DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners



When considering what might be going wrong in the pileup of a rare DX station there are many considerations. Actually, there are several types of problems and it might be good to define some of them at this point.

What we first hear is many stations on the same or close frequencies seemingly calling randomly. If we listen to the DX station and the pileup simultaneously it quickly becomes apparent that there is often a lack of coordination between these two. Why do you suppose this happens? Certainly, it is not possible to be heard if you are calling while the DX stations is transmitting. Perhaps, however, it is because the callers are unable to find out what is happening at a particular time.

Part of this problem is caused by callers not hearing the DX station well. We probably have a strong tendency to call when in doubt. We do this because there might just be a possibility of working that station even when he isn’t being heard well. Not hearing well can be caused by QRM, DQRM, poor conditions, or a lack of CW expertise on the part of the caller (or maybe even the DXpedition operator). The DXpedition operator can do some things to alleviate this situation.



Often DXpedition operators think of a DXpedition as a contest. While it is usually a goal to log as many different callsigns as possible using high speed CW isn’t always the best way to accomplish this end. In a contest the operator owes his QSO partners nothing. He is pretty much given – or takes – free reign to operate as he pleases. During a DXpedition however the operator is expected to get DXers in the log correctly. There is no score, except perhaps a large number of unique callsigns and a low number of dupes.

Many of the problems with pileups are due to poor operating by the DXpedition operator. In order to behave well in a pileup a DXer must have a reasonable chance of understanding what is happening. If in addition to QRM, poor propagation and other factors, it is difficult for the DXer to hear instructions from the DX operator he will likely guess and he will probably guess wrong. What is he asking for: where should I call? did he get my call correctly? Any number of bits of information that are missed will lead to difficulty for the DXer – not all of it his fault.

While we would love to know that everyone in a pileup is capable of understanding what the DX op is saying reality sets in and we must realize that at best it is difficult. Many operators can at best only copy their callsigns at speed. It would be useful for these amateurs to work at increasing their copying ability but the desired end will never happen. We certainly do wish to have these individuals participate in DXing since they may make up a big proportion of all DXers. We certainly do not wish to ask them to stay on ‘phone. So, understanding the realities of DXpeditioning vs operator CW speed is an important factor.



Interference generally is a matter of more than one station occupying a frequency at the same time. In DXpeditions, this is unavoidable. Interference on the DXpeditions transmit frequency makes it difficult or impossible for DXers to copy the station and make QSOs. Interference in the pileup makes it difficult for the DX operator to work stations as well.

Interference on the DXpedition frequency is by far the worst of the two. One of the biggest problem of this type is that of DXers calling on the DXpedition frequency. This interferes with everyone in the pileup who wants to make a QSO. It requires only a few of these operators to transmit “UP UP UP” etc. in order to cause the QRM to escalate to a mess. The DX can minimize this interference by making sure everyone understands that he is working split, i.e. not listening on his frequency, and where he is listening. This can be done by indicating frequently – every QSO – where you are listening. On CW, it is important to indicate where you are listening with a CW speed understandable to most DXers. You may have to slow your CW speed to communicate this effectively.

Internet spotting networks also help to communicate where you are listening. Internet access by DXpeditioners makes it possible for the operators to indicate where they are listening  via Internet.

Some experts claim that all that is necessary to stop this is for the DX op to say “up” after each QSO.” Study doesn’t support  this idea. Listening carefully to the DX station’s frequency usually indicates that the problem is DXers who do so inadvertently. Most of the problems are caused by radios that don’t provide for listening to both the pileup and the DX station without relatively complicated switching that can lead to transmitting on the wrong frequency. The radio with the A/B switch, is probably the worst. In order to listen to the  pileup, one must also put the transmitter on the DX frequency. If the switch isn’t activated properly before transmitting, one is transmitting on the DX frequency.

Better radios for pileup operating include two receivers capable of listening to the DX frequency and the pileup / calling frequency simultaneously. Another useful feature would be a transmit lock-out that would prevent transmission on a selected frequency.

Interference in the pileup is a problem for the DX op. It isn’t nearly as serious as the interference on the DX frequency, however. It is more of a “cosmetic” problem, causing angst among pileup watchers. Even those who call every time the DX op stops transmitting aren’t a serious problem for the DX op, since he is either not listing on that frequency, or he can move his listening frequency at will. Ingenuity will prevail here.



Jammers on the expedition frequency can be a serious problem for any DXpedition. The wise operator should listen occasionally for jamming on his transmitting frequency; in fact, it may become obvious that there is a problem when the pileup stops calling. An obvious solution to the jamming problem is simply to be louder than the jammer. If callers can hear the DX station the jamming will be ineffective. In fact, propagation will generally be such that QSOs to some areas of the world can be made no matter how serious the jamming. If ignored the jammer will himself become frustrated and will soon disappear.

Beyond simply overpowering the jammers however operating procedures can be implemented which will minimize the causes of jamming. Perhaps this is the most effective technique. Many jammers are reacting to their own frustrations so maximizing positive feelings, optimizing QSO mechanics and minimizing disruption to unrelated activities elsewhere in the band will go far in deter jammers.

Jamming that results from non-DXers displaced by the pileup can be minimized by restricting the space occupied by the pile and by avoiding specific frequencies. The DXpedition operator has complete control over these parameters.

Jamming which arises from irrational sources can be dealt with by following the rule that dictates, "You have to be LOUD!" This is a manifestation of the 1/R rule: the relationship between the ability to work a DX station and the distance. Being close is being loud. Being loud is the most effective solution to eliminating jamming. If the jammer cannot compete with the DXpedition station’s signal there will be no harmful effect. Being loud should not eliminate the need for a good operating strategy, however.

