QNZ – What It Means And How To Do It

QNZ is an ARRL NTS prosign that is used by net control stations on CW nets to instruct net members to zero-beat their transmit signal with net control’s transmit signal. If every station does this correctly, then all stations should hear each other with a pleasant audio pitch.

Most CW nets have an assigned net frequency. In normal circumstances, all net members set their frequency to the net frequency and all is well. However, sometimes the net control station calls the net up on a frequency that is different than the assigned net frequency. This is often due to having an ongoing communication on or very near the assigned net frequency and trying to avoid interfering with that ongoing communication. The net control moves up or down a few hundred Hertz and that’s where the problems come in. Some stations stay on the assigned frequency. Some pick a nice even frequency nearby. The result is that stations spread out all over the place to the point that they may not be heard by the net control. In nets, the correct net frequency is always the frequency that net control is transmitting on. Net control is never on the wrong frequency! It is the responsibility of all net members to transmit on the net frequency.

So how do we solve this problem? By doing what is commonly called “zero-beating” the net controls transmit frequency. When you successfully zero-beat the net control’s transmit frequency, you will also be transmitting on the same frequency (or very close to it) and all net members should hear you fine.

Back in the day of separate tube-type transmitters and receivers, think Drake Twins, the transmitter and receiver frequencies could be set anywhere in their range and were not tied together like they are in modern transceivers. In order to have a CW conversation, you had to make sure you could hear the other station and that the other station could also hear you. In separate transmitters and receivers, you had a SPOT switch that, when pushed, gave you a weak signal on your transmitters frequency that you could hear in your receiver along with the other stations transmit signal. You tuned in your receiver to the tone you liked, then adjusted your transmitter’s frequency until you heard your transmit tone go away. As you approached the other stations frequency, you would hear an audio beat note that was equal to the difference in the other station’s frequency and your own transmit frequency. This beat note would get lower and lower until you couldn’t hear it any more. When you were almost exactly on the other stations frequency, you could hear a very slow pumping of the AGC and even see it on your S meter. When it stopped, you were exactly on the other stations transmit frequency. You were “zero-beat”. This was normal, every-day, CW operating procedure.

With today’s modern transceivers, the transmitter and receiver VFOs are the same. You automatically transmit and receive on the same frequency. (Actually, this is only true for AM signals. SSB signals generally have a fixed offset similar to CW mode). This is great, and very convenient for voice operations but can lead to trouble for CW conversations. If your receive frequency and the other stations CW transmit frequency are exactly the same, you hear nothing! In order to hear another stations CW signal, you must offset your receiver’s frequency by some small amount. The amount you offset, that is, the difference between the transmit frequency and your receive frequency is the audio frequency that you hear in your speaker. If your receiver is tuned 440 Hz away from the transmitter, you hear a low ‘A’ tone. If your receiver is tuned 1200 Hz away you hear a high pitched tune. Most experienced CW ops choose a tone 600 Hz to 800 Hz away from the transmitter’s frequency.

In modern transceivers, most manufacturers offset the receiver frequency in CW mode by an adjustment to the CW sidetone frequency. The transmit frequency will be the frequency displayed on the dial. The receiver frequency will be the dial frequency plus or minus the displayed frequency. In CW normal mode, it will be plus (USB). In CW reverse mode, it will be minus (LSB). For example, in my Yaesu FT-450D, I set the CW sidetone to 700 Hertz. This is the tone I like to hear on CW. When I tune my radio display to the Ohio Slow Net net frequency of 3535.350 KHz, that is the frequency that I am transmitting on. Because my sidetone offset is 700 Hz and I am in CW normal mode, the transceiver automatically adjusts the receive frequency to 3535.350 Khz plus the 0.700 KHz offset. The receive frequency I am listening to is 3536.050 KHz. If the net members want me to hear them, they must set their transmit frequency to somewhere where the difference between the transmit frequency and the frequency I’m listening on is an audio note that I can hear. If they choose to transmit on 3535.350 KHz, I will hear a 700 Hz audio tone. If they choose 3535.500 KHz, I will hear the difference between my receive frequency, 3535.050 KHz, and their transmit frequency, 3535.5 KHz, which will be 450 Hz. This is readable but lower than I like to hear. On the other hand, if a net member transmits on 3535.000 KHz, I will hear them on 3536.050 KHz minus 3535.000 KHz which is 1.050 KHz, readable, but uncomfortably high for my taste.

