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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | HF Packer-Amp Homebrew Construction Project Help


Reviews Summary for HF Packer-Amp Homebrew Construction Project
HF Packer-Amp Homebrew Construction Project Reviews: 28 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $124
Description: Join the HF Packer-Amp Homebrew Construction Project and build a 160-10 Mosfet amplifier, 2.5W in, 35+W out.
Product is in production.
More info: http://www.hfprojects.com/
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KG7RS Rating: 5/5 Aug 9, 2009 14:20 Send this review to a friend
Best QRP Amp Around  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Hi Folks,
I just finished construction and testing of my second HF Packer Amp. Like an idiot, I sold the first one after I got the idea that I would use an Icom 706 for field operation. Operating 100-watts in the field requires a substantial power supply and because most modern radios don't like input voltages much less than 13.8VDC, it requires a voltage booster as well. A bit more hassle than I want. Upon this realization, I purchased my second HF Packer Amp, driving it with my trusty Yaesu FT-817ND. The nice thing about this combo is that neither are particular about input voltage. As the station battery discharges, the amplifier could care less since it is powered by an internal switching-mode power supply to boost the battery voltage to 24VDC. Of course the 817 runs fine down to 8.5VDC or so. To power my field station, I use a 12V 12A/hr SLA battery for both the amp and the 817 which runs it for a weekend of SSB & CW.

The HF Packer Amp is small, easy to deploy and gives a tremendous power boost for marginal band conditions. Both of my amps exhibited similar output power when driven with 2.5W from the 817 - 55-65 watts on 160-20, dropping slightly to 45 watts on 17-15, 35 watts on 12M and 20W on 10M. The RF sensing T/R circuit works exceedingly well on SSB and is usable on CW if you don't mind using semi break-in. There is an onboard jack to install an additional switch to change the T/R hang-time for better performance on CW. Although I haven't done this yet, I will in the future. The existing configuration works fine for my 12-14WPM operating. There is one notable shortcoming - when unkeying the mic, the receiver naturally switches to receive a few milliseconds before the T/R relay in the amp does. The result is an audible "squelch-tail" caused by a short period of received RF noise from the amp's switching-mode power supply which is powered for the short duration until the T/R circuit releases. This is not really a problem on SSB, but is a bit annoying on CW. I suspect the addition of the aforementioned T/R delay switch will completely eliminate this condition on CW.

Construction of this kit should not present any problems for those who have done their share of kit building. There is a LOT of goodies built into a relatively small package. Part mounting clearances only become an issue during construction of the double-sided lowpass filter module. Make sure the toroids don't extend beyond the edge of the PWB. I had to rework 4 toroids as they hung off the left end of the board slightly violating the space needed for the cabinet cover. Also, observe the instruction to mount the bandswitch with its pins barely protruding through the PWB holes to ensure proper clearance of the lowpass board away from the front panel.

There are 13 toroids to wind on the lowpass filter board, one binocular transformer and two toroidal bifilar-wound transformers on the amp board. Also 3 simple air wound coils on the amp board. These should not present any problems for the builder and construction directions are clearly written. One issue I noted with my second kit that was not present with the first kit - the second kit was supplied with a particularly sadistic type of magnet wire that defied most attempts to burn away the coating during tinning of the completed inductors! This made construction particularly frustrating. Most of the inductors are wound with 24AWG magnet wire and, mercifully, I had a roll of the good stuff which I substituted for the supplied wire, greatly speeding up construction.

The "deluxe" kit comes with prefabricated internal cables which is a huge benefit. Construction of these cables is tedious and somewhat critical to the performance of solid-state HF amplifiers.

