I Can Work This Thing!

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3 k2 you can work this thingSetting up and getting started with the K2

Setting up and getting started with the K2
Jerry Neufeld VE3QSO
E-mail: ve3qso@rac.ca

CAUTION: In the hopeful event that you have either the KRC2 CW readout device or intend to use the K2 Voice program in conjunction with your K2, please be sure that you have the specially-wired K2 cables for this purpose. Use of standard rs-232 connecting cables will not work properly and may damage components in the K2 itself.

Note: The K2 manual is unlike conventional amateur radio equipment documentation in that it includes extensive information for kit construction and alignment. As you will discover when consulting this manual, it is a bit of a challenge to locate help for using a specific feature as might be more easily found in standard reference manuals. Fortunately, the K2 is a straight-forward transceiver designed by hams who know what we need most on the front panel and where best to locate controls. Thus, once you have learned where each button or knob is and what its function is, you should not require much assistance from Elecraft documentation. Although hands-on operation is assuredly the best way to do this, it will be easier to follow the very basic procedures I include here if you read two files first, k2 read this first.txt and k2 controls and connectors.txt. While you are unlikely to memorize the locations and functions of all controls, you will at least have some idea to what I refer when going through the basic steps. Experienced readers will please forgive my beginner's approach in my comments. I must assume little or no background with transceivers in order to help new hams.

Setting up.
Whether or not you have the internal battery installed, I will assume you have a standard 13.8 VDC power supply capable of at least 5 amps and that you have plugged the barrel connector end of the cable from this supply into the receptacle described in the k2 controls and connectors.txt file, hence forth referred to as the CC file. I will likewise assume that you have the internal antenna tuner in the K2, this ATU one of its most appealing features. If, as is likely, you also have included the SSB adapter in your K2, I will also assume that you have made provisions for obtaining a microphone whose characteristics and wiring configuration match those set up in your transceiver. Take care not to plug in a microphone unless you have done this.

With the power cable connected, attach a good ground to the post located on the rear apron between the rs-232 female socket and the BNC antenna 1 connector. Next, connect your receive/transmit antenna to the BNC connector adjacent to the ground post. If your coaxial cables terminate only in standard pl-239 male connectors, you will need an adapter to accommodate the K2's BNC connector. If you have an alternate or second receive/transmit antenna for the HF bands, connect it likewise to the second BNC connector on the rear apron. If you have a CW paddle with a one-eighth inch stereo plug and you know this paddle to be properly adjusted so that, untouched, no shorting of its contacts occur, insert it into the jack at the bottom and far left of the rear apron, assuming you are facing the front panel, hence forth referred to as the FP. Similarly, if you wish to use an external speaker and you know the cable to be in good shape, plug it into the female jack above the keyer jack you just found. If you have a KRC2, leave it unplugged for the moment unless, of course, you have already tried using the device. Finally, plug in your microphone into the socket at the bottom left of the FP. Before powering up, let's make a couple of adjustments to ensure that you'll have sound at an acceptable level when you do this. On the left half of the FP, you'll find four round knobs. Turn the bottom right-most knob clockwise all the way up, the RF gain. Now move immediately to the left and turn the AF gain about one/third up. One last adjustment. The top right-most of these four knobs is the output power control. Let's turn it nearly completely down for the moment until you're confident that your antenna is functioning properly. Now switch on your power supply, then turn on the K2 by depressing the rectangular button on the bottom and right of the FP. If your antenna is properly connected, you should hear the K2 come to life.

Assuming you do have sound and no readout is yet invoked, the first thing you'll want to know is where you are, on what band and on what frequency. Since the K2 allows you to dial in your frequency, decide what band you want to be on at the beginning. For example, if 75 meters, let's try 3800, 7200 if 40 meters or 14200 if on 20. To select your frequency, locate the 6 rectangular buttons at the left upper side of the FP. There are three rows with two columns. In this instance, we want to enter a two-button combination. With whatever fingers and hand you wish to use, press the top-most left button in conjunction with the button just below it and then release. The K2 now expects you to move to the numeric buttons on the right side of the FP to enter in the frequency. These buttons are in a typical number pad configuration with 1, 2 and 3 from left to right in the first row, 4, 5 and 6 in the second row and 7, 8 and 9 in the third and bottom-most row. If 75 meters, press the 3, then the 8. To enter a 0, locate the square button at the bottom of the FP just to the right of the main tuning knob and to the left of the round r I t knob. Press it twice. You will hear a relay click and the band change. You may hear other mechanical sounds as well that we will discuss shortly. If you wish 40 meters, enter 7, then 2, then two zeros. The K2 knows to change bands after the first four digits have been entered. If you wish 20 meters, press 1, then 4, then 2, then a 0. Notice that nothing yet happens. From the first two digits, the K2 understands that a fifth digit will be required before the 20 meter band is accessed. Now press the second 0. The transceiver should have moved to the 20 meter band.

