Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. To buy a second amplifier or not? The answer could be a simple yes or no. But nothing ever is simple…
I have two transceivers. The main reason is not for SO2R because I don’t always do that. The real reason is that if one fails, I can always play radio when the rig is under repair. The benefit for having two identical devices is that you always have one working example to compare the broken one. In the case of the K3 I can measure reference values in the working rig and compare to the bad rig. Or even do a board swap to identify the broken PCB. I used the same reasoning to buy two identical switched mode power supplies. I like symmetry and redundancy. Where it is practically and economically possible.
Right now I only have one amplifier. Which is OK because you can only use one amplifier. Except for SO2R but that has worked with the second rig barefoot. But a second amplifier would be nice for these SO2R operations. And if the main amplifier breaks like the ACOM 1000 did last year, I am forced to go low power. Again, that is not a real problem: I even won the UBA SSB contest this year in LP while my ACOM 1000 was under repair.
So far, we have two pros: back up amplifier and for Radio2 in SO2R and one con: it will be an expensive item that will only be used for a few hundred contacts each year. Suppose I was in a spending mood and the pros persuaded the con, what amplifier to buy then?
Of course my first choice would be the Elecraft KPA-500. This transforms the K3 into a 500W ‘set and forget rig’. No tuning, no buttons to be pressed – just TX and run 500W. 500W is not real QRO but for radio 2 and backup amp, it’s enough. And it’s small and light for possible portable operations. None are planned, but it might help to make a decision.
I have a BIG problem with this amplifier, namely its price. At the current exchange rate, adding S/H and 21% VAT when brining it to my home, this amplifier cost me about 2000 to 2200 Euro depending on slow USPS shipping or fast but expensive UPS delivery. That is a lot of money for only 500W. Granted it is a “no tune – no buttons” amplifier in combination with the K3.
But an ACOM 1000 currently costs less than 2400 Euro. That is full kW. Granted: not really portable and it needs tuning. But with my ‘tuning table cheat sheet’, a QSY from band A to band B including retuning the amplifier, takes 5 to 6 seconds. Every auto-tune amp costs A LOT more than a manually tuned equivalent. Those are expensive stepper motors…
The newly announced ACOM 800S solid state amplifier should cost 2600 Euro (no official price quote so far however). I don’t know what to think of that… It closes the gap between 500W and 1000W, and it is auto tune / solid state (no warm up time).
Another possibility is the ACOM 1010 which costs around 1600 Euro. Still a good 750W, and smaller and lighter compared to the ACOM 1000. Italian solid state auto tune amplifiers are out of the question. Too expensive and questionable stories read. So I don’t see any other alternatives in a modest price range. Or do I?
One day I found this amplifier. Price “About ~1400 USD”. That is a bargain converted to Euros! And solid stade, and no tune, and full kW. I contacted the manufacturer and he answered me “it’s not for the export market and not yet available.” So there you go, not for export – whatever that means.
You see it’s not simple. And as long as there is no real winning amplifier that has the right specs / price ratio for a second, rarely used amplifier, I will leave my money on the bank. But with the given economical climate, is that the smartest thing to do? 🙂