Split Operation

The curse of mankind is assumption

I was giving a talk to the local radio club a few weeks ago about DXing and after racing along at a fair clip assuming that my listeners knew the basics. I was floored when one club member asked about operating “split” Dumb questions are the ones that never get asked so I stopped and took some time to explain what operating spilt frequency is all about. At the end of the talk several mentioned that they now appreciated why DXpeditions operate split frequencies. Some of the new HF operators would like to know about operating “split”. Even the seasoned DXers should read this as we all end up pushing the wrong buttons at the wrong time in the heat of the moment.

DXpedition stations have the unenviable task of sorting out who is calling them. They can only do that if they are heard by their callers. DXpedition operators are like orchestra conductors. They call the tune and how it is played. Imagine you are a rare DXpedition station and you call CQ on 14,195. There are hundreds of stations on the planet that monitor this prime DX frequency around the clock and inevitably one will call and work the DXpedition. He will also put the station up on the world wide DX packet cluster network and within minute or so thousands of big guns and little guns will call him on his same frequency. Immediately the rare DX is covered up by a seething, unruly pack of enthusiastic DXers. Obviously he won’t be able to be heard and will quickly loses his status as the orchestra conductor. To keep control of the situation the rare DXpedition station will go “split” and specify where he is listening. He will do that every few QSOs and his patter will run something like this:

 “ZL2ZZ   59   TU   XX0XX up 5 to 10” (or on CW UP 3)

He acknowledges ZL2ZZ, gives him a report, states his call and tells the pack where he is listening. Quite clever really! He directs all his callers to call on 14,200 to 14,205 kHz and he listens there. He  also spreads them out to make the mad keen DXers easier to hear and as a result his “run rate” increases. You, as the DXer who wishes to work the rare DX station must put your transmitter where he is listening and move your receiver to listen on his frequency 14,195 kHz. This is done with the “Split” button on your transceiver. Most modern radios have the ability to separate the transmitter and the receiver frequencies. The older ones do also but usually need an external VFO to control the second frequency. Transceivers also have the ability to reverse the transmit and receive frequencies instantly with the use of a little button marked A/B. When you are set up for split you can hit the button and usually hear the stations that are working the rare DX by tuning your receiver VFO around the 200 to 205 area. By hitting the A/B button immediately after the DXer has worked the rare DX you will place your transmit call on the frequency that the rare DX station was last listening on.

Unfortunately, many others can hit buttons too and will call there. Knowing that, the rare DX will often move his receiver VFO up or down just a bit to pick off another station out in the clear. It all becomes a bit of a game with both the fox and the hound in the hunt to make the contact. If you listen long enough you will learn how the rare DX thinks and learn his operating pattern. You also run the risk of forgetting to hit the A/B button to return to the correct splits and end up calling on his transmit frequency. Most embarrassing! Almost as bad as listening to the DXpedition station calling and since you are not hearing where he listing, you assume no one is calling him and you call simplex on his transmit frequency. Immediately the DX Police (guys who listen to his transmit frequency will yell “UP, UP, UP” at you) It really pays to listen, listen and listen carefully before you make the call. You will quickly learn how that rare DXpedition station operates and where he is listening. You will also increase you chances of working him quickly and efficiently. You will work more DX.

73, Lee ZL2AL