Several years ago in the Dayton Hamvention fleamarket this beast of an amplifier revealed itself.  I’d only ever seen one other example of this technical marvels of the 1980’s; and oddly enough, it resides in my own county.  Neighboring ham and fellow ARD-230A owner Steve W9RO nicknamed the beast “R2D2” because of it’s unique commercial design features.  Alas, the siren song could not be overcome.  Hamfest buddy Nick N9SJA and I each pooled our funds and gambled $1000 on this mysterious amp.  Click below to see a neat, period advertisement from the February 1988 issue of 73 Magazine.

ARD 230 amp-Feb1988-page102-73magazine



So here’s a quick rundown on the basic specs of the ARD-230.  It’s a remotely operated linear amplifier capable of operation on any band from 160m through 10m.  The RF deck is integral to the power supply and contains a pair of Eimec 3CX800 metal ceramic tubes.  The power supply provides 2300V DC at around 1.5A max.  This combination will make 1500W at full duty cycle continuous operation with around 60W drive from the exciter.  It’s operated by the remote control head that can be located up to twenty feet away.  You can choose from fullyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA automatic operation, semi automatic operation or manual operation modes.  It’s capable of sensing the frequency of operation and changing bands automatically, while adjusting the Tune and Load capacitors for ideal settings.  During operation it can also sense various abnormalities such as excessive plate or grid currents, or low air flow, and alert the operator or entirely lock out the amplifier for protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuch to our dismay the amp proved to be in ill health.  Initial testing rewarded us with many tripped breakers.  Further inspection found some damage to the undercarriage.  Possibly the result of a drop?  After some weeks of gentle coaxing I was able to fire it up without tripping breakers.  Perhaps the HV power supply caps were re-forming?  Now I could apply some low drive and see if it would truly amplify.  Fully and semi auto modes proved unsuccessful.  Manual mode was slightly better but more discoveries were to come.  Further inspection revealed the proverbial golden screwdriver had been used quite liberally on this device.  The motor driven air variable caps where totally out of synch, and didn’t even come close to indexing with the 0-180 degree indicators on the display.  The shaft couplers from motor to drive, and drive OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto cap were a mess.  The only redeeming values so far have been the beefy power supply with a massive Peter Dahl transformer at its heart and a very clean RF deck.  The 3CX800 triodes were still in good shape, too.  This is an instance in which the sum of the parts is actually more valuable than the whole.  It’s worth more money in pieces!  But what a shame to hack the beast…a very unique and capable amp that seems to be fairly rare and something of an enigma for hams.  And so it’s lived for several years now–cast away in a dark corner of the ham shack and awaiting its turn on the workbench.


While I haven’t been working on the amp too much, I have had a pretty good opportunity to research it.  It’s not without flaws, but they’re few in number.  The components are of high quality and it’s even capable of QSK CW operation due the the vacuum relays, for the so inclined.  As I understand it, ARD was supposed to produce this amp and badge it for Icom, as a part of their product lineup.  In the end, Icom backed out of the deal.  What a difference that might have made!

Google searches have turned up tiny bits of information but a lot of it is dated material from old listserv sites and such.  I’d be curious to the know the total number produced by ARD.  I’d be even more curious to know how many are still in operation.  My goal is to refurbish this amp and enjoy a little unashamed QRO operation.  This amp is just plain hamsexy!  It’s capable of mondo power output if desired.  I don’t think it’ll win a key down contest with a Henry 4K Ultra, but we only get 1500W PEP, right?  An ARRL search turned up a couple documents from 1988, ’89.  I’ve included them below if you’re interested.  The first is a product announcement for the amp and the second is their product review.  They found it quite capable and were very impressed.  Keep in mind that this was a time when a powerful computer of the day had less performance than my smart phone!  A little Z80 processor was the brains of the machine.  Only a serious ham would’ve had the cash to own one of these.  Suggested list price was anywhere from $3500-5500!  I think this blog will become a series as I go through the necessary repairs to return R2D2 back to its former glory.  Perhaps I’ll even post some videos on my Youtube channel.  Hope you enjoy.

QST_Apr_1988_p25 ARD230

QST_May_1989_p43-46 ARD230

Categories: Amateur Radio, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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  1. Mike Pilon

    Hi, I also have a working ARD 230AX and love it. I do have some minor issues with tuning and that may be related to the power supply so your refurb has me thinking. I also had issues with the drive motors which i solved the hard way. Complete dismantle and regreased them. They work very well now. I am also interested in how you solved your cap sync issue. It took me a lot of trial and error and painstaking adjustments which drove me nuts. Never did get zapped though! Any how any info you have would be greatly appreciated especially any new code! Mike VE7DQC VE7DQC@RAC.CA

    • Morning Mike. Just got home from vacation. Sorry, but I don’t have any magic bullet on adjusting those air variables. It was all trial and error for me, too. My drive units still need a teardown and overhaul that I haven’t mustered up the energy to complete. My other current issues it that they no longer operate via the switches on the control head. I can apply power directly to the motors and they work, but not by switches. Right now it’s looking like it could be in the driver board as I’ve eliminated the switches, themselves. I have another person who recently contacted me requesting info. I’ll gather up all the info I have and send it to both of you here in the next week. Thanks for your interest and best of luck with the ARD.

