Elecraft K3 Settings

I have two Elecraft K3 radios that I use for SO2R.  I am creating this page to record all of the various settings in the radios so I can find them if needed.

N1EU recommended settings for best pileup performance:

AGC SLP 000  (maximum slope, instead of horizontal)

AGC THR 014  (so AGC doesn’t kick in until signals are very strong)



AF Gain is adjusted so the loudest signals are tolerably loud (around 9PM) and RF Gain increased until weakest signals are readable (around 3PM).


Bob, N6TV, recommends the following K3 settings:

First set CONFIG:TECH MD ON to un-hide some AGC settings. Set TECH MD OFF when finished, to eliminate useless options from appearing in the SubRx display choices (PLL1, AFV, dBV, etc.)

AF GAIN LO — Cuts audio hiss. May not work with all headphones. OK on Heil.

AF LIM 20 — Only takes affect when AGC is OFF (rarely used)

AGC DCY Soft — Reduces AGC-induced IMD, recommended for pileups

AGC HLD 0.05 — Slow AGC hold time (50 ms). Reduces AGC-induced IMD, recommended for pileups. Works with AGC-S only.

AGC PLS NOR — Loud static pulses do not pump AGC.

AGC SLP 010 — A pretty “flat” AGC response curve. I may move this lower since pileups of loud guys can blend together, but I like this setting because it saves my ears.

AGC THR 010 — AGC kicks in at about S-8. Signals lower than THR behave as they would with AGC OFF ( +1 dB of RF = +1 dB of audio)

AGC -F 120 — Factory default fast AGC decay rate (recovery time). Higher = faster. Faster can be bad.

AGC -S 20 — Factory default slow AGC decay rate (recovery time). Higher = faster. Faster can be bad.

RF GAIN at 3 O’Clock or less on noisy bands

AF GAIN never higher than 3 O’Clock






FL1 to FL5 BW set to match labeled filter bandwidth exactly, not wider or narrower.

Use AGC-F for CW.

Use AGC-S for SSB.

CW Pitch 500 (or to taste)

IF shift centered (on CW)

500 Hz InRad 8-pole filter on CW

2.8 kHz 8-pole filter on SSB (1.8 8-pole when bands crowded, must move IF SHIFT lower for pleasing audio)

Use XFIL button to toggle between filters and reset the IF shift, rather than NOR (hold) button

PREamp ON for 15m and up, OFF for other bands


My current settings for other items:


AF LIM nor 030

EXT ALC Off t -4.0

LIN OUT nor 020

RS323 38400 b


TX DLY nor 008



TXG VCE 1.5 db




Rope for Wire Antennas

There was an interesting exchange of views on the topic of ropes for wire antennas on the Yankee Clipper Contest Club email reflector this month. I wanted to capture some of the discussion for later reference.

On Feb 5, 2016, at 1:02 PM, Lars KE1J asked:

My dipoles came down today due to the heavy wet snow. Clearly the rope I used was not strong enough. Any suggestions for a good rope that can hold some wire antennas?

de K1LI:

The MastrAnt rope that guyed the towers at WRTC2014 was spectacular.

I’d think you’d worry more about trees pulling each other down than you would about this rope breaking!

And, they were a corporate sponsor of WRTC2014, which puts them high on my list of “go to” vendors.

Widely available at US ham equipment distributors, like DXEngineering.

You can see their products at:    mastrant.com/en

de K1WCC:

There is a store in New Bedford, R&W Rope Works, that sells all kinds of rope. They opened their warehouse a few years ago to sell surplus rope, I went there, they had large amounts of all kinds of marine rope. I bought some 3/16″ dia. braided dacron, about 500 ft. and it’s tough and strong, designed for sunlight and abrasion resistance. I think they have a store there now, or, order online. My dipoles are still up, (just worked St. Helena with one of them) despite being coated with ice and snow right now.

I’m more concerned about wire strength.


Also, Davis RF is now in the rope business.


Henry  K1WCC

de N2GZ:

I have been using Dacron rope sourced from davisrf.com. I bought a lot of it (savings in bulk) and im going through it slower than i thought I would.

