Introduction to DXing, by AE6RR

Introduction to DXing 
By  Craig Bradley, AE6RR 
Pacificon 2011 

Craig Bradley, AE6RR Craig Bradley, AE6RR 
•Previously WV6SVW and WA6SVW
–1961 to 1967
•Relicensed in 2004 as AE6RR
–Started with 0 countries worked
–Current total 207 worked / 199 confirmed
•Past President of the NCDXC 

Audience Audience 
•How many are new hams (1 year or less)?
•How many are new to HF (new General)?
•How many have worked some DX?
•How many have 100 countries worked?
•How many have DXCC?

Elements of DXing Elements of DXing 
•Why we DX and what is “DX”
•How to find the DX
•How to work them
•DX Contests
•Modes other than SSB
•Reference Material

Why we DX and what is “DX”? And other definitions 
Why do we DX? 
•There are several reason why Hams like to work DX
•The excitement or thrill of talking to someone in a distant land
•The challenge of making the contact
•Completion with other Hams
What is DX? 
•“DX” is a shorthand abbreviation for “Long Distance”
•Most US Hams consider DX as a station outside of the continental US, North America or a separate DXCC entity
•Some will say that DX is a country that is “harder to work”
–i.e. Japan and Canada are easy (at least for West Coast)

•ARRL DX Century Club (DXCC)
–Amateur Radio’s premier award
–Basic award for working at least 100 entities
–DXCC Top of the Honor Roll (worked them all)
–More on this award later

What is an Entity? 
•Many people talk about working “countries”
•Entities are “discrete geographical or political” areas
•The 48 contiguous US states are one entity
•Hawaii and Alaska are separate entities
•There are currently 341 separate entities
•The newest one is South Sudan
•Check the ARRL web site for a complete list

Types of DX 
•Amateur Radio operators living in foreign countries
•Travelers visiting in foreign countries
–Vacationers and on work assignments
•Expeditions (DXpeditions)
–Groups of hams on organized trips to activate a “rare” country
–Usually on the air 24/7 with multiple stations

How to Find the DX 
Packet Clusters
News letters

Listening – Where’s the DX? 
•DX Windows – SSB 
–80m – 3790-3800 (Extra)
–40m – 7075-7100 (Requires split operation to US band)
–20m – 14190-14200 (Extra)
–15m – 21295 +/- (General)
–10m – 28495 +/- (Tech)

•20m is quite often the best DX band 
–A lot of DX will be down in the Extra band but some will listen up
–You will find some EU, South Pacific and JA stations up in the General band
–20m can be tough with a small station – most DXers will have high power and a beam
•Check the highest (frequency) band that is open first
–The higher bands are quieter and larger
–Most experienced hams will move up as the bands open up
Tune around and listen, you might be surprised and be the first to find DX calling CQ
•Listen for spots on the NCDXC repeater (146.36)

–Announced well in advance
–Usually announce their preferred frequencies on their web site
–Usually transmit in the Extra band
–Will sometimes listen up in the General band
–Will almost always be spotted
•You can work a lot of DX in the General bands
•But you might want to consider working on that Extra…

Packet Clusters 
•Packet Clusters are a mechanism to disseminate DX spots using digital packet protocols
–Packet Clusters originated as 2m packet stations
–Most are now in the Internet
•What is a spot?
–A spot will contain the DX station’s Call, Frequency, the spotter’s call, the time and any comments that the spotter puts in such as the split frequency (QSX)
•Pros & Cons
–Once a station is spotted, a pileup usually starts
–Rule: if they have not been spotted, work’em first, then spot’em
•Were to get the spots
–DX Summit – HTML web page
–Telnet –,, many others
•Many logging programs have a Telnet window for a packet cluster
–DX stations that you need can be “flagged”
–You can click on a spot to tune your ratio, point your beam (if you have one) and start the QSO log entry
•Smart phone aps
–NKCCluster (for Android)

 News Letters 
•A good source of information
–Announced operations
–Who was heard where and when
–QSL info
–Status of major DXpeditions
•Some email newsletters
–ARRL DX News – free to ARRL members
•Signup on the ARRL web site
–The Daily DX -
•Free 2 week trial – subscription $28/6mo, $49/year
•Great daily source of very current information
•Special announcements are sent out when news breaks
•QSL info, QSLs received etc.

