PA3CLQ's Leuke Linken Nr. 430


The Importance of Accurate "T" Reports in RST.....Huh?

With the pure notes produced by todays modern transmitters, the T in RST reports is usually always a 9.

However, sometimes, due to a problem with the transmitters power supply, for example, the normally pure T9 may be something entirely different.
The other day, I happened to be tuning around the bands and came across a station whose RST was 556.

I listened to him work a number of stations, all of whom gave him a T9. Huh?

And these reports were being given by operators who should have known better they were experienced operators whod been on-the-air for a number of years.
To make sure the tone was not being altered in my receiver due to ambient noise on the band, or altered by my NB being engaged, etc., I tuned around and listened to other stations.

Stations with similar signal strengths exhibited no tone distortion whatsoever.
Perhaps we need to revisit what the different designations for the Tone report in RSTs actually mean:
9 Perfect tone, no trace of ripple, or modulation of any kind
8 Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation
7 Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation
6 Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation
5 Filtered rectified AC, but strongly ripple modulated
4 Rough note, some trace of filtering
3 Rough AC tone, rectified but not filtered
2 Very rough AC, very harsh and broad
1 Sixty cycle AC or less, very rough and broad
Giving an accurate T-report helps the stations operator to determine if all is well with his/her transmitter.

Lets all do a better job of listening to CW notes and accurately reporting any anomalies as best we can.

I know I want to know if something in my transmitted signals is amiss!
~73~ Chip W9EBE



The scale isn't exactly numeric so my hw16 might fall between t5 and t8.

Have you evaluated modern rigs to see if any routinely fall below t9?

Yes I know putting some rigs too close to a power supply can degrade their tone.

Perhaps okay for expert vintage rig enthusiasts to evaluate each.

But for an op in a third world nation, whose rig isn't dreadful I prefer not to discourage them as they may not have the means to fix it.

CUL Curt


Years ago you could identify Third World DX by the chirpy tone before they gave their call.

I agree with Curt. If it is otherwise readable and clean, I don't usually call it out in a signal report.

Better to encourage them being on the air than be a purist.

Almost like pointing out to someone that they stutter when they talk.

They probably know that already and are dealing with it in their own way.

They don't need everyone who has contact with them to tell them that.

It's really the operator's responsibility to determine what they are putting on the air.

If I hear a less than perfect signal on the air, I assume, like Robert, that it is someone with a vintage or homebrew rig. I might call them and have a nice QSO about the rig.

An "accurate" RST report is too subjective to be meaningful.


Have I really given that OM any useful information or just left him puzzled?

Eric KE6US


Hi Eric !!
I do hope I will hear you on the air again soon, and will be glad to hear any RST even if it is 588C, and I WILL know what that means as do all good CW ops!
Hey seriously I need a contact and that fine "86" number some time on the air please!

It seems to usually be best from CA to FL on 20m these days, OM.
73 - Bry, AF4K


I would agree with Third World DX stations, but not for CONUS stations.
For those of us that run tube gear; we always want honest signal reports, especially the T part of the RST.

I like to run my vintage gear in SKCC SKS or WES activities, and I know which of my transmitters are up to putting out a non T9 signal. It's quite interesting to see the range of non T9 reports I get (if any).

Within the span of an hour or so I can get reports between T5 and T9.
8 Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation
7 Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation
6 Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation

It's really subjective as to what to report for a T6 to T8 report, especially for newbies that have never run tube gear.

If I'm running my ARC-5s on 40M and get a few T8 or T7 reports, I don't worry about it that much.

If I get those on 80M or when running my B&W 5100B, HT-37 etc, I get very concerned.

It's especially nice when an SKCC member emails me and tells me what he heard, and that he also runs tube gear.

I'm ecstatic when I get an email about a non T9 signal with an attached audio file -- I REALLY appreciate that!.

Just my thoughts......

Mark K3MSB


Hi, Mark. Nicely put.
I guess yet another tradition in ham radio is slowly slipping away.

Insipid political correctness has now apparently seeped its way into Amateur radio to the point where we can no longer give honest signal reports without the fear of hurting someones feelings.

An honest RST report was never intended to be pejorative; it was simply intended to supply an operator an accurate assessment of his/her stations performance and signal quality.

Thats all nothing more.

My intention was basically to educate new hams as to what the T values in RST actually mean.

Arent we supposed to do that?
I posted my original post on QRZ, also.

Here are some of the responses:
    WA7DU wrote:
Your experience seems to run counter to others.

Their experience has taught them that the fastest way to anger an operator is to give that op a less than perfect 599.

Often it is a two-for-one event, anger being the first, and giving birth to an enemy is the bonus. 
It wasn't supposed to be that way when the RST system was developed, and it is too bad that it happened that way, but for some, giving a "score" lower than 599 is an unfriendly act.
    And from KP4SX:
I went for a long time blissfully unaware that my tone was going to crap at times.

Thousands of T9s in the logbook and nothing less.

Finally, somebody chimed in during a pileup and said simply SX TONE.

