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Author Topic: What to expect with ALS-600 ?  (Read 14417 times)
KD8PGB
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« on: January 21, 2011, 06:33:39 AM »


 I am considering purchasing an ALS-600 to mate up with my FT950. For now my antenna is maxed out at its current height and I am running 100watts, when bands permit I can get 5-5's from EU . If I purchase an ALS-600 what kind of performance increase can I expect? Will it be a noticeable S-2 increase? Is it worth the money for cutting through pileups? I am also considering matching it with a LDG-1000 (I hate having to tune every time I switch bands with a manual tuner).

Thoughts?

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WG7X
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2011, 06:58:31 AM »

I only have anecdotal evidence here, but the "experts" will kick in soon enough.

In my experience, the first 500 watts seems to make the largest difference on the other end. Going from 500 to 1kw is a small increment in apparent loudness but a large increment in cost. Going from 1 kw to 1.5 kw is another large cost increase with not too much apparent on the other end.

Put simply, sometimes just going from 100 to 500 watts makes all the difference, sometimes not. But, and this is the important point, if 100 is all you have then sometimes life is going to be more difficult. The amplifier is simply a tool to help you make contacts that are easier on both parties.

This anecdotal evidence is probably why medium power amps have been so popular over the years. They are easier to live with because they usually require only regular house current, develop less RFI, and the medium increase in power can make the difference between a good QSO and no QSO.

So, by all means, get the ALS and auto tuner. You'll be happy I'm sure.

Last note: When you say that the antenna situation is "maxed out" the experts are going to sharpshoot you on that. Everyone's situation is different. Your max antenna might be some one else's minimum. To be sure, we should always do the best we can with the antenna before going to higher power. This simple rule ensures that the power generated is actually useful and not wasted.

So, having said all that, go for it and we'll see you on the air!

73 Gary
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N3OX
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2011, 07:07:53 AM »

I dunno, I think it's a lot of money to spend when you still have a long way to go maxing out your overall antenna potential.  If you're interested in DX on the higher bands, and you're not antenna restricted by a HOA or something, I would seriously consider some kind of small (or big) rotatable beam.  You sound like you're not very cash-restricted right now.

One thing that can really make a HUGE difference in DX performance is having a rotatable antenna.  If the DX is in a direction where your slightly inverted-vee G5RV has a null, for example, you might lose 15dB.  To fix that so that you were as strong as a main lobe of your G5RV would require an amplifier with more than double the legal limit!  15dB stronger than 100W is 3160W.

A 3 element 20m beam, even just at 30 feet, might beat the G5RV in the directions that the G5RV's main lobes point by 5dB.  That's like running a bit over 300W.  But in the nulls, it would be more like 20dB better.  That's like a ten kilowatt amplifier.  If you run a smaller multiband beam, like a hexbeam or something, it would only be like a 5kW amplifier Grin  

For about 290 degrees around the compass, a compact 20m beam like a Moxon or Hexbeam at 30 feet would equal the ALS-600 and the G5RV.    If you can go higher than 30 feet with the tower (pretty easy with a roof tower) then this advantage grows, and soon, with just 100W, you'll beat the G5RV+amp in every direction.  Plus, the G5RV is pretty poor on other good DX bands like 15m and 17m.  If you put up a beam on those bands it's probably more like buying a forty to fifty kilowatt linear.


The thing about this is, right now, for a couple thousand bucks (what you'd spend on the ALS-600 and the autotuner), you could put up a multiband yagi on a short roof tower (or possibly a 40 foot tower in the backyard) with a good solid rotator.  In the "bad" directions of the G5RV, you would end up with a signal like you'd bought an amplifier many times legal limit, and in the "good" directions you'd still be louder.
And you'll hear so much more with a beam.  An amp does nothing for reception.

And then you've got an antenna that covers many bands with a low SWR... you can keep the G5RV and manual tuner for 80/40.

Even if you can't put up a beam, at least make sure you've got an antenna or a few that don't have nulls on directions you want to work.  A null deeper than 12dB can't be overcome by a legal amplifier.

