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Author Topic: W8JI - Is it worth buying a new Ameritron AL-80B?  (Read 18819 times)
KT0DD
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Posts: 277




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« on: October 26, 2012, 10:15:54 AM »

Hello, I am on a limited budget, and have decided on the Ameritron AL80B as the best " bang for the buck pricewise " 120V capable desktop amplifier. I have saved for 6 months now and will have the funds to purchase one in mid November. I wish I could purchase a higher quality brand, but simply cannot afford to spend more than $1400.

After reading an earlier thread on here about Ameritron's poor QC, I'm starting to get concerned that I may be opening a can of worms. I will be purchasing thru DX Engineering as they have the best price, but they have told me they do not " Pre-test " any amplifier prior to sales, and defects are left up to the warranty. (Of course these people do have a good reputation, and I feel safe that they would do right by me if i had a catastrophic failure right out of the box.)

I am just wondering what your opinion is ( and maybe looking for a little re-assurance ) that taking the chance will be worth it. I know there aren't any 100% guarrantees in life, but your input is appreciated.

73. Todd - KT0DD

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KD7RAT
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2012, 10:41:56 AM »

Hi Todd,  I purchased an AL 80B in July.  I am surely not an expert on it and have learned lots in the past few months.  I have converted it to 240 volts and clipped the wire so I can use it on 10m and 12 meters. 

I have had Zero problems with it.  From my perspective it has performed flawlessly.  I am very pleased with it.   Ameritron is very high in my book. I am impressed that they provide a 2 year warranty as opposed to a 1 year warranty on their other amplifiers.  They undoubtedly know what they are doing. 

However at about the same time I purchased a 989D amplifier from MFJ.  In fact I purchased it through HRO.  The first one did not work, neither did the second one.  HRO just had me ship them back to them and sent another in each case.  Finally on the 3rd one they opened it up and tested it in their Portland store.  When I got it it worked OK.  However in a few days the meter on it began to not work and finally quit working altogether. 

I figured that HRO had done about all they could so called MFJ and shipped it back to them.  They got it on Aug 20th.  As of this writing it is still in their shop.  The paper work said that I should expect that the repair would take about 4 weeks.  I think it has been there about 10 weeks and still no phone call to discuss symptoms etc.  I don't think they have even started on it yet

In short the Amplifier has performed flawlessly.  Lots of problems with the tuner.  The one advantage is that I have learned lots about the amplifier and how it will perform without the tuner. 

Hope this helps

PS, for my part, If I had to do it over again I would by another AL80B, probably not the same tuner.

dick
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W9KDX
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Posts: 770




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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2012, 11:18:41 AM »

I chose Ameritron as well, primarily because they are the only game in town at a decent price.  They are really hit or miss on their quality control and unfortunately, after a few postings you will find stories of no problems at all and an almost equal number with nothing but nightmares of poor parts, quality, and service.

I only chose them after I budgeted an additional $150 on the assumption that I might need to return the thing a few times or send it to Florida to the ham who checks them out and repairs the factory defects.

It literally seems to depend on the day of the week or whether someone partied the night before.  If you lower your expectations enough, you will probably not be to upset.

And Good Luck.
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Sam
W9KDX
KT0DD
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Posts: 277




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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2012, 12:20:50 PM »

Thanks for the responses. I just spoke with Bill - N4ATS, and he said he would be willing to check out my new AL-80B before shipping if I purchase it from AES Orlando since it is near his QTH.

I will be doing so for the added peace of mind.

Thanks again.  73. Todd - KT0DD
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 03:16:44 PM »

I don't see Tom commenting, but I've owned an AL-80B for years and the pilot lamps in both meters burned out after a few years. Tongue

I replaced them with LEDs.  I think Ameritron now uses LEDs, so this may not be a problem with newer amps.

When my amp was brand new, right out of the carton it didn't work! Shocked  However, that turned out to be an unsoldered wire on the OPERATE/STANDBY front panel switch, which I was able to spot in about 30 seconds of snooping around inside.  I soldered it.  Then, it worked fine.  It's worked fine ever since.

I didn't mind being their "final QC department," since this was a pretty small problem.  I can see how it probably did work at the factory, since the wire was wrapped through the terminal on the switch -- so it could make contact; it just wasn't soldered, and didn't make contact by the time I got it.

I think it's a pretty solid design and a good deal for the $$/Watt.

Have fun with it!
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WX7G
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« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2012, 06:37:39 PM »

I have bought five brand new Ameritron amps and they all worked fine.

ALS-500
ALS-600
ALS-1200
AL-811
AL-572
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K0ZN
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Posts: 1525




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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2012, 10:55:23 PM »

Hi.   There may be retail sellers out there that will fully "pre-test" an amp, but I have never heard of one......other than Alpha. They run their amps through
a complete burn-in cycle. Somebody (retail seller) may "pre-test" an amp for you, but I suspect you would have to pay for in full and then they would then charge you
their normal shop rate to check it out.  Maybe someone knows of a retail seller that will "pre test" and post a comment on here.......

