QRP Works – QRO Works Better


For more than a decade, beginning in 1996, I adopted the QRP lifestyle and had more fun building kits, learning about antennas, making friends and filling the log than I had during any other period of my many decades in the hobby. Granted, my goals during that period were modest, but I’ve never had much problem making contacts using QRP and CW with wire antennas.

Count me as a believer in the magic of QRP.

But while contacts can be made using QRP, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for the guy on the other end of the link, who may struggle mightily just so I could put him in the log and publicly proclaim, “QRP Works!” Low-power enthusiasts should always acknowledge that any success is not so much theirs as it is the guy on the other end of the contact.

Beyond that, admitting that there are benefits to be derived from generating a potent signal is important because they are many. You don’t read much about that in the posts of QRP blogs. Most seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that “QRP works” without mentioning the obvious — if low power CW works then high power CW works too.

This last weekend, John Shannon, K3WWP, a devoted QRP and CW enthusiast and co-founder of the North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) surpassed the 20 year point in a continuing “streak” of days (7,305) making at least one CW contact. Using low-power and simple wire antennas. From a less than desirable HF radio location. It’s an impressive show of perseverance and tenacity that he says was done to show that QRP CW works. He wrote:

“This is dedicated to all those who say things like ‘You need high power, big antennas, and a great location to be able to make ham radio contacts’, or ‘Life is too short for QRP’, or ‘CW is dead’ and other such remarks denigrating QRP/CW.”

But I would suggest that there are fewer operators who claim “QRP doesn’t work”, than there are QRP enthusiasts willing to concede that finding a potent signal that pops out of the noise floor is one of the great joys of abiding in the shortwaves.

The “right tool for the right job” is an eternal wisdom. It’s always been good advice. “If all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail” is another nugget of wisdom. Putting them together and stretching them to fit, I came up with a corollary:

If all you want to use is QRP, you’ll spend your life preaching how well it works.

Common sense, and physics, support the notion that if a five watt CW signal can be copied, a 1,000 watt signal will be easier to copy despite the vagaries of propagation, QRN, and QRM — though you won’t find that truism bandied about much.

QRP Works – QRO Works Better.

I’m going to have that tee-shirt made. Who wants one?

Author: Jeff Davis


5 thoughts on “QRP Works – QRO Works Better”

  1. Can’t argue with that one Jeff. Besides – the standard “barefoot” power of 100W isn’t that much power either, if you think about it.


  2. Some very good points, however considering it is in the rules and good amateur practice to use the minimum amount of power necessary for the contact I personally find QRP to a better fit for amateur radio. I rarely run more than 25 watts even on SSB and have no problems making contacts. If I can’t work them at 25 chances going to 100 won’t make that much of a difference and I don’t own an amplifier.

    Being that the S unit scale is logarithmic each S unit (3db) represents a doubling of power. 5 –>10 10 –>20 20 –> 40 40 –> 80 so we’ll call it 4 S units. An s8 signal becomes s9+9db

    1. I’ve really never understood that “minimum power required rule”. After all, being purely subjective, it seems to be completely optional. And what’s the point of an optional “rule”? Besides, let’s say you are running five watts and I can’t hear you well enough to communicate – does that mean you just broke the rule because you weren’t utilizing the “minimum power required” to make contact with me?

      73, Jeff

      1. I was thinking along the same lines as you Jeff and to add to that, there may be many instances where QRP is enough for an exchange that qualifies as a contact, but not enough to carry on a longer QSO with reasonably easy copy in both directions. Furthermore, if 2 stations are to maintain contact over the duration of a longer QSO, more power might well be warranted to overcome the effects of QSB.

        Personally, I think that whatever power level a station wants to run, within the limits of the law, is fine. I interpret the minimum power guideline very broadly i.e. if I were using full legal power to talk to my friend a mile away, that’s overkill. If I were running a WSPR station with 500W output, that would be somewhat absurd too.

        As someone who has run 10W or less (always 5W or less on CW) for the last for about the last 15 years, QRO sounds mighty tantalizing🙂


      2. Jeff, I was also thinking the same thing. 25 watts is a lot of power if 1 or 5 or 10 will do. So, running 25 watts, like Travis, really isn’t much different than 100 watts – it’s an arbitrary number.

        I agree that the minimum power required rule is quite subjective and if the FCC really intended for the minimum to be used they wouldn’t permit the sale of 1500 watt rigs when 1 or 5 or 10 would do.

        Rob, W8MRL

Comments are closed.