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Author Topic: "CW is better for DX... " Evidence?  (Read 3063 times)
N3OX
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« on: March 23, 2010, 08:36:17 PM »

I prefer CW when DXing.   I feel like it's easier to get through the pileups.  I feel like it's easier to work long haul DX with it.  There are objective reasons why the increased spectral brightness of CW should improve my ability to work weak DX stations in tough areas on CW.  I feel like I spend more time on CW.

HOWEVER... I looked at my log in detail after responding to KC0SHZ in his "getting heard" topic.  

I've worked 305 total.  Phone I've got 280 and CW I've got 284.  OK, so what?  Maybe I don't bother with the real hard, weak ones on phone and work them on CW.

So let's filter to the "harder parts" of the world.

CQ Zones 17-28?  DXCC entities worked: 55 Phone, 57 CW

CQ Zones 22-28 to cut out the Middle East, which is relatively easy: 26 Phone, 27 CW

JUST 24, 26, and 28? China, Hong Kong, Andamans, Cambodia, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc?

14 Phone, 13 CW !!!

I started in 1995, have never run more than 100W on any band, except 160 which doesn't count at all in these totals (have never worked a DXCC entity only on 160 and nowhere else, no shocker there).  I've DXed from NW Pennsylvania, Northern NY, and Maryland, so the "hard ones" stayed the "hard ones" to a large extent.  The highest gain HF antenna I've ever had is a Cushcraft A3S at 30 feet.  Even in the "hard" parts of the world where I would expect CW to make a big difference for my low power station, there's not much of a preference.  

I know that objectively speaking, CW is just much better at getting through.  When I get on VHF, it is absolutely striking.  I've got a very small VHF station and I can often hear a weak big gun on phone and call 'till I'm blue in the lungs, switch to CW and have the contact first call.  I'm absolutely certain that if I was having trouble with a *particular* Asian station on phone, switching to CW right then would make all the difference in the world.  And the low band CW advantage is clear: 208 CW/77 Phone for 40m and down only.

But my log is telling me that across all HF bands I'm not getting such a big CW advantage when all factors (DX availability especially I suppose??) are considered.  No matter how I slice it, CW and SSB stack up about the same.  

So I'm curious what others find.  If you aren't really absolutely strictly a CW or SSB op, what do you really find when you take a look?  I'm using DXLab DXKeeper's filtering ability to generate the stats.

73
Dan
« Last Edit: March 23, 2010, 08:38:30 PM by Dan » Logged

73,
Dan
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2010, 09:05:22 PM »

Country totals are one thing and being able to work DX daily is another. Maybe this is quality vs quantity?

Anedotal evidence for everyday CW DX fun: Using a 14' screwdriver antenna today I worked European Russia on 40 meters and Slovenia on 30 meters. I'm running 5 watts. QTH is Utah.

As you experience on VHF, those very weak signal paths demand CW.
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W2IRT
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2010, 09:09:42 PM »

You left out some very crucial pieces of information. Dates. Your results would make complete sense if your SSB contacts with the rarer ones took place (for the most part) during times where the SFI was at or above where it is now and your CW contacts at/near the extended solar minimum of the last couple of years.

My own log mirrors precisely this situation, although I haven't broken down the numbers fully. I worked many of the rare Asian DXCC entities and difficult WAZ zones as all-time New Ones on SSB from 2002 to 2004, then again on CW from 2004 until the present.
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WD4ELG
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2010, 10:27:52 PM »

Well, if we're looking at it from an engineering point of view...CW has narrower bandwidth and should have greater Signal to Noise ration.  Only one tone versus several kHz of voice mod.

Try turning your filter down to 50 Hz on an SSB signal and see how little "information" (aka data) gets through compared to the CW signal.

Anecdotal info from my experience, I have been doing DX for 33 years...always wires or verticals, always 100 watts or less.  CW is the way to go.  For us "little pistols" it is always easier to break through a pileup on CW.  That is where skill and determination create a "level playing field" for DX chasing.  I don't see that equalizing factor happen on SSB too often, which is why I have 265 worked on CW versus 180 on SSB.
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N3OX
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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2010, 10:30:04 PM »

You left out some very crucial pieces of information. Dates. Your results would make complete sense if your SSB contacts with the rarer ones took place (for the most part) during times where the SFI was at or above where it is now and your CW contacts at/near the extended solar minimum of the last couple of years.

Well...  It's true that in 2006 thru end 2008 I made twice as many Z24,26,28 DXCC on CW as SSB ... worked 4 countries on CW and 2 on SSB.   However, there are only 6 QSOs in that period!  In 1999 thru end 2002 I made 52 Q's in those zones, with 13 DXCC on phone and 12 DXCC on CW.

