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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | SPE Expert 1.3K - FA Help

Reviews Summary for SPE Expert 1.3K - FA
SPE Expert 1.3K - FA Reviews: 43 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $3250 euro
Description: Solid state linear amplifier, up to 1.5 KW, the world's
lightest. fully automatic, perfect in the shack,
irreplaceable in the DXexpedition.

High reliability, just one LD Mosfet used. Switching power
supply and ATU inside.
Product is in production.
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K8JH Rating: 2/5 Dec 30, 2017 07:01 Send this review to a friend
Disappointed  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been a ham for 40+ years and had high hopes for the SPE, but have been disappointed. I have owned a lot of equipment and believe myself to be a decent operator who takes care of his equipment. I do not have a history of having equipment problems or needing repairs.

However, after having to return this amp for repair the second time in a year, I have decided it's time to sell. Each time it went in they said it had been over-driven too many times. I am normally careful, but I admit that over a year's time, there were occasions where I forgot to reduce the drive from my transmitter. However, an amplifier like this, claiming to be of the highest caliber, should be designed to withstand mistakes and protect itself.

It claims to have safety protections, but in reality there is a problem with the design of these if they are this sensitive to occasional over driving. I have had a dozen amps of other makes over the years and have never had one fail or need repair. These are simply way to sensitive, at least for my use.

I have sold mine and will not buy another.
W8LLL Rating: 5/5 Dec 28, 2017 20:15 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After owning a 1K-FA for about 3 years trouble free, I decided to add a 1.3k-FA to the shack. Right off the bat I noticed improvements such as the weight the 1.3k is so much lighter (23 lbs) since it uses a switching power supply compared to the toroid wound transformer in the 1k. The ability to bypass the internal antenna tuner per band and antenna and still use the amp was the main reason I upgraded compared to the 1k which would only pass rf through input one to antenna port one if the amp was turned off. The internal antenna tuner button is improved, you push the tune button then give it a shot of RF and the tune button automatically disengages once the antenna is matched. My flex is like a 1300 watt radio, the amp just follows the radio around from band to band and frequency to frequency it just sits there and does what it is suppose to without making a sound.
VE3EY Rating: 5/5 Dec 9, 2017 16:03 Send this review to a friend
Travelers dream  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I occasionally travel to Caribbean for CQ WW contest and I have always struggled to bring along an amp which is light enough to be taken on-board the airplane and yet produce reasonable amount of power. First, I had a 17Kg Acom 1010 followed by a smaller KPA500 but with somewhat less power. I had no complaints about either model though.

I first saw 1.3K-FA in Dayton when Mr. Gianfranco, I0ZY presented the demo unit which was still in development at the time. I think it was back in 2012 or 2013. I could not believe that there can be an amp which can produce 1.3Kw+ output power and yet weigh 10Kg including the integrated ATU and not be larger than a shoe box. I had to lift the amp myself to believe how lightweight it really was.

I was at first skeptical and didnít think much of it, but year or two later the amp went into production and quickly found its place in many multi op and single op DX expeditions around the globe Ė and prominently on the Low Bands. The lucky ones who ordered it initially got their early units and soon enough as the news of its reliability spread around, the wait time for the amp ballooned.

I ordered mine directly from Rome factory and waited almost 15 months until I was told it was ready. I finally picked it up in February 2017 during the stop-over in Italy and until recent CQ WW, I used it occasionally here and there in my home shack.

The real test for the amp came when I took it down to 9Y4 for CQ WW CW contest. I matted it with a 10-watt K3S and I had the entire shack powered from a single 110-volt outlet. The amp took the pounding even before the contest, but it was driven especially hard during the 46 hours use over the weekend. I ran it in the MAX mode and it delivered anywhere between 1.1Kw and 1.2Kw depending on the band. The temperature never rose above 60c degrees and the amp never dropped down to MID mode while it was subjected to rigors of Ďpedal-to-the-metalí contest regime.

But then there is also ergonomics and high level of automation which I like about this amp. I especially liked the fact that I could configure my two verticals and enable or disable the ATU per band and per each of the 4 available antenna ports. One of the verticals was a SteppIR which I hooked up to the amp. The antenna followed the amp around and also prevented the amp from keying (and frying the brushes) while the vertical tape was moving in or out.

Many manufactures these days are coming out with LDMOS designs and various approaches are taken with the design (and cost), but I think 1.3K-FA is still the best all-around travelersí amp which offers this kind of power, ergonomics in such a small and lightweight package which you can easily stash under the airplane seat protected in the custom carry-on case which SPE includes with every amp being sold.

