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To Amp or Not to Amp

from Don Keith, N4KC on January 4, 2018
Website: http://n4kc.blogspot.com/
View comments about this article!

To Amp or Not to Amp
By Don Keith, N4KC
©2017 by Don Keith

Since I write extensively about our wonderful hobby of amateur radio, including several best-selling books, I often get questions from folks—newcomers and old-timers alike—asking about setting up their stations, antenna recommendations, modes of operation and more. One of the most common queries is whether or not it is worth it to add an outboard amplifier to the station. (“Outboard” because technically most of our transceivers today have a final output amplifier contained within.)

My answer: “Man, are you asking the wrong guy!”

See, I was first licensed in 1961 when John F. Kennedy was president and Roy Orbison and Del Shannon had the top songs on the radio. But I did not add an accessory amplifier until almost fifty years later. Even then, I deliberately delayed my purchase because of a weird personal challenge: I vowed to work and confirm more than 250 DXCC entities with 100 watts or less and simple wire antennas. Granted, I began this effort in 2005 when I became active again after a mostly inactive decade. But the truth is, I did just fine all those years before with my various power levels ranging from QRP to a powerful, pulsating 100 watts PEP. Though I often wished for more oomph in an abundance of rowdy pile-ups, I had plenty of reasons (or excuses) to avoid an amp for all those amp-less years.

And I did get my 250 countries before adding a hex beam and an amplifier. Even then, it took a special cause to push me over the kicker-edge. When a local ham passed away, I decided to help the widow by purchasing his Ameritron AL-811 amplifier. I almost felt guilty, leaving abandoned the legion of non-boostered operators. But not much.

Now, does that half a century of procrastination mean I am vehemently anti-amp? Not at all! I had perfectly good reasons—just as many of those who ask my opinion do—about whether or not to add “shoes” to my station. Among those are:

- The cost. Today’s solid-state amplifiers are great, reliable, quiet, convenient and much more, but they are not cheap. “Hollow state” (tube-type) kickers have not really escalated much in price unless they use exotic final tubes or come equipped with lots of added features, but the cost-per-watt can vary considerably and be at least as much as a decent transceiver. And for big amps much, much more.
- Wiring for 220 Volts. Few of us, including your humble author, are skilled in the art of house wiring to code. Besides, I’m scared of electricity.
- Desk space. Now that we absolutely must have a computer, keyboard, mouse, multiple power supplies, antenna matchbox, keyer paddles, external speakers, digital interface, VHF/UHF rig, and more on our operating desks, space for another big box is simply not there.
- Antennas and accessories that can handle that extra glorious output would be necessary. A friend of mine’s wife walked into his shack the day he began using his new amp and calmly asked him, “Did you know you have started a fire in that hickory tree out back?”
- Knob twisting. For those blessed with an older transceiver, a manual antenna matchbox, and a tube-type amp, simply tuning up to make a call is not simple at all! An op needs six hands, half a dozen eyes, and the stamina of an Olympic athlete.
- Connecting to the radio. How do you hook the thing up to your transceiver so it amplifies when you transmit and relaxes when you don’t? How many more wires have to be strung behind the desk to make this simple operation work? And what is all this noise about “ALC?” As if there are not enough abbreviations and acronyms in this hobby already!
- Getting electrocuted or causing cancer. Yes, there are lethal voltages required to generate lots of watts. And I’m afraid of electricity because my mother kept telling me how dangerous it was. I worked in broadcasting for half a century and she continued to worry that I would get zapped. I managed to avoid such a fate. However, I was eavesdropping on a QSO one night when one of its participants declared he was seeing wildly swinging SWR. He looked outside and discovered he had fried a raccoon on his dipole.

Okay, but is it worth it? To amp or not to amp. That is the question.

Well, let me divert some potential flames by mentioning these particular points that will inevitably surface any time the amplifier quandary is discussed.

“A dollar spent on a better antenna is worth a hundred dollars wasted on an amplifier.”

No argument here. Yes, the best antenna system you can concoct is money and time and work well spent in getting wire and aluminum up in the air.

“It won’t make much difference over your 100-watt rig anyway, just an S-unit or two.”

Gee, considering how much one of those big humming monsters could impact an electricity bill, one would expect to see more benefit.

“You will get far more satisfaction out of making contacts with low power—including QRP—than you ever will using that blow torch of yours.”

See that goofy personal challenge of mine back at the start of this diatribe. Clearly, I am motivated by doing more with less. QRP is amazingly satisfying. I take no great pleasure shooting fish in a barrel. Nor do the fish.

“Why would you want to cause QRM all up and down the band with that splattering, sputtering, headache-inducing amplification monster?”

I do not love splatter. Nobody does.

“If everybody runs power then we are right back where we started. All signals will be equal and the poor operator out there on that desert island DXpedition will still not be able to hear me above the hullabaloo.”

Good point.

“You won’t use the amp much anyway if you follow the sacred rules and regulations of our regulatory body, the FCC, who have commanded that we employ only the amount of power absolutely necessary to carry on communication.”

I would never advocate violating any rule or regulation from a governmental body that has the authority to levy fines, revoke hard-earned licenses, and sentence me to prison time in a federal penal institution.

All right, then, N4KC, since you stayed shoe-less for a half century and ultimately bought an amp only to help a widow, and because you list all these great reasons to not indulge in dB-enhancement, then you say no, don’t amp up. Right?

Wrong, RF Breath! I see a linear amplifier (or non-linear, too, for the right emission modes) as a worthy addition to any amateur radio station if the operator wants to produce the best possible results and get the most from our wonderful hobby.

N4KC’s simple little amateur radio station. Yes, that is a metric conversion cheat sheet on the wall. And yes, that is a honkin’ big linear amplifier on the desk to the left. Plus a tune-up-setting spreadsheet beneath the amp.

Let us take each of those perceived roadblocks and long-accepted homilies one at a time and address them.

