[CQ-Contest] Alpha 87A Alpha Max

Dick Green WC1M wc1m73 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 5 16:54:35 EDT 2016

FWIW, I've owned an 87A since 1995 and have never sent it back for repair.
In all but one case I've been able to do my own repairs, sometimes on my own
and sometimes with advice from factory personnel. 

The one case was a lightning strike that damaged the RS-232 I/O port on the
CPU (amp still worked, but no comm.) Replacing the CPU can only be done by
factory personnel because the sensor trigger levels and motor positions have
to be custom programmed for each amp (those parameters were supposed to have
been saved to a computer when the amp was built, but that computer or its
disk got accidentally wiped and all the parameters for all the amps were
lost forever!) Nonetheless, I lucked out -- K1RX, a member of YCCC, my
contest club, arranged with the factory to send a technician to our club
area -- the Northeast -- to do an "Alpha Day" where local owners could
bring their  amps to the tech. I drove the amp to the tech and was able to
get the CPU replaced while I waited. Had a similar experience with my 2000A,
which lost its CPU in the same lightning strike -- drove it to the
distributor and got on-the-spot service.

I will say, however, that in addition to the difficulty of replacing the 87A
CPU, I have serious concerns about parts availability. Quite a few years ago
an op amp in one of the measuring circuits of my amp started going flakey
and I contacted the factory for a replacement. They had one, but told me
that the chip was no longer made and they had bought up the entire remaining
stock. There was a time when the transmit PIN diodes were very hard to find
and cost a fortune. I think that situation has improved, but I'm not sure.
And then there's the unavailability of the AlphaMax chips. And how much are
compatible tubes these days? (That said, my 87A runs the original tubes from
21 years ago!)

It would be worth a discussion with the RKR techs about which 87A parts can
no longer be supplied. The results of that conversion would heavily
influence how much I'd be willing to pay for a used 87A.

73, Dick WC1M

-----Original Message-----
From: john at kk9a.com [mailto:john at kk9a.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 9:15 AM
To: cq-contest at contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Alpha 87A Alpha Max

Alpha 87A's are pretty inexpensive now. I am not sure how it works without
Alpha Max, I owned one with Alpha Max and it tuned very nicely. My comment
regarding this amp is that they are very expensive to repair if you send it
back to the manufacture so be cautious what you purchase.

John KK9A

To:	cq-contest <cq-contest at contesting.com>
Subject:	[CQ-Contest] Alpha 87A Alpha Max
From:	Jim Brown <k9yc at audiosystemsgroup.com>
Reply-to:	k9yc at arrl.net
Date:	Tue, 4 Oct 2016 13:47:09 -0700


I'm about to buy an Alpha 87A, early production, without the Alpha Max
Firmware. That's the feature that provides auto tuning (as opposed to auto
recall of saved settings, which was how the amp was originally built).

Some questions.

1) How useful is the Alpha Max auto-tune feature?

2) The new owner of Alpha says the upgrade kit is no longer available. Is
there an easy way to add it? That is, are the chips generic? I'm guessing
that at least one of the two chips is an EPROM. Is it practical to buy the
chips and copy the firmware from another 87A?

3) Is it worth going to the trouble? I would use it for my high dipoles for
80 and 40M.

Thanks and 73, Jim K9YC

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