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HiFi SSB audio

Bill Clarke (W2BLC) on April 10, 2001
View comments about this article!

Most hams strive for the perfect signal - both on receive and on transmit. After all, a high quality received signal is a pleasure to listen to. Of course, I am talking about rag chew and net operations, not hot DX - where the rules of audio are completely different.

Sometimes referred to as "armchair copy," the high quality received signal will sound full, neither too bass nor too treble. Unfortunately, not all receivers/transceivers provide a means for controlling how a signal sounds - to say nothing of the noisy audio stages and tinny sounding speakers that abound inside these devices.

On transmit, all too many hams have signals that are just plain poor quality. Some of the blame goes to the way the transmitter is designed, some goes to incorrect use of voice processing, and the remainder goes to poor microphone design. Turning all the knobs to the right only makes matters worse. Remember, how we transmit is how we are known to the world!

The following information is gleaned from my HiFi SSB page at -

HiFi Receiving
The following is a means and method of improving received audio - which is applicable to ALL ham receivers/transceivers. It WILL improve the quality of received audio, affording infinitely adjustable frequency response. Not only does this provide for custom room-filling audio, it is great for those of us having hearing problems. I have not spent a large amount of money on this system - about $200, so read on.

How to do it
In my station, I use a Behringer EURORACK MX 602A mic/line mixer equalizer console for all station audio control. 

Receive audio is taken from the line level audio port on the rear of the receiver (a line level output is not controlled by the front panel AF GAIN controls). Hence, the received signal audio does not go through the transceiver's audio amplifier - rather, it is sent directly to the ultra-quiet 602A console. 

A quick comment about the Behringer console. It is a very high quality - built in Germany - device, that will serve well for many years of use. That being said, it is also VERY affordable.(These retail for around $100 from musical instrument stores. - ed.)

From the 602A console, I control the received audio using the equalizer's frequency controls, and then send the signal to an Optimus (Radio Shack) XL-50 Stereo Amplifier. The Optimus has no controls for line level signals, hence, all audio gain (level) is controlled from the 602A console. The amplified signal goes to a pair of Radio Shack sub-woofer speakers (frequency response 50 - 6000 kHz) which are inside of custom built wood cases. 

Remember, unlike the broadcast industry, we amateurs on SSB must do all our signal work inside of about 3 kHz - not 16 kHz or more. Of course with that stated limitation, we immediately see there is no reason for a speaker system capable of frequency response greater than 6 kHz. 

About line level
Some receivers/transceivers provide a line level audio port which leaves the rig's audio amplifier out of the loop, yet, as with the Yaesu FT-1000MP, still allows full signal control from EDSP, shift, width, etc. controls.

A single caveat: Although you can get audio from the external speaker or the headphone ports, use line level audio whenever possible, as there will be less noise in the total effort (the small audio amplifiers used in most receivers/transceivers are of low quality and DO introduce internally generated noise).

Generic receive audio connections
If your rig does not have a line level outlet, I recommend you use the headphone jack or external speaker jack - in that order. However, you must use VERY low AF GAIN settings to avoid damaging the 602A console's input circuits - a pad would be a good idea. 

HiFi Transmitting
The following is an affordable means and method of improving the SSB transmitted signal - which is applicable to MOST ham transmitters/transceivers. The objective is to improve the tonal quality of your transmitted audio (as perceived at the receiving end), thus making your signal outstanding among the masses. To accomplish this at my station, I have only added a high quality microphone to the system used for HiFi receiving and a couple of audio patch lines. Total additional cash outlay - about $150 for the microphone I use.

Using the same Behringer EURORACK MX 602A mic/line mixer equalizer console for microphone control that I use for receive audio, the mic line goes into the console's MIC 1 LINE IN 1 (using a 1/4 inch plug) and patching from the AUX SEND to the PHONE PATCH jack on the rear of the transmitter. For keying, I use either a hand or foot switch for PTT (VOX would also be appropriate).

If you can only use the existing microphone connector, don't fret - it will work just fine - although you may use less MIC gain than previously used. However, unless your rig can handle audio from 100 through about 3000 cycles, you may not be able to enjoy the full capabilities of the 602A console for transmit purposes.

One note: Be careful about over-driving the transmitter by using to much MIC GAIN. In most instances, you will do better increasing the gain on the 602A and using less MIC GAIN on the transmitter.

Adaptability of menus
Many of the latest full featured transceivers have various menu options for controlling transmit audio. Although these settings are generally adequate for the job, they lack instant and easy access for change. The 602A console affords instant change at the twist of a knob(s) - thus allowing immediate change or adaptability as circumstances require.

Changing mixer settings
Each individual operator's voice will vary. Hence, the above settings are just recommended starting points. Note, that listening to your outgoing signal on a separate receiver will afford you a much more accurate sample of your SSB audio than using the "monitor" on your transceiver. You might also want to check your signal using soundcard type software such as SpectraPLUS. The latter will let you graphically see what various settings do to your output.

Remember, as stated before, unlike the broadcast industry, we amateurs must do all our SSB signal work inside of about 3 kHz - not 16 kHz or more. Of course with that stated limitation, we immediately see there is no reason for an expensive (read hundreds to thousands of dollars) for a microphone capable of response far greater than we can actually use. 

That said, let me remind you that many of the microphones available today for amateur use are electret or dynamic designs originally intended for low end audio use, such as paging. They lack well designed frequency response and/or drive. Although there are a few good microphones sold by the equipment manufacturers that are adequate for the job, none are really outstanding. 

More information
For additional information about HiFi SSB and for model specific instructions for using the 602A console with the Yaesu FT-1000MP go to my web site at and click on HiFi SSB in the yellow box.

At the web site you will find additional comments about setup, starter settings, photos, microphones, and other resources.

