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Author Topic: Start Small, or Go All the Way?  (Read 5208 times)
W6UV
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Posts: 538




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« on: February 27, 2013, 02:00:29 PM »

I'm going to be buying my first HF amp soon. I've been licensed for 32 years, but have never owned an amp. My only experience with them was with the Clipperton-L we had at the club station in college.

Should I try to keep things small with an Ameritron AL-811H at first, to learn the ropes, or should I go for the whole enchilada and get an AL-1500 right off the bat?
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2013, 02:24:18 PM »

I wouldn't want anything with 811As or 572Bs in it nowadays...they're ticking time bombs. Wink

An AL-1500's a good amp, but so's it's little brother the AL-80B.
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K4RVN
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 02:39:02 PM »

My advice would be to go with an AL 82 as they tend to hold their value and are great performers , also forgiving to some abuse. The reason I would start out  with that amp is because it runs two 3-500 tubes and has a very good power supply.You may never want to upgrade after you learn to use the AL82. Most of the tubes in the higher powered amps like the 1200 and 1500  cost big bucks to replace if you blow one while learning. The AL 82 would hang right in there with the big boys run quieter and tubes are way less to buy in case you foul up in the learning process to use an amp. My second choice would be the AL80 B which is a fine quiet amp with one 3-500.

Frank
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WA2OLZ
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2013, 03:01:52 PM »

It really doesn't matter a whole lot. Whichever amp you choose will be enjoyed and then, in the blink of an eye, a newer, older, bigger, quieter or whatever siren will be calling your name!

Hmmm...how do I know that?  Smiley

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W9PMZ
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2013, 03:19:54 PM »

An AL82 is a good amp and an AL1500 is also a good amp.

The key difference in order to drive full power is that the AL1500 will do it at half the input power than an AL82.

Assuming that your not into overdriving things you should have a cleaner signal with the AL1500 over the AL82 at full power.

73,

Carl - W9PMZ
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W9KDX
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 04:19:12 PM »

I have been more than happy with my AL-811H.  After a bit of learning on the tuning and some adjustments the factory missed, it has allowed me to get up to 8000 miles and 120 countries last year in just about any direction from here in the Midwest and I really don't see that spending over 4 times  as much would make much difference in getting through to the last 1000 miles.  

In my case, I am working with a location limited backyard dipole (for now) so without an amp, my antenna would severely hamper my ability to get out.  If I were to look at the best place to spend the additional $3000 would not be on the AL-1500 but should really go into a better antenna with some directional ability.

As for the "ticking time bomb" I suppose it is true but every time I look at the dollars involved to get a more reliable tube, I add things up and find that I could buy nearly 20 811A tubes for the price difference between the AL-811H and the cheapest alternative, the AL-80B and from everything I read here, the AL-811H seems to also be pretty good in tolerating amateur use, that is assuming that you get one that was correctly assembled, a crap shoot with anything from MFJ.  Then also, the AL-811H works very well at 120V, some say it is actually better at that voltage.  The 3-500Z tubes run just under $200 which will get you 8 811s so this needs to be taken into account as well.  As attractive as the AL-80B is, I don't know if anyone will see much difference on the receiving end compared to an AL-811H, and even though the additional dollars are reasonable, $450 is still a chunk of change, especially if the AL-811H you get is one of the working models.

All in all, I can find a lot of other things that would be more useful than spending too much more on a first amp, especially as AL-811Hs seem to sell pretty well as used.  Sometimes actually better as then we know they have spent some time in the ham shack and are probably working.

Just my opinion...
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 04:46:08 PM by W9KDX » Logged

Sam
W9KDX
W6UV
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 04:41:31 PM »

If I were to look at the best place to spend the additional $3000 would not be on the AL-1500 but should really go into a better antenna with some directional ability.

I've got that covered. I'm in the final stages of a tower project. I've read a lot about the lack of reliability of Chinese tubes as compared to what was available decades ago, and that is a concern. As long as RF Parts sells 811 and 572 tubes with a warranty things shouldn't be too bad.

So far, my short list is down to an AL-811H on the low end, an AL-1500 on the high end (don't want to pay what it would take to get an Alpha), with perhaps an AL-80B or AL-82 as possibilities. The 8877 and 3-500Z are probably the two amp tubes least likely to go away any time soon.
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W9KDX
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2013, 04:50:15 PM »

For virtually the same money I would go for this Alpha http://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=71-001408 over an AL-1500 any day.

They have a few.

