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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | Ameritron AL-811 Help

Reviews Summary for Ameritron AL-811
Ameritron AL-811 Reviews: 170 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $650
Description: Uses three tough 811A transmitting tubes
Product is in production.
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<— Page 11 of 17 —>

ZL1PHD Rating: 4/5 Aug 15, 2007 16:12 Send this review to a friend
Great build bar the valves  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The build quality is top notch. Who ever built it understood what quality was.
That aside, the fan while does move enough air for to just keep things within spec, I think not enough. It moves 20CFM and it runs on 110v at 60Hz. Where I live I have 230v at 50Hz. So I went out and bought a 12v computer fan of the same dimensions but that one moves 39CFM at 12v. Hence I replaced the low CFM with a higher CFM fan. Unsure why a more powerful 12v fan was not used considering there is a 12v supply in the amp. Again I cannot fault the build quality, the builder did a great job and the design is proven and simple, easy to fix.
The other day I ran the amp without ALC and blue a 1 amp diode that caused the meter readings to be out (rather careless of me).
D15 I think it was. Due to the simplicity of the amp, didn't take too long to figger out what the problem was. I like the Keep It Simple pholosiphy.

The Valves:
The tubes that were inserted were the no name brand Shuguang tubes. One has a nice big welt on the anode. That welt glows bright red/ orange long before the other tubes start to glow a dull red. Who ever inserted these tubes at Ameritron either had no idea or didn't care. The builder needs to have a word with the tube inserter out the back of the workshop as this welt was clearly visible. I saw it there when unpacking the rapping around the tubes, a nice bright silver welt surrounded by the grey getter.
It's bound to fail soon if I tune it for full power. The tube goes bright red on the welt wether 10 watts are feed into it for 50 watts.
If key is down and no carrier it does not glow is BIAS current is not the issue. Just bad tube manufacturing. So I tune the amp for 500watts and it's not too bad, though in doing this if I start to push 600watts there will be distortion so I adjusted the ALC to not let it go above that. At the moment I can get 700watts out of it but I don't go there. If the tubes were all good. I'd give the review 5/5.
W0PPK Rating: 5/5 Aug 13, 2007 10:02 Send this review to a friend
Still flawless  Time owned: more than 12 months
Update from 5/1/01. Still running strong with no problems whatsoever!

73's Bob W0PPK
WI7B Rating: 4/5 Aug 13, 2007 09:29 Send this review to a friend
After two years, 4 months  Time owned: more than 12 months

My first review (Sep 29, 2005) was written after 6 months of ownership. I wrote a second (Dec 8, 2006). Both times, I 've given this little amp a 5/5. This summer, problems arose.

After a 3 week vacation, I came back to find that I had difficulty loading up on 80m. While all indications were that I was exciting the AL-811, there was no output. Jiggling the Band Switch between 40m and 80m eventually brought up output on 80m. I suspected dust and disuse were the culprits. I openned it up and cleaned it out as per manual instructions.

My balcony was recently washed and re-painted, forcing me to take down my HF antenna. After this two week hiatus, I again turned to my AL-811. As soon as I flipped the power on, there was a crackling noise and the inboard fuse blew.
I again suspected dust and disuse. I openned it up, and cleaned it per the manual. In addition, I used Phillips anti-dust spray for electronics. After this, I closed it up. Now the power came on, but when I attempted to load it up, the AL-811 crackled, and the outboard fuse blew.

Undaunted, I replaced the fuse, loaded it with minimal 5 W exciter power on a different band. That worked. I slowly raised the exciter power. The output rose, all the way back to 500W.

I then went back to 80m and followed the same procedure. It loaded up fine.

What's up with this? I cannot find any unsoldered joints. Although, as has been pointed out, some are poorly fitted. Is this a sign of capacitor or tube failure, ot transformer arcing? Or is it just dust?


