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Reviews For: SPE Expert 1.3K-FA

Category: Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M

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Review Summary For : SPE Expert 1.3K-FA
Reviews: 65MSRP: 3250 euro
Solid state linear amplifier, up to 1.5 KW, the world's
lightest. fully automatic, perfect in the shack,
irreplaceable in the DXexpedition.

High reliability, just one LD Mosfet used. Switching power
supply and ATU inside.
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
N5RV Rating: 2023-06-13
Worth every penny! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Even after a couple of days I found this amp is worth every penny. Has all the functionality I can use and more. I like that it bypasses when not turned on. I can run the amp or not, or when on I can run just the tuner portion and leave the amp in standby. I really like not having to wait for warm up. I look forward to having this amp for many years.
VK5SA Rating: 2023-01-17
Versatile and foolproof Time Owned: more than 12 months.
**7 year update**

This thing just keeps chugging along, follows my IC-7610 (yep, I upgraded) perfectly, switches antennas per band and brings in the ATU as programmed if necessary.

ALC control has never let me down!

My fellow radio club members who own an SPE all have the same experience.

Dumb questions get answered immediately (and with good humour!) from RF Solutions who are the local dealers.

It's just like having a legal-limit radio.

I changed my antenna configuration to the hex on input 1, trapped 30/40m dipole on input 2 and home-brew 80/75/40m transmitting magnetic loop on input 3 , still with a spare input.
The SPE lets me tap the front panel to switch immediately between 40m antennas and that has made quite a difference some times - great feature.

Chris VK5SA

Original Review:
My station is a 6-band hex beam, trapped 30/40m dipole and 80/160 via a 10m wire and SG-230 ATU.
The transceiver is an IC-7600, and the interface was simple and fast.
The hex is flat enough over 20/17/15/12 so I bypass the SPE internal ATU for those bands.
I use the ATU for 10, as I work CW and FM, so the hex won't cover the whole range, and the ATU does.
I also use the ATU for 6m to cover CW and SSB.
Since it's simple line flattener, I did not expect it to tune up to the FM part of 6m, and it doesn't.
The SPE auto-switches to the trapped dipole when I select 30/40m.
It's wide enough to cover all of 30m so I bypass the ATU for 30m, but I use the ATU to cover all of 40m.
The 10m wire and SG ATU are on antenna input 1 on the 7600, and the SPE yells at me and locks me out if I forget to switch there and try to transmit on 80/160 through the SPE.
This all happens automagically, and the set-up was really quick.
SPE has some beta firmware that lets you reduce power on the low power setting to the VK 400W limit, and it also works as advertised.
Working at this power level means that the temperature only goes up a few degrees after long QSOs, and the fan noise is minimal.
Using ALC to control the output power is a no-brainer.
We are limited to 120W for CW and RTTY, and 400W for SSB.
That means that I leave the amp off for CW and RTTY, and put out 100W, which is close enough.
Go SSB and turn on the amp and I see 400W without having to do anything else at the transceiver.
The insertion loss on the pocket was quite high, but the performance is stellar, and I am looking forward to a possible increase in allowable power here.
Local support (RF Solutions) is great.
W9ZX Rating: 2022-11-12
Fantastic amplifier Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I purchased this amp new in 2016 and it has operated flawlessly for 4 years. I won't repeat all the glowing comments from other owners. It is small, quiet, and puts out the power as advertised. I highly recommend it to anyone.

UPDATE: I purchased this amp in 2016 so it has it's 6th birthday this year. I have had no issues with it and it still performs flawlessly. Would I buy it again? You betcha!
W9BB Rating: 2022-10-16
my second expert Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This now is my second expert amp. The 1st. is the 1k-fa and the second is the 1.3k-fa. Both operate 100 % rock solid. It appears to me that expert has had some problems with the 1.3 amp after 2017 or at least most of the negative reviews seem to come after that. Obviously they have had component problems , What troubles me is the failure with Expert to admit or recognize they had a problem. I know from past experience that acom had issues with the early 600/1200 solid state amps . Talking to acom ( Val ) at least admitted to purchasing bad components from a supply ( fixed or replaced ) his amps. Nothing would upset me more than someone blaming me for operator error.. Anyway I have been fortunate with my purchases. Lets hope that expert has fixed their supply chain issues, or at least stop blaming people for misuse. NO ONE SPENDS $5000. DOLLARS AND MISTREATS THEIR EQUIPMENT.
N4EFS Rating: 2022-10-13
Yet Another... Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
The failed SPE Expert 1.3K-FA was replaced with an RF-KIT B26 RF2KS. The RF-KIT amp has performed flawlessly for six weeks now with the exact same setup and same power levels used when the Expert failed (after 9 days). This, in my opinion, confirms there was something wrong with the SPE Expert amp itself rather than my station setup as implied by several people. While many are happy with their SPE Expert amps, it is possible not all are perfect as some would like us to believe.