  2. Pingback: TIME TO BEGIN AGAIN: VIKING II | N9IZ Amateur Radio Blog

  3. Tom

    Just found your web page info about the ARD linear. I also have an ARD 230A that I want to get operating someday. It doesn’t have an HV transformer and the remote control is missing parts. I have a transformer that I think will work and my hope is to create a control panel with switches to operate the motors and relays manually. Seems like it would work OK with full manual control.
    I appreciate the info that you have posted. If you have any suggestions for the mods I plan, please send them along.
    Tom KD0HF

    • It was certainly a great amp in its day. Today it suffers from obsolete components. The RF deck is bullet proof. With the right transformer it would be just great. Following the prints should help you figure out how to reverse engineer it for full manual control. I sold mine to Bruce W7PK who used to have a lot of ARD info on his site and had a friend was figuring out how the use an Arduino to reverse engineer a missing control head. He may have some useful info for you 73 and good luck!

  4. I was pleased to find this blog – most interesting to me since my Company, Advanced Radio Devices, designed and manufactured the ARD amplifiers. See some info here:

    These amps were a ‘low volume’ item – HI. Many went to the government. Yes, we *almost* did a deal with ICOM (they even generated literature and their own model number – IC1500, if I recall.) but they backed out and just decided to steal our technology. We were mighty upset at the time. Of course, by today’s standards, the amp is nothing special – autotune is now almost ‘standard’ but back ‘in the day’ not so much.

    We designed it to be heavy duty and bullet-proof and sometimes all the protective features can be irritating. Peter Dahl build our transformer – its a beast.

    Biggest issue today would be the EEPROM which are at their EOL. I have the HEX file for anyone that might want it. Thanks to George, K4GVT.

    73, Bob

    • Bob, thanks for stopping by my website. Been too busy with work to do much blogging lately so the site is getting a little dated. I enjoyed the amp while I owned it. Most of the issues I encountered were related to EOL cycle on components. Certainly a marvel for the times in which it was manufactured. I dabble with a little of everything now from SDR to vintage AM. My current prize is a Viking 500 transmitter and a 75A-3 that was given to me by my SK elmer. All the best OM.

      N9IZ Jeff

    • Mike

      HI BOB
      Can I get a copy of your HEX code file for the ARD. I have the amp back on the air and works great. I am looking at the possibility of getting it tuned for 60M so can use it with MARS/CFARS. Replaced some defective components but really nice amp. One item I am having trouble sourcing is the mini lights. If the P/N is available I would really like it.

      Thanks for any info you may still have kicking around.

      • Bob Sullivan


        Wish I could be of some help but after all these years I have nothing remaining; parts or literature. Over the years I sold all I had. I recall that someone, somewhere did resurrect the HEX code file but I’m afraid I don’t have the reference. With respect to 60M the only thing that comes to mind is that we didn’t check the plate RF choke for issues at that frequency.

        73, Bob
        Personal site:

  5. drew dorsett

    I bought an ARD230CA from Bruce, W7PK about 3 years ago. It had no control head, so Jim, K7NCG built an Arduino based controller for. It had been raided of some of its parts for the original controller in the RF deck. It easily puts out 2.5kw continuous on all bands with about 80 watts drive. Beautiful amplifier.

    • Glad you enjoyed the amp. They were a marvel of the time. I still have one hanging around that doesn’t work. Will need to repair someday and put it back to work!

    • Mike Pilon

      I would really be interested in seeing the arduino plans. Mike VE7DQC


      Please its possible to see the arduino plains and program? i have a and ard 230c without control head and its a last time for save it !!! thanks

  6. Bob, WØYVA here! I’m pleased to see that some of my ARD amplifiers are still being played with and used. We had a lot of fun ‘back in the day’ designing and building these amps. It’s interesting to recall the Z80 specs as compared to what we have today! HI. I have a little info on my website, 73

  7. Greetings all. I have just completed building a second control unit this time for a 230A unit. It doesn’t auto tune but it does allow for the operator to control the band selection and operate the tuning and loading capacitors. It also allows relative monitoring of grid current, plate current, plate voltage, forward and reflected output power. I included 15 ‘memory’ positions in the software also. Anyone interested in my info can contact me via email. I created a manual for it’s operations which include schematic drawings.

    • Thanks for sharing. A replacement control unit could be a real game changer to salvage an amp that may have one missing. 73!

    • Robert Sullivan

      Very impressive, Jim! I am so pleased that the amplifiers my company (Advanced Radio Devices) designed and built so long ago are still being used! We knew that after many years (decades) the EEPROM would be a problem but we never thought it would be an issue. HI. 73, Bob, WØYVA

      • Thanks for the reply, Bob. You all built the amps like a tank! Good engineering and top notch components are the reason they live on. I still have one squirreled away for a project one day. 73!

      • k7ncg

        Thanks for the replies guys. Building the new control units was a fun project. The amp itself is really quite a work of art and built very well. It’s the control units that had issues but things have drastically changed over the years and there are now better and easier ways to accomplish the same tasks. I’d love to make a PC board for the interface part that I put i the amp but every time I try to design one I get all messed up. Someday, maybe.

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