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ALPHA NEWSLETTER

May, 2011
You can call us at 303-473-9232 or visit our website at www.rfconcepts.com  
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We want you to tell the world about your experience with Alpha products.  It's the best advertising we can find.

If you post a review of a current model Alpha amplifier on the eHam review system at www.eHam.net and/or any other online review system that you feel comfortable using, and send us a note pointing it out, WE WILL SEND YOU A FREE HAT WITH YOUR CALL EMBROIDERED ON THE BACK.

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Go to our website at www.rfconcepts.com fill in your email address on the front page to sign up for our Newsletter.  We send a newsletter about once a month.
The New Alpha Tube Warranty Extension Program
available now

We've put together an extended tube warranty program for new amplifier sales.  Our normal (industry leading) warranty is four years on the amplifier, and one year on the tube(s).  We're now offering a 4/4 warranty to cover the amp and extend the tube warranty for the coincident amp warranty.  This offer is only available to NEW orders. The prices for the extension are as follows:

Alpha 9500 Autotune
one 3CX1500A7 - $275

Alpha 8410 - Manual Tune
both 4CX1000's - $375

Alpha 8406 - 6 Meter amp
one 4CX1500 - $325

backlog

Amps ordered today will ship this month.  Production is keeping up and we're trying to build some inventory
9500 Square

Demand for the Alpha 8410, 8406, and Alpha 9500 amplifiers have driven us back into a slight backlog position again.  We've increased the build plan and will be back to "IN STOCK" soon.  If you're looking for an amp for this season, get your order into the system.


preowned

Thinking about a new amplifier but just can't quite swing a new 9500 or 8410? 


Alpha 87a omega

Here's a picture of an 87A.  We get trade-ins all the time.  Our techs go through them, make sure they're up to par, and we post them in the preowned section.

 

Here's the best part - our pre-owned amps always ship with a 3 - 6 month warranty on the amplifier AND the tubes. 

A PREOWNED Alpha amplifier will get you legendary ALPHA quality without the new amp price tag.


Why buy a lesser amplifier from a different manufacture when you can get a preowned ALPHA for about the same price?

Why not own the best.


There's a special section on our website listing our certified preowned equipment HERE

Or
call Molly at 303-473-9232 and ask her about the Preowned Alpha Inventory. 

repair department

Better than ever.  We've hired an additional technician (welcome Tom to the Alpha family) and he's really helping.  There are Three 'old' amps in repair that we're having a difficult time finding parts for, but amps that are being received now are being turned around in less that TWO weeks!

Parts Racks


Remember - we have some NOS (new, old stock) parts that are 40 years old!  We still repair amplifiers that were purchased new in the 70's.  If you're looking for QRO parts, call us!
 

smile
thank you
 
 to all of our Alpha customers and enthusiasts. 

We're thrilled you're enjoying our products. Let us know if you have any questions or comments. 
All the best, and 73's from the whole gang at RF Concepts/Alpha Amplifiers.

Steve, WA2NFR
Michael, AA6DY
Glenn, AEQ
Brad, KHM
Carey, KXR
Molly, WMOM
Gordon, WRUN
Kathy, KB2HDT
Tom, W2CO
 
Kathy
Mike
Letter from the President, Steve Farkas, WA2NFR

May  2011 -

It's been about 18 months since Michael and I purchased Alpha.  During those 18 months we were never without something to do.  Although it took about twice as long to get RF Concepts/Alpha Amplifiers running nicely, we feel most of the operational issues are behind us.  Although we've improved our response time for support cases, supporting 40 years of amplifiers with the technical staff we have can be difficult at times.  We feel it still takes us a bit too long to answer all the cases we get, but we do get to them and will continue to find ways to streamline that process.  Our first quarter 2011 was a good one - we are shipping more amplifers than ever before.  We're now selling (and shipping) hundreds of Alpha Amplifiers a year!

Our new Director of Operations, Kathy, has done a great job staying on top of daily issues and I've found myself with more time to do what I enjoy the most - designing and engineering.  Our original plan was for me to get operations cleaned up, and then jump on new product design.  I'm happy to say, I get to do less traveling and more design work from now on - much of which can be done from my home in Chicago.

