A Ham Radio Amplifier Buying Guide

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A Ham Radio Amplifier Buying Guide

Ham radio, also known as amateur radio, is whereby amateur radio enthusiasts use their own radio equipment for public service, as well as recreation and self-training. In the United Kingdom, amateur radio is regulated by Ofcom. Provided that the amateur radio enthusiast has a licence from Ofcom, it is perfectly legal to operate a ham radio. A licence is required because amateur radio transmissions can be very powerful and interfere with other radio transmissions. The licence limits the ham radio operator to certain frequencies and their transmissions are subject to certain power limits. If these restrictions are not met there is a potential for amateur radio equipment to interfere with other services. When buying amateur equipments it is important that all the equipment adhere to the provisions laid out in the licence. This includes ham radio amplifiers.

A ham radio amplifier effectively boosts the power output of the radio’s transmission. These amplifiers come in different power levels and a variety of prices points. Amateur radio enthusiasts can search for ages to find the ideal piece of equipment at an affordable price. This problem can be overcome by looking for new and used ham radio amplifiers on the Internet. eBay has listings for a wide range of ham radio amplifiers. This makes eBay an ideal venue to buy a ham radio amplifier.

Features of Ham Radio Amplifiers 

Ham radio amplifiers are classified according to power level, operational mode or modes, and frequencies. Before they begin their search for a new or used ham radio amplifier, the ham radio enthusiast needs to have some idea of what sort of transmission the amplifier will be used for, and the broadcast range.

Power Levels

The essence of an amplifier is that it takes a signal at a certain level of power, and boosts it. In one sense, this makes it simple to select the correct power level for an amplifier. The higher the power output, the stronger the boost required to amplify the signal output. However, actually calculating this ‘boost’ can be somewhat complicated, as the relationship between power input and signal boost is not a straightforward one. For example, a 1,000 watt amplifier, as might be expected, does not boost the signal output by ten times that of a 100 watt amplifier,.

There is no typical’ power level for an amplifier. They can range from the tens of watts up to 1 kilowatt or 2 kilowatt. However, it is worth carefully considering the maximum amount of power required, because the price of an amplifier rises dramatically depending on how powerful it is. A lower power amplifier may cost in the tens of pounds, while a 1 kilowatt or 2 kilowatt amplifier may run into the thousands.

Operating Modes

The common operating modes for ham radio amplifier include AM, SSB, CW, and FM. Each has its particular characteristics. Some experience with radio equipment is beneficial when deciding what operating mode a ham radio amplifier requires for particular transmissions. Some amplifiers are able to operate in more than one mode. This true of the more expensive models.

Amplitude Modulation

AM mode is a shortwave band. Today, it is not commonly used in amateur radio.

Single Sideband

Known as SSB, single sideband is a very popular high frequency amateur radio mode. It can be divided into USB (upper sideband) and LSB (lower sideband).

SSB works by suppressing one band of an AM signal, resulting in a radio wave which travels further in difficult environmental conditions. It is this penetration which accounts for its popularity. SSB ensures a viable signal even in poor weather.

Frequency Modulation

FM is a very popular mode. When available, FM gives exceptional clarity to voice communication, and does not suffer from noise or fading. However, its drawback is its limited availability.

Continuous Wave

CW is a specialised mode which is normally only used for morse code transmissions. This is because its continuous wave is unmodulated. Although CW cannot therefore be used for voice communication, it does have the great advantage of high penetration even in very difficult conditions. Therefore, morse code sent via CW may well be the only way of getting a message through if challenging conditions prevail.

Frequency Bands

The question of frequency bands is very important, as the amateur radio licence may contain stipulations about which frequency band can be used, and when. Beyond this, one of the main factors influencing the selection of the frequency band is personal preference, with each user choosing to transmit on his or her own favourite frequency band. High frequency bands are the most popular for general amateur radio use, as medium frequency bands require considerable technical expertise. Which band to use can be governed by a host of other factors, such as the time of day, the time of year, presence of sunspots or other environmental factors that can affect the transmission signal.

