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Issue #8: QRO with the Legal Limit Mercury LUX

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Jan 18, 2023.

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  1. KC8P

    KC8P XML Subscriber QRZ Page

  2. WW7GBA

    WW7GBA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great article on the Mercury amplifier. I purchased an 811H back in September 2022 from DX Engineering, it's been at the shop longer than I have used it. Waiting on service since December. I got the 811H because I only need 500 watts. I run 10 through 40. HOA restrictions, so 80 or 160 is out of the question. Zero space for any of that! LOL If this thing continues to break, I may just get rid of it, and get the Merc.

    Just an FYI for the newbies like me, and by the way, NONE of this is on the manual or on the Ameritron or MFJ websites as required accessory/accessories. If you get an 811H just be aware that if you are going to use an IC 7300 or some other newer radio you will need a Keying (PTT Buffer) and the tuning pulser. I have an email out to MFJ/Ameritron. I need to find out what model pulser I need. I also requested information on any other needed accessory other the the two aforementioned ones. Whatever I need to have, I need to purchase if I do not already have it.

    I only do SSB, not into the digital anything, just rag chew. I think these accessories are required with all of the other Ameritron tube amps, but not 100% sure on that or any of the digital modes.

    W7DGJ likes this.
  3. AC9YY

    AC9YY Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    You do not need the PTT buffer, I used an Icom 7300 with an AL-80B for a year without the buffer and it worked great. I also never used a tuning pulser, but the AL-80B can deal much better with the tube(s) not overheating during tuning. QA at Ameritron is non-existent.
    KL7KN likes this.
  4. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Louis - I agree with Jim, that you do not need the buffer with the combination he uses. That's the same combo I used for quite some time, and I never had an issue with the AL-80B. I'm sorry to hear that your amp is still out of commission. That's one area where I know the Mercury amps shine. They'll occasionally get one back, and they are reputed to be very fast in turn around. And as you know, even out of warranty they'll only charge you for parts. Dave
  5. K9UR

    K9UR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You reference household current a few times in your article. I am sure you mean household voltage (120V vs 240V). Not household current.

    I’ve got a pair of the RF2KS amps recently. I’ll be putting them head to head agains the Lux. I think the RF2KS will win in terms of the features that I want and use, but do recognize some hams don't need those features, or are budget limited, or both. THe RF2KS costs $5490 delivered to your door, and the Lux costs approx $4400 delivered, for a price difference of $1090 Feature wise, here are the big gaps/differences for the money paid. The biggest are:

    1) The lux requires a separate PC connected to it and to the internet to run remotely. The RF2KS runs on a built in pi4 and no external computer is needed, and can use a wifi connection. The additional PC adds cost, complexity, or both to remote operation. The Lux requires a mechanical on-off switch and the RF2KS can be driven by a simple relay to ground closure to power up and to shut down. The software needed is simply something like VNC viewer to control the amp remotely.

    2) The lux relies on a noisy and less reliable relay method for TX/RX switching, it does not do QSK. The RF2KS has PIN diode and is lightining fast... just a few milliseconds to switch. I am a cw operator and not having QSK is a disadvantage when hunting DX or contesting. It is less an issue if you are a SSB only or SSB/Digital ham. But for me, it's an issue not having QSK in todays world of high speed operating and contesting.

    3) The Lux does not include a built in ATU. This can be a disadvantage when operating remotely, or using near-resonant antennas in contesting and needing to switch between them without the delay of an external tuner. The lux has 3 antenna ports. The RF2KS has a built in ATU that tunes 3:1 (spec) but more typically 4:1 (in practice) and stores the settings and lets you switch up to 16 antennas (4 antenna ports standard). The RF2KS internal tuner can be fully bypassed too -- I use the internal tuner on all antennas except antenna 4 (a huge loop) and then use the outboard tuner for that loop.

    4) The RF2KS is a "SDR Amplifier" meaning the software for it is continually upgraded and improved. New releases happen regularly. The Lux seems to be stable image, not upgraded often.

    Other thoughts: I got 2 x RF2KS in six month time window and still waiting going on 1 year for the LUX. We hams have to admit the wait time for this stuff is ridiculous. Been on Kenny’s list since March 2022. That’s darn near a year. Now that I paid half, I found out it's yet another 12 weeks or longer wait to have the thing actually built. His waiting time is ridiculous,

    Beyond initial wait time, the proof will be in actual durability and warranty work if needed. The RF2KS is serviced by one dealer in CA, John at Island Amplifier. The turn-around is slow for warranty work although defect issues are almost all traced to user errors.
    The mercury crew and Kenny seems to be better in this regard and I'll be watching this and other warranty aspects closely especially on the new Lux. Features mean nothing if either amp breaks down and can't get it back within a reasonable 6-8 week service time. On warranty work, the Lux uses the BLF-188XR devices that are no longer made / discontinued by NXP. The BLF-189XRB is used in the RF2KS and currently produced (but for how long, who knows).