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
HiFi SSB audio  
by AD8K on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hams who know the relationship between fidelity and bandwidth would never put something like this on the hambands. There is already enough problems with wide signals. Usually because of distortion products, but now we can have very wide signals without distortion. Have you tried selling this stuff to the eleven meter crowd? The FCC frowns on this sort of stuff and will be making some sort of ruleing to outlaw the prctice. There already is one law they can use. Check out the efficency of spectrum section. Good hams do not have wide signals. I noticed you skirted the bandwith issue in your speil. No wonder.

Vic AD8K
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by L1D on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
What? I don't see him recommending changing the filters his rig transmits through to be any wider. I don't think this is any different than using a Heil Mic with a taylored audio response. If anything it might give a cleaner signal in the same amount of bandwith since he does emphasize keeping the mic gain down and not over driving the transmitter, the primary cause of bad SSB signals. But, I'm just a lid so what would I know.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by N8WP on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
It seems to me that the authors intention is to produce broadcast quality audio and to overcome the limited audio capabilities of amateur radio receivers. How can you find fault with this? I think this is an excellent article.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KZ9G on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!

Apparently, you didn't visit his website. Proper adjustment of the mixer's AF and the rig's IF filtering, which determines the transmitter's final bandwidth, is talked about on his hi-fi audio webpage. He's keeping everything within 100 Hz to 3 to 3.1 KHz... His solution is quite a good one, and is also inexpensive. Many of us hams are audio aficionados, and would enjoy the sonics from decent audio gear like this.


Great article! I really enjoyed it. Thanks for info on this mixer.


Steve, KZ9G
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by AD8K on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
100 HZ to 3.1 KHZ This is totally rediculous on a ham band. When SSB started in the fifties the goal was to hold the band width to 2.1 khz max. This is what killed off the "phasing rigs" mechanical and xtal filters became necessary. I have a friend who's beautiful audio is 6 khz. wide. I have to open my receiver wide to enjoy the beauty. Then the fight starts with the guys down the band. Like 3 khz. And this is not on a band where a lot of lids hang out. I love his audio, but sorry not on a ham band. He also by passes his internal xmit filters. He has already taken the "next" step. It would be great for a "Pirate" broadcast operation. But keep the trash out of the ham band.

I still prefer "Collins audio"

Vic AD8K
HiFi SSB audio  
by KC4IWO on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
The most importaint thing any station needs before buying any kind of processing gear is a cheap O-scope. With out it there is no way to tell what you are doing. Forget a watt meter, and yes a another receiver is good, but nothing will tell you what is going on like a scope. Take any scope, set the sweep speed just fast enough to get a steady line on the screen. Now take a small piece of wire and connect it to the vertical input of the scope. Please use a dummy load. Place the wire near the dummy load. Tune your radio to max output and adjust the vertical input till the solid bar touches both the top and bottom of your screen. This will be your reference level. Now switch to SSB and talk. Adjust your mike gain. What you should see should look like triangles. The peaks should touch the top and bottom of the screen. What you do not want to see is a solid bar with little space or little to no sign of a triangle. Watch your watt meter. You will notice about half of your output power on the meter. This is because the meter cannot move as fast as the O-scope. Try this while listing to yourself in another receiver. You will get the hang of it. The other thing you will get will be pleanty of great audio reports.
HiFi SSB audio  
by W4CNG on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I just bought a Ten-Tec Jupiter so I could improve my audio. I have a W2IHY EQ, along with an item that controlls Overmodulation and splatter, an Alesis Nano-Comp. This is a compressor limiter that will give your audio signal (when properly set-up) a gentle push down when you reach the point of over driving.

I too hate to hear really bad sounding audio and it can be found on every band. I also use the SpectraPlus software to insure that I do not go wide.

Ten-Tec writes most of a page in their manual about wide SSB audio and the dangers and rules outlining it. Over the last couple of weeks I have been looking at many SSB signals, mostly on 20 meters and I have not found one yet exceeding 3.0Khz. That includes the Hi-Fi Folks down on 14.178. So from where I am looking, and measuring, there is more flack about folks who sound wide, that merely are sounding very Good!.

Excellent article. Thanks
HiFi SSB audio  
by VK2GWK on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
The author should join his local community radio station. I agree with the statement that lots of station produce poor audio. Nine out ten times this just a matter of turning back the mike gain and compression. You do not need a pre-amp or equaliser to do that. I have a FT1000MP and with the built in EDSP and other controls I can produce excellent audio (every other station I work says so). With the same EDSP and controls (amongst others the RF gain!) I can make even the most overdriven signal bearable (not always more intelligible...!)
And when you do not have a rig with DSP spend your money on some (cheap) components to make a filter or two and a simple compressor.
HiFi SSB audio  
by W8MW on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Bill, thanks for the nice collection of audio info. You hit the nail on the head about there being lots of room for improvement in the quality of SSB, both received and transmitted.

I must have missed the part where someone said you promoted putting an excessively wide signal on the air? I thought you were talking about making corrections to the junky microphones and speakers that prevail in our hobby with their ridiculous frequency response curves and internal distortion out the ying yang! I took your comments to mean these are weak links that can be improved upon.

I use a similar setup to yours for receiving. Receiver line level audio feeds one channel of a small audio mixer (in my case a Mackie 1202). This yields a nice improvement to the received audio. I listen on headphones which allows me to take the mixing approach one step further. I have a second rig in the shack and I feed audio from it to another channel on the mixer. With this combination I've got received signal audio that's pleasant and an actual off-air monitor which beats the pants off of those marginal monitor circuits built into transceivers.

If there were no cost-effective alternatives, I too would use the audio mixer to improve transmit audio. But the limitation in the cheap mixers is the eq itself. Your Behringer for example has eq at 80Hz, 2.5kHz and 12kHz. As you pointed out, let's forget anything outside the SSB signal passband. That eliminates the 12kHz eq control and 80Hz is a little "iffy" on some rigs. So at best you have two frequency bands you can manipulate. Still superior to no control at all. But my choice is the W2IHY 8 Band Audio Equalizer. It is no accident that the designer made sure those 8 bands fall within or on the extremes of a SSB signal. Bottom line, lots of signal-shaping options to fine-tune the transmit signal.