Now, some bad news. One of the first things we did when we purchased the company was reduce the prices on all our products.  Since
January 2010, our vendors have been raising the prices of many of our most expensive parts (actually, just about everything has gone up). Building the best amplifiers in the world means buying the best material we can find.  Now, we find we have no choice but to raise our prices a bit.  We've looked at our new costs and find we have to raise the price of the 8410 and 8406.  I'm afraid we have no choice.  Starting June 1, 2011, the price of the 8410 is going up to $5,395 and the price of the 8406 is going up to $4,595.  If you're thinking of buying either of these two amps, put your order in this month while you can still buy them at the lower price.   

 

If you haven't checked it out, go to our new online forum called "Ask The Ham" at www.asktheham.com.  If you'd like to help us populate the forum with information about 'all things alpha', that would be great.  It will help some of the over 10,000 people that own an Alpha.  

 

Over the last few months, I've met some of the nicest hams.  It's a wonderful hobby, isn't it?
 
73
Steve, WA2NFR
Letter from the Vice President of Sales and Support, Molly Hardman, W0MOM
WMOM

Auto or Manual

Triode or Tetrode

One tube or two?   

 

You have decided to purchase a new Alpha amplifier because

       It's made in the USA

       It comes with a 4 year warranty

       It delivers key-down full legal limit (1500 W) power

       It will protect itself when faced with abnormal conditions

       Alpha amps have been built for 40+ years and are supported by a team of dedicated hams

 

Now you need to decide whether to purchase the Alpha 8410 or the Alpha 9500.....

 

The Alpha 8410 is a tetrode amplifier that derives its heritage from the Alpha 91, the 99 and the 8100.  It is a basic, solid-as-a-rock, manually tuned amplifier with 2 4CX1000 tubes that will suit anyone from the casual rag-chewer to the serious RTTY or AM operator.   

 

The Alpha 9500 is an automatic amplifier that follows on from the success of the Alpha 87A.  We took the legacy of that amplifier, substituted the well known and competitively priced 8877 tube (for the 3CX800's) and added a host of design and construction features that make this amplifier a worthy and enhanced successor to the 87A.  This is a solid-as-a-rock amplifier with many features that will allow you to operate as if you own a 1500 watt radio.  Additionally, this robust amplifier can tolerate the reflected power from up to a 3:1 SWR (depending on the reactance) at 1500 W - and this will help you wait until the new Alpha antenna tuner is available in the fall of 2011!

 

To get started, the 9500 requires only a keying signal and an RF input signal to give you full output power - you can stop right there, but you don't want to miss out on the rest of the story.

 

For the first time, we have an amplifier with a built in antenna switch (4 different outputs) and a built in wattmeter that uses the same devices as our lab quality meter and gives you that same accuracy.  Additionally we have an easy to read seven segment display on the front of the amp so that you can read your key parameters (Vp, Ip, Ig, SWR etc) either on the LED bargraph or as a number.  The 9500 uses quick change connectors, so that you can easily specify, SO-239 type or N-type or a combination of them on the antenna output ports.  The amplifier can be utilized in the antenna/wattmeter position without being fully turned on - i.e. no voltage applied to the tube.

 

The 9500 has both a 9-pin serial and a USB port on the back so that you can connect it to a computer and operate it completely remotely.  This connection may also be used to download new firmware onto the amplifier.  As with most modern radios today, new firmware is periodically available to address customer input and to install enhancements and improvements to the amplifier functionality.  An example of this was a recent upgrade that modified the PEP function to show either a 750 ms hold time or a 1.5 second hold time.  This capability also allows us to remotely connect to your PC and show a new user how to download firmware, or install the PC application, or diagnose problems without the need to disturb the amplifier from its location in your shack.

 

Much additional flexibility is gained in the 9500 by using the built in antenna switch in combination with the three different band and segment memories.  For example, if you have a multi-band beam for 40 - 10 m and you also have a 40 m vertical, you can program the User 1 memories on 40 m to use the beam and the User 2 memories to use the vertical.  When you are on 40, a simple button click to switch between User 1 and User 2, will switch between antennas.  The 9500 can also be set up to listen on two antenna ports at once - short path and long path - vertical and beam. 

 

When the amplifier encounters a fault condition (e.g. you forgot to connect an antenna and the SWR is high) the amplifier simply faults to Standby, displays the fault code in the seven segment display and after 4 or 5 seconds, it attempts to go back into operate to see if conditions have improved, hi, hi.  Once a fault has cleared, you can always go back and recall the last fault from the front panel, or using the PC application, you can recall the last 20 faults recorded.  In addition to keeping a record of faults, the amplifier also keeps a record in memory of other unsafe conditions encountered, e.g. each time the amp is driven with more than 100 W.

