Pileups & amplifiers

Discussion in 'The DX Zone' started by KJ7ZEI, Jun 26, 2021.

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  1. KJ7ZEI

    KJ7ZEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Curious as to how useful an amplifier is during pileups?

    I have only been licenced for less than 3 weeks. I am still giddy as a kid at Christmas with a QSO with Barcelona Spain 6 days ago. I did that with 100 watts on 20m.

    I've worked a station in Russia with no luck.. Hearing the station at a 59. Last night I tried getting through to a station in Australia that I heard 57. Plenty of West coast of North America stations were making QSO's. I assumed they were operating above 100 watts.

    I've got some antenna experimentation to do and don't have immediate plans for an amp. Just curious and hoping to start a dialogue with more experinenced radio operators.

    N9NY likes this.
  2. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Congrats on getting licensed and already working some DX!

    I strongly advise not getting an amplifier until you've got at least a year of operating under your belt. There are a lot of operating skills to learn and practice that will serve you well, increase your countries worked count, and add to your overall enjoyment of our sport. For the time being, read, listen, learn, and work 'em. Consider maxing out your antenna system before you start drooling onto the advertisement pages for amplifiers.

    As for hearing the DX stations well, but they don't hear you -- it may very well may be that they're running wicked high power, but "can't hear as well as they can talk." Such operators are known as alligators: big mouth, small ears. ;)

    Many hams have impressive DX tallies and "only" run 100W. And plenty of QRPers manage to work a lot of DX with 5W or less. Generally the latter are very skilled operators - they know their gear, they know how the DX station is running 'em, they know the current propagation pattern, and they know "the game."

    Stick with it, save your dollars, and have fun.
    DM2TT, VE6CLG, KA2FIR and 15 others like this.
  3. KJ7ZEI

    KJ7ZEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looking forward to having fun and learning!
  4. KE0GXN

    KE0GXN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    100 watter here. No amount wattage with an amp is going to overcome propagation. It’s either there or not. Working DX takes a lot skill and patience. Invest in those two and I promise you will get plenty of DX. There is nothing better than using your own voice too make a contact and hearing your call sign repeated back to you from some from away land, with nothing but a simple wire and your radio.

    Good DX and 73!
    N8RKD, KJ7ZEI, K0UO and 4 others like this.
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just had a pileup in my clothes dryer.

    Sheets have no respect for socks.
    KQ9J, N9NY, K0UO and 1 other person like this.
  6. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    That sounds like a lot of sheet to me...
    N9NY likes this.
  7. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Never make that assumption. Too many other variables to the problem. Power is only one aspect. You've probably heard this before: antenna, antenna, antenna. when you have maxed out the antenna, then it's time to go high power.

    That said, propagation also plays a big part of this: you can sometimes work a lot of stations with lower power if the propagation is there. This is especially true the higher you go in frequency (HF frequency that is) a bit stranger on VHF /UHF.

    Also be aware that going higher in power brings its own set of problems. Problems like interference with various electronic devices, up to and including your own station! You're still new and judging from your bio pix, you have a good set up there. Be patient... The DX will come... Summer is the doldrums and to add to that, we are in a sunspot minimum right now. Things will improve in the fall, and the new cycle is ready to begin.


    KA2FIR and KJ7ZEI like this.
  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nah, socks have a secret method to hide one after every wash.

    I think it's a secret sockshake or something.
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Timing, operator experience, antennas and propagation matter more.

    But of course a kW is 10 dB "stronger" than 100W, and once you've done everything else you can do, an amplifier certainly helps.

    Best investment for many is "first" a better antenna. If you have a big beam on a tall tower, you may not easily improve that; but if you have a low dipole or simple vertical, these are very easy to improve and may cost less than an amplifier.

    "Some" DX stations reply more often to stations they already know. "Hey, Charlie, haven't heard you in two weeks -- how ya doing?" and all that...even if your signal is getting through, they may answer someone they know first.

    That's life.
    K8BZ, N7ZV and KJ7ZEI like this.
  10. WD4ELG

    WD4ELG Ham Member QRZ Page

    ^^^^^ A voice of reason, which I strongly endorse ^^^^^

    I did ham radio for 33 years before I got an amp. Heck, I did wires for antennas for 29 years before I got a hex beam.

