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Which amplifier do I purchase: Ameritron AL 80B or ALS 600

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by VE3BXB, Jan 31, 2011.

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  1. VE3BXB

    VE3BXB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello everyone. I am amazed at how there seems to be a vote in favor of the AL 80B amp. The reasons are as follows.

    1. More forgiving SWR tolerances on the AL 80B

    2. Not that difficult to tune with probably a cheat sheet

    3. Very quiet. The fan is not noisy

    4. If the AL 80B is operated properly, the tube can last a long time. I wonder how long the solid state components would last in the ALS 600

    5 I do see that the ALS 600 is much easier to tune or in fact there is no tuning.

    6. With the ALS 600 it is an instant on amp. I assume the AL 80B has to warm up

    7. There is not a lot of difference on the receiving end between 600 and 1000 watts

    I am taking all of these factors into consideration. I hope that there will be further comments regarding this issue regarding which amp to purchase. I have the feeling that the AL 80B might be the better choice but I guess my concern is the pain of manual tuning of the AL 80B Most people seem to say that it is very easy to tune but when I watched the Ameritron video on youtube on how to tune and amp, it seems like such a long dragged out process. Any comments ?

    Bob VE3BXB
  2. W2BLC

    W2BLC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have pondered on getting an ALS-600 to replace my aging AL-80A. I have had the AL-80A for around 23 years. It has been through three sets of relays and I replaced the tube a couple of years ago. The relays are the weak point of this amp - but not difficult to replace - less than $20 and about an hours time.

    I agree on the no tune and 600 compared to 1000 watts. I do, however, question the life of the 600. Will it last as long as the 80A?

    The ALS-600 is a good buy, compared to the Tokyo Hi-Power - which is very expensive. No contest there.

    I have been considering this change for over 6 months and have yet to decide. It is hard to part with something that works and replace same with something that......................
  3. VE3BXB

    VE3BXB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Regarding the life of the ALS 600, I thought that this model has been in production for at least the last 15 years or so, and having said that, I would say the ALS 600 could maybe last just as long as the AL 80B. I am still waiting to see what people have to say about how easy it is to manually tune and AL 80B I think that this is my main stumbling block. This is a strong point in favor of the ALS 600 regarding the subject of tuning . One thing I will say is that there seems to be more AL 80B's out there than the ALS 600. So is there any one out there that just hates to do the manual tuning?
    Bob VE3BXB
  4. KH6AQ

    KH6AQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    It depends on what type of operating you do. I change bands often as I follow propagation during grayline, mid morning and mid afternoon. I change bands 20 times a day. I've had tube amps and it is a drag to have to change bands often even with the settings logged. So, I bought an ALS-600 and haven't looked back. Change bands? Turn a little knob. I get 500-600 watts on all bands as long as the VSWR is below 1.8:1. It seems to be bullet proof. To set the drive increase drive until the power out begins to saturate. That is, it does not increase as rapidly. I drive my ALS-600 with 60 watts.

    What you get with the AL-80 is more power - 800 CW/1000 SSB vs 600 CW/600 SSB. If you work SSB 1000 is much nicer than 600 watts. And yes The extra 2 dB is needed if you do weak signal DXing. On CW 800 is nicer than 600 watts but not that much nicer. The AL-80B uses a 3-500G tube that warms up in 3 seconds. In that respect it is 'instant on.' If you like to see glowing tubes (I miss the glow of my AL-811) the AL-80 is the one to get. It does blow out hot air continually while the ALS-600 does not. Both run on 120 VAC. Both are good amps. If you don't change bands often, want more power, and don't mind tuning it up the AL-80 is great.

    I would have upgraded from the AL-811 (600 watts CW although rated for 500 watts) to the AL-80B if it could do 1 kW CW. But at 800 watts CW it wasn't enough of a power increase to upgrade. So, I went to the ALS-600 for the instant band changes and no more 811A tube failures.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2011
  5. VE3PP

    VE3PP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Too bad you do not live close to me Bob. I could demonstrate how easy and quick it is too tune the AL-80B. I have the AL-80A.

