PSK31 – The Basics

What is PSK31?

PSK31 is a data mode. You need to connect your radio to a computer to get this to work. Once connected, you can have a real-time text-based conversation over-air.

The following screenshot shows PSK31 in use. At the bottom of the screenshot is the “waterfall”, showing a number of different real-time QSOs taking place.

PSK31 Image 2
PSK31 using Digital Master on Ham Radio Deluxe


Listening to PSK31

Before you dive into the world of PSK31, have a try at listening and decoding some PSK31 signals. On our site, we have a tiny application called EssexPSK (written by Charlie M0PZT) that lets you decode PSK31 signals. It’s a receive-only program, but it’s tiny, easy-to-install, and free.

Download EssexPSK: EssexPSK Application (1.4MB)
EssexPSK - The Essex Ham PSK Decoder by M0PZT
EssexPSK – The Essex Ham PSK Decoder by M0PZT


How to set up PSK31

To get started sending and receiving PSK31, you’ll need an HF rig, a computer, and a way to connect the two. Typically, this will be done using an interface, such as the one pictured below. This sits between the PC and the radio, and handles the audio, tuning the radio, and setting the radio into transmit.

Digimaster Pro
Digimaster Pro CAT Interface box

You’ll also need some software, and the application of choice for many is Digital Master 780, which is included as part of Ham Radio Deluxe.

The setup process involves connecting your computer to your HF radio, then setting up the software. I’ll be honest – this can be quite tricky, and there are plenty of other sites that help with this process, so we’re limiting this article to the basics.

How to use PSK 31

Ideally, when everything is set up, your computer will display a waterfall showing QSOs, and you can send CQs and reply to messages from your computer keyboard. Life is made a lot easier with macros, meaning you don’t have to type out messages longhand.

There are two main views – one for viewing incoming messages, and one for typing messages. The most common view is the “waterfall” view, where you can see existing conversations and CQ calls. From here, you can decide which amateurs to chat to.

PSK31 Image 03
A close-up of some messages being received on PSK31

If there’s any demand, we’d be happy to extend this entry with more details on how to use PSK31. At the moment, we’re keeping it simple with this basic introduction.

PSK31 Reporting

There’s a great free service that lets you see how far out your PSK31 CQ messages are reaching. Go to the website and you can get information on who’s using PSK31. This works by using people’s computers to report which stations they’re able to receive.

Put in your callsign to see which Internet-enabled computers around the world were able to get your signal.

PSK Reporter Screenshot
A screenshot of the PSKReporter website, showing received signals


PSK31 on a Smartphone

If you have a smartphone, you can try out PSK31 without having to connect your radio to a computer. It’s a simple case of installing an app, and holding the phone’s microphone to your HF rig’s speaker.

Tune in to a PSK31 frequency, such at 14.070MHz, and watch the waterfall appear on your phone. For the iPhone, I recommend PSKer (PSKer for iPhone on iTunes)

PSKer application for the iPhone
PSKer application for the iPhone


Comments or questions?

Anything you want to know about PSK31? Please add a comment below and we’ll try to help.

Want a one-page guide? See our Getting Started Guides

Related Links


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