I employ a technique that lends itself to rapid rapiers:

Using a heavy (5/16 or greater) rope, I install a loop in each tree that will support the ends of my antenna. The loop is tossed over the support branch and is joned at a welded stainless ring of approximately  1 inch ID,

1/4 inch wire diameter. Mcmaster part 3769T74 or similar. a smaller ring would probably be fine. A swivel sheave could probably used here with added expense.

I then use  a smaller rope, usually 3/16 diameter to support the antenna.

Shorter and lighter antennas require less tension to deploy, so a smaller rope could be fine here for shorter dipoles.  This rope is passed through the welded stainless ring (or sheave).

The antenna is raised first by moving the steel ring to the top of the tree, and securing in place by tying off the loop of heavier rope at the base of the tree. Then the smaller antenna support cord is tensioned to position the antenna as desired.  When deployed this way, there seems to be far less abrasion on the rope that passes over the tree branches, and the the rope that is likely to break is the one supporting the antenna. Should it fail, simply lower the ring/sheave with the loop of heavy rope and replace pull up a new antenna. Far easier to do rapidly, no need to get the cannon/slingshot out and no amount of luck is needed to get the rope placed as you had it before.

Sometimes it is desirable to install a fuse (smaller diameter rope) between the antenna and antenna support rope. so that it breaks in a specifiedspot, allowing your rope to be reusable without intermittent knots.

Greg, N2GZ

de W1HIS:

Yes.  _Wire_ rope beats any organic (natural or synthetic) fiber rope; however, wire rope must be broken up by insulators, and insulators don’t pass through pulleyvery well.

The best organic fiber is polyester.  No other organic fiber resists sunlight well.  Only one other organic fiber, namely Kevlar, creeps less than polyester.  (By creeping, I mean extending under sustained load.)  However:

  • Kevlar does not resist sunlight well, so it requires a braided polyester jacket.
  • Kevlar absorbs up to 7% of its weight in water!  It is a lousy dielectric.
  • Kevlar does not resist abrasion as well as polyester.  Although a braided polyester jacket would protect Kevlar fibers from external, or “surface” abrasion, Kevlar’s resistance to “internal” abrasion or fatigue due to repeated flexing is poor!
  • Kevlar is quite brittle.  A shock breaks it easily.  A falling tree branch would be much more likely to snap a Kevlar rope, than a polyester rope.

Last but not least, black Dacron/polyester double-braid rope is relatively inexpensive.

IMO, nothing matches black-jacketed Dacron/polyester double-braid rope.  The braided jacket protects the unpigmented, _straight_ (not twisted), fibers that provide the tensile strength of the rope.  The lack of twist is important because a twisted rope untwisted and extends under a sustained load.

You should buy rope whose rated (breaking) strength is ten times the sustained load (tension) it must endure.  I control the tension in a rope by hanging a lead weight on the free ends of the rope, which is fastened at one end and passes through a block to the hanging weight at its opposite end.

You should reduce wear on ropes by using pulleys (a.k.a. “blocks”) with large diameter sheaves (wheels).  After years of replacing rope worn out by 2”, 3”, and 4″-diameter sheaves.  I now use only 5” and 6” diameter sheaves.

Thus, I have gotten years of service from ropes, despite hurricanes, nor’easters, ice storms, and tree branches falling on my antenna and its supporting ropes.

For several years I have bought black Dacron/polyester double-braid rope from <http://www.synthetictextilesinc.com/supportham.html>.

-Chuck W1HIS


(1) Nylon does not resist sunlight well.

(2) Under tension, a Nylon rope grows longer, and longer, and longer.

de W1EQO:

Using an insulator between a nylon rope and the wire helps a lot.

The problem is we hams mostly use a class of wire antennas known as “standing wave” antennas (dipoles, verticals, yagis) vs another bunch called “traveling wave” antennas (loops, folded dipoles, resistor in the center folded dipoles, etc).

Standing wave antennas are characterized by an end (or ends), beyond which current does not flow. This is commonly called the “end effect.”