    Trust me, you have nothing to worry about. As you said if you make a cheat sheet for the bands you use the most, or all of them you will be able to tune it quickly. It really is not that big of a deal.

    However if your heart is set on the no tune ALS-600 then that is what you better buy or you just won't be happy.

    Again, my preference would be the AL-80B.

    BTW, where is Hammond? I did not look it up on the map, just curious as to where you are located.

    Also, not sure if you know this but Durham Radio can order that amp for you if you want to deal with them.
  6. VE3BXB

    VE3BXB Ham Member QRZ Page

    American Shopping for Ham Equipment

    I see in the last post, there was a comment made about possibly of purchasing the amp at Durham Radio. I must say that these people are great to deal with but the prices up here in Canada are high. I recently made a antenna tuner purchase at HRO in the USA. The price difference is too great to ignore. With the Canadian dollar at par with the American dollar it makes good sense to buy American. Even the shipping is free on some items to New York state where I take an hour and a half drive to bring the stuff across the border. To say the least, I will purchase, which ever amp I buy, in the USA. Any comments?
  7. VE3PP

    VE3PP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    $200 less at HRO plus taxes. Now remember that amp will not have the 10 Meter/12 meter mod done where as the one you buy over here will.

    I suppose if you have a place to ship to in the states, close by it it worth the trip on some items.

    I prefer to support our businesses in Ontario if possible.
  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'd favor the AL-80B also, for me.

    I grew up tuning amplifiers and the AL-80B is extremely easy to tune; however if you've never tuned an amp in your life, this is something you'd have to learn.

    I can switch bands and be all tuned up in ten seconds or less (usually way less). The ALS-600 is faster, but unless your antennas are very well matched, could require the use of an outboard antenna tuner: A manual one involves "tuning," just like a tube amplifier. An auto tuner can work fine, and there are 1kW rated auto tuners, but they're pretty expensive.

    The AL-80B can generate full power into a 3:1 SWR. Hell, I've used mine on 80m and 160m into a 4:1 or higher SWR, with no external tuner -- but you have to know what you're doing to load into such a mismatch, and be sure you're doing it right and not stressing anything.

    There's not much to fail in an AL-80B. The power supply is robust as is the tube. You can stress plate tank components by cockpit error, but in ten years of using mine, that's never happened. Never an arc, spark, or anything bad. The only thing that ever wore out was the original tube, after several years of faithful service. It's on its second tube now, which is still doing fine. Changing the tube is mostly removing all the screws for the top cover and putting them back in again -- the tube change itself takes 30 seconds. That's a lot faster than it takes to replace four MRF150s in the ALS-600 (although the actual cost may be similar).

    Good luck whichever way you decide.
    KK6DAW likes this.
  9. VE3PP

    VE3PP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree 100% with what Steve has said.

    Oh, the instant on feature of the ALS-600 is no big deal as the AL-80A I have is instant on also. I simply turn it on, change bands or leave it where it was tuned before I shut if off and it is good to go in no time at all. So that would not be a big feature for me with the ALS-600.

  10. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ditto what Steve/WB2WIK said. Without a doubt, the AL80B is the best choice...

    The AL80B's adjustable pi output network will tune into a less than perfect 50Ω/j±0 load without complaint. I've driven my Heath SB-220 into some awful loads... it almost doesn't care. Once you get the hang of it, and it doesn't take much practice, tuning a tube amplifier takes only a few seconds.

    The ALS600 wants to see less than 2:1 VSWR. Any greater than this, and it reduces output. You might as well use the AL80B with it's built-in "tuner".

    Both units are "instant on". No difference there.

    Nothing lasts forever. Eventually, you may be replacing active devices...
    The ALS600 uses four MRF150 RF Fets. Cost to replace: about $50 each.
    The AL80B uses a single 3-500Z tube. Cost to replace: about $160.

    Then, there's the complexity and initial cost. The ALS600 requires a separate power supply while the AL80B is self-contained. The ALS600 w/ power supply lists for $1600 while the AL80B lists for $1500.

    Tubes win again... for now.
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