As you know, I've been operating as W1AW/0 for IA the last few days. I had planned to operate at the station at work with the K-Line quite a bit but I actually worked from home a lot more, and boy was I surprised! Even with my modest station - and yes my station really IS modest - I stirred up big pileups and could run rates over 150/hr until the pileups died. It was a blast and the 590 did a great job holding its own.
So as impressed as I was, I still wanted to get to the "big gun" station and see what could be done with 500w and a SteppIR. I got up there on Saturday morning, pointed the beam to EU and fired it up. Band conditions were terrible, and I think the SSB WPX contest was taking some of the DX ops away but I still managed to drum up a few pileups while I was there. The first one that popped up was a big surprise though. The audio on the K3 was downright awful.
Yes. It was bad. I was as shocked as you might be now. I had become so accustomed to Elecraft sound that it took me by surprise. I took a quick spin through the settings and didn't find anything that could be causing it, then I hit the AFX (audio effects) button and things improved immensely. One of the other ops must have turned it off! Still, I was really surprised to find how much of an improvement that was. Without it I would share the sentiment that many others have - K3's sound pretty bad. However, the AFX changes everything. Do I still want one? Yep.
I found that operating the K3 split was a lot nicer, mostly due to the dual VFO knobs which made it almost too easy to QSY. Also the way the K3 displays your split operation info (i.e. what band you're transmitting on etc) is better in my opinion. I don't really care for the way the 590 display flips between frequencies when transmitting in split, but I guess it is a very obvious indicator that you are/are not in split mode, while the K3 is a lot more subtle.
All this has taught me that the 590 really is an extremely capable radio and a must if you're considering something in that price range. K3 is still tops, but maybe not as much as I had once thought.