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Author Topic: I'm frustrated. PSK anyone?  (Read 2851 times)

Posts: 309


« on: April 11, 2010, 10:25:31 AM »

I had some hope about six weeks ago when the flux and sunspot numbers were growing and the bands really opened up. (Including ten....)

Since the solstice, it seems the bands are starting to sound just like last summer....maybe even worse. I'm not sure if I can put up with yet another year of this minimum. This minimum has been the longest in my lifetime.

There are so many hobbies within the hobby and for almost four decades, I've done many of them: Homebrew, refurbishing antique gear, qrp, amps, antennas, magic band, gentleman's band, two meter ssb, ARES-RACES, etc.

I have NOT tried PSK-31 as of yet and know very little about it. From what folks have told appears to be a fun mode.

Any good books on the topic? My new AES catalog has nothing featured in the book section on PSK-31.

Yes, I could run a search. However, I would like to receive input from my fellow ham brethren on suggested titles and authors regarding PSK....

73, Bill - WA8MEA

Posts: 2193

« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2010, 10:36:55 AM »

Hey, why not start here

Posts: 23

« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2010, 10:44:13 AM »

Two brief comments from me:

  You can get tons of good,  current PSK31 information on the WEB.   Use Google liberally.

  Regarding the sunspot cycle,  be patient !   Its just starting back up this year as evident at:   .  

   Ed   K7AAT

Posts: 1817

« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2010, 11:50:05 AM »

Well, Psk is a mode you can do more with less.  about 25 watts out and a modest antenna will yield lots of DX and stateside contacts. about 10 times more than with ssb, and almost as good as cw.  Software is free. some request donations.  (I use Ham Radio Deluxe) The best I have found. the interfaces are cheap to buy, approx $100 or so. and can be built for about 5-10 dollars if you have some skill and inclination, and some junk in the box. It is quite a bit more technical to set up and get working than than voice or cw. But that is half the fun especially if you get something you built yourself to work. When 20 meters is completely dead and you don't hear a single voice signal, you will still see several psk31 signals on the "waterfall".  I have helped several guys get going on digital, the latest was a couple of days ago, with a newly minted general I helped over the phone to get going and he has 13 states and 4 country's so far in 2 days. Of course once set up for psk31, you are set for RTTY, OLIVIA and many other digital modes.
Just my 2 cents, good luck, 73 and hope to see on the "waterfall" de K0UA Jim

Posts: 380


« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2010, 11:56:38 AM »

I would have to echo the comment about finding HELP, HINTS, TIPS, and GENERAL INFO about PSK31 or any of the other newer Digital Modes.. (ever hear of OLIVIA?)
on the WEB.  Start with a Google search, (or use your favorite search engine).  By the time an actual "BOOK" makes it long journey to PRINT, it might be safe to say a lot of the information would be very dated... verging on OLD and no longer accurate or current.  We're not talking  about unchanging laws of the physics of electronics here, were talking about dynamic concepts that change and evolve almost weekly! It seems like there is ALWAYS some NEW software Algorithm that improves the mode. If you like the tactile feel of a book, PRINT OUT any of the many PDF files on the subject, and read away !

Posts: 393

« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2010, 01:44:25 PM »

One of the first things I noticed about PSK was the incessant over use of "macros".

All they have to do is load them all up, establish a contact and start pushing the buttons.

The computer takes over and vomits out line after line of pre-typed stuff about their wonderful computer and maybe a brief mention of the rig, antenna and location.

One French station had his all set up to run unattended. His station probably logged hundreds of QSOs a day without one moment of actual interaction with a human!

If you try to go keyboard to keyboard you will usually get a quick (probably 'macro'ed) 73 spiel.

Posts: 80

« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2010, 01:50:42 PM »


I just started with the digital modes about 2 weeks ago, mostly psk 31 at this point until I gain more skill.  I just Googled PSK 31 and it brought me to a whole host of different websites,one of which is:

You can copy/paste this into your web browser and it will take you to the official website for PSK 31.  So far I find it interesting just to sit and watch the waterfall, click on a strong signal and watch as a bunch of nonsense become the typed word.  As one post stated an interface can be built rather cheaply, I'm not that good with soldering small things, I shake to bad when I start out and by the time I got done it would be just a big mass of melted solder hi hi.

