Flex, SPE 2K, Tuner - Great!

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Hi all,

When I jumped on my great deal for an SPE 2K FA I was hesitant simply due to the PGXL but I figured I could always upgrade to that at some point.

I knew the SPE had built in tuners but really hadn't taken the time to put them to use.  I've been using a Palstar HF Auto.  So my process has been:

1) Change band
2) Tune Freq
3) Take amp offline
4) Hit tune with about 5 W
5) Wait about 8 seconds
6) Tune off
7) Put amp online

For casual ops this is just fine and the Palstar seems to be able to tune my 280 foot loop just about anywhere even on 160 and on 6 meter.  No comments on how well the antenna would do but the tuner could tune it.

Currently my loop is feed with LMR 400 coax to a 2.5:1 balun at the feet point.  I do realize this sets up the possibility of some serious standing waves in the coax so I try to avoid oping in places where the SWR exceeds 3:1 on the antenna.

But after posting in the other SPE thread and Ria mentioning that I should take the time to let the SPE amp tune every 10 khz up the band I finally did it.  I took each op band started low and did the tune sequence on the amp all the way up the band.  I did this for 80, 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 but 10 is so large I only did the lower portion.

I also have the USB link from the amp to the Flex so the amp in Flex CAT mode instantly follows the frequency and band.  As I knew and Ria reminded me the SPE amp remembers the tunings and reselects them when the frequency change occurs.  You can actually watch this happening if you put the amp in manual tune mode and just move around between bands and up and down the band. You can see the amp getting the TX slice frequency and see the L/C values changing.

All I can say is I wish I'd done this sooner.  Now I have my HF Auto in bypass mode and I just make sure my amp is turned on.  It is like I have instant tuning virtually everywhere.

Probably for me the best thing is I don't have to do steps 3 through 7 above.  I just change frequencies and go.

So the point of this post is if you have an SPE amp, and you have a Flex you really should be using the USB to serial cable between them.  Then if your antennas are able to be tuned by the amp tuner then I highly recommend you do the 10 khz scan and tune for each band.  The ease of operation once you are done is amazing.

I can now QSY to any band, any freq (within a few limits) and just begin transmitting at whatever power I need.

I was able to test this with one of my groups.  We were on 40 voice and it was lousey so we decided to try 20.  I simply typed in the new frequency into the Slice and I was there.  Just to check I hit tune and had 1:1.  I waited 45 long seconds while my tube based friends were re-tuning both their amps and their tuners LOL.

I don't have one to tell for sure but I would bet the tuner in the PGXL can do the same.   But I know the SPE amp tuner works perfectly this way.

Now if you have a tuning antenna like Howard with his massive StepperIR then sure this method is mostly useless to you.  But for you wire and loop guys like me it sure makes it nice.
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Mark WS7M

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Posted 7 months ago

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KF4HR

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I was on the fence whether to buy a 2K-FA, or wait on the PG-XL.  I opt'ed to preorder a PG-XL.  It looks like both amps can deal with up to 3:1 SWR, but now I'm curious if PG-XL has the same X-L adjustments, or if it handles them automatically.
(Edited)
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Mark. You are right I have never used my tuner as my MonstIR antenna is close to 1:1 everywhere. Definitely spend ur money first on antennas.

However my. 2K-FA is at best a 1200W amp on digital modes whereas in Q with Ria, N2RJ, she was able to loaf along at 1500W on the PGXL
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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PGXL has no ATU built in. The amp will simply fold back power like your solid state transceiver does. Above a certain point, protection will kick in and shut off the amplifier since the bandpass filter network cannot withstand high SWR. But you can still get a decent amount out at higher SWR.

That said, all orders placed before 12/31/17 will receive a free Tuner Genius tuner, which will be released at a later date. This can be placed remotely at the antenna or in your shack. I plan on putting mine out in the field and connecting two 80m arrays and a 160m phased vertical array. Other details of the tuner genius have not been disclosed, but it will be integrated with the amp and SmartSDR, for sure. 