---* Ken
AA2SM Rating: 3/5 Aug 8, 2007 19:08 Send this review to a friend
Did Not Last Long  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Had the 811 for about six months now. The Grid Current Guage is not working. If I give it a few hard raps it might start up again. From what I understand, its a common problem.
KG7RS Rating: 3/5 Jul 29, 2007 14:36 Send this review to a friend
An MFJ By Any Other Name....  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Hi Folks,
This little amplifier has probably received fairly good reviews for a few good reasons. For one, it's the only thing commercially available in an inexpensive 500-watt amp. For another, it's easy to use and tune, is compact, runs from a 120-volt line and is not a bad looking product. One possible bonus is the fact that the tubes can and do withstand some moderately ham-fisted tuning episodes, and even when they finally give up, are inexpensive to replace. As far as my experience, that's where the praise ends. This is the second AL-811 I've owned. Upon opening the cabinet to remove the factory tube packing, I got to marvel at the quality construction. Yeah, right. All kidding aside, the construction quality of this amp is deplorable, at least with regard to lead forming and soldering. I buttoned it up and set to operate. It performed flawlessly on 20 meters. After recently purchasing a new antenna tuner, I was anxious to give it a go on the low bands. While tuning the amp on 80 meters, I noticed some intermittent symptoms with the load control. Disconnect everything and off to the bench. A careful inspection of the tank components quickly revealed the cause: the bottom end of the low-band tank coil was not soldered to the loading variable cap lug! It was pressed against it, but no solder. This was quickly repaired and other suspect connections were reflowed, or in some cases removed, properly installed and resoldered. Filament leads were originally butt-connected to the tube socket pins and one had a cold solder joint. Overall the soldering workmanship is the worst I've seen. The remainder of the mechanical assembly is reasonably good. The first AL-811 I purchased in 2001 exhibited fairly poor workmanship, not as bad as the current amp, and no operational problems. The current amp is operating fine after my cleanup. Yes, it's an inexpensive amp, but why should one need to work on a brand new product? The AL-811 fills a void for an inexpensive medium power amp of reasonably good design. I had to call several dealers to find one in stock. The factory is well behind schedule trying to meet demand. I have to wonder why a responsible company that cares about and understands quality principles has not stepped in to offer a competing product, even at a somewhat higher price? Palstar, are you listening? I have to believe if there was a quality alternative to (MFJ) Ameritron products, the company would either "get religion" or go out of business. I can in good conscience rate this product as "OK" based on the solid design and desireable concept, however it does nothing to promote the pride of "Made in USA". In my observation, MFJ and their holdings have earned the poor reviews they routinely receive.
73, John, KG7RS
DUBCROSS Rating: 4/5 Jul 8, 2007 06:18 Send this review to a friend
Nice Amplifier  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I've had a bunch of amplifiers through the years and I'd have to say that my 811 is one of the best. It tunes easily and puts out over 500 with an input of only 40 watts!

At first I got worried because I had to turn my knob completely to 1 to achieve max output on the 75/80M band (the manual says don't go below 3) BUT when I contacted Ameritron the (very nice) gentleman told me that as long as grid current was increasing as I turned the knob counter clock wise all was well.

I use my 811 daily and have yet to experience any problems with it what so ever.

For the money and quality I give mine a BIG THUMBS UP!
KI4GJV Rating: 4/5 May 11, 2007 14:57 Send this review to a friend
Not really that complicated.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I bought mine new from AES (had to catch them when they had one). It arrived in good shape tubes were loose but they may have been shipped that way on purpose. Removed the interior packing checked every thing I could see and buttoned down the cover. I did consult a few guys who advised me on the tune up. But its not hard if you go step by step and watch your meter readings. Make sure to use a dummy load and have a tuner rated for at least 800 watts even with the 600 watt model. Make a check list of your tune up routine and use it. Amps need a little TLC and maintenance from time to time but this one is a tried and true design. I would have given this a 5 if the manual was a little better.
KE6K Rating: 4/5 Apr 27, 2007 21:03 Send this review to a friend
Very good for my use  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought the amp used at HRO. It was in less than prime condition but worked. I have run it directly to a B&W BD-90 an it loads as well as my rig barefoot. I have also used it with the LDG AT-1000 Autotuner with good results. It has not lost power nor has it had SWR problems. When using the tuner, I first load the amp into a cantenna, then tune the tuner barefoot. When the amp is brought on line, it needs little if any tweaking.
KG6R Rating: 5/5 Apr 12, 2007 20:16 Send this review to a friend
It's Great  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a used AL-811 from ebay. It had a relay problem that was minor. I routinely put out 500 watts on all bands. This design is bullet proof.
The tuning up of this amplifier is a snap. The price is reasonable and if you ever need service, the ameritron folks are terrific.

