HF DX Operating Procedures and Guidelines

SPLIT-Frequency Operation                                 


This is when a DX station XMITS on one frequency and LISTENS on another. eg… SSB DX station XMITS on 14.190 and listens for U.S. stations from 14.200 to 14.225 (listening up 10 to 15) or a CW DX station XMITS on 14.010 and listens from 14.015 to 14.020 (QSX UP 5 to 10)

  1. Press VFO “A+B” button to place BOTH VFO’s on the SAME Band/Frequency.
  2. VFO-A set to the DX’s XMIT frequency (this is YOUR listening frequency)
  3. VFO-B set up to YOUR XMIT frequency.
  4. Press in “DUPLEX” or “SPLIT” button, press PTT and test your “SPLIT” – make sure you are listening to the DX when you hit the PTT button OR you are REVERSED and will be XMITing on the DX station’s frequency and will cover up the DX station and this act will make you really, really popular! Lots of people World-Wide will know your call sign and even call you ‘special’ names (mostly “LID”).
  5. To go back to a single VFO, push the “A+B” button, both VFO’s will now be on the SAME frequency so you can choose either the “A” or “B” VFO to operate on.

 An example of a SPLIT Frequency operation

            3LØA                                       14212 = WØQN   14217 = WMØG   14223 = NØQCX

|————|————-|————–|–|————|——–|———|————-|—|——- 20 M

          14195       14200       14205          14210          14215              14220              14225

 You are trying to work Igor, L3ØA in Lower Slobovia, (a really rare country) who is transmitting SSB on 14195 kHz. You first press the VFO “A+B” button to put both VFO’s on this frequency. Leave your VFO-A on this frequency. Igor says he is listening up for stations to call him from 14210 kHz to 14225 kHz. You now press in your button for VFO-B, tune and LISTEN from 14210 to 14225 kHz for some loud stations. You LISTEN and find Gary, WØQN calling at 14212 kHz, WMØG calling at 14217 kHz and world-famous “Big Gun” DXer, Ellie, NØQCX calling on 14223 kHz. Write these calls AND frequencies down. Then when 3LØA works one of these loud stations that you are using for a benchmark, you can immediately tune your SPLIT VFO-B to this frequency and have a good shot at working the DX. Now, press your VFO switch again and make sure you are on VFO-A and are listening to Igor on 14195 kHz. Make sure you also have the DUPLEX button depressed on your rig at this time. Now you are ready to press your PTT and call him. This is exactly the same procedure used on CW SPLIT operation as well. Now, watch your frequency change on the rig’s LED indicator from 14195 to wherever you placed your XMIT VFO-B when you press the PTT (or key if you are in CW mode). If you see Igor’s frequency of 14195 kHz in the window when you press the PTT, you are REVERSED! This is THE biggest thing to be concerned about when operating SPLIT. Don’t worry though, because if you do end up covering up the DX station with your call (and believe me, you won’t be the only one in the pileup that does that!) you will then also become instantly world-famous, as all the “DX Cops” start yelling: “Hey (insert your call here), Wrong VFO!” and “(insert your call here), You *#@! LID”. Practice setting up your XMIT frequency on VFO-B, LISTENing to the DX station on VFO-A and then resetting your frequency again on VFO-B until you are confident that you can do the SPLIT operation in your sleep. After all, the most rare DX only shows up when we are half-asleep anyway! 

TRANSCEIVE Operation                  


The DX station is TRANSMITTING and is LISTENING on the SAME frequency.

A. TRANSCEIVE is usually used when the DX station has a really strong signal.

B. AND when there is a good, experienced DX operator behind the key or mike.

C. AND because the experienced DXer knows when, and how, to split up a “pileup”.

Sometimes the DX station will take a “TAIL-ENDER”. “TAIL-ENDING” is when someone slips his callsign in just before the other station working the DX has completed his QSO.

Example: We’ll use a fictitious DXer named Igor, whose call sign is L3ØA from the extremely rare DX QTH of Lower Slobovia.

The pileup calls and Igor answers the loudest signal on the band: “WØQN, 5 by 9!”

Gary, WØQN answers: “QSL Igor! You are also 5 by 9, L3ØA, this is WØQN!”

Jack, WMØG yells: “WMØG”

Igor responds: “WMØG, 5 by 9!”

