Tips & Tricks

Below are some suggestions and information provided by hams, for hams. Most are intended to improve the quality of your ham radio etiquette and equipment operation. If you have an idea you would like to add, let us know!

How to use a handheld microphone

  • Using a handheld microphone or speaking into an HT radio is different than using a desktop mic on a base station radio.
    • Mic gain needs adjusting when moving between FM and digital modes.
        • For example, some of the current Yaesu products ship with a factory mic gain setting of 7. That can work for FM, but is far too hot for digital modes.
        • Our testing indicates that for C4FM, a mic gain setting of 3-4 works well.
        • You may have to crank it back up when you use FM, or people may comment on your weak audio.
        • If that’s too much of a hassle, then leave your mic gain at the higher setting, but hold it father away from your mouth. The drawback to this is that the mic will pick up much more background noise, which can be a problem in a mobile environment.

    • A common mistake is for hams to hold the mobile mic/HT directly in front of their faces, an inch or two away.
        • While this is the proper technique for a well-tuned highly directional desktop mic, it can degrade the audio that others hear when you use a mobile mic or speak into an HT.
        • The most common problem is breath popping noises people hear when the speaker pronounces certain letters (like P, B, etc.).
        • Instead, hold the mobile mic/HT to the side of your face, close to the corner of your mouth, and speak across it, not directly into it. Those hearing your transmissions will thank you for it.

Pause between keying mic and speaking as well as between finishing speaking and releasing the mic

  • In a network of interconnected devices, our signals take time to get from us to all the other devices. This is very different than working HF or simplex, where there are no relays in between.
  • Pause about 2-3 seconds after keying the mic before you begin speaking. If you don’t, some people will not hear the first part of your transmission.
  • When you are finished speaking, pause 2-3 seconds before unkeying the mic to ensure everyone hears the end of your transmission. If you release the mic immediately after you finish speaking, others will not hear the last bit of your transmission

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Remember to pause between responses to give others a chance to join the conversation.

  • Quick-keying can prevent others from letting you know they have something to add to the conversation
  • In addition, from time to time invite others to join the conversation. “Let’s pause for a moment for anyone else who might like to join the discussion” Then pause and listen for several seconds before proceeding.

Talk like an amateur radio operator

  • Never use 10 codes (“What’s your 20?” “10-4,” and the like). This is a dead giveaway that you are a CBer, and not a ham. Instead, use plain language or Q-codes (e.g., QTH for location, “Over” instead of “come back,” “propagation” instead of “skip,” QSO for conversation, etc.)
  • Do not use profanity on the air
  • When announcing that you are mobile, it’s pronounced MO-b’l, not MO-beel. The second pronunciation is for a city in Alabama.
  • Do not add “for identification” to the end of your call sign. The sole purpose of a call sign is for identification. When complying with the FCC’s requirements to give your call sign, “for identification” is entirely unnecessary, so just state your call sign. We all know why you are giving your call sign.
  • Do not forget to give your call sign at the first and last transmissions and at least every 10 minutes. When involved in a long QSO, it’s easy to forget. Some will argue that it’s not needed with C4FM, as the call sign is contained within the digital signal. That position has merit. We recommend you do it anyway to maintain the habit for times when you aren’t using C4FM (e.g., analog or DMR).
  • When using someone else’s repeater, be cautious about discussing hot-button topics. Some repeater owners do not allow it (this is true of SADRC). Examples include religion, politics, sexual language. Assume your 8 year old daughter is listening to the conversation, and and you will be fine.
  • Be friendly and cordial. Take arguments off the air.