Acom or Ameritron...??

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Amplifiers' started by W3AMM, Jan 3, 2017.

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  1. KD2ACO

    KD2ACO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Yes, Indeed. I'm a "newer" ham too and want to be good on the bands. I just love chattin'. It's been tough recently though. 40meters is as low as I can go right now due to some trees in my yard that needed to go before Sandy hit. We figured that a controlled "pull" was better than losing the back of the house...

    There's a vacant lot down the street 2 houses over and I'm thinking of contacting the owner and putting up an 80m delta loop. Covet thy neighbor's trees! :D
    QRT now... story time.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  2. W9CW

    W9CW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Since I own three of the amps discussed in this thread (ACOM 1010, Ameritron AL-80B, and Elecraft KPA500), I will add my two cents to the discussion.

    If you don't mind the warm up time on the Russian GU74B tetrode in the ACOM 1010, it's a fabulous amplifier. Extremely easy to tune with ACOM's exclusive TRI (True-Resistance Indicator) tuning feature, and the fast-acting output bar-graph LEDs make for easy, and very fast, tune-up. Plus, it will work into a 3:1 load which is a definite plus. Build-quality is excellent as well, and a very quiet fan. Output is 700W PEP, or 500W continuous carrier. If you're a hardcore DXer, the warm up time may be a negative for you however, but the 1010 is a reliable workhorse. Another negative for the CW op is the 1010 is not a QSK amp.

    The Ameritron AL-80B is certainly the "best bang for the buck" in this group. I've experienced no build-quality problems, and tune-up is straight forward, but not as easy and quick as the 1010. Just your conventional "old-school" amp tuning procedure... The 3-500ZG is a great tube, and provides up to 800W PEP output... I do not run it any harder. Although not a QSK amp as designed, you can add QSK with the optional Ameritron QSK-5 or QSK-5PC. Fan is quiet, and if I do have a failure with the AL-80B that I can't repair myself, I can be at Ameritron's plant in Starkville, MS in less than 10 hours by car. Not so with the ACOM from Sofia, Bulgaria... But, there are several well-qualified service centers, Array Solutions, DXE, etc. within reasonable shipping distance.

    The Elecraft KPA500 essentially turns a typical 100W transceiver into a 500W transceiver seamlessly. The protection circuits, as also is the case with the ACOM 1010, are bullet-proof, or more specifically, idiot-proof. I find that if I can't work them with 500W, I don't bother. NOTE: I'm primarily a CW op, and only occasionally operate SSB. Elecraft is well-known for its customer service, but I've never needed it with the KPA500. The fan noise does become a bit loud during high-duty cycles. It's an extremely easy amp to operate, and would be my overall choice if you want a small footprint, and reliable, fully solid-state amp backed by an American company. The cost per watt is the highest in this group.

    I use the ACOM 1010 with my TS-590S, the Ameritron AL-80B with my TS-830S and occasionally with my Ten-Tec Omni A Series B, and the Elecraft KPA500 with my TS-590SG. If anyone has a specific question, please let me know.

    Don W9CW
  3. K0OKS

    K0OKS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As a new ham and new amp user I have a basic question... when you say you run the AL-80b no harder the 800W PEP how exactly are you measuring that? Is 800W the indication on the meter with a CW carrier, or is it the highest peak you see when speaking SSB? Or what?

  4. W9CW

    W9CW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have a Telepost LP-100A and an Array Solutions PowerMaster II digital peak-reading watt meters, both of which are switchable rig-to-rig in the transmission line. I can immediately switch to a 2kW Bird 50 Ohm dummy load and also check the PEP power output. I also always monitor my SSB signals (Christmas Tree) with a scope, and can calculate the PEP using the scope as well. Yes, it is the highest output on voice peaks when speaking into the mic.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  5. K0OKS

    K0OKS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the reply. Someday I want a LP-100A. Other stuff comes first, though. So is the PEP meter on the AL-80B reasonably close on peaks?

    What kind of drive level are you using to produce that desired output?

    I am going to hook up one of my scopes as soon as a have some free time.

