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The picture on the left is of the front of the Palstar LA-1K. The white arrows in the picture on the right point to the copper heatsink which is no longer used in current production LA-1K's. This copper heatsink sits under the RF deck. The copper heatsink is discussed in the pictures below.

It should be noted that all of the pictures of the inside of the LA-1K were taken when the amp arrived here after a repair. I was excited to have a working piece of $4k equipment again so I quickly snapped off a few pics with the cellphone. It was not until the amp failed again that I re-examined the pictures and noticed the bad workmanship. If you have a keen eye you may notice additional issues that I have missed.

Does Paul Hrivnak N8PH Palstar President, CEO and Chief Engineer know what his staff is sending to customers? I bought the LA-1K and the HF-Auto tuner at the same time direct from Palstar. It was cheaper then buying from one of the radio vendors. I was under the impression that I was buying brand new items but I have my doubts if the LA-1K was really brand new.

I have had multiple problems with this LA-1K. It all started within moments of being placed online. One of the LDMOS transistors went out. Even though the amp has protection circuitry in it to protect it from being over driven Palstar still blamed it on me. First off I did not overdrive the amp as I had my SDR radio set for max transmit at 45 watts which is 15 watts below what the amp can handle. I was running off of 120 volts and not 220 volts so I could never drive the amp to its full potential. And the overdrive circuit inside the LA-1K showed that it was not overdriven. To make matters worse I have heard from several LA-1K owners who lost one of the LMDOS when they first received their amp. It was a common failure. When I inquired about this I was told by Palstar “that they use a lot more solder on the RF board for the transistors now.”

Well the failures did not stop there and for the longest time I was scared to even turn on the amp. In the interest of keeping this short trust me when I say that I have spent a small fortune in shipping costs(both ways) for the repair of this amp. Each and every time Palstar said it was always my fault. From the amp making arcing sounds inside, tripping off with a high SWR into a dummy load, defective capacitors from a specific manufacturer, running very hot at 100 watts out, bad solder joints, premature parts failure due to a bad design, taking excessive drive on some bands(15+ watts in to produce 200 out), RF noise on receive, and on and on. It was always my fault the amp failed. When I explained to Palstar that none of my other amps or equipment are failing not even my 18 year old ALS-600 amp that I bought used and which is now in service has failed they still blamed it on my station. Palstar even told me that the reason the LA-1K failed was because I have too much equipment in the shack. Yes, they really said that to me. I left them speechless when I informed them that none of the equipment is connected to anything.

I was finally able to return the amp to Palstar but not without cost. First was the cost of shipping the amp back and forth several times at a cost of $113 for each round trip. Usually that is understandable but not for a defective product. Then there was the $99 cost for the warranty repair which I discuss below(yes I was charged a warranty repair for an amp under warranty due to Palstar failure to properly design the amp). Now it starts to get even worse. Palstar charged me a $128 fee because I bought the amp using a credit card and they claimed they could not issue a refund to my credit card. Next is where Palstar stuck the knife in the bleeding wound. They went on to charge me an additional $300 for a restocking fee. How can you possibly restock a defective product I thought. When I kindly questioned Palstar about these fee’s(except the shipping fees) they suddenly and without warning became angry on the phone. At which point I said good bye. In the end it amounted to over 500 dollars in fees and around $400 in shipping charges and lots of wasted time.

Speaking of shipping charges below is a typical timeline for a repair taken from my notes:

3-30-20 = Amp shipped to Palstar.

4-1-20 = Palstar received amp.

4-14-20 = Two weeks later and I have heard nothing so I called Palstar. I was told they just put the amp on the bench. They are swapping out the caps on the filter board because they are having a high failure rate with this particular manufacturer of capacitors which was causing the arcing(amp was still arcing inside after this repair). They found a bad solder joint and fixed it.

4-23-20 = Over a week later and I have heard nothing. Thinking that maybe Palstar attempted to reach me but could not I sent them an email.

4-24-20 = I received a reply that stated they are working on the amp and are almost finished.

4-27-20 = Palstar called and needed my credit card info for a $100 warranty repair and return shipping.

4-29-20 = Amp arrived here and will be placed in service in a few days. The top cover has some new scratches. Amp is still arcing but it only does so on the first transmission.

5-4-20 = Amp is dead again. Sent an email to Palstar but NEVER received a reply. After waiting several days and hearing nothing from Palstar I decided that was enough and I sent the amp back for good.