The end effect determines the feed point impedance of a standing wave antenna.

So, attaching a resistive chunk of nylon rope to the end of a dipole changes the feed impedance or VSWR. Also it is an absorbing extension to the wire, which I would expect, reduces the amount of radiated RF. Possibly even worse, the resistive value changes with weather and time.

Placing an insulator between the wire & rope mitigates this problem

Jim, W1EQO

de KI1H:

After the flurry of emails on the subject of rope last week and seeing my beams bowing to the weight of the heavy snow, I deciding to do a little research.

As was mentioned, Kevlar is resistant to stretch but not UV stabilized unless jacketed.

I did find a source for a material that stretches less than 1% at 30% load ( at 1/8″ that is 750 lbs load).

Look at the link below.


I called the manufacturer and it’s non-conductive.

OZ1AA Visit

I was very honored to have Thomas Andersen OZ1AA stop by today on his around the world bicycling adventure. The odometer on his bike was at 40999 Km.  That’s more than the distance around the world at the equator!

Thomas is currently riding from the bottom of South America with the goal of reaching Newfoundland.  Follow his blog with amazing photos and commentary at www.cyclingtheglobe.com.

Thomas OZ1AA visited on August 21, 2015

Thomas OZ1AA visited on August 21, 2015

Thomas OZ1AA on August 21, 2015

Thomas OZ1AA ready to get back on the road

Thomas OZ1AA on August 21, 2015

Thomas OZ1AA and his trusty Bianchi


40999 Kilometers since the start of his journey in Denmark more than 3 years ago!

Thomas OZ1AA on August 21, 2015

Thomas OZ1AA on his way


2014 Philip J. McGan Silver Antenna Award

From the minutes of the July 2015 meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL):

29. On motion of Mr. Norris, seconded by Dr. Boehner, the following resolution was ADOPTED (with applause):


WHEREAS, Randy Thompson, K5ZD, has demonstrated outstanding volunteer public relations success on behalf of Amateur Radio for many years at the local, regional, and national levels as an active contester and Elmer; and


WHEREAS, he has fostered an environment that significantly increases public awareness of Amateur Radio, including through his association with the World Radiosport Team Championship (“WRTC”) event in 2014; and


WHEREAS, his active promotion of the WRTC2014 event, and Amateur Radio in general, encompasses several years of effort promoting the WRTC2014 event as “the Olympics of Ham Radio”; and


WHEREAS, his efforts in promoting WRTC2014 resulted in national-level coverage of Amateur Radio in the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio’s “Only A Game” program and many local and regional media outlets where WRTC2014 participants lived;


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED the ARRL Board of Directors, at the recommendation of the ARRL Public Relations Committee, awards the 2015 Philip J McGan Silver Antenna Award to Randy Thompson, K5ZD.

More about the award: http://www.arrl.org/phil-mcgan-award

I was the leader of marketing and communications for the World Radiosport Team Championship 2014 (WRTC2014) that was held in Boston during July 2014. With the help of Michelle McGrath we were able to receive press attention for the event in numerous local newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, and the NPR show Only a Game. We also did a campaign to get press in the hometown newspapers of some of the USA and Canadian competitors.  Check out some of the results on the WRTC2014 site In the Media page.

I was very surprised to receive this honor.  Thanks to Doug K1DG for nominating me and to ARRL for the recognition of our efforts.  It is always hard to measure the results of such activities. It was our hope that WRTC2014 and the concept of radio as a sport would provide a potential point of interest for people outside the hobby to become interested in amateur radio.

CQ Contest Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2015

Since becoming the Director of the CQ WW DX Contest in 2012, I have had the privilege of introducing the inductees to the CQ Magazine Contest Hall of Fame each year during the Contest Dinner in Dayton.

Dave, KM3T, made a video recording of the ceremony this year featuring the induction of Ward Silver, N0AX, and Doug Grant, K1DG.  Both are great friends of mine and extremely worthy of being in the HoF.

View the video at: https://youtu.be/-RW_yVpi0Y8

Photos below are courtesy of Bob Wilson, N6TV.

