Ham radios, also called amateur radios, are devices that operators use to communicate with each other through radio waves. To use a ham radio, special training on radio systems is required and a licence must be obtained. Amateur radio is highly regulated and the rules must be adhered to. The system is supposed to be used for personal reasons or for emergency communications. No commercial use is allowed. There is a steep learning curve to get over when first getting started with ham radios, but once the licence is obtained, it is a very rewarding hobby. Many people love the technical aspect of it and getting to fiddle with and adjust their radio. Others simply enjoy talking to other radio enthusiasts over the air. For emergencies, the radios are invaluable because they provide emergency service workers with a way to communicate over long distances when mobile towers are down or there is no reception.
Every radio can transmit different distances depending on the type and model. The more power the radio has, the further it can transmit the signals. Ham radio amplifiers are used to increase the signal power and send transmissions further away. Without a doubt, choosing which amplifier to purchase can be very confusing for those who are not technologically inclined.
History of Ham Radio
The beginning of radio transmissions began with Samuel Morse in the 1800s, who was actually a painter and sculptor by profession. During the time, an efficient way of communicating over long distances was desperately needed. The young American republic actually offered a reward of 30,000 dollars to someone that could invent the system. Morse took on the task after speculating that codes could potentially be sent through wires. In 1838 he came up with a code for each letter of the alphabet that could translated with a series of dots and dashes. He could then use his recently developed telegraph machine to transmit the dots and dashes through electricity.
The work of Morse led the way for his predecessors such as Nikola Tesla to continue his work and discover ways to transmit voices and sounds rather than just beeps. By the early 1900s people were experimenting with radio transmission and the first club of amateurs was founded in Australia in 1910. Soon clubs began popping up around the globe, and countries had to start setting rules and limiting how people can use personal ham radios.
Types of Ham Radio Amplifiers
In most cases, the type of amplifier to get is dependant upon the ham radio. For example, people may have an HF, VHF, or UHF radio and their amplifier has to be built for their specific kind of radio.
HF, VHF, and UHF Amplifiers
HF,, VHF,, and UHF amplifiers are easy to find and the only difference between them is the amount of kilowatts and amps they use. The more AMPs the unit uses, the more powerful it is. However, it is important to remember that a standard household electrical outlet is limited in how much power it can produce.
Linear amplifiers ttend to be the most popular because they are not device-specific. They work with any radio and their power is also measured by their kilowatts and amps. There are two types of linear amplifiers: vacuum tube and solid-state. Vacuum tube amplifiers are considered to be somewhat outdated because they are not as reliable as more recent technology. However, the tube models can amplify the power of the radio 10 to 20 times, whereas the solid-state models usually max out at 500 watts. Vacuum tube amplifiers are also require a lot of wattage to run. The solid-state amplifiers have become more favourable because they can run on as little as 25 watts. Unfortunately, the solid-state amps are much more expensive than the vacuum tube ones.
Ham Radio Amplifier Classes
Amplifiers are categorised in classes by their output stages. Their output determines the amplifier’s power efficiency and power strength. They each vary between levels of efficiency, power, and signal accuracy. Below are the most common classes used for ham radio amplifiers.
Class A amplifiers are the most simple of all classes because their power cycle is single-ended rather than double-ended. Its cycle runs in a continuous loop so it is never fully turned off. Never turning off means that there is no "turn on time" when it is activated for use. The continuous loop helps the amplifier operate well at high frequencies, makes it more stable, and eliminates problems with sound distortion.
The drawback to class A amplifiers is that they are highly inefficient. Continually running wastes power and drains batteries. In addition to that, they are less powerful than other classes.
Class B amplifiers run on half a wave cycle so they are much more efficient than class A amps but the half cycle creates a large amount of distortion in the sound. They run at a maximum efficiency of 78 percent because the amplifier is turned off for half of the cycle, thus not using any power. Because of the distortion issues, class B amplifiers are rarely used anymore unless in combination with another amp.
Class AB amplifiers are the most common because they combine class A and B to get the best possible performance. AB amplifiers operate on the same half cycle as class B ones do, but they also conduct a small amount of energy on the other half. This reduces the crossover that causes the sound distortion. They are less efficient than class B amplifiers because of this, but they are much more functional.
Class C amplifiers have high distortion but are far more efficient in their power usage than the other amps. They are up to 90 percent efficient but in order to produce a reasonable amount of power, their efficiency has to be reduced to 60 to 70 percent. However, they can deliver up to 1000 watts without overheating, a big bonus for those who want a lot of power.
How to Shop for Ham Radio Amplifiers
Like any electronic device, many different companies make the amplifiers and each has different models to choose from. There are some important steps that buyers can follow to find the best device at the lowest cost. First, establish the budget before shopping so that there is no temptation to spend more and upgrade to a better product. Next, research each brand and find out what reviews they are getting. This can be done online easily. There are many websites that specifically review electronics. Last, after figuring out which amplifier to get, begin bargain shopping. Multiple sellers often have the same products so compare the prices as well as the postage costs. Make sure they all come with the same things and the price isn’t lower because fewer features are included.
Find Ham Radio Amplifiers on eBay
The convenient thing about eBay is that it allows people to do all of their bargain shopping in one place. Thousands of sellers from around the world sell their items on eBay which makes it easy for shoppers to compare the prices and find the lowest ones. To get started, enter the name of the amplifier you are looking for into the search bar or do a general search by typing something like "Ham Radio Amplifier". eBay then populates a list of all the amplifiers for sale on the website. In order to expedite the process and stay within your predetermined budget, you can enter your price range on this page and eBay removes any products that are outside of it. This saves you the hassle of sorting through the amps that are too expensive.
As you shop, you can add the amplifiers you like to your Watch List. This saves them all onto your My eBay page so you can quickly find them again. Saving them all also helps you compare the products side by side and figure out which is the best to order. Do not forget to include the postage costs into the total price. It is easy to overlook that.
Ham radios offer their users unlimited amounts of entertainment fiddling with gadgets and talking to other enthusiasts that people would otherwise never meet. It is thrilling to be able to turn on the radio and listen to people talking from all over the country. They are also a vital instrument during times of emergency when communicating via other means is not possible. Without communication relief efforts would be much more difficult and time consuming.
Amplifiers are the accessories that can give the radios the extra boost they need to reach people further away. Even though there are other ways to contact people over long distances, nothing is quite as fun as tuning in with a ham radio and speaking into the mic.
Anyone who puts in the time to learn about the hobby can get involved. All they have to do is obtain the training, purchase their ham radio, and then start shopping for an efficient amplifier that works with it.