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Reviews Categories | Transmitters: Vintage amateur | Ameco AC 1 Help

Reviews Summary for Ameco AC 1
Ameco AC 1 Reviews: 17 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $around $25-30
Description: 15 watt 80/40 meter transmitter using 6v6 oscillator on "shoebox" style chassis. Xtal control.
Product is not in production.
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K3MD Rating: 2/5 Oct 10, 2016 13:07 Send this review to a friend
My first rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was my first rig... did manage to make a few QSO's with it, before my Uncle W2MS took pity on me and gave me a Ranger 1 and HQ-129X. I got a replica AC-1 in 2008, but it consistently had low output (0.3W). Tried a 6AU6 oscillator and 6AQ5 final, but the same result. The recent replica by RadioDaze has a non-doubler HV power supply, a real full-wave with a 6X5 rectifier, and cranks out a good 7 to 10 watts. The crystal heats up and drifts, and the rig chirps a bit, but it is true to original form.
K7KQ Rating: 3/5 Aug 2, 2016 13:37 Send this review to a friend
My first transmitter  Time owned: more than 12 months
I received my AC-1 for Christmas in 1966. My Dad chose this transmitter because of its low power. He thought I couldn't electrocute myself with it. He never knew about my attempts to boost the power by using a 6146, with hundreds of exposed plate volts on the unprotected top cap! Not to mention the exposed high voltage on the straight key.

I was frustrated because I didn't understand how to set the loading control, but persisted and made quite a few contacts with my one or two crystals.

It was my first transmitter. Not very good, but it got me on the air and I wish I still had it.
WB8CAC Rating: 5/5 Aug 7, 2013 07:06 Send this review to a friend
FUN ! !  Time owned: more than 12 months
For what it was / is supposed to be, you can't beat it. I built my first one at age 12. The kit cost $19.95 from Lafayette. Made many contacts using it and a Hallicrafters S-77A receiver. The note varied from great to terrible depending on the condition of the crystal used. A lot of people got on the air for a minimum investment using the AC-1.

I recently built a clone of the AC-1. It looks and operates just like the original. Unfortunately, using mostly new parts, it cost over $200 to build. See it at
KG8LB Rating: 5/5 Jul 30, 2013 04:22 Send this review to a friend
The Miracle of Radio Discovered  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I can remember back in 1961 going to Radio Supply and Engineering on Selden in Detroit with my dad . I had cut out the ad for the Ameco and had it all folded up in my pocket . Somehow the salesman talked my dad into an Eico 720 . The 720 was OK but I still wanted the basic little TX in kit form . Finally saved up a few $$ and landed the little Ameco . Somehow the little Ameco was a bit more gratifying to operate . Yes , the self described real hams may wrap themselves in an imagined aire of superiority because it wasn't built from parts but an 11 year old can still take satisfaction from making contacts with a lowly kit built TX .YEs some folks pay big bucks for them . This my tend to make the frugal a bit angry . The fact remains enough people are willing and able to pay for their desire to re-kindle the fondest memories of their excursion into amateur radio . Many of those same "kit builders" have gone on to build some very impressive home brew gear as well .
K5MO Rating: 5/5 Jun 18, 2008 17:50 Send this review to a friend
Great simple fun  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built one as a n00bie at age 14 and again built a clone 2 yrs ago. Both provided huge fun for the dollar investment, neither chirped, and both were built with my two hands (the second time around I did NOT melt the coil form pins when soldering the wire, however. I STILL remember doing that!)

What more can you ask for?
K3MOV Rating: 5/5 Feb 23, 2008 15:17 Send this review to a friend
Hard to give your first transmitter less than a"5".  Time owned: more than 12 months
Until Steve mentioned it, I had forgotten the "joy" of trying to sandpaper away the paint on the bottom of the chassis in order to make good electrical contact.

Almost fifty years later, that just doesn't bother me the way it did then. All I remeber is putting it together with my grandfather's raingutter soldering iron (about 1" in diameter) and having it work the first time I threw the switch. It also reminds me of the improvement in my signal as I went from the 67' long wire to the dipole descibed in the instructuion manual of the AC-1. My evaluation of this rig is obviously clouded by the good memories associated with it.

As for Mac's eveluation, I say bully for you. Your evaluation is just another example of how mean spirited some in our hobby have become.