    I'll do a high-noon shoot out. It should be fun and educational, especially if you're looking to get a modern LDMOS amp. Will look at power output, band tracking, noise level, heat and durability, convenience, size/weight (for dxpeditions) and a few other aspects. This is definitely the modern era.
    AK5B, K0UO and AC9YY like this.
  6. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for your input Joe and the typo correction. Yes, that's a good amp too! While most reviews are positive (you're the big RF-Kit advocate on eHam and on a forum), I encourage you to read through reviews of all RF-Kit products in any location you can. You'll find naysayers, and when you do, read the negatives. A lot of it has to do with not admitting to their mistakes, or in dealing with the one service location in N. America (as you mentioned).

    But there's a certain common ground to the naysayers that isn't comforting. No product is perfect, as I said in my review, but the way that I've been dealt with by KM3KM reps and their warranty . . . you just don't see that very often, for any kind of product in any industry sector. I have yet to see anyone posting any truly negative reviews about a Mercury product. Your post here, replying to my article is (as usual) the most negative I've read mentioning the LUX or the Mercury IIIS, its little brother. Dave, W7DGJ
  7. K9UR

    K9UR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Dave. I suppose that depends how one reads the review. It’s simply a feature comparison. Like comparing someone who needs a 4-banger motor to someone who needs a V6. Or a V6 with leather interior versus a raw V8. Different tools for different use cases.

    I hardly think there is anything negative- simply pointing facts - only negative is a 1 year long wait time for Mercury delivery and everyone agrees this is just too long.

    What is funny is that I just got an email from Angel begging me to cancel my order.. It’s as bizarre as it comes. Is he worried about something? I’ll give his amp an honest review - both the good and any bad. I am sure as you have stated that there are some definite upgrades over the original Mercury.

    And there is no payola (unlike many biased reviews in ham forums. YouTube etc) to bend any review.

    Do the right homework and research. Cost. Features. Performance. Warranty. Etc.
    AK5B likes this.
  8. K9UR

    K9UR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes. Let’s say you have a 10 meter dipole and a 160 inverted L. You go from 10M to 160M to give a quick listen and your amp antenna selection is still the 10M dipole. You’re not gonna receive much till you transmit RF and have the antenna switch to the 160 antenna.

    with CAT or UDP or TCI, the amp follows the radio seamlessly from 10 to 160 and back to 10.

    So with the new method on the Lux, No transmitting required.
    AK5B and W7DGJ like this.
  9. N2PTB

    N2PTB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Joe below is the reply sent to you via email from KM3KM we simply want to clear comments made and have issued you a full refund, for you to purchase what will work within the scope of your operation. We point out your concerns and agree that our AMP will not operate within the parameters you have specified. We wish you good luck in your future endeavors.

    Here at KM3KM Electronics our only interest is to supply amplifiers that will enhance the experience of those that use them, as we all know that these devices are not cheap. The culture here is to provide the best product and support possible. We did see your review in QRZ and thought that we do not make an amp that will enhance your experience because of the following…

    • You need a PC for remote operations
    • Noisy relays and not QSK ready
    • No internal ATU
    • Not SDR
    • Delivery Delay (No Charge for list placement)

    We just want to clarify that we always want the client to have the best product for their operation, this does not mean that it has to be our product. Those points that you pointed out and I have restated in this email are in our opinion a deal breaker if we were in your shoes

    I would like to clarify that the price is $4100.00 not $4400.00… no matter what you purchase, shipping has to be paid and not a fair point in price discussion. We have never charged anyone $300.00 for shipping.

    • We never charge to place operators on the list
    • We never charge for transaction fees.
    • We have not raised our prices.
    • We are giving a generous $200.00 discount for the LUX purchase and honoring those on the list in 2022

    We would also like to point out that the BLF188XR is still in production which we have purchased hundreds and have a large order in place directly from the manufacturer, if it was not available, our design is such that we can incorporate the next generation device.

    We understand that there are operators that may not be happy when they purchase our Mercury LUX and that is why we give a 10 day refund.

    You have not received yours yet as it is now in manufacturing, this is something we informed you and if you look in the body of this email I have copied and pasted below when you were informed of the manufacturing time.