High Frequency

Popularly known as shortwave radio, HF bandwidths run in the United Kingdom from 3 to 30 MHz. They are ideal for long distance, intercontinental transmission, making them very popular with amateur radio users. This is due to the fact that shortwave radio transmissions can be reflected back off the atmosphere when directed at the sky. However, increasing the transmission range may require the use of an expensive amplifier.

Very High Frequency

In the United Kingdom, this frequency range runs from 30 MHz to 300 MHz. The usual allocation for VHF is 70 to 70.5 MHz, at 4 metres. As VHF is often used for air traffic control, it is important for amateur users to remain within the allocated bands. As long as this is complied with, VHF is a useful bandwidth which many amateur users favour for transmissions of up to about 150 km.

Ultra-High Frequency

This frequency runs from 300MHzto 3GHz, or 3,000 MHz. Anything higher being counted as a microwave. In the United Kingdom, there are three licensed bandwidths for amateur radio use. The first is at 430 to 440 MHz, the second is at 1,240 to 1, 316 MHz, and the third is at 2,310 to 2,450 MHz. Transmitting on the wrong bands can interfere with many different applications, including wireless networks and important emergency and military transmissions.

An important consideration when using UHF is that its waves are restricted to line of sight applications, meaning that radio transmissions can be blocked by hills, mountains, and even tall buildings.

Buying a Ham Radio Amplifier

If you are considering buying equipment in order to enter the amateur radio scene, it is probably wise to buy a moderate to low power amplifier first. An entry-level amplifier is best for learning the basics. Because of the complexity of the different frequency bands, power levels and operating modes, it makes sense to gain a good grounding in the elementary techniques before moving on to more advanced equipment. In this way, you will be able to make a considered choice about which amplifier you need.

Amateur radio equipment is fairly specialist, and is not available at ordinary high street retail outlets. This means searching out a good retailer, or else tracking down pre-owned equipment in good condition. Both of these options can be time consuming. For this reason, amateur radio enthusiasts have increasingly turned to online sources for their equipment needs. Internet markets such as eBay carry a very large range of amplifiers, both new and used, which greatly simplifies the process of finding the right one.

How to Find a Ham Radio Amplifier on eBay

Finding the ideal amplifier on eBay is easy. To begin your search, look for the search bar on the eBay home page. Next, enter a simple search query into the search bar. For example, if you enter a generic search term like ‘ham radio amplifier’ the site’s local search engine will populate a results page with all the listings for ham radio amplifiers currently listed for sale. On the results page, you can hone your search by sorting the listings by using various search filters. You can sort the listings based on radio frequency, supported modes, the condition of the ham radio amplifier, and the maximum power output.

Read the item descriptions very carefully. If you have any questions for the seller, you can contact the seller via their profile page. To access their profile page, simply click on the seller’s username. On their profile, you will find a contact link. You will also find their feedback score. Sellers with high feedback scores are referred to as Top-Sellers. You should also read the feedback comments left by previous buyers. If you are new to the field of amateur radio, you should consider only doing business with a Top-Seller. Thanks to the wide selection available and ease of site navigation, eBay is the perfect place to find the right ham radio amplifier.

Conclusion

Before buying a ham radio amplifier it is worthwhile taking the time to understand the choice of features available, including the modes of operation, frequency, and power levels. The choice of amplifier really comes down to the amateur radio enthusiast’s level of experience, and the nature of the transmissions. One also needs to consider legal restrictions as outlined in Ofcom licences. Very large amplifiers require more power, and this can prove an issue in a domestic setting. It is better from a technical standpoint not to rely on brute transmission power to force a transmission through. Skilled radio operation is a more sensible way of achieving good transmission results.

That said, an amplifier is often an essential piece of equipment for an amateur radio user. Finding the right one at a good price can be challenging, but shopping on the Internet makes finding one a lot easier. eBay carries a wide range of amateur radio amplifiers, both new and used, which takes the time and effort out of finding the ideal piece of equipment.

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