RST Standards

By Paul - W8KC <>

Once again...

I have no idea how hams are progressing through the "ranks" without learning the REAL meaning behind Signal Reports.

Perhaps there is some confusion due to previous experience in the Citizen's Radio Service. As most know, on CB the signal standard was the unit of "pounds" sometimes also referred to as "Pounder Kuhmonback." This was a direct visual measurement taken off of the lab-standard S-meter supplied in every CB transceiver.

For example, a CBer requests a signal report or "radio check." The typical response is, "I got mine." A savvy CB operator knows that a "radio check" is a request for a meter reading from the receiving station. This seasoned CB operator will glance down at the S-meter and respond with the standardized unit of measurement, as in, "Yar hittin' me with a Nine Pounder Kuhmonback."

Well, that's what I was told... <[> Although generally much more expensive that CB radios, Ham radios are not required by law to have the very sensitive, calibrated meters that the CB radios had. Hams have always used a rather informal "standard" for giving reports, and for Everyone's further education, it goes like this:

RST - Readability Signal Tone

The readability scale runs from a high of 5 to a low of 1.
5 - Perfectly readable, armchair copy, "That Alpha sure sounds good here, Herman."
4 - Good readability, "I think I hear someone about 60db down Bernie, better click on the amp and clear the frequency."
3 - Fair. This is really POOR, most non-QRP ops won't go through the effort to answer a CQ with an R 3 report.
2 - Only used by county hunters when they can't hear each other.
NCS: "Did you copy your report?"
County Hunter: "Uhhh... two by two?"
NCS: "Good contact!"

1 - Nobody ever gives an "R" of one. Even ET would not have received a readability of 1, calling home with a broken umbrella as an antenna.

S - Signal ranges from a high of NINE to a low of ONE

9 - Extremely strong, loudest signal on the band. "That Alpha sure is doing the job here, Otto. OH! I'm lookin' out the window and I can see you mowed the lawn today." This is also the standard "contest" report, regardless of actual signal strength.
8 - Very strong - often given to the other op after you have received his report of 'nine.'
7 - Strong. This is actually the "normal" report for stations, "five by seven." QRPers lose sleep dreaming about getting 579 reports.
6 - Very Good. Very average. Very well move on to the next QSO.
5 - Good. The QRPers standard report is 559. To most ops, a signal of 5 means you are getting marginal, we QRPers are in heaven.
4 - Fair - I've heard louder phase noise.
3 - Fairly Weak. At this point, your signal is getting clobbered by everyone else. Although copyable, you're sure to soon get the 'ol, "SRI OM FONE CALL VY 73"
2 - Weak - See # 2 in Readability Section, above
1 - Let's not kid ourselves. When I get a 1, I know the other op is using the S meter to judge my signal. In the real world, an S of ONE is pretty much reserved for giving to your buddies during a contest as a gag.

Tone. Only used on CW, therefore soon to be obsolete. Tone ranges from a high of NINE to a low of ONE:

9 - Perfect Tone - a perfect sine wave, crystal clear, like the smooth mountain waters that go into every bottle of... whoops! Sorry about that folks!
8 - Not Quite Perfect. Boat anchor ops give a tone of 8 each other just to be different.
7 - Not used since August, 1967
6 - ditto
5 - I think I see a pattern here...
4 - Bad Tone. Typically only given to Cuban stations.
3 - Never used
2 - Nope
1 - Ok, what are you keying? The AC mains?

There... now, another special from ol' W8KC. Cut this out and paste it next to your DXCC or Grid Map sheet.

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