The two buttons you pressed together to get into frequency entry mode are the band up and band down keys. If you followed through with each of my above examples for 75, 40 & 20 meters and are now at the 20 meter band, you may press the down band key, the button just below the top-most left key, twice to return to 40 meters and the frequency you entered there. By pressing it once again, you will return to 75 meters and 3800 KHZ, assuming you entered it originally. There is yet a third way to access frequencies you have chosen by using the K2 memories that we'll discuss later.

Now return to or go to the band where strongest signals are likely to be and tune around. If you have a good antenna, it is connected properly and conditions are good, you should hear stations.

Testing the rig.
Again, I will assume that, so far, you have not connected or invoked any readout device or software. I do this in the event that users may not have either at their disposal. Later in this discussion, I will assume the reverse. If signals are more or less what you would expect, choose a frequency and accommodate your K2 with your antenna. To do this, assuming the internal ATU to be installed, rotate the power adjust knob you used earlier to the full counterclockwise position, that is, to the 15 watt output power level. Now locate the second button down in the right-most column at the left side of the FP. To repeat, there are three rows and a left and right-hand column in each. You should be in the center row and right-most column. Depress and momentarily hold the button. You'll hear a beep and very probably a series of clicks. These clicks are a series of relays that are energized during the antenna tuning process. When the clicks cease, press the button again to return to receive mode. If your antenna is entirely resonant at that frequency and you have no SWR, you may hear no relays engage at all. Question. Is the K2 happy with your antenna at that frequency. Highly flexible as the internal ATU is in this rig, it can't resolve impossible conditions. To check whether or not an acceptable match has been achieved, depress and temporarily hold the ATU button again. If you hear more clicks of relays, chances are you do not have a good match. Release the ATU and repeat the process a third time. If relays continue to sound, you would be well-advised to refrain from using the transceiver at that frequency. For the moment, as is probable, we will assume that your match is good. By the way, when returning to your selected band with any of the three methods, two of which we have talked about, the K2 will remember previous settings and invoke the relays to obtain them. Thus, when moving up and down bands in which you have invoked the ATU, you will hear these relays engage.

CW or ssb?
To get into CW mode, you will likely have to hit the mode switch on the K2, perhaps several times. Without the aid of a readout source, you can determine which mode you're in the following ways. Tap the paddles and listen for a tone. If all you hear is muting of the receiver, you are in lower or upper SSB mode. Tap number 1 of the numeric pad once and try your paddles again. If only receiver silence results, tap 1 again. This time, when activating your CW paddles, you should hear a sidetone at the default pitch and volume levels. Assuming you have rotated your power level to maximum, you should be sending RF to your antenna. By the way, instead of using your CW paddles to determine if you're in CW mode, you can also use the push-to-talk button on your microphone, assuming you have one plugged in. The top and left-most of the 4 round knobs at the left of the FP is keyer speed adjust. If, per chance, you get dots where dashes should appear and the reverse, the easiest solution at this point will be to reverse the leads coming from your paddle. Once you are familiar with K2 memories, reversing these leads can be accomplished there.

If you prefer to have your first QSO on ssb, then do this. Select your frequency, adjust to your antenna with the ATU if not already done and choose your mode. If on 75 or 40 meters, you'll want lower ssb. Using the push-to-talk button on your microphone, press it momentarily until you hear a sidetone, indicating that you are in CW mode. One tap of number 1 in the numeric keys will bring you to lower ssb, two taps to upper. This procedure will work for all bands. More than likely you will need to make an adjustment at some point to mic gain, accomplished in the menus. To do this, you will need either the KRC2, by far the most desirable option, or a sighted person with the manual in her/his hands, very hopefully a fellow ham. Let's hope, for the moment, that, perhaps by speaking close to the microphone itself, you can be heard. Of course, you may find that you have to do just the reverse if there's too much gain. The vox on the K2 works well although it's a bit cumbersome in that several presses and holds of the mode key are necessary to return to non-vox mode. To get into vox with a short delay, my personal preference, locate number 1 in the numeric keys, the mode button, and press and hold for a half second. Speak into the microphone and, assuming adequate gain, your speech should trigger the transmitter. If the delay is too short, press and hold the mode key again. Do this a third time to get a long delay. To return to push-to-talk mode, press and hold the mode key once more.

If you have two antennas connected to your K2 and wish to check the second one, tap the center right-most key at the left side of the FP, the button you used previously to invoke the internal ATU. If no second antenna is connected, your signals will, of course, disappear. Simply tap it again to return to your first antenna.