    Once your deposit is made the manufacturing and QC/QA process is 8 – 10 weeks or

    KM3KM would rather you purchase what makes you happy and we will initiate a full refund, something that we never do unless requested as there are transaction fees associated with a refund but it was our decicion to refund you completely and we will pay the transaction fees as we believe this loss will make you whole and you can purchase your ideal AMP…

    We feel this will avoid further delaying the shipping back and forth to issue you the inevitable refund…Many Happy Dx’s to you!!!
    AK5B likes this.
  10. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Some additional history for anyone wondering what the last couple of posts are all about . . . This fellow, K9UR, is a very experienced ham with a lot of valuable opinions across the QRZ forum spectrum. However, Joe is a detractor from my column, and considers it his privilege or responsibility to be "the other side of the argument" on anything that I review. If I post something negative about a product, he'll post something positive, and take great pleasure at poking fun or making personal barbs, such as the very nasty comment about "payola." If I post something positive, as I did with an antenna recently or the review of the LUX (which is weighted, but overall very positive) than he will have to come in here and tear it down -- he's one of those guys who speaks from a soapbox, and sometimes he's right but often he's just venting. I've learned to live with it, but would very much appreciate it if Joe could find another home for his commentaries. To show how open and transparent the folks at KM3KM Electronics are, Angel posts publicly the note he sent to Joe. Looks like Joe will have to stick with his RF-Kit product. Dave, W7DGJ
  11. K9UR

    K9UR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The blf188 is discontinued as of 2023. Check the nxp website. They even state " not recommended for design in" so I'm confused by your post.

    The lux price is $4100 + $100 shipping from Florida to me.

    The list price is $4300 + shipping. Let us assume $100 for shipping. That's $4400 for anyone who orders one on the list today. So yes the price difference is $5490-$4400= $1090 for anyone who wants to buy one.

    Let the ham consumer decide.
    K0UO likes this.
  12. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Joe, I'm not going to put up with this kind of back-and-forth with manufacturers in my forum discussions. I'll allow this one, and that's it from you. You are, once again, making misstatements. The design of the Mercury LUX is such that it will incorporate any of the LD-MOS that come after the blf188. The supplier announced an end-of-life, and that is not a discontinuation of sales. They do this to allow manufacturers time to align their designs with specs for the next-in-line. This has gone on for decades with transistors, silicon and so on. You should know that. They still sell the blf188, and as soon as that sales process ends, the blf189 or whatever is next will be put into the LUX with no hiccups as Kenny has designed the amp for the future. Now, do not post anything further in this thread, Joe. You have stated your case, and KM3KM came back with an open and clear email to you about all the points you've made, and refunded your deposit to ensure your happiness. At this time, please NO MORE . . . Dave
  13. W6AD

    W6AD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Dave. Just a few nits to pick. I don't think the heat sink is made of copper. Looks like aluminum to me. As far as the cooling, aside from a catchy name it looks like the same as in the Mercury 3s. Two main fans (maybe a bit larger than those in the M3s) No cabinet fan ( the 3s has one) A little higher heat sink. The specs say it is allowed to run hotter before shutting down. Fit and finish cannot be better than the m3s. The 3s is first rate in all aspects. Maybe the handles give it an edge (if you like handles). I don't think it will give you much more than 1600 watts out without tripping the over current protection. All in all a good report on a great amp but to me the xtra $1500 for the Lux vs the M3s ( 250-300 more watts out) just isn't a good investment. If I was going to run a remote station the Lux would be the way to go. andy w6ad
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2023
  14. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Andy, I've personally seen the LUX close to 1900 w, on Household voltage. Not on all bands, but on the three or four you'll see in my review that showed full legal limit. Those bands easily go WAY over the edge if you'll let them, and of course that only happened by accident with a bit too much drive. Plus, my M3S gets hotter than the LUX, at all times, so my guess is that there is more to the cooling than you think. Fit and finish on both are great, but the LUX is clearly ahead of the pack with what I'd describe as a beautiful powder coated finish. It's also smaller, which I don't think I mentioned here. If I were going on a DXPedition, I would want a LUX with me for sure. Is it worth $1500 extra? Everyone's equation on that is different, but I want to run legal limit and I want to have a remote station at some point in the future. The LUX is perfect. PS - I think I stated in my article that you can get 80-85% of the way there with a Mercury IIIS. I still think that's true. So the value proposition is to crank out the last 15-20% of pizazz and performance, and whether that's worth it to you. I hope you'll agree with me on that Andy. Thanks,Dave
  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Andy, further checking and you are right, the heat sink is a giant chunk of aluminum - it's the RF board that is mounted on copper. I changed the article to reflect this -- thanks for catching it, Dave

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