PSK31 Digital Mode

If I only had 30 minutes to teach and demonstrate the PSK31 digital mode, this video is what I’d say and show.  PSK31 is an excellent mode for QRP and you can work a lot of DX with it.  If you haven’t tried it, you should! – Cliff


21 thoughts on “PSK31 Digital Mode”

  1. Another excellent video! Thanks for keeping these coming on a regular basis. Have you experimented with PSK31 (or other digital modes) on Android or IOS devices? Something like maybe? A smartphone paired with a KX2 would be a tiny digital station. Not sure about screen real estate or the fact that some applications do not have an interface cable and rely on speaker generated audio, and I suppose radio VOX. Seems like it would be difficult to set correct audio levels. Again, thanks for this site and this latest post.

    Randy – KI4LMR

    BTW – Your tee shirt in this video rocks!

    1. Hey, Randy. I’ve used smartphones for listening to PSK31 but I haven’t tried transmitting. The DroidPSK app looks pretty cool. I use my Microsoft Surface Pro tablet/laptop for digital and it’s thin enough that I don’t feel like it’s a burden for what I do. If I was going to try this while hiking, I’d look into something more portable. The products are interesting for this purpose. Check them out. Thanks for the kind words. Let’s work portable when it’s not blazing hot outside! – Cliff

  2. Hello Cliff,

    Love your videos, infact this one on PSK31 inspired me to buy a USB Signallink and give PSK31 a try with my KX3. I have a question about the KX3 settings. Do I need to do anything to the radio itself settings wise besides setting the levels? I normally use a Heil Proset Headset and had to make these changes to get it to work:

    1. Turn push-to-talk (ptt) OFF (MENU:MIC BTN). Failure to do this will cause the KX3 to transmit when the
    microphone connector is plugged in.
    2. Turn microphone bias ON (MENU:MICBIAS).
    3. Set the microphone gain level (rotate KEYER/MIC control).
    4. Set the audio monitor level (hold MON knob in and rotate it).
    5. Set the audio compression level (tap CMP switch and rotate knob above it).
    6. Adjust the equalization (MENU:TX EQ) for the best voice quality. Typically, a male voice sounds best with
    2.4 kHz boosted by 3 to 6 dB and 200 Hz and below rolled off by 3 to 5 dB.
    7. Adjust the VOX gain (MENU:VOX GN ) for the required sensitivity. If using a speaker, set up MEN VOX:INH
    (VOX inhibit or anti-VOX) to avoid having speaker audio trigger the mic.
    8. Instead of using VOX, you can also tap the KX3’s XMIT switch to transmit.

    Am I going to need to change anything to get PSK31 to work. Thanks so much for the videos and the help. Hope to work you sometime! 73!

    1. Hello, Eric. I’m assuming you purchased the Signalink with the cables specific to the KX3. If so, hook it up as shown in my video. See page 18 of the KX3 manual and put the radio is “DATA A” mode. (This is better/easier than having to turn off your compression and equalizer settings.) Turn VOX ON so audio coming into the mic jack from the computer will trigger the radio to transmit.

      Okay, so now, in your software, you’ll tell the software to use USB Audio Codec for audio input and output. And tell the software to do nothing for PTT (we’ll let VOX take care of that).

      At this point, it’s just a matter of adjusting your audio levels.

      Let me know how it goes – Cliff

      1. Thanks so much for the reply, My signalink with cables will be here today so I plan on giving PSK31 a go tonight. I have my laptop ready with digipan and fldigi. I am hoping I can get one of them to work. Thanks again for the reply, I will keep you posted on my progress. Hope to see more videos from you.

      2. Hi Cliff,

        So I got everything setup, I am using FLdigi. I fumbled around with a few things for an hour or two and finally I started seeing text. Some was readable some was a mess. I called CQ a few times and got a response! My first PSK31 contact was from a fellow HAM 3 miles away from where I live! We both laughed about that one during our QSO. Anyway. Thanks for the help. de KD0FZT

  3. Hey Cliff!

    I am waiting for this video since “Getting Started With Digital Modes” and already bought my Signalink 🙂

    First of all congrats and thanks for the time you are spending to create all these videos!

    I have 2 questions:

    1. At 17:39 I see a MacBook and I would like to ask if you are using the DM780 with that or with the Surface? If you are using the Macbook, can you share if you are using Virtual Box or Parallels Desktop, and if the SignaLink USB connection is an easy thing to do with Virtual Box or Parallels Desktop?

    2. Are you using the paid or the free version of the Ham Radio Deluxe?

    Thanks again,


    1. Hello, Frank! I bought my Surface Pro 3 for use with my ham hobby. It’s light enough that I can easily take it with me in the field or on vacation. At home, the docking station allows me to connect a second monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse. Before I got the Surface, I used my Macbook running Windows via VMWare Fusion virtual machine software. I didn’t have any trouble with that setup. But, my Macbook is used primarily for work and I wanted to separate work from hobby.

