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Review of the Hamilton Rangemaster AM1000 Transmitter
I have been using my Hamilton Rangemaster for more than three months now, and although it costs more than the “hobby” kits that are available, I have come to the conclusion that it is well worth it if you are really serious about “micro broadcasting”.
First of all, the audio quality is stunning! Whatever you send to the transmitter will be faithfully reproduced over the air, with no distortion. My programming is classical music, and the sound quality as monitored on a GE Superadio III is absolutely amazing! It sounds more like an FM station than AM. If you want to program heavy metal, the Rangemaster can handle that, too! As far as I am concerned, there aren’t any commercial stations left on the air that can hold a candle to the audio quality of the Rangemaster (especially now that many of the big “clears” have turned on their hiss-generating and low-fi audio IBOC systems). Also, I’ve had no hum problems whatsoever with the Rangemaster, due at least in part to the fact that it has a high quality balanced audio input. I am driving mine with a Shure M267 mixer.
One of the most impressive things about the Rangemaster is the quality of its construction. Once you set it up, you will not have to touch it again. It appears to be oblivious to the weather, be it hot or cold. The Rangemaster has a trimmer capacitor that allows you to zero-beat its frequency to a weak interfering station or to another unit (if you are synchronizing more than one for additional range). This is very important for achieving maximum performance. I found that once I set my transmitter on frequency, it has remained consistently within 1-2 Hz of the frequency of the distant commercial station on my channel, even on the coldest winter days!
The Rangemaster is extremely simple to set up and adjust. All you really need is a small screwdriver and a multimeter or DMM. If you follow the instructions or watch the online tuning video, you really cannot go wrong, even if you are just a novice hobbyist. The range will far exceed that of a kit using an indoor wire antenna, but getting the maximum possible coverage requires careful planning. So if this is your goal, you might want to find someone who is experienced to assist you. Most users, however, will be very pleased with the results, even with a sub-optimal installation. Just don’t expect the coverage of this (or any) Part 15 transmitter to compare with even the smallest licensed station—it can’t, and won’t.
The power requirements for the Rangemaster are very modest, so you don’t have to worry about it running up your electric bill. As a mater of fact, this transmitter would be ideal for emergency operation, as it could run for a very long time from a typical car battery. During operation, nothing gets hot inside the unit. Everything about the design is very conservatively rated, including the RF output stage, which uses three transistors! It appears to be quite “bulletproof”.
Finally, the Rangemaster is one of the few Part 15 AM transmitters that is FCC Certified. If you are going to actively promote your station, sooner or later someone is probably going to bring it to the attention of the FCC. Unless you are familiar with technical matters and are comfortable dealing with FCC agents, you are probably better off with a certified unit like the Rangemaster. Do follow the instructions carefully, however, because deliberately going beyond the recommended installation parameters can still get you in trouble, even if your transmitter is certified.
I understand that Keith Hamilton extends a “money-back” guarantee on his products, but if you purchase a Rangemaster, you’re unlikely to need it. This is a very well made product!