Here you are, tuned to say 14190 and faintly you hear a far away country – an operator with an uncommon call sign – answering, giving reports, and running contact after contact, but you NEVER hear the station he is talking to. You never hear them whether they are nearby or even further away from the rare but on the same heading as you are.
What is going on?
The away station – the DX Statio should I say – is running Split Operation. Though he is broadcasting on 14190 he is LISTENING on another frequency.
What this does is lighten the noise on his broadcast frequency (often the reason you even hear him at all) and moves all the stations calling him to another frequency.
This one of the neatest tricks in Amateur radio, and if well done it will let a DX station work many more stations than if all operations were simplex (on the same frequency).
So what should you do?
Push that A=B button on your rig and start tuning upwards (usually) until you hear the stations that he is working. The A=B button synchronizes the B VFO (Tuner) Frequency to the Main (A) VFO. So if you hear the DX on 14190, tune them in and push A=B, then start tuning up until you hear the stations calling him. A good DX station will tell you where they are listening by annoucing it – they might say “Up 5” or perhaps “listening 14205-14210” if they are monitoring a range of frequencies.
Once you have your rig tune to the transmit frequency, press A/B which flips the VFO A and VFO B freqencies and then press SPLIT which tells your rig to listen on the VFO A and when keyed to transmit on VFO B.
Lets say our DX station announced “Up 5” and sure enough we heard stations call & working him on 14195. We push the A/B button which puts 14195 in VFO B and returns 14190 to VFO A, then push SPLIT which sets the 14195 (VFO B) as our transmit frequency and the 14190 (VFO A) as our receive.
The exact procedure can differ with vintage radios and contest grade radios which may let you select which VFO is receive or transmit, and let you listen to both VFOs at the same time.
Now when you key your rig you will see your VFO B frequency of 14195 as the transmit frequency.
All of us sometimes miss that a DX Station is running split – specially if the other stations they are working as also DX, or if they are just switching to Split operations after building up a “pile up” running simplex, or if the DX Station is foolishly working some people simplex.
If the DX is on the ball, they will tell you “UP 5” or “LISTENING 205-210” and may even use your call sign when they do it. If they are experienced and smart they will NEVER work you simplex when they are operating DX.
Otherwise you will likely hear the “DX Police” – other amateurs who will tell you things like “Up Up Up” or “H’s running SPlit Old Man.” Of course you will also run into those who are unkind yelling at others, the sort that somehow think that someone missing the Split Operation is really gettinga lot out of transmitting hopelessly where the DX is NOT listening….
Don’t loose heart – check your setup and make sure you switch to the correct Split and keep going.
DX stations themselves reduce the effectiveness of working Split when they work, rather than move, stations that call on their broadcast frequency. Some also drop discipline by dispensing with the usual QRZ (Is any one listening?) call for the next station at the end of each contact (QSO).
Keep your ears open for a variation on Split operations – Split by the Numbers. This is when the pile up (the number of stations calling ) is still so huge that the DX Station starts to work stations with a certain number in their call by saying something like “Working 9’s only, Up 5”
Be patient and let the station work until they get to your number.
I’ll write more about “By the Numbers” and “Lists” in another installment.