An Honest Report

Some may just jump to the conclusion that I’m recycling articles from QST, but I’m not — I promise! Having said that, on with the show…

A few months ago there was a nice two-month series in QST about signal reports. The author concentrated on what the numbers actually mean and how to use the reports. The first installment was about voice signals, the second about digital signals along with a suggestion of a tweaked system for digital signal reports.

I enjoy a nice cross section of our hobby: rag chewing, traffic handling, EmComm, some contesting, DX’ing, nets, and digital work. Of all those aspects there is one thing that stands out that seems pointless. Every signal report is a 5 by 9. Now I understand that during the peak or activity in a contest, it may be easiest to give the same report to everyone, especially if you can have your logging program pre-fill the signal report. But is this helpful? Is it ‘honest’? The signal report system was designed to give a signal report. An honest evaluation of how you can copy the other station. It wasn’t conceived to be an autopilot tool to speed along a contest or QSO.

If someone is stuck in autopilot with 5 by 9 reports, what’s the point of even giving them? There are times where it’s beyond obvious that I was hard to pull out, yet I’m told I’m 5 by 9. If they we’re honest about my report, I could tweak my antenna or processor or if I have an amp, turn up my power a little to improve my signal. If I’m only giving out a 5 by 9 report, the same holds true, it’s of no help whatsoever to the other station.

I refuse to just give 5 by 9 reports. I don’t care if it’s a contest or a rare DX station. If they are not an honest 5 by 9, I will not give them a 5 by 9 report. I’ve made a few contesters mad. One even chewed me out about it. One even tried to ‘teach me’ to only give 5 by 9 reports. But I refuse. I want to use the system properly!

I challenge others to join me, give an honest signal, even when it catches the other station off guard. Maybe if enough of us do that we’ll start getting honest reports back and be able to actually use the reports as they were intended!

9 Responses to “An Honest Report”

  • Charlie wx4cb:

    i couldnt agree more…

    i never give a 5nn unless they are 5nn


  • jason ke7tdy:

    Thanks … I love that I’m not alone in giving real reports!

  • N5TGL:

    Our club just finished up working the Museum Ships Weekend from the decks of the Battleship Texas. We logged over 1,200 contacts, and we pretty much all attempted to give accurate readings. Sometimes when we were working a huge pileup and I didn’t glance at the meter, I used a subjective evaluation of the signal, which usually wasn’t a 59. I feel that if I give someone a real signal report, that provides them information that they can use to optimize their station.

    I didn’t read the QST article, but there is a RSQ system for digital signals, and that’s what I use for my digital contacts:

    Again it provides information that helps people. I’ve also found that 9/10 times, when I tell people “your voice sounds distorted” or “you’re showing about 3 sidebands” on digital modes I’ve always got a positive response. If they get defensive, I’ll tell them I’m not criticizing, just trying to help them. If they’re still going on about it, I politely end the QSO.

  • Jason ke7tdy:

    That’s awesome, that you guys did that during a special event station! i admit I don’t always look at the meter per se, but always, always give a true report as to how the other station sounds to me [in the form of the R/S report]

    I also want to learn more about the digital system … i’ll be studying it since i’m starting to do more digital work!

    thnx for the info :]

  • Denny M3HSJ:

    I must admit I too hate the monotonous “you’re 5 & 9”. If I’m 3/3 then tell me. Countless times I’ve had QSO’s with certain countries in the EU only to receive the derogatory “5 & 9” signal report when I’ve had to repeat my callsign 2 or 3 times. I give out honest reports so I expect it back.

    I remember a QSO with an Italian operator and it sticks in my mind, 5 times he asked for my call yet I still received the “5 & 9” report I gave him the “you’re 5 & 5 into NE England” an honest report, only to have the other station go mental, something along the lines of “you must be mistaken…I’m 5 & 9 anywhere in Europe” my reply was abrupt but I got my point across “you maybe 5 & 9 anywhere in Europe but today, talking to me, you’re 5 & 5…!”

    Why can’t operators give realistic reports…?

  • K4TOJ - Tom:

    As a new HAM, this confused the heck out of me. I understood what the signal report was about, but didn’t understand why everyone was a 59 when calls for clarification kept being asked. I was confused when a guy gave me 59 but had to ask me 3 times what my call was. At one of the DX clubs I’m a member of, I asked the question. The answer given was for contests, it helps them to work more stations when they can zip by the auto filled signal report. So, I admit, when I’m doing a contest I report 59 but the rest of the time I try to be honest.

    One thing I personally have a hard time with is when I clearly hear someone but my meter doesn’t move. Because I hear them so clearly, I hate to give 50 so I might give a 51 or even a 55 if they are heard loudly enough and my meter still isn’t moving.

  • KJ4ZIZ:

    Yep, this is nuts but I can understand it in contests. I enjoy the Australians because they give me true reports. I have also gotten real reports from Sweden and Norway…..

    It does help to decide if I need to move my dipole or change the v shape to get out a better signal. I don’t worry about it during contests as I just give the 59 and move on to another country contact for my log book…

    OH well, mabey if the contest rulers made it mandatory to give true signal reports we will finally get them….yeah right…

  • N5TGL:

    Ah yes…what to report when your meter isn’t moving. We all know that generally speaking the “9” in “59” relates to the signal meter. When it doesn’t move but you can still hear them, it rates a 52. On the edge of noise rates a 51. There is no “50” report. Below is the list of definitions for reference:

    1 Faint signal, barely perceptible
    2 Very weak
    3 Weak
    4 Fair
    5 Fairly good
    6 Good
    7 Moderately strong
    8 Strong
    9 Very strong signals

    Now for that first number (which I am covering second for some reason?)

    1 Unreadable
    2 Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable
    3 Readable with considerable difficulty
    4 Readable with practically no difficulty
    5 Perfectly readable

    I would say that if you give a “51” report, you have better got that weak call on the first shot. Chances are you didn’t, so that would rate a “41”. Did you have to get him to repeat his call several times? That rates a “31”. A “21” would indicate that you just barely made the contact.

    Now in a contest I’ve been in situations when I have to ask them to repeat the call, but it doesn’t have anything to do with propagation or signal strength:

    1. Thick accents
    2. Mental block on my part (usually happens late at night!)
    3. Non-standard funky phonetics (“P” as in pneumatic, haha)
    4. QRM, either adjacent or some lid who keeps calling because he doesn’t have the brains to unkey and see if someone else got called instead of him

    I don’t ding ’em for that. If they don’t like it, oh well.

  • N4NSS Kyle:

    I for one think signal reports should NOT be used in contests, especially if it is not true. Reports are important for single QSOs and seem to be out of place for a fast pace contest. The alternative is to give contact number, grid, Section, and/or State information.
    For a contest QSO to be complete, the true facts should be the only qualifying information needed for a contact, i.e. call, contact number and or grid, State, section.
    Giving a signal report and lying about it is a waste of time.
    It is time for “Well, we’ve always done it this way.” mentality to disappear.

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