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Author Topic: Amps...Are they a MUST for HF ???  (Read 20239 times)
KI6HYC
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« on: May 20, 2018, 06:44:01 PM »

I am a newbie (1 week old) coming back to hobby after almost 11 yrs and wondering.

I've got myself a IC7300 and I attached a 40m-10m multi band dipole at my backyard. Highest point at 18 ft of the ground with other end about 7ft.
My QTH in Central CA...
I was able to talk few times people at Salt Lake City, San Diego, Hawaii...
I've heard further away stations many times but wasn't able to get heard by them.

My question is, during these listening session many times I hear those stations I hear clearly but can't reach mention that they have bla, bla radio with bla bla antenna and running a 750 Watt or 1000Watt bla bla amp.

My question simply is what does the amp accomplishes?
I mean I am a guitar player I know what a guitar amp does.
BUT, my question is, without changing my setup one bit, if I add a, say,  500Watt or 800 Watt amp will those people currently not hearing me jumping up their seat if I yell BOO over 500 or 8000 Watts instead of 100?

Does it worth to spend $1000 or $2500 for an amp or spend much much more less than to raise my antenna to 30 ft high or even get a better antenna etc?

My goal is  to competition.
Honestly I hate the idea of competition... Instead of saying 2 words and noting that I connected someone 10,000 miles way in South Pole I rather have a 30 minute nice conversation with another Ham at 500-1000 miles away.

So my goal is not to stand above in a pileup! But just to be heard clearly on a one on one conversation and reach to those in better levels when conditions are not perfect on the bands.
I mostly like 40m, 20m and 10m.

So, my question is " to Amp or Not to Amp?"

« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 06:46:06 PM by KI6HYC » Logged

73, KI6HYC
Jim
K5WLR
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Posts: 311




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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2018, 06:50:22 PM »

It depends on which bands you use. On 75 meters during the summer, the static levels can be killer for a 100 watt signal. Having 500+ watts can make the difference between being heard and not being heard. On other bands, that higher power level can extend the usefulness of a closing band for a few minutes....

That's what I use my amps for. YMMV!  Smiley

73

Will
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N5CM
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2018, 08:27:55 PM »

I think I would get the antenna up higher, the higher the better, before spending money on an amplifier.

Since I returned to the hobby in February of this year (after 10+ years of inactivity), I have worked every state in the Union and have 88 countries confirmed on Logbook of the World (LoTW), all with two separate wire antennas and 100 watts on CW.  Fortunately, I have some tall pine trees in the back yard, and they are great antenna supports.

Get your wires up as high as reasonably/financially possible, then evaluate your need for an amp.

73, John KA5GEX

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KI6HYC
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2018, 08:48:00 PM »

I think I would get the antenna up higher, the higher the better, before spending money on an amplifier.

Since I returned to the hobby in February of this year (after 10+ years of inactivity), I have worked every state in the Union and have 88 countries confirmed on Logbook of the World (LoTW), all with two separate wire antennas and 100 watts on CW.  Fortunately, I have some tall pine trees in the back yard, and they are great antenna supports.

Get your wires up as high as reasonably/financially possible, then evaluate your need for an amp.

73, John KA5GEX

I appreciate your advice. I was thinking the same thing.

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73, KI6HYC
Jim
K0ZN
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2018, 09:41:23 PM »

No.  An amplifier is not a "Must" for HF; I would guess that the majority of HF QSO's take place without an amp being on line.  Can an amp help or be the difference between a contact and no QSO? Absolutely.  It is relative to what you want and EXPECT from your station. There are a ton of guys who have the patience to work QRP and work a lot of DX doing it. If you want a comfortable conversation QSO there are many times an amp can make it more pleasant or even possible. There is no black and white answer to your question. Your mode choice also significantly impacts this area.