Cost: As with all ham gear, the cost is remarkably reasonable, and especially when compared to, say, 1970 dollars. Again, when shopping, compare dollar-per-watt. It is possible to get a reliable 600-watt amplifier for well under a thousand dollars. Also, with so many seeing the advantages of solid state amps these days, we have lots and lots of tube-type gear appearing on the used market. Be sure the final tube is not only in decent shape but that replacements are available, but there is not much else expensive that can go wrong with them. And even the most non-technical of us can often work on them. Be careful about that high voltage, though. My mother was at least partially correct about electrical current having the ability to abruptly stop your heart.

House wiring: Many very effective amps work just fine on a normal 110-volt circuit, and especially today’s very efficient solid-state products. My current amp, an Ameritron AL-80B, does great on a dedicated 110-volt plug. Do use a dedicated circuit if possible, though. Running your spouse’s 30-amp Glowbox Supreme electric space heater and your sparkling, new GoshDarn 1500 DX Grabber amp on the same wires out of your circuit breaker panel will likely lead to snap, crackle and pop. And could heat up areas you did not anticipate.

Desk space: Again, today’s solid-state amps are unbelievably small. I even suspect some manufacturers make them bigger than they need to just to make buyers happy that they are getting more for their hard-earned ham dough. Many come with separate power supplies, too, and they can be placed under the desk, on the floor. Because of cooling requirements, big transformers, and tube size, the old-fashioned hollow-state boxes are necessarily larger and heavier. But as prices drop, especially for used ones, you may get creative about finding a spot for them in the shack. Just be careful not to block the vents as those tubes and other components do need a nice air bath as they operate.

Antennas and accessories: No doubt about it, if you are going to shove thousands of watts through a wire, it needs to be able to handle it. Otherwise, it has hot and smoky ways of attempting to compensate for the abuse. Do you use an antenna matchbox (often mistakenly called a “tuner”)? Can it take the amount of power you are about to dose it with? Your watt meter, too. And, of course, the antenna. Don’t forget any baluns you may have in the feedline or those nice lightning arrestors. But I think you will find most coax and all available open-wire-type (ladder line, window line, etc.) can easily take legal-limit power, assuming a reasonable match at the antenna feed point. So can most commercially available antennas. Just be sure the feedline, whatever it is, is in good condition. Check the manufacturers’ specs. Full-legal-limit tuners are available for less than a set of tires for that old buggy of yours, including some very impressive automatic tuners.

Knob twisting. A highly exaggerated issue! First, if you go solid state, it is a non-issue. Your amp automatically tunes itself. It can even track most modern radios so it is instantly ready for use regardless how much band-hopping you do. It is almost like having all that extra muscle built right into your transceiver. Yes, tube-type amps require you to twist a few knobs to dip the plate and adjust the load. However, these settings are usually repeatable. I use a simple chart that shows me the typical settings for various places on each band. I then do a bit of minor tweaking and I’m set. Band hopping takes me less than fifteen seconds. Assuming I remember to click the band switch over, but that is the fault of my senility, not the good folks at Ameritron.

Hooking it up to the rig. Assuming you are not using a transmitter from the 1960s, you likely have a relay in your rig that is dedicated to switching on and off an outboard amplifier. It likely uses a simple RCA-plug and cable or similar and so do most amps. You transmit, either by push-to-talk, VOX, USB connection, or CW key, and the amp amplifies. You may have an issue with CW keying speed and your amp’s relay so you cannot use full break-in keying. If you don’t know what full break-in keying is, then this is obviously not a problem for you. But if you do and it is, you can purchase or build an interface that will allow you to send/receive CW, hear what is going on with the band between each dit and dah, and still emit lots and lots of potent RF. By the way, many of the newer amps can even sense when you transmit and require no interfacing at all, except, of course, for a coax jumper that carries radio-frequency energy from radio to amp.

Getting electrocuted. Sorry, if you are so careless that you would stick your mitt into an open amplifier with high-voltage power applied, then I probably can’t help you. But there is no risk at all of getting lit up if you keep the cabinet buttoned up. And if you follow the directions in the manual if you do open it up, disconnecting high voltage, bleeding off any stored energy, and taking the obvious precautions. The jury is out on that RF-causing-cancer thing, but some people do worry about it. I’m a sample size of one person but I worked for years within a hundred feet of a 50-kilowatt broadcast transmitter and so far have avoided any interfacing with The Big C. I doubt a kilowatt-and-a-half will adjust your cellular architecture. But you do want to follow FCC regs as they pertain to RF exposure. That is especially true of antennas. If you have an aerial that can be touched by yourself, your family, neighborhood kids, or local pets, do all you can to get the antennas out of reach. If you run 1500 watts, you absolutely could cause some serious RF burns to casual touchers.

That is it for the perceived obstacles to adding an amplifier. But how about those perfectly logical arguments against such a radical addition to your arsenal. Again, let’s take each of them one at a time.

Put up better antennas and don’t buy an amplifier. Wait. When did these become mutually exclusive? For me, having the best station I can put together is my goal. I want to be able to work rare DX in the limited time I have available. When I ragchew, I don’t want my buds to have to strain to hear all the wonderful things I have to say. Why not put up better antennas AND have an amplifier ready and available if I need or want to use it?

Won’t make that much difference. Only improving your signal strength to the other station by an S-unit or two sounds like small reward for all that money and worry. That is absolutely the case if the band is clear and you are already 20-over-S-9 with your little 100 watts. But in so very many instances, that extra power is absolutely required and makes the difference between making the contact, continuing the QSO, or being told, “Try again later, OM.”

Where is the satisfaction in shooting fish in a barrel? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it takes every arrow I have in my quiver to hit that elusive fish in the barrel. I cannot tell you how many times I called a station while barefoot with no joy, all in an effort to prove this very point. (If I really needed him, you can be assured the amp was in use from the first call!) But then, with one flip of the OPR/STBY switch, I made the contact on the first try with power. I love QRP. I love bragging about what all I worked with a hundred watts and a wire. But when push comes to shove, as most pileups ultimately do, give me the juice! There is plenty of gratification in working a rare one, regardless the power necessary to get it done. And there is also a great deal of satisfaction in having a station, without prodding, say, “Now there’s a loud signal! Go ahead, N4KC.”

