Questionable modulation in WW SSB

With great interest I read Randy K5ZD’s post on 3830:

Quote: <<We need to decide on a strategy as a group for how to handle the stations that splatter. They are going to ruin the fun of contesting for everyone if we don’t find a way to make it just as painful for them to splatter as it is for us to hear it. I am not suggesting we interfere with them, but peer pressure needs to be applied in real-time.>>

I replied to Randy that I agreed. Like always I made various notes during the contest (SB20 HP) and this time I noted a dozen of calls whose modulation was just too wide. I didn’t care about the ‘slightly over the top’ but only noted the ridiculously overdriven signals. The worst were of course the ‘local’ EU signals but I encountered some pretty harsh signals from the USA so I guess it would have been terrible for neighboring operators with skip distance.

Randy suggested that I’d disclose this list on the CQ Contest Reflector to get the message through. I’ve been thinking this over for a couple of days and decided that blowing a whistle is one thing but calling names is another. I wouldn’t really want to see my call on a sort of blacklist either. And we should give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe these stations don’t know how to do better?

I understand and accept that CQ WW SSB is THE event and everyone gets on the bands. I understand and accept that the world’s biggest and strongest signals compete for the best scores. I understand and accept that given the propagation above 20m, everyone settles on 14 MHz and signals boom in from all over the planet. But I have a problem with huge chunks of spectrum being eaten by stations who take 3 to 4 times the bandwidth they’re supposed to occupy. Maybe more if you’d analyze with real equipment in stead of an S-meter.

I think it’s just a matter of good operating practices that we try to keep our signals clean. I spent the good part of a Saturday adjusting the modulation on my K3 that was put to use in SSB for the first time. I solicited comments on my audio and kept tweaking until it was confirmed as “excellent” by various DX stations. Not only the sound but also if the signal was within acceptable bandwidth after adjusting gain and compression. Believe me, it wasn’t at first and I got some pretty bad news on my signal but I didn’t settle for any less. This went through my mind when I heard guys occupying 12 kHz (6 kHz on either side) before I could copy another call that had to be S9++ to get through the splattering. Why didn’t these guys check their modulation? Why don’t they care?

Randy proposed real time peer pressure. I think the language barrier can be a problem sometimes. I tried to point out to one station that he took a lot of spectrum and he replied that (quote) “his ALC was working fine and he couldn’t do anything about it now”. So there you are… Maybe someone ought to write a small article on how to adjust your rig for good modulation? Then again I’m sure this has all been said and written before. But a short item, nothing technical but very to the point, should be fine. I am thinking N0AX here, and his delightful Contest Ratesheet. Oh right – they changed to name to The ARRL Contest Update Newsletter. Then again, probably the target audience are no subscribers. Then again: why bother? We know the problem, but who knows the solution?

I started typing this as a posting to the CQ Contest Reflector. Twelve hours later, I decide to bail out and just post this here.

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