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Author Topic: RST -- is T always 9?  (Read 4875 times)

Posts: 11

« on: November 21, 2001, 02:29:15 PM »

Over in the Articles, in the "Novice Accent" discussion, someone says that rst of 457 or 345 is inappropriate, it should be 459 or 349.  True?  If Readibility is less than 5, it makes sense that the tone might sound less than clear, so 5 or 7.  

Is tone ever reported to be less than perfect?  Sometimes I hear "whoop, whoop", which might be voltage drop as the transmitter kicks in.  More often I hear a fluttery tone, maybe aurora or maybe just distance and weak signal.  But I think I've read that anything less than 9 is an insult.

Please don't flame me -- I'm a beginner at all this, and pretty clumsy at both copying and sending.  I appreciate the discussions of procedures and conventions that have been on this site recently -- might as well learn to do it right.


Posts: 21837

« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2001, 03:10:08 PM »

I'm a fairly old-time CW op (37 years of CW and counting...) and the general interpretation is:

T9 is normal, and probably 99% of the signals on the bands nowadays really are T9.  Musical note, no hum.

T1 through T6 or so are almost unheard of and impossible, although a raspy signal from an unregulated power supply, powered by a generator running out of gas and on its last breath, just might achieve something in this range.  But it would be highly unusual.  I can't remember the last time I heard anything below a T7 signal.

The "whoop whoop" you hear on some signals, and this is more likely to occur with older equipment, and homebrew equipment, is really a "chirp," not a bad tone.  A "chirp" is reported by a "C" at the end of the signal report, like 569C.  It's caused by lack of stability in an oscillator that translates to a signal that pulls in frequency slightly as the transmitter is keyed.  Used to be a _very_ common problem with equipment from the 1940's, 50's and even a bit into the 60's, which used VFOs that just weren't engineered very well.  With modern equipment, unless the equipment is really malfunctioning, a chirp is rare.  Of course, anything goes with homebrew equipment!  I've built stuff in the past few years that had a chirp -- shame on me, but that happens when you're trying to run a VFO off a weak battery.

Signals that sound raspy due to auroral flutter, which is most prevalent on "over the pole" paths, still normally deserve a T9 report.  We all know about polar flutter.  Severe auroral distortion occurs during major disturbances, to the extent that a CW signal sounds like a shift in noise and has no tone at all; under these conditions, who cares about "T" reports?

Many receivers, including modern ones, create raspiness in the tone of received CW signals (as well as SSB signals) when their noise blankers are used.  This is because the blanker is effective at blanking noise only in the absence of a strong signal in the IF passband; when a signal appears, the original noise (unblanked) rides on that signal and modulates it.  A very common occurance, especially with poorly designed blankers that unfortunately exist in many of our rigs.  Can't blame the other operator for that, I'd still give a T9 report.  The noise I'm hearing isn't his fault.

73 de Steve WB2WIK/6


Posts: 78

« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2001, 06:41:43 PM »

Great question Peter.  I've been operating CW since 1956; about 43 years.  When we were using homebrew and kit built VFO's and those wonderful vacuum tubes, circuit stability could often be a challenge.  Early transistorized circuits weren't perfect either.   Crystal controls helped, but musically modulated tones were not uncommon and a pure dc note was, of course the goal.  None of us wanted to hear "591".  That meant we had a hissing sound to the signal.  And signal reports ranged from T1 to T9, depending upon the interpretation of the receiving station and the ear of its operator.
If you hear a hissing on the signal, even today, the last digit in the signal report should (in my opinion) be a "1".  Rough, musical sounding notes should range from "2" to "5" and if some degree of ripple is detected in the note it should rate something between "6" and "8", with "9" being reserved for pure dc notes.
It is extremely unlikely that any of today's well designed and beautifully engineered commercial gear is going to rate anything less than a T9.  But there are still a lot of boat anchors (no offense  -  I still fix 'em up too) and homebrew rigs that fall short of perfect.  If my tone rates a 5 and you send me a 9 I'm going to believe my rig doesn't need work and you're not doing me any favor by sending me a T9.
I agree with Steve's remarks about aurol flutter and the affects of noise blankers, etc.  But if you know your equipment and understand its settings and you don't believe signal path should be affecting the signal in a way that creates the tone you're receiving, I don't agree that T9 is appropriate.
I'm not sure whether the current years of the handbook include the information, but if you can get hold of a copy of the Radio Amateur's Handbook (circa 1960  -  65) you should find a section dealing with operating a station that will give you some history on the subject.  

Posts: 3

« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2001, 02:08:58 PM »

I agree with the above comments - you almost never hear less than a pure musical T9 note.  However, just last week on 160 meters, I did hear a DX station with a raspy buzzing sound that reminded me of an unfiltered power supply.  It was notable because it has been so long since I have heard such a signal.

Chirp (reported as 599C) and key clicks (599K) are, unforunantely, not at all uncommon.  

Posts: 242

« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2001, 05:18:15 PM »

    I gave this fellow a 586 last night, and I felt like my soul had been released from some kind of purgatory. I have been routinely giving T9 until these discussions the last week or so on these boards, and I actually expected the guy would get angry because I gave him an RST of that nature. He happily returned a 579 to me, and we went on with the QSO.  There is a lot to be said for honesty in reporting, but remember, we live in 59 Contestland, where you have to repeat all your info 4 times, yet you always get a 59.  Beats me...

Posts: 6


« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2002, 02:41:54 PM »

This is an interesting thread that merits further discussion.  The point to my mind is whether the tone report relates to the quality of the signal as radiated or the quality as received.  

If the former, then effects such as auroral and polar flutter should be discounted.  But of course, you don't hear the signal as radiated, you hear it as received, so how can you know what the radiated signal actually sounded like?  So logically, it has to be a report on the received signal.

The classic issue is with auroral propagation, usually confined to VHF, but occasionally making an appearance on the higher HF bands as well.  In full flood, the received signal sounds like a hissing sound going on and off in sync with the keying.  It's still very easy to copy - a major advantage of CW - but it sure is not T9 as received.  This problem is usually overcome by sending an "A" instead of the T number, e.g. 59A.

I think the issue at the heart of this is that people tend to see the tone report solely as a reflection on the quality of their transmission. There is, as a result, a prevailing mantra that it is somehow an insult to send less than T9. In practice, there are occasions when less than T9 would be appropriate to describe the signal as received, and let's face it, that's the only judgement that one can make.

And then, of course there is the influence that contests and DXpeditions have had on the equation.  Now, even the S part of the report is always 9. "You are 599, please repeat your call, my report and serial number".  Madness - and I say that as an avid contester and DXpeditioner/DXer!

73 and HNY, may your signals always be 599, even if I can't copy them!


Posts: 1524

« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2002, 09:02:30 AM »

Remember that a signal can be 59(9) yet totally obliterated during the crucial exchange moment by a blast of QRM or QRN.  Since I am only a casual contester, I only answer the strong stations.  Their signals are indeed 59(9).  Yet I've had to ask for repeats for the above reasons or simply because my attention was momentarily distracted.

Posts: 8


« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2003, 11:40:08 AM »

I've given reports of 597 and 598 before to stations that were apparently running off batteries that were nearing the end of their charge, leading to serious chirping.

Scott N7JI
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