No matter what the causes of jamming are, under no circumstances should the DXpeditioner confront the jammers nor should he change his operating frequency significantly. That said, if alternate frequencies have been designated changing one of them may alleviate the problem. Alternately, small shifts in the operating frequency –100-200 Hz – can also alleviate the problem. Regardless, it will generally be possible to continue operation to some areas of the world until the jammer tires in his lack of success.



When many DXers persist in making duplicate QSOs it becomes more difficult for others to make their QSO with a rare DX station. Operators who persist in making these redundant QSOs have been criticized regularly: some expeditioners threaten to withhold their QSLs and others advocate publishing their callsigns. There is no question that the practice exists. But why? There are reasons why some DXers make duplicate QSOs: some DXers like to flex their muscles; others simply aren’t sure that their QSOs are good.

However, let's put the problem in perspective. It has been found that relatively few DXers persist in making large numbers of duplicate QSOs. A statistical analysis of one large DXpedition log showed that the vast majority (over 94%) of DXers who made duplicate QSOs made only one such QSO.6 Another analysis indicated that out of 50,007 QSOs (about 24,000 different callsigns), 420 stations made 2 or more duplicates (less than 2%), while only 42 stations made 3 or more duplicate QSOs.7 In each study, the percentages of stations making excessive QSOs were about the same. Obviously, only a very small number of DXers made what might be called excessive duplicates.

What is an excessive number of dupes? If the caller fears that he has not completed a good QSO he should be entitled to another. It is the responsibility of both operators to complete a contact satisfactorily. If the DXpeditioner practices faulty QSO mechanics, resulting in poor quality contacts, then a large number of second or third QSOs might be expected. Since there is reason to believe that the DXpedition operator is at least partly responsible for duplicate QSOs it is unwise to announce any type of sanction that will be invoked if duplicate QSOs are attempted.

In cases where excessive duplicates are encountered, the operators involved should not be chastised on the air. It is important to note that any DXer deserves to make an additional QSO to replace one that he feels is questionable. The DXpedition operator owes each DXer a “good contact.” The DXpedition operator should not respond negatively to request for duplicate contacts. Such behavior will reflect poorly upon the DXpeditioner especially if it is recognized by those calling that his procedure is faulty. Since the problem is not large it is best to handle it after the operation, if at all.



An objective when working by call areas it is not only to subdivide the pileup because it is too large, but also to work certain areas that might be considered more difficult. Some of these areas may be in the target area, or they may simply be for some reason under-represented in the log. It is also likely that using call areas in some situations will facilitate making the best use of propagation. Unfortunately, there are always a few DXers who can't wait for their call areas or attempt to gain an advantage by calling with other call areas. Perhaps they call outside of their call areas because they can’t copy the DX operator’s instructions.

Additionally, a large percentage of DXers feel that if they are truly portable (operating in an area not indicated by their callsign) it is permissible to call with both areas. This is disappointing. In response to this practice some individuals have recommended that DXpeditions refuse to respond to callsigns with portables. Unfortunately this policy has the effect of unduly penalizing those innocent DXers who are actually located in call areas other than those indicated by their callsigns. If a W1 is located portable in W6 he may be terribly handicapped, in certain situations, if he is not allowed to call with the sixes, and the DXpedition may lose some control over how the expedition is conducted. Therefore, it is desirable to ask the calling stations, which must sign portable to indicate their true location and to call with others only in their current geographic call area.

Although the problem is probably overstated there are indeed a number of DXers who sign with incorrect portables. On the other hand many DXers in call areas other than those indicated by their callsigns normally don't use the portable designator and it is only when a DXpedition is working call areas that we hear these portables seemingly violating the rules, when in truth they are not. Since propagation characteristics often reveal their attempted deception stations indicating portables other than their correct areas are often very obvious to the expeditioner and can be avoided. The wise DXpeditioner will not refuse to log stations signing portable. Abuse of this rule is possible, of course, but is generally insignificant.



There was a time when DXpeditioners were burdened by endless questions from callers. It seemed that everyone wanted to be personally informed of the operating band plans, the QSLing information, the QTH, and all manner of additional information during the operating.

Obviously any such explanations detracted from the operating efficiency and resulted in fewer QSOs. What was more perplexing was that it seems that few ever listen to what the DXpeditioner has said in answering one of these questions. It seems incredible but often one question would be followed immediately by the same question by the next caller. In any event once a question is answered, another will surely follow.

The solution to the problem seems to have been the proliferation of information now delivered via the Internet. Where DXpeditioners in the past might have simply ignored most questions, this information is now available at the click of a mouse, if not in the various DX bulletins. The operator should give timely information from time to time but should avoid responding to individual queries. This will require callers to listen occasionally to what the operator is saying.

One question that does still arise is “what is your callsign?” The solution to this question is simply to identify adequately. There is really no reason not to do this and the benefits far outweigh the bother. It is simply a matter of remembering to do it. There is also important information that should accompany the end of every QSO: where to call and who should call. “ Europe UP5” or whatever directions you wish to give the pileup must be sent after every QSO. If this information is not sent, sharp DXers will take that as a clue that whereas they couldn’t call before, now they can.



1.      The Use of Code Readers

(Callers don’t know exactly what is going on.)

2.      Poor Knowledge of the Code (CW)

3.      The Use of Packet Spotting – The Packet Pileup 

             (Everyone is on the same frequency.)