QRP Works – QRO Works Better

For more than a decade, beginning in 1996, I adopted the QRP lifestyle and had more fun building kits, learning about antennas, making friends and filling the log than I had during any other period of my many decades in the hobby. Granted, my goals during that period were modest, but I’ve never had much problem making contacts using QRP and CW with wire antennas.

Count me as a believer in the magic of QRP. But while contacts can be made using QRP, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for the guy on the other end of the link, who may struggle mightily just so I could put him in the log and publicly proclaim, “QRP Works!” Low-power enthusiasts should always acknowledge that any success is not so much theirs as it is the guy on the other end of the contact.

Beyond that, admitting that there are benefits to be derived from generating a potent signal is important because they are many. You don’t read much about that in the posts of QRP blogs. Most seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that “QRP works” without mentioning the obvious — if low power CW works then high power CW works too.


This last weekend, John Shannon, K3WWP, a devoted QRP and CW enthusiast and co-founder of the North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) surpassed the 20 year point in a continuing “streak” of days (7,305) making at least one CW contact. Using low-power and simple wire antennas. From a less than desirable HF radio location. It’s an impressive show of perseverance and tenacity that he says was done to show that QRP CW works. He wrote:

“This is dedicated to all those who say things like ‘You need high power, big antennas, and a great location to be able to make ham radio contacts’, or ‘Life is too short for QRP’, or ‘CW is dead’ and other such remarks denigrating QRP/CW.”

But I would suggest that there are fewer operators who claim “QRP doesn’t work”, than there are QRP enthusiasts willing to concede that finding a potent signal that pops out of the noise floor is one of the great joys of abiding in the shortwaves.

The “right tool for the right job” is an eternal wisdom. It’s always been good advice. “If all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail” is another nugget of wisdom. Putting them together and stretching them to fit, I came up with a corollary:

If all you want to use is QRP, you’ll spend your life preaching how well it works.

Common sense, and physics, support the notion that if a five watt CW signal can be copied, a 1,000 watt signal will be easier to copy despite the vagaries of propagation, QRN, and QRM — though you won’t find that truism bandied about much.

QRP Works – QRO Works Better.

I’m going to have that tee-shirt made. Who wants one?

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: cw, qro, qrp

Jeff Davis, KE9V, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Indiana, USA.

3 Responses to “QRP Works – QRO Works Better”

  • Robert Gulley AK3Q:

    Well said! How about life is too short for only QRP or QRO!
    Or, QRP, QRO? Why Choose!!
    Isn’t it funny how we humans so often need a rally cry, regardless of what it is, to feel special? Sufficient to say, I am a Ham (Amateur, Amateur radio Operator, whichever fits your fancy!) I appreciate all the tools in the tool box, because in the end, amateur radio is about communicating more than anything else. The rest is just icing on the cake!
    Robert AK3Qrp, AK3Qro

  • Larry W2LJ:

    The man was celebrating his streak and his accomplishment. So much for being able to do so without being “taken down a notch”.

  • MM0JMI:

    When QRO is the only thing that will get a signal heard over a natural noise floor, it’s appropriate. But far too many people turn power up just to be heard over the signals of other operators. That seems to me to be the height of discourtesy, like a toddler yelling more and more loudly to get attention when other people are having other conversations. Maybe what we should really give in our signal reports is the ratio of signal to noise (QRN, and non-signal QRM), and when this is unnecessarily good we can turn our output down somewhat, so as not to risk trampling over other stations.

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