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

Reviews Summary for Ameritron AL-80A
Ameritron AL-80A Reviews: 51 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $1399
Description: Ameritron AL-80a 1KW Output, 160-15, 10 possible with mod.
run a single 3-500z, 850 watts CW, 1000 watts SSB.
Product is in production.
More info: http://
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WA4DMV Rating: 4/5 May 21, 2013 11:01 Send this review to a friend
Bargain!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought an AL-80A a couple of months ago from another ham who was installing a higher power amp. Previously, this amp was in use daily. As far as he knew, the only mods were the 10M OEM mod and an add-on slow-start module.

Got the amp home and immediately started melting coax, as I was too anxious to get it on the air and tuned it with key down. Mah bad! The other dumb thing I did was "ass-ume" that a current balun rated at 300W would be able to handle "a little more". It didn't. Melted a piece of #14 wire inside it. Oh, and with the open balun, I had about a ton of reflected power, which my FT-920 didn't like. Smoke was seen and later I determined that the modulator was fried.

So I went out and bought an FT-DX3000D, as the local repair guy was backed up for a long while and who can go without an HF rig? I replaced the balun with one rated 5KW to make that end idiot (me) proof. I tuned it up and voila! I found that I was getting about 750 watts on 20M. I knew why I couldn't get more. The amp was wired for 120V when I got it, and I had plugged it into a shared 15A circuit. But then again, I was anxious to get the damn thing on the air, so who cares if the house burns down? With key down, the plate voltage would drop from 3100 to 2500 and the few remaining incandescent lights in the room would dim. That would need to be rectified, no pun intended.

I installed a new 60A service for the second-story bedroom I have converted to a ham shack, and I installed an L6-20 outlet. Followed Ameritron's simple conversion instructions -- changing two jumpers on a barrier strip -- five-minute job (all that's happening here is that two separate primary windings which were used in parallel for 120V are connected in series for 240V). I removed the soft-start circuit, as I doubted that it would function with the amp wired for 240, and besides, the designer of this amp has stated that the only reason for the soft-start was to reduce inrush current load on the power switch -- and wouldn't really help or hurt anything else. Buttoned 'er up and got a hernia lifting 'er back into position.

Fired 'er up. First problem: blown fuse. I pulled the fuses and found that the previous owner had installed a 7A 250V fuse on one side of the line and a 15A 32V fuse on the other. Ameritron's specs call for 10A 250V on both sides. Obviously, it was the 7A fuse that blew. My parts bin was no help, so off to the local surplus emporium, where I got what I thought was 2 10A fuses, but in actuality, one was a 9/10A. So, anxious to operate guy that I am, I installed the 10A along with the 15A. (Yeah, I know.)

Powered it up and my first observation was that the key-down drop in plate voltage was minuscule. Yes! Tuned up (using keyer) and found that I can get about 900 watts out while limiting grid current to the recommended 200ma. This is on 20M with about 60W drive. I haven't spent a lot of time with it on other bands.

Clearly, the 3-500Z had been replaced sometime along the way, as the tube bore the RF Parts label -- a private-labeled tube manufactured in the dreaded China. RF Parts sells them for $190, whereas the Amperex tube (made currently in France) goes for $330.

I heard that WARC bands were an issue with this amp, but I had no trouble on 17, even when I was dimming the lights with each pronounced syllable. Speaking of lights, three out of four incandescent meter lamps were burned out. It was obvious that these were added at some point in the amp's long life, as they were taped to the top of the meter cases. I ordered some LED replacements from MFJ, wired them up, and it looks like a new amp! (You do have to glue them to the meter housing, but a drop of hot glue works quite well.)

I gave the old boat anchor a four rating because it isn't a modern, solid-state amp with automatic tuning and band switching. Otherwise, I say buy one if you get a chance. I paid $650 for mine. If you get one without a manual, MFJ/Ameritron has a PDF of the manual on-line. Also, their tech support is responsive to questions about the AL-80A. That's great support for a product this long in the tooth.