After you've put up a modest rotatable beam at a decent height, the next "big improvement" in terms of bang for the buck is almost certainly an amp.  You'll hear very well.  You'd need a HUGE beam on a HUGE tower to get the improvement in effective radiated power that buying an amp would give you.    Some people choose to go bigger with the antenna and tower, but it flips the cost/benefit decision on its head.... many thousands of dollars to put a big multiband beam on a 70 foot tower vs. twelve hundred or a couple thousand for an amp.  It becomes a big project compared to sticking a small, lightweight multiband beam on a nine foot roof tower.

I understand that many people don't just run out and put a beam on a tower, but I want you to have the full story... because of the nulls in fixed-direction antennas and the relatively low cost of a small beam and simple tower, the improvement you get from the beam in many directions is more than any legal amplifier... sometimes a LOT more.


« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 07:14:46 AM by N3OX » Logged

73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
N3OX
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2011, 07:17:19 AM »

By the way, if you tell me the orientation of your G5RV, I can model it and show you what directions you're good in and which ones you suffer in.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
KH6AQ
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2011, 07:35:40 AM »

You will break pileups much quicker. QSO's that would not be possible will be possible. You will be pleased with the the increase in fun and you will be pleased with your ALS-600.
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KD8PGB
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2011, 07:51:46 AM »


 Well,
 I'm not cash strapped but my G5RV is as high as it can go for now, it is oriented due north / south...which based on the modeling I have seen for the G5RV (clover leaf pattern) I am null at due north and due south (orientation is due to stealth in the tree line) . I don't have an actual HOA but the neighbors will have hissy fits if I put up a 30 or 40ft tower or even a roof mounted mast,  not to mention probably start whining about RFI whether it exists or not (psychosomatic condition based on seeing a big a$$ antenna in my yard). So based on all of that, for the moment the antenna is maxed out, I am going to fire a random wire up into one of the trees (away from the G5RV) as a psuedo vertical when the weather permits but I think it will only offer better performance on the g5RV northern nulls because I can't put down 360 degree radials due to property line restrictions.

I  have read enough and played with my antennas enough so far to know that the antenna will make all the difference if you have the room and the height, but at the moment I have neither and wonder if an amp will help with otherwise unworkable contacts.



 
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K8AXW
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« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2011, 08:19:33 AM »

I feel WG7X nailed it!  My personal experience is:  I went from 100W output to 1500W output by homebrewing an amplifier.  My thinking was, if you're gonna build an amplifier or buy and amplifier, get the biggest one you can.

After several years of enjoying QRO I picked up a Heath SB-200 which puts out 600W.  I was astounded that I worked whoever I wanted, busted pileups and even created pileups with the 600W, almost as often as I did with 1500W!

The fringe benefits were less telephone/home entertainment RFI and a smaller footprint on my operating position.  Also if there is a question of complying with FCC limits on RFI exposure, the 600W amp will help you meet these requirements. 

Bottom line, you will love your medium power amplifier, especially if you are fortune enough to have an autotuner to use.  Go for it!!

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A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!
K2DC
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2011, 10:30:04 AM »

The simple math says that you should see an increase of just under 8 dB, or just over 1 S-Unit.  There's a lot more to be gained with antenna improvements, and if you can make the antenna improvements AND the get the 600, you may be amazed.

I wonder what a "hissy-fit" means.  If it's just a couple of snide remarks, that's one thing.  If it's threats to pin your coax that's something else.  In my old neighborhood I was on a half-acre lot, but the houses were only about 30' apart.  I put up a GAP vertical at chimney level, later replaced by little 40' EZ-Way crank-up tilt-over with a C3-SS.  The tower and 2 elements opend up a whole new world for me and I never heard a peep from the neighbors.

GL with the improvements, and hope they work out.

73,

Don, K2DC
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KD8PGB
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2011, 11:30:11 AM »


 I would wholeheartedly agree a better antenna system or at least a higher antenna system would be better, no question. However my neighbors will have a big problem with a lofty antenna system and I have no desire to upset the delicate balance of the neighborhood. When the weather breaks I will have our tree service out and have them raise my G5RV up as high as is safe in the trees (50ft roughly), which is invisible now and will remain so at 50ft while still maintaining that delicate balance with the neighbors.

