Which of these amps would be a good 1st amp?

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Amplifiers' started by KF5PAL, Feb 21, 2013.

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  1. KF5PAL

    KF5PAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am at the stage where I would like to add a basic amp to my setup. I do not contest or ragchew, I mainly do a little DX work and not much more.

    Some notes about the use of the amp:
    1. The amp will be used for 99% SSB.
    2. The amp will be used for 40m - 10m including WARC.
    3. The rig used will be a Kenwood TS-480SAT
    4. For 20m-10m the antenna used will be a K4KIO Hexbeam.
    5. For 40m the antenna used will be: a. elevated Hustler 4-BTV b. 66' OCFD c. 66' endfed Zepp
    6. I tend to change bands frequently
    7. This will be my 1st amplifier
    8. The amp will be powered from a dedicated 120V circuit.

    The amps I am considering are the Ameritron AL-811, ALS-600S and AL-80B.

    My expectations are an amplifier that will work as designed out of the box w/o the need for multiple modifications (the 10m mod is expected) and that I will be a able to make contact with a few more of the stations that I can hear but, do not hear me.

    My decision factors in order of importance:
    1. The amp will be reliable.
    2. The amp will be easy/Convenient to use.
    3. Price of amp

    Follow-up question:
    What additional pieces of equipment would be considered a necessity to operate the amp above in the aforementioned setup?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I wouldn't consider the 811 amplifier, I am surprised they are still making that amplifier when two 572Bs can do the same job.
    If the choice is limited to those three amplifiers for me it would be a toss-up between the AL-80 and the ALS-600.
    While there is some concern over Chinese tubes I balance that against the fragile nature of the current crop of RF power devices and I have some concern regarding nearby lightning strikes and solid state gear. The amplifier may be immune from the voltage spikes caused by nearby lightning strikes while it is idle all it takes is one while the amplifier in in transmit mode.

    The other concern I have is regarding VSWR, as long as your antenna system is presenting a good match to your amplifier (1:1.5 or for the ALS-600) I wouldn't have any concern. If there is a chance you are going to be operating where your VSWR is higher than that I would go for the AL-80.

    To be honest; I favor the AL-80 but that is based on my own bias.
  3. W7MMQ

    W7MMQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Unless your a contester instant band switching shouldn't matter, besides i can retune my Henry tube amp within 10 sec and I was an avid contester back in the day, among that list i would go with the AL-80B
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    AL-80B is more versatile in that it will load fine and without damage into mismatches like 3:1 or 4:1 without need for an external tuner. However, if you change bands very frequently, it's a time suck to retune with each band change and it ain't automatic.

    ALS-600 with an external auto-tuner runs a couple of dB less power but is obviously much more convenient for band changes.

    There are SS amps that have built-in auto-tuners, though. They're bigger and more expensive than the ALS-600 but may eliminate the need for an external tuner in many situations. The VL-1000, PW-1 and even the old Yaesu FL-7000 are SS "auto-tune" amps.

    If taking an extra 10-15 seconds for "tune up" after each band change doesn't bother you, the AL-80B is a lot of bang for the buck and is quite robust. Almost never hear of failures; I've had one for 12 years of daily operation and the only thing that ever failed was the pilot lamps in the meters.:p
  5. KF5PAL

    KF5PAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Are there any other amp manufactures that offer something similar in the same price range? It also sounds like the AL-811 isn't worth considering (even at it's much lower price point?) If I went with the AL-80B, just what is involved in actually tuning the amp? Would I need a large dummy load, power meter, etc?
  6. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Tuning the amp is easy, tune for max RF out, keep the grid current below the recommended limit and you should be fine.
    Everything you need to know is on this page..
  7. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    And I would add to answer your question.....

    The 811 series of amplifiers are based on tubes that are very old in design and the tubes from China are of low quality. You could put a pair of 572Bs in the same amplifier and have better tubes, that wold potentially last longer however you won't gain any output power. The AL-80B is a better amplifier. I always believe one is better off buying the best they can afford.
  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The AL-80B has a built-in wattmeter, and it's good.

    A kW rated dummy load is a very good idea, no matter what amplifier you decide on.
  9. KF5PAL

    KF5PAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Will the AL-80B operate properly on 17m out of the box?
  10. AH6RR

    AH6RR Ham Member QRZ Page

    It will work fine on all bands 160-15 stock and to get it to work on 12 and 10 you do a very easy mod. Out of all the amps you listed the AL-80B is by far the best. The 811 is as Sue says out dated and the tubes they use are iffy at best. The ALS-600 is a OK amp also but when they do break the transistors cost more that a 3-500 tube at $55 each for good ones and matched pairs are more so $220 for the transistors or $185 for a 3-500ZG that will last longer by many years. I have 2 3-500Z in my amp and the date codes are 74 and 76 and they still put out full power I have a friend that has replaced the transistors in his ALS-600 twice in the last 5 years and he runs a SteppIR antenna that has very low SWR.
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