I chose instead to buy one of the commercially made interfaces.  I bought the Signalink USB digital interface bu tigertronics; there are others of course but went with a brand that received a lot of high marks here on eham.  As far as software goes, digipan is probably the easiest, download the free software, install it and what I did before I had my interface was to take an old computer mic plug it into the mic jack of which ever computer you're using, put the mic near the speaker of your rig, tune to 7.071, or 14.071, bring up digipan.  When you see a signal click on it, sit back and watch your screen.

Its really not all that hard,I have a couple different programs to choose from.  MixW, which you have to pay to register, digipan-free, Ham Radio Deluxe-free which I'm having a problem with not recognizing my radio or something.

It really an amazing mode and if you can type you can do PSK.  Hope to see you on the waterfall.

73 de Mark

Posts: 1757

« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2010, 02:25:20 PM »

tune to 7.071, or 14.071

That's a little too high on 20 meters and a dead portion of 40 meters.

Try 14.070 and 7.035. Both windows are USB, which is typical for PSK-31.

7.070 used to be used a lot stateside and 7.035 was typically DX. But with a lot of ssb operation on 7.070 from foreign hams, most all PSK operations on 40 meters have moved to what used to be the DX section.

I started with PSK-31 right at the end of the solar minimum. I've confirmed WAS and confirmed 70 DX countries since then. So there is activity. 40 meters in the evenings. 20 meters in the daytime. Check the 30 meter segment as well at 10.140 USB. In the winter on 80 meters, check 3.580 USB. In the summer it suffers from too much lightning crashes to be useful. People on 30 meters and 17 meters really like to ragchew, but there's not much 17 meter activity until the sun cranks up again.

If you are really wanting to ragchew, may I suggest that you call CQ with that request.

CQ CQ CQ for rag chew de yourcall yourcall

You'll find rag chewers. I've had many long rag chews over the last few years. Unlikely that any of these will be DX though. They seem to do catch and release with minimal QSO. But stateside you will find ragchewers no doubt.

Of course, sometimes the bands don't support ragchew conditions, so you'll have to make do when it's like that.

73 de N4CR, Phil

Never believe an atom. They make up everything.

Posts: 9749


« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2010, 03:09:14 PM »

PSK is not much different than CW if the CW op has a skilled ear and power and bandwidth are about the same.

If someone is hearing PSK signals, the band would also be open for CW and any other mode. Openings are NOT mode specific.

73 Tom


Posts: 108

« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2010, 04:11:56 PM »

PSK31 is a fun mode, and thanks to Jim (K0UA) I am using it frequently with four countires and 15 states worked in just 2 days. If you have not tired it, you can LISTEN to it with just an audio line from your radio to computer. I searched youtube and there is one guy that does not have an interface other than the line in, then he types his messages, manually keys his mike and holds it up to the computer speakers and then un keys when the transmission ends. Its a very fun mode.

Posts: 26


« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2010, 05:02:57 PM »

Hello Bill, just a page to add to your favorites:

Really good info on PSK and tons of other stuff.

Posts: 230

« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2010, 09:17:20 PM »

I second K7AGE's youtube videos.  I watched those a couple of weeks ago and within minutes I was receiving and decoding psk.  A few days later I was making contacts.  So far I have made several contacts on 20 meters with 4 watts.

Posts: 48

« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2010, 07:00:36 AM »

Hi Bill,

Ham Radio Deluxe is probably the most popular digital mode software right now.  It has a ton of features and is completely free.

"Propogation" is actually better than CW.  I can copy signals I can't even hear and there always seem to be a few PSK tones around after the rest of the band falls silent.

You can homebrew an interface easily or you can buy one.  I'll second the recommendation for the SignalLink USB.  It provides its own sound card which lets me use the one in the computer for normal purposes.

I hear the macro criticism a lot around here and I think its overblown - it really depends on the operator.  I have had many an interesting ragchew on PSK.

As others have said, don't limit yourself to just PSK.  Once you get set up for digital, the same hardware and software will do PSK, Olivia, Domino, MFSK, RTTY, WSPR, and many many others.  Ham Radio Deluxe will auto-identify signals which is a good way to discover the other modes.