So mostly I feel like the solar minimum just shut me out of that region of the world.

All in all, let's look at the periods 1999-2002 and 2006-2009.

If I leave the low bands in, there's a big difference.   I worked twice as many countries on CW during the later period ... 200 on CW and 97 on phone.  However, low band ops were a large focus of what I've been doing in the minimum.   Furthermore, in the latter period I've lived with my YL now XYL, and she's maybe upstairs above the hamshack if I stay up late DXing, so even if things were available on low band SSB I would refrain from shouting at them.

Removing 160, 80, and 40 in the 2006-2009 period still gives the edge to CW ... 137 CW, 87 Phone.   But 30m is still tipping the scales... removing 30m gives 99 CW, 87 Phone for the that period.    CW has an edge in the 1999-2002 period, 233/214 (without 160, 80, 40 for comparison 225/212), but it's not too big.  Of course, I can't and shouldn't discount the fact that DX availability on 30 and down is tipped toward CW.  But that confounds whether or not it would have been needed all in all.

Anedotal evidence for everyday CW DX fun: Using a 14' screwdriver antenna today I worked European Russia on 40 meters and Slovenia on 30 meters. I'm running 5 watts. QTH is Utah.

I dunno.  I've got twice as many SSB QSO's as CW on the higher bands (above 30m) in the 2006 to 2009 period (my log is almost entirely DX).  Certainly I love 40m and 30m and with the exception of a few DXPeditions or loud EU on 40 SSB, my 40m DX work is almost all CW.  30m by default :-)   But my log suggests that there's a lot of SSB DX that I wanted to get available and workable.

DXCC entities don't give a good picture of DXing fun and aren't the only measure of "success."  I just find the ratio here interesting, especially in the context of someone who's starting out landing a needed new one at any given time.

73
Dan
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Dan
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NI0C
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2010, 05:34:03 AM »

There are better measures than the immensely popular DXCC country count of how thoroughly one has "worked the world."  These would include one's count of CQ or ITU zones.  Probably the most objective measure is the number of "grid fields" worked. 

I achieved CQ's WAZ long ago running only 100 watts on CW to simple vertical antennas.  I found I needed an (half legal limit) amplifier to achieve SSB WAZ using the same antennas. 

All of my most difficult DX contacts (especially those on 80m and 160m) were made using CW.  Most (if not all) of these would have been impossible for me on SSB, given the same conditions:  Spratly and the Phillipines on 80m; zones 18, 27 and 29 on 160m, 4S7 and V8 on 40m, etc. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C
 
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2010, 05:58:53 AM »

There's also the factor of how long it takes to work a given amount of DX with a given station. If one mode requires a lot of calling and the other gets you through on the first call....

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N3OX
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2010, 06:50:48 AM »

I achieved CQ's WAZ long ago running only 100 watts on CW to simple vertical antennas.  I found I needed an (half legal limit) amplifier to achieve SSB WAZ using the same antennas.  

I don't know the effort required or the number of stations I've worked in each zone but I've got 40 zones on both modes overall over the years.   I never chased WAZ so I never had to re-work a new station in a hard zone because I couldn't get a card or whatever.  But this is why I broke out stats on my "hardest" areas...

All of my most difficult DX contacts (especially those on 80m and 160m) were made using CW.  Most (if not all) of these would have been impossible for me on SSB, given the same conditions:  Spratly and the Phillipines on 80m; zones 18, 27 and 29 on 160m, 4S7 and V8 on 40m, etc.  

I absolutely agree with that.  SSB vs. CW worked here drop like a rock as I go down 40, 80, and 160.  I would probably have better balance on 40 had the broadcasters moved out years ago, but nevertheless, the CW advantage on the low bands is clear.  It's quite clear to me, though, that my 160m operation has been *true weak signal* work.  For several seasons, my 160m ERP was something on the order of 25W, and it was not uncommon for DX, even DX I could hear well, to CQ in my face on CW.  Certainly this has happened occasionally on the upper HF bands, and certainly you want to have CW in your toolbox for when it does happen and you have the *choice* between working that entity on CW and on SSB.

But on the low bands you can count on CW availability of hard DX stations, because they know it would be stupid to get on SSB since signals are *uniformly* weak.   The only place I ever heard and called BS7H was on 20m SSB because that's where they were on during my tiny window.   I might have BS7 in the log if they'd been on CW at the time.  But as far as I know, they just weren't there on a band where I could hear them.  Availability is a factor.   Every once and a while I get in a true "weak signal" situation on the high bands (and you also would probably do that a lot if you were a QRPer or had really bad antennas).  But a lot of times the DX is plenty strong for either mode.  When the strength isn't there, you need CW.

