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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | Ameritron AL-80B Help

Reviews Summary for Ameritron AL-80B
Ameritron AL-80B Reviews: 122 Average rating: 4.6/5 MSRP: $1300
Description: Kilowatt output HF desktop linear
Product is in production.
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KE1EV Rating: 3/5 Jan 27, 2010 08:10 Send this review to a friend
Nice amp but doesn't meet specs  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I originally purchased a new AL-811 at HRO about a month ago. After checking it out I found that it wasn't putting out anywhere near rated power on 10 meters. I discussed the problem with Ameritron customer service. He indicated that there was likely something wrong with the rig so I returned it. Since I was driving all the way to HRO, I decided to upgrade to the AL-811h. I got that out of the box and found similar behavior. Good power out on most of the bands, but weak power on 10 meters. I figure an amp should put out at least 75% of what its spec'd for. I was getting out about 50% power on 10 meters and adjusting the bandpass coils didn't help. I called Ameritron again and was told that the 811 tubes don't perform well at the higher frequencies. I don't work 10m much so I guess that's not a real issue. I called the salesman at HRO and discusse the issue with him and decided to exchange it for an AL-80b. He had an open-box unit so the exchange wouldn't cost much. (you can read my AL-811H review on the associated page).

I've had the AL-80b for two weeks now and I've worked it a lot, about 4 hours each day. It works well. It is easy to tune, runs cool and quite. I get great signal reports. I can get through a pile-up at the flick of a switch. I like having the frontpanel power meters. It has an optional Grid Overload Protection board. At only $40, I don't understand why this isn't standard. Mine is on order at HRO.

I get close to rated power on most bands. I can't work 30m, but we're not authorized to run power on that band anyway. I can either work 15 or 17 meters, but not both. I can adjust the bandpass filter to use either band but its not wide enough for both. Since I use both of these bands, I find this a weakness. I can split performance between the 10/12m bands, getting 400w on 12 and 500 at the top of 10. Splitting is why I don't get rated power on these bands. I may be better off adjusting the tuning for one or the other. I see no reason that the bandpass couldn't be fixed to accommodate all bands. It would probably add less than $50 to the cost of the amp.

I set the jumpers on my unit to match my 115v line voltage and get as much as 1050W pep on 40m.
I tuned the rig and measured output power for both SSB and CW at 5khz steps through the amateur bands and recorded output power as indicated by the front-panel meter. Not including the 30m and 17m bands that don't work, I get an average of 754w SSB/693w CW. This is a 750w SSB/ 700w CW amp, not an 800W amp and it doesn't work on all bands (of course the meter could be off, but it agrees with my other two power meters). Here's what I get on the center of each band SSB/CW as measured on the amp power meter into a dummy load.

160 750/600
80 950/750
40 1050/950
30 N/A
20 780/780
17 High SWR to exciter
15 820/820
12 400/400
10 620/620

I buit a pecker-tuner and installed it in my rigblaster. I highly recommend the accessory. It makes tuning the amp much easier. SSB mesurements were made with the pecker tuner.

I think the AL-82b is a good value. After evaluating the 811, 811h, and 80b, I think this is the best of the bunch. The 811h is probably the best value if you have a good external meter that reads PEP. All three are good amps however. The next step up in amplifier power costs considerably more and once you get over a KW, you need to watch the quality of your feed line and you're into 220v. Another option is probably the ALS-600. The tube finals in these rigs are more forgiving than the FETs and much easier to replace. Once you make a table for setting the amp, tuning is a snap. I use my AL-80b with either my 2kw roller inductor tuner or my LDG-AT1000 autotuner. The manual tuner is more precise but the autotuner is easier to use. The amp seems happier with an SWR close to 1.0:1. I get better power out with the manual tuner.

MFJ makes the MFJ-828, a digital SWR meter that provides high SWR protection for the amp. I have one on order. This should help insure a long life for the final tube.

I gave the 811h a 3/5 rating because of low power on 10m. This amp has better power on 10m, but doesn't work all bands. I'd give it a 3.5 but there's no way to split it.

I can be contacted through my ARRL email account for questions. KE1EV
W7DBR Rating: 5/5 Jan 23, 2010 20:48 Send this review to a friend
Compact, Quiet, Cool, and Quick Kilowatt For A Kilobuck  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The summary says it all. The AL-80B is a simple to operate, compact, quiet, and cool HF amplifier that delivers a Kilowatt PEP on 120VAC for just over a thousand dollars. It offers incredible value as long as the quality hangs in there. An inspection of the components and manufacturing looks adequate, but it is not a tank like the $5000 amps. Time will tell on QRD. But for now, I am very happy with the performance. With my new Hy-Gain AV18HT Hy-Tower vertical antenna and the AL-80B, I am able to break through most pile-ups on the first call! And I get "Strong Signal!" reports with "Great Audio!" as well. QRD notwithstanding, the other reviews are right on the money: no other HF amp comes close to the value provided by the AL-80B.