FYI:  I have an AL-811 and had fits with it at first.  You can read my posts on the product review section if you want. I finally got it sorted out
and it has run fine for a year and half.  I think you are on the right track with the AL-80B; it is one of Ameritron's better products and the Chinese
3-500's seem to be one of their better tubes.

If you get an Ameritron product make the effort to check every nut, bolt and screw for tightness (particularly grounding lugs!) and CAREFULLY inspect every aspect of the unit.
Look over the solder paths on the boards; cold solder joints, wire paths and bundling, etc.  Odds are you will get a good unit, but YOU are the final Quality Control Inspector !!
.....obviously, it is better to catch a problem before it cause a serious problem !

73, K0ZN
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 10:58:30 PM by K0ZN » Logged
AE5X
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Posts: 354


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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2012, 07:39:04 AM »

I bought an AL-80B a few months ago for the same reasons you mentioned. I modified it for 240VAC, clipped the green wire for 10/12m operation and added the internal QSK card (documented on my website).

Do go thru the amp checking for loose hardware before you apply power, paying particular attention to the tiny screws that secure various jacks/switches to the panels.

The amp has performed flawlessly on all bands and, if I had it to do over again, I'd buy the same amp. While QC at Ameritron is most definitely lacking, the amp's design is sound. It tunes smoothly and consistently on each band and is ready to operate 10 secs after power-on (although I always give it more time than that before key-down).

John AE5X
http://www.ae5x.com/blog


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K4FX
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2012, 07:07:57 PM »

Todd,

Buying a new amp is sorta like buying a new car. It will depreciate as soon as you set it on your desk. You can buy a used AL80 and save a considerable amount of money. For instance I paid 1900 for an AL-1500 over 2 years ago, I contest with it a least 2 times a month and it has never given a minutes trouble. Runs and looks like a new one.

You could probably get an AL-82 for about 1400-1500 used.

The AL-80 is a tough amp. Buy one used from an honest ham and you will save a lot of money. I see they range on QTH.com from 600 to 900 dollars. Even if you have to retube it, you will still save a lot.

Good luck

Bill K4FX
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W6UV
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Posts: 536




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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2012, 07:44:51 PM »

I like buying a new car. It will depreciate as soon as you set it on your desk. You can buy a used AL80 and save a considerable amount of money. For instance I paid 1900 for an AL-1500 over 2 years ago, I contest with it a least 2 times a month and it has never given a minutes trouble. Runs and looks like a new one.

Used equipment if only a good deal if the seller is scrupulous. If the AL-1500 you bought happened to have a bad 8877, then it wouldn't have been such a good deal, particularly if the seller refused to take it back.
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AJ4WC
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2012, 04:52:55 AM »

I just purchased an AL-80B and it had a minor issue that was easily fixed.  One of the meters was dead and Ameritron rushed me out a new one.  Other than that, I've been very pleased with the amp.  Don't be scared to pull the trigger on a new amp for that reason alone. 

I wouldn't buy something that expensive used, unless you can get it from someone you trust.  If you buy a used amp and it needs a tube, you just blew any savings.  Once you fix it, you now have a used amp that cost as much as a new one would have.  And, you can rest assured the person you bought it from will then take your money and buy a new amp for himself.  If your buddy came to you and said, "Give me $1,000 bucks so I can go buy a new amp.  I'll give you my old one."  Would you do it? 

Word of caution, you need to budget some extra funds for incidentals when buying your first amp.  You may need to upgrade your tuner or antenna to handle the additional power, buy some RF or control cables, dummy load, SWR meter, ground straps, install a 240V outlet, etc.  Look at the power handling capability of everything in your RF path.
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NA0AA
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« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2012, 07:42:22 AM »

I bought my AL-80B last year, new.  It was perfect from the factory, and has performed well for me in spite of my ham-handed mistakes from time to time.

I get good signal reports using it.  It's a best buy.
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K9FV
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Posts: 478




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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2012, 09:13:02 AM »

Just another comment here on MFJ (Ameriton) amps - I would not worry about it.  99.9% of the time you will get a good amp with nothing wrong with it.....  well, maybe 99% of the time.

Ken H>
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NN4X
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« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2012, 12:02:54 PM »

Regarding the "99%" figure: Not even W8JI's estimate, which has been repeatedly proven to be wildly optimistic, is that low.

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KB5UBI
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« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2012, 02:24:14 PM »

Maybe I'm overly optimistic and have low expectations, but over the years I've had at least ten MFJ products in my shack. Every one was worth the money. I don't confuse quality with quality control. Every product was worth the money I paid. Quality control wise, The only issue I ever had was MFJ shipped 12 amp fuses instead of 20 amp fuses with the product. After a five minute phone call, I received an apology, the proper fuzes with four to spare and a tuning stick.

My AL-80B? It's a proven design that has constantly been improved. Works as well or better than advertized, no bad solder joints etc. Yes one could make the sheet metal twice as thick, silver plate the tank inductors, tank components and improve all the cosmetics, adding maybe a thousand dollars to the cost. I wish mine had a leather trimmed panel like my old Nikons, but what would that cost? We buy MFJ products because they offer no-frills products at a no-frills price; performance / dollar value.
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