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Author Topic: Ameritrons as kits?  (Read 6180 times)
AE5X
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« on: May 23, 2011, 05:38:08 AM »

In reading a metric ton of reviews lately as I ponder which KW box to buy, one thing has become pretty clear regarding Ameritron tube-based amps:

People either like them right off the bat or they eventually do...after phone support, parts orders, trips back to the factory or via their own troubleshooting - tightening loose parts, re-heating cold solder joints, removing stray parts like lockwashers, etc.

After all that, it seems they end up with a product they're happy with. After all, the design itself (particularly the two 3-500Z amps) is sound - it's the QC that's at fault. Repeatedly.

One reviewer said that the best way to look at Ameritron products is as if they're "assembled kits" that require finalization by the buyer.

I wonder if it would be feasible for them to offer one or two of their simpler models as kits. After all, the folks doing the assembly don't know what they're doing in the electronic sense - they just know to solder this white wire to this lug, etc. I bet the assmebly instructions are already written up for the employees - they'd just need to be consolidated, edited and made downloadable.

They might even have fewer tech support requests/complaints than they do now...

John AE5X
http://www.ae5x.com/blog
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 05:51:46 AM by AE5X » Logged
KE3WD
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2011, 05:52:11 AM »

When viewing reviews posted on the internet, one must take into account that the customers who hae no trouble at all with a product are least likely to post that.  After all, if they have no problems with the product, they probably have no reason to go web-searching regarding same. 

We have no way of knowing what the real stats are in these situations. 

As for the manufacture of kits, I think that it is likely to be cost prohibitive nowadays for a company that models along the lines of most bang per buck.  Lots of overhead involved with kitting. 


73
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WB2EOD
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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2011, 06:02:21 AM »

As the proud owner of an AL-811H, the same thought crossed my mind.  There isn't anything in that box that I couldn't build with the tools, dexterity and experience that I already posses.

Last year (2010) at Dayton, I approached the Ameritron/MFJ people with the same idea.  As it turns out, neither you nor I are the first ones to think of this.   According to Ameritron, "kitting" something as basic as the AL-811/H would no be pay for a number of seemingly valid reasons.
1.  Cost of "proof builds" and manual preparation versus the expected sales volume
2.  The tech support problems associated with a wide variation in workmanship levels
3.  Product liability resulting from death/injury to the inexperienced/incompetent builder.

IMHO
It would have been great fun and emotionally rewarding to assemble my AL-811H. 
Forty years ago, if you got killed or injured building your SB-200, it was your own damn fault.  Today, even in spite of warnings and cautions, such an incident could put Ameritron/MFJ out of business

A real pity
73
WB2EOD   
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AE5X
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« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2011, 06:23:50 AM »

K3WD:
You're right - there's no way to know the real, absolute numbers. But relative to other manufacturers, Ameritron seems to have the lion's share of complaints.

WB2EOD:
We live in litigious times alright but Elecraft is now kitting a 500W amp. I bet if Ameritron did that for the AL811, folks would snap them up like candy - soon, everyone would be QRO. I guess you're right - not such a great idea  Wink
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AD4U
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2011, 09:14:24 AM »

K3WD:
You're right - there's no way to know the real, absolute numbers. But relative to other manufacturers, Ameritron seems to have the lion's share of complaints.

WB2EOD:
We live in litigious times alright but Elecraft is now kitting a 500W amp. I bet if Ameritron did that for the AL811, folks would snap them up like candy - soon, everyone would be QRO. I guess you're right - not such a great idea  Wink



I have never owned or even used an Ameritron amp.  I think the "problems" people are having with them are due to several factors:

1.  IMO Ameritron over rates the output of their amps (ie: 600 watts from 3-811's, 800 watts from 4-811's, 1000 watts from a single 3-500, etc).  When new the amps will probably "do" rated output.  However when people try to get the rated power out ++ for the long haul, tubes do not last very long and / or the amp fails.

2.  Many HAM's do not know how to properly tune, drive, and use an amp.  This results in premature component failure.  Since Ameritron seems to have the lion's share of the amp market right now, they also have the lion's share of failures.

3.  Ameritron's QC issues are well documented.

Dick  AD4U
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KF7CG
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2011, 10:30:15 AM »

On the kitting and litigation front, it is harder to get yourself injured/killed with 50V or 13.8V than it is with 1800V. For this reason, I doubt that we will see much on the order of high power tube amps. That is just the way it is today.

