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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | Drake L-4B Help

Reviews Summary for Drake L-4B
Drake L-4B Reviews: 27 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $995.00
Description: 2000W PEP SSB, 1000W CW
Product is not in production.
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KB2CPW Rating: 5/5 May 27, 2010 10:17 Send this review to a friend
Great Amp!  Time owned: more than 12 months

I have an L4B that I picked up in excellent condition, but with all things electronic, they sometimes need updating. The beauty of an L4B is the separate supply which makes working on the deck safer by having it separate from the HVPS.

Yes its not the best amp out there (no 160 or warc) but its extremely well built and time tested. Since mine was in such good condition, I wanted it to stay that way, and with old amps its better to tastefully upgrade them than to leave them alone.

I started with the solid state relay mod by W8ZR. A fantastic and detailed writeup can be found on his website. This uses a Crouzet solid state relay to fire up the amp. The switch on the front now will only pass low voltage dc at 100ma or so helping your on/off switch survive the aging process better. The Crouzet handles the full brunt of the 240v shock wave.

I also swapped out the original skanky plate choke for the RF Parts choke that they use in all of the current 3-500 amps sold such as the AL-82. This is NOT a drop in change. The new plate choke will hit the top of the amp cage as it is about 7/8 of an inch taller than the stocker. I taped up the new plate choke and shaved the ends down with a tile wet saw about 1/2 inches on the bottom and a little less on the top giving me the headroom I needed. I maintained the exact spacing this way and still had enough air gap (matched to my old one) for everything to work properly but I gained a better designed choke. I then removed the original top and bottom band type connectors and top lug on the new choke and transferred the old ones from the original onto the new one with cir-clip pliers and reattached the windings and reassembled it. I am now moving onto the supply to complete some upgrades there (caps, resistors and diodes etc.)

Well, I love this amp, 1k+ all day long even before the mods. Easy to tune and work on and its a pretty amp as well. A true keeper!! If you can find a nice working example for under $750 with 900 or better out and no need for top band, go for it.. Regards, Richy N2ZD
N3TU Rating: 5/5 Apr 28, 2010 15:03 Send this review to a friend
Great Amp  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I picked up this amp at a Hamfest for about $600 and it was very clean. It has performed well and made may good clean contacts without noise. The only problem I had but it could be due to age is the CW/SSB and On/Off Switch. I'll over look the age and give it a 5. It lasted this long so it is a great amp. They don't make the switches anymore and if you try to repair it, you will run into the same problem in time. The switches were replaced with heavy duty commercial flip switches and it's working like a charm. Also, I got an Ameritron ICP-240 in rush current protector switch as a safety. I have been getting great compliments on the air on how my Drake sounds and I plan on keeping it.
KA2ZNI Rating: 5/5 Aug 1, 2008 17:47 Send this review to a friend
One terrific Amplifier!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I took delivery of a MINT condition L4B about a week ago, still has the original 3-500's from Eimac, BUT the transformer was replaced with a Peter Dahl XMFR and all new Caps and an additional fan added to the Power supply.

The RF deck was gone through with an improved squirrel cage blower, another blower mounted atop to remove the heat from the chimney's etc, and all cleaned up.

This amp will get after it! No problem running key-down AM or legal limit SSB thanks to the upgrades.

I will never part with this Amp.. It is the best I have come across!
WY4J Rating: 5/5 Nov 23, 2007 15:53 Send this review to a friend
Best Amp I Have Ever Owned  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased this amp for $400 back in 1982. It's 1968 vintage. The two 3-500Z tubes are still there and putting out full power although I have never really push it and have always ran it on the low power or CW mode.

This is a great amp that will give you many years of enjoyment if treated correctly. Only drawback is that due to its age, is does not have 160 or the WARC bands.