You will gunk up the band. Sure, you certainly could. And gunk it up even worse with 1500 watts than you ever could with a-watt-and-a-half. Jerk operators, or those who are innocently ignorant of the damage they can do, will inevitably make a mess of our precious band segments. I attempt to use what little tact I have left and guide such interlopers toward the path of spectrum-purity righteousness. And I would hope others would do likewise by informing me I was wide as a Mack truck and ten times as obnoxious. Even so, I seriously doubt the increase in the number of amplifiers in use has caused much more grunge than we used to decry in the “good old days.” That is the job of mal-adjusted speech processors, computer switching power supplies, marijuana grow lights, and cheap under-counter light fixtures.

Everybody is equal if everybody runs an amp. Not likely. Propagation, antennas, operating skills and many more factors will weed us all out. So will luck. I want a fighting chance. I will emit as much legal power as needed to make the contact. Feel free to do likewise. May the best man win.

The FCC orders us to NOT QRO. Okay, tell me, what is the minimum amount of power necessary to complete communication with another station? As noted above, I want the other folks in a roundtable to not have to lean in, adjust the AF gain, and strain to hear my stellar observations on whatever the topic of the day is. If everyone seems to be hearing me fine, I back off, mostly because my local power company still charges me money in exchange for kilowatt hours. I’ll even flip off that OPR/STBY switch if all is well. Sometimes nobody even notices. Sometimes they ask if my antenna fell.

OK, N4KC, you have talked all around the question. Should I add an outboard amplifier to my station or not?

And my answer is, it depends.

Do you prefer the satisfaction of doing more with less? Is that a challenge you willingly accept?

Then go right ahead sans amp. I enjoy QRP. But I still want the ability to make some other contacts, even if it requires a heck of a lot more power. I use the amp when appropriate. And necessary.

Can you simply not afford another big box or high-power antenna matchbox or new feedlines or antennas?

You can work the world with a hundred watts. Many of us have done it. Hone your operating skills. Do the best you can with your antennas, including adding some options that might give you choices in various propagation conditions. Be patient. Crow loudly when you perform miraculously and grab the guy amid all the rest of us power pushers.

Who knows? In fifty years or so you may decide the time has come for signal augmentation. Who knows what wonderful thunder-boom circuitry might be inexpensively available by then?

In short, I want the best station I can have, based on shack space, available credit card headroom, technical skills, operating interests, and personality. For me, that presently includes having a lovely, glowing 3-500Z vacuum tube operating in class AB2 grounded-grid status, within easy reach.

And since I can legally do so, you can bet I will use it when I need or want to.

Thanks for asking.







(Don Keith, N4KC is a long-time active ham and former broadcaster. He is also an award-winning and best-selling author with more than thirty books published, fiction and non-fiction, on a wide range of subjects, including three books dealing with Amateur Radio. His novel Firing Point is now in production as a major motion picture under the title Hunter Killer, starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman. He recently received the Bill Leonard Journalism Award from the ARRL for an article on the hobby he wrote that appeared in American Legion Magazine.

Don’s web sites are www.donkeith.com and www.n4kc.com The latter site features numerous articles about our hobby. Don also blogs on the subject of rapid technological change and its effect on media, society and Amateur Radio at http://n4kc.blogspot.com.)

Member Comments:
Add A Comment
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KD4S on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Many parallels in our ham experiences are described in this article. I was first licensed in 1959 and became active again in 2002. I now have 270 DXCC confirmed with 100 watts and simple wire antennas close to the ground. I agree with all the points and feel I could have written a similar article. It's time for a little QRO experience.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K0UA on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Good article, and you have hit all the bases. I have never owned an amp, and I have 8 band WAS and well over 100 countries worked, but there were many times I could have used one. I would especially want an amp on 6 meter meteor scatter. Maybe I will get one someday.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K0TNT on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. I have been licensed since 1957 and had an amplifier for about six months in the late 90s. Great signal reports but the G5RV (very high SWR all over) managed to turn the call ID box into French. (Unavailable became hors de combat or similar - the XYL failed to see the humor). Too much power for the location (small lot, half the antenna was over the house). You're right in saying using an amp is more than buying the box and plugging it in.
Different location with HOA rules, etc. But got DXCC and am two short of Triple Play WAS (NE and ND on RTTY) with less than 100 watts to an indoor attic mounted W9INN fan dipole. Sometimes more power would be nice but so would a beam. Can't afford that either.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AF6AU on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Even the QRP guys have come to times when they wanted more RF to break a pileup, make that last bit of DX, or get through during a noisy band day. Even the guys running a homebrew "California Kilowatt" into a 5 element Quad have that wish on occasion.

It really comes down to 2 things.... Money and Space.

Money... The cost of the amp, the cost of an antenna and feed that will handle the power, cost of a 220-240 line (if a 1-1/2 gallon amp).

Space... This breaks down into indoors and outdoors.

Indoor Floorspace or Deskspace (new solid state takes a lot less). Circuit breaker box space, space for power wiring (having attics and subfloor is really nice!

Outdoor space (This is MY Issue right now)... How close are the neighbors that still use a TV antenna on their old converter driven analog TV (AKA a TVI sponge)? Or the people that think your antenna is an eyesore, and your new RF power will cause their electronic light dimmers to create a poltergist when you key up (been there done that)? Dare I say H.O.A. ??

I have 2 amps, an updated modified old bomber Gonset GSB 101 with a quad of Shuguang 811A's in it, PLUS a coffee warming 200 pound Henry 2KD being fed with a 50 foot 8AWG feeder to the breaker panel. I live in a dense neighborhood, and it scares me to connect it inline! Not because of the other Hams onband, because of the neighbors that already question "Those pole and wires in your backyard"... 80 watts triggers the electronic dimmers in my house, 1.5KW?? Complaint city.