AA6VB Rating: 5/5 Dec 9, 2017 12:17 Send this review to a friend
Updated Review  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had previously given the amplifier a rating of "5" and the tuner, should you select that option, a "2" because it "needs help". Well, SPE recently came out with a firmware revision that has cleared up the issues in my tuner, and it now performs as it should.

This little amp is a gem. It has been flawless for the year or so I have owned it. Fit and finish, and construction quality - to all outward appearances - is excellent. It works as advertised in all respects. No tune, no warm up, automatic band switching, and automatic antenna selection of up to 4 antennas. I have no trouble getting 1.3 KW output and assume it will do more but don't see the point of stressing the unit. I love the fact it is light and portable, controls up to 4 antennas, and works with two radios, all automatically.

The fans are quiet in standby but a bit loud for my taste at full output. The temperature rises (as one would expect) when running full power but cools down "very" fast after the transmission stops.

Lots of useful information on the screen, such as output, voltage, current, tuned SWR and SWR on the output side of the amplifier which is nice to know.

One thing to keep in mind, and I don't consider this a fault, is that the amp will only tolerate an SWR of 1.6/1 before an alarm sounds, so be prepared with resonant antennas or get the optional tuner (more on that below)

I highly recommend the control cables made by Dan Tassell, which makes the installation process simple and less tedious.

The manual lacks clarity in some respects and is missing some needed information, such as how to save tuner settings when tuning in manual mode, but the Yahoo Group is very helpful.

Both the amp and the turner are wonderful so I rate them both a solid "5".


K0CWO Rating: 5/5 Nov 27, 2017 19:09 Send this review to a friend
Expert  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Iíve owned the Acom 600S for a year. It is an excellent little amplifier. I was happy to see that DX Engineering is supposed to have the 1200S in stock for $3450 soon. I was all set to order one when my attention came across the SPE Expert 1.3K-FA. I had seen this amp before but was turned off by the $4400 price. Then I found out one could be had for $3600 without a built in antenna tuner. This put it in the price range of an Acom 1200S. After conversing with Bob Hardie W5UQ, I found out that the 1.3K-FA will put out close to rated output fed with a stiff 120 volt line voltage. I decided to order the Expert instead of the Acom. I also got a set of serial cables from Dan Tassell KC5PCB to connect the amplifier to my IC-7300 & 7600.

I have run the 7300 & 7600 with the 1.3K-FA feeding an MFJ-998 auto tuner into an OCFD for a couple of weeks now. On 120 volts the amplifier puts out 1.2 KW effortlessly/quietly with 15-20 watts of drive and it follows both radios like a dog on a leash. With the exception of low power tune for the MFJ-998 the setup is almost fully automatic. Weíre I used have two amplifiers and two tuners, I now only have one of each. So far Iím really impressed with this literally little powerhouse. At 1200 watts the amplifier appears to run a clean signal verified on SSB by operators close by. I think I have a keeper here.

Bob Hardie and his team run a first rate distributorship.

I love tube amplifiers but I think Iíll put my dependable AL-80A up for sale. Heck, I may even sell the Acom 600S and get another Expert for my second QTH.

FWIW, 73

Report to moderator
KY6N Rating: 5/5 Oct 26, 2017 16:44 Send this review to a friend
Great amp and great service  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I have had this 1.3K for about a year. Flawless.
AT works great....I never push it to max...just run about 900~1000 watts ...easy.
Can't say enough about Bob and Dan...great.
Dan makes all the custom cables for interfacing to the, great quality and the price is right.
Two thumbs up!
Ron KY6N / KH6AH
G4PWO Rating: 5/5 Aug 4, 2017 08:49 Send this review to a friend
Excellent   Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this amp for it's high gain (24dB in the EU version), meaning my 10W KX2 can drive it to full power, and for it's high power to weight ratio (about 140W/Kg) making it easy to take with me on my travels - I don't think this amplifier has much competition in those two areas currently. I don't really need all the power (especially as we are only allowed up to 400W here in the UK) although even when looking at lower power alternatives I could not find anything as small and light with the required gain.

It's a great amplifier, mine just works perfectly with no funny foibles that I've found so far, even at sustained high power levels it never gets particularly hot. It's not intended for full power use at a (RTTY or digimode) 100% duty cycle, but who needs a KW of RTTY? It's SSB where such power may be needed and it works perfectly for that, and I suspect this design choice is one of the things which has kept the amplifier small and light, so I think it's a good choice.

