HAM Radio 101

What is an RST System?

The RST System is a way for Hams to let rag-chewers, CW enthusiasts, and DXers know the quality of signal they are receiving. RST stands for Readability, Signal Strength, and Tone.

In yesterday’s Word of the Day, we provided a sample call to a DX station. When the DX operator said, “You’re five-and-nine in Pennsylvania,” it meant the DX station’s signal was coming through loud and clear. The 5 denoted how well the Ham was understood, known as “readability,” on a 1-5 scale. The 9 meant that the signal strength, ranked from 1-9, was “extremely strong.”

When it’s a non-telephony call involving a tone (CW, RTTY, PSK), the quality of the tone, rated from 1-9, is added to create a three-digit report. For example, a Morse code report of 599 indicates a perfect signal: 5-perfectly readable; 9-extremely strong signal; 9-perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind.

During a voice communication, a report of 23 would indicate a poor signal: 2-barely readable, occasional words distinguishable; 3-weak signal. A 36 report would indicate a good but not great signal: 3-readable with considerable difficulty; 6-good signals. Often these numbers will be written on the QSL card issued by the contacted station.

Note: An RST signal report should be transmitted in the early stages of a QSO to foster a better understanding between operators during the call. Click here for more information on the RST System.

There are a number of ways to improve your signal quality. One of them is by upgrading your antenna. Check out the large selection of antennas from leading brands at DX Engineering.


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