To AMP? Sure! IF you can afford it, and have the space.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by N9AOP on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I AMP because I can. There is nothing like shoving legel limit into an efficient yagi.
Art
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by W6CAW on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I LOVE twisting knobs. Now that I am using an SDR transceiver I have hundreds of knobs to "adjust".
 
Re: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by LA9XSA on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The rule that you're not supposed to use more power than necessary is indeed something that many operators should think about more often. But an argument can also be made based on the rules for having an amplifier: One of the stated purposes of amateur radio is that of emergency preparedness, and an outboard amplifier could be what makes the difference between getting a signal out on a noisy band.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AH6FC on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Every point mentioned is certainly true.

Comes down to patience....some have patience to fight unruly pile-ups, that are increasingly irritating. Some don't....like me :) For the past number of months, I've been using 15 - 100 watts and a vertical, out of necessity....relocating and haven't put up antenna yet. I'm not having a whole lot of fun.

As mentioned above, if your $$ are limited...invest in antenna and more antenna.

73 es Aloha,
Bill
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K6AER on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have been using amps since I got my General in 1961.

They are a tool just like an efficient beam up high.

Remember they will not call you if they cannot hear you. Many suburban hams have such high noise levels that when your signal drops below S9 you are in the noise.

Very nice artical.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by NN2X on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I had many amps....All very good..

No matter the antenna the typically the operator will find the balance in link operation...

What I mean by that if you have a dipole (For lets say 20 meters) up at 30 ft above the ground, and purchase a 1.5KW Amplifier, I am willing to bet, the Transmit gain (At 1.5KW) will exceed receive gain...Probably 300 TO 500 Watts, is the sweet spot....

I never found having an Amplifier a bad thing...

(I have a 5KW AMP) but probably uses, about 700 to 1,000 watts...(For SSB)


One more thing, that 1 S unit is 6dB..That is not true for most transceivers...

Just ask some Ham operator go from 100 watts to 1,000 Watts...(This should be less than 2 S Units)...I practice it is about 4 S Units...

(Maybe the old rigs where set for 1 S Unit to be 6dB, BUT NOT today..)
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K6AER on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Most transceivers are about 1-2 or 3dB per S unit below S4. 3-4 dB S4 to S7. S8 snd S9 can be 6 dB and the first 20 dB above S9 will be pretty accurate. Above that the S meter goes into compression.

By far the SDR radios are the most accurate for S units. Not that any of that makes a difference.

It boils down to how many dB the signal is above the QRM and noise. 6 dB above a 100 watt marginal signal can be huge in a caterwauling pile of signals.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by ZENKI on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Thats the key point Signal To noise Ratio.

These days with massive noise across many cities and governments not enforcing EMC regulations, it should be every hams objective to be heard loudly and clearly.

Since all of us operate with antenna resources limits the typical 6db to 10db that most amplifiers gives you is a cheap bargain when viewed from trying to achieve that same gain from expensive towers and antennas that is becoming difficult to install these days. A few years back 60ft towers was the everyday station, now that has become 30ft.

Yes it is preferable to have good to excellent antennas, but not every ham can afford the resources to buy a Steppir and 90ft US Tower. With a moderate station and 1 kw you have the ability to be competitive.

Trying to be a hero by not running an AMP when the circuit conditions require it is not a very logical to do when turning on amp could make your hobby more enjoyable.

We dont hear of moon bounce operators not turning on their amps! HF is no different although low power communications is an everyday occurrence. The point is that you have to run the required power to get the QSO in the log.

1 watt output might be okay for 1 location with very good antennas and a low noise location while 1 watt might be unacceptable to station with a G5RV clipped to the house eves with S9 city noise. You always have to consider the RX and TX abilities as a whole.

We need to be professional HF operators by evaluating the circuit conditions. This would include adjusting or selecting antennas and power to achieve the objective of maintaining a communication circuit.

The way LDMOS and RF device science is advancing, there might be a day when every radio sold is a 1.5KW radio because the devices will be so cheap. Nothing will prevent any of us using the minimum necessary power be it 1watt or 1.5kw or 2.2kw if you in Canada.

Its just not very scientific telling people not to use an amplifier when it makes more sense to run one than not run one. We don't all operate exclusively running weak signal modes like FT8 where torch light power can bring a lot of success.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K5ML on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, Don. I was first licensed in 1957 and did not buy my first amplifier until 1975. That was shortly after I bought my first house and could afford an amplifier.

One more good reason to go QRO: Increasing numbers of us face serious antenna restrictions and are forced to use low-level, compromise antennae. Having some gain on the desk gives us a fighting chance in the pileups when competing with those who have gain at the top of a tower.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KD6CCP on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Now that was a write up I actually enjoyed reading thank you for that. I have two amps an alpha and a heathkit. I only run one when after an hour of calling a dx station I never get through the pile up. So a quick call quick exchange and I’m gone, 15 seconds. Very seldom use and never for daily rag chewing or digital only when I really need that far away faite dx station.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KB6QXM on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting, but long article.

I will give the author credit for the pros and cons from a high-level perspective.

What was not mentioned were some of the corner-cases or special circumstances which preclude having an amp.

Pros to having an amplifier:

1) The operator works low bands such as 160 and 80 and cannot put up a good antenna on those bands.
2) The ability to put up a nice antenna situation is hampered by HOASs, CC&Rs and "visual impact" advocates.
3) We are at the bottom of the solar cycle.

Cons to an amplifier:

1) Any RF issues that you have without the amplifier will be exacerbated with an amplifier.(RF ingress issues etc.)
2) Dedicated AC outlets to the shack either 220 single phase if you want full legal limit. Dedicated 120V lines for 1Kw amps or less. Amps can be power hungry.
3) Cost of the amplifier and maintenance of that amplifier.

I guess it depends on each and every ham's situation.

73

 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KA5ROW on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have 2 amps an AL-80B and a AL-82. I trust the tubes and they are easy to get. With transistors you may be out of luck as soon as 3 or 4 years out they may not make them because they changed to something else. I do not know what Tokyo HI-Power used, they are out of business so you might ask Now what.
You might say just 3 or 4 years out if you are Ok what about 20 + years the odds will increase with time.
I work 160 If you don’t have an amp there, you might as while give up.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by W9YW on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
As a comparative newbie (licensed as a novice long ago, then went back and climbed the ladder to extra), it was always my assumption that the lowest power did the job.