How to Work Them 
Get Them In the Log

The Exchange The Exchange 
•Listen to a few QSOs first – find out what info the DX wants
•The basic exchange is call and signal report (usually 59)
–It is not necessary to give the DX’s call
–Be sure that he/she has your call correct
–If you heard your call correctly
•“You are 59 QSL?”
–If he did not get your call correct, do not give a signal report until he gets it right
•“Alpha Echo Six Radio Radio QSL?”
•If the DX is having problems with a couple of letters in your call try some different phonetics
–If he has problems with my prefix, I will switch from Alpha Echo to America England Six
•Once the DX gets your call correct, do not give it again, just give him your report
•Some individual DX stations like to get your name in the log and maybe your state – only give it if asked or if he gives his info
•If there is a pileup, don’t go into a long exchange (QTH, equipment, weather) unless he starts it or has been having “mini ragchews”

The Simplex Pileup 
•Simplex – the DX is listening on his or her transmit frequency – simplex pileups are tough
•If the DX does not control the pileup, it becomes a mess quickly – know when to move on
•Listen for a while before jumping in
–How are the stations that are getting through doing it?
–Is everyone “tail ending”?
–Is there a rhythm?
•Is the DX taking a list?
•YLs have an advantage as they have a higher pitched voice
–You can move up a couple of hundred Hz on USB to make your voice sound higher

The Split Pileup 
•Split – the DX is listening on a different frequency
•Know how to operate your radio in split mode
–Be able to move your transmit frequency quickly
•Listen for the DX to announce were he is listening
–Up 5, up 5-10, 200 to 220, etc.
–The split frequency may be spotted (QSX) but verify, it may have moved
–If the DX announces a new frequency – try to get there first before the crowd, you need to be fast!
–If the pileup is spread out, try the upper edge on USB, lower on LSB
•Listen to the pileup
–A second receiver is handy for this (K3, FT-1000, etc.)
–Does your radio have a TF Set button?
–The A/B select button may also be used
–Try to find the station being worked and get on that frequency
–Is the DX tuning up or down between QSOs?
–If so go a little up or down from the last station
–When a QSX frequency is spotted try it quickly as the whole pileup may move there soon

Play the Propagation 
•For most DX (especially DXpeditions) there will be an optimum time of the day for your area
•For DX to the West (Pacific & Asia) wait until the East coast loses propagation (late afternoon on the high bands)
•Wait for the DX to announce NA or West Coast only – a good operator will know when he has propagation to which areas

Chasing DX on a Repeater 
•A great way to coordinate DX chasing is via a repeater
•Those of us in the NCDXC use club’s repeater for spotting DX and sometimes for spotting his split frequency
•One station will listen in the pileup and announce the DX’s listening frequency when he works a station
•This can be a lot of fun

Good Operating 
•Listen to the DX station for instructions
•If you can’t copy the DX and his instructions, don’t call
•If the DX comes back with a partial call and it is not yours – stop calling
•Be sure that you are on the correct VFO and in the band before making a LID out of yourself!
•Don’t be a DX cop, there are plenty of “well qualified” ones out there
–If someone is on the wrong VFO and he is not QRMing the DX, why do you want him to compete with you in the pileup?
–Let the DX operator deal with it

Keeping track of your QSOs Keeping track of your QSOs

Basic Logging 
•After you have worked them, be sure to log the QSO correctly
–The time should be in UTC
–Be sure that you get the correct date in UTC
–You can log the frequency in MHz, KHz or band
–You should have fields to log QSLs sent and received
–The ARRL paper log works but computer logging will be well worthwhile

Computer Logging 
•Let the computer do the work
–Time & Date can be automatically entered from your system clock
–The computer can read the frequency and mode directly from your radio
–QSL tracking can be much easier
•Reports of countries/states worked/needed can generated
•Lists of needed QSLs can be generated
–The program can automatically get the stations QSL information from
•QSL labels can be printed
•If you are just getting started in DXing
–Now is the time to start your computer log
–Don’t wait until you have a big data entry chore
•There are many programs available
–Most are free
–I use XMLog
•A computer logging program will also allow you to easily upload your log to the ARRL Log Book of The World (LoTW), Club Log and other sites

DX Contests 
A Great Opportunity to Work Many DX Stations or Entities in One Weekend

DX Contesting 
•Many DX locations are activated that may not be normally on the air
–Galapagos Is.
–Canary Is.
–Many Caribbean Is.
•There are big contest stations that are normally only used during contests
–They have big signals
–They want to work everyone for points
They are usually on the air a few days before the contest for testing
–Many use LoTW

DX Contests 
•Major Fall Contests
–CQ WW DX Contest – SSB last weekend in October
•Major Spring Contests
–ARRL International DX Contest – SSB 1st weekend in March
–CQ WPX Contest – SSB last weekend in March
•There are many others including other modes
–RTTY – many RTTY stations submit to LoTW
•Subscribe to the ARRL Contester’s Rate Sheet for up to date info and lists of contests coming up

Get the Proof They Only Count if Confirmed

How to QSL 
–You can have cards printed by many printers the specialize in QSL cards – see ads in QST and CQ or online
–You can print your own cards with your computer
•QSLmaker (download from
–Send your cards in a envelope with return postage
•#10 Security is best to prevent postal theft in 3rd world countries
•Send International Reply Coupons (IRCs) for international
•Or send green stamps (US $)
–Send an SAE if you want a reply – #9 Self Seal is best (it won’t glue it’s self closed in the mail)
•Do not put the DX’s call or your call on the envelope!
–Postal thieves in 3rd world countries have learned that an envelope with amateur radio call letters on it will probably contain money
•Initial the contact info and write a short note on the card
–I once got a card back with a note stating that he didn’t want it because I did not initial it or write something on it
•QSL Corner on has some great QSLing tips
•Track your sent and received cards in your log
•Organize your QSL card collection
–A recipe file box works well
–They are hard to find on the wall when you are ready to get them checked for an award