As was stated earlier, in your situation, getting your antenna up to 40 or 50 ft. would make more difference than an amplifier. A higher antenna would also help on receive, which an amp can't do. That said, if you are truly stuck with an antenna that is only 18ft. high, I would say yes, an amp would be worth it because you have a lot of ground loss and a high radiation angle.

The next question is how much power do you need or want?  That is also an open ended question. My experience has been that if you have a decent antenna, usually 800 to 1Kw is about the optimum. If money is no object, go to legal limit.

 If a station can't hear your 800 watt signal, it is unlikely they would hear you at 1.5 KW.

73,   K0ZN
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K8AXW
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2018, 09:58:27 PM »

A MUST? No, but here's how it went for me.

100w barefoot.  Dipole.  Made lots of contacts and had great fun.

100w barefoot.  Moved and was forced to use a vertical cut for 40m.  Had lots of fun but when it came to a DX pileup I was about 30 down on the pile.  Most of the time the band either went out or he went QRT before I worked him.  Not the end of the world but annoying as hell.

100w and a TH6DXX up 50ft.  Now I was amongst them! I went from 30 on the pile to about 15....or even better.

100w driving a homebrew 1400w linear and the now TH7DX (no additional gain...just additional bandwidth) and I'm among the top 5! Most of the time when I key the mic, I get an answer!

An old hot rod builder I used to know said it best.  "When everything else fails, ya gotta revert to brute force and ignorance!"

He was talking about hot rods.  I am referring to signals.

To summarize:

Antenna first

Power second
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A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!
DL8OV
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Posts: 1054




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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2018, 01:26:46 AM »

Short answer, no.

Long answer. Assuming that an S Meter is correctly calibrated then there will be a 6dB difference between an S8 and an S9 signal, that's the same as taking a 100W transceiver and putting a 400W amplifier on the coax. Go to 800W and your increase is 1.5 S points, not a lot.

However................

If you go from a dipole to a beam you will get a measured increase in gain, a four element beam will give you about 10dB, about the same as that 800W amplifier. Your received signals will also increase in proportion so the old rule of 'if I can hear em I can work em' still applies. Not only that, you may experience less QRM as the directionality of the beam enables you to null out interfering signals.

I run 50W into a long wire at about 10m height and I've worked the world on CW. Best DX is the Marshall Islands which is as near as I can get to half way around the planet. Yes, I do have to work a bit during a pileup, but who said that ham radio was meant to be easy? 2Kw into a beam on a tower would give me 59 copy all over the planet, but that would be boring.

Peter DL8OV
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NK7Z
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2018, 06:01:31 AM »

An Amp is nice, but not a must...  That said, if you want to work DX, and get through a pileup, an amp is a must.  If you want to call for 20 or so minutes, maybe 60 minutes, and not make the Q stick with no amp...  If you are running digital, then no need for an amp...  If you are running just SSB, and on 80, and chatting with a local, (local being 500 miles or less), then probably you will not need an amp...  Try this...  Start out with no amp...  I you find that your QSO's are painful, then get an amp. 

By far, for my money invested, a better antenna is the way to go...  You get a performance enhancement on BOTH transmit and receive...
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Thanks,
Dave
Amateur Radio: RFI help, Reviews, Setup information, and more...
https://www.nk7z.net
W8JX
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Posts: 13268




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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2018, 06:06:46 AM »

No.  An amplifier is not a "Must" for HF; I would guess that the majority of HF QSO's take place without an amp being on line. 

I would disagree. It depends a lot on band and time of day too. I spend most of my time on 40m during when active and a amp helps a lot to extend useful range during the day out to limits of band during day. It can help a lot on 80m too and pretty much a must have on 160.  I have had many QSO's on 40m with amps on both ends that would not of been possible otherwise.  On 20m and above a amp is not needed generally unless to get into pill up shouting matches but you will also find many in those pileups running a LOT more than 1500 watts too but not talking about it. I pretty much stay away from pile ups.  
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
K4FX
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2018, 06:16:07 AM »

