First Amp Recommendations

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Amplifiers' started by N3AP, Jul 4, 2019.

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  1. N3AP

    N3AP Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've just recently gotten a proper antenna set up and am operating at <=100w. I'm wondering what some options are for stepping into amplifier use.

    My antenna will support up to 1kw and i'm kind of interested in figuring out what some options are both for amplifiers as well as tuners.

    I'm doing some online research as well, figured i'd check here too.

    My current rig is a Yaesu FT-891

    Intended uses:
    10m -> 40m (at the moment)
    SSB, CW, Digital

  2. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well, seeing as the ARRL says not to amp the 891....
    KK5JY and K7GQ like this.
  3. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    In all seriousness, though... if you do amp the 891, get an amp that you can get to full power at below 50w drive. The 891 is half as wild at that output level. Also, keep the 891's ALC below 1/2, and preferably below 1/3. If you use compression (I believe some amps may not like this), keep it minimal.

    I imagine someone is going to tell you to get an Ameritron 811 or 811B entry-level tube amp, then someone else will say it's a poor design, and you should spend more for a better Ameritron amp. Then someone will say they have the entry Ameritron amp, and it works just fine.

    About that time, someone will talk about how great the Elecraft amps are, and that the 500w version is being sold at a good price used, as others upgrade to the newer Elecraft amp. Then someone else will remind everyone how expensive Elecraft is. Then someone else will lament how they really wish they had an SPE Expert amp, but they're crazy expensive.

    About then, someone will say.. "Hey, Acom make the best amps.." and at least two people will agree.

    Someone else might tell you to skip tubes alltogether, and go solid state. That's what I did. I got an incredible Tokyo Hy-Power amp, but I'm playing Russian Roulette with it a bit, because they aren't easily fixed.

    If I didn't have the amp I currently do, and had enough, I'd look into the Solid State Ameritron, or and Acom 1000 or 1010.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
    KN4PHS, NQ1B, KA0HCP and 2 others like this.
  4. N3AP

    N3AP Ham Member QRZ Page

    lol, this is perfect. this is the exact response i was hoping would be a sticky at the top of this forum. I'll check them all out.

    the 891 isn't my dream amp rig at all but one i got to get on the air more and it developed into what i'll probably use for a while at home as well as portable. at some point in the future i'll get a more proper base radio again.

    KE0EYJ likes this.
  5. W1QJ

    W1QJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    At this point in time it is obvious to see what is happening. If you are one who is watching carefully as to what is happening with amps, as I do, you will find that most all contesters are giving up their tube amps for solid state amps. They are not buying low power ones they are buying full power units. The tube amps they are giving up were once the cream of the crop tube amps. Amps such as Alpha's, Ten Tec's, and big Ameritron's, and Command Tech's are flooding the market. Theses amps can be gotten much cheaper now used then ever before. These are serious amps not toys. The only problem is they are using tubes which cost quite a bit of money but if you buy an amp that has full power tubes from the get go you can leisurely look for a spare set of tubes which do pop up on occasion. With a good set of spares that amp should last you until which time solid state amps will be "the thing" and prices will be down where they are affordable by most. All these amps are capable of legal limit plus and if you run them at a KW like you want, they will just loaf. If you upgrade your antenna further you will automatically have a full power amp. Right now you can find good deals on the Commander HF-2500, TenTec Titan 425. They both make full power with 50 watts, The Alpha's are down in price and that would be the 87A's but they can be difficult to get fixed. The other two is no problem to get fixed. There are vintage amps as well that use 3-500 tubes that you can buy very reasonably priced but they typically need 100 watts drive for full power and are not always compatible with solid state rigs unless soft key's are added. Some amps in this category would be the Heath SB-220/1, Kenwood TL-922, Amp Supply LK-500 (series) Drake L4b to name a few. My advice to you would be to get something mentioned above. I would stay away from the amps that use poor quality tubes and those would be just about anything with 811 or 572b tubes. You did not mention what your budget is but here are the figures for the amps discussed. The first set would run you between $1300-1500 for a decent unit and the second set between 500-900 for good to excellent units.
    W2AI, W1NK and KD2ACO like this.
  6. WA3GWK