I hope you find my narrative reviews engaging. I am, after all, a ham.
N5OP Rating: 5/5 May 16, 2013 09:21 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Amp for the $  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a very early version of this around 1985 and still have it. I have modified mine for 4 kV B+ (open load) and about 3.6 kV under full load (400 mA) using a FWB. I don't use it as a matter of course, but only when needed. I've contested (CW) with it only a couple of times. Mine has the current production full QSK board in it (the old one bit the dust) along with the current production plate choke (no resonance issues on the WARC bands. Increasing B+ required modifications to the output tank, but that is expected. It still has the original 3-500Z in it though I have a spare.

Because of the modification, I'm always careful tuning it up so that it is never lightly loaded. Typical drive levels run about 70 W. Output runs just shy of 1000 W key down on 40 m, but drops off a bit on 80 m, and even more on 160 m. Output drops slightly on 20 m, and is progressively less on 15 and 10 m, falling to about 650 W on 10 m.
N3DWS Rating: 5/5 Apr 28, 2013 20:45 Send this review to a friend
Very happy with mine  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought mine from someone off of The amplifier pictures that were sent to me showed the amp to be immaculate inside. BUT... the amp had not been used for over five years which caused me to worry about a "Gassy" 3-500Z. I received the amp and powered it up on 80M. The out put was at about 800 watts CW but the tube was showing a blueish purpleish haze at the top of the tube when keyed... Gassy !!!. Ordered a new tube and installed it in the amp.

After playing with the amp abit, I am able to get a full 1000 watts out on all bands. The amp has proven to be a good one for me and is very clean (when tuned properly) as attested to by a fellow ham which looked at my transmitted signal. If I hadn't had to get a new tube, the price was right. A very good 1KW amp for the money you can get them for.

The only con is that the fan that is in mine is a bit louder than I would like. I am hoping to get a new fan for it at Dayton or on line. You can't go wrong with this amp if you take care of it, keep it clean and run it as the manual says to. If you are considering one, go for it!
KE4COL Rating: 5/5 Mar 26, 2013 11:56 Send this review to a friend
Best amp for the money  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I bought this amp used in November. There were a few minor problems with it, and I must say Ameriron was very help-full. I chose the al80a over other amps because;
The 3-500Z tube will out last a pile of sweep tubes.
They can be found at a great price.
Excellent support from Ameritron.
If you are looking for a 1KW amp at a great price, this one gets my vote.
K7UA Rating: 4/5 Jan 29, 2013 13:41 Send this review to a friend
Nice little amp  Time owned: more than 12 months
A friend gave me an AL80A that he had blown up by accidentally driving it with 200 watts. It was in pretty bad shape after that with a blown tube and some other damage. I eventually got it all fixed up and put in some new meter lights. That made it a pretty nice backup amp to my Alpha. If you don't beat them too hard they will run well for a long time. I eventually had mine converted to 6M by King Conversions. Lou did a great job converting it and it made a fine 6M amp. I later sold it having somewhat regretted not keeping it stock for HF. If you find one at a reasonable price grab it. A single 3-500 final tube is still very popular and I like the looks of the AL80A better than the later model.
N9ZI Rating: 5/5 Sep 14, 2012 06:18 Send this review to a friend
Nice Amp  Time owned: more than 12 months
Very good old amp - purchased used about a year ago at a good price, had to get a new 3-500ZG tube from RF Parts, 3-500Z tubes that have not been in service for a while have a tendency to develop problems. The amp has been operating just great - I chase DX on 10 through 80 meters CW & SSB, always retuning & it operates perfectly.

