For 3 letter Q codes (QRA-QUZ) see HERE, QN codes here. See also proposal for an RS(T)N signal report system including local noise level here.

Q Signal Reporting System (Proposed for use by CWB)

Q1 = Cannot Read
Q2 = Readable at times
Q3 = Readable with difficulty
Q4 = Readable without difficulty
Q5 = Perfect readable

With only one digit behind the Q, it is equivalent to QRK or R in the RST.

With a second digit, the second digit is signal strength, same as QSA:

1= Barely perceptible
2= Weak
3= Average
4= Strong
5 = Extremely Strong

E.g. Q54 means Readable without difficulty and Strong signal.

In the Q system you cannot send the signal strength on its own. After all, readability is what counts, the signal strength is additional information.

This Q system is used by CWB Nets to save time: it is easy to correctly guess at quickly without thinking much or looking at S meter. It saves time and is unambiguous, Q43 is much faster to send than QRK4 QSA3, and much quicker and more accurate than RST 459 which with normal QSB would be also RST 469 or RST 449 — this range is covered by ONE code: Q43

Note that if giving Signal report without readability, you would need to give QSA. Note also that QSA is on a scale 1 to 5, you cannot have QSA6 or QSA8 etc.

For the RST system, please print out a one page PDF document from the Files menu at the bottom of this page. This is helpful for radio amateurs to keep on a wall or operating position, to refer to when giving reports, rather than the inaccurate S-meter.

Thoughts on RST and the Q report systems follow in further detail below.

Dear CW Friends,

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the RST system. I only put this idea out there as I use it sometimes as short form signal reports with former professional radio operators and thought I'd share it with you and the reasons for it.

Of course, this is not something to be used with strangers world wide, as it will only confuse! Like I said there is nothing wrong with the RST system! This is purely as an easier, mentally perhaps quicker, method that can be suited to friends, regular contacts, certain CW nets.

First, let us discuss the RST system.

RST stands for Readability, Strength, Tone quality. It was devised for amateur radio. It is useful and it works well. The R is straight forward:

R1 = Unreadable
R2 = Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable
R3 = Readable with considerable difficulty
R4 = Readable with practically no difficulty
R5 = Perfectly readable

That's very simple isn't it! And that is also the exact same as QRK used in all CW radio services so QRK1=R1, QRK2=R2, QRK3=R3, QRK4=R4, QRK5=R5.

The S is less easy, as there are 9 possibilities. Important to note is that while an S-meter serves as a very useful indication, especially when comparing and switching between antennas, the S meter is NOT the way to give a correct S report. Nor is there officially in the RST system anything called 9+ or "x db over S9". Those are just S-meter readings :-) The actual signal report you use a combination of your ear, experience and perhaps the S-meter too, to arrive at. For example, on my rig, the lower bands are more sensitive to S-meter higher readings, but e.g. 10, 12meter bands, I could often hear a station with R5 but not even moving the needle to S1 and with no local noise. Is S0 correct? NO it is not. So the correct S in RST is as follows, for amateur radio:

S1 = Faint signal, barely perceptible
S2 = Very weak
S3 = Weak
S4 = Fair
S5 = Fairly good
S6 = Good
S7 = Moderately strong
S8 = Strong
S9 = Very strong signals

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RST_code

RST Reporting wall chart pdf can be downloaded here

So, when giving RST, that is what we are supposed to be doing! Many of us do, some of us do not. I'm a bit of a stickler for giving correct RST and I use the above system, as that is really the ONLY RST system, anything else, including giving the actual reading off the S meter if it differs in reality from the above table, is simply wrong. Not that it matters much, just saying.

As for the T, these days it is almost always T9. I found it a bit difficult in the old days to give correct T reports, as I'm not an expert on degrees of buzzing. But there are also Q codes that take care of that in other services, that are simpler: QRH you are drifting. QRI your tone is 1 good, 2 variable, 3 bad. So chirp would be usually QRI2.