For the guy who says you'll get good audio by using a scope to monitor RF linearity, you're right so far as it goes. The scope lets you properly adjust the RF output stage to avoid flat topping (RF distortion). We saw scopes in hamshacks much more often in the days of tube-type transmitters where you had all sorts of opportunities to improperly tune the final. The oscilloscope is a great piece of gear but it does not provide qualitative information about how the audio sounds. Any given transmitter can have a clean RF signal but poor audio characteristics. With no tune solid state finals and idiot proofed ALC circuits, you'd almost have to try to send today's rigs into RF distortion. The weak link is more often on the input side than the output side. If you really want to know how a transmitter sounds on air, listen to it on a receiver. Broadcasters have been doing this since day one.

73 Mike W8MW

HiFi SSB audio  
by W8JI on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This is all we need on the Ham bands, radios that barely handle normal audio being forced to waste the poor headroom they have handling audio that makes us "feel good".

Two-tone tests are a poor enough way of evaluating IMD since the dynamic load on the supplies (and bias systems) varies at the rate of the tone spacing. Even though two-tone testing generally gives a BETTER than real-world result, the radios we use today are in the -30dB (below one tone of two equal tones) third-order range.

Now, instead of having a dominant response where less of the energy is....we are expecting these same crummy performance SSB radios (the old KWM-2 I have is -45 dB 3rd order, compared to -20 dB on the new Kenwood 2000!) to handle needless energy? We boost the unneeded bass and fill the audio in, taxing the headroom even more with stuff that does nothing for communications?

I hope this fad dies off soon, or it moves to VHF or UHF operation.

73 Tom
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by W8JI on April 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Woah there folks. Clearly many of us have no concept what causes IMD, and wide signals.

We can have a nasty signal that looks perfect on a scope, because a scope is NOT a frequency display. The signal does not need to flat-top to be wide, and the signal CAN appear to be compressed and still be narrow!

It is a rapid slope in the envelope that causes splatter. An abrupt change in slope can be almost impossible to see on a conventional scope, yet can produce garbage all up and down the band. This change can occur anywhere during the envelope, because it is the delta of the voltage that controls level of the spurious and the rate of change that causes the products that increase bandwidth. is absolutely untrue that adding extra energy in the speech (between say 100Hz and 3.1kHz) does not increase IMD. The bias and power sources in our systems have enough problems when handling higher tone frequencies, they are already marginal.

If we make them handle fuller audio, in particular stuff with low frequency energy, things DO get worse. They get worse even if we do not "overdrive" the system, and even if the bias and supplies handle the dynamic load variations because there are more frequencies (that we really don't need) to mix!

I'm afraid it is a bad idea to make the transmit audio "fuller" to the extent that we ship along tones that do nothing but add to problems...just so we feel like broadcasters.

One example of this was on 1858kHz, where a few guys opened up the bass in their MP's. They were nearly lynched by people on 1850kHz because of the additional IMD products. Listen carefully to bassy signals on a clear band (assuming you have minimal local noise) and you'll generally find them noticably wider than similar signal levels with stock audio using the same equipment.

It especially a bad idea to transmit unneeded bass, since supplies in the system are most affected by it and it does nothing at all for communications.

73 Tom

HiFi SSB audio  
by N0VLJ on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This is ridiculous!We are just amateurs. If our audio sounds the way it does it is because we want to exchange basic information: QTH, NAME, and SIGNAL REPORT!!!!!! And the rigs we use accomplish that very well! .....What was that, Old Man? Your name is not Arnaldo but Roberto? Your QTH is not Bucamaranga but Barcelona? Oh, Perdon! It is obviously not conditions, but your "poor quality audio" that prevents our exchange of information this day!..... Get a life all you ego tripping audio afician-audios! Like the VK said, join your local NPR station and carve out a nitch for yourself their! You are extremely boring to the majority of us who wish for nothing more than the essence of hamming which is to make contact and be done! Audio be bleeped!Please go away, and the sooner the better.
HiFi SSB audio  
by AI4ET on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
No thank you. I believe in in the KISS principle. Any thing you add to the circuit is just something else to cause problems. My FT-1000MP audio is just fine, never had a complaint. Same goes for the FT-100 mobile. Carefull attention to adjusting your radios controls will result in good quality audio. But I know real hams don't read manuals.
HiFi SSB audio  
by WN3VAW on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!

Thank you for the excellent and informative article. I truly enjoyed it!

It is unfortunate that some of the first comments are from people who must have skimmed the article or not completely checked out your web site. I would think that they would realize the importance of transmitting a good quality (ie "high fidelity" in it's truest sense) within the bandwiths of most amateur transmitters and while employing good amateur practice. But there always does seem to be someone who delights on raining on the parade...

HiFi SSB audio  
by W6AMH on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I dump the headphone audio on my HF rig through an attenuating cable into a Radio Shack mixer board and from there to the sound card in my shacks computer, along with audio from 2m and 440, plus whatever audio I'm getting from the computer.
My Bose amplified speakers and the eqalizing software on my computer do a fine job of giving me control of the audio and the linear pots on the mixer allow me to select what I'm hearing with ease. It also feeds the input on a stereo recorder so I can save audio from any source to tape.
HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!

You simply don't understand that pushing the envelope and experimenting has been outlawed since the good old days, whenever they were. N0VLJ tells us that all that is needed is name, qth, and signal report. Is their life beyond contests and artificial "awards"? Look in the bathroom, there is a whole roll of them.

Sorry Bill, closed minds are something wrong with amateur radio that no amount of signal processing will fix. Put a pig in a dress and you still have a pig in a dress.

