[CQ-Contest] Alpha Amp Owners and Service

Dick Green WC1M wc1m73 at gmail.com
Fri Oct 7 14:22:34 EDT 2016

Glenn AE0Q knows a lot about the 87A, too. As of about 3 years ago he was
still with the company. I hope he's with the new owner now. Brad knows more
about the 87A than anyone on the planet. I'm sure he's seen everything that
could go wrong with that amp. A newsletter piece from late 2013 indicated
that Brad had become a part-owner of the Alpha division. Hopefully, he made
some money on the sale but still works for the new company.

Typical story about Brad: My amp suddenly started getting faults when I
transmitted. Glenn sent me instructions for troubleshooting those faults,
which revealed a bad transmit PIN diode. I replaced the PIN diode and the
amp was able to transmit, but still got one of the faults when the power got
close to the max 1500W. I was discussing this with Glenn on the phone when
Brad happened to pass by and overheard Glenn's end of the conversation. He
told Glenn to tell me to check L1 on the T/R board. Sure enough, the
insulation under that coil (a rubber pad) had disintegrated over time and
the coil was arcing to the PC board. I couldn't see it because most of the
damage was under the coil. The arcing is what caused the PIN diode to fail.
I replaced the insulation and rewound the coil, which fixed the problem.

The 87A is one of the great amp designs of all time and was built like a
tank with the highest quality parts. I've been pounding on mine in contests
for 21 years. But the amp had some flaws and was never really completed. One
of the biggest problems was lack of programming expertise at Alpha. I don't
know the full story, but I think they lost access to whoever wrote the
original code. That code has many problems, chief among them the order of
fault processing, which often results in misleading fault codes. Dick
Ehrhorn himself admitted that to me. They also ran out of program space. As
I mentioned in an earlier email, the custom-programmed parameters for each
amp were saved on a computer, but the data was lost. Had this not happened,
owners could easilyt have replaced a damaged CPU without sending the amp in
for service. Everyone knows about the issues with the PIN diodes -- in
addition to the failure described above, I've also replaced a couple of RX
PIN diodes (much cheaper.) Had to replace the input band switch, too, which
was defective from day one.

This transition is troubling. I hope the new company will continue to repair
the 87A, but if not I hope they will give us access to the remaining experts
and make parts available.

73, Dick WC1M

-----Original Message-----
From: Herbert Schoenbohm [mailto:herbs at vitelcom.net] 
Sent: Thursday, October 6, 2016 3:41 PM
To: cq-contest at contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Alpha Amp Owners and Service

I hope that Brad is still with the new company as he is absolutely the best
at helping me keep my 87A working.  I the new company no longer supports the
87A perhaps he could run his own internet help service suggestions for a
good fee of course.

Herb, KV4FZ

On 10/6/2016 2:13 PM, Ron Notarius W3WN wrote:
>   From the new web site:
> Contact Us
> The best way to contact us is by email.
> sales at alpharfsystems.com
> service at alpharfsystems.com
> operations at alpharfsystems.com
> No phone numbers listed (yet)
> 73, ron w3wn
> On 10/06/16, Gord Kosmenko wrote:
> What's the current ownership status of Alpha Amps?
> What is their service dept status, anyone have any recent experiences?
> I called this morning and their telephone was not answered.
> Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and its best to send direct 
> to me at ve6sv at rac.ca
> Thank you very much!
> 73, Gord VE6SV
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