  6. W9CW

    W9CW Ham Member QRZ Page

    The meter on the AL-80B will be reasonably close. I typically use 60 to 80 watts drive, but I never drive it over 800W PEP. Many hams drive the AL-80B to 1kW PEP output, but I choose not to. As I stated, among the three amps I've mentioned above, the AL-80B is the most bang for the buck. I would certainly choose the AL-80B over any of Ameritron's 811A-based entry level amps. Although the Elecraft KPA500 is the "least bang for the buck (Watts-wise)," it's an extremely well-designed, and built, amp. And, its QSK using the TS-590SG is seamless. BTW... The TS-590SG has a few additional menu options for keying an amp, and they're an improvement on those in the TS-590S.

    You're most welcome!
  7. K0OKS

    K0OKS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Interesting. I have been driving mine with between 55 and 75 watts of drive (well 55%-75% setting on an IC7300, which does 100W per the specs). The meter on the AL-80B sometimes shows swings up to 1kW on SSB during loud peaks when using 75% power form the IC-7300.

    So by your standards this would seem reasonable? Forgive me. I am new to this whole amp thing, and just want to make sure I am treating her right.

    When I tune up with a CW carrier only (for less than 10sec at a time) I see just over 1kW when tuning with 95% power output from the IC-7300. This is in theory 95W, though I have seen the 7300 peak over 100W by itself at 100% power. But who knows how accurate these readings are.
  8. N1UB

    N1UB Ham Member QRZ Page

    If it fits your budget go with the Elecraft KPA 500. It's a beautiful piece of equipment, the built in safety mechanisms are lightning fast and the watt and SWR metering is far superior to any cross meter set up, I run mine mostly SSB and I don't hear the the fan at all. It will easily do over 500 watts with 40 watts of drive. It's also very compact with a built in power supply if space or working portable is a concern.
  9. KK4YDR

    KK4YDR Ham Member QRZ Page

    nevermind .... I read wrong ... edited my response out.
  10. N6YFM

    N6YFM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Joe:

    I also use an Icom 7300. I also drive, alternately, an Elecraft KPA-500, or a Dual 3-500ZG tube
    amp with it. Yes, the power meter on the Icom 7300 is percentage only, and not very accurate
    at that. I suggest an external power and SWR meter. You can get 2KW analog meters for around
    $100, or you can save and get a digital model. Either type is fine. Most are around 5 to 10% accurate, unless MFJ (20 to 40%, if working at all).

    Most power meters that you hook up externally have a switch for selecting AVERAGE power,
    or continuous carrier, and PEAK power (PEP) [What SSB Voice would be measured at].
    If the budget is on the smaller side, a simple but decent power/swr meter is the
    Daiwa CN-801HP. (Use google).

    I consider a scope on the output RF (through a suitable 40 to 60 dB attenuator of course)
    to be very important. When you over drive any amplifier, even audio or RF, the sine waves
    hit the non-linear portion of the amplifying device (tube/transistor), in some cases the max
    rail voltage, and the signal "flat tops", massive distortion. This is really SIMPLY to see even
    on an old cheap oscilloscope. It can be low RF power with too much audio input, or it can be
    too much RF output for the tube and power supply to handle. It can even be slightly mis-tuning
    the tube amplifier. Either way, when the signal distorts, that is when you splatter across the
    band with distortion products. An external power meter that can read PEP will help you keep
    in the proper general area, and using an old scope to monitor signal waveform output from your
    amp will make it VERY clear when you are clean, vs. when you are distorting, flat-topping, etc.

    Here is one set of devices for monitoring the waveform;

    Here is the simplest, easiest;

    If budget is no issue at all and you want the power meter, waveform scope, and all
    in one Ferrari, you might as well get on the waiting list for this;

    Does that help a little?

    Don't worry about being new to this. I only started one year ago myself.
    There were tons of helpful people on these forums to help me learn, and also
    plenty to re-assure me that I am an [multiple-choice: idiot / moron / LID /
    CB-operator / 2-bit no-code no-brain loser / etc].

    Ignore the mean ones. The rest will answer all your questions while you learn.



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