Steve, as usual, gives a good theoretical explantion of why he did not like this transmitter. Mac, on the other hand, takes a product as simple as a two tube transmitter kit and personalizes it by referring to those who liked it as "appliance ops" with "more money than brains" and "lazy". Ah, if at fifteen we were all only as intelligent as Mac. We could have probably torn an old TV apart and made a Commodore 64. I'm sure that Mac's first computer was hombrewed and he has fond memories of it!! Chill out Mac. Different fond memories for different folks.
WB2WIK Rating: 1/5 Dec 5, 2007 12:33 Send this review to a friend
Junque  Time owned: more than 12 months
I agree with Mac.

I bought one brand new in 1966 (kit form) for $19.95 at Federated Electronics in NJ and put it together in one evening -- not much to it.

Frustrating that I had to use a file and sandpaper to get rid of the paint on the underside of the chassis and ensure good ground connections and several locations. For ten cents in paper and tape they could have masked that. But then, if they masked it, they would have had to use PLATED steel, which they did not! Ameco painted everything to keep it from rusting.

Needless to say, when you scrape the paint away to make ground connections, those spots do rust.

It made contacts but was neither a fun project nor something I looked forward to using. I'd fire up the AC-1 (with the NC-300) but then always go back to the DX-60A, which I also build from a kit ($79.95 back in those days, and a far better deal) and had more power, more bands, a meter, an accessory outlet to power a VFO, AM capability, and a non-rusting chassis.

If people are paying hundreds for them today, they have to be nuts!

W8ZNX Rating: 3/5 Dec 5, 2007 10:03 Send this review to a friend
hb a better rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
if you want real nostalgia
get some old parts
and build your self
a one or two tube cw transmitter
you can build a better transmitter
from scratch
one weekend

gave away my AC-1 over 30 years ago
and don't miss it one bit

if you could still find them
selling for what they are realy worth
they would be fun to play with

it not worth the collectors price
unless you are an appliance op
with more money than brains
that is to lazy
to make their own simple novice transmitter
from scratch


N3DG3 Rating: 5/5 Jul 6, 2007 08:46 Send this review to a friend
Reliable, Cute, Fun  Time owned: more than 12 months
Many of us AC-1 owners seem to have so much in common. In 1971 I was WN3SZD and my mother gave me an Ameco AC-1 kit from Lafayette in Northeast Philly as a birthday gift and companion to a Sears Shortwave Receiver. With my elmer Jim K3OBY reviewing my work every step of the way, they project was complete and amazingly worked.

My antenna was almost 20 feet of end-fed wire from the bedroom window on my row home to the clothes pole 5 foot above ground, and with no counterpoise. My receiver was a Sears Wayfarer Transistorized Sortwave which did not even have a BFO for CW. I overloaded the Sears receiver with the AC-1 and then got a loaner of a National NC-109 from a ham, after it was struck by lightning and with marginal sensitivity and no filters. If I dropped the pencil on the table, the NC-109 changed frequency about 20 KC.

With just a few crystals, the Ameco AC-1 worked on 40 and even 80. Never forgot my very first QSO with another Philly Novice WN3TIF and peddling my Banana-seat Bike to the post office to mail my first QSL card, a postcard with Magic-Marker call sign.

Eventually, I learned how to build a tuned circuit with a loading coil and capacitor, and the dummy load bulb became brilliant with RF. Now, I really could operate with 20 feet of wire somehow on 80 CW. Every Friday & Saturday, I looked forward to staying up late with no school, to work DX; first Ohio, then Indiana, Illinois and then even Nebraska on 80.

Later in the 1970s, I got a Heath AT-1 (which exploded), DX-60B, HW-101 and the fine superior Japanese rigs like the Kenwood TS-520S, TS-820S and Tempo One.

Thankfully, I still have that Ameco AC-1 sitting next to an IC-7800, FTdx-9000D and Alpha Amplifiers to try and keep my “ham career” in perspective, but I cannot say that I ever was so excited since those beginning days with that $25 Ameco AC-1.
KE3IJ Rating: 4/5 Feb 25, 2007 12:26 Send this review to a friend
Sorry I left it in a shed when I moved to another state!  Time owned: more than 12 months
In 1972, when I was 16 years old, I passed my Novice test after taking the Code portion in my Elmer's den, from a punched-paper-tape machine activating a piezo buzzer. I was WN2FUB back then, when Novice tickets were good for 2 years.