All of the above assumes that all net members’ transceivers are transmitting with the same receive frequency shift. Not all transceivers act the same way, however. In my FT-450D, I can select the CW receive offset to always be above the transmit frequency, always below the transmit frequency, or in auto CW mode which sets the receive frequency below the transmit frequency on the 160m, 80m, and 40m bands and to above the transmit frequency on the 30m and higher bands. The ICOM IC-718 behaves like the FT-450D’s auto mode. It automatically sets the receive offset below the transmit frequency for the low bands and above for the high bands. If you want to be on frequency on a CW net, you must know whether your receive offset is above or below the transmit frequency and make sure it is set the same for all members of the net. Modern usage is to always use a receive offset above the transmit frequency.

Most modern transceivers put out their CW transmit signal on the dial frequency and shift the actual receive frequency by the frequency of the transmit sidetone. Most modern transceivers allow you to set the transmit sidetone to a frequency within a range, typically around 300 Hz to around 1000 Hz. Some rigs, particularly older rigs, have a fixed offset. Fixed sidetones are often 600 Hz, 700 Hz, or 800 Hz. Check your operating manual to be sure. If yours is adjustable, set it to the pitch you like to hear.

Most transceivers allow you to operate your key or keyer without transmitting a signal on the air. On the FT-450D, you can turn the break-in function off. When the net control station tells you “QNZ”, all you have to do is turn off break-in, key your sidetone, and tune your receiver until the net control’s received signal pitch is the same as your sidetone pitch. When you arrive at that point, your dial will show your transmit frequency and that frequency will be equal to or very near the net controls actual transmit frequency. If all net members follow this procedure, everyone will hear everyone else at their chosen (or fixed) sidetone pitch.

Note, if you are fortunate enough to own a high end transceiver, you may have several different ways to tune in the CW signal. The FTDX-3000 has an auto zero-beat function where you tune in the CW signal, push the right button and the radio automatically tunes the rig to the proper frequency. The Kenwood TS-2000 has a similar function.

Being exactly on another stations transmit frequency is not always an advantage. In CW contest operation, you may gain an advantage by deliberately tuning off the other stations frequency a bit. This will make your signal sound a little different than all the satations tuned exactly in and you may get noticed sooner.

In any case, having the knowledge of how your rig works in CW and the skill to zero-beat a signal will make you a better CW operator and, hopefully, increase your success and enjoyment of this oldest of communications modes.


Public Service Honor Roll Report – PSHR

From the ARRL web site:

Each month in QST‘s Field Organization Reports column, the Public Service Honor Roll (PSHR) recognizes the efforts of Amateur Radio operators who are active in many aspects of public service. This includes net operations, traffic handling, emergency operations and public service communication support. There are chances that you’re already involved with some aspect of Amateur Radio that would apply to the Public Service Honor Roll (PSHR).

The PSHR report is how you inform the ARRL that you have earned recognition. The PSHR report is sent monthly, at the beginning of the month, to your Section Traffic manager (STM) reporting your qualifying activity from the previous month.

To qualify for recognition you must accumulate 70 or more points in a month. The points are assigned from six categories. These categories are as follows:

1. Participation in a Public Service net.

You are awarded 1 point for each public service net you participate in up to a maximum of 40 points. A public service net would be any NTS net or independant net that handles formal radiogram traffic and is a regularly scheduled net.

2. Handling formal radiogram messages.

You are awarded one point for each formal radiogram message handled up to a maximum of forty points. The counting of messages is the same as used for the Station Activity Report and is detailed in Appendix B of the ARRL Public Service Communication Manual (PSCM).