      I’m using the paid version of Ham Radio Deluxe. Before I bought into version 6.X I had used the free version 5.X for a long time. As a software developer for a living, I don’t mind paying for good software and HRD is very good and full-featured. A Lifetime license of HRD is only $99 and includes 12 months of support and updates. After 12 months, if you want 12 additional months and/or to upgrade to a newer version, it’s another $49.95. Not bad, really.

      If you’re on the fence, check out Airlink Express. It seems pretty decent to me.


  4. Hi again Cliff.

    I just switch to hamradio deluxe which I have never used before. When I call CQ with my kx3 which I have setup like you pointed out in your video the unit kicks into TX mode and then kicks out and the software locks up. I am not sure what I am all of a sudden doing wrong. Any ideas? Sorry to bug you

    1. Hello, Eric. I experienced something like this a couple of years ago. When I transmitted, RF was getting back into the USB port and was locking up my computer. I solved it by getting a large snap-on Ferrite and wrapping several turns of my USB cable through the ferrite core. Give that a try. Maybe that will help. – Cliff

  5. Cliff, excellent videos. Thank you very much. My pursuit of qrp is self-constrain with a $300 budget. I’m running an inverted V quarter wave dipole at 7400 foot elevation and generally broadcasting at 3 1/2 Watts. My rig is an MMJ 9420.

    Given this older technology rig, can you see a way to couple Signalink and the PC software to enable WinLink with the mfj9420?


    1. Hello, Rick.

      The manual for the MFJ-9420 says that the lowest frequency is can transmit for SSB is 14.150 MHz. Unfortunately, all of the digital modes – including Winlink – use frequencies that are lower than that. So, you won’t be able to use that particular radio for digital modes.

      You might consider selling that little radio and getting a used Yaesu FT-817 for $500 or less. You’d be able to do anything with that radio – including 2m/70cm bands.

      Maybe someone in your local ham radio club would have an older used radio you could borrow or buy. Any radio that can transmit Upper Side Band (except for the one you’ve already got, unfortunately) would work. It doesn’t have to be new or fancy.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Rick! – Cliff

  6. ft-817 arrives tomorrow.
    what think ye of this ?

    here’s a review/reason for the queston:

    This is what you need
    I have used all methods of interfacing to work all forms of digital modes on HF and VHF. Been doing it since 1983.
    Of all of the interfaces this one is my favorite. Recently I built an SDR, the MCHF. I was more than impressed with the fact I could plug a single USB cable into the radio and have the best of all worlds in audio interfacing and CAT control. Everything down one data stream. Well, the SCU-17 gives a person the same ability for their Yaesu rig.
    This is a slick little unit. The only complaint I could come up with is that if you’re not using the audio raw (you know, using it in the very mode I was just describing) and using the actual “key” line on the radio, the PTT light doesn’t work. It’s not tired to the SCU-17 when you are using CAT to control the rig. This is a small small complaint. For what this unit gives in return it’s way worth the money.
    These interfaces are better than using the Signalink because that interfaces has a VOX circuit in it that generated a “key” command using the radio’s key line. Now, if you’re using a radio that isn’t a Yaesu then the Signalink is the best option but for Yaesu, THIS one is.

    Verified purchase: Yes | Condition: New | Sold by: 2way-radioexpress

  7. Thanks Cliff. I’m a relatively new Ham. I have a new 817 I’m going to learn to operate over the winter. I have a fairly significant hearing problem and it may prove to be THE limiting factor for me with radio, thus my interest in psk. I’ve got a number of things on my plate now, but will definitely be looking into this mode in near future. Must try good headset first and see how things work, but psk looks good! Thx. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

    Mike KEØGZT

    1. PSK31 is a great and efficient mode for low power operations, Mike. You’re going to have a ball with it. I hope you’re able to do other modes with a headset but, if not, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this hobby with the digital modes. Heck, some people with perfect hearing do nothing but digital modes.

      I am a candidate for hearing aids at some point. I’ll get them as soon as my wife says it’s time. (Being exposed to loud music in my musical past has contributed to my hearing loss.)

      Keep me posted! – Cliff

  8. Someone posted one of your videos on Facebook, and I followed it here to your blog. I’ve been wanting to try PSK31 and, dude, seriously, you taught me more in one thirty minute video than I was able to figure out from weeks of googling. I watched the entire video and it’s the best half hour I’ve spent on this hobby in a long time. I have a ham radio related blog too and may do an article on PSK31 after I get more experience and figure it all out. Thanks so much.

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