David
KF7CG
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AE5X
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2011, 10:35:57 AM »

Yeah, I guess those days ended when Heath turned out the light and said goodnight...

I just ordered Ameritron's most favorably-reviewed amp and hope it's problem-free - an AL80B with the internal QSK board.
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M0HCN
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2011, 11:14:31 AM »

On the liability thing it is worth noting that a modern solid state amp will sometimes run a sufficiently high voltage to do serious harm.

A modern HF power mosfet (as opposed to a 30 year old one) can in some instances run **well** over a hundred volts on the drain, and high power pin diodes can be reverse biased by several hundred volts to get good off state isolation.
 
Now the thing is that a KW from such an amp implies many amps of drain current, and while a hundred volts or so is less likely to leap out and touch you, the caps tend to be much larger and will supply more current for longer if you get across them.

Even something relatively low power like a KPA500 runs between 60 and 85V for the drain supply and (reading between the lines) 270V  for the pin diode TR switch.

As far as I am concerned if you buy a kit for a high energy device, you got to expect it to have the potential to bite you, possibly fatally if you screw up badly enough, guess I (thankfully) don't think like a lawyer.

First thing to do: Kill all the lawyers........

Regards, Dan.
M6ATV.
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N2EY
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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2011, 01:04:25 PM »

This won't happen for the following reasons:

1) The product has to be designed so that a buyer with a relatively small set of inexpensive tools and test equipment, and limited skill, can build it and get it to work.

2) The parts have to be checked and packed for shipment in a way that will result in a high probability of completeness and survival.

3) Somebody has to write a really good assembly and test manual, complete with drawings and step-by-step assembly instructions.

None of the above are easy or cheap to do.

The only way I can see it happening would be if MFJ could be convinced to sell the parts with no assembly instructions and no warranty.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K0ZN
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2011, 08:02:47 PM »


John,  It sure appears to me that you have a very accurate grasp of reality in regard to Ameritron products. Odds are pretty good
that eventually, either through good luck or some action on your part, you will end up with a good amp. Because they are so
common, there is a lot of info out there that makes the life of the owner a little easier.

In my opinion, Ameritron is both a victim (of the growing number of hams with minimal technical knowledge who don't understand
tubes and tube amplifier design limitations or operation) and also a perpetrator (their own somewhat sketchy Q.C.).

The good news is that, generally, they are repairable at reasonable cost, parts and service are available and when operated
properly they can be quite reliable. It just has to be understood that they are not an Alpha, but you are not paying Alpha prices
either!

73,  K0ZN
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KE4DRN
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2011, 08:33:26 PM »

hi,

I believe that MFJ can make more money selling
the assembled and tested amplifiers compared to
selling the parts in a kit.

they already have the assembly instructions,
otherwise they would not have assembled amps to sell.

as far as liability goes, there are many things out there
that have warning labels that tell you to keep your hands
out of there, chipper shredders, lawn mowers, chain saws, etc.
there will always be accidents when people do not follow the
warnings and use common sense.

73 james

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W3LK
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« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2011, 06:48:19 AM »


In my opinion, Ameritron is both a victim (of the growing number of hams with minimal technical knowledge who don't understand
tubes and tube amplifier design limitations or operation)


And the growing number who are too lazy to actually read the documentation that come with the amps, and blunder along, destroying tubes in the process.
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A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.
N2EY
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« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2011, 10:14:13 AM »

they already have the assembly instructions,
otherwise they would not have assembled amps to sell.

No, they don't.

In order to be any good, an assembly manual for a kit has to be written so that a wide
variety of builders - including many with no experience or skill - can read it, understand
it and follow the instructions from start to finish a few tools and no outside help.

In a factory, workers can be specialized to a few tasks. Special jigs, tools and setups can
be used. Workers can be "hands-on" trained, with a finished sample right in front of them
for reference.

I've worked in factories where there were no assembly instructions for anything - the workers
were shown how to do things, and did them as instructed. Often they had no idea what the
device actually did, but they knew how to build it.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KB4QAA
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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2011, 11:14:58 AM »

...they already have the assembly instructions,
otherwise they would not have assembled amps to sell.

73 james
No they don't.  Obviously you've never tried to write a technical manual.   Cheesy
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K4BNC
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2011, 12:52:15 PM »

The manual should exist for the AL80 since Heath did sell that as a kit (SB1000).  Would need need updating since I think that was the AL80 or AL80A not the current AL80B.
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