Kg3v Ham Radio Blog
Using the KAT-500 and KPA-500 with Icom Radios: Part II
Posted: 30 Dec 2018 04:34 PM PST
I have continued to investigate the various ways to connect my Icom IC-7300
or IC-7600 to the Elecraft KAT/KPA-500 Tuner and Amplifier. I have received
some very helpful communication from a number of other Hams using Icom
Radios with the Elecraft KPA-500 Amplifier and KAT-500 Tuner. It appears
that there are several different ways to do this, including a couple of
required connections and some options that may also be chosen.
The connections that should be considered a
Amplifier KEYING (and inhibit)
Here is what I have found about each of these topics
Amplifier KEYING and inhibit
There must be a means of keying the Amplifier when it needs to transmit. It
may be called PTT, SEND, or KEY in various documents and discussions. A
single KEY line from the Transmitter to the Tuner is used, combined with a
line from the Tuner to the Amplifiers PA KEY line. This line is a critical
connection, as the KAT-500 uses it to protect the KPA-500 from bad antenna
situations. When this line is pulled to GROUND, the KPA-500 will amplify
the transmitted signal. While the Tuner is in direct control of this
signal, you may actually have several other components that must also be
ready to transmit before this line is driven LOW. This provides protection
against transmitting high power into a bad Antenna or load. The Tuner has
the ultimate protection, being able to instantly inhibit the KPA-500 from
putting out power.
What I have discovered is that there are multiple lines on each of the Icom
Radios (7300 and 7600) that can be used for this purpose. You can use the
most-often-recommended ACC port (DIN connector) KEY line, or you can use
the RCA jack labeled SEND on the rear panel. While the ACC connector
approach seems to be recommended, there appears to be no reason that this
must be used. However, in applications where high voltage or current are
used for Amplifier keying, you MUST use the RCA jack for KEYING. More
details are available in the Operating Manual for each Radio. There appears
to be no reason NOT to use the simple RCA-connector and the SEND line of
the 7600 or 7300 for KEYING..
The KAT-500 and KPA-500 are both capable of quickly measuring an applied RF
signal, and determining the correct Band. You could probably also connect
Band Data from the transmitter to the Amplifier, if you want it to change
Bands when you change Band selection on your Radio. Per the KPA-500
Operating manual The automatic Band selection function is active whenever
the PA KEY is LOW (transmit mode) and the Transmitter is delivering RF
drive to the KPA-500. So while you may choose to connect Band Data to the
KPA-500 so it picks up Band changes when you make them on the Radio, this
will be overridden by the automatic RF-sensing used by the KPA-500 to avoid
using incorrect Band circuitry when you transmit. To me, that means it is
pointless to connect the Band Data, other than for the satisfaction of
seeing the Band LEDs change on the Amp when I change Bands on the Radio.
Like the KPA-500 Amplifier, the KAT-500 Tuner can perform automatic
RF-sensing for determining the correct Band. The Elecraft documents
recommend Training the Tuner for each antenna and frequency Band that you
plan to use. There are detailed instructions available for doing this in
Elecraft App Notes. While I may do that, I also want the ability to tell
the Tuner to TUNE NOW, on the current Band and with the selected antenna.
For that reason, I plan to connect the 4-pin AH-4 Tuner connector on the
Icom Radio to the Tuner.
While using the TUNE button on the radio is my preference, there is a
problem with that approach. The KAT-500 manual recommends using 25W or more
for tuning, to get the best match. If you press the TUNE button on the
radio, I think both the IC-7300 and the IC-7600 put out only a 10W carrier.
To get 25W, you need to do something like selecting RTTY/PSK mode, and
setting the power output level for 25W or more.
One other thing that was mentioned to me by several people, is to set a
Transmit delay of 10-15 mS. That should give the switching enough time to
settle before transmission.
There is much documentation on this subject, some of it being inconsistent.
After looking at all the documents and speaking to several people, I
decided that my first attempt will be to connect my IC-7600 to the
KAT/KPA-500 power combo. I will be using the diagram on Page 12 of the
KAT-500 manual. The only difference will be that I will use the SEND line
(RCA connector) instead of the ACC connector (DIN connector).
I will publish the results of my effort to integrate these two Icom radios
with the KAT/KPA-500 in future posts. I would also love to hear about
experience others have had using this equipment.