Elecraft P3   June 24th, 2013


I have only ever used a spectrum display briefly, but decided that I would try out the Elecraft P3 in conjunction with the K3. It’s a nice arrangement, particularly as the P3 can be directly powered from the K3 DC socket. There are three connections needed between K3 and the P3.. These are, RS-232 data control. BNC IF feed and the DC supply cable. There are no initial settings to be made; the unit works straight out of the box.

The P3 can actually be used with any transceiver that has an IF between 455kHz and 21.5MHz. If you are using it with the K3 you must have the IF auxiliary board fitted to the K3. If you have not got one, they are easy to retrofit, The P3 provides a live display and can be adjusted to any bandwidth up to 200kHz. So this is the chunk of band that you can visually monitor without having to touch the tuning control. The vertical display is also adjustable and the scale can be switched between S-units and dB, which makes it very valuable when comparing signal strengths and is far more accurate than an S-meter. There is also an adjustable average facility available that causes less movement on the screen and is useful for accurately measuring peak levels.

In action I found the P3 to be particularly useful on quiet bands where it was possible to spot signs of activity. In this respect it is far better than a scanner because you can instantly see the whole band segment and not have to wait for the radio to tune through lots of channels or worry about having the right mode selected. It was also very useful for monitoring beacons. A good example is on 50MHz watching for sporadic E activity.

Another useful feature is that you can move the cursor via the front panel control and click on any display signal for instantly QSY of the K3 to that signal. In many respects it is rather like having an SDR transceiver without the need for a PC. I found it more useful than I had first imagined it to be. One interesting observation I was able to make was how the noise floor of each band in use was displayed. I could instantly see small changes as I turned various electrical items in my home on and off. These small changes could not be observed on the S-meter. For those who already own a K3 this is a very worthwhile addition which will prove very useful I am sure And if you want the ultimate display, there is the SVGA board that permits the use of a large monitor.

I intend to come back to the P3 as it seems to offer a lot of potential, not the least of which is the waterfall display. This should prove useful for beacon monitoring, PSK31 and RTTY.

Peter G3OJV.

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