As far as duty cycle goes - Howard is quite correct. In fact I can do 2kw comfortably with FT8, JT65 or MSK144 all day long into a properly matched load. However, I am restricted to 1.5kw due to FCC regulations (200w on 30 meters). I have tried this on a dummy load and it works rather well. Chris, N6WM does RTTY contests with his and that is really not easy on an amp. PGXL was able to cope with it quite well. The reason for this is the cooling and the headroom built into the amp. It has a vapor chamber heatsink which enables very rapid heat transfer. It also has several fan modes and optimized cooling algorithms for different types of operating and duty cycle. Headroom wise, it has two MRF1K50H transistors which can each do 1.5kw so it can actually do 3kw if you really wanted to, but due to FCC regulations and to keep IMD clean, the amplifier will run less than that but still full legal limit and then some. 
(Edited)
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Mark WS7M

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@Howard.  Agree.  We've talked about the 1200 limit on the 2K.  Sad but true but so far I've not really needed the full 1500.

@Howard, Ria.  I completely understand the PG XL will be able to handle a better duty cycle but right now I cannot get one, there is no tuner so until all of that comes around I think I will continue to use my 2K happily.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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If you're happy with it, then that's good. I miss the smooth ATU operation in the 1.3K. 
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Chris Tate - N6WM, Elmer

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Since I have both..  Expert 2k cannot do digital modes at full duty cycle, and if you try it will peel you back to mid range power.  However the internal ATU is extremely convenient.  The E2K is a heavy, large form factor but when operated within its limits its a fine unit.  Another nit is that it peels back power if you are trying to tune it with a cw carrier, its auto-protection circuitry can be both a blessing and a curse. 

PGXL has a more robust RF deck.  It loafs at full legal limit in high duty cycle modes, I have operated it 2BSIQ(dueling cq on 2 bands and interleaving qso's).  That puts a tremendous duty cycle on the amp, and it handled this for 24 hours of operation flawlessly.  PGXL is larger on desk footprint, but slimmer and much lighter with its switching power supply.  Its amazing that a brick down 2kw amp can be this light and portable, I can see these being very popular on expeditions.  I was able to carry both my 6600-M and PGXL into the N6RO contest station effortlessly and it all took about 15 minutes to setup. When paired with the future tuner genius, the PGXL will exceed the feature set of the E2K as well as offering a true dual band operating experience that the E2k simply cannot match. 

Bottom line,  Both units are quite functional, but for me the PGXL feature sets and its full power robustness puts it above the E2K for my operating style and needs.  the fact that it is essentially 2 amplifiers for the price range of 1 is also an attractive feature.

Just my 2 cents.
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Brad A. Steffler

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I placed my PG XL order in March 2017. I will let you know how the PG XL works as soon as I get the tuner that is supposed to come with it. That may be in summer since I have been told that he tuner will ship later than the amp. took down my 80 meter loop and putting up a 160 meter loop. Fed with 600 ohm open wire line.

I am hoping the amp ships by May or June.

Brad
KE4XJ
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Mark WS7M

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Thanks Brad!  The more info we get on actual PG XL use I think the better.
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David Decoons wo2x, Elmer

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Just a comment about the HF Auto setup.

I use an HF Auto with PG XL. I have a Raspberry Pi configured to talk to the radio and then broadcast frequency info on the network to W1TR’s HF Auto app. That talks to the tuner and allows the tuner to tune to the correct L & C solution without transmitting by following the frequency info from the radio.

You can also do the same with DDUtil in place of the Raspberry Pi.

The HF Auto does not accept standard CAT commands and PalStar has only released the protocol to W1TR so it is necessary to ise the two part solution. But the good thing is the tuner follows the radio automatically and puts the tuner in circuit or bypass and selects the correct antenna automatically depending on frequency.

I would prefer a solution where I do not need a PC on but this is the next best thing.

I will see how the Tuner Genius works when it is released. My 80meter antenna is higher than 5:1on some sections of the band and so the Tuner Genius may not be sufficient. I plan to try and improve the antenna in the spring before foliage comes out.

Dave wo2x
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Mark WS7M

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Hi Dave,  I am aware the two part solution can be had/made to work.  It frustrates me that Paul at Palstar is so blind to the very concept of releasing some basic RS-232 commands so once does not have to use the W1TR software.

I contacted Terry (I believe) to ask for a few modifications and he simply was not interested at all.  So I took the time to debug/diagnose the RS-232 packets and was able to decipher quite a few of them.  So Paul's resistance to releasing them was futile.  I can make the tuner do what I want without W1TR software.

Still it takes time to tune due to the rollers and caps.  I am hoping this summer I might get time to implement something like you have done to control the Palstar.  I just have not had the time.