01/12/15

Elecraft K3/K0mini remote experience:

During the early summer of 2014 I purchased a K3 system for use at my house in Maui. The house is small and my office/radio shack is a very small back bedroom. There was just not room for large desktop radios so I purchased a K3 system, P3, KAT 500 and the KPA 500 amp. Everything is small and fits my desktop perfectly. I have really enjoyed the K3 system and wanted to try the next step of remoting a K3 station. So, I purchased a new K0mini in mid summer.

The first step was to get it working thru my LAN.

I interfaced the Remote Rig boxes to the K0mini and the K3 station. Next came some on the air testing. This was disappointing. The transmit-audio reports were quite bad. The comment was that there was a crackling sound in the background and the transmit audio was “fuzzy”. I called Elecraft and talked with their remote tech-support person Brandon who is a very nice and knowledgeable young guy.

This started a many months long process of trying to figure out and rectify the problem with the K0mini.

To make a looooong story short, we tried a new main ckt board in the K0 and a few months later, we tried another new main ckt board. We then tried a brand new K0. I had the same problem each time.

The problem boiled down to this: When the mic was plugged into the K0 and the mic gain advanced above about 8, the background noise started increasing. At a mic gain of about 20, which I needed for my Labtec C324 headset, the background noise was intolerable. While using a high output mic such as the Elecraft hand mic and setting the mic gain at about 4~5, there was no problem. However, I didn’t want to be limited to their hand mic. I should point out that the same problem exists with no mic plugged into the K0; advancing the mic gain above about 8 causes a digital noise (described as sounding like a washing machine) to be transmitted. So, it has nothing to do with which mic you are using.

After weeks and weeks of testing and a few posts to the Yahoo K3 Elecraft group, I found that there were many hams with similar problems. Finally I asked the group if anyone had solved this problem. One ham responded that he had no problems at all. He bypassed the K0 and plugged the mic directly into the Remote Rig control box. I tried this…..problem solved. I now have no background noise and get great audio reports. There is an RJ45 cable from the K0 to the Remote Rig (control box). This transfers the mic audio and PTT. Unplugging this cable from the RR box solves the problem. The noise is being generated inside the K0.

I returned the new K0 to Elecraft with written details of my testing and results. This was late December 2014 and I have not heard if they’ve found the problem with the K0’s yet.

But, the work-around is great, and I assume they will find the source of the noise inside the K0.

I include this section since this could cause someone to conclude that the K3/K0 Remote Rig system is not workable.

I now have a perfectly operating K3 remote station with the amp and ant tuner working. I have dipoles for 40 and 75 M and a two element K4KIO Hex beam at the remote site in northern CA.

There is a fairly steep learning curve to getting all of this equipment to work together. Elecraft and Remote Rig have very good .pdf guides for setup and Elecraft support is a great.

This was, in part, an experiment to see if a top line station could be remoted and not give up the “feel” and features of operating from a location away from the transmitter and antenna location.

My conclusion is that you don’t have to give up anything by living in a condo or other antenna restricted subdivision - as long as you have a remote site to erect antennas - and good internet bandwidth at each end.

I only operate SSB. I know other modes are working for others but I haven’t used anything but SSB.

I am working on a way to see a spectrum display at the remote site. ….stay tuned for updates on that.

While it is possible to set up this K3/K0 remote system without needing a computer at the remote site, I recommend that you have a computer at the remote site for a number of reasons. You will probably need this for rotating your antenna, etc. I also monitor the output/SWR of the linear by viewing the remote computer desktop using TeamViewer.

Alternative to Remote Rig system:

It is possible to very successfully use the K3 remotely without the Remote Rig boxes. This is fairly simple and costs nothing….well, except for the K3.

Remote access is done from your laptop to your remote site using remote desktop software such as TeamViewer and Skype for the audio. Remaud.com is an alternative to Skype. It was written by a ham in Germany for our type of use. It’s free and he says it takes less bandwidth than Skype. I have not tried it but a ham in CA just set up a remote system to his K3 using Remaud and TeamViewer and he says it works great. He is running the W4PY CAT program to operate the K3 and likes it over HRD, etc.

All that is required are two patch cables, one from the line out on the K3 to the mic input on the computer sound card and another patch cable from the speaker output on the computer to the line input on the K3.

With two simple patch cables and free software you can have a remote system that will work very well.

Good luck and if you have any questions, please drop me an email.

73

Ron