QSL Information 
•Lookup the station on
–Hopefully, you will find an address
•There are more links on the NCDXC web site
•You can always try a search on the stations call
–Check for QSL instructions
•Many DX stations have a QSL manager
•They may request special postage (green stamps, one or more IRCs, etc.)
•Some only QSL through the bureau (buro)

QSL Services 
•ARRL Incoming QSL Bureau
–You should have envelopes (address labels) and postage on file
•Some DX stations may send you a card or return yours through the bureau
–See the ARRL web site for details
•ARRL Outgoing Bureau
–You can save postage
–The NCDXC has a free outgoing service for members

 ARRL Logbook of The World 
•Online confirmation of QSOs
–Can be used for DXCC credit
–Can be used for WAS credit
–You can apply for awards online
•Saves the cost of sending cards
–Stamp = $0.98, IRC = $2.10, + Envelopes & Cards
•I currently have 3,800 QSOs with 1,268 confirmed on LoTW
•Many contest stations submit logs after the contest so they won’t get so many cards – especially RTTY contesters

Chasing the QSLs 
•Track your QSL status
–Most logging programs will do this
–Critical QSOs
•QSLs not sent
•Outstanding QSLs
•What if you don’t get cards back?
–If you have other QSOs with the same entity, send them cards
–If there is an email address on, send a polite email
–Try to work another station in that entity

Time for the Wallpaper

Worked All Continents 
•WAC is the easiest award to get
–You don’t need Antarctica
–NA – North America
•Your neighbor down the street qualifies
–SA – South America
•Easy; Brazil, Argentina most late afternoons on 20 – 10m
–OC – Oceania
•Hawaii is easy from here in the evenings on 20m
–AS – Asia
•Japan is usually easy – afternoons on the high bands
–EU – Europe
•Northern EU is usually the easiest look for openings in the mornings on the high bands, late night on the low bands
–AF – Africa
•Hardest one – try mid to late afternoons on the high bands
•Canary Is. during a contest is the best bet
•See the ARRL web site for rules – cards (6) must be sent to ARRL HQ for confirmation or be in your DXCC record

DX Awards 
–100 Entities minimum
–Modes – SSB, CW, Digital (includes RTTY)
–Bands – 160M through 2M
–Endorsements – 150, 200, 250, 275, 300, etc.,  Honor Roll
•CQ DX Award (same as DXCC)
•CQ DX Field Award
–Based on major grid squares (fields)
–50 fields for basic award
–Maritime Mobiles count
•Many others

•A basic knowledge of propagation can be useful
–When is the best time to listen for a particular DX?
–Which bands are best at what time?
•Some general rules
–The low bands (160, 80 and 40) are best at night or over dark paths
–The higher bands (20 and up) are best during the day or over sunlight paths
•Some good source of current conditions are
–Propagation –
–ARRL Propagation de K7RA – free email newsletter from ARRL
–Ham CAP –
•There is a lot of info on the web, much more than can be presented here

Other Modes 
•Consider modes other than SSB
–Do you need a quiet mode of operation?
•No shouting into the microphone
•Don’t wake up the family
–There is a lot of DX on CW and other modes
•Digital computer sound card modes
•PSK31 is a very good low power (low SNR) mode
•RTTY is very popular, there are many RTTY contests and most DXpeditions now operate RTTY
–Many DX stations only operate CW
–Good low SNR mode – gets through in bad conditions
–During a CW contest there is a lot of good DX going to waste
–It can be done with a computer…

DXCC Lessons Learned 
•Contests, Contests, Contests
•Keep up on the QSLs
–Don’t let it become a big chore
–If you don’t get an entity confirmed in a reasonable time, you can send another card or email
•QSL those bands and modes
–Especially for DXpeditions where you may have worked them on multiple bands and modes
–You may want them some day for 5-Band DXCC or other modes

Reference Material 
•Books on DXing
–The Complete DX’er by Bob Locher, W9KNI (Idiom Press)
–AC6V’s DXing 101 by Rod Kinkins, AC6V (AC6V pub.)
–ON4UN’s Low-Band DXing by John Devoldere, ON4UN (ARRL pub.)

DX Clubs 
•Northern California DX Club
–Major DX club
–Co-sponsor of the International DX Convention in Visalia
–Meets 3rd Thursdays of the month in San Jose
–Monthly news letter on the web site
–Repeater and reflector for DX chasing
–Free outgoing QSL bureau service
–You do not need to hold DXCC to join
–More info at
–Please visit our booth in the exhibit hall

DX Forum 
•There will be a DX Forum in this room following this presentation
•Panel Members
–Norm Wilson, N6JV
–Paul Ewing, N6PSE
–John Eisenberg, K6YP
–John Miller, K6MM

•Be sure to stay around for the forum

Good Luck  & Good DX