be very tempted to opt for the HB1B, an Elecraft T1 autotuner (that could be used with any QRP rig) and a set of paddles from Whiterook.



  13 comments for “Elecraft KX1 vs. Ten Tec HB1B

  1. February 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Very nice review of the two rigs John, I do have the KX1 and enjoyed it on my outings and my trip to Europe as well. Now I have not had a chance to check out the HB1B up close. I do like the idea of getting the T1 for the rig to give it the tuner function. As for the paddles on the KX1 I did not like the feel of them and just could not get used to them. I also thought they were a bit pricey for what you get. I ended up getting the Palm paddle and have been very happy with them. The filtering on the KX1 I had to really get used to and then added the AF1 active filter from Elecraft and that works just great. It really polishes up the filtering.

    • February 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      I’m more comparing features than reviewing. And I do seem to remember your post on the filter – you made an audio file demo of it I believe – have to go take another look at that.

    • Rob
      February 11, 2012 at 2:31 am

      Really glad I stumbled across your review. I’m taking my test in the morning (am going for Tech and General together, I’ve been aceing the online tests for both all week). I intend to buy a 2M rig to start with but I’m really interested in CW. I’m up to about 20WPM practice. It sounds like the HB1B might be a good place for me to start CW also and still stay within my budget of <$500 total outlay.
      Question though, I will also need an external power supply to get maximum output correct? Any recommendations? Also I'm looking for an inexpensive key to replace my cheap practice model. Any suggestions? ~Rob~

      • February 11, 2012 at 6:17 am

        Congrats Rob – I guess by now your test is over. I’m amazed that your code speed is 20 wpm and you’re not even licensed yet!

        At that speed, paddles are more appropriate and I suggest you get a set since the HB1B has a built-in keyer. Surprisingly, most sets of paddles are more expensive than many QRP rigs and it’s tough to find a set under $100…here is a set that does:

        Ten Tec sells a 12V wall-wart supply for the rig:

        • Rob
          February 15, 2012 at 3:55 am

          Hey John!
          Just wanted you to know that I passed both my Tech and General tests with flying colors. The VE’s talked me into taking the Extra test just for giggles. I failed with a 65%, too much theory for now. So I’m waiting for my official ticket now.

          My quest for a better key may be solved. My Elmer is letting me borrow his Begali Single Lever key and if I like it he’ll let me have it for $125 (apparently he hates it and uses a Vibroplex Iambic Presentation—a pricy little work of beauty). Since the Begali goes for 198.00 euros (which is around $260) new he’s offering a sweet deal. It’s taking me a little time to adjust to the side to side motion, but I can practice at about 10 wpm with it already.
          The local ham store (well, 50 miles away is local here in central Kentucky) has a used Alinco DX-SR8T (which several club members have said is a good starter radio) with a 90 day warranty for $425. With a power supply it kinda blows the budget, but the Boss says it’s my Valentine’s Day present (and all I got her was a dozen roses!!!). I’ll have to start out with a wire antenna and borrow a tuner to start out with.

          I’m still interested in the HB1B for adventures, but it will have to wait… maybe I can convince the Boss that it would be a GREAT anniversary present for June!


          • February 15, 2012 at 6:01 am

            That’s great – phone priviledges right off the bat! I don’t know much about the Alinco you mentioned but I normally recommend new hams stay away from QRP until they’ve been on the air a while so it will probably be a better choice than the HB1B for now.

          • Jim Andrews
            January 15, 2013 at 8:40 am

            Hi Rob:
            You’ll love the Alinco DXSR8T!I have had mine over a year now and love it!It is easy to learn the menu and easy to operate!
            What is your callsign?Maybe we’ll QSO sumtime!Enjoy the Alinco!73,Jim Andrews W8JWA

  2. February 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Hey, John–thanks for putting the numbers side-by-side and drawing a comparison! I have put off writing a post about my Kx1 on QRPer.com for a long time, but your comparison actually reminded me of the things I love about my KX1. I realize that the HB1B would have to have an ATU and a built-in paddle option to please me, simply because I like to do a lot of operating standing up. The HB1B may be a good, inexpensive, option for a QRP Field Day, though. I’ll have to test one some day. TNX & 72 OB

    • February 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Thomas, I actually wish I could justify buying an HB1B. Like you, I’m a Ten Tec fan from way back…but I also have to separate want from need!

      • February 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        Exactly, John! I have very limited funds, so tend to buy fewer radios, putting more money in getting best for the class (hoping for longevity). In truth, and in general, all of my field radios are Elecraft (KX1 and K2), my “shack” radio Ten-Tec (OMNI VI+). Ten-Tec audio fidelity is very hard to beat–so is Elecraft’s efficiency. Answer? Keep both!

  3. Jim Andrews
    January 15, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I bought an LNR Precision FX2 30/40 Mtr.QRP rig,but haven’t had a chance to really use it yet.
    Anyone have one and can tell me how they do with it?

    June 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I have purchased one HB1B and going to use it with two dipole antennas for 20 and 40 in parellel fed with a RG 213 coax cable. No ATU. I want to know whether I can use a paddle externally and plug it to the transceiver. I am planning to add a PA 150 Amplifier which gives an output of 200 watts for an input of 5 watts. you can see the Linear on You tube or Google by searching PA 150 LINEAR

  5. Joe Green
    April 17, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Hi John,
    Great review and comparison. I just ordered an HB1B yesterday and have no experience with Elecraft. However, their reputation is stellar. It was nice and informative for me to see how a cheaper radio made by a fairly new player in the ham radio world stacks up against a seasoned veteran. I already have an external auto tuner, so that wasn’t an issue for me. What impressed me the most is the filtering system. I watched a video on YouTube and it looks pretty slick. Thanks for some great information. It was truly a pleasure to read your comparison and the comments. 73, Joe WB0MMZ.

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