HiFi SSB audio  
by KC4IWO on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I made refference to using an O-scope due to the amount of people I listen to who over drive the stink out of there radios to to get what they think is the full output of there rig when all they are doing is driving up there average power. The idea of the scope is just a simple one to help people understand the difference between average power and peak power. No it is not a cure all. But you will see how hard you are driving your system into compression and can assume this is producing IMD products. By reducing your drive and producing the proper wave form on the scope you are heading in the right direction. I can take my 706MK2G and drive the mic and compressor gains up to make it sound like hell, but with the aid of a receiver and a scope was able to adjust both settings and get the best results. A radios AGC is no good if you run an amp and do not connect the two together. No you cannot see tone quality on a scope, you can only hear it. But just because a scope is limited in what it can see does not mean you disregard it as a usefull tool in setting up a transmitter.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I find it interesting that N0VLJ states "Audio be bleeped!Please go away" in one breath while in his bio he admits to using AM and a Viking Ranger.

Perhaps the folks who equate higher quality SSB to "MAXIMUM BASS" and operate in this style give those who enjoy something other than contest grade audio a bad name. Yes, an EQ can be can an amplifier (listen to the splatter from some contesters with so called "Collins Audio").

Did it ever occur to the contesters that such a setup could be used to create custom tailored contest or dx audio?

HiFi SSB audio  
by N2MR on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
What is so bad about an electret mic? The response and output level is more than sufficient for any ham transceiver. They are small, light, and cheap (free if you trash pick!) After adjusting the usb & lsb xmit carrier offsets and mic EQ's menu settings on my FT-920 my "free" electret sounds better than a Heil HC4 xtal mic, when I listen to it on my TS-50, with the FT-920 transmitting into a dummy load. Just remember that good pileup cracking/contest quality audio is never overdriven, and sounds like a circular saw cutting aluminum siding!
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by WB2WIK on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I only wish that during the major SSB contests (CQ WW, ARRL DX, CQ WPX at least) more operators would have the sense to not use their transmitters in such a way that their ALCs are maxed out 24/7. Good grief, trying to copy strange accents from all over the world doesn't get any easier when signals have full-limiting background noise and distortion levels are running at 50%. During the most recent ARRL DX (March 2001), I was frequently on the receiving end of DX pileups and noted that the stations with the crispest audio undetectably low background noise were the ones by far easiest to copy, regardless of signal strength. I found myself often responding to a very clearly annunciated S6 signal right in the middle of a 40dB/S9 pileup. Now, I can appreciate how "we" sound to the rare DX, and it's not a pretty sound. Simply pressing the "high pitch" button on my Kenwood, which peaks transmit audio response for a crisper signal by rolling off all the lows, and keeping my mike gain down so the ALC is just barely working, results in a very low "average" wattmeter reading (1500W PEP = maybe 300-400W indicated average) but sure gets through the pileups a whole lot better than other combination of adjustments. I've often been told, "Not very strong, but very clear, OM." Can't ask for more than that!
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend! MX602A

RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KB3CDF on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for a topic that is surely in need of discussion.

The art and science of adjustment and test in the shack is not often readily available to the concerned. I would love to read/learn more. As it is now in my personal case, a lot of this is left to trial and error. God knows, I error. "HIFI"? I would like to produce audio that is "High quality", "articulate", and "understood".

How's that go?

"Give a man a fish and ease the hunger for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will live a lifetime...".

The LID you teach today, might be the guy that hears your call when your boat is sinking.

This type of stuff beats the snot out "no-coder's are the cause of the world's destruction" articles.

Be an Elmer, not a Fudd.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KZ9G on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!

Granted the passband is a little wider, and more low-end energy is mixing within the passband, causing an overall increase in distortion products. Point well taken... Maybe an upgrade to the Mark V, which operated biased in it's "class A" mode, would be a wise move for these guys, generating a clean signal, worthy of further fun and experimentation in this area.

But jeez... Let these guys do their thing. I'm sure the folks involved in this aspect of the hobby are responsible, considerate operators.

Then there's the tired old logic of, "If you can't find room to operate satisfactorily on the phone bands, move to another mode, like CW or PSK31."

RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
If you are trying to convince technically astute amateur radio operators this HIFI SSB system is credable your looking up the wrong dogs butt.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KZ9G on April 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Isn't it amazing what someone can say when they sign anonymous! Says a lot about their character, or lack of it.

Speaking of dogs, I lived in Alaska and was quite involved in the Iditarod dogsled race for 5 years. The saying there is, "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes." Well, I can apply that saying here. "Hi-Fi" SSB breaks new ground through experimentation. These guys are trying new combinations of equipment, and are finding out what works and what doesn't. The goal: better audio - and a commendable one. Clarke's leading a dogteam in many respects, and I just wish I had the time to try out a few of these ideas. In my case, I could easily pull the receive line audio output off to mixer of some sort, followed by a low noise amp and my trusty JBL bookshelf speaker I've been using for years. For me, this would be a wonderful step in the right direction.