I flipped on an adjacent rcvr and it was embarrassingly awful.
It turns out that the power supply was dropping out of regulation when the AC line voltage was low.
Thank you to whoever that was that alerted me!
    This is from W9JEF:
A while back, I got something like a T-5 report.
I had the IC-706 on a small battery whose voltage was down around 10.5, and shortly after it cut out.
    Jeff/WR2E (hi Jeff!) noted:
Hi Chip!
I've actually attempted to inform ops that they have a uhhh... substandard tone and in a few cases the ops were appreciative.

Most of the ops either didn't seem to care, didn't understand, or were told by their 'friends' that there was nothing wrong with their signal.
It's kinda sad................ZUT!
    Yeah, Jeff, it is kinda sad.
I say, rather than comparing a truthful RST report to being rude to someone by pointing out ones disability (my XYL is disabled but what do I know?), I liken it to pointing out that one of someones vehicles tires is low.

It is not intended to cast aspersions on neither the vehicle itself, nor its driver.

Its intended to provide helpful information.
    Perhaps SKCC should adopt an all-inclusive, politically correct policy?:
Personally, I plan on maintaining the heritage and tradition especially CW tradition of Amateur radio.

If Amateur radio tradition is meaningless to others, so be it. But, when you get a RST report from me, its going to be honest.
Im truly sorry if the truth hurts, folks.

Thats certainly not my intention.


PC has got nothing to do with it.

It was someone not wanting to discourage someone from getting on the air, especially if they did not have a means to repair it.

If I hear a growling tone stateside, I figure it is someone with a '29 style transmitter or some other homebrew, and he is aware of his tone.

Though I will mention it as a point of interest.

Robert Forest Acres, S.C. KG4KGL


Or Cuba especially on 40M !
Mark K3MSB



I guess it's time to throw out the A2 MCW half of the "T" numbers in RST.

They may even go back to the rotating gap notes generated by the fancy spark transmitters :D

CW is Real Radio 73, John...K8JD


One RST signal descriptor that is as appropriate as ever is the "K", as in "599K".

Key clicks are worse than any chirp or rough note, and they seem fairly common to some modern rigs.
73, Drew AF2Z


The reports are VERY important.

They may provide the operator with an idea of what is going wrong with his radio equipment.

The T in RST generally refered to the absence (in the case of a 9) to a raw AC (in the case of a 1).

That would tell the operator that he has a serious problem with his power supply -- the rectifying diodes/tubes may be going bad or his filter capacitors (in the old days, they were oil filled and could go dry) were going bad.

Chirp was generally an indication that a tube was going soft.
It is important to find out about these problems before major damage is done to the equipment.
I am an ARRL Official Observer and I always send out advisory cards when I hear a defective signal.

Our purpose is to help the amateur community achieve the highest standards of technical excellence and operating procedures (we are NOT band police!!).
73, Andy, K2OO


I do the same as far as alerting people if they have rough AC on their tone.

I notice a lot of the homebrew rigs have this issue with a rough tone, mainly very old radios.

I actually like to hear the slightly distorted tone that a lot of the old boat anchor radios transmit.

May be a nostalgia thing, I'm not sure, but I do like hearing them.

As long as they're not so distorted that it makes copy difficult I have no problem working a station with a 575 RST.

I guess the main thing is that the message is copyable and gets through.

Very 73, Cliff - KU4GW


Be on the air for the ARRL January 1st Straight Key Night and listen to other than perfect tones from some of the great old boat anchors that will be on the air. During this event I've sent out many different reports for T from 3 to 9.

Several of those that got less than a 9 asked me what it sounded like.

If I was unable to explain I would ask them for their email address, record the transmission with their call sign, then email them the wav file.

Many sent back emails of thanks.

Some did not send me their email address they just responded with "yep I know it chirps, it also drifts".

These operators apparently think because it is SKN then it is OK to not have a good signal on the air.

I have worked stations over the past year that were not a T 9 and I attempted to be as honest as possible so they could investigate if their rig had a problem

For me, if my signal is less than a 9 I'd like to know so I can fix a problem before it becomes a bigger problem.

It is like when someone sends me a 599 then has me repeat everything two or 3 times.

Could I maybe have been a 359?
73, Jim Bassett,

W1RO-ARRL Nevada Section Traffic Manager, Life Member


Howdy Cliff,
I, too, REALLY enjoy listening to less-than-perfect signals!

For me, it definitely is a nostalgia thing.
Even though I give honest (horrors) RST reports (sometimes even with the "C" or "K" designator), I often add that I am not being critical at all, and that I could listen to, say, a HW-16 (one of my favorite vintage rigs to hear) all day. :)

Those rigs have a wonderful sound that's all their own, and take me back to 1970.
For me, less-than-perfect notes from many vintage and/or homebrew rigs are often a welcome change from the cookie-cutter/similitude notes of today's gear. Those vintage/homebrew signals have character!