N9ZI - Terry
WO4V Rating: 5/5 May 28, 2011 17:39 Send this review to a friend
22 years of abuse  Time owned: more than 12 months
I traded a CB'er out of this amp (he wanted a pc and monitor) back over 20 years ago. I think he had it for a couple of years or so, and no telling what kind of abuse it got from him! Anyway, the tube (Eimac) I got with the amp is still fairly good, a bit less power than back when, but still good for 500 watts or so. By the way, I have worn out a couple of other tubes in this amp, including an Amperex that apparently had a flaw in the glass envelope, for it broke off at the base (that was exciting!) after it ran for about 5 years. No damage to this tank of an amp! Another 1969 date-coded Eimac ran for a bunch of years until it got so soft I pulled it and shelved it for posterity.

This is a pre-MFJ Ameritron, back when they were built in Ohio (?) and were distributed and sold by Pryme instruments. To give you an idea of the abuse it has shrugged off, I ran HF packet for several years with it back in those days, RTTY and Amtor, Pactor, and Gtor, analog SSTV for about 10 years for several nights a week, and digital SSTV for several years. All I have done to it is remove the cover every couple of years and blow out the accumulated dust, and replaced the 12 volt light bulbs with some brighter automotive type bulbs. Oh yeah, the relay detached itself from it's double-side tape mount once. Guess it's time to buy a new tube (the first new one) before long.

Folks, ham equipment just does not get any better than this. I have a B&W Viewstar PT-2500A that I use once in a while when I need to nuke the QRM, but I always come back to the AL-80A. It just does the job and keeps on going, and going, and....what an incredible amp!

AB4KJ Rating: 5/5 Jan 19, 2011 09:27 Send this review to a friend
Great amp  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this amp just before christmas. Was easy to set up and tuning and band changes are a snap. Honestly, the hard part for me was getting 220vac up to my shack. The run from the breaker panels to the amp was too long and I felt converting the amp to 220 would make for more efficient use of power. It was a straight forward process to configure the amp for 220. Thus far, the amp has been very reliable and no issues.
WX4US Rating: 5/5 Oct 22, 2010 16:18 Send this review to a friend
Easy tune 1kw 120 VAC amp  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I picked my AL-80A up on ebay from another ham. The amp performs very well running on 120 VAC tuning up to 1.2kw peak on 80m & 40m, 1.0kw peak on 20m, 17m, 15m and 12m but only 700 watts peak on 10m. Who needs more than 100 watts on 10m anyway! I keep it set up for about 500 watts of output when I use it and have been able to break every pile-up in just a call or two. During the last "Route 66" special event I broke 11 of 20 pile ups on the first call and 4 others on the second. I am amazed at how easy it tunes and how quiet it runs. Drive is between 35 to 50 watts for full stated output on different bands. High volage is at 3000 volts and drops to 2600 volts in transmit. I suspect that will improve slightly when I change it over to 240 VAC. Changing from 120 to 240 is very simple moving just 2 wires internally, I just didn't have a plug for it. I did change out the lamps to the bright white LEDs and love the look. You get more watts/$ value in a 1kw amp and the single 3-500z tube will last forever only runnig it at 500 watts out. My old amp is a Heathkit SB-220 2kw (2 3-500z) and now it just sits on the bench.
KU3X Rating: 5/5 Oct 5, 2010 04:34 Send this review to a friend
Great little amp  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just bought the AL80A from a friend of mine that bought it new in 1987. I told him not to hammer the grids so I knew it was well taken care of. I also own a Heathkit SB-1000 which is the kit clone to the AL80A. For the price I paid it is really a great little amp. It's not too heavy and can be taken to a remote location for contesting.....and....the amp it up to the contesting task. It works great and loads on all HF bands with ease.
I run both amps at 400 ma on the plate and about 130 ma on the grid. To push these amps to get 1000 watts out is an easy task. I get about 800 watts out at these settings. To get 1000 watts out you will be hammering the grids and shortening the tube life. Think about it, the difference between 1000 watts out and 800 watts out is .96 DB. Nobody will ever see that on their S meter.
In 1987 this sold new from $749 from AES. They may be good amps but why people pay over $600 for these amps used I will never know.
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