    WA3GWK XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The first task is to determine what your requirements are in terms of bands, drive, power, convenience and ergonomics, budget, etc. The best amp is the one that is good for you. The good news is that there are many choices these days. Take your time and learn the market, technologies available, and what fits on your desk and then have fun!
    WQ4G likes this.
  7. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    To make any sort of recommendation I'd want to ask:

    • Do you mind having to "tune up" a tube-type amplifier? If you have never done this, it takes some practice but over time it becomes very easy.
    • How well matched are your antennas? Some amps have built-in automatic antenna matching circuits, a couple of tube models even had this (!) but those were very, very expensive, high-end models. The solid-state amps that have built-in auto tuners are also "high end" models and not the ones you can find for $1000 used. However, if your antennas are all well matched and don't require any kind of tuner, that's a big plus.

    I think the "best bang for the buck" amps will all be tube types that use one or two 3-500Zs. Only reason is that tube is very rugged and forgiving of operator mistakes, and are still being manufactured and available for a "reasonable" price (a bit over $200 each). Some great amps used 3CX800A7s, 8877s, 3CX1200D7s, or 2-3 8874s (and some other mixes) but while those are all great tubes, today they are extremely expensive. Also, "most" of those expensive tubes, save the 3CX1200A7/D7, take 2-3 mins to warm up before you can use them, so the amp is not "instant-on" like one that uses 3-500Zs.

    Solid state amps are way easier to use and don't have any "tuning" requirements, and of course are all "instant on." But other than very high-end models, they don't have automatic antenna matching circuits (ATUs) built-in, so unless your antennas are very well matched, you'd need an outboard tuner. Outboard automatic tuners that can handle a kW are very expensive; outboard "manual" tuners for that power level are cheaper, but then you have stuff to manually adjust again, just like with tube amps.:p "Most" tube amps will not require an outboard tuner unless your antennas are very poorly matched.

    If you don't mind tuning up an amp (tube type), I think a current "best buy" is either a new or used AL-80B. Used will be cheaper, but new provides a warranty. It uses just one 3-500ZG, is instant on, easy to tune, not too big or heavy, and covers 160 through 10m -- and will run 1 kW PEP output power safely (or about 750-800W carrier power for CW, about 400W carrier power for RTTY or FM, or about 200W carrier power for AM).

    Most using the modern weak-signal digi modes on HF don't use amplifiers; if you do choose to use one for FT8 or whatever, I'd never push the amp past a few hundred watts and be really careful to keep the transceiver running with no indicated ALC.
    K7MH, K2XT, K0UO and 2 others like this.
  8. N8FVJ

    N8FVJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I thought the Yaesu FT-891 is a 100 watt RF output radio, so 50 watts makes 500 watts PEP out from an Ameritron AL811. About $450 used. The SS legal limit amps are about $3000 used.
  9. N6RGR

    N6RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would recommend the Al-80b or Acom 1000. Both use rugged tubes, are relatively easy to tune (once you make a chart!), and can handle SWR 0f up 3:1 or more with little foldback. Solid state amps are instant on, can band follow, but are notoriously picky when it comes to SWR and antenna resonance. SO, if you have a very good antenna, you can go solid state. If you have an average antenna I would go with a tube amp. As stated by Steve, you may need a good outboard auto tuner that can handle 1 Kw, or get a manual tuner which means you will fiddle more with knobs on the amp and tuner. It will make you feel like a bona fide mad scientist, with the glow of toobs and playing with knobs. You can cackle and jump up and shriek "Its Aaalive!!!!". Family will shake their heads and sigh.

    Roger N6RGR
    KN4PHS and KU3X like this.
  10. KU3X

    KU3X Ham Member QRZ Page

    You never say how much you want to spend? That really dictates what amp you get.
    I have to agree with what some of the above hams suggested, get either a good used Ameritron AL 80A or a new AL 80B. Both are great amps and are reasonably priced. If funds are an issue, the AL811H is not a bad starter amp. If you are just going to rag chew with a few friends are work a few contacts a day , non contest conditions, you may be happy with the AL811H. We use one at our club station. If funds permit, go with the AL80 series amp.

    If in the future you build up your station, maybe with a tower, beam and some serious wire antennas, you may want a, "Big Boy" amp. By selling either of the above two amps you won't take a big financial hit.

    Barry, KU3X

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