ALC IS FOR NOW!
Made for high gain amplifiers.
Bob Hutchinson, N5CNN
What is ALC?
never used ALC and never really knew anyone that did. I understood that it
was an automatic load or level control to keep from over driving an
amplifier back when exciters had tubes and power output in the two hundred
watt arena. A feed back voltage from the amplifier kept the drive from
being excessive to the amplifier. I guess this was important a while back,
but it must not be important now, huh?
see, the amplifiers today are capable of two or three times the power of
the old days utilizing high gain external anode tubes, 3CX800, 4CX800, 4CX1600,
GU84B, GU78B. Wow! These babes have a hell-of-a-lota gain and need very
little drive. These amplifiers have over-current crowbar circuits to shut
down the machine in case of excessive grid or screen current caused by too
much drive and/or when mis-tuned.
after finishing the eleventh amplifier review in 12 months, I came to
realize that the crowbar over-current circuits were necessary because of
the tendency to overdrive these high gain amplifiers.
grid or screen current
Yes, some of these fine amplifiers are so efficient that the screen grid
current stays negative until the amplifier is outputting maybe 40% of its
total power. They almost don't need any drive. This is like keeping a
three year old thoroughbred race horse from running, it just wants to run.
Well, when tuning these thoroughbred high gain amplifiers the crowbar or
over-current protection circuit trips when the grid or screen gets to
about 125ma. It is very easy to trip when tuning for high power.
makers are protecting your amplifier and their profits with the grid or
screen trip circuits and I understand that, but I decided to learn more
about ALC and how it really effects things from an operational point of
This amplifier has a good grid crowbar circuit. When trying to tune for
high power it can be tripped many times. Of course the numbers can be
recorded for repeating later, but even if touching up the tune the circuit
can be tripped. I read the manual about ALC and set it just like the book
says and, guess what? I can no longer trip the crowbar circuit. Nope,
can't do it. The ALC circuit limits the grid current to what ever you set
it to. I used a maximum of 60ma.
Now tune for
But, high power can't be achieved with just 60ma of grid, right? Huh? Oh,
but it can! Not only can it be achieved, but it can be achieved with the
simplest of tuning techniques - The Maximum Smoke tuning method, just like
tuning an amplifier with a pair of 3-500Z Eimac tubes. Twist knobs, tweak
maximum power. Since the 800H
ALC circuit prohibits over current for the grid, the
whole crowbar circuit trip inconvenience thing is no longer. I can
increase exciter drive to 100 watts and tune for maximum power, into the
bench dummy load, quick and easy, no tripping. Legal limit CW power of
1,500 watts output requires only 45 watts from the exciter and 25ma of
This first ALC experiment opened my eyes and produced surprising results.
For these amplifiers with sensitive crowbar grid and screen current
protections circuits, the good ALC circuit can be a blessing. I'm converted
for the AL-800H. From now on I will test the ALC in every amplifier that
Now the techno-nerd stuff
really want more detail, here's some stuff I copied from the Internet.
Most amplifiers will require a drive level between 30
and 75 Watts to achieve full output power. If external ALC is not used,
the output of the transmitter must be reduced using the power
output control to avoid damage to the tubes.
Applying External ALC.
External ALC voltage may be applied to control the
output power of the combined transceiver/amplifier system. The "sense" of
this voltage must be positive; i.e., the voltage increases as the
square root of the output power. Further, the voltage value applied
depends on the drive requirements of the external amplifier. The external
detector's output should be adjustable for precise setting of drive power.
Transmitter output power is related to ALC voltage by the following
~ SQRT ( P
output / 25 W )
E.g., for a required drive level of 50 Watts,
drive cutback begins at around 1.4 Volts.
Very little filtering should be used at the external
detector's output. Enough to eliminate RF is adequate, as further peak
detection and loop lag compensation are performed inside the transceiver.
External ALC must be coupled to the transceiver through
a diode so that no current is drawn from the transceiver pin when the
external amplifier is off. This prevents the internal ALC from being
Automatic Drive Level Circuit(ALC)
The ALC circuit in EMTRON DX-3 amplifier is not of a conventional design
like in all other amplifiers. The DX-3's ALC Circuit operates only for one
reason - to prevent overdrive and keep the signal clean. The ALC in
DX-3 senses any slight overdrive (50 ma
of grid current), warns you, and if you don't do anything about it, will
cut you off for 2 seconds. The 2 second cut-off is then repeated until the
drive level is reduced. This ALC circuit also produces a 1V - 10V negative
going voltage, proportional to the grid current, but only when overdrive
is present. The EMTRON DX-3 can be operated without connecting your
transceiver to the ALC output of the DX-3 and you are still guaranteed
never to overdrive it. However, connecting the ALC
will prevent the overdrive condition from occurring in the first place.
I will add information here about ALC from time-to-time. Please send any
information you believe we should publish.
Bob Hutchinson, N5CNN
President and Founder
Wireless Industry Association
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