The documentation provided with the kit comes on a CDROM and requires the builder print out the manual on paper if it is desired to check-off construction steps in the traditional manner. The construction manual is generally well written and organized by module. The result is somewhat fragmented. In particular, my amp came with "version 1" of the lowpass filter board. The manual package (contained in 1 pdf file) includes the segment instructions for "version 2". Oddly enough, it appears that "version 1" is actually the latest version of the lowpass filter design as evidenced by the date of the separate pdf file for its construction manual. This caused some initial confusion. There are some minor omissions of construction steps in the manual which should be intuitive to experienced builders but I suspect may drive new builders nuts or worse yet, lead to problems. The manual suggests that typical build time is 10-12 hours, but I couldn't imagine carefully building one in less than 15-18 hours...far more if you use the horrible supplied magnet wire! During the checkout and alignment steps, my kit functioned flawlessly without any head-scratching or re-do's. Test & alignment are simple with a few voltage/resistance checks, idle current draw check and a simple procedure to adjust two 10-turn potentiometers to set the amplifier bias.

Overall, this is an excellent product the performs exceptionally well. It puts out a whopping signal especially when considering the small physical size, low voltage tolerance and relatively low current draw. It should provide experienced builders with an enjoyable project and great utility for years to come.

73, John, KG7RS
 
HC2AD Rating: 5/5 Feb 12, 2009 05:39 Send this review to a friend
best watt per dollar  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Very nice project. Works flawlesly from the beginning... Get 50w in 20,30 and 40 (bands i mostly use). If you make some numbers, I think you will not find any other amp in wich main transistors cost less than $2... So service it`s very very easy.
I only want to get more swr protection, but for shure it will give you great dx momment. It`s not the same to make qso with big guns, instead of our simple qrp transceivers and little help with this amp. Kit is not for beginers but Virgil support is outstanding. 73, Allan/hc2ad
 
W1ITT Rating: 5/5 Feb 12, 2009 04:06 Send this review to a friend
fast shipping  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Virgil must have already had his coat on when I placed my order on his site. I ordered a switchable low-pass filter board from the amp to use in another project and, within an hour, received an email telling me that my kit was already in Express Mail. It's hard to beat service like that.
 
KG9E Rating: 5/5 Nov 13, 2008 19:22 Send this review to a friend
Great amp, fun to build, well worth the investment.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This amplifier kit provided the perfect solution for my picnic table portable operation. Virgil took my order over the phone and two days later the kit arrived, in time for a nice weekend project. The kit was fun to build and even more fun on the air! It took me about 25 hours to build, tune and test.
It is the perfect size and weight for portable operation and it draws a maximum of 6 amps, so it can be powered by a small gel cell battery. See my website, www.kg9e.net , for details about my portable operation and how I keep my station running at 35 watts for at least 12 hours.
This is my most used piece of ham gear to date, as I use it with several QRP rigs.
With this amplifier and my portable setup, I have been able to WAS, WAC, and I've logged over 65 countries on 40m and 20m SSB, all at a time when the sun has not been very active.
When I first put this amp on the air, I was getting RF into the audio, but several turns of coax or several snap on ferrite chokes quickly took care of that.
Its well worth the money and time invested. I highly recommend this project for an intermediate builder. I have had a lot of fun making contacts all over the world sitting at a picnic table in a Chicago city park.
Thank you, Virgil K5OOR, and I look forward to your HFPacker Pro 100 watt amplifier kit.
 
WA4KBD Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2008 03:38 Send this review to a friend
Satisfying and durable project  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built my HFPacker Amp in September of 2003 and since then it has been a workhorse both at home and in the field. Never a moment's problem except on one occasion when I dropped it and cracked a solder joint. Last year I added the painted/silkscreened cabinet option and the cooling fan control board. The latter really does keep the amp cool when running digital modes. The HFPacker Amp is a fun build and I highly recommend it. It is not a QSK amp.
 
W9DZ Rating: 5/5 Mar 21, 2008 19:09 Send this review to a friend
A Good Working Amp  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my Packer-Amp as one of the second build group. At that time Virgil was providing parts kits after a certain number of folks had them reserved and paid up front. He would then order parts in quantity and deliver the kits within a few weeks. At that time the kit was only $125 or about half of todays price with shipping. The kit has now gone commercial. A victim of its success.

I used mine with a Yaesu FT-817 and it made a big difference when conditions were poor. I didn't have any problems during construction and it worked great the first time power was applied. I did do a little experimenting with the timing caps to get the proper delay in the TR switching.

