5…4…3…2…1: Readability Report

5…4…3…2…1 : Readability Reports

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

I’m big on Twitter. It connects me to a lot of interesting amateur radio operators, and I find a lot of food for thought there. Yesterday, I saw the following Tweet:

Charlie – M0PZT @M0PZT
Blog updated: RST and Speed Matters http://www.m0pzt.com/blog/rst-and-speed-matters/ #hamradio

Being a CW geek, of course I was interested. Charlie’s point is that if you get a bad report, you probably should send more slowly. I certainly have no argument with that.What I do take a little bit of an issue with is that Charlie says, “A Readability 4 report should really make it known that information needs to be brief, but repeated – Certainly no ANT/RIG/WX waffle!”

According to most sources, Readability 4 means, “Readable with practically no difficulty.” When I receive an R4 report, I might slow down a little, but it doesn’t mean to me that I have to cut the contact short or repeat information over and over. I replied on Twitter that if the operator at the receiving station is having so much trouble copying, then the report should probably be 319 or even 219.

Of course, RST reports are open to interpretation. With that in mind, I thought I’d explain a little more fully how I decide what Readability report to give:

R5: Perfectly readable. To me, this means that copying a signal is no work at all, and that it sounds like it’s coming out of a code practice oscillator. I can put my feet up on the desk or putter around the shack while I’m ragchewing with the other operator.

R4: Readable with practically no difficulty. “Practically no difficulty” is the key phrase here. There may be some QRN or QSB on this signal, and I have to pay some attention while copying. An R4 is still solid copy, though, and ragchewing is definitely possible.

R3: Readable with considerable difficulty. A signal that rates an R3 needs my full attention. I have to work at copying the signal, and even then, might miss characters here and there. Even though I don’t copy every single character, I’m able to fill in the gaps. An R3 signal might not be good enough for a ragchew, and repeating information is probably a good idea.

R2: Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable. A signal that rates an R2 is usually so weak that it’s below the noise level or drops below the noise level occasionally. At this level, the contact will definitely be brief and any important information, such as the callsign needs to be repeated.

R1: Unreadable. Generally, I would never give out this report, as I would never attempt making contact if a signal was truly unreadable.

Although my explanations above reflect the fact that I’m primarily a CW operator, I think they also apply to phone or even digital contacts. For example, an R5 for a phone contact would mean that the signal sounds like it could be coming from just down the street or coming through the local repeater.

What do you think? How do you decide what Readability report to give?


Dan, KB6NU, is the author of the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides, and blogs about amateur radio at KB6NU.Com. You can contact him by e-mailing cwgeek@kb6nu.com. If you want an honest Readability report, look for him most evenings on 40m CW.