That meant: Best antenna, orientation, technique. The big guns swoop in for the QSO, sometimes deftly, sometimes with splatter so ugly that it taints significant parts of the band (and beyond).

My 100w transceivers have allowed me to do a lot of distance, sometimes not the first one in line, but I usually got what I wanted. QRP, however, is much more of a challenge. As a hobbyist, that's what I'm most interested in, rather than racking up the awards. This makes me not-a-contester, but I'm not adverse to contesters; they're in it for different values than myself.

The thought of paying for 1500w on top of the 220v 60Hz radiating device that his my hot tub heater, makes me cringe. Already the bill is high, and I'm sure I'd end up making a linear amp into a short-term (until I blew it up) arc welder. Nah. I'll put the $$ into other stuff. I have a tasty SDR and have figured out how to cut my noise shelf by 4 S units. It's not so much skill, as priority.

Thanks otherwise for a thoughtful piece. 73 de Tom W9YW
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K0UA on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I work 160 If you don’t have an amp there, you might as while give up.

Not entirely true, I did work all 50 states this fall on 160 with 100 watts and my tree mounted inverted L. yes I did use FT8 and that helps, but it is still difficult on some of them. I sure could have used an amp at times, that is for sure. But I didn't give up. I am pretty sure my setup could do it on CW also. SSB, umm not so much. Need an amp. :)
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KE4XJ on January 4, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The guys in my roundtable group begged me to get an amp. Who am I to refuse such a reasonable request, especialy when the XYL encourages me? I love the two 3-500Z's. As a bonus. the amp also doubles as a space heater during the winter.

Brad
KE4XJ
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

".......but long article."


Yep, could at least have done without the rather toe-curling, self-congratulatory illeism tagged on at the end of the article......
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AI4WC on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Don. I've never had or used an amp, but it's nice to know that I could if I wanted. That's why our hobby is so good - we can do it in so many ways. We must do all we can to protect those aspects of the hobby and I appreciate all of you that are a part of it! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KB6QXM on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Why are all other articles submitted to eham not copyrighted? The footer with the free advertisement of his books. Makes you go hmmm! This seems like a case of self-promotion according to the header and the footer of the article.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K8QV on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting. The arguments here for using more power are the same arguments used by those on CB. Not saying they are good or bad arguments, just the same arguments.

To each his own. Some like to fly fish and some just throw dynamite in the lake. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself and brings enjoyment.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AC2RY on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Let's go line by line with your points:

1. Cost. Modern amplifiers are in the same price range with modern radios. HAM hobby (like any other high-tech) is not cheap. But when you consider that ampifier can be used for 10 or more years, purchase price is not too high.

2. House wiring. If you get amplifier with output power below 1kW, it usually can run from regular 15A 120V line. Thus no special wiring is needed. 1kW is 10 times more than standard transceiver output and thus offer significant advantage.

3. Desk space. Modern solid state amplifier are not much bigger than radios. They can be compared to size of desktop computer, ans like that computer put UNDER the table or stack up with other gear.

4. Antennas and accessories. They have to be up to the task. But if you follow standard rules for building antenna and feed lines, they have no problem handling at least 1kW.

5. Knob twisting. Not needed at all with modern solid state amplifier. You just instantly get your radio 10 times more powerful with no difference of operation at all

6. Modern rig is built to understand CAN protocols used by your radio. You may need to make a cable and alter few settings, but that is it. IF something more serious is necessary, you can buy sequencers or other interfaces for $200-300.

7. Getting electrocuted. You can, but solid state amplifier usually are maintenance free and you do not need to touch any current caring components.

 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by W1CTN on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I've done it both ways since I received my first ticket in 1967.
I have erected, in my opinion, the best antennas I can on my property.
160 L with a 70' vertical section x 35 100' radials
80 dipole @ 60'
40 dipole @ 60'
T10 Log Periodic @ 63'

So in order to have a better signal when bad conditions warrant it I need to run a linear.

I run an amp whenever I feel the need for it as I want to be THE SIGNAL AND NOT THE NOISE.

Use what you need to complete the desired path as propagation conditions warrant.

73
Dave
W1CTN
Radio Ansonia
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KB2DHG on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
To me the money better spent on an antenna is far better than the money spent on an amp...
It is ALL in the antenna as far as I am concerned...
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by N4KC on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
KB6QXM,

To answer your question, most articles that appear on eHam are, indeed, copyrighted. Read the notice at the bottom of the pege. eHam owns that copyright once the article appears on the web site.

However, those of us who write for a living necessarily retain the copyright on articles we contribute...gratis, by the way...for two primary reasons. First, to allow us to keep ownership in our work and be able to use it later in any way we need or want to. And secondly, in order to protect all our material, including works that don't even appear on eHam. If a content thief can demonstrate that we don't protect some of our copyrights, they could possibly claim anything we write is fair game. The folks at eHam are more than happy to allow us to retain ownership in our work in exchange for giving them permission to publish it.

Note that I am happy for club newsletter editors and web site managers to reprint my articles, including those included...under copyright...in my books. I only request that they ask in writing, that they include the copyright blurb, and that they don't alter the articles in any way.

Oh, and that they include a brief bio that mentions my books, including the ham radio works. I feed my family by writing and they are a hungry bunch. If I don't promote my writing nobody else will, not even Penguin, Random House, St. Martin's Press and other major houses where I have been published.

Now, did you have comments on the contents of the article or did you wish to further discuss the writing/publishing business?