But, as you know, I believe that everyone deserves an honest RST report; it's not a "judgement."
And Jim/W1RO, you're absolutely correct about SKN. Also listen around the bands during AWA events to hear some of the most delightfully nostalgic notes from yesteryear once again floating through the ether. Love it.
~73~, Chip W9EBE


I wonder if some people make a bad "T" signal on purpose?
I have been in many a large Puleup.
And heard a pretty bad chirpy signal, and because of the chirp it stands out really well among the hundreds calling. And gets worked fairly quickly.
Looking up the call, it was not because of some old fart running old stuff, but a nice almost state of the art station, $3K+ rigs same with antennas,, etc.
So makes ya wonder if the chirp is intentional to make the signal standout from all the rest?

I believe that is the best policy.

Although I have not received other than a T9 since earning my Novice ticket in 1977 I want to know an honest RST.

If I have an issue I want, and need, to know. Hearing a report of less than T9 will not be a discouragement.
73, Ed - ad7gr


I am not sure where this other then an honest report comes from.

Only one bit of advise is, be sure if the signal is not a T9, it isn't your receiver causing the less then T9.

The noise blanker in your receiver can cause less then T9 by chopping the signal because of pulsing noise.
Truthful RST reports are proper courtesy.
    I have heard signals with soft keying and they were given a C for chirp, also.

It was incorrect.

The station's signal was very stable and not chirpy, but very soft with its keying.
Joe V31JP


As I said in an earlier post, the responsibility for a clean signal lies completely with the control operator.

If an operator doesn't have the technical skill or means to monitor their own signal, then they are in violation of Part 97.

    Part 97.101 says the the station must be operated in accordance with good engineering and good amateur practices.

Part 97.307 spells out Emission Standards.

Compliance is the control operator's responsibility.

"Nobody told me," is not compliance.

My contention is that an RST report at the beginning of virtually every QSO in the world is silly given the sophistication of modern equipment.

Contesters and DXers already acknowledge that they are meaningless by sending everyone 5NN or even ENN.

They just don't fail in the same way or with the same regularity that boat anchors fail.

And in fact, boat anchors built before 1978 are given exemptions from meeting the current requirements of Part 97.307 because even the FCC knows there is a difference between a DX-35 and an Elecraft K3s.

By all means, tell someone if you think they are in violation of the emission standards or if you think you can help them send a cleaner signal.

And continue the work of OOs like yourself.

I got one in 1958. I think it was pink.

I thought it was the FCC, and it scared the hell out of me.

But routine RST reports are NOT important nor very meaningful.

A control operator in compliance already KNOWS if they are about to put a spurious signal on the air or not. A control operator not in compliance probably wouldn't know what to do with a 558C report.

Eric KE6US


I spend most of my on-the-air time on the CW County Hunters frequency at 14.0565.

If nothing is happening there I'll call CQ SKCC several times on 14.0515+/-, and see what comes up.

I don't work for any awards other than USACA (less than 150 counties to go out of 3077), but I'm happy to work anyone who needs me for whatever reason, especially SKCC members.

I only work 20m which has been completely stinko the last several weeks here.

Skip is very very short, and I'm not hearing mobile county hunters beyond Texas most days.

Running a K2/100 into a TH7DXX at 60' so if the propagation is there, I can usually work anything I can hear.

I'm available any day any time for skeds.

I've never used the SKCC sked page, but I'll learn it if anyone wants to use it.

You can also email me

if you start hearing CA on 20 or have an idea for a sked. I read email several times a day so that might work out.

Happy to give an honest signal report if asked.

Otherwise, you'll probably get a 559 if I can copy you at all, 599 if I don't have to strain, and 339 which means "I'm too old for this crap."

Anything else would probably be my bug stuttering.

Eric KE6US


Another comment... and this quoted from

"While it isn't OUR fault the rigs were incorrectly designed, it is our legal obligation under 97.307 to correct the problems we have been stuck with.

This is especially true when big antennas and amplifiers are used." See  or

There are some examples of a clean signal and a few for clicks on the w8ji page.

It'd be good if someone has some sound files demonstrating chirps and other bad CW sounds to share with the group.
When our signals are clean we will not cause interference beyond our bandwidth to other stations... and that should make everyone happy.

73, Ed - ad7gr


All I can say is I really appreciated it when Chip gave me a 457 during WES last Fall.

It did not take me long to diagnose the problem and fix.

Cheers, Mark/NX1K


I am in favor of setting up an audio database with the sounds of CW signals such as these as "T" should correspond to the regulations!

Question, what requirements must meet the audio playback equipment in order not to distort the "T" signal?
What about the human ear and brains that may yield different interpretation because we are all unique!

Perhaps it is better instead of audio database to consult a image database to compare directly converted into images received SOUND of the audio CW signal that is received by the HAM and thus directly exaxtly a report of its science-based observation can do?

It is almost the first of April?/ Is it almost the first of April?


The writer of this is known to the editor.


Is there a web site we can visit that has examples of signals that are not 599.

It would be interesting and instructional to hear these.
Jerry k6iii


Jerry... Check out "What do bad and good signals sound like?" about halfway down this page...

73, Ed - ad7gr


73, your Editor PA3CLQ



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