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Author Topic: Solid State vs. Tube. Still deciding, but have a question.  (Read 6772 times)
KA4DPO
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« Reply #45 on: June 23, 2019, 10:23:11 AM »

The AL-80B is a prime example of a 1 KW amplifier that is rugged and relatively inexpensive.  The 3-500 tube is a workhorse that seldom wears out if not abused.  Also, the AL-80B is simple in design and is about as much power as you would ever need unless you want to ionize your own layer.

I would avoid amps that have automatic microprocessor control, especially some older microprocessor controlled amplifiers might be difficult, or even impossible to get parts for if you need to repair one.  I would stick with a manually tuned amp in any case because they are pretty simple to repair, and I don't need to QSY on fly. 

I don't dislike solid state, and I firmly believe it is the future.  I just don't want anything on my bench that I can't repair myself. 
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W5CPT
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« Reply #46 on: June 24, 2019, 01:58:16 PM »

I know I am a little late to this party but...  I have been asking myself the same question the OP did. I joined the Ameritron Amplifier Users Page on FB just to see what others are saying. In the few months I have read that page, I have decided to stay Tube(s). Too many ALS-600s & 606s making the trip back to the Mother Ship for various problems.  I even tracked one that made 2 trips back and shortly later was listed here on Eham & QRZ for sale.

The other SS amps are mostly out of my price range so I am going to live with my AL-811, which works well, until I find a bigger amp. I am going to have to get an electrician in to run a 220V line as the prices of the two 3-500 tube amps is too attractive to pass up.

My 2¢
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KW6LA
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« Reply #47 on: June 24, 2019, 08:31:07 PM »

 <<<<<The AL-80B is a prime example of a 1 KW amplifier that is rugged and relatively inexpensive>>>>>

  Bang for buck, I don't know how you can do better. After repairing my 811h many times, its got more into it than my AL -80B $$$$$
  Was fun learning to work on that Amp, but the 80B is rock solid @ 800 watts SSB. Been running it hard including AM for 6 years now.
  I don't see it missing a Watt on the meter. Just what you need to heat the shack on a cold Winter day.
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AC2RY
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« Reply #48 on: June 25, 2019, 07:38:03 AM »

I know I am a little late to this party but...  I have been asking myself the same question the OP did. I joined the Ameritron Amplifier Users Page on FB just to see what others are saying. In the few months I have read that page, I have decided to stay Tube(s). Too many ALS-600s & 606s making the trip back to the Mother Ship for various problems.  I even tracked one that made 2 trips back and shortly later was listed here on Eham & QRZ for sale.

The other SS amps are mostly out of my price range so I am going to live with my AL-811, which works well, until I find a bigger amp. I am going to have to get an electrician in to run a 220V line as the prices of the two 3-500 tube amps is too attractive to pass up.

My 2¢

KPA500/KAT500 combo on a secondary market will be close to to a new ALS-606. Ameritron devices simply do not have enough self control and protection NEEDED for solid state amplifier to work reliably.

Keep in mind that any tube amplifier with similar service functions and protections isn't cheap either.

The only real difference is that many tube amplifiers survive abuse for few seconds, when solid state one fail instantly. That is why tube amplifiers of older design still have buyers - people THINK that they will recognize and correct their own fault within that grace period.

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G3RZP
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« Reply #49 on: June 25, 2019, 01:31:48 PM »

The Acom 1500 with its 4CX1000 trips very quickly if anything is wrong - it almost seems that if you pass wind the wrong way, it trips!
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AC2RY
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« Reply #50 on: June 26, 2019, 12:23:59 PM »

The Acom 1500 with its 4CX1000 trips very quickly if anything is wrong - it almost seems that if you pass wind the wrong way, it trips!

This is an example of tube amplifier which is NOT cheaper than solid state one with the same power output. You will not find it on used market for $1000 or less.
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K6AER
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« Reply #51 on: June 26, 2019, 01:12:34 PM »

With tetrode amplifiers you have to increase the load so the screen current limit does not trip.   A lot of hams just tune for maximum output and as a result the screen current is overly high.
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KB2FCV
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« Reply #52 on: June 27, 2019, 12:35:12 PM »

I could see a solid state amp being beneficial if you are changing frequencies frequently and quickly, perhaps in a contest situation.