73 de AJ4MJ

Posts: 1035

« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2010, 09:17:18 AM »

So....let me get this straight:

If I have a computer with sound card that I can solely dedicate to digital modes, I really don't need any type of interface?

Well, yes and no. While operating PSK and other digital modes without an interface is possible, I recommend using an interface. The sound card interfaces are not complicated nor are they difficult to build. You can build one in a hour, maybe two, depending on your building skills and naturally the availability of parts.

An interface can and will provide 2 radio options:

1. Computer sound card to radio/radio to sound connections.

2. PTT and CW keying connections.

A PTT and/or CW keying connection is not necessary, especially if VOX will be used in PSK, RTTY, SSTV, EasyPal, etc. CW keying will require a DC keying circuit built into the sound card interface but that's not difficult to make. A simple transistor or opto isolator keying circuit, shown in many of the sound card interfacing websites, is all that is needed.

The ARRL article the first gentleman linked to says very little about an interface.  

Here's the article:

It says:

....simply switch on your transceiver's VOX and let it key the rig when it detects the transmit audio from the sound card.

That's because there is very little to constructing a sound card interface between the computer sound card and the radio.


Is it feasible to use the rig's VOX instead of an interface?Huh

73, Bill - WA8MEA

Yes, the radio's VOX can be used instead of PTT. The PSK transmit signal from the sound card is "audio" and "VOX" works on "audio" so naturally, VOX will work just fine. You will have to configure the digital mode software so it knows not to use PTT but use VOX instead which simply means it will not change the computer's RS-232 control signals, RTS or DTR, to activate PTT.

There are plenty of websites that talk about and show examples of sound card interfaces. These interfaces are very easy to construct and most components, if not all, can be obtained from Radio Shack, Mouser Electronics, DigiKey or many of the other on-line electronic parts outlets. You will most likely have to look in the Radio Shack parts bins to find the parts you need.

You do not have to spends a lot of money on a PSK interface. The interfaces shown at the various websites will work with any digital mode software such as RTTY, SSTV, EasyPal, PSK, CW (decoding), etc. As I stated above, if you want to operate computer CW you will need to include a CW keying circuit in your interface. A simple transistor or opto isolator will work fine as a CW keying option. Just select the appropriate RS-232 control signals, either RTS or DTR, that will be used to key the CW circuit. Then simply connect the CW keying circuit to the radio's CW socket and have fun. A popular and good CW program, both sending and receiving, is "CWGET" (CW receive) and "CWTYPE" (CW send). You can read and download both of these software package at the following link:

Interconnecting the interface with the radio should use shielded cables. I use inexpensive stereo, DVD, CD, or VCR player/recorder interconnecting shielded cables. You can find them at most electronic outlets such as Radio Shack.

If you don't like building circuits then there are many different commercially built sound card interfaces available from Buxcomm, Rig Blaster, MFJ, and SignaLink. You will just have to read about each one at their website. But, as a few have already mentioned and that you have said you do not know much about PSK, do some web research first so you know what PSK is, how it works, and the numerous websites that have the interfacing circuits, how to build a simple sound card interface. Use your favorite search engine and enter PSK Interfacing as the search phrase. Here's one website I found using that phrase which contains a lot of information on PSK and how to build simple interface circuits.

Most radios today have a "PSK" menu so read your radio's operator's manual to set up the menu. If you are using a radio that does not have a menu system simply set the mode switch to USB or LSB and apply the audio to rear panel Phone Patch IN and OUT sockets, if your radio has them, or to the MIC socket but keep ALL audio processing turned OFF and the MIC gain set low.

The normal RF output power is between 25 and 30 watts. There are modern transceivers that can run full power all the time but normally you don't need any more than 25 to 30 watts. Remember, it's not the power that's important, it's the antenna that makes the difference. You can feed 500 watts into a bed-spring antenna system and not talk farther than the end of your town. But, with a properly erected good antenna system along with good band conditions, you can talk across the country and overseas on 30 watts.

Remember, PSK and other sound card modes that include PSK, RTTY, SSTV, etc, are 100% duty cycle modes which means RF output occurs 100% of the time the transmitter is keyed. Not all transmitters are rated for 100% duty cycle. Read your radio's manual before attempting to operate PSK or any other sound card digital mode.

Mike W5RKL
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 09:22:32 AM by Michael Waldrop » Logged
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