Index QRP+ and Elecraft KX1 as travel radios

If you roam around the internet, you’ll see it’s easy to find negative comments about Index’s old QRP+ and relatively difficult to do so for the KX1.

Experienced QRPers know that each radio represents a different genre within the field of QRP; others, however, may have a tendency to lump all sub-100 watt radios together and judge them comparitively, regardless of the validity of that comparison.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate and do exactly that – look at the pros and cons of each of these radios in the application that QRP now finds its most common usage in my circumstances: business travel.

I own both of the radios pictured above and will never sell either of them. I bought the KX1 years ago, when I lived near the Appalachian Trail and did a fair amount of backpacking – solo and with other QRPers. Hands down, it was (and remains) the perfect rig for that application. There are smaller choices – most notably the ATS-3/4 series – but the KX1 is a self-contained radio/tuner/power supply in-a-box and that gives it the edge, IMO.

The QRP+ was purchased 2 years ago because, when they were new, I was little more than a kid and couldn’t afford one. The ads in QST caught my eye though and I really, really wanted one. So, finally…

Over time, my list of desired attributes in a QRP rig have changed: my backpacking days are over, my business trip days are on the wane and my interest in QRP DXing is increasing with each new country that I work QRO.

Put another way, the advantages of the KX1 are yeilding to those of the QRP+.

For a while, I used the KX1 as my travel radio, bringing it with me on my trips and putting it into service from hotel rooms, Wildlife Refuges and wherever else its small form would be advantageous. I thought it made a perfect transition from trail rig to travel rig, but that’s where the QRP+ sends it packing.

And here’s why:

Full HF (and 160m) coverage. The KX1 only covers 4 bands, none of which include 10, 12 or 15 meters that are frequently in such great condition. Not only are these bands good for DXing but antennas for them are small, easily lending themselves to portability…from an apartment balconey or a park.

Higher power out. Except during QRP contests, I don’t restrict myself to the 5 watt rule and the QRP+ is good for 9 watts. I’m an opportunistic QRPer, favoring that mode due to what it offers me rather than what sacrifices I must make for it – smaller power supply, smaller antenna tuner and less expense compared to QRO equivelents. So if I can get 9 watts instead of the KX1’s four, the QRP+ is the better rig.

Of course any day now, Elecraft’s KX3 will render all these arguments mute!



  4 comments for “Index QRP+ and Elecraft KX1 as travel radios

  1. April 3, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I sold my QRP++ a couple of years ago to pay for a KX1. In truth, I’ve never looked back. But I must admit, I did fall in love with that little cube. Not only did I use it for CW, but also made some memorable QRP SSB contacts on it on many bands.

    I loved the simplicity of operation (also a good trait in the KX1) and overall build. My biggest criticism of the QRP+ or ++ was the fact that it dealt with adjacent signals very poorly. I recall one field day where we were QRP and primarily worked CW on the QRP+. By the end of the day, all of the ops and loggers had headaches from the thumping sounds of adjacent signals. We didn’t have another rig to turn to, so had to make do.

    FD is an exception in QRP, though, and I think the QRP+ does a great job when not in a contest setting. I’ve never used the KX1 in a contest, but imagine it would not be ideal either (though probably better than the QRP+).

    I did live in a little fear that if parts of the QRP++ were to ever fail, it would be very difficult if not impossible to replace them.

    My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) had one for many years and was tough for him to sell as well, though he purchased a K2/10 with the funds.

    Do me a favor and pat the top of that little black cube on my behalf. I’m glad it’s making a good travel companion for you.


    • April 3, 2012 at 11:14 am

      You’re right, it’s no contest rig, performance isn’t up to what we’ve gotten used to even with little rigs like the Norcal 40, etc. But it is a rig I’d miss if I ever sold it and it broke ground during its day.

      Is it possible we sometimes put too much emphasis on performance and not enough on convenience…?

      I’m eagerly awaiting all the reports and field stories that the KX3 will inspire.

  2. April 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Good evening John, great comparison of the two rigs. I have the KX1 and I too am not please it does not cover 10,12 and 15m. Also the LED readout drives me a bit nuts at times and well it is hard to see in sunlight. I do like the idea of the tuner option you can get. I have never liked or been able to use the keyer Elecraft sells as an option for the KX1. It’s a bit pricey as well for a key.

    • April 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      I didn’t mean to sound critical of the KX1 – it’s a great backpacking rig, which is the main purpose for which it was designed. But as the higher bands come into play (and hopefully stay there a while!), the 30-year old Index is hitting home runs as a travel rig.

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