Jack responds: “Thanks, Igor, you are also 5 by 9, 73”

Igor was able to identify the station and give a signal report and get a signal report back without interruption. He was also saving himself the time of asking “QRZed? This is L3ØA, L3ØA, L3ØA”.

Now, let’s “TAIL-END” the WRONG way!

The pileup calls and Igor answers: “WØQN, 5 by 9”

Jack yells: “WMØG!!!”

Gary begins to say: “Igor you are…”

But Jack yells his call over the top of him and covers up Gary: “WHISKEY MIKE ZERO GOLF !!”

Gary (unaware of Jack’s QRM) finishes his sentence:  “QN”

Igor says: “Please WMØG, stand by!!! WØQN, again, my report please…”

This has increased the time in which Igor could have made the QSO with Gary and others and also has prevented Igor from receiving the signal report from Gary, WØQN. But, Igor also made a tactical error by identifying the interrupting station that he most likely will work next now, and the result of his tactical error will now start a “free-for-all” of people calling on top of each other whenever Igor is listening for his report. Igor should have ignored WMØG and should have just asked WØQN to repeat his report. In any case, Igor should not have rewarded WMØG with the next QSO. The “MESS” has begun!

    1. Make sure you can hear the end of the QSO before attempting the “TAIL-ENDER” technique.
    2. Be sure the DX is accepting this technique – some will put you on their  “BLACKLIST” if they are not.

Dividing by CALL DISTRICTS                                    


The DX station may divide the pileup on his frequency by calling for the dreaded “CALL DISTRICTS”

  1. This is where the DX station will work about 10 stations from a call district then move on to the next – eg. “Requesting calls from the first call district” – DX station then works the 10 stations and says: “Looking for call signs from the second call district”, etc…ZZZZZZZ!!
  2. Thus: Zeros are the most patient DXers on earth!! WE are always the LAST to work the DX.
  3. DO NOT call out of turn – again you may be put on the DX station’s “BLACKLIST”
  4. Always give your FULL call sign UNLESS you hear him coming back to the “LAST 2”

DX NET Operations

In this type of operation, there is a Net Control Station  (NCS) and you may notice that there are some permanent resident stations (both DX and locals) that are on these DX NETs day in and day out, and are friends of the NCS station. If a DX station likes this mode of operation he will check in regularly.


These operations usually are DX stations running low power or DX operators with little or no experience of working DX in a pileup or SPLIT and/or prefer a controlled NET operation.

  1. It is a very slow mode of operation… ZZZZZZZZZZ!!
  2. You need to check-in and get on the NCS’ list first (sometimes this is a bigger problem than working the DX itself due to poor propagation, QRM, etc..)
  3. You must follow the NCS’ instructions for working the DX or he will chastise you!

DX-LIST Operations

1. Used when the DX station speaks little or no English

2. Used if the DX operator is inexperienced in a pileup or SPLIT operation.

3. Used if DX station has very weak signal due to poor station and/or bad propagation


Sometimes the MC of the list (usually a local station with good copy on him) or another DX station with a really good signal, will take the list of about 10 to 20 stations and then have them each work the DX.

Sometimes the MC will have another station go down to another frequency and “pick up a list” and then come back and they will relay the list to the MC who will then call each station individually and repeat this procedure as long as feasible… ie.. band propagation, DX station’s allotted time to operate, etc.

The MC should NEVER relay signal reports or make call sign corrections! This practice is really frowned upon by real DXers. Don’t be associated with a NET or a LIST that does this as SOP. Bad DXer!!

The MC station should give clear and concise instructions from time to time as to the method of the list operation, like… where and when the list is being taken, how many are on the list, the DX station’s QSL info, the DX station(s) that the list is being taken for, etc.. so that any new stations that show up don’t continually interrupt with “Who’s the DX?”, “Where’s he listening?”, “What’s his QSL route?” etc..

When working the DX on a list operation, LISTEN and conform to the DX station’s desires such as:

  1. He wants you to give him your call sign and his signal report — no names,  QTH, etc..
  2. He wants you to give him your call sign, his signal report, and your name — but no QTH, etc..
  3. He wants you to give him your call sign, his signal report, your name, and your QTH, etc..
  4. Just  “follow the leader”.

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