Depends on how valuable your time is. Especially if you want to work the rare ones. Sure you can put up a tri-bander, that was my first move, up at 75'. Made a huge difference on both receive and transmit. However when the big boys come out to play, you are going to wait till all of them get their QSO most of the time. I have owned 1500, 1000 and now a 500w amps with this antenna. The 500w amp works nicely, so you don't have to spend thousands for a legal limit, an AL-811H should do nicely for a first amp.
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AD4U
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2018, 06:23:55 AM »

An HF amp is not necessary but can help. The operator and the antenna are much more important than an amp or a $5000 rig. Over the years I have had 100 foot towers with 5 element monoband yagis, etc. I also have a Drake L4B, SB 200, Collins 30L1, and an Alpha 77S. Yes all this can help.

Several years ago after working "all there is to work", I went another way. I put a 60 year old Drake 2B receiver and a Drake 2NT transmitter on the desk. Over several years working only 40M CW and only running 50 watts out of the 2NT transmitter, I worked 293 DXCC countries. My antennas are a combination of home brew wire dipoles and wire beams.

I am not a great operator. In fact I had two strokes in 2016. I do have patience and I do a lot of listening.

If I were using the Alpha amp, I probably would have worked a few more counties, but maybe not.

Dick AD4U
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W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2018, 06:52:22 AM »

an AL-811H should do nicely for a first amp.

Do not waste your money on this toy amp! By the time you have replaced a few sets of it's easy to melt 811's tubes (because amp is so overrated) or spent the extra money and upgraded to 572's in it to prevent tube melt down, you will have easily spent enough money to get a used AL80 at very least and have a real amp.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 07:12:16 AM by W8JX » Logged

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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
W1VT
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Posts: 3358




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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2018, 07:21:06 AM »


Honestly I hate the idea of competition... Instead of saying 2 words and noting that I connected someone 10,000 miles way in South Pole I rather have a 30 minute nice conversation with another Ham at 500-1000 miles away.


There are QRP and low power categories for hams who want to compete without an amplifier.

But, suppose you want to have a conversation with a ham at the South Pole, who is waiting for the weather to clear so he can start his trip home?  He is asking everyone not to spot him, so he can have conversations without interruption.  But, operating near the pole means that conditions are usually impaired to one degree or another, so an amp certainly helps to compensate for the iffy propagation.  It is much easier to have a conversation if you are loud.

Zak W1VT
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K4RVN
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« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2018, 07:56:26 AM »

I would suggest getting an amp so the other stations you are in contact with can enjoy a conversation without unwanted noise and strain. A 100 watts on 40 meters at night is a rough go unless you have a very high antenna with gain. In this cycle, 100 watt stations are very limited for contacts more  times than not. There are exceptions of course but as we who run beams on 40 meters and a KW or more  are also having a rough go at times. The Hf bands are usually dead at night so do yourself and others a favor and buy you an AL 80B Ameritron for a starter for 40 and 75 meters if you use the sideband mode. If you like hello and goodbye then don't buy an amp. You and the other station will appreciate a better signal. Improve your antenna also if possible. Welcome back to activity on the hobby.

Frank
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K6AER
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« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2018, 10:07:01 AM »

I run an amplifier 98% of the time. 20-40 meters are the money bands at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. 80 and 160 meters have noise levels so high that without an amplifier you are limited to CW with 100 watts. Getting you antenna higher will lower the angle of radiation but close in contacts will not change much.

You did not mention if you can put up a beam and a tower. That would be the biggest improvement.

Here is where an amplifier helps. You call CQ and if you not a DX contact nobody want to work that hard to pull your signal out of the QRM and noise. They just move on. Frankly, I wish everyone ran an amplifier. Even with a S1 noise level out in the country, half of the stations I hear are barely above the background noise. Throw in a few thunderstorms state wide and your 100 watt signal is buried in the noise.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on an amplifier. A used SB200 can be had for under $450. The 6-7 dB increase in signal will make a huge difference in the number of contact you make.




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