Original post:
The SPE Expert 1.3K-FA with ATU was received in late April, 2022, along with a custom CI-V cable for interfacing the amplifier with an IC 7610 transceiver. The CI-V cable was compatible with the amp’s latest bidirectional communications firmware (ending v3).

The amplifier failed on the 9th day of use, while transmitting in CW mode on 15m to a resonant antenna (VSWR 1.06:1). Drive power was approximately 22 watts and amplifier output was 990 watts (mid power setting). No band changes had taken place at or near the time of failure. I heard several loud popping noises and then smelled a strong odor like a burnt resistor. There were no faults, alarms, or errors recorded or generated prior to the sudden failure. ALC was functioning properly via the interface cable.

After consulting with Expert Linears America, I shipped the amplifier, at my own cost, for repair. Repair was completed in a timely manner; however, the explanation given for the amplifier’s failure was unsatisfactory. I was informed by Expert Linears America that the amplifier failed due to “owner/operator error”. When I asked for clarification, I was told at first that the amp failed due to an incorrect baud setting. I knew this could not be so – Baud was set to 9600 on both the transceiver and amplifier and the amplifier had correctly followed all band/sub-band changes preceding failure. Next, I was told that failure was due to having the CI-V address enabled (an amplifier setting). This was also incorrect as the amplifier had the appropriate firmware to work with the new 2-way cable interface. I was assured by the cable maker that enabling the CI-V address could not have caused the problem and indeed that the setting was correct. (No CAT errors were recorded.)

After several subsequent communications with Expert Linears America I learned that repair consisted of replacing the final transistor and a resistor. After pressing the issue, I was finally told that whatever caused the final transistor to fail could not be determined. No faults or errors of any kind were recorded by the amplifier software. And to my chagrin, no retraction was offered for the prior assertion of “owner/operator error”. The amplifier was repaired under warranty and returned to me within 2 weeks, but with return shipping also at my cost.

The amplifier functioned correctly when repaired. However, I do not know if replacing the final amplifier transistor addressed the root cause of the original failure. I felt that I could not trust that the amplifier would continue to work properly over the long term, since whatever caused the final transistor to fail remains unidentified. Was it a substandard component, a factory build issue, or was there some sort of design protection issue? It also disturbed me to think that any future “unknown” failure could again be unfairly attributed to “owner/operator error”.

Due to these lingering concerns, I returned the amplifier for a negotiated restocking fee.

The previous amplifier, a smaller six-year-old solid state amp, was put back into service and continues to work fine albeit not at the higher power level the SPE afforded.
HB9SHD Rating: 2022-09-21
Great if it works, poor if not Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I own a SPE 1.3K-FA for 2.5 years sold it to an OM and bought another one.

Product description is exactly what I expect
• perfect in the shack, irreplaceable in the DXpedition
• High reliability, just one LD Mosfet used

• First PA worked flawless all the time
• 2nd. PA stopped working a first time after a few months. Sent back to SPE Italy. 6 months waiting for it to get repaired back.
• On DXpedition to the Maldives after just a few QSOs SPE stopped a 2nd time. Back to SPE Italy a 2nd time, another 6-month waiting to get it back.
In both situations I used resonant antennas with good SWR < 1.5:1 and reasonable power

I would give max rating when product works
I would give 2 stars for reliability because in my case PA broke down 2 times
I would give 1 star for customer service. 6-7 month waiting to get a PA repaired is inacceptable. Pro: SPE repaired product under warranty. Good feedback from SPE Engineer
AC6BW Rating: 2022-07-20
Great Amp, but definite Power Supply Quality Control Issues Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Edit 9/20/2020:
I received the amp back today from repair, after the power supply had been replaced for the 2nd time. This time, I insisted that they install a PSU with a different lot number/date code. So far, the power supply is holding up. I will update again in a few months. I still give this amp a good rating, as I think it is a fantastic amplifier. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the 3rd party power supply that they chose to design in. That manufacturer has serious quality control issues. I believe that SPE should send each of these failed PSUs back to the manufacturer for failure analysis, and hold them accountable. I believe that they should also consider designing in a more reliable power supply, from a different manufacturer. Or, design their own! Kudos to Bob W5UQ at SPE Expert Linears America for expediting my repair.

