Getting started with PSK

A reader from North Carolina, USA, wrote to me and asked the following:

A question: I am a just a general class ham. I would like to know exactly what it takes to operate on PSK. I have a TS140s, a key and a dipole at 50′. I also have a Compaq laptop computer with a sound card. Can someone tell me what I need to buy — not just in generalities — to help me get up and running with this mode?

Would those of us with some experience with PSK (definitely not me!) take a shot at answering him? If so, please reply in comments. Thanks in advance!

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “Getting started with PSK”

  • N5TGL Michael:

    Really you need two things, with an optional (but nice to have) third.

    * Sound card interface – Tigertronics signalink USB (order from DXEngineering with cable appropriate to your rig) ~$100
    * PSK program – (I use ham radio deluxe with digital master 780) free if you get an older version, I forget how much the paid version is, probably >$69
    * optional – CAT interface for rig control (nice to have, I use it all the time, but if you don’t mind the hassle of tuning/manual logging you don’t need it…but it sure makes life easy!)

    The sound card interface is needed so you can get a good clean, clear signal with no ground loops. You can plug right into your sound card, but you have to figure out how to trigger TX then. You can also build one, but that depends on your spare time and skill level. I’m extremely happy with the interface, many folks in my club have bought one and all have been very pleased with its ease of use. Best $100 I’ve spent on ham radio!

    There are other programs outside of HRD, but I really like the integrated logging/multiple digital modes/rig control it offers. It’s a one-stop-shop for this type of stuff, and it keeps getting better.

    CAT control helps automate logging and band switching/tuning. Sure, you can do it without it, but it sure is nice to have the log all filled out except for the call.

    Good luck! PSK is a fun mode. Don’t fall prey to the macro-only QSOs, they aren’t nearly as fun as a real conversation.

  • Randy K7AGE:


    I lot of guys have gotten on PSK from watching my videos. You will find the PSK series from my home page.

    Randy, K7AGE

  • Fred Bernquist AE2DX:

    I might add a nice program can be found at FLDGI.COM and once you get on PSK, I use this program will at a glance tell you just where your psk signal is going in the world by just looking at the map. Will look for you on the waterfall.

  • Fred Bernquist AE2DX:

    I might add a nice program can be found at FLDIGI.COM and once you get on PSK, I use this program will at a glance tell you just where your psk signal is going in the world by just looking at the map. Will look for you on the waterfall.

  • Steve KB6HOH:

    For FLdigi the direct route for downloading would be
    Also on that same page you will find a link to “Sights and Sounds of Digital Signals” I highly recommend checking it out. Also Randy K7AGE is highly recommended for his Videos. Hey Randy nice to see you on here!

    73 de Steve KB6HOH in the SF Bay Area!

  • Chuck Heath, K6ZIZ:

    For Mac users, like myself, I’m told the Tigertronics SignaLink works very well with Macs. It’s mentioned in the first comment from Michael, N5TGL.

    Chuck, K6ZIZ, celebrating our 23rd year of off-grid living

  • Korky, KG5NNA:

    Fairly new Ham here, planning to put up my Hustler 5BTV very soon to get on the air HF. I have a PC with Windows 10 and a Yaesu FT-991. Just looking, I think I need that Tigertronics SignaLink with the 6-pin mini DIN (I don’t see any other configuration that’s available.

    One thing I am finding is that some software that’s around on boards and forums will only run on Windows XP (very old OS) and not on anything that’s Vista, Win7, Win8 or Win 10. I see that HRD does. Does anyone know if the FLdigi software has been updated for Windows 10?

    Randy, much obliged for your videos on the PSK. I’m also hoping to jump into JT-65 once I get PSK working well.

    Korky, KG5NNA
    Coppell, TX

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