I am not a contester. I chase DX and hop into pileups mostly. I might be changing TX frequency a little as I try to work em' but for the most part once I'm tuned up I'm good for the duration until I work em'... then I'm done with the amp.. or I'll move to another band to chase them elsewhere.

I still haven't felt the need to go to anything solid state.. as my current amp works and does the job as needed. Most of the time it's off.
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AC2RY
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« Reply #53 on: June 27, 2019, 02:53:01 PM »

Most of the time it's off.

Here is THE difference. Those who have solid state amps keep them ON all time. Amplifier becomes an extension of transceiver: they work exactly like with standalone transceiver, just have 500-1000 watts output all the time.
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WY7CHY
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« Reply #54 on: June 28, 2019, 08:27:08 AM »

<<<<<The AL-80B is a prime example of a 1 KW amplifier that is rugged and relatively inexpensive>>>>>

  Bang for buck, I don't know how you can do better. After repairing my 811h many times, its got more into it than my AL -80B $$$$$
  Was fun learning to work on that Amp, but the 80B is rock solid @ 800 watts SSB. Been running it hard including AM for 6 years now.
  I don't see it missing a Watt on the meter. Just what you need to heat the shack on a cold Winter day.

Bang for the buck, definitely. But that can be quite misleading. For instance, I would not pay NEW PRICE for either the AL-80B or for an AL-811H amplifier. $1700 and $1100 respectively is too much to pay in my opinion. Amplifiers; especially tube amps, are very simple units. They only charge that much because there are people willing to pay that much. You can find EXCELLENT SHAPE used AL-811H and AL-80B amplifiers in the $600-$800 price range "Respectively".

And for what it's worth, I've had an AL-811H amplifier for a number of years. If you don't abuse it; and if you put in some G-811, SV572-160, or 572b tubes (G-811 and SV572-160 are very inexpensive); the AL-811H amp will last a life time. Are the problems with some AL-811 amps bought? Sure there are. There isn't an item you can find for sale from radios, to cars, to computers, etc.... that someone doesn't say SUCKS and doesn't work well. But the majority of the AL-811 amps work perfectly fine. Assuming the operator knows what they're doing. Most problems are BECAUSE of the operator. Not because of the amp. The AL-811H has been around for more than 20 years; has a very high review score; is easy to use and repair if necessary; and puts out a decent amount of power. (And with the 572b tubes, can easily push rated limits).

So definitely get an AL-80B amp if you can find one USED in the $800-$900 price range. (They DO EXIST). But don't be shy about getting an AL-811H USED in the $600-$650 range if you're willing to spend $88 for a 4 pack of SV572-160 tubes; or if you happen have some 572b tubes sitting around. With those tubes, the AL-811H is almost indestructible. And you'll get 800 watts without stressing the amp or tubes at all. Especially tuning it up for those that don't know what they're doing.
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Born Wild - Raised Proud: 73
Cheyenne, Wyoming
K7JQ
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« Reply #55 on: June 28, 2019, 10:31:11 AM »

The Acom 1500 with its 4CX1000 trips very quickly if anything is wrong - it almost seems that if you pass wind the wrong way, it trips!

Not true! I've passed wind many times in the shack, and not once has my Acom 1500 tripped Grin. In fact, there is nothing on the LED screen that denotes such a fault. But I have occasionally activated the VOX on my xcvr Wink.

73,  Bob K7JQ
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K7JQ
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« Reply #56 on: June 28, 2019, 11:46:52 AM »

Obviously, there is no right or wrong when choosing between the two technologies. It all depends on your operating preferences, budget, and somewhat on your xcvr and antenna system.

In recent years, I've had two of each. SS...Ameritron ALS-600, and THP HL-1.5 KFX. Tube...Acoms 1000, and currently 1500. I liked them all.

Solid State is great for no-tune and instant-on capabilities. But they are *generally* more susceptible to problems from overdrive and power spikes from your exciter, and antennas that present SWR's in excess of 1.5:1 (power fold back) and 2:1 (protection faults). If your antennas are not low SWR broadbanded, you must have a tuner. I've heard that no matter how fast the protection systems are, finals can still be blown in some units. I've never experienced catastrophic problems with my SS amps, just a few minor soft faults here and there.