I recently sold mine on eBay and bought a used Tokyo Hy-Power HL-50B (NLA) for just a few bucks more than the current price of the Packer-Amp. I lost 160M but gained 6M which is of more interest to me.
 
5R8GQ Rating: 5/5 Mar 13, 2008 20:11 Send this review to a friend
Best Amp For QRP  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my HF Packer Amp for over three years now. It was a great kit to build and it works flawlessly. The boards and parts are allfirst rate, and the instructions are super clear. And if you get hung up, Virgil is an e-mail away and he answers inquiries very quickly.

I agree with the others that this is a "Medium Skill Level" project, mostly because there are a lot of small parts on three different circuit boards.
But I think a beginner could build it IF he
was very, very patient, had attention to detail,and bought the pre-made connecting cables, which are time consuming to make and very important to the project. There are also quite a few toroids and transformers to wind.

I use my Packer Amp to boost power on my PSK-20
(QRP PSK-31 transceiver kit from Small wonder Labs). I also have the PSK-40, PSK-10 and Warbler
(80M PSK31 and they all work swell with the Packer Amp). The instructions say to turn the power down when using digital modes but it hasn't been a problem for me. I decided to get the Packer Amp afer having nothing but problems boosting the power of my PSK-20using one of those garbage 20 watt "Q-Amps" from Ramsey Electronics. Don't do it! It's a waste fo $50 USD! GET THE HF PACKER,IT'S a ***REAL AMP***

The only problem I had with the kit was my own stupidity. I had it hooked up to my K2 and drove the amp with 15 watts and blew the finals. Big deal? Not really, the IRF510 MOSFETS in the finals are available at Radio Shack for $.99 EACH!
 
AB7DP Rating: 5/5 Nov 19, 2007 09:33 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful Performance  Time owned: more than 12 months
About a year ago I purchased an unbuilt HF Packer Amp on ebay. I contacted Virgil, at HF Projects, and he assisted me in how to get started and ugrading to the new painted case and pre-tapped heatsink.

I would consider myself a novice at kit building, but reading the instructions, pictures, diagrams, and working just a few hours a day resulted in a nice amp that worked the first time.

How well does it work? I am still very impressed with the result combined my Yaesu FT-817ND, I believe I could work any station just like it was a 100 watt station. I have always gotten fine audio reports, and I have asked other stations if my audio sounds allright.

This is a great addition to any QRP radio, and the customer service from Virgil at HF Projects is the best I have seen.




 
EHAYNES Rating: 5/5 Jul 23, 2007 10:00 Send this review to a friend
Product and Service - Excellance!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I recently received my HF Packer-Amp from Virgil. Using it with a FT-817ND and a LDG tuner has greatly increased my fun factor. I switch the amp to standby when not needed, but with a flick of a switch can boost my signal above noise level when required, resulting in several unusual SSB contacts, e.g. to Alaska from New Mexico on battery power. Virgil was very prompt in email correspondance, almost immediate to the 3 emails I sent. Very friendly and fair in price, he is a show case for customer service. I cannot wait for his 100W project to be ready!
 
VA3OL Rating: 5/5 Jun 8, 2007 08:32 Send this review to a friend
a great kit  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I bought my HFpacker amp used..... After about 10 minutes of testing it with my K2 on all bands and it was working; it stopped working; I blew it up! Took it apart; checked everything I could, but not having built it I wasn't sure how to proceed..The one thing that I did notice was a screw floating around in there... so I asked on the HFPacker group. Virgil was quick to diagnose my problem from my description. (I didn't tell him about the screw because I wasn't sure that it was the cause.BUT he sure understood the effect.) Bottom line is this: Virgil supports his group; new finals cost $6 and changing them was a easy; I am now getting 30 to 40 watts out for 2 1/2 watts in and haven't had a moments trouble .... and yes I have transmitted on the wrong band (amp on 40 xmtr on 80) it still works.
My points are these:
1. it works as advertised
2. easily fixed
3. cheap to fix
4. support is excellent.
Virgil now has a 100 watt amplifier kit . Given my experience with the HFPacker amplifier I think he may have another winner there.
 
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