Edit: 9/9/2020
I'm not a happy customer today. The amp FAILED AGAIN ON THE SAME DAY THAT I RECEIVED IT BACK FROM REPAIR. After installing the amp, I checked it out, and had a few QSOs on low power. No problem. I decided to test it on high power. While transmitting, I noticed a strange buzzing noise coming from the unit. I let it rest, & came back later, only to find that there was no RF output! I checked the +50 VDC output of the power supply with a voltmeter, and nada! This is really disappointing. I initiated another warranty repair with Bob W5UQ at Expert Linears America, to have the power supply replaced again. He feels pretty bad about this, and he offered to pay shipping both ways. I give him credit for that. I suspect that SPE had a bad lot of these modular switching PSUs. I understand that components fail, but really, twice in succession? We'll see how things work out when I receive the amp back. Right now, I have to leave the 3* rating, simply due to the back to back failures. I may change it again later.

Edit: 9/5/2020
On 8/22/2020, my very carefully used 6 month old SPE Expert 1.3K-FA did not power up. There was no power surge, or lightning strike, or any other explanation for this behavior. I checked the fuse and it was fine. I shipped the unit off to Expert Linears America in Texas for warranty repair. They found a bad power supply module, and replaced it under warranty. They also waived the return shipping fee, which I appreciate. They provided a fast repair turnaround. In this case, I lower my rating to 4-stars, only because this early failure happened in the first place. I am happy with the support and service, though. Let's hope that this was due to an infant mortality of one of the PSU components, and not a quality issue specific to this production lot of amplifiers.

This amplifier exceeds all of my expectations. As I said in the title of this review, it has all the features that I've always wanted in an amplifier. I used tube amps for a long time, and when it came time to upgrade to a solid state near legal limit amp, I was very impressed with all the features.

Here is a summary:
- 1300 W PEP output- near legal limit.
- Integrated power supply.
- 6 meters support.
- 3 power settings. Low is about 500-600W out; Mid is 1 kW, and high is 1.3 kW.
- Small, light and efficient. Unit runs very cool, and has ample fans. Fans are not very noisy. The fans can be configured for Normal or Contest mode. When running FT8, I have the fans in Contest mode.
- Wide tuning range ATU matches loads up to 5:1 SWR
- CAT interface allows the amp to follow the radio frequency, and change bands with the radio.
- 2 transceiver connectors.
- 4 antenna connectors. I no longer have a need for an antenna coax switch!
- One antenna connector can be assigned as a dedicated RX antenna. Again, no need for any antenna switches. This will come in handy for me soon, since I plan to install a magnetic loop RX antenna.
- 2 memory setting banks, for 2 different setups (example, one for home, and one for a DXpedition).
- Wide range of alarms and protection features.
- US model complies with FCC gain limitation restrictions. Requires about 35 drive for full rated output at High setting.
- CAT and Radio interface cables are readily available through Dan, KC5PCB, who partners with SPE USA. Dan built a cable that interfaces from my Yaesu FT450D to the amp and my PC. The cable provides ALC, TX Relay, and frequency monitoring of the radio RS232 port.
- Remote capability via an included terminal SW program. The program supports either the amp USB port, or its RS232 port.
- SO2R support.

As others have said, the unit works so seamlessly, that it is just like having a 1300W radio.

The unit has an internal frequency counter, so using the CAT cable is not absolutely necessary. However, it is highly recommended to use it, otherwise it will be necessary to switch between operate and standby when changing bands, to protect the power transistor while you momentarily key the rig to get the amp to change bands.

I operate the amp with the radio power set to 50W. The amp ALC line will adjust the rig output power to the proper level for the low, mid and high output power settings. This works fantastic, and I never have to adjust my radio power. The ALC also works well in digital modes, and I can use a constant audio output level from my digital interface. Also, as a purely precautionary measure, I highly recommend using the ALC connection between the amp and radio, to avoid overdriving the amplifier input.

My only wish is that the ATU had more, closely spaced tuning memory channels on some of the bands, like 40m. On 40 m, I use a vertical dipole with hi-Q loading coils, so the SWR bandwidth is quite narrow, around 50 KHz. The spacing between the amp ATU memories is 25 KHz, which is a bit broad. I wish the spacing was 10 KHz.