Using readouts.
I'll start with the simplest and least expensive, actually free in this case. Elecraft has a utility that I have uploaded called k2voice105_setupsm.exe that functions well if in a limited way. Hopefully, your K2 has the IO adapter along with the accompanying rs-232 db9 connector on the rear panel. You should have at least one i/o cable, two if you have the KRC2. We'll use the longest if you have two since the short will only function properly with the KRC2. If, as is now normally the situation with modern computers, you have no rs-232 connectors on your micro but only usb sockets, you will need to obtain a u s b to rs-232 adapter. Please be sure to obtain one that is electronic, that is, that comes with software for the adapter's internal circuitry and program. Simple physical u s b to db9 adapters will unlikely help you. Since the Elecraft voice program wants a baud rate of 4800, you will have to adjust the baud rate parameter in your computer and adapter to match that speed. Similarly, you will have to determine at what com port your adapter is located. You need not change this within your computer since the voice program accepts whatever port you need. In short, you need to set the adapter to work at 4800 baud, 8 data bits. 1 stop bit, no parity and no flow control, all except the baud rate probable defaults in your machine. Run the voice setup program in your computer and bring it up once you have turned the K2 on. If all is well, it rarely is the first time one tries this, you'll hear the voice of Eric announce the program then, hopefully, say the K2 is present. Although you can more to various buttons in the software with your screen reader, none of that is really necessary. If the program is working properly, the software will respond to various things you'll do with the K2. If Eric says that the K2 is present and all functions but the receiver mutes, the cable is not quite right. You will be unlikely able to correct this without looking to changes or corrections in the wiring of the pins.

What does Eric tell you.
First, and perhaps most important, clicking with the mouse or enter key on your computer on the info button will read out the frequency in speech. Apart from this button, you need not fool with the computer once the program is up and running. Any change in keyer speed as well as power level that you select will be automatically spoken. The tap of most of the rectangular keys will also result in the speech readout of the status of that key. For example, tapping the number 1 will cycle through modes, lower, upper ssb and cw. If you have this program, experiment with various keys, taking special care not to hit either the menu key, the left and bottom-most of the 6 keys at the left, or the display key, the top-most right of these 6 keys. Otherwise, you are unlikely to cause any problems by moving around the keys. Key combinations, in most cases, will not be spoken. Useful and friendly-sounding as the Elecraft voice program is, it will not read anything on the display itself and, hence, does not allow you to go into the menus. Fortunately, menu adjustment is rarely necessary with the K2, once initial settings have been made, chiefly because the designers have brought out nearly all necessary functions to the front panel with controls and switches. Still, it is nice to hear frequency changes as they take place, obtain s meter readings, SWR levels and, of course, be able to make adjustments for customizing your K2, possibly only by going into the two sets of menus.

The KRC2.
The KRC2 is a very fancy box, able to be programmed for readout and control of a large variety of devices. In the present situation, we are interested in only one of these possible programs, specifically, the firmware developed for morse code readout for the K2. Since this is the most basic of possible introductions, I will not describe the numerous adjustable parameters at our disposal, all taken up in readable detail in the two KRC2 files I have uploaded to the IcanWorkThisThing site. I will describe some of its features, however.

The KRC2 is powered by the K2. Although the pitch of the tone of the readout can be adjusted, the volume, quite low, cannot because of the device used to produce audible sound. CW speed is fully adjustable. Advantageous as this is for slow CW users, it takes quite some time to read out everything that appears on the display at lower speeds. Verbosity is also adjustable. The KRC2 will simply remain silent until you interrogate by pressing one of its four buttons or, at maximum verbosity, it will read everything that appears on the display, great in many cases but a bit of a bother in others. As mentioned, there are four buttons on the KRC2 enclosure, rectangular in shape and all in one row. A typical configuration for these buttons, the one I use, is as follows:
Button 1, at far left: frequency readout in kilohertz. When I press this button, I hear one long dash that designates a 0, followed by 2 digits that designate the frequency in KHZ.
Button 2: frequency in megahertz and kilohertz including digit to right of decimal point, plus l for lower, u for upper ssb and c for cw. The letter r I hear stands for the decimal point.
Button 3: s meter reading, 1 digit.
Button 4: reads out the letter f when tapped, this button used to change parameters and configurations. To ascertain what is currently on the K2 display, a vastly useful thing to be able to do, I press the display key on the FP of the K2, the top-most and right key of the six-pack, then press button 2 of the Krc2. This is particularly useful when in the menus, either to read what's there or to change the settings. On powering up the K2, the KRC2 comes to life and sends a series of CW characters that appear on the display, quite confusing at first since so much of the information that one sees is abbreviated. Nonetheless, with practice, one comes to recognize the signals. Of the six functioning transceivers on my bench, the K2 with its KRC2 mate is, by very far, the most accessible.

In principle, one is supposed to be able to use the KRC2 and be connected to a computer at the same time. I have been less successful than some in this regard.

I will be glad to try to answer any questions you might have that are not covered in this very basic introduction, either by e-mail at ve3qso@rac.ca or by phone at 613-828-0959. Good luck.

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