If you can pick one up in pristine condition, grab it and you will not be sorry you did. If you want to look at mine I have a picture of it by searching my online picture album.
VE2DC Rating: 4/5 Oct 28, 2007 09:02 Send this review to a friend
Best deal of my Ham life!  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was the first amp I owned back in the ,70s. Great RF deck covering 80-10 but a so-so power supply. However the best part was the price. The lab at RCA where I was working published a list of assets for disposal. One item was a brand new looking L4B. Being just married with a sorry looking bank balance... I bid the princely sum of $75. Apparently I was the only one who tendered a bid! Sure got my money's worth... Only changed it eventually because I wanted an amp to work on 160M.
K3HKR Rating: 5/5 Oct 2, 2007 21:28 Send this review to a friend
Very good AMP.  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Funny, I rarely rate anything above a 4, but in this case I had to.
I bought mine second hand and almost mint. I say almost because the power supply had dried up and the caps smelled like rotten eggs. I upgraded the PS-4 with WB8VGE's power supply kit and the L4-B came alive again.
Well worth 700 - 800 dollars if you know the history. Unlike some reviews, I can only tell you that the brand name tells it all. This is a Drake and there are only a few old amps that will out perform it for the money.
Sweet as sweet...
K9CRT Rating: 5/5 Jan 30, 2007 16:07 Send this review to a friend
Why Spend $2500+  Time owned: more than 12 months
Great amplifier running a pair 3-500z Eimac tubes rated 2KW input. Very quiet desk top KW with outboard power supply you can place on the floor. Great metering, ALC control. These amps defy time looking modern and still running full output. Why pay $2500.00+ for the same type of amp new ? when you can pick one of these up for $1000.00 or less. My amp is still running the org Eimac 500z.s and putting out full power. One of the great values in ham radio left.
W8WHQ Rating: 5/5 May 28, 2005 21:57 Send this review to a friend
Great amp!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After selling my Henry 5K Classic, I purchased a mint condition L4B from a friend who had bought it new in the late 70's.

My intent was to use the L4B until I decided on a replacement for the Henry 5K. My plans quickly changed after using the L4B; its quiet operation, the nearly full legal output and ease of use made me an L4B fan!

It's built like a tank, uses cheap 3-500 tubes and makes better than a kw with 85 wts drive. Also, like the Henry's 2cx1200a7s, it requires virtually no warmup.

To keep the review short, I'm happy with the L4B and won't be purchasing a new amp for a long, long time.
WK4D Rating: 5/5 Oct 20, 2004 18:36 Send this review to a friend
A Classic!  Time owned: more than 12 months
It kills me to hear all the trashing of the L4B. I have had nothing but solid performance on all bands from this workhorse. Yes, it doesn't do 160 meters and you can get more output if you upgrade the power supply but you have to remember that this amplifier dates from the days of 1000W CW output. It is a quiet, powerful, easy to use, and solidly built. As someone who has homebrewed more than one amplifier I easily rate the L4B as a winner. The only thing I have to do is install the Richard Measures QSK kit to make this the amp of my dreams.
KS4HY Rating: 4/5 Dec 4, 2003 10:38 Send this review to a friend
Good amp but weak band switch  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned a used Drake L-4B since November of 1986. I have had problems with the band switch while operating on 10 meters on three different occasions. Basically what happens is one of the contacts inside the band switch heats up and stops making contact. I had to look closely to find the micro-thin space that had developed between one of the contacts and the little tab. The amp stopped working on all bands except 80 meters at that point. To get the amp working again I had to take the cover off, and bend the little contact tab back down to make contact with the rest of the band switch. I am currently searching for a bigger band switch to permanently fix this problem.
The stock fan is very quiet. I do recommend placing a fan on top of the external power supply to keep it cool. I purchased two 220 VAC chassis mount fans, attached little adhesive rubber feet over the fan screw holes, and then placed the two fans on top of the power supply blowing air away from the top of the power supply. I run the 220 VAC fans on 110 volts which slows them down to half speed and makes them run very quietly. Air is sucked in from the side of the amp power supply, and blown out the top of the case. The power supply stays very cool with this configuration. The fans are wired together to a standard 110 volt AC power cord which plugs in to an AC power strip. I turn both my radio and the two fans on at the same time via the on/off switch on an external power strip.
The transformer on my L-4B buzzed rather loudly after about an hour warm up when I first purchased the unit. I doubt the amp buzzed when it was new. The transformer had probably just dried out with age. I fixed the transformer buzz by loosening the side screws on the transformer, repainting it with several layers of varnish, and then allowing it to dry for 24 hours. Once dry I re-tightened the screws on the transformer, and the buzz was almost completely gone.
On one occasion two diodes in the main power supply blew in half when a voltage spike came down the AC line. I replaced the stock diodes with two Radio Shack 1000 KV PIV 2.5 amp diodes. The power supply lacks equalizing resistors and capacitors across the power supply diodes, so you may want to consider adding them.
All in all a good amp, but the band switch should have been heavier. I have not experienced problems with the band switch while on the lower bands.

Michael Rawls

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