But if you don't care what band you work a DXCC entity (or a zone or an IOTA) on, I wonder how much you actually have to worry about weak signal.  Certainly, it's a terrible thing to lose a new one because you *just* *can't* *quite* *make* *it*.  But most of the time, you don't get a chance to request or compel a SSB to CW switch, so it doesn't do you any good in the moment.   I've never tried cross-moding a HF DXpedition... wonder if I should next time a needed one is on SSB.

It'd be really easy to cut through a SSB pileup with CW.  Seems like bad form though...

There's also the factor of how long it takes to work a given amount of DX with a given station. If one mode requires a lot of calling and the other gets you through on the first call....

That's true.  It may be that I set up the seed for my SSB/CW balance back when I ran more SSB and had more free time :-)  But I started noticing this some years back and it seems to keep pace.    That's probably still not a good test because a lot of needed ones that I've worked in the last five years have come from big DXpeditions... and they're not prone to weak signals :-)


« Last Edit: March 25, 2010, 06:59:09 AM by Dan » Logged

73,
Dan
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Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
W7ETA
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2010, 08:30:23 PM »

75 SSB
40 CW
30 CW
20 mixed
15 mixed
10 SSB

17 and 12 mixed

Converting paper logs to computer is way too booooaaaaring.

My guess is that since quite a few people won't take the time to be able to copy CW at the speeds rare DX sends, DXing rare ones will become easier.  Well.  At least until computers start running the CW contacts.  Once that happens, whats the point of playing radio?

73
Bob
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AA6YQ
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2010, 08:51:51 PM »

If your DXing objective is one confirmed QSO in any mode with each DXCC entity, then your log analysis might reveal the relative benefit of one mode over another. But if your goal is to work each DXCC entity in CW, phone, and RTTY, then you're chasing phone QSOs even though CW would be easier.

What you really want to know is how much time you spent obtaining a phone QSO with a particular entity vs how much time you spent obtaining a CW QSO with that same entity.

   73,

       Dave, AA6YQ
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AB0Z
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2010, 09:36:38 PM »

>> I achieved CQ's WAZ long ago running only 100 watts on CW to simple vertical antennas.  I found I needed an (half legal limit) amplifier to achieve SSB WAZ using the same antennas. <<

Agreed, same here.  Let me add my evil, personal secret.  You don't have to be a great CW op, either!  Honestly, all I can do is copy my own call, his, and 5nn at 30 WPM and my DX is 100% better!

Seriously, there are indeed better reasons to learn CW well, though.  This is good advice, nevertheless...

73 de David AB0z
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AB3CX
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2010, 10:13:08 AM »

It all depends on what you use for a definition of "harder" and "easier". Comparing apples to apples isn't easy. So for example, on a given night how good is your signal in a particular location on CW vs SSB. Last night I could hear 20M central Asia stations like UK8 and UA0 and UY8 on CW and worked them, but they were no way audible on SSB as they were like S1 CW signals, readable due to low noise. I don't think there's any question CW is a more reliable mode than SSB, but that doesn't mean that eventually you can pile up big numbers on SSB, given effort, conditions and lots of time. You make more points in a CW DX contest like the CQ WW CW than on the SSB weekend. That to me kind of tells it.
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AB3CX
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2010, 10:16:37 AM »

It all depends on what you use for a definition of "harder" and "easier". Comparing apples to apples isn't easy. So for example, on a given night how good is your signal in a particular location on CW vs SSB. Last night I could hear 20M central Asia stations like UK8 and UA0 and UY8 on CW and worked them, but they were no way audible on SSB as they were like S1 CW signals, readable due to low noise. I don't think there's any question CW is a more reliable mode than SSB, but that doesn't mean that eventually you can pile up big numbers on SSB, given effort, conditions and lots of time. You make more points in a CW DX contest like the CQ WW CW than on the SSB weekend. That to me kind of tells it.
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KY6R
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« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2010, 09:16:52 AM »

As far as DXCC goes - I have 291 CW and 256 SSB entities confirmed. 323 Mixed Entities combined - all since 2001 as wel as 8BDXCC and 1543 in the Challenge.

I do share your story - below 20 Meters, CW is far and ahead of the SSB QSO's. 20M and above - it all depended on what band mode the rare DX was on.

I find it much easier to work CW on any weak signal station - on any band. This is because the information transmitted takes up less band space, and i have more "tools" to separate the noise from the signal.

When calling the DX i find it physically easier to send my call in CW than speak into a microphone - especially since I am a little pistol - 200 watts and wire antennas.
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