CQ Contest Hall of Fame Honorees N0AX, K1DG

CQ Contest Hall of Fame Honorees N0AX, K1DG

CQ Contest Hall of Fame Honoree N0AX, K5ZD

CQ Contest Hall of Fame Honoree N0AX, K5ZD

K5ZD presents CQ Contest Hall of Fame award to K1DG

K5ZD presents CQ Contest Hall of Fame award to K1DG

CQWW 1500W Limit

Contesting is a game. Games have rules. The rules create barriers or constraints that equalize the competition or create strategic choices. If we ignore the rules we don’t like, the game is no longer meaningful.

Those stations that run more than 1500W are cheating. Much the same way users of performance enhancing drugs in bicycle racing, Olympic sports, baseball, etc. are cheating.

The temptation to cheat is strong. “It doesn’t hurt anyone.” “It makes up for my poor location.” “Everyone else is doing it.” These are all justifications to make the cheater feel better. They do not make it right.

The cheaters are hurting the contest. Their loud signals drive other contesters off the bands. Participants lose faith in the integrity of the game and decide not to play. New contesters see the cheaters make big scores and think that is the way to compete so the next generation learns to cheat.

Power cheating happens all over the world. Temptation and lack of control is a human condition. In ham radio contesting it seems to happen much more in some places than others. These areas are so invested in cheating that they ask for the rules to be changed to make it OK.

In the end, there are those that follow the rules. We respect their integrity, their effort, and their achievements. For the others, we see their scores, but we know they are dirty. Maybe they are not disqualified (because there is not the oversight of professional sports), but we do not have to respect them.

Fair play means following the rules. All of them.

Randy Thompson, K5ZD

(This was originally posted to cq-contest mailing list, September 12, 2013)

Randy Thompson, K5ZD, Named Director of CQ World Wide DX Contest

CQ Communications, Inc. / 25 Newbridge Rd. / Hicksville, NY 11801 / Phone: (516) 681-2922 / Fax: (516-681-2926) / e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com




For more information, contact:

Richard Moseson (W2VU)

Editor, CQ Amateur Radio

(516) 681-2922 / w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

Randy Thompson (K5ZD)




Randy Thompson, K5ZD, Named Director of CQ World Wide DX Contest

(Hicksville, NY) October 1, 2012 — CQ Contest Hall of Fame member and WPX Contest Director Randy Thompson, K5ZD, has been named Director of the CQ World Wide DX Contest, effective immediately. Randy succeeds Bob Cox, K3EST, who retired in September after 35 years at the helm of the world’s most popular amateur radio contest.

Thompson, 52, has been a ham since age 13. He is an accomplished contester, having multiple wins in the CQ World Wide DX Contest and the CQ WPX Contest, among others. He has also competed in four World Radiosport Team Championships. In addition, Randy is a past editor of the “National Contest Journal” (a post he has held three separate times) and a co-founder of the eHam.net website. He is a longtime member of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club and an instructor at K3LR’s Contest University. He has been Director of the CQ WPX Contest since 2008, coincidentally the same year in which he was inducted into the CQ Contest Hall of Fame.

“The CQ WW is the biggest event on the contest calendar,” commented Thompson. “I am honored to be involved and follow in the giant footsteps of K3EST. With the great conditions we are seeing on the bands, this year should be the biggest CQ WW ever! The first order of business is to have the team ready for the new 5-day log deadline and faster results reporting.”

CQ Publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA, said Thompson’s appointment marks the start of a new chapter in the history of CQ World Wide DX Contest, adding “The CQ management team looks forward to working with Randy as CQWW Director. His four years as WPX Contest Director have already demonstrated his ability to successfully and creatively guide a major contest, and we are totally confident that he will take the CQWW to even greater heights.”

Thompson’s appointment to the directorship of the CQWW creates a vacancy for director of the CQ WPX Contests. Anyone interested in taking on the challenge of leading a major contest should contact Randy at <k5zd@cqwpx.com>.

Summary of how to improve contesting

Some suggestions and ideas as a result of my question about how to improve contest activity. Some were received privately.