73 de Steve, KZ9G
ex: KL7DC, NT0J/IT9, etc.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by W7NEW on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I have been messing around with Lo Fi audio for about eight years. I have used audio gear on AM,Fm, and SSB. For the longest time I thought I was alone. I did hear from time to time a AM guy with fantastic audio but never on SSB. I for one am happy as all get out to see the interest in better audio is gaining popularity at a high rate of speed. I was being bothered by the saw on tin sounding audio for a long time so I did something about it. I was born with better than normal audio hearing and I for one love to listen to the smooth audio from our LO FI brothers. I know that there are some Hams out there who have started in this area and are a little dirty but they will get the hang of it. It takes a guy some time to develope the skills they need to run LO FI SSB audio. What I dont think has been exspained yet is the reason to do this. The audio that comes from a 1000mp or a 756 or what ever with good qulity desk mic sounds good for communications audio but in no way comes close to the sound from audio processing. This is just anouther aspect of experimentation within the hobby. If its not your thing just dont do it. I dont like Packet or SSTV but I am not going to bash the guys who do it. The point is if it makes you happy give it a try. You all may be surprised at how fun the Lo Fi audio can be.
Catch you all on the bands with my Lo Fi audio. 73 for now.
HiFi SSB audio  
by WV4R on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I am quite amazed at the very Negative vibrations I am getting from perusing all these 'comments' regarding apparent attempts by licensed amateur radio operators to improve the quality of their transmitted audio. I have only been hamming for 42 years and so I am not as experienced as some, however, I recall an old seasoned Captain's comment to me one evening over a 'cold one'... it was many years ago but it stuck... this Captain was 'councilling' me as a young Second Officer, regarding his senior First Officer who had a Captain Rating but was flying First Officer due to a reduction in grade. His comment seems so appropos after all these comments... "Some have fifteen years experience and some have One years' experience Fifteen Times." I view ham radio as a hobby and I applaude the new and exciting things I am observing... slowscan TV, fastscan TV on highbands, RTTY, digital modes, APRS, CW, AM, FM... and SSB. According to my humble and personal statistics derived from On-The-Air questions shows that Over 90 percent of the licensed amateur radio operators have NO means, Zero, nada, means to accurately monitor their transmitted signal as it is going out across the country and the world for everybody Else to monitor! I believe there are Three things Every licensed amateur can do in his hamshack every day and at No, Zero, nada extra cost... every licensed amateur transmitter can be Clean and Clear and Zero-Beat. Next time you are 'monitoring' across the bands... take a few careful moments and really listen to what is now out there. I am betting you will find, as I am now finding, that the Majority of transmitted SSB audio is Not Clean, is Not Clear, and is Definitely Not ZeroBeat! Some hams have fifty years experience and some hams have one years' experience fifty times.... 73 es God bless, murf/wv4r.
I stand corrected  
by N2MR on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Specifications for the HC-4 (Red Label)
Type: - Dynamic. Copper wound bobbin, moving coil transducer

I thought it was a xtal element.
HiFi SSB audio  
by KG5BV on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I am always amazed at the number of "experts" that waste no time in attacking ideas that they didn't think of. I welcome new ideas, and new ways of looking at old ideas. I don't always agree, but then I always learn something.

Thanks for the article and the ideas. I enjoyed it, and learned a few things too.

Dwight KG5BV
HiFi SSB audio  
by W1IQW on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Most of the "hi-fi" SSBers I've heard on the band have horrible signals. They sound as though they're talking into a rain barrel and a low-pitched tone accompanies their audio. It's almost impossible to tune for anything approximating a human voice. They get together and praise each other for the wonderful sound they're producing, but they must have tin ears. If they want to spend their money on worthless add-ons, they have my blessing; it's at least a boost to the sagging economy.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by W7AXE on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I myself would much rather listen to "HiFi SSB Audio" than audio that sounds like it is coming through a cheap 2" Intercom speaker.......I think it depends however how you are operating, whether you are into DXing or Contesting or if you are into Ragchewing, the wide audio doesn't do too well when you have 50 people calling for one station, but for round robin ragchewing that wide audio sure is easy on the ears! That's the great thing with this hobby, all the different modes and ways of operating, but if something isn't your bag we shouldn't criticize.
73 John W7AXE
HiFi SSB audio  
by W8MW on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with the others who marvel at the rude and ungentlemanly conduct of some over a gentle little topic like SSB audio improvements. But there has also been some good discussion started here. Let me throw in a few more cents worth.

Bill's article says most ham radio microphones are awful. He's right. What we have is marketing emphasis on looks/bells n whistles and pitiful concern for sonic performance. Anything that looks that good and has the same brand name on it as your radio must be the best possible choice, right? The radio manufacturers thought hams would see it that way and it looks like they judged us right. I presently own equipment from the big 3. Love their radios, can't stand their microphones.

Sometimes I miss the "good old days" when transmitters came without a microphone. You had to buy your own and you usually bought it from a microphone manufacturer like EV, Turner, Shure, Astatic. Hams actually experimented with different makes of microphones on their gear. I don't linger over the good old days for long though. While lots of the older mics sound great, older SSB transmitters can't hold a candle to the clean, low distortion performance of most new rigs.

It is still possible to try different mics, although it is a more time consuming proposition thanks to the lack of standardized wiring for mic plugs and the fact that you may have to give up some of the bells n whistles control functions. But even if it requires temporary jumpers and a mess of wire on the operating desk, I find it rewarding to swap out different mics on the same rig. Many times the ugliest most beat up mic turns out to be the best sounding.

Here are a couple of low price microphone suggestions. The $30 hamfest special, the old D-104 crystal mic can run circles around most of the new stuff once it is properly matched to the mic input. I successfully use D-104 mics on my ICOM 756 PRO, Yaesu FT-1000MP and Kenwood TS830. Look for one with a working onboard preamp and you'll have the option to use it or not use it depending on your rig. I heard a real old timer on 40 meters running a D-104 with some of the sweetest, cleanest audio ever. He asked the other op how it sounded and that guy using a muffled sounding Kenwood microphone told him the D-104 just wasn't right for ham radio.

For something newer in mics, there is a lot of buzz going on about a mistake Radio Shack made. They sell a dynamic manufactured for them by Shure. It's Model 33-1070d in the catalog for 49.95 but sometimes on sale for 29.95. The mistake is this mic is worth two or three times the price. It has wide flat response and a massive element inside a metal case. It has more low frequency output that ordinary ham mics and it usually requires tweaking a rig's onboard eq/dsp/carrier shift to roll off some of those lows. I like it so much I bought a second one which I use for field recording in my work as an audio recording engineer.

Bill's idea of equalization in the mic circuit is completely valid regardless of which type mic is used.
It's amazing how a little eq boost or cut can make transmit audio become even more sparkling clear or full sounding. While the critics presume that any discussion of eq relates to excessive, thumpy bass, a lot of us use it to achieve a more balanced, articulate sound that doesn't reveal the presence of processing at all.

