Is buying an Amplifier worth it?
There is no doubt that some subscribers will find today’s newsletter confrontational, to the point of unsubscription. Please let me point out the obvious: I work hard to keep you subscribed, to provide valuable information and decent service so the last thing I want is for you to leave. However, I strongly believe in transparency and telling it how it is, so I don’t sugar-coat.
As I type this, almost a half tonne of ACOM amplifiers and accessories have arrived to Sydney, awaiting customs clearance. If all goes well, in a week or so those amps will be available for sale.
What is ACOM?
A premium quality state of the art amplifier built for amateurs – and professionals. Think of it as a Porsche of amplifiers.
Do I need an amplifier?
If you want to sound loud, yes, you do. But there is also a good chance that you don’t need one.
Why would I not want an amp?
There are three groups of amateurs who should not invest in an amplifier.
1. Those who are capable of building their own. Home brewing is an exciting part of ham radio, and for technically skilled amateurs with plenty of time, rolling its own is extremely rewarding. Not only can you build an amp to suit your needs, but you will know your amp inside out and in case of failure, you can easily fix it. That is priceless.
2. The second group are amateurs who are only interested in squeezing the last drop of blood out of stone, perpetually focused on price instead of value. Also, those with unrealistic expectations spreading their mystery to everyone around them. “I paid $6,000 for an amp, and it just died! How is it possible that such an expensive piece of equipment can fail? I am NOT paying a cent more to get it fixed!” Such amateurs are cancer to the hobby, to fellow amateurs, to suppliers and to themselves. They should never, under any circumstances, be encouraged to invest in an amplifier.
3. The third group are technically illiterate amateurs who have absolutely no idea how to operate an amplifier, nor have the desire to learn. They are unfamiliar with even the basic concepts of RF amplification. To sell an amplifier to such a customer is simply irresponsible. They’ll break it, leave a negative review and buy a bigger amp.
What is an amplifier?
A racing car and a compromise.
Amplifier manufacturers are under enormous pressure to provide a complex piece of equipment to hobbyists on a rather limited budget. Most of those hobbyists have unrealistic expectations, little or no technical understanding, yet an unquenchable desire that more and more power is squeezed out of an ever shrinking unit. They demand lighter, smaller, more powerful devices bordering on what is physically possible at the rock bottom price. Naturally, amateur radio amplifiers present a compromise. Most amplifiers, at some point in their life, sooner or later, eventually give up and fail.
A post sale service with a dedicated RF repair shop is an essential part of a successful retail business. Amplifiers are simply too large to be shipped to overseas manufacturers, so all the servicing has to be done ‘in house’. My plan is to provide such service to my customers.
How much does it cost to keep a state of the art amplifier on air?
Very conservatively, around $300 per year. Remember: it is not a matter of ‘if’, it is a matter of when.
If you’ve never had an amplifier, then ACOM should not be your first amp. Get yourself an older amp like FL2100 readily available for $500 and play with it first.
Here is the check list:
1. Is my antenna and feed line suitable for high power?
2. Is the shack RF proof?
3. Is the high power amplifier likely to cause interference to neighbours, and if/when it does would I be able to rectify the issue?
4. Does the SWR of antenna change due to weather (wind, rain)?
5. Do I have an adequate antenna tuner?
6. Do I have an antenna analyser, a wattmeter and a dummy load?
7. Am I able to “network” amplifier with transceiver and router?
8. Am I able to understand the meanings of warning and fault messages – why is the amplifier ‘complaining’?
9. Am I able to replace a fuse?
10. Do I know how to properly tune an amplifier?
Clearly, investing in an amplifier is a matter of ‘getting it right before getting on air’.