Tube amps are *generally* more forgiving with the above mentioned scenarios. Many tube amps don't need tuners if SWR's on your antennas are less than 3:1. Personally, I don't have a problem with a three minute warm-up period. The advanced tune-up procedure on my Acoms require about 10-15 seconds to change bands and tweak a little for maximum output. Even being a contester, no big deal. Prices will be higher on tube amps with protection circuits and "auto-tune" features included, about the same now as SS amps with built-in or external tuners

Determine your own operating preferences and other limitations, and make a choice. Life is too short for QRP Wink.

73, Bob K7JQ
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WY7CHY
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« Reply #57 on: June 28, 2019, 01:16:25 PM »

There's definitely a place for both. I have had just about every type of amp around. Currently, because of Electricity limitations in my house/shack, I can't use some of the amps I've used in the past. Currently I use an AL-811H with 572b tubes in it. No problem getting 800w PEP out of it. Simple to tune. I have a cheat sheet for load/plate. Literally takes me about 5-10 seconds to tune the amp. Except for the 80m band, I can pretty much tune the amp in the middle of all bands and use it across it. (I only do voice, so: e.g. I tune it to 14.250 and use it across the entire 20m voice. Or to 7.225 and use it across all the 40m voice.

I also have a pseudo home brew Solid State 300-400w amp. (Pseudo, as in repaired and modified a broken SS amp). Just enough to get that 5-6db jump when you need it. Requires a lot less input power, but once I lower the output of my transceiver, the amp is pure plug and play. Auto switches bands, etc. Has protection if I push too much drive. Was mainly my mobile amp, but I don't do mobile any longer, so I use the amp in the shack with a DC power supply.

Definitely pro and con for both technologies. But in my opinion, the ONLY REAL ADVANTAGE of a SS amp, is if your a big time DX hunter who is bouncing around different bands constantly. But anyone is going to sit on the same band for at least a little while, will find that with experience, tuning a manual/tube amp can be down very fast. Like I said, I can tune my AL-811H in approximately 5 seconds. So there is no real advantage to the SS amp for me. I use the SS amp mainly if I want to sit at home during crappy winter weather, and bounce around the bands. When 17/15/12/10m were more active for conditions, I used it a lot. With mostly 80/40/20m, I mainly just use the AL-811H amp.
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Born Wild - Raised Proud: 73
Cheyenne, Wyoming
W9AC
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« Reply #58 on: July 06, 2019, 07:43:12 PM »

Either way, study the cost of ownership after the warranty period expires.  One of the most popular 1500W solid-state amps will now go back to the factory for the third time in a year.  It's now out of warranty.  I won't disclose the manufacturer.

Two weeks ago, a surge event at my remote site took out the amp's USB control board.  Cost to the owner?  USD $99/hour + $480 for a new USB board.  It's not only power tubes and final transistors that can be expensive to replace.  Just because it's solid-state doesn't mean it will last forever.  And anyone who is worried about tube obsolescence needs to look at the component lifecycle of solid-state devices.  Here today, gone tomorrow...just like some power tubes only on a shorter lifecycle. 

My remote site is bonded to the Motorola R56 specification.  It's rare but some stuff just gets through.  The manufacturer could have used "consumable," off-the-shelf, plug-in USB hardware, but didn't.  Making matters worse, when the USB port failed, it failed shorted and took out the USB power bus on my PC.  The bus is on the PC's motherboard.  A new PC arrived and took many hours of my time to get it provisioned. 

This now means I can never, ever leave USB connected 24/7. Not at $99/hour and $480 for a USB control board.  And, I don't want to be running to my insurance company every time a USB port fails.  USB will now only be used for occasional firmware updates.  Fiber-optic Ethernet transceivers are in place and will be used to isolate LAN/WAN control. 

Cost of ownership?  Study it carefully and look for the unobvious.  We need to be asking: "if X, Y or Z, fails, what's the impact on the repair cost, shipment, and repair time." 

Paul, W9AC
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AC2RY
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« Reply #59 on: July 06, 2019, 08:45:26 PM »



Cost of ownership?  Study it carefully and look for the unobvious.  We need to be asking: "if X, Y or Z, fails, what's the impact on the repair cost, shipment, and repair time."  

Paul, W9AC

Computer controlled tube amplifier can fail exactly the same way.

Out of warranty repair is always expensive. What would you do if your 2 years old $3000 OLED TV dies? Complain about your inability to fix it without paying manufacturer's authorized service?
« Last Edit: July 06, 2019, 08:47:50 PM by AC2RY » Logged
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