Amplifier Recommendation

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KN4UQI, Jul 29, 2020.

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  1. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree.

    Those of us who often look to contact stations that are just the tiniest smidge above the noise level (on CW, maybe worthy of a 219 signal report) find that a 1 dB increase in power (the equivalent of increasing power from 100W to 127W) actually does make a difference. A 6x increase in power is 7.78 dB -- that's a pretty big difference.

    If we only work stations who are S9...who cares?:p
    NL7W, KA4DPO and WA3GWK like this.
  2. NM7L

    NM7L Ham Member QRZ Page


    [What Would Dave (UUU) Do?]

    ... for my 2 cents, I'd recommend the ALS-600. Linear or Switching-Mode power supply ... does not matter (although the unit with the switcher is ~ $100.00 cheaper new. A few years back, the linear P/S was the cheaper option - go figure!).
  3. K5ABB

    K5ABB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think you've been given a lot of good advice here, and to echo NNF, WIK, and 1H, very very commonly, an amp can make the difference between a comfy, enjoyable QSO, and a sketchy short one or no contact at all. I am primarily a CW DXer, and the most interesting signals to me are frequently on the very fringes of "copyable", like WIK's 219'er. I worked a station like that earlier today on 20M CW. it was SX3SP a special event station in Greece, about 6400 miles away and on the far side of "The Great Wall" of Europe. under better conditions Greece is no big deal, but today his signal was so weak here it did not even register a faint trace on my SDR driven pan adaptor waterfall. I could hear only the presence of a weak cw signal but definitely not copyable... after taking an interest, and spending probably 10 minutes tweaking filters, DNR settings, and finally some IF shifting and maybe a little help from the band Gods... I had a signal I could just BARELY copy (literally an S1). He was working european stations and every now and again a station from the US northeast, and most of whom I could not even hear, with a beam antenna pointed right at them. That's the setup... Long story short I didn't even consider making a call with 100 watts in these conditions. I reached over and switched on my legal limit AL-82 amp and gave him the absolute strongest signal I could project. Well over a kilowatt of CW power through a 6dB gain beam antenna... I made the QSO, but it took probably 20 minutes and 12-15 calls to get it in the log. Without the amp, it would have been a pointless attempt. This sounds like an extreme example, but in truth, it's not uncommon at all in the DX world, it happens for me all the time. If you want your call answered, you have to give your counterparty a signal HE can copy.

    The amp is for them, not for us. Good antennas and receivers are for us so we can copy the weak ones. If I were primarily a phone operator I'd feel the amp was even more important. I made an uncommon (for me) journey up to the phone bands on 20 and 40 yesterday afternoon and evening, looking for some casual chatter and relaxation, and the band was pretty sparse in terms of signals. As I do when I switch bands or modes, I looked and listened around and monitored a few QSO's before I reached for the mic... what I noticed was that for every decent comfortably copyable signal I monitored the Op mentioned he was running a power amp. Many times I could not copy the other side of the qso, or even hear them and I have good antennas. These were all domestic contacts not far flung DX. I made calls to a few of the stations with solid copyable signals and made contacts from my New Mexico QTH to Ca., Or., Mn., Nh., and one to British Columbia. these were nice enjoyable contacts but I guarantee you they would have been a lot more tenuous and less fun if we were scratching to copy each other.

    So.... especially if your antennas are as good as you can get them for now, in propagational times like these, an amp can make your radio life a lot more fun. As many have already said a solid state amp is a great place to start if you're not the most technically inclined and your budget will allow it. I cut my teeth on vacuum tubes and I like them for a number of reasons, but the simplicity of a solid state amp is going to be hard to beat for a new amp user. Just be sure your antennas present nice low SWR,s or make sure you have a tuner (automatic or manual) that is up to the power levels you decide to run, as solid state amps are less forgiving about impedance mismatches than tube amplifiers with tank circuits in their final stage. If you decide to go with tube amps, I'd probably recommend staying away from anything based on 811's they're just too easy for a beginning amp tuner to fry... cheap yes, but can be a pain in the butt. 572's much better but not as cheap as they used to be.. 3-500z's great tubes, and pretty stout and forgiving of beginner errors.