KY7F Rating: 1/5 Jan 20, 2010 17:43 Send this review to a friend
Disappointed  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is my second, and last, Ameritron amp. My first was an AL811 that ran 5 years with no problems until it started blowing its guts out. Sent in for repairs to Ameritron. Lasted 2 days and it blew again. Gave it away. Decided to upgrade to an AL80B. For the first 2 months, it worked great. Then, I heard a "poof" and the "ALC Set" knob control no longer functions during the tune-up process, and the grid/plate current meters no longer work. I'm a stickler for following the tune-up procedures, too. So far, no response from Ameritron on the warranty. Am getting rid of it and buying an Alpha.
AC8DE Rating: 5/5 Dec 25, 2009 16:59 Send this review to a friend
Incredible Value  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've owned an AL-80B about a month now. It is the first amp I have owned, although I have used a few others. Like many, I purchased it based up reviews here and the recommendations of local hams. With the reputation of having a forgiving tube, a soft start, a full KW, solid construction and a price that is hard to beat at this power level, this became the winner and now resides here in the shack.

CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN VS VALUE- I went over the amp internally with a fine tooth comb, as I opened it up when I got it home to switch it over to 240 VAC operation. This is easy enough to do as the jumpers are right there on top when you remove the case. It does require some experience with soldering/desoldering to get this job done cleanly. I found nothing out of place or anything loose inside. Unlike a number of other Ameritron amps I have seen inside, like the ever popular AL-811H, the design and build quality seems much higher than the other Ameritron designs I have inspected. Being a picky engineer, I had hesitated to buy an Ameritron amp, but the quality of this amp was high enough to get past my inspection. Is this at the same level of design refinement as an Alpha or Palstar Commander? Does it look like one of those high spec amps inside? Well no, of course not, but it is solid and well made and looks good internally was well as out. When you consider the street price of the AL-80B, this is a much higher value that any of the high dollar amps, so that is hardly a proper comparison.

DYNAMIC BIAS - One of the complaints of the AL-80B design is the dynamic bias circuit. This circuit supposedly keeps the idle current down reducing heat during times of non-transmission. Apparently, the early versions of this amp had a slow reacting circuit dynamic bias circuit which caused distortion on the audio in the first split second of TX. It was suggested by many that I disable this circuit. I called Ameritron and they gave me instructions on how to do so. However, Ameritron did tell me that they had made changes to this circuit and this was faster than in the original AL-80B design and should not be a problem now. In operation on AM & ESSB where guys will tell you in a heartbeat about an audio problem, I have had no complaints of distorted audio nor can I see anything on the scope. I have asked several stations to listen closely for this, and no one hears any problem. So apparently, there is no need to disable this circuit any longer, at least on this ham's amp.

INPUT TUNING - The input tuning on several bands on my amp needed a bit of tweaking. So if you buy one, make sure you go over this carefully. This is a simple enough process, but this process is omitted from the manual sadly. I had a pretty good idea how to do it as it is pretty straight forward, but I called Ameritron to confirm. They were very helpful and gave me a lot of detail on how they do it in-house. Oddly enough, they could not tell me what the size of the "tweaking tool" was over the phone, but that is was an allen key. So after some playing around, I did determine the magic size to be a 2.5mm. Unfortunately, in the trying to figure out the right size, I cracked the core on 10M/12M (AUX) input. Upon calling Ameritron on this, they sent me out 2 more right away for free, as well as one of their plastic 2.5mm adjustment tools. That's pretty good support.

15/17 METER INPUT TUNING WEAKNESS - Whether this weakness is acceptable or not, depends upon the view of the individual. While I don't use 17M as much as some others, it is notable that the biggest weakness on the input tuning is on the 15/17 input. It is not possible to keep the input tune below 2:1 on both 15M & 17M simultaneously. I leaned a bit more strongly toward 15M side, as this is the better element on my antenna. I was able to achieve an input match 2.2:1 SWR at the top of 15M with 1.2 at the bottom. That put 17M at 3.3:1 at the top and 3.4:1 at the bottom, which I can use with care. If I pull 15M all below 1.5:1, then 17M becomes unusable high. So if I had to say this amp has one weakness, I would say that it is the input tuning on the 15/17 band. I don't know if a mod could be worked out to make for a better match on the input side on both bands.

Some would suggest using the tuner in the rig to match the input of the amp. Seems reasonable enough. HOWEVER, I was advised strongly against this by Ameritron, as they claim this will eventually damage the input side of the amp.

ALC- I don't use this and have no need due to other control methods on the rig and before the rig, so I cannot comment on it.

METERS - The dual backlit cross needle meters are quite nice. Ameritron now uses LED's and not incandescent pea bulbs, so the meters are bright and quite white.

TUNING KNOBS - The are geared down nicely and feel smooth and tight. They stay where you leave them.