3. Serving in an ARRL-sponsored volunteer position: ARRL Field Organization appointee or Section Manager, NTS Net Manager, TCC Director, TCC member, NTS official or appointee above the Section level..

You are awarded 10 points for each qualifying position you hold up to a maximum of 30 points.

4. Participation in scheduled, short-term public service events such as walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, parades, simulated emergency tests and related practice events. This includes off-the-air meetings and coordination efforts with related emergency groups and served agencies.

You are awarded 5 points for each hour or portion of an hour that you coordinate or participate in the qualifying event. There is no point limit for this category.

5. Participation in an unplanned emergency response when the Amateur Radio operator is on the scene. This also includes unplanned incident requests by public or served agencies for Amateur Radio participation.

You are awarded 5 points for each hour or portion of an hour you are actively involved in the incident response. There is no point limit for this category.

6. Providing and maintaining a) an automated digital system that handles ARRL radiogram-formatted messages; b) a Web page or e-mail list server oriented toward Amateur Radio public service.

You are awarded 10 points for each item you provide.

More complete and detailed information is available at the ARRL web site here.

The PSHR report should be forwarded to your STM monthly in the desired format. For example, the Ohio STM requests the following format for the PSHR.

PSHR DECEMBER 40 40 10 0 0 10 TOTAL 100

The numbers are reported in the order listed above. For the month of December I participated in about 90 net sessions so I get 40 points maximum there. I handled 99 pieces of traffic so I get a maximum of forty there. I have been appointed as an Official Relay Station so I get 10 points for that appointment. I did not participate in any sort term events so I get zero points for the fourth number. I also did not participate in a real emergency event so no points for the fifth number. Maintaining this blog gets me ten points for number six. Add them up and the total is 100 points for the month. Since that is 70 or more, I’ll be listed in the QST column in a few months.

If you qualify for and report the PSHR for 12 months in a row or for 18 months out of 24, you are eligible to receive a one time certificate from the ARRL. See the ARRL link above for complete details on how to a[[ly for the certificate.

Station Activity Report – SAR

The Station Activity Report, or SAR, is a report of the traffic handled at your station. It is filed monthly, normally with your Section Traffic Manager (STM). In the report, you provide a count of the message  traffic handled by your station for the previous month. This information is used by the STM to get an idea of the amount of traffic handled in the section and of the trends (if any) in the traffic flow. Most STMs request that the SAR for each month be submitted in the first two or three days of the following month.

Traffic in the National Traffic System (NTS) is counted in a specific way. There are four categories of traffic handled in the NTS. These are originated (ORIG), sent (SENT), received (RCVD), and delivered (DLVD). You get credit for the appropriate categories for each piece of traffic handled.

An originated message is a message that is generated for a third party (someone other than yourself) and is a function not performed on the air. If you are at a Field Day event, for example, and a visitor comes up to you and asks to have you send a greeting from the field day site, that would be an originated message. For originating a message, you would receive one ORIG point.

A received message is a message you receive over the air formatted in the ARRL radiogram format. The message may be for you, it may be for delivery, or it may be relayed to another station. In any of these cases, you receive one RCVD point.

A sent message is a formal ARRL radiogram formatted message that you pass to another over an amateur traffic net. When you send a message on, you receive one SENT point for the message.

A delivered message is not done over the air. You receive a DLVD point for each message that you deliver to a third party, whether by email, telephone, or in person. A message given to another ham over the air is counted as sent, not as delivered, even if they are the addressee of the message.

These are the raw numbers you need in order to send a SAR to your STM. More information on counting messages is contained in Appendix B of the NTS Public Service Communications Manual (PSCM) available at the ARRL web site.

The format of the SAR varies from section to section. Appendix B, Chapter Seven of the PSCM has several examples showing separate ORIG/SENT/RCVD/DLVD types of SAR.

In the Ohio Section, the current STM only requires the traffic total in the SAR. The desired format is as follows:


In December, I had 0 originations, 33 sent, 48 received, and 18 delivered. Add them all up and they equal 99. That is the number that is reported in the SAR I sent to my STM.

Check with your STM for the desired format and timing of the SAR in your section.