The only other amp I was considering buying was the Elecraft KPA-1500. But it is a bit larger than the SPE, and the fact that it has a separate power supply unit was the deal breaker.

I purchased the 1.3K-FA amp from Expert Linears America, LLC, located in Texas. The wait time was about 3 months. Bob and Elsa provided excellent support all the way!

All in all, I am extremely happy with this well engineered piece of equipment.
F5HRY Rating: 2022-07-19
Forget SPE Expert Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I owned an 1.3 K-FA for few monthes, only +/- 100 or so QSO logged.

For some unknown reason, the LDMOS failed, using less than 1kW on 6m. 5 monthes delay free repair, "just" had to pay for both shippings (from and to SPE), around 150 euros (nowadays USD 150 ...).

New LDMOS (upgraded to 1.5kW device), output transformer changed, software updated, ...

Back from SPE, the amplifier did not work ! Erratic output power from one band to another, no way I could get the expected output power, etc ...

I ran many tests, sent all of them to the "technical support", no other answer than "it should work, please learn how to use it, and 120-140 days to repair if you send it" ... NB : 40 years of Ham Radio, dozens of HB amplifiers, not really a newcomer ...

I had to sent it back to SPE. 6 monthes later, after many mails, I received the following answer : "You damaged the LDMOS using a high duty cycle FT8 style mode (never even tried this one, none other one ...), using high power (of course not for tests), and so on .... That is what their "telemetry" said, of course not what I did !

As "I caused the damage", they consider it was "out of warranty", which cost me 437 euros (LDMOS + 3h repair) + 2 shippings.

Just my advice : Try another SSPA provider, and forget SPE "Expert".

KM6WSI Rating: 2021-07-20
It's not only an amp... Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned my 1.3K for a few years now.. and it's been back to Bob 2x. Both times.. totally my fault! Bob was fast and both times communicated and shipped quick - he even helps with qs on his free time (after 10pm). I'm a tube guy w/600ohm ladder line antennas... so it's taken me a while to figure out solid state amps break way easier, but once I figured it out I absolutely love it. In fact, I'm only leaving this feedback because after 2 -3 years I'm STILL happy with this purchase!

#1 I use it as an antenna switch 160m Inv L, 80m vert delta loop 600ohm feed, 40m 2-ele Mosley, 2 ele Steppir Urban.

#2 Bob added the 5:1 ATU and it's been tuning the 160m Inv L and the 80m loop pretty much where I want.

#3 Thanks to the other Bob (N6TV) the 1.3K controls my Steppir SDA2000 as well - tracking perfectly! With room to grow.

#4 I have IC7610 and Flex 6500 SO2R hooked up and it's controlling the flow perfect! Even remotely though I don't go remote that often.

#5 BTW.. It's an amp too! I can put out 1.2-1.4k probably more if I 240 wired.

#6 You can remote control or control it from your computer online in shack.

#7 It's small... doesn't make a lot of noise... and has simple to see display... maybe too simple - could improve on that and menu navigation.

With this amp I was able to reduce clutter... no more antenna switch, Palstar At-Auto and other devices.

I have experienced some of the frustration the previous review expressed... but while we can't see the complete error it does tell us the problem, and it gives us time to fix but eventually if the problem persists, it will break.

Ya, no one likes shipping any equipment off for repair but at least with bob you know it's in good hands.

VK6MIT Rating: 2021-04-09
Extremely Dissapointed Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
My LDMOS gave in after 8 months. Warranty repair was denied blaming me for misuse. Please be aware:

1. A Service log records instances of events that are not visible to the user
2. Some of these events are 'serious' enough for the agent to avoid warranty repairs even though no warning is given to the user
3. Even though you do the right thing, with the correct cables, the log is taken as gospel to prove your misuse
4. The log is not date or timestamped
5. No schematics are (or will be) provided to allow one to repair the amp oneself.

Due to these reasons, I feel the warranty is not worth the paper its written on and any potential purchasers of this brand of amplifier needs to be aware that, in all likelihood, the log will contain information that the agent can use to blame the user for any issues and avoid repairing under warranty.

Even though I used a 'band data' cable, built and supplied by the Australian Agent, The Amp had messages in the log indicating that it had instances of switching bands in operation.


The instructions even contain a section in bold advising "BE CAREFUL !!!

Really.... turn amp to standby when switching bands....

Any excuse to get out of repairing LDMOS under warranty.

Look elsewhere for your amp!