73 Mike W8MW

RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by K1OU on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Even though the audio may be considered "hi-fi", I wonder if some stop to actually listen to themselves.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KB0HAE on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Guys. Just a few comments here. I believe that most of the distorted audio that I have
heard on the bands is the result of over-driving. Many hams just don't seem to get the idea that you don't have to squeeze the last watt out of the rig to make a contact. The truth is that reducing the mic gain would give a clearer signal, and the difference in output would not be noticable to the receiving station

Also, I consistantly get good audio reports using hand mics. I have an Icom 706MKII, and a Kenwood
TS-130SE. I also get good reports using homebrew headsets, which have just cheap ($2.00 at RS)
electret mic elements. It helps to have some hams in the local area that will give an honest audio report.
I am fortunate to know several local area (within 40 miles) hams who will tell someone how their
audio sounds, good or bad. A scope helps, as does the ability to listen to yourself on another rig or receiver.
HiFi SSB audio  
by VK2GWK on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I do not object against experimenting. I love it... All what the author has done is buying a lot of high end equipment and knotting it together. The same results (may be better) might have been reached with a couple of IC's, transistors, resistors and capacitors and cheap electret mikes. Spend the big money on buying a good quality dual trace scope and audio generator and start experimenting. Then you do not have to ask your fellow hams "how does my audio sound"? (and nine out of ten times they do not want to offend you and so they answer "Great")
Build your own filters, mike gains, output amps and so forth. Then you will be a real ham and not a big spender only....
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
It takes you dude's from down under to put this mess in proper prospective.
HiFi SSB audio  
by WB9OFG on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Some of the comments I've read here remind me of a fad that some "techno-lids" were trying to start a few years ago in my area. These fellows figured that they could "conserve bandspace" on 2M by turning their deviation down to around +/- 2 kcs. or so. First off, it made it a giant pain in the keester to have one of them in a QSO with stations running the more prevelent +/- 5 kcs, becuase we had to "ride gain" on the volume control. The second thing they didn't consider was channel spacing, which I recall might have been 25 or 30 kcs. at that time to accomodate those Luddites among us still using Circle "M" Ranch and Link surplus gear....

And, which is the greater evil? a 3.1 kcs. wide SSB signal with perfect clairity and a modicum of fidelity, or a 15 kcs. wide "balls to the wall" processors-cranked-to-the-max splatter generator? I don't operate that much phone, and when I do, I hear a LOT of stations that over-process. these are the guys who sound like they're in a wind tunnel or have a dozen 500-CFM blowers on the amp.

If "bandwidth conservation" is to be the mark of the "True Amateur", I would suggest to you that there is already a reliable, fun-to-use mode available for your use and experimentation.

It's called "CW"...

RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
The audio experimentation in the hobby is great. I don't understand how one of the posts compared this to CB. When most of the op's state that their audio is fine the way it is, its not. They are the same ones operating an old 520 that sounds like a complete low fidelety tin can hunk of junk. The one complaining that he has to go in and open his receiver should open his wallet. The old collins rigs are great vintage rigs however transmitt audio like most the old rigs compared to the modern ones sucks. These are the same op's who probably use black and white film in cameras because it's cheaper than color and says"this picture is just fine". The hifi ham audio sounds great. I give alot of credit to the audio pioneers of the hobby. Unlike CB they strive for quality audio and growth, Not like the op's using the same radio for 30 years saying the audio reports they recieve are just fine. Its not fine!!!! you sound like crap and ought to break down and buy an ft-1000mp,ts-870,756pro or 950sdx.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on April 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
"I too, am Just an Amateur....."- G. Marconi
HiFi SSB audio  
by K4TBN on April 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
If you want to hear 'good' audio, tune 14.174 to 14.182 most mornings (EDT) for an example. Of course, most SSB audio will sound hi-fi even if it takes 8 kcs, or more, to do it.

Fun discussion, anyhow.
HiFi SSB audio  
by W4VR on April 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Five out of ten stations I hear on the HF bands process their audio to make it sound like AM. Looking at the spectrum scope on the 756PRO the majority of these signals are as broad as if they were amplitude modulated, although some do sound good but manage to keep their transmitted RF envelopes within reasonable bounds. I hope the FCC is looking into this because this is going against what SSB was designed to do in the first place, to increase spectrum efficiency and allow more users on the band. The other thing I've noticed is that some of these hams all sound the same....I can't tell if I'm talking to Tom, Dick or Harry.
HiFi SSB audio  
by W4VR on April 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Five out of ten stations I hear on the HF bands process their audio to make it sound like AM. Looking at the spectrum scope on the 756PRO the majority of these signals are as broad as if they were amplitude modulated, although some do sound good but manage to keep their transmitted RF envelopes within reasonable bounds. I hope the FCC is looking into this because this is going against what SSB was designed to do in the first place, to increase spectrum efficiency and allow more users on the band. The other thing I've noticed is that some of these hams all sound the same....I can't tell if I'm talking to Tom, Dick or Harry.
HiFi SSB audio  
by K0KP on April 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
For real High Fidelity audio forget SSB. An AM transmitter with high-level plate modulation and unrestricted response out to 12 Khz is the way to go. Tie on an Orban "Optimod" processor for high performance sound. Remember though, amateur power output is measured as peak output; a fully modulated AM signal has a peak output of four times nominal carrier power output!

Hey.....better yet, get an AM broadcast license!
HiFi SSB audio  
by W5PYH on April 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
for those who would care to you can hear these clowns and their splattering so called hifi audio on 18.130 and 18.133 most any morning.they ar usually there blowing smoke up each others butt about how good they think they me it sounds like a herd of undertakers...these people are so green that they don't understand why we moved from double sideband AM to the space saving SSB mode of that the fcc will issue a ham ticket for a boxtop or qst subscription the bands have become so crowded that we don't need more clutter on the bands.