When I had received my license in the mail after an agonizing 3-month wait, my Grandmother set herself back $24.95 to fund my first Novice transmitter, an Ameco AC-1, which I vaguely remember buying at the old Lafayette Electronics store in Syosset, Long Island.

I wound my plug-in coil for 80 Meters, my Elmer (Van Field, W2OQI) gave me a 3.731 MHz crystal (If I remember correctly), and also lent me an ARC-5 Navy surplus receiver that tuned Longwave (190-450 KHz). I built a 1-tube crystal converter that shifted the 80M band down to the longwave freq's for the ARC-5. That was a neat receiver.

The Ameco was nowhere near the quality of the Heath DX-60B that my school chum across town had just built, but he was the dentist's son and they could afford such things. I was happy with my Ameco kit and put it together in a few hours. The manual was clear and easy to follow, even for a 16-year old.

I didn't have any coax, nor did I understand much about antennas & resonance, but I knew that the Tuning and Loading caps in the Ameco AC-1 were supposed to compensate for whatever you could string up as an antenna, so I ran somewhere between 80 and 90 feet of insulated wire directly from the XMTR's antenna terminal, through the frame of the basement window, up the wall a little, and out to a pine tree in the backyard. Can't even remember whether I had a ground connection or not... I may have connected a wire to the electric power company's ground stake outside the basement window. I used a knife switch to switch the antenna between receiver and transmitter.

The Ameco manual recommended tuning up into a 15 watt light bulb as a dummy load, then tweaking the settings on the actual antenna later. I found out that I could connect a flashlight bulb to wire leads, then connect the leads about 3 feet apart along the outgoing antenna wire; that would tap off enough RF to power the bulb and I would tune for peak brilliance. I was blissfully unaware of SWR and the Ameco didn't have a milliammeter to allow me to tune for a "dip" in plate current; I simply tuned for maximum flashlight bulb brilliance.

My DX-60B friend told me that my signal sounded a little chirpy, but if so, it's probably because of my crude antenna setup and tuning methods, since everyone else seems to say that there was no chirp on the Ameco's signal.

The Ameco advertised a 15W INPUT power to the plate of the 6V6 tube... which probably means I was putting out 8 watts or so. My situation pretty much matched that of reviewer N1MG, who said,

"This was my novice rig. Imagine running 15 watts crystal control to a lousy longwire about 10 feet off the ground. Pure Joy. Hours calling CQ. How can you forget those simple pleasures of life."

I got a chuckle out of that, because that was ME.

Most of my contacts (from eastern Long Island) with the Ameco were in the New England and New Jersey areas. Nothing more than a few states away. But as a present-day occasional-QRPer, I know that 8 watts can get you some real DX if your antenna system is better than mine and N1MG's were.

During my early adult years I got married, had a child, and stored the Ameco and the ARC-5 in an outside shed on the property where I rented. In 1989, I relocated to Pennsylvania, forgetting about my old radio equipment, where they must have sat for several years, rusting away. What a shame! I understand that the Ameco now sells for $100 or more as a collector's item; mine worked perfectly, although I was pretty hard on that poor 6V6, which would glow purple and make a faint tinkling noise whenever I mistuned the rig from resonance! I do miss that little kit, and seeing its current popularity brings back many memories.

These days I run another classic, the Kenwood TS-520S, which I will not let go again (I had one back in 1993 when I returned to Ham radio as an Advanced Class licensee, callsign KE3IJ, but got desperate for money and sold it for $300 so I could pay the tax man. Very fortunately, I inherited another one just like it, with silver-lollipop D104 mike, from the defunct Ham radio club at an ITT Technical Institute at which I taught in 1998.).

I've also built variants on the Pixie QRP rig, and had 80M QSOs with Connecticut and Pittsburgh, PA on 1 Watt or less (I live near Harrisburg), with a horizontal loop; but I often wish I still had that good old Ameco AC-1 as a "big guns" QRP rig. I'll bet it would have worked great with the loop antenna.

The Ameco AC-1 was a great little rig for the Novices of my generation, despite its limitations and simplicity. I'm glad there are so many people who remember it with such fondness.

--de KE3IJ
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