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Author Topic: Solid State vs Tubes - Any Thoughts?  (Read 5819 times)
AG6OC
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« on: March 20, 2013, 04:08:17 PM »

I have been running barefoot since I bought my transceiver, and am just now beginning to consider whether I should buy myself an amplifier.  My first question to my more experienced friends out there is what are the advantages and disadvantages of tube vs solid state linear amplifiers for HF?
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W9KDX
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2013, 05:46:00 PM »

I can only give you a few observations as I am not an expert, but this should get you started.



Tube

Less expensive.
More choices available.
More tolerant of high SWR.
Larger and heavier
Lower cost for repairs
More people can repair and troubleshoot
Require tuning
Really bad tuning can lead to damage
Older technology, but generally proven
Lots of people here who know a ton about adjusting and troubleshooting

Unless you want to pay through the nose, you are stuck with Ameritron.  The best that can be said of them is that if you get one with good quality control, you are set.  If you get one with bad quality control, you will be amazed at how bad it can be.

When I decided on a linear and had to buy Ameritron, I budgeted for the shipping and frustration of bad quality control.  




« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 05:51:23 PM by W9KDX » Logged

Sam
W9KDX
G3RZP
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2013, 10:10:36 AM »

Also consider if you are a guy who changes rigs frequently or one who would be looking long term. Then figure how old you are if you are looking long term. If you're in your in your thirties and looking long term, then solid state is probably best but get some spare final transistors while you can. If you go for tubes, get some spare tubes, too, and swap them around every couple of years.

If you change rigs or amps every few years, it doesn't make much odds, although the SS amp with spare devices may well hold its value better - depending which one you get.

Unless you go for an autotune tube PA, it takes marginally longer to change band.....
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K7PEH
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2013, 08:03:24 PM »

My first question to my more experienced friends out there is what are the advantages and disadvantages of tube vs solid state linear amplifiers for HF?

I think the first hump to get over in making your choice is cost.  If cost is a driving factor in the decision then I think the answer is tube amps.  But, if you ignore cost then you want to look more closely at the features versus your operating style.

Everything that W9KDX says in his post I agree with but I own two solid-state amplifiers instead of tube.  I just like the operating features better.  One thing is that about 90 percent or better of my QSOs is CW so QSK is a definite requirement.  For many tube amps, QSK is not included but only available as an extra cost add-on (if that).  I do like the no-tune aspects of the solid-state amps and they seem to be quieter than my previous tube amps.  My KPA500 amplifier I never hear -- maybe I should check the fan.  No, it works, just very quiet.  My Icom PW-1 sits on the floor and away from my operating position so I do not hear that either.  By the way, I am thinking of selling the PW-1 but preferably to local pickup only.

If you want a tube amp though I recommend the AL-80B.  If I were to buy a tube amp, that would be the one I get.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2013, 01:28:32 AM »

A better investment is the absolute best antenna you can get up! A 4 element Steppir at 60 feet and 100 watts will do a lot better for DX than a G5RV at fifteen feet and 1500 watts.

Once you have the best antenna you can manage, then look at an amplifier. Remember, too, that an amplifier can lead you into RFI problems, so be prepared with lots of ferrites.
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KE3WD
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2013, 05:13:05 AM »

Any thoughts? 

My thoughts are that this topic comes around here at least monthly and that anyone seriously interested in finding answers to the question could easily do a Search of this website's forums to find PLENTY of information on the subject, to put it mildly, my friend. 


73
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KC8OJU
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2013, 01:51:36 PM »

Tubes are so 20th Century, Tesla didn't use any tubes.
SS is the way to go ain't no doubt about, heck maybe you still have to go to the well with a bucket to get water and use that brick outhouse with the Sears Catalog in it.
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K7PEH
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2013, 08:46:26 PM »

A better investment is the absolute best antenna you can get up! A 4 element Steppir at 60 feet and 100 watts will do a lot better for DX than a G5RV at fifteen feet and 1500 watts.

A 4-element SteppIR at 20 Meters has a gain of roughly 9.5 and on higher bands about 10.5.  So, a 100 watt signal will appear to be boosted to a range of about 891 watts to maybe 1100 watts.  If the G5RV is flat in gain then it is a close contest, the height of a tower might have an advantage but it is not always the best solution (tower and SteppIR).  Especially so when you physically cannot install a tower on your property.

That is my case, I would put up a 4-element SteppIR with the 40-meter band option in half-a-heartbeat if I could -- money is not the issue. Indeed, SteppIR is located just 15 minutes away from my home QTH in Bellevue, WA and I have been there to discuss my situation to see if anything can be done.  The newer smaller antennas might work but the gain is no better than my Hexbeam on average.

So putting up a nice SteppIR on a tower does help but it is not always an allowable solution.  By the way, did I miss something.  I didn't see anything about the original posters antenna setup.
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W8JX
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2013, 09:58:03 PM »

Tubes are so 20th Century, Tesla didn't use any tubes.
SS is the way to go ain't no doubt about, heck maybe you still have to go to the well with a bucket to get water and use that brick outhouse with the Sears Catalog in it.

Tube still are viable though some are getting pricey. You still get more bang for buck with a tube and will for some time yet. They are also generally a lot more forgiving that SS too.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2013, 06:49:02 AM »

Whichever you go for, get some spare tubes or transistors. I'm seriously thinking of an Acom, one reason being that I already have a pair of good 4CX1000 as spares.
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KE3WD
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« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2013, 07:09:41 AM »

Those who think that Tesla never used any thermionic valves at all should peruse the Tesla patents.  He did indeed use vacuum tube technology in certain cases. 


73
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2013, 11:30:53 AM »

I'm old school, but I am realist. My current amp is a heavily modified SB-220 that covers 160 meters, and all of the WARC bands. I'm also building a homebrew amp using a pair of 813s.  They'll deliver 700 watts, and I find that is all the power I need to make contacts. I'm 64 years old, and I have been able to acquire eight pairs of NOS 813 tubes for less than what a Chinese 3-500Z is going for.  I suspect the RCA and Sylvania graphite plate 813 tubes will long outlast me.  If I was back in my 30s, I'd be on the solid state bandwagon; but I figure I have enough spare tubes to last my lifetime. When the original 3-500Z tubes in the SB-220 fail, I'll be swapping over to the 4-400A tubes I've had squirreled away for almost 40 years!

I think G3RZP's comments have been spot on. I agree what with what he has said 100%.  Smiley

Pete
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NA0AA
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« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2013, 07:45:17 PM »

Yea, it's hard to decide on them because one is a mature technology, albiet based on an obsolescent device.  The other is a better technical choice but is less fault tolerant - OK for a fixed channel operation, but not so great for amateur operation.

Either choice is valid, IMHO.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2013, 03:18:04 AM »

ZJH,

I'd suggest you use the 4-400s for a bit to give them chance to mop up any slow air leaks. Get the plates red for a while.
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KC9VZB
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2013, 04:40:03 PM »

I read somewhere that I'll need something between my solid state radio and the tube amp I'm building.I didn't see any coments about output power of radio.Allot of the SS amps I looked at needed a low Input 
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