    I bought the amp because I had maximized everything else in my station, including my skills. I was stuck at 265 DXCC, and I wanted to improve my signal on 80 and 160 to go after 9BDXCC (it did that for sure). And there were several countries in Southeast Asia that I could hear but they could not hear me (several years of trying). And that did it for me also....I am at 316...the remaining ones are uninhabited islands/reefs (e.g., BS7), or totalitarian/oppressive regimes (e.g. P5).

    My recommendation is to spend the money on the best antenna you can get, before you spend a single penny on an amplifier. And get on the air. A lot. Work DX. Learn from others. Read everything you can on the topic.

    Check out the QRZ page for WG5G, who has Honor Roll using 5 watts. He's a fabulous operator. And his antenna is a custom-built 5-element quad. He doesn't need an amp. Never had one, never will. Think about that for a minute. Honor roll with 5 watts. It's not just the antenna, it's the operator and his skills/studying/planning. He's using a TS-130, no panadapter. Blows my mind when I think about it. QSO Today Podcast - QSO TODAY AMATEUR RADIO PODCAST

    Me, with an HOA to contend with...I had to even the odds a bit since a tower and high-gain antenna are not possible. So I bought a Tokyo High Power THP 1.2 kFx for $2300 in December 2010. All solid state, idiot proof. I mostly use it now during the winter on 80 and 160. Not much new DX on the higher bands until we get some DXpeditions to P5-land or Bouvet!
    KA2FIR, WG7X, KJ7ZEI and 1 other person like this.
  11. KJ7ZEI

    KJ7ZEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks all! Just making sure I was on the path heading in the proper direction. An amp is not affordable right now, considering new price on an amp in the 600w range costs more than my whole radio set up that I have at this time.

    My yard has minimal trees. With the tops at about 28-30 feet. I plan to build band specific dipoles with an inverted v configuration. I took the first step in buying a RigExpert antenna analyzer last week. A local electronics store specializes in stocking antenna building materials.

    Not to stray too far off topic. But for giggles I hooked up the antenna analyzer to my G5RV jr. and wow! No wonder that thing requires a tuner.

    I do have a better antenna than the G5RV jr. that I will put up this week. A Maxcon OCF 3k80.

    I should have more time for antenna building later in the summer.

    As a wise man told me the other day "DX is dumb luck and good propagation."

    Yesterday I hung up my new laminated world map. One pin for Spain. More to follow...

    Thanks again.

    Brett in Boise
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
    K8BZ, K3UJ, WD4ELG and 1 other person like this.
  12. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's around 1/2 wavelength on 20 meters, which is a good height. If you need a bit more height, think fertilizer, water, sunlight, and patience...or a guyed mast. heh.
    Reading that tells me you're going to do just fine in amateur radio! Good detective work.
    WD4ELG and KJ7ZEI like this.
  13. N6RGR

    N6RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I will second and third the above suggestions. Spend your money on antennas! I was predominantly 100 watts and a wire for my first three years and then I splurged on a hexbeam (highly recommend for 20 thru 6 meters). As a casual rather than die hard DX'er I have found that 100 watts and a good antenna along with patience and perseverance were enough to snag some rare DX. I do have an AL-80b amplifier and have used it for a few rare stations that I could not snag with 100 watts. Generally I do not even bother turning on the amp. A rule of thumb I was told to follow was to spend at least half or more of your budget on antennas. A decent transceiver with good antennas will snag plenty of DX.

    Congratulations on getting your ticket, good luck and good DX, 73

    Roger N6RGR
    WN1MB and KJ7ZEI like this.
  14. KO4LMA

    KO4LMA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just put up on of Maxcon's OCFD antennas yesterday. Very pleased with it so far. Contacts all over with it so far.
    KJ7ZEI likes this.
  15. KC7JNJ

    KC7JNJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    years ago I was running a simple dipole antenna. A friend of mine came by a Gap challenger. He set that up in his yard in a temporary setup. (as he rented his house) We would talk on 2meter simplex while we surfed HF together. He busted more pileups with that Gap antenna barefoot! I would try with my dipole I could work a few. But he would wade right into a big pileup and get heard. It always amazed both of us every time it would happen. More then a few times folks would ask how much power he was running. Antenna is everything.
    KJ7ZEI likes this.

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