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Sam
W9KDX
K4RVN
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2013, 05:16:49 PM »

I am running a 3-500 tube made in China for 3 years now, no complaints. My Al 811 811A china tunes are original 3 years and 4 months no problems.
Rf parts will give a warranty and if they make it a couple of weeks and not abused they will most likely give good service. The 3 tube amp has the same power transformer as the 4 tube AL 811H. I probably will replace mine with 872 and crank up the power to 600 watts. Right now I try to let 550 or less be the max . Much of the problems with these low end amps blowing tubes come from newbies to amps who abuse them tuning  in my opinion.

Frank
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W1QJ
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2013, 05:28:17 PM »

I've owned over 2 dozen Al-1500's over the years.  Buy sell buy sell and so on. Never had a bad one in the bunch.  The tube is just loafing at 1500w output.  Treated properly your initial tube should last you forever.  You can get a good full output medical pull for about $350.00 cheaper than a pair of 3-500 tubes.  There are many reputable people who sell tested 8877 pulls and you are assured of getting a good one or else send it back.  Even a new import tube is fairly priced.  If you buy an Al-1500 and you have a problem with it, just call me up tell me what the problem is and I will tell you how to fix it.  You'll never have to send it back to Ameritron.  Buy that Alpha amp and it's back to them for repairs so open your wallet wide.  ALphas are great amps when they work, when they don't you are in trouble.  The Al-1500 is easy to fix.  If your budget allows for an Al-1500 I would not even consider anything less.  An Al-811h and those little tube amps are toys.  You want an amp, not a toy.  You are a big boy now.  Just my opinion, after all I'm only an 800 pound gorilla.
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N4JTE
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2013, 05:33:48 PM »

I have owned both amps you are considering along with some of the others suggested.
The AL 1500 is a great amp but unless something changed in the last 5 years the cooling fan is way too noisy, in fact you can use the noise alone to tune up!
My 811h blew up as soon as I turned it on,I did the w8ji, 572b conversion and after a year the caps melted into the 4 tubes, not nice, bought 4 new tubes and sold it for half the price.
The AL 80a and AL 80b are fantastic single tube amps that get an easy 900 watts on ssb, which is more than i'll ever need with a good wire beam.
If budject allows I would choose the al82b
Bob
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N3QE
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2013, 03:26:52 AM »

I got my used AL-811H for $400 to give a boost to my 160M DXCC efforts. Many many thousand QSO's later (on all bands) and nearing 160M DXCC, I can tell you it does just fine.

My sights were initially on a 2x3-500Z or 8877 type amp, but wow, that would've been many thousands of more dollars. If you aren't budget limited, knock yourself out, get the big one first.

I'm surprised at the range of costs of what folks are suggesting. I've used e.g. Alpha 87A's at contest stations before and they are sweet! But ten times the cost of a used 811-type amp.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 03:34:24 AM by N3QE » Logged
W1VT
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Posts: 841




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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2013, 03:44:58 AM »

Don't forget the cost of plugging it in!  Half power amps run just fine on 120V, while you need a 240V line to run the legal limit.

In my case, after buying a new rig and putting up a really sweet wire vertical, I worked 105 countries on 80 in 7 weeks running 100 watts--just got a card yesterday from JA8ISU that said I was 559!  

Zack W1VT
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 04:11:02 AM by W1VT » Logged
W9MMS
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Posts: 121




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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2013, 08:25:03 AM »

Don't forget the cost of plugging it in!  Half power amps run just fine on 120V, while you need a 240V line to run the legal limit.

In my case, after buying a new rig and putting up a really sweet wire vertical, I worked 105 countries on 80 in 7 weeks running 100 watts--just got a card yesterday from JA8ISU that said I was 559!  

Zack W1VT

>>> Half power amps run just fine on 120V, while you need a 240V line to run the legal limit. <<<
 
With a Dedicated 120 volt line, you can run Legal Limit.
 V=IR  has not changed.

Personally, I would make a onetime purchase and get it over with.
Secondly, I would get a Alpha instead of an Ameritron (better resale value)

Just my $0.02 worth.


((((73)))) Milverton.
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N7WR
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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2013, 08:35:55 AM »

I have owned full legal limit amps over the years including Alpha's and the Ten Tec Titan 425.  I currently have an AL 811H which I have had zero problems with.  I run it at 600 watts max and can work anything I want to with it. As you note, with RF Parts warranty on tubes the occasional sour 811 or 572 can be replaced.  If you want a solid amp with a little more output the Al 80B @ 1KW is an economical choice.  Frankly I can no longer justify the big $$$ difference between 700-800 watts and 1500 watts when the benfit in terms of what I can work with the bigger one over the smaller one is so slight.
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