 

Like any piece of 21st century equipment, from your car to your microwave oven, the 9500 makes use of on-board micro controllers.  Embracing these technologies allows us to continue to use tubes - still the most efficient and cost effective way to achieve power in this class of equipment - whilst providing a robust, protective, fault tolerant and up-to-date modern environment that continues the 40 year tradition of full legal limit Alpha amplifiers.

 

73,

Molly, WMOM

Letter from the Vice President of Engineering,
Gordon Hardman, W0RUN

Small Gordon Small

What State is Your Amplifier In?

Gordon Hardman, W0RUN

 

The microprocessor at the core of all current Alpha products monitors and controls the amp, and it does this by moving the amp through a series of "states". While it is not necessary for the user to know the details of this process, some knowledge of what is going on under the hood can help in station planning and integration, as well as in operating the station. This brief overview of the 9500 states will concentrate on how the automatic frequency detection operates in each state, since it is at the heart of so much 9500 functionality.

 

The 9500 can be in one of 7 states, as in the following table.

State 0

Plugged in, but "off"

State 1

Antenna select functions operative; tube &HV off

State 2

Tube warming up; HV on

State 3

Warmed up, in Standby mode

State 4

In Operate mode, unkeyed

State 5

In Operate, keyed, but no RF sensed

State 6

Amplifying- fully operational

 

State 0, AC power has been applied to amplifier, and a small auxiliary power supply is always on. This unit provides the 5V dc required by the microprocessors, so they are all running. All that happens in this mode is that the front panel is set to be blank, and all other important control lines are set to a "safe" condition. The amplifier is waiting for some user commands, either from the front panel or via the serial interface, to cause it to move to the next state.

 

State 1 (sometimes called "On 1") is provided so that the user can access any of the four antenna ports and the input wattmeter while using only the exciter.  Only those front panel switches and serial commands which are appropriate to this mode are active. The amplifier is, in effect, a four-way antenna switch with a wattmeter.

 

State 2 (sometimes called "On 2") is the warm-up state. The tube heater voltage is present, as is the high voltage (HV). The warmup time for the tube, as specified by the manufacturer is three minutes. While this timer is running down, the user can access the antenna ports etc. just as in State 1. When the warmup timer reaches zero, the amplifier goes into State 3 if the OPER/STBY switch is in the STBY position or it goes to State 4 if the switch is in the OPER position.

 

State 3, (sometimes called "Standby") the amplifier is fully warmed up, but is in standby (bypass) mode. The key line from the exciter can be activated, but the amplifier will not go into transmit mode. The antenna port selection works as before.

 

State 4, (Operate, un-keyed mode) the amplifier is in operate mode as a result of the front panel switch being moved to the OPER position, or as a result of a serial command.  In this mode, the amplifier is waiting for the key line from the exciter to be asserted, at which time it will move to State 5.

 

State 5, (Operate, keyed, no RF) the amplifier moves its T/R relays to the transmit position, and waits for RF to be sensed coming from the exciter. This is a critical time- the amplifier must determine if the Band and Tune and Load settings are appropriate for the RF that it is being asked to amplify. This is when the internal frequency counter samples the RF and compares it with a table to see if the amplifier can simply go on to State 6, or if it must briefly go back to a lower state in order to safely move the Bandswitch and Tune and Load capacitors. In this case, the amplifier will go back to state 4, and once the settings are correct, rapidly and automatically go through State 5 again and then on to State 6.

 

State 6 is the "fully tuned up and ready to go state"- it linearly amplifies whatever  RF is applied to it. It remains in this state until the key line from the exciter is released, or until an off-nominal operating condition  is sensed. In the latter case, the amplifier registers one of a number of faults.

 

In reality, the amplifier is always monitoring for anything out of the ordinary and can register a fault in other states as well. But a full discussion of all the faults is beyond the scope of this article.

 

You can see from the above that the amplifier can move from one state to another for many different reasons- end of a warmup timer, front panel switch action, PTT keying from the radio etc. Frequently when it does this and if there is RF coming from the radio, it will use its internal frequency counter to see if the amplifier is correctly set. 

 

The following discussion applies to the situation where the frequency counter is employed:

In States 0, 4 and 6, the frequency counter is not active. Obviously, in State 0 (plugged in, but front panel dark) the amplifier is not expected to do anything. The other two states deserve a bit of explanation. In State 4 (warmed up, operate, but not keyed by the radio) the user has placed the amplifier into the "ready" condition. There should be no RF until after the PTT is asserted and the amplifier moves to State 5; therefore there is no reason to run the counter. In State 6 (fully up and amplifying), the amplifier has already determined and set the band, segment, tune and load caps etc. Until the user un-keys the rig (and the amp) there is no reason to expect that these settings will need to be changed.