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
Amplifier! Hell yes! Reply
by WD9IDV on January 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I only use an amplifier when I operate.
I only use as much power as the government allows. I would hate to break the rules.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp---FOR ME "HELL NO" Reply
by K3EY on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Used to use two 3-500's all day long. Got tired of the Must Have an Amp crowd, I can't hear you being a lie within itself. They HEARD you! Low bands are full of such a mind set. Licensed 35 years sold the legal limit amps years ago. Five watts is my QRO and a 100 watts to me is cheating. My antenna, a simple end fed wire. I am having more fun now than ever and the band conditions are as bad as I can remember. I see some of the stations with several hundred thousand dollars invested
and thankful I don't think that way.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp---FOR ME "HELL NO" Reply
by N8FVJ on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
100 watts on 75 meters really does not get the job done as it is a noisy band. Same with 160 meters, but I do not have an antenna for 160 meters. Higher frequencies seem do perform well with 100 watts for casual communications.

I did not want to spend much money or add 240 volts AC in my shack, so an Ameritron AL811 works well for me. Only issue is those weak 811A tubes. My used amp came with RCA 811A tubes that are reliable, but still have weak plates of only 65 watts dissipation. I bought three new Cetron 572Bs to make this amp bullet proof. It took a few weeks to find the rather rare Cetron tubes, but worth it as the tubes will likely perform for many. many years.

My 15 amp 120 volt circuit runs the radio shack well and I get 700 watts PEP output.

My antenna is a Myantenna EFHW-8010. I do not need an antenna tuner as the amp has enough tuning range to operate with low SWR. Cost is $550 for the amplifier including shipping, sold the RCA 811As for $100 and bought three Cetron 572B for $230. Total cost is $680.

The AL-811 is cheaper than a $1000 AL-80B that has a used tube in unknown condition. 300 watts greater output makes little difference. The used Heathkit SB-200 was not a player for me as the power supply needs rebuilding and tubes are in unknown condition.
 
RE: Amplifier! Hell yes! Reply
by WD9IDV on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My personal favorite for ham and CB is the "Tsunami".

http://www.dc9dz.de/en/tsunami.html

http://www.cqdx.ru/ham/qro-qrp/100kw-tsunami-hf-linear-amplifier/

 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by W0FK on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have a much simpler analysis. If you're serious about DX'ing and strive to get on the DXCC Honor Roll, having a legal limit amp is a necessity, not an option. Period.

Lou, W0FK, #1 Honor Roll Mixed
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K0YQ on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Always thoughtful articles from N4KC.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AA8X on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
If you live in a HOA community and have antenna restrictions then an amplifier is your only choice. A few hundred watts on a very limited antenna is the way to go.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by N8EKT on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
QRP and a great antenna will beat QRO and a lousy one.

 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K3LRH on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Another great article, Don. Thanks for posting. Since you mentioned working within 100 ft of a 50KW transmitter all those years and having no ill effects re: the "BIG C", could it be that you inadvertently stumbled across a prevention for that, or maybe even a cure? Hmmmmm. 73 K3LRH
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"Always thoughtful articles from N4KC."

Yes, commercially astute some might say.......
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by WB4M on January 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I run mine only to work a new one which is quite rare these days.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by WB4M on January 7, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Mail this to a friend!
I work 160 If you don’t have an amp there, you might as while give up.

Not entirely true, I did work all 50 states this fall on 160 with 100 watts and my tree mounted inverted L. yes I did use FT8 and that helps, but it is still difficult on some of them. I sure could have used an amp at times, that is for sure. But I didn't give up. I am pretty sure my setup could do it on CW also. SSB, umm not so much. Need an amp. :)"
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Exactly the same here! 150 watts max on 160 using FT8 and CW. Got WAS on simple inverted-L.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp---FOR ME "HELL NO" Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 8, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"Got tired of the Must Have an Amp crowd"

Me too, no particular aversion to amps but all this "must have" - "I need" - "necessity" lark kind of reminds me of the "entitled" I want I want I need I need little brat in a toy store.......most often the result of ineffectual sandal wearing parents.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp---FOR ME "HELL NO" Reply
by KI3R on January 8, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Hello all .... Well I 've been on the air for 53 years this spring. I had an amp for several years back in the 70's but sold it after using it only a few hours. I had a TH-6 for 25 years and worked only CW. Fifteen years ago ..... a new QTH with no tower and just working 80 thru 30 CW on a doublet with an occasional venture into the higher bands. I just installed a 60 footer with a 6 el LP and am quite satisfied but ...... I will be going to Ohio and getting an amp in the next two weeks. The simple reason is the deplorable conditions that we are experiencing.... still work only CW. I really never thought I would say this as I really enjoy QRP operations. I will be taking advantage of the, say "2 S units" in the near future. Will it be used for every QSO ???.... no but it will give the guy on the other end a little less frustration. Everyone enjoy what they have, do and strive for as this life offers so much.

God Bless Tom KI3R Belle Vernon PA
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K3FHP on January 8, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
100 watts with FT8 designates you as a war criminal IMHO...totally unnecessary. 30 watts would likely have done it at proper ALC levels. More power does not help decode an over driven system. I, for one, avoid the humungous, wide, sidebandy digital signals too often seenmon the bands so as to not encourage bad behavior.
I see elsewhere here that power is needed to smash over other stations.....really? Is that what we are all about?

I rarely use phone below 30mhz. That being said, I can see how some shoes would be advantageous fir armchair copy of a 75m round table, moonbounce or even meteor or tropo scatter. A small amp would also help running 50w on an extended basis for many 100% duty digital signals or even 100 watts for mechanical RTTY, Hellscriber or Facsimile. Power to overcome poor very conditions on phone notwithstanding, I put my money, effort, space and enjoyment elsewhere. If you get pleasure from knowing you are pushing out all the power allowd by law, follow the rules and standerds of operation, I rejoice for you....have a good time, but remember, Power is no substitute for skill...most of the time.

72, K3FHP, Dave
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KD6VXI on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Pretty simple, actually.

My noise level on 80/75 is S9 at night. During the day a neighbors solar farm measures about 50 over 9, about 10 over 9 on 40, lowering as the mhz go up.

This was OK during decent sun spots. Now, I wish everyone had an amp.