So, before I introduce my "Qn" or "Qnn" system, we also should acknowledge there are other reporting systems. One I know of, and which is used when reporting broadcasting stations and may also be used in some other areas, is the SINPO code. Signal Interference Noise Propagation Overall. SINPO 55555 being best, meaning QSA5, QRM1, QRN1, QSB1, QRK5 in Q codes :-)

Now, finally to my simplified Q system for amateur radio but only in those circumstances mentioned earlier (regular friends, those who know this system, certain nets, for example), which is simply a short form for either QRK or both QRK and QSA. Why? Because those of us familiar with the QRK and QSA codes, know they are so easy to accurately arrive at, quickly. Almost always on amateur radio HF signals, given the lower power we use, we have QSB! But do we mention "QSB" to a station in a report? Well, ideally I think, we should only mention QSB if it is TROUBLING us, which is what the original meaning of the QSB code is. More accurately, we can say QSB1 for no QSB at all, or QSB5 for being severely troubled by QSB.

Ooops, I went off track… back to QRK and QSA. QRK as pointed out earlier, is the very same as R in RST. Nothing new. But QSA is, by nature, generally covering 2 S points in the RST. So, even with the usual QSB, we can already decide if someone is QSA3 or QSA4 more easily, though we may tell them QSA3/4 if we like. But ideally we give just one number between 1 and 5 after QSA. You should see my RST column in my log! I usually put an RST but also more often than not, I add an S point more or S point less above the first number. Because during the QSO the S almost always varies significantly by at very least 1 S point and often 2 or 3. With QSA this is less likely to happen. So the "Qn" or "Qnn" system I advocate among those "in the know" about it is:

Q1-Q5: if Q and only followed by ONE number that is then QRK (i.e. "R"). After all, R (QRK) is the most important thing, isnt' it? We don't care if the QSA is 1 or 5, it is the QRK, that matters. Naturally, QRM (other stations interfering), QRN (static), ZIM (man made noise e.g. industrial, medical, plasma, power lines, switch modes, ignitions, etc etc etc), can make QRK less, even with a QSA4 signal! So, Q3 simply means R3 (QRK3). SO, when Q if followed by only ONE digit, it is ALWAYS Readability! And the scale is 1 to 5. There is no Zero. 1 means NOT READABLE.

Now, if Q is followed by TWO digits, the first digit is R (QRK) and the second digit is QSA (not S). So, for example:

Q53 means QRK5 QSA3
Q34 means QRK3 QSA4

What happens if there is no signal to be heard at all?! Well, QRK1 for sure, but there is no QSA code for no signal strength! I used to hear military stations sending QSA NO when QSA = "0".

There are some possible Z codes, e.g. ZSU signal unreadable, or ZFO you have faded out, or ZAN absolutely nothing heard. Or simply, Nil. Same for RST there is not officially 0.

So now the reason for this simply Qn or Qnn becomes apparent. In a fast CW net for example, it is much easier, less frustrating, and quicker, to give Q1 if you cannot read someone, Q2 if you only catch the odd word, Q3 if you can copy them but with difficulty, Q4 if you can copy them without difficulty and Q5 if you can copy them 100%. Simple eh. Sending just R5 would be ambiguous, it could mean "Roger, copied message number 5" or "Roger, copied 5 messages". But Q5 would mean clearly QRK5 (i.e. R5).

Want to add the signal report? Then use the QSA scale, and give it as two digits, instead of sending QRK4 QSA3 you simply send Q43. Simple, fast, efficient, less stress than working out an accurate S report!

Of course, this system does not allow for a QSA on it's own, after all, you don't really want to have a QSA without a QRK, but if you do, you can always use the Q code in full: QSA.

I note there have been ideas floated for amateur radio, to have a new reporting system, given that most CW signals are T9, and simplifying the S. In my opinion, this would not happen any time soon, RST it too entrenched, and as I stated at the outset, there is nothing wrong with the RST system. It works, so why break it. The Qn (or Qnn) system (where n is a digit from 1 to 5) that I publish here, is just an alternative, that may prove useful in some circumstances.

I suppose also that Q followed by a digit could mean Q for Quality, and be an Overall Merit number as in the SINPO code. It doesn't have to be QRK, if it is Quality, then maybe a signal is QRK5 but you have ZIM4, the signal is above the annoying noise, or there is occasional QSB but not enough to miss any dit, then you may decide to send Q4 even if QRK5. But, the way I've been using this system is as a short form for QRK and/or QRK QSA.

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