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gcw
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Posted: 9/10/2013 12:44:42 PM EST
Just doing some looking around. Saw a sweet Collins at the ham fest for $500. It looked great with curves, and crome emblems. But my modern side says solid state is the way to go. I always hear guys talk about hunting tubes, seems like 811 tubes are common to most new amps and aren't to hard to find.

Ameritron has some decent priced solid state amps. Alphas look nice but are pricey.

Then of course to go QRO I would need a new tuner and meters.

I have been happy with 100w phone or 30w on digital but with things like the emcomm event coming up a little extra ummph is nice.
KB7DX
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Posted: 9/10/2013 1:15:21 PM EST
Nothing wrong with tubes. Like you said, the 811's are plentiful. The first 500 watts is the biggest step up. Solid state amps are out there, just expensive.
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Mr_Harry
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Posted: 9/10/2013 2:34:26 PM EST
I've always ran tube amps (and prefer them)

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KwaiChangCaine
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Posted: 9/10/2013 2:55:31 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/10/2013 2:55:58 PM EST by KwaiChangCaine]
Do you like changing bands often, or going from the top to the bottom of the band and back, a lot? If you said yes, would you like retuning each time?

I have an AL-811 amp and it works great, but I do both of the things in the above questions a lot. It got rather old retuning the amp every time I was chasing some DX I saw spotted, or when I was just seeing what I can work on several bands to try the propagation. That's why I went with the Elecraft KPA500 and I couldn't be happier. I had considered the MFJ solid state for less money but the Elecraft won out because you don't even need to flip the band switch and it has 6 meters too.

If you don't see the need to retune all the time like me, nothing beats the warm glow of some tubes in the Winter...
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. - Albert Einstein
NAM
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Posted: 9/10/2013 4:17:53 PM EST
It took me a while, but I eventually joined the QRO game. It doesn't have to be overly expensive. My tuner was only around $100 ($125 IIRC... Dentron Super Super). I put a WTB on QTH, looking for an amp local. Shipping an amp is expensive and a general pain in the ass. Well... after about 6 months, I had a seller about an hour away. Got a hell of a deal as well.

811 tubes are plentiful, but quality is hit and miss. Svetlana 572B tubes are the bees knees, but for the most part, unobtanium. This is my first amp, I've had it a little over a year. I was sure I would have popped a tube by now. Nope...They all look just as good as new, with a slight silver on the top. Internals are good, with no signs of overheating.

Then, there's the antenna system. QRO will find the weaknesses. I've cooked two physical baluns (from coax to windowed line, no chokes).

It's a hoot, and the extra power helps. If I had the cash, I'd go solid state. But for a budget amp, it's hard to beat. Especially it was less than a year old, and under 5 bills.
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Elijah1
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Posted: 9/10/2013 5:13:23 PM EST
I'll just leave this here.

"Dupe - FBHO & FPM" -SYSTEM
gubernator
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Posted: 9/11/2013 1:47:40 PM EST
Nice setup, Elijah1.

To the OP, QRO is definitely a lot of fun. No way I'd want to go back to 100 watts or (gasp) QRP, especially on the low bands. I've had so many QSOs where I was running 100 watts (too lazy to turn the amp on) and the DX CQ'd right in my face. I'd send my call and not even get a "?" in return. Then I'd fire up the amp and get through on the first call. It's that big a difference.

Of course, in terms of improving your TX/RX capabilities you want to get the low hanging fruit first. Often times, that will be your antenna system. Put up the most efficient antenna you can for the bands you want to work. Reduce losses in your ground system and your transmission lines. Upgrading your coax to LMR-400 (or switching to ladder line) and/or adding some radials to your vertical antenna is a pretty cheap way to pick up a dB or two.

After you've done all that, then I'd start thinking about QRO. And it doesn't have to be that expensive. You can get a used AL-811H on eBay for $600 any day of the week. Add $100 for a wattmeter and $50 for a dummy load. $300 for a QRO tuner if you need one.

The AL-811H is the route I went. If I had it to do over, I might have spent a little more and got an AL-80B (1KW output, one tube instead of four). Or maybe even a few more bucks and picked up a used Alpha. In fact, I still might pick up an Alpha one of these days. :)

Personally, I'd go with a tube amp over SS. Initial cost is lower, they're easier to work on, they'll tolerate larger mismatches, and tuning up is really no big deal once you get used to it.





Elijah1
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Posted: 9/11/2013 2:44:44 PM EST
Used Alphas can be picked up fairly inexpensively. Especially if the tubes are soft. I paid less than $800 for mine. The new tubes and other mods... Ouch.
"Dupe - FBHO & FPM" -SYSTEM
HankEllis
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Posted: 9/11/2013 3:19:55 PM EST
Best $300 I've spent in amateur radio has been my AL-811. (600w three tube version) It has made a huge difference in being just another 100w sig in the pileup and being HEARD.