The inbuilt ATU only covers up to about 3.5:1 SWR, enough to bring the vagaries of a resonant portable antenna installation into a decent match but not enough to tune up random lengths of wire.

It also seems well built mechanically, mine just survived a return trip to the Maldives as checked baggage, judging by the marks on it's Pelican iM2620 case, baggage handling did not pay much heed to the "fragile" stickers, my amp is still working perfectly though!

According to one review, the IMD performance is not fantastic at 1.3KW, the reviewer noted that the performance was improved at 1KW or below - I certainly think it's a bad idea to drive it to it's maximum (1.5KW) on SSB, and in dB terms you are losing almost nothing meaningful by throttling it back to 1KW anyway.
DL1MEV Rating: 5/5 Jul 25, 2017 07:42 Send this review to a friend
A great progress  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
When chasing dx on different bands the fiddling around with the band switch, plate and load controls can be annoying so a modern solid -state PA with qsk appeared on my wish - list. Sure, putting the amp is a good deal of work first, but the operational comfort is unbeatable. Connecting the amp to the Elecraft K3 took some time reading the manuals of both first. Because of the high gain only qrp- power-levels are needed for drive.

Some rigs, whose power cannot be controlled exactly like the IC-7300, are not recommended in the 1.3k - manual.

Some complain that the user- interface may seem a little bit outdated but the safety of operation is more important than fancy frills. Neither the rig nor the amp is connected here with a internet- PC because of the danger of viruses.

Until now the amp with built-in atu works fine. There are no interferences from the switches psu. Sure it is not a cheap linear but really worth the money.
VK5SA Rating: 5/5 Jul 14, 2017 22:28 Send this review to a friend
Versatile and foolproof  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
My station is a 6-band hex beam, trapped 30/40m dipole and 80/160 via a 10m wire and SG-230 ATU.
The transceiver is an IC-7600, and the interface was simple and fast.
The hex is flat enough over 20/17/15/12 so I bypass the SPE internal ATU for those bands.
I use the ATU for 10, as I work CW and FM, so the hex won't cover the whole range, and the ATU does.
I also use the ATU for 6m to cover CW and SSB.
Since it's simple line flattener, I did not expect it to tune up to the FM part of 6m, and it doesn't.
The SPE auto-switches to the trapped dipole when I select 30/40m.
It's wide enough to cover all of 30m so I bypass the ATU for 30m, but I use the ATU to cover all of 40m.
The 10m wire and SG ATU are on antenna input 1 on the 7600, and the SPE yells at me and locks me out if I forget to switch there and try to transmit on 80/160 through the SPE.
This all happens automagically, and the set-up was really quick.
SPE has some beta firmware that lets you reduce power on the low power setting to the VK 400W limit, and it also works as advertised.
Working at this power level means that the temperature only goes up a few degrees after long QSOs, and the fan noise is minimal.
Using AGC to control the output power is a no-brainer.
We are limited to 120W for CW and RTTY, and 400W for SSB.
That means that I leave the amp off for CW and RTTY, and put out 100W, which is close enough.
Go SSB and turn on the amp and I see 400W without having to do anything else at the transceiver.
The insertion loss on the pocket was quite high, but the performance is stellar, and I am looking forward to a possible increase in allowable power here.
Local support (RF Solutions) is great.
IT9SEV Rating: 5/5 Jul 10, 2017 14:42 Send this review to a friend
Simply the best choice  Time owned: more than 12 months
The choice for this linear amplifier is because it is all automatic with an input for 2 different transceivers and output for 4 different antennas. The amplifier has 4 functions: 1) amplifier, 2) switch, 3) tuner (optional), 4) watt and rosmeter meter. All in a truly reduced space with a weight of 7.5 Kg. A 1.3 KW full power with a much lower absorption (about half) than a valve amplifier. In fact, the maximum power absorbs about 2.0KW of current, which for a 3.0KW home counter are ideal for the best absorption at reduced energy costs. It is equipped with a single robust component of the LD MOS power class AB. It is equipped with many protection circuits including the tuner it is almost impossible to blend the LD MOS. It is very quiet and has good ventilation. It's perfect and I recommend using the cat to have no problems. The assistance is also a good one, a very knowledgeable and always helpful laboratory to give advice on the use or any problems you may encounter to get it started. Worth all the money you spend to buy it and I highly recommend buying it. I always use it with minimum power in ssb, but when I want to push the maximum power, the amplifier heats in the standard but does not overheat. In RTTY or AM or where I was really good, for me the best!
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