    Ameritron 600 and 606, great and reasonably priced (relatively) 1306, awesome, Ameritron AL80b, 3-500z tube and probably the best value in amps today (esp. used ones), If your budget is a little higher ACOMs are solid, solid. Elecraft KPA 500 with the auto tuner is a super super easy to use amp if you can manage the price, and very highly regarded. I'd buy a gently used one in a minute if I were looking for a "lower powered" amp in that 500w class especially if you are a cw operator... point and shoot.

    Anyway good luck on your journey and do be aware, anytime you mention an amp in mixed ham company, there will ALWAYS be somebody who thinks you shouldn't have one... It's the second law of ham nature. Let it go...


    Gordo in NM
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020
    KQ9J, W4NNF and NL7W like this.
  4. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    The nice thing about the ALS-600 is that the power supply can be placed under the desk or some place a bit out of sight/way and just keep the RF deck in easy reach. Being solid state it is instant on for those moments when you need that power bump NOW!

    As I lived in a rental when I got it, the fact that it can run comfortably on 120VAC was a big plus. I still run it on 120VAC here as I've been too lazy/stingy to run a 240VAC line. If I ever consider more power I'll have to run a dedicated AC circuit.

    Yes, it does have effective protection circuitry that engages when the detected VSWR is out of range. That's a reminder that I forgot to retune when jumping over to another net.

    I know there are the theoretical S unit increases being discussed but the jump from 100 to 600 is enough that a blind friend in western KS complains if I don't have it switched on. It's the difference for him between hearing me comfortably on 75m in the mornings or not. YMMV.
    KA4DPO likes this.
  5. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my experience, the benefits of the Amp really come at 400w or higher. 600w is plenty. To go 1000w +? Meh... only if I've got a deal on it. If you have a nice, big yagi and great feedline, then look at up to "Legal Limit", if you can afford it. But 400 to 600w is going to make a difference, in any case.

    I'd like to reiterate what others have said. Please make sure your first expenditure is quality coax meant to handle the power, and that it's fed to the best antenna you can afford to put up at your location. Always consider your feedline to be part of the antenna. Quality RG 213 is what you want. If you can get good coax connectors on it, then do it. Coax is where spending an extra $30 or more is going to be WELL worth it, in under 3 years of use (the cheap crap falls apart, can get water, etc).

    Antenna and coax improvements may get you as much as halfway toward what an amp can improve for you.
    NL7W likes this.
  6. AE1N

    AE1N Ham Member QRZ Page

    AL-811H, a very popular and with inexpensive tubes....
    KA4DPO likes this.
  7. WA1GXC

    WA1GXC Ham Member QRZ Page

    "Stand-by for action!"

    S T I N G R A Y !
  8. N3FAA

    N3FAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The only people who knock buying amplifiers are the ones who don't have them. I can't think of a single time I've been on the air and thought, " know, I really wish I didn't have my amp right now." Sure, you want to maximize your antenna setup, you want to make sure your coax is good, your connectors are great, etc., but changing your cable and connectors is not, in any way, shape, or form, going to get you 7.78 dB unless you were running a coat hanger or something previously.

    600w is most definitely going to make a difference, and is often the difference between being heard or not, being able to make it to a DXpedition or being lost in the pile-up and never able to get through for hours. I rarely find that I need to go legal limit to make a contact (though I certainly have at times), but 500-600w is quite literally the game changer when it comes to making the contact.

    To echo what others have said, I personally would go with a solid state amp. Warm-up times, constant tuning, etc. gets old with tubes. Yes, they are going to be cheaper. But for me, the extra money is worth it to get rid of the hassle.
    N0NB, W4NNF, WG7X and 1 other person like this.
  9. W5IEI

    W5IEI Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree with everything here except the solid state part :)
    W4NNF and N3FAA like this.
  10. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    My advice? Don't sniff tube HV plate caps...if you get close enough they will smell just like chicken.
    WZ7U and K5WY like this.

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