However I don't use it that often. Since I do mostly digi modes I mostly stay at 50w and under. Even 50w on CW can net me just about any lower 48 contact if the band meets me halfway. But when a DX shows up that I need the glow of the 811A begins.

Yeah I could go solid state but for amps I want tubes. Yeah I could have held out for an AL-80B but my logic is that going from 600w to 1000w is only a couple db and nobody can hear a couple db. Next I would end up being an alligator station. All mouth with no ears. Attic wire can only do so much. Lastly pumping that much power through wire strung among the rafters just might be a recipe for setting the roof on fire. I'm pretty sure that would PO the XYL.

BTW the deal on the AL-811 was the second place deal of the century. AL-811 with a spare set of four tubes for $300 from SK estate sale. Bought another set of tubes from RF Parts as I didn't trust either the tubes that came with it or the spares. Shouldn't have worried. Other than one tube that had a broken filament each set produces 600w on around 40w drive depending on band. So with the amp and two spare sets of tubes I'm good for a while.

First place deal of the century was a Heathkit SB-220 for $200 from another SK estate sale. Tubes alone are worth $300. I really need to finish upgrading that thing and put it up for sale. I'm looking for a 6m amp.
KwaiChangCaine
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Posted: 9/11/2013 3:25:33 PM EST
You know, Hank, you can convert that SB-220 to 6 meters...

I think I got my AL-811 for $130 at a SK auction. It had been dropped (or rolled more likely) and exposed to rain or something at the vent holes. A little cover repair, one new tube socket, one piece of coax, and a new set of tubes later it's good as new!
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. - Albert Einstein
Elijah1
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Posted: 9/11/2013 4:33:49 PM EST
There are some other advantages to the AL-80b. The tube is far more robust and is set to be turned "off" when not being driven. But like every ham under the sun has said before, the first 600w is where the most bang for your buck comes. After that the increase in signal strength is minimal. However, I want every legal advantage I can afford, so I have a big boy amp and a lighter wallet to prove it.
"Dupe - FBHO & FPM" -SYSTEM
gcw
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Posted: 9/11/2013 4:48:25 PM EST
Thanks everyone for your insight. I think I am going to keep an eye out for a used ameritron 811.
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Posted: 9/12/2013 12:42:35 AM EST
That's most likely what I would do. The tubes are plentiful and darn near free. The H is worth the premium.
"Dupe - FBHO & FPM" -SYSTEM
HankEllis
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Posted: 9/12/2013 5:02:12 AM EST
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By KwaiChangCaine:
You know, Hank, you can convert that SB-220 to 6 meters...
Yeah but I'm torn on that. One hand says to keep it stock and you have a full legal limit amp for a fraction of what a new amp runs. But the SB-220 won't do the WARC bands and that is a deal killer for me. The other is that 6m amps are hard to come by and are expensive when you do find them. Need to get off my duff and make a decision. What would y'all do?
I think I got my AL-811 for $130 at a SK auction. It had been dropped (or rolled more likely) and exposed to rain or something at the vent holes. A little cover repair, one new tube socket, one piece of coax, and a new set of tubes later it's good as new!
Ya' done good!
Originally Posted By Elijah1:
However, I want every legal advantage I can afford, so I have a big boy amp and a lighter wallet to prove it.
When you have the tower and antenna to go with it, go for it.
Yorknoken
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Posted: 9/12/2013 5:03:49 AM EST
Do you normally run QRO with a beam or can wire antennas also be used?
NAM
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Posted: 9/12/2013 5:10:50 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/12/2013 5:11:17 AM EST by NAM]
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By Yorknoken:
Do you normally run QRO with a beam or can wire antennas also be used?



All of the above. Just depends on the rating. I'm running a 160m G5RV at ~750 watts. I've also run an A99 at around the same. As long as your feedline and antenna is rated for it, go nuts.

ETA: and if it's not rated for it, you'll find out fast!
Isaiah 16:11 "Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp"
tbk1: "We don't allow generalized bashing, except against the French."
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Elijah1
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Posted: 9/12/2013 6:02:26 AM EST
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By HankEllis:
Originally Posted By KwaiChangCaine:
You know, Hank, you can convert that SB-220 to 6 meters...
Yeah but I'm torn on that. One hand says to keep it stock and you have a full legal limit amp for a fraction of what a new amp runs. But the SB-220 won't do the WARC bands and that is a deal killer for me. The other is that 6m amps are hard to come by and are expensive when you do find them. Need to get off my duff and make a decision. What would y'all do?
I think I got my AL-811 for $130 at a SK auction. It had been dropped (or rolled more likely) and exposed to rain or something at the vent holes. A little cover repair, one new tube socket, one piece of coax, and a new set of tubes later it's good as new!
Ya' done good!
Originally Posted By Elijah1:
However, I want every legal advantage I can afford, so I have a big boy amp and a lighter wallet to prove it.
When you have the tower and antenna to go with it, go for it.


I have a tower fund, however I live in HOA hell. So no tower at this QTH. But next time, and I already have a good start.
"Dupe - FBHO & FPM" -SYSTEM