HiFi SSB audio  
by CHARLESSTAMPFEXN2CJ on April 19, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
C'mon fellas......hi-fi with 3.1 khz bandwidth? You've got to be kidding.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by SWLER on April 20, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
w8ji is right, about IMD and associated products. IMD is the complex mixing of frequencies creating 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and greater order products. The greater the range of frequencies, the greater the possible permutations and combination, hence greater IMD. The whole idea of using SSB is to reduce bandwidth, anything that increases it is really not in the spirit. Secondly its a joke really installing wider receive filters just to hear great audio, filters are there to reduce intereference and narrow the receiver bandwidth to protect the receiver, 2.4+ khz wide filters with poor shape factors are not the way to go. Whats next all these station with wide filter complaining to the rest how we bleeding through with "splatter". It just seems these audio freaks want to undo 40 years of good communication practice. Maybe if our ham radios had narrow roofing filters in the fron end we would realise the futility of trying to squeeze 10lbs into 1lb.

Some people forget that all this research was done by Bell Labs and the British Phone companies in the early days of radio, phones links and satellites. They exhaustively analysed every possible frequency and combination to see what was best for the users ears. Those of you who recall these test, remember how they sat a wide sample of people in a room and got them to listen to different transmissions and bandwidths with different audio frequencies for months on end. This was all done to improve clarity of communications circuits. Now some joker comes along with rack of gear and think they doing leading edge research getting 10 reports from yes men.

Muffled and poor audio is really a result of bad design practices, if we wanted better audio we just need better pre-amps in out transmitters. LM833 style audio op-amps would do the trick here rather than the cheap and nasty audio chains we have in our radios. It always strikes me how superb HF utility stations sound using no speech processing simply because many have good audio stages designed for line level commercial applications.I have heard ham station using homebrew op-amp preamps and equalisers sounding better that most of the stations spending mega bucks. Its a pity that these station buying this gear dont realise you can buy all these chips from Burr Brown for a few bucks each.

All the HIFI audio i have heard on 14mhz sounds muffled and sounds like that the whole audio chain is pumping or ringing. It appears if you listen carefully that these station sometimes have what appears to a carrier, this just could be low frequency rumble thats not filtered or creating IMD or pumping in the audio stages.

To me listening from a few thousand miles away they have no inteligibility, they might sound okay to their friends down the road.

The place for this audio would be great up on 10ghz or AM or FM, not the 20 metre band. What amazes me is that some of these stations on 14178 have been going for almost 10 years twisting knobs, it just seems like its a hobby for bored retired folk with bucket load of money to keep catalogue companies happy. How can you spend 10 grand on a MIC on a SSB transmitter with distortion and receiver audio stages with 10% plus distortion, its bordering on crazy. Whats also amazing is that nobody has terminated a transmitter into a dummy load suppressed the RF and swept and detected what the audio stages and transmitter is capable of passing, not some phony audio spectrum plot of a mike or equaliser.

I dont deny anyone his or her right to experiment, but fads are basically poor science. This to me is no different to CB operators who think they achieving something by using a "power microphone", at least they smart enough to spend 10 bucks. I would also finally add that there exists a commercial system called LINCOMPLEX that is used extensively on commercial SSB systems to increase audio quality. This system has been tested quite thoroughly and has been proven, this kind of system is where hams should be directing there efforts. For those interested see the bible "SSB Engineering principles and practice" Mcgraw Hill. Sabin also covered in Communications Quartely, something called soft limiting as a way improving audio quality. Yes its amazing what can be done on a breadboard using 5 bucks worth of op-amps. We just need good science to guide us.

Anyway for those true believers Good knob twisting guys.


HiFi SSB audio  
by W6PMR on April 23, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hey guys, lighten up!!! I think it's fun to play with my audio. I have been using a Mackie mixer and nice high quality mike for years and love to "tweek" the audio. I'm having a lot of fun, and thats what I think Ham radio is about.
HiFi SSB audio  
by KC4PE on May 2, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
If you want more information on "LoFi" SSB Audio try:

and pictures on


HiFi SSB audio  
by KC4PE on May 2, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
If you want more information on "LoFi" SSB Audio try:

and pictures on


RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KB6LWN on May 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Spoken like a TRUE Contestor...
CQ DX CQ DX CQ DX... Thanks for 5 5 U R 1 1 :)

I know this discussion is mainly relating to SSB,
which is why I've decided to give AM a go, and have
acquired a couple older TUBE rigs that will do that
mode and hopfully with a decent set of speakers and
a quality EV mic will have 'armchair' audio.

For DX I'll probably still opt to use SSB most of
the time, but it IS nice to actually hear what some-
one sounds like without picturing them with a bill.


73 - Bruce
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by W9AC on May 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I know of no FCC rule that limits occupied bandwidth on SSB. There's plenty of space out there for all of us to enjoy. The reason SSB was developed in the first place was not to limit the occupied bandwidth of transmissions as some have repeatedly pointed out. Rather, the focus was on increasing intelligibility and increasing peak-to-average output power efficiency. By eliminating one sideband, and removing the carrier associated with amplitude modulation, this objective was achieved. Constricted audio within the human voice articulation range was a resulting and secondary benefit (or detriment) from the filtering technology available at the time of SSB's infancy. While IMD may be a factor when emphasizing low frquencies, the audio I'm hearing on the Hi-Fi nets sounds surprisingly good without the noticablble effects of IMD.
HiFi SSB audio  
by JAMES_BENEDICT_EX_N8FVJ on June 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I might add, I have tested about 50 speakers (raw drivers) throughout the last 3 years. Many can be picked up at swaps or garage sales for 50 cents. If I do not care for the speaker, I resell it, as long as the speaker functions ok. The best I found was an 8" unit that has high frequency cutoff around 2.5kHz and a low frequency cutoff about 200Hz. Real bad news for music, but excellent for communications. The high frequency cutoff is great for static crashes and the low end gets rid of a lot of receive low frequency 'trash'. The reproduction is very accurate with low distortion. This speaker is an effective filter and is used on all my HF radios.
HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on July 9, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
w2ot generally operates on 18.130 and 18.133 near 09:00 edst---listen to him for awhile and you will
get a good idea of what a broad signal and imd is all will be amazed at how much space
one signal can take.the fellow seems to have a total disregard for other people operating on the same band.he seems to think that imd is his old chicken bandit call sign.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by KE1EH on July 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Gee guy's, quite a debate over HiFi ssb. I'm not to great on knowledge of what makes a good sounding transmited signal but, kind of understand about overdriven and flat topping of audio. From my limited point of view, why don't we all work LSB instead of USB, all the audio I hear on LSB is much easier to listen to, and the fidelity seems to be much better. There's a lot of folks out there that know much much more about this topic than I do, so this was just an observation on my part,I'll keep reading and learning. 73's Rusty KE1EH
HiFi SSB audio  
Anonymous post on July 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I have checked W2OT on several occasions and his audio really is bad.Why does
the fcc permit this ?
HiFi SSB audio  
by K2WH on July 19, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This is an unnecessary device and expense. If you want high fidelity audio, simply run the speaker and mike audio from your rig, (like I do), into the sound card in your computer. If you have good speakers on the computer, it will sound wonderful. In addition, with the proper software (freely available on the web), you can adjust the audio to whatever suits you.