There is no fun trying to dig a signal out of the mud, especially when you find out the guy 'just refuses' to go above 5 watts, even when his yeacomwood has no issue at 100, 200 or even 400 watts. So much fun.

Yes, I have noise cancelers (1025), noise sense antennas near the neighbors grunge, etc.

A lot of times just using 100 watts would be arm chair.

Thank you to the guys who crank up when ya need them to!

--Shane
KD6VXI
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K3VO on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
After 64years in this hobby I remember when 100 watts ofAM was the norm most hams.Either a home brew otr theViking or DX 100.
I was active whenSSB just came on the scene. In fact I was on Baffin Is and as zone 2 many wanted to work me. Half way thru my assignment by the USAF we got a SSB rig.. Almost every day I worked some one using a Central Electronics 10 A or 20 A exciter. The 10 a ran 10 watts PEP the 20 20 watts PEP. Very few intros early days ran a amp.

Am'ers ran no more then 100 watts as it was expensive to build a high power am rig. SSB guys soon found out a KW amp could be built for a reasonable amount of money. Tubes could be bought for very little money or even gotten for free as pulls from broadcast stations if you had a friend who worked at one.

Thus the day of the amp and high power was born.

Transceivers running 100 watts became commonplace. For those of us with just 100 watts of SSB found that we could work lots of DX and and climb the DXCC ladder with out too much.

I think most hams still run 100 watts and have a lot of fun. I worked my first 200 countries with 100 watts and dipoles. After retirement I did get a beam , tower and Kw amp.

Six years ago I moved my new home in Nevada. The HOA limited me to a simple dipole but made plenty of contacts and had fun. My neighbor also a ham passed away and he left me a lot of top of the lime equipment including a Alpha 78 amp. When he would operate with the amp he did not make friends as it got into all types of equipment' his neighbors had.
So I took it to our radio club and raffled it off.

Band conditions lately have been so lousy that when conditions allow it it does not make any difference if you are barefoot or running a gallon.

My point is that most of the time with modern SSB equipment an amp is not required . On the other hand if you want to be a DX er who breaks a pile up quickly a beam and amp are the way to go.

Amp or no amp you can still have a lot of fun
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by WA9RHD on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
To amp or not to amp depends on your operating style:

With conditions as good as they are now -- unless the band is really open (and/or short or long every 5 minutes) you need some power on phone.

On CW or digital modes its usually not necessary

I always start out barefoot unless I hear the band is really bad or I need it to be heard.

So if you have a good antenna and a good receiver, why wouldn't you go for the amp.

If nothing else, it usually makes or breaks the readability of your signal.

500-600 watts is enough - the high power amps running on 220W, will give you another 1/2 an S unit for twice the price.

Go for it, you only live once and they can't bury with it! or HAM is short for (HAVE A LOT OF MONEY) !!

 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K6YE on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Don,

As usual, great article. My total ham time is within two years of yours but I added an amplifier in 1990. I now have a VL-1000, 91B, and L-4B. Antennas to be erected are TH-11, Discovery 7-3, 160/80 sloper as well as a shunt fed tower.

I usually run 100 to 200 watts but there are times when the amp is used. FWIW, the decision to amp or not is an individual one. Keep up the good work, my friend.

Semper Fi,

Tommy - K6YE
DX IS and CW RULES
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by W4KVW on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Get a great antenna,a great amplifier,& great feed line & just about any transceiver & you are set.The FCC has No Idea how much power anyone is running unless they just happen to be driving by which is pretty much NOT happening these days & I think they really don't care. They are a Toothless Lion with No Funding,No Employees, & even less cares about Amateur Radio.Amateur Radio,CB Radio,& other public radio services are more or less a huge pain in the butt to them.If it were up to them all of those services would be done away with & the spectrum sold to the highest bidders.There are so many stations on Amateur Radio running far above the legal limit every day & nobody knows it except the folks doing it.CB Radio has far larger amplifiers on the air every single day & many of those are more like broadcast amplifiers with power even smaller stations would love having.It's pretty simple these days just run what you like & keep it to yourself & nobody is the wiser & you are far more likely being struck by lightning,ran over by a train,& falling out of a commercial jet in flight (All of these) than ever seeing an FCC agent at your door or of ever hearing from one by any method.The FCC is a pathetic joke & the subject of many jokes on the air & off on a daily basis.I say get that Big Antenna,Big Amp,great feed line,& go for QRO if it's within your budget since the conditions are not great most days & nobody will be knocking on your door unless the neighbors are still on that old school outside antenna & then just tell them you have a license for your radio & ask them if they have one for their TV.That gets them every time. LOL I know many will disagree but I have seen 1st hand just how pathetic the FCC is at doing anything about violations going on now for years so doing nothing for several years here locally has proven they have no power & things will only get worse as time passes by.

Clayton
W4KVW
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"If you live in a HOA community and have antenna restrictions then an amplifier is your only choice."

No it's not......can think on at least two alternatives - however, I realise offering them up would typically induce a tantrum among those who strangely (or conveniently) seem to become solution-blind to some of the most obvious ones.

Asking the "entitled" to take ownership of their life choices almost never seem to go down too well.......
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 10, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"I work 160 If you don’t have an amp there, you might as while give up."


Absooooolutely, probably for the best if somehow you think you have some kind of right to guaranteed/instant gratification on the bands......
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by VA3WAO on January 10, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Not ... er no ... AMP !!!

Don, I have the same 811H that you have. Bought it because it was almost $300 less than new, looked like it had never been touched, and when I got it home and opened the case ... cuz I just have to pull things apart, I doubt it had ever been turned on by the previous owner! Tubes were bright and shiny and the entire interior looked like brand new, no smells!

As others have penned above, this is a personal decision and no one should look down on anyone's decision whether to add a amp or not! Personally my amp is pretty much a paper weight and when I do use it, I stick to the limits of my license. I usually don't need more than a couple hundred watts! After all I quite regularly hit South Africa with 100 W and get a 59 report! I have flipped the switch a couple of times to try and get deep into Easter Europe. Many time down to Florida I have had to turn the power down, the one time I was down to 10 W and still pounding the speakers out at the other end, musta been a super ducting that night!