 

States 1,2 and 3 are the cases where the user may be only employing the radio, and does not need the amplifier. But the amplifier should still select the correct antenna output according to the frequency being used. So in these three states, the amplifier watches for the RF power to cross above a pre-set threshold value. When this occurs, the frequency counter goes through its routines, and then does nothing until the power has crossed below threshold and then come up above threshold again.

 

State 5 is the one that is normally most critical for the frequency counter. The amplifier has switched into the active, amplifying state, but has not sensed RF. When it does, it first attempts to ascertain the frequency, and if it can get a good frequency reading it compares this frequency to a large number of stored frequencies internally. The amplifier first determines if the frequency is between 1.75 and 30 MHz; it then looks to see which band within this range the frequency lies. If it is outside of any band, the amplifier will give a fault. If the frequency shows that the user has moved frequency to another valid band such that the amplifier is not correctly set up, the amplifier will briefly drop back into State 4 while the band switch and variable capacitors are moved to the settings appropriate to the new frequency. Then it goes through State 5 and immediately to State 6. Voila- we are QRV.

 

The current state is reported as one of the fields in the telemetry sentences from the amplifier, and can be used by external control software.

 

The operation of the frequency counter has been the area of the amplifier operation where we have been most influenced by input from our users. It is safe to say that our first cut at this was far from perfect. Since then we have listened to our customers to try and understand what it is that they are seeing, and then we used this information to help perfect the amplifier performance. Perhaps by explaining what is going on inside the amplifier our users can provide us with even more precise ideas on how the 9500 can be improved. Please note that this description applies accurately to the latest firmware release for the amplifier. If your amplifier is running an earlier version, there may be discrepancies between this narrative and the operation of your amplifier.

 

Gordon, WRUN 

  

Letter from the Director of Operations, Kathy Foster-Patton, KB2HDT 

 

Spring is here-well, almost.  If you live in Colorado, you know that it can still snow well into May.  But it is so nice to see things starting to green up.  Here at RF Concepts, we continue to address challenges in the operations area.  Every morning, we have a meeting to set the priorities for the day in terms of new amp turn-ups, repairs, parts issues, and development activities.  In addition to managing all of that activity, I have documented the first couple of processes for our company, cleaned some bills of material, set new rules into place, and have a lengthy list of the next items to address.  Documentation is one of those areas that are easily neglected in the heat of the battle to ship out product, but in the long run it saves every company time and money if it is addressed.

 

Our purchasing section demands a lot of my attention to ensure that we have the parts we need at the times that we need them.  We have lots of work to do in that area, but are making progress.  Also in purchasing, we have been plagued with a bad lot of vacuum relays, and have expended time with the vendor to identify and diagnose the problem and obtain the replacements we need for our production activities and customer repairs.   

 

Those old amps keep rolling in here for repair.  Last week, we got in a '99 CS Peter 1 Island issue, which went on the DX-pedition to Antarctica in 2006.  Gordon Hardman, our V.P. of Engineering, was so surprised to see it in our offices that he exclaimed, "Well, I'll be damned!" when it was pointed out to him.  The staff marveled over it and I was fascinated when Molly told me about the expedition.  These amps could tell us some stories if they could talk!

 

73, Kathy, KB2HDT 


  

Letter from the Director of Sales, Mike Adell  

Mike Adell Headshot 

Thanks to all of you we had our best quarter ever. Q1, 2011 resulted in more Alpha amplifiers shipped than in any previous quarter since Alpha has been in business.We also sold more previously owned amplifiers than in any previous quarter. This reminds me to tell you that your legacy Alpha amplifier could easily be worth the same, if not more, than when purchased.


Now is a terrific time to consider a new 9500 or 8410 on a trade in. We are shipping both 9500s and 8410s within about a week of order. Call Molly at 303-473-9232 for the details.
 
Our success is all about you, our customers who continue to rate us outstanding in customer support, service and product quality. You are the ones that are telling your friends of the Alpha value.
 
Also, we continue to offer our amplifiers on a deferred payment plan, 50/25/25. By paying 50% at time of shipment and 25% each of the following two months you can enjoy your Alpha product right away.

 

And don't forget to visit us at the Dayton Hamfest in May.

 

Mike Adell