HAM Radio 101

What is PSK31?

For Hams who operate without massive antenna systems or significant power but still want to work long distances despite poor propagation and interference, PSK31 (developed by Peter Martinez, G3PLX) has remained a popular mode since it emerged on the Amateur landscape in the late 1990s.

Known for its high efficiency, PSK31 (Phase Shift Keying 31 baud) allows Hams to work stations that may be transmitting the faintest of signals with a modicum of equipment—a transceiver that allows you to use Upper Side Band, computer with sound card, computer/radio interface, necessary cables, and software (e.g., free software such as PSK-31, FLDIGI, Digipan, and WinPSK).

Using skywave propagation, equipment with low power can be used to reach across the globe. It differs from RTTY in that characters in PSK31 mode (31 bits per second/bps) are formed by changing the phase of the sound wave. RTTY is a binary frequency shift keying modulation scheme that involves sending a two-toned audio signal. PSK31  also enables Hams to enjoy real-time keyboard-to-keyboard chatting. If you’re looking to make contact with a rare DXCC entity, however, you’re better off honing your CW skills or exploring FT4, FT8 and RTTY, which are the more common modes on DXpeditions.

To join other PSK31 enthusiasts, check out the PODXS 070 Club. The club is looking for operators with a “commitment to excellent operating practices, a willingness to learn new things, and a desire to have fun with PSK31!” Find membership requirements at its official website. It’s free to join.

DX Engineering carries a number of products for folks who want to go digital with PSK31, including Nifty Accessories E-Z Guide to PSK31 Operation, transceiver plug-in modules, Tigertronics SignaLink™ USB Digital Communications Interface Combo, wireless interfaces, sound card interface kits, and more.


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