> Articles describing the favorable experiences of new contesters might help. The place for these would be in QST or on eHam, not NCJ, and they should probably be run about twice per year. The articles should also highlight that you don’t have to be a serious entrant to have fun, since I’d bet that many folks have the impression that there’s little point in competing unless you go all out.

> Use of contest logs for award credit

> Teams comprised of some predefined number of hams (three? five?) would be allowed to pool their results on an hour-by-hour basis, with the best score for any clock hour being used toward the team score … kind of like a scramble in golf.

> The great majority of potential contesters are not new hams, they are new contesters. It might be more effective to let hams claim Rookie status who had not entered the contest within the last three years.

> More categories that allow people the chance to compete against others with same station (or avoid competing with others with bigger stations).

> Time limited categories that would allow those who don’t have the full weekend to still have a competitive experience. Suggested times were 3 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours. Or follow German Markrothen RTTY Contest. In that one the entire contest runs 8 hours on, 8 off, 8 on, 8 off, and 8 on. So it is a 24 hour contest spread out over 40 hours with all the 24 hours of the solar day being part of the contest.

One group was in favor of a time-based category. Another group liked a “best x hours” of the full effort.

> Too much focus on winners. Make “performance results” that recognize different achievements within the contest. E.g., Who worked 5BWAC in the shortest time, Who worked most long Distance DX in the shortest time, etc. Categories would revolve around Continents, Zones, Countries, Prefixes, QSOs, All bands, Low bands, High bands, three bands, single bands QSO distance, Time.

> Define a separate category “Best of x hours.” I know a few contests already embrace this philosophy in one form or another. BARTG RTTY is one I believe. You can operate the entire event if you want or a 6-hour window and submit the abbreviated event as your entry for the contest.

> Allow the contesters to select their “best rate” from their entire > contest effort. There might be different “time categories”, i.e., 0-3 hours, 3-6 hours, etc. A contester can then compete against others who have limited time resources and gain recognition of their efforts.

> Give top 3 plaques on all mayor categories and ask for donations with log’s paypal suggested with a limit of $5 US.

> Have decent write ups… Move the detailed results entirely to the web > and have something limited for written media.

> European VHF-contesting uses the .edi-log-format which has lines for power, antenna height, height asl and antennas. So the results can easily contain those informations.

Randy Thompson, K5ZD

(This originally appeared on the cq-contest mailing list, June 20, 2009)

Everything not specifically prohibited is mandatory

In a post to cq-contest, Hans K0HB made the suggestion for a new universal contest rule:

"Rule XXII:  Everything not specifically prohibited is mandatory."

During my ethics presentation at CTU in Dayton, I specifically made the opposite point.

Contest sponsors have deliberately chosen to keep rules relatively simple. Perhaps to follow historical precedent or keep the text to something that will fit in a magazine. To fully cover every situation, our rules would look like Formula 1 car racing or top level sail boat racing and be hundreds of pages long.

We would then need judges, a commissioner, and an organization to manage the rules (not to mention more lawyers). We don’t have a big TV contract or big $$ sponsors, so contesting remains largely an honor sport.

This means participants have to consider two elements when making a decision about whether an action is permitted or not. 1) Is it in the rules? These are the “easy” ones. 2) Is there an accepted norm that deals with the issue? This is what keeps the cq-contest reflector humming.

The challenge for contesting is that the accepted norms vary from one culture to another, from one local group to another, and they change over time! Many times they are passed through word of mouth. Remember the game of telephone where you give a sentence to one person and then see the final result after it has been through many retellings?

At CTU, I suggested norms in contesting have 3 main objectives:

  • Just because its not specified in the written rules doesn’t mean you can do it!
  • Keep the contest on the radio and within the contest period
  • Don’t give or take unfair advantage

I am sure Hans was speaking tongue in cheek, but I really would prefer to continue enjoying a competition where people are following the rules and not always trying to find the outside of the envelope.

Randy Thompson, K5ZD

(This post was originally made to cq-contest reflector, June 6, 2009)

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