SOFT START - The soft start does stop enough inrush to keep the amp from thumping or the lights from dimming. I looked at the circuit and one cannot change the timing without serious modification of the circuit to give it a true RC charging circuit to control the soft start time. I also learned there is no option on the value of the large charging resistor whether you are running on 240 or 120. It does shock the transformer a bit more that I feel it should when the soft start kicks out, which happens within 100mS of the flip of the power switch, which is way too short IMO. HOWEVER, I have to point back up to the value and design trade-off that have to occur to offer this amp at this price. The circuit DOES work well enough to keep the amp from thumping and the lights from dimming, but not enough to bring up the tube a bit more slowly. But I honestly doubt this will ever hurt the tube.

OPERATION - The amp tunes easily and works well. I can pump out about 1.1kW PEP without distortion measured with an oscilloscope into a dummy load if I push it, which I do not do under normal operation. I run it on RTTY on 80M a lot at 500-600 watts PEP with no difficulty, although I tend to try to keep it below 500 PEP most of the time on RTTY and other 100% duty cycle modes. I use it on AM quite a bit and it handles this easily with care to keep the carrier below 200 PEP. I can bust through most pile-ups with ease on SSB.

CONCLUSION - A solid amp at a really attractive price for its power output level and quality. If you consider those two factors, there isn't anything else out there I have found that comes close. Negative- It's not American made.

Scott AC8DE
KC4CP Rating: 5/5 Nov 22, 2009 17:08 Send this review to a friend
Super Bargain!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have owned a lot of different amps. When I got ready for a new amp, I determined to try an Ameritron. I decided I would either go with the 1500, 1200, 82, or 80B. Ultimately I bought the AL-80B. For the price difference this is a no brainer.

I will switch it over to 220, but right now it is on 110 and still has an output of 850 watts on CW. The amp is flawless, the fan is not noisy, and it is the best value for the dollar.

When I switch to 220, the amp will be a true 1KW amp. To get legal limit, I would have had to spent another 125-135%!!! That is a lot of cash.
B8KUE Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2009 12:15 Send this review to a friend
Great Amp  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I've owned this amplifier for about 6 months. I run it on 110v. It consistently puts out 1000 watts. It's very quiet and very easy to tune. The fit and finish is outstanding. I get great reports. If I can hear them, I can work them. Almost instant on and it runs very quiet. Thank you Ameritron for building such a great amplifier. Get one, you won't regret it.
KC2GUY Rating: 5/5 Sep 25, 2009 12:32 Send this review to a friend
Maybe I'm Amazed, MFJ  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Let me put this into perspective. I was going to leave the hobby, and sold my Alpha 99. A great amp.
After a few months, I decided to continue in HF. I looked around and read reviews as well as speaking to fellow hams. I wanted to spend far less than what a new Alpha 99 goes for. For me, the Ameritron 80B is one of the best designed amps at it's price-point. It is VERY quiet, in fact, whisper quiet. Easily does the 1K output on most bands. The fit and finish inside and out, are superb! YES, MFJ has finally got great quality control, at least on the products I have purchased from them over the past 3 years. They are VERY customer friendly. I am one happy camper. The amp loafs along at 900-1000 watts. Easily, on 110V. Great metering, and an easy tuning amp. I am amazed !
W7KOL Rating: 4/5 Jul 24, 2009 08:22 Send this review to a friend
Good for the price  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a good Amp, I tune it with Ameritrons Amp Tuner-Pulser and can tune to full power in just a few seconds,

There is enough protection in this Amp its hard to damage it.

Mine will run 1 KW driving 90 Watts, but I back the drive down to about 80 and run 800 to 900 Watts out just to be safe, no one will know the diffrence.

I think for the price, its a fair deal.
K9XT Rating: 5/5 Jun 23, 2009 20:13 Send this review to a friend
Great Basic Amp  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased a used AL-80B nearly five years ago and it has performed extremely well. The electrolytics have a date code of 1995 and the 3-500z had a date code of 1994 indicating the amp is approximately 14 years old. I just recently replaced the 3-500z with a 3-500zg RFP tube due to growing problems with the tube (drifting input SWR and ALC instability). I also replaced the tube socket due to burn marks around the filiment pin holes and tightened the screws holding the fan in place (to eliminate a little bit of vibration noise). The amp is now running exactly as it should. The bottom line: A little bit of maintenance will keep this amp going for a long time.
AD4C2006 Rating: 5/5 Jun 13, 2009 05:56 Send this review to a friend
Very good amp  Time owned: more than 12 months
Like others have said,its a plug and play amp out of the box,in more than a year using it I have had no bad issues at all,daily used heavily on 40,20,17 and 10M,either in CW as well as in SSB,it will run out 900 to 1000W wired for 120VAC(I have no 220 at home).It runs not too hot,cooling system is super,also very quite amp.Its the most efficient amp built by this company,67% of performance is not seen today by many amps.The ALC SET control in the front panel make easier the job to control the power of my FT-2000 from the amp.So far even with the amp at maximun power and a low efficient antenna as the G5RV I am using,no neighboors has complained of RFI.

Lake Worth,FL
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