RST Reports and How To Give Them


This guide is for HF.  For giving signal reports on a repeater see: Giving Signal Reports when going thru a Repeater

What Does RST mean?

How do I give a proper RST report?

The acronym RST stands for: Readability – Signal Strength – Tone

If you’re operating phone or voice, you’ll give just the first two, the R and the S.

If you’re on HF you may hear: “You’re 59” or “You’re 5 by 9”

The first number, “five” is a measurement of Readability. Are they intelligible? It’s how clear their or your voice is. This can be confusing.  A completely clear transmission doesn’t have to be strong at the same time. The incoming transmission could be very weak, but you can understand each word said – as if someone’s whispering in your ear. That’s why the operator would deserve a 5 on the Readability scale.

The second number “nine” is a measurement of the Strength of your voice to the other operator. A nine, the highest value, would mean your voice was as strong as if you were in the same room with him and talking at a normal volume.

Most ham transceivers will have a signal strength meter. They can help you with the S component of the report.

When you decide to do Morse code, you add another component – Tone.

Now this is the harder one to give. Two people listening in your operating shack might perceive the Tone differently.

Try and give a realistic signal report. Most operators want the truth and they want to know how band conditions are between your station and their location.

Now here is the “kicker”.  In contesting, signal reports are generally all “59(9)”.  No matter how weak or strong yours or their signal is you get or give a “59”!  I have personally had to phonetically repeat my call sign multiple times, and was still given the perfect “59”.


R: Readability

1 — Unreadable

2 — Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable

3 — Readable with considerable difficulty

4 — Readable with practically no difficulty

5 — Perfectly readable


S: Signal Strength

1 — Faint signals, barely perceptible

2 — Very weak signals

3 — Weak signals

4 — Fair signals

5 — Fairly good signals

6 — Good signals

7 — Moderately strong signals

8 — Strong signals

9 — Extremely strong signals


T: Tone

1 — Sixty cycle A.C. or less, very rough and broad

2 — Very rough A.C., very harsh and broad

3 — Rough A.C. tone, rectified but not filtered

4 — Rough note, some trace of filtering

5 — Filtered rectified a.c. but strongly ripple-modulated

6 — Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation

7 — Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation

8 — Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation

9 — Perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind

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