Which HF amplifier?

Now the beam is up and that project is almost completed I’ve decided that the next addition to my shack should be an HF amplifier but I don’t know which one to go for.

I can read reviews from now until my eyes fall out but I’d like views and opinions from people who actually have, or have used big HF valve amplifiers.  Real world experience is always better than magazine reviews.

My requirements are that it has to be valve and ideally capable of around 1kW.  I’ll only be running at 400 watts but I’d rather have something rated much higher than I’m going to run so that it will only be ticking over and not stressing the tube(s) at all.  I have a potential budget of up to around £2,000 for this.  It’s a large piece of expenditure for a single item so I want to get it right.

The first place I looked was Linear Amp UK and specifically the Pioneer model as it ticks all the boxes.  However after a couple of telephone calls yesterday I understand that they’re made to order and the current estimated delivery date is not until January 2012 at the earliest.

The suggestion was then an Ameritron amplifier, the model AL811HXCE has been mentioned but I have a couple of issues with that – The first is that it’s an 800 watt device (see above) and the second is that Ameritron come under the MFJ umbrella now and I still have a bit of an issue generally with MFJ equipment.  I should add that I have two pieces of MFJ equipment in the shack, a digital voice keyer and an MFJ-974HB tuner as supplied by my sponsor, Martin Lynch and Sons and both work flawlessly but I really hesitate when it comes to buying something like this which is linked to MFJ.  Another Ameritron option is the AL-80BXCE which is a 1kW amplifier but again, I struggle with buying this brand.

Acom look good.  The Acom 1000 is right at the top end of my budget and it seems to fit my requirements.

If you have a big HF amplifier or have used a big HF amplifier please tell me what you’ve got/used and what you think of it?  I’d appreciate even just your views or suggestions about my thoughts above.



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  1. Acom 1000 … you’ll not regret it. The tuning process is very quick, the protection circuitry means that it’s nigh on impossible to damage it. It’s has a reputation as a clean amplifier.
    The lcd display gives plenty of info….some of it useful! It’s the quietest amp that I have heard… and I have heard a few.

    It’s an amp that you don’t think about when using it… it just sits there and does its job quietly with no fuss.

    Let’s face it, Ameritron or Linear Amp UK, even their latest amps look like they were made last century 😉

    You’ll be buying from a guy who values his reputation, and gives genuine advice even if it means a loss of a sale.

  2. Hello Keith, you could ask PA0O Jaap, he does have a Acom 1000 as well. See http://pa0o-jaap.blogspot.com/. 73, Bas

  3. If you’re genuinely only going to be running 400w, and would consider something second hand, have a look at the IC-2KL. It’s a solid state 500w linear, and will happily run 400w cleanly all day long. There’s one on eBay at the moment.

    It’s very much “switch on and forget” – no tuning or similar to worry about (assuming you connect the band data to the rig), and no high voltages either.

    For something a bit bigger, consider a second hand Yaesu VL-1000 (aka Quadra). This will do in excess of 1kW, and again is a pleasure to use. Brand new they’re eye-wateringly expensive, but they exist second hand quite often in good condition for much more reasonable prices.

    On the valve side, we used a Linear Amp UK Challenger on Arran (thanks to Paul for loaning it to us, along with the Discovery 64), and it worked flawlessly. It managed 400w quite easily :-).

    For home use, I do tend towards wanting something that lets me change bands instantly without re-tuning, but this is less important for DXpedition use where you tend to sit on a given band for an extended period of time.


  4. I have an additional thought, which you might consider (which doesn’t prevent upping the power you use somewhat).

    Given that you’ve somewhat improved the performance of the antenna system, realising significant extra gain in both directions, have you thought about seeing what you can now also work with less power? Doesn’t mean you can’t run the ‘boots’ too, but you might be surprised what, say, 10W will do into this antenna system.

  5. The Acom 1000 seems the best option, thanks to those who have commented and also to those who have emailed me separately.

    Rob, I’m not keen on buying this sort of thing second hand and I really don’t want a solid state amplifier. As I said to Ron at Vine Antennas when he offered me a second hand amp: “There’s nothing like the smell of freshly unwrapped new electrical kit in the morning!”.

    Terry. Get out 🙂 Life’s too short for QRP. Seriously though, if [insert deity of choice] had meant us to run QRP, he wouldn’t have invented 4CX800s. Even more seriously, I was tuning around 20m this evening and heard an Indonesian station working someone, he’d clearly just put the radio on. When he signed, I called him but didn’t get through and then the time that QSO finished, there was a massive pileup. Thanks DX Cluster. Despite calling for nearly half an hour, I still couldn’t make the contact. A little extra power may have helped. Less power wouldn’t have done so.

  6. It’s nice to have an amp AND work qrp ..have all options available 😉
    I worked T32C and ZL on 5 watts at the weekend but for a ‘new one’ with a big pile-up, I want, and often need 400w at my disposal

  7. Keith, you’re making a great argument for *everyone* to run 10kW, so they can get over the pileups.

    On second thoughts, why not make that 1,21GW 🙂

  8. The Linear Amp UK’s amps are now very good indeed and the Pioneer is an excellent choice. However the Acom does have a very good tuning aid.
    Words couldnt describe what I think of Ameritrons! Contrary to what most people believe Americans do turn out some junk they really do.
    My last comment would be; dont for goodness sake get an Expert 1K FA. These things are awful and ridiculously over priced. The power supply causes modulation buzz on 160 and 80m, the ventilation arrangement (six fans not withstanding) is noisy and doesnt keep the amp cool and the so called ATU uses woefully inadequately rated capacitors.
    Give the order to Linear Amp UK we should support them.

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