So if 600watt amp will only provide a gain of 8db, why would anyone invest in an amp at all?

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N3OX
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« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2011, 12:17:46 PM »

So if 600watt amp will only provide a gain of 8db, why would anyone invest in an amp at all?

One reason is because it really does help.  8dB is very very useful if it means the difference between "4dB below the noise" and "4dB above the noise."  If the noise level is very steady and the stations are VERY weak, even 1dB of signal change can make a difference, and 8dB is big.

I made some sound files once to look at this for a 6dB level.  I recorded some real band noise and recorded myself talking, and mixed those together at different signal to noise ratios, one "75m locals" where the noise level is basically nothing, one "15m DX" where both signals are readable but considerably weaker, and one "broken contact" where I couldn't really copy the 6dB lower signal, but I'd probably be able to pull out the stronger one.

http://n3ox.net/files/6dB/

It's not a perfect test, especially because I might have been speaking more loudly in one part of the clip than the other.  But it gives you an idea.   In strong-signal conditions, 8dB can be correctly dismissed as "just over an S-unit, " but in weak-signal conditions, 8dB can be a huge deal.  It can put you over the top of the noise or over the top of the pileup.  It can make copy a bit more comfortable so you can enjoy a ragchew instead of a quick "hi, you're four by two four by two over"

A good reason to run an amplifier is that many DX stations also run an amplifier.  So if you don't run one, you'll be able to hear all kinds of people who you can't work.... you hear a weak DX station who's running a kilowatt, you're going to be 10dB under their noise floor if they have the same noise as you.  Also, sometimes the DX has MORE noise than you do.  This is a big problem with some permanent stations in rare countries.  It seems to me that the people who can afford to set up a ham station in economically disadvantaged countries often live in a bigger city... but then they have power line noise and stuff to deal with just like we do.  DXpeditions will often be easy to work with 100W because they pick quiet temporary locations... much quieter than suburbia in the U.S.  But that's not necessarily the case for permanent DX stations.

================

So those are really good reasons to add an amplifier.  It should always be on the table any time you can hear stuff you can't work.  Depending on your circumstances, it can be the cheapest or most convenient option to fix that problem.  

But there's also a bad reason to add an amplifier.  And that's that people don't think in decibels.  They look at the amplifier and think "wow, fifteen hundred watts is SO MUCH MORE than 100 watts."  They think they're going to be too weak to do anything if they don't run an amp.  You look at it critically, and then you see that you can only get 12dB by going to full legal limit, and you start to realize that in a lot of situations, you can rely on luck in propagation, and good timing in the pileups, and so forth.  12dB is a lot, but at the same time I've been a DXer for 15 years, I'm at about 309 DXCC entities worked, and I've never run an amp on any band except 160m.  And even on 160m, I worked 116 with 100W before I built myself a 400W amp.  But you know what?  The 6dB of that 400W amp actually helped.  

On the higher bands, there might be one or two entities that I missed out on because I didn't have enough power out.  There are a bunch more I've missed because I can't hear them.  But I can also say that I would be able to have more and longer conversations with far-off places if I was 8 or 10 or 12dB stronger.  So I'm going to get an amp soon.  Getting that much improvement any other way in my present circumstances isn't an option.

I appreciate not wanting to ruffle the neighbors' feathers with a beam.
However, you can get some slightly less huge but still very useful improvements if you play with different antennas hung from your trees.  Here's the cheapest rotatable antenna I ever used, this design for 17m:  http://n3ox.net/files/17loop.jpg  

The vertical is a good idea too.  You do have a lot to gain filling in the nulls, and the vertical will help there, as would any kind of rotatable antenna or antennas in several directions that you can switch.  When you get your tree service out, have them install a bunch of high quality pulleys with rope loops on them around your yard and you can have an invisible antenna farm if you want, pulling stuff up and down just to try it.  

The amp will help too.  Good station design keeps everything on the table and balances cost and complexity and convenience and your expectations and needs with the expected dB improvements.

« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 12:19:22 PM by N3OX » Logged

73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
KJ1D
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2011, 12:38:18 PM »

I was in the same boat. I have a FT-950 with a G5RV at about 40 ft running east west. Because of neighbors and the wife I can not ( or will not) try to put up a tower or beam antenna. I purchased an Ameritron 811H and run about 600-700 watts. It made a lot of difference. I am now working stations I could never work before. Sure, the antenna is not the best, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.
Good luck.
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KD8PGB
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« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2011, 12:54:01 PM »


 Thanks for all of the responses, and N3OX, yes I am having the tree service install some pulley systems for me,  a total of 6 of them so I can play around a bit, maybe string up a couple band dedicated antennas. In my short tenure as a general ticket holder I have already done a bit of antenna work and seen the immediate benefits of simply raising the G5RV 10ft and messing with various lengths on the random wire. I have also played with my outbacker hf and counterpoises all fun stuff but much better suited to warmer weather Smiley 
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2011, 01:07:11 PM »

PGB:  An amp almost always helps and the combination you picked out, including the auto tuner, is a lot of money for 8 dB.

I'd go for something like an AL-80B, which provides 10 dB improvement (rather than 8 dB) and may not need the tuner.  More bang for the buck.

But anyway I looked up your QTH and I see a nice neighborhood, settled, lots of trees, overhead power lines nearby.  I cannot even begin to imagine why neighbors would have any problem with more visible antennas there.  Hams around here in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood, Malibu, etc. with multimillion dollar homes in very exclusive neighborhoods have towers and beams.  You can see them.  So what?

I think you may be imagining problems that would never happen.  Either that, or it's a really unusual neighborhood where people would complain about the color of your trash cans, a dog that might bark, and lots of other things. Cheesy

Either way, if you find yourself hearing stations who can't hear you, regardless of the antenna, an amplifier will help that.  If you never have any problem raising every station you call, and they all hear you fine, then an amplifier probably isn't worthwhile.  But that situation would normally imply that your reception is limited by local noise sources, because even here in the City where I am, if I run 100W there are lots of stations I can hear (even with beams) who would have a very hard time hearing me; with a kilowatt, it's easier. Wink

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N3OX
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2011, 04:18:08 PM »

Thanks for all of the responses, and N3OX, yes I am having the tree service install some pulley systems for me,  a total of 6 of them

Sweet.  I'm jealous of your trees... I don't have any.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
NM3G
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2011, 05:13:54 PM »

This probably disqualifies me from commenting, because that's exactly what I'm running ... an ALS-600 with the linear supply, and an LDG AT-1000Pro Autotuner into a twin lead-fed dipole ... coax runs into the house to the shack.

I run the amplifier on 110 VAC; but I installed a sub-panel directly below the shack and have a 10' run from the sub-panel to the amp power supply. I drive with about 35-50 watts and typically see 400-500 watts (band dependent) to the tuner.

The tuner has the latest firmware installed, and I load fairly well on everything but 160 meters. Certainly makes a difference when the bands are noisy ... I'm running a bit of digital SSTV, so continuous operation for 3-5 minutes is typical. I HAVE had the amp shut down on overtemp but that was a BIG photo ... ran 15 minutes.

The tuner is very quick on an initial tune ... I found that starting at the top of the band and tuning every 25 or 50 kHz helps find a tune solution rather quickly.

I find it is a good solution for me, and I find many times that when communications are marginal without the amp, the improvement with the amp makes a great deal of difference. It's not too noisy (though I am upgrading the fans soon) and the instant on aspect is great. Got the amp used and after fixing some minor power supply wiring issues have had no issues (about 2 years now).

Hope this helps ... the additional 4.7 dB going from 500 to 1500 watts MAY help you, but I've found that resisting the urge to turn all the knobs to 11, NOT running audio compression, not "equalizing" the mike audio, and not messing with carrier injection points (hello Yaesu ... just what WERE you thinking?) that you'll have no added noise to foul up your audio.

Good luck and 73,

Rick
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