  

It should be noted that this site consists of 1000's of pages featuring many different items and this is the only page on this site of this nature.

  

The picture on the left is used in several pictures below. When I sent this amp back in for warranty repair yet again it came with a $99 warranty repair cost. What?! I thought. If it is under warranty then why am I being charged. I was told that the original copper heatsink(shown in picture at top of page) was causing many of the LA-1K’s to fail due to oxidation so Palstar replaced it with a silver plated heatsink which they are using on all currently produced LA-1K’s. Palstar said this plate was oxidizing on a lot of amps and probably caused one of my previous failures. Palstar went on to say that they normally charge $229 for this update but are only charging me $99.  My next thought was that I did not realize that I was a beta tester and would be charged for Palstar’s failure to properly design the LA-1K but I was in fact charged. Let’s take a closer look at this “new” silver plated heatsink. Notice how the silver plating is flaking off with this “new” part and there is no telling what the top side looks like that the RF deck rests on. The RF deck must have good contact with the heat sink and there is no way that is possible with the plating flaking off and loose screws as seen below. This amp was bound to fail again and it did.

The picture on the right is a close up of the picture to its left. Notice how at least one screw that secures the RF deck to the heatsink is either missing hardware such as a washer or has not been tightened enough. Do you think this will cause heat issues? Also seen in this picture is a soldering iron burn on a foam pad and a melted red connector that appears to have sustained heat from a soldering iron. Would you send out a nearly $4k amp in this condition? How on earth did that red plug pass quality control?? Additionally, notice the connection point of the light blue wire and the red plug. Does that look burnt to you? Is it making a good connection? How long do you suppose that'll last and when it fails what will it take with it? Yellow arrow points to a joint that is creeping towards a ground connection. This amp was bound to fail again.

  

The picture on the left is a close up of the picture above. Notice how R1(black resistor that looks like a transistor) appears to be cracked by the screw that secures it to the RF board.

The picture on the right is also a close up of the above picture. Notice how at least one screw that secures the RF deck to the heatsink is either missing hardware such as a washer or has not been tightened enough. Do you think this will cause heat issues? Also seen in this picture is a soldering iron burn on a foam pad and a melted red connector that appears to have sustained heat from a soldering iron. Would you fix and send out a nearly $4k amp in this condition?

  

The picture on the left is of the three antenna outputs. Take a close look at output number 3 and compare it to outputs 1 and 2. You’ll notice output 1 does have some wear as expected. Output 2 looks new and unused. But what is going on with output 3? Does it look used? Does it look like the center conductor was possibly arcing? I NEVER EVER USED THIS OUTPUT. My set up was simple. RF went from the radio to the input on the amp, from there the antenna 1 output on the amp was used to feed the input of the Palstar HF-Auto tuner, and from there one of the three outputs on the HF-Auto controlled which antenna I was transmitting on. I had no need for amp output number 3. So how did it get this way? Does Palstar test the amps on this output? Or as mentioned above, did Palstar send me a used amp when I thought I was buying new.

The picture on the right is a close up of the antenna output number 3 on the LA-1K. Does this look like a new and unused SO-239 socket to you?

  

The arrows in the picture on the left are pointing to noise that the LA-1K produced at times when powered on. The red arrow in the center shows the noise on top of another signal and thus drowning it out so that one can not copy it.

The picture on the right shows what happens to the noise when the amp is turned off. Like magic the noise disappears. In fact, if one studies the waterfall you can see exactly when the amp was powered down. Also take note of how all the signals across the band segment are received stronger. They are taller on the panadapter.  

The picture on the left shows a much wider view of the HF spectrum. Ok I thought, lets turn the amp back on and open up the receive on the radio and have a peek across part of the HF spectrum. Just look at all them spikes of noise that the LA-1K produced at times when powered on.

The picture on the right shows what happens to the noise when the amp was turned off. Like magic the noise disappears . In fact, if one studies the waterfall you can see exactly when the amp was powered down.

Additionaly I have videos of the above issues such as the RF noise, amp arcing, SWR issue, and so forth that I may end up posting here as time allows.  

In the end I have learned that Palstar makes a great tuner but that can not be said for the LA-1K which I think is their first venture into amplifiers. They are happy to take your order but if there is an issue it will be your fault. Also, question them at your own risk...  

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