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Author Topic: What makes a good contest call sign?  (Read 3128 times)

Posts: 418

« on: February 06, 2008, 08:34:37 AM »

I always enjoy fun topics of debate and this meets that standard. I have heard a lot of "theories" on what makes a good contest call sign. What is yours?

Posts: 161

« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 10:26:08 AM »

I don't know about other people, but I think some calls have a good distinct rhythm on CW such as N5IN. EE5E, and on and on.  These calls seem to stand out when doing the S&P method.


Posts: 719


« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 12:23:57 PM »

Well, I think there are a lot more good contest callsigns than bad ones.  Being well-known (that is, active) is at least as important as having a "good" callsign.

A good callsign is a standard format (no 1X1's) and usually ends with a "DAH" on CW.  The fewer hard consonants in the phonetics, the better.  Repeated letters or patterns are good.

CT1BOH claims that he can make more contacts over the period of a weekend if he uses a shorter callsign because he regains all of the lost minutes spent sending the longer call.  Few of us are good enough to economize at that level, though.

Posts: 244

« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 01:10:44 PM »

Length of call is a factor, although I do think that length is often defeated by stations who are well recognized.  W3LPL is a very long call (CW length) but its universally known.  

For single ops, short is good, but dont get cute.  The rules I've always worked under are:

1) never have a call that ends in E as "E" in CW tests often gets missed in the QRM;

2) avoid calls that are heavy with sequences of similar letters WB5HSH is NOT recommended on CW

3) never have a call that ends in K as some stations interpret "K" on CW as a handoff from one station to the other;

4) avoid calls that are very similar to others who are historically active.  If you have W3RPL, you are going to get confused with W3LPL and this will cause stations who are not versed in the "work all dupes" school to label you a dupe.  Even worse are other hams who work W3LPL, then work you, and after having done so, pull you out of the log because they think you are a dupe - you wind up with a NIL!;

5) avoid calls that have a tendency to have cutesy phonetics on SSB.  Its probably fine for USA contests, but Italian hams have no idea what the hell your are saying when you used "Zany Underwear Thrower" as your phonetics;

6) never use a 1x1 in a contest; folks expect a call letter somewhere and you will lose massive amounts of time being asked to reconfirm your call...

Now for the dos:

1) pick calls with single consonant letters or easy to pronounce double consonants.  Xray I think, is fine.  So is Mike.  I is difficult "Italy" or "India" do not convey well.  J as in "Juliet" is also problematic, but can be resolved using "Japan".

2) pick double letters.  K3MM is fast.

3) on CW, pick a call that ends in a "dah"


Posts: 23

« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2008, 12:11:03 PM »

First of all, I'm not the voice of experience on this topic, but I did notice some things about call signs in the January VHF contest and all of this applies only to SSB as I have no idea about how it sounds in CW.  The easiest call in the entire contest for me was W3SO.  The guys almost sings his call.  It doesn't take phonetics to figure it out.  It was so memorable that I can still hear his voice in my head because of the lyrical quality to it.  

The next easy one was KN4SM.  King Nancy Four Sugar Mike just has a distinct staccato sound to it and registers in the brain well.  

My call seems to trip people up.  I don't know if its the phonetics, but I think as people are writing it, they can't believe it spells a word so they ask again and again and often transpose the U and the N.  "Is that Kilo four golf november uniform?".  I end up yelling "gun, gun gun!" and that usually does the trick.  

With my admittedly inexperienced ear, I have an easier time with "sugar" rather than "sierra" and "king" rather than "kilo".  Sierra sounds too much like the letter "C" and "kilo" in the suffix somehow becomes "Q" in my brain.  

Posts: 3191

« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2008, 12:36:10 PM »

Well, my call has an E at the end of it, and in CW contests it is often copied incorrectly.

Posts: 26

« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2008, 01:52:41 PM »

I only do SSB and it seems that many stations hear my call as Whiskey Nine instead of Whiskey Mike. In some cases that helps me in a pileup but other times I get admonished when I respond because they are waiting for the "Whiskey Nine" station. Smiley I often just say Whiskey Mexico to avoid confusion.

Posts: 180


« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2008, 07:43:32 AM »

"Good Contest" is an Oxymoron!

Posts: 1


« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2008, 06:55:11 PM »

What makes a good contest call sign?

Answer: a good LOUD signal. A rare prefix helps a lot.

But seriously, contesters want something snappy and intelligible. One thing that really helps is to operate a lot of contests. The more you operate, the more quickly your call sign will be recognized by more operators.

On CW, dahs seem to have more average power than dits. The only problem I experience is folks dropping a dit from the letter R occasionally. Shorter call signs are generally preferred over longer ones.

On phone, many letters sound the same. I can often call in a pileup without phonetics and get an answer. Not many other letters sounds like R or O. I don't like the phonetic Oscar; it gets interpreted as Alpha sometimes. I use Ontario or Ocean. Radio works better than Romeo. I don't think there's a ham alive who does not recognize "Radio."

On RTTY, sometimes the O gets typed as zero, and occasionally that happens on CW too.
That's my experience so far...

Get a call sign that YOU like, and then use it while operating contests. Every call sign has its own personality. The important part is OPERATING with it as much as possible. Before long, folks will pick you out,  even if they only hear a partial call. The best contest call signs are the ones that get used a lot.


-Kirk  K4RO

Posts: 530

« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2008, 12:26:27 PM »

>  1) never have a call that ends in E as "E" in CW tests often gets missed in the QRM;

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