Sorry but this device while maybe something an AM user may salivate over, is too expensive and unnecessary with today computers and software.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by JAMES_BENEDICT_EX_N8FVJ on December 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
It is December 15, 2001 and I still come back to this article. Nothing like some of these 'ugly' replies to date on eHam. I still prefer high quality receive audio. I wont go as far as to add all the low level audio accessories, however a microphone upgrade could be interesting.
RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by HAMDUDE on February 19, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
This whole controversy over SSB audio practice is amazing to me. I see nothing wrong with a ham trying to improve the sound of his rig within reason. All the new rigs come out of the box with lousy, plastic handmikes that sound like crap on the air in 9 out of 10 cases. Why spend around 2 grand on a radio, only to have audio like the local burger king drive through? Does anyone REALLY wish to sound like this on the air? Is there no sense of pride in the sound of ones station?

Now, granted, to go out and spend hundreds, or even thousands on fancy sophistacted audio gear for a 3kc SSB signal is ludicrious too! One does not need a huge rack of junk to have good quality SSB audio. In fact, I will agree that alot of the 14.178 crowd is a muffled up disaster of garbled crappy audio, only because they took what was a good idea, and totally blew it out of proportion to out do the next guy.

The biggest reason these guys are too wide, is because they have installed huge filters, and have all this garbage cranked to the hilt into what was once a normal rig. Now they have 50 toys hooked up to it, and its pumped directly into the balanced modulator and overdriving the snot out of the radio....not good.

All you need, is a decent quality mike, no not a $5000
Neuman, but a decent quality vocal mike of reasonable quality and cost. And a simple EQ such as the W2IHY or even a rack unit if you can keep RF out of it. The key is, not to drive the ALC off the darn scale! Even a stock rig, driven to the max will splatter like hell if the operator has no clue how to adjust the audio gain properly!

The biggest offenders of splattering are the guys that have no clue what the ALC is on their rigs, no matter what kind of mike they use. An EQ by itself wont cause splatter if the operator knows how to properly adjust it, and not overdrive the rig to death with it. I have heard many old rigs splattering to beat the band, only because the old timer operating it cant see the ALC meter, or just plain doesnt care.

Virtually ANY rig will splatter, EQ or NO EQ if there is an idiot at the controls. It is of course silly to call this "Hi-FI" anyway, because 3kc will NEVER be anything but voice quality audio. But, not everyone who plays with audio is a total idiot that splatters all over the bands. I have heard many contesters with their totally overdriven rigs cranked so high that the fans drown them out! To listen to tinny, pinched up and totally overdriven audio is more obnoxious than fingernails across a blackboard as well.

The key is common sense. If a fellow is going to play with his transmit audio, at least be smart enough to listen to what your actually transmitting. The rig monitors lie to you, what you hear in there, is NOT what people on the other end are hearing. These are compromise features built into the rig for the sake of selling more radios. Get a receiver, attenuate it so as not to overload it, plug some decent phones into it, and listen to your signal. A scope is a great tool also, but like another post said, it cant tell you how you sound, only if you are overdriving. You can have a beautiful waveform on the scope, and still sound like the burger king speaker.

Isnt ham radio about experimenting? Ok, so not everyone knows exactly what they are doing, but how else are they supposed to learn? You CAN sound good and keep it all within 3 kc, just use common sense.

RE: HiFi SSB audio  
by VE7AZC on December 31, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Boy, this topic is about as controversial as the raging CW battle ... and almost as heated.

I appreciate good, clean audio. I also appreciate not being spattered upon. By investing less than $300US, I have been able to produce really good sounding full range audio. I have found that keeping the lower frequencies subdued makes for better communications, and neighbour relations on the band. I checked out the transmit bandwidth and it measures out to about 3.2K on hamscope ... slightly higher than the 2.8 we usually hear, but much lower than the 6K that is often spattering 18 megs. I did notice some artifacts above 3.2K buy they were down at least 50db. I also noticed that I get a LOT more drive from the rig, and the ALC action is quite a bit less than before ... almost none in fact. The extra drive, I believe, comes from bumping up the low frequencies a bit ... usually the freq's around 130 - 200Hz. Below 150Hz you have to be really careful to avoid the dreaded boom box carrier effect.

I have to admit that I have had really mixed reviews from the chaps I have spoken to regarding this new fad. Some love it, but others want the hand mic with compression (AKA ... skilsaw sawing aluminum sheets) audio.

After I did all this I tried the hand mic on my radio with the EQ in the rig tweaked and it also sounded plenty fine for me, but worlds away from the audio I got from the external EQ setup. There is really no comparison.

That being said, it was fun to achieve, but I'm bored with it now, so I'm off to CW land for awhile.
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