But please, don't turn up your amp to several hundred kilowatts just to be overheard in the pile up! Not cool! If you want to crank it up to full power to get over the S9 QRN, in a round table that I hear so often on 80 and 160M, I am absolutely cool with that. But when South Africa or southern South America is calling and the QRN is low, please don't pull out that 10 Kw amp and blow the rest of North America into the seas! Please be kind.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by VK2JJ on January 10, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
With all this discussion of the pros and cons of using an Amp, it might be worthwhile considering the plight of the honest VK amateur.

The legal limit for CW in VK is 120W output.

John...VK2JJ
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by MM0IMC on January 11, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Funny that you should mention the VK power limit for CW...

I was working a VK a few years ago on 20m PSK31 with 400W PEP (shock, horror), with absolutely no ALC showing and low IMD. He commented on the fact that he was limited to only 100W PEP on digimodes and was surprised by my power level.

My reply was that in the UK for most HF bands, the power limit is 400W PEP irrespective of the mode.

So, your mileage may vary. ;)
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by MM0IMC on January 11, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Funny that you should mention the VK power limit for CW...

I was working a VK a few years ago on 20m PSK31 with 400W PEP (shock, horror), with absolutely no ALC showing and low IMD. He commented on the fact that he was limited to only 100W PEP on digimodes and was surprised by my power level.

My reply was that in the UK for most HF bands, the power limit is 400W PEP irrespective of the mode.

So, your mileage may vary. ;)
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 11, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"Funny" echo.....
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by MM0IMC on January 12, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Double post due to dodgy internet connection...
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 12, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

Guessed that (having done it myself) - just being facetious.....
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by N5PG on January 15, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"by W0FK on January 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have a much simpler analysis. If you're serious about DX'ing and strive to get on the DXCC Honor Roll, having a legal limit amp is a necessity, not an option. Period.

NOT true.
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by GM1FLQ on January 15, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

"I have a much simpler analysis. If you're serious about DX'ing and strive to get on the DXCC Honor Roll,....."

........talking of analysis, some may conclude that many of those who "strive" for top-ups of external recognition, by way of honor badges and the like, could be suffering from some sort of inadequacy - apparently the default "right think" is need-an-amp when seemingly it is professional help they actually need........
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KG4NEL on January 17, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
If I actually owned my own home where I could put up an antenna, an amp would probably be higher on my list of priorities :-p

10W and battery for now, though...
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K6BRN on January 24, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The take-away I have from this article is that if you are a US Navy SEAL trying to rescue the Russian president while aboard a US nuclear submarine you should DEFINITELY use an amplifier to call the Pentagon and save the day. If this confuses you, look up Don's soon to be movie "Hunter-Killer" Congrats on that, Don!

The remaining question is "Why did Don copyright his rather simple and circular article on an inflammatory topic that he posted on a public forum? Could we be looking at "Oprah" next? Maybe. Time will tell. I can imagine it now...

OPRAH: "And here is Don Keith to tell us why hams have so much trouble with their gonkulators!"

DON: "Ummm... Amplifiers, Oprah, Amplifiers!"

OPRAH: "OK, whatever. So could you explain exactly what a HAM IS?"

DON: "A big piece of meat? Ha ha. No, I don't think I can, really. They are SPECIAL people"

OPRAH: "Yes, we have a lot of those in the USA. But first, a word from our sponsor, Matin Jue of MFJ! He's pretty special, too, right?"

DON: "Umm... Well, I guess, except for the 811 fiasco. But.." (Don is cut off abruptlyfor commercial)
 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by N4KC on January 24, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

Dang, Brian! You been monitoring my QSOs with Oprah again?

Used to spend a fair amount of time in your fine city. My company had an office in an old house overlooking the pier. Tough to concentrate on business when the girls were playing volleyball on the beach.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K6BRN on January 24, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Don. Looking forward to seeing the movie based on your book. Must be some amazing plot twists to get into the situation IMDB and Wiki describes. But then, the improbable is becoming more believable each day. BTW... my older brother was a SEAL. Still have fond memories of visiting him when he was active. And of his parties with his team. A very memorable and close knit group. Best of luck with Oprah. So... what IS a ham, exactly? :)
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KC1BPU on January 25, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great article..

I have not had one since 1978.. my last one caught fire while transmitting and I lost the desire to use one after that. I will put my dollars into better antennas instead.

73 Bob
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by KR8T on January 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have found that most hams that don't think you need an amp live within a couple hundred miles of the ocean. I've heard hams in Florida breaking pileups with 100 watts and a dipole, when 1.5K and a beam in the middle of the country can't do it. As for QRP, I also heard a ham on the east coast break a pileup with a +10 signal, then turn his amp off and brag to the DX that he's only running 5 watts.
I have an amp. If you don't have it, you can't use if when you need it.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by VE3TCV on February 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
When we are at the bottom of the solar cycle an amp can be the difference to making a few contacts or none at all. Everyone can get out with 100W when the conditions are right but an amp can make the hobby enjoyable when conditions are bad as well.
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by AJ4WC on February 13, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article.

Better antennas are not always the answer to the amp question. TX and RX signal strengths don't often match and a better antenna may not be a fix. I frequently hear stations that can't hear me, an amp helps equalize that. So an amp does have a real purpose.

Before I got an amp, I was always the last one to break thru during contests. Now I usually get thru in the first few attempts, allowing me to make many times the number of contacts in the same time period. So it can reduce frustration, save time, and help make contacts that would otherwise be missed. Basically, adds enjoyment to the hobby. What's that worth?

Also, getting an amp up and running is an opportunity for a lot of learning:
- Researching which amp to buy and why
- How is the amp connected
- Installing a 240v dedicated outlet
- Tuning the amp
- Dealing with potential RFI
- Analyzing how the amp affects communication and determining when to use the amp
- An amp may even drive antenna experimentation
 
To Amp or Not to Amp Reply
by K3ZL on February 16, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Don always brings something to the table. Good analysis.
 
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