73, Jim KG6R formerly KG6QHP
WA7VTD Rating: 5/5 Mar 19, 2007 14:04 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Cost/Benefit Ratio, Great Reliability  Time owned: more than 12 months
Picked up a MINT AL-811 at the SEA-PAC flea market, from an estate, over five years ago. The amp had been used less than 2 hours. Got it for $275! Over five years later, it is the ONLY amp I own that has NEVER failed. The only thing I don't like is that stock, it's no good for QSK CW. I am an antenna experimenter and have been rather hard on this amp; I have replaced the 811's only once. A tip: follow the advice in the manual about keeping the loading above "3."

It has always run straight from the 117 VAC mains in the shack. With brand new tubes and tuned for full output on 20M into a well-matched triband yagi (close to 700 watts), it threw the circuit breaker in the house's main breaker box. Since then, I rarely run it over 400 watts out on any band.

I recommend a very high quality, high-Q ATU if you operate 160M or the full band on 75/80. Tuning on those bands can be a bit diffcult with a mediocre impedance matching system betwen the amp and the feedline.

Also, eventually the dial lamps will go out. Ameritron promptly replaced them for free after the amp was over two years old, without my asking, when I emailed them for the part number! It makes more sense, though, to replace them with ultra-bright white LEDs.

In addition to the AL-811, I have the Icom PW-1 and Icom IC-4KL solid-state amps, and an old Swan 1200X. The PW-1 had one of its dual-final PA sections go out after less than 100 hours of use. The 4KL, which I got used and operated from 240VAC, worked like a champ for about 150 hours, when the power supply developed a fault. I won't go into the Swan 1200X...many hours spent modifying and upgrading it, only to have it fail for the second time after five hours on the air.

But the trusty AL-811, like a Timex, takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'!

It is a bit soft on 10M and 30M, but those are two bands where full output isn't needed. If you can't make it with 250 watts on CW on 30M you aren't gonna make it with 600 (and besides, there IS a legal limit on 30M that is well below the amp's capability, don't forget!). When 10M is nicely open, the amp is needed only for the closer-in contacts and breaking pileups.

I have dedicated the AL-811 primarily to daily net usage these days, though it got quite a workout working DX on both SSB and CW before the solar cycle took a precipitous dip. I have checked the linearity of the amp on a scope and it is excellent. On CW, it does have a bit of a slow uptake, but not objectionable. This amp has made the difference between repeating my call 2 or 3 times, and being told "great signal," on the Noon Time Net on 7268.5 kHz each day.

The debate over the utility of replacing the 811s with 572Bs has been interesting (and colorful at times). I plan to give it a go. The 572Bs should be more robust and forgiving especially when the amp is not run to its full potential output. It's interesting to read that some have gotten 750+ watts after replacing with 572Bs, whereas others claim there is no output increase, only unneeded increase in plate dissipation capability. With varying power measurement devices, loads, etc. among the various reviewers, it's difficult to resolve the issue. I look forward to finding out what the result will be here.

In sum, I give the amp a "5" not so much on its own merits (which qualify it for a "4" or so), but by comparing it to other amps I have used and owned. (Soon I will be comparing it to an FL-2100B). Whether you get an AL-811 brand new, or used in good condition, it's hard to find a better value in such a robust, easy-to-use, and reliable ampifier.

- Kevin WA7VTD
Oregon City, Oregon

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