Decibels - Ham Love It

It’s All About The Decibels – Factors In Enhancing Station Effectiveness

Reposted By Layne AE1N

In electronics and communications, the decibel (abbreviated as dB) is a logarithmic expression of the ratio between two signal power, voltage, or current levels. In acoustics, the decibel is used as an absolute indicator of sound power per unit area. A decibel is one-tenth of a Bel, a seldom-used unit named for Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

Suppose a signal has a power of P1 watts, and a second signal has a power of P2watts. Then the power amplitude difference in decibels, symbolized SdBP, is:

SdBP = 10 log10 (P2 / P1)

This is much easier to understand by observing the table below.

1  dB ~ 30 percent increase

2 dB ~ 60 percent increase

3 dB ~ 100 percent increase

6 dB ~ 400 percent increase (~ 1 S-unit)

NOTE: For purposes of this article, our “Zero-Point” is a modern SSB transceiver running 100 watts to a half-wave dipole up about 30 feet. The objective is to improve station effectiveness in any various ways:

-27 dB ~ Switch from CW to AM

-17 dB ~ Switch from CW to SSB

-14 dB ~ Switch from CW to FM

-12 dB ~ To protect final transistor blow out manufacturers recommend reducing power to one-fourth normal when switching from ‘intermittent modes‘ (CW, SSB) to ‘Key-down’ modes (AM, RTTY, Digital).

– 4 dB ~ Switch from CW to RTTY.

+2 dB ~ Switching from FT8 to JT4. FT8 is operationally similar but four times faster (15-second T/R sequences) and less sensitive by a few dB. (On the HF bands, world-wide QSOs are possible with any of these modes using power levels of a few watts (or even milliwatts) and compromise antennas.

+2 dB ~ Switching from JT9 to JT9A. JT9A is 2 dB more sensitive than JT65 while using less than 10% of the bandwidth.

+2 dB ~ 2 Element collinear arrays.

+ 2 dB ~ single Cubical Quad loop.

+2.2 dB ~ 2 Element end-fire array 0.125 wave spacing.

+2.8 dB ~ 2 Element broadside array 0.64 wave spacing.

+ 3 dB ~ the ambient noise level has a profound effect on your ability to hear weaker signals. The following data was from VOACAP. VOACAP (Voice of America Coverage Analysis Program) is free professional HF propagation prediction software from NTIA/ITS, originally developed for Voice of America:: For 100 watts to a dipole at 33 feet located in grid square FN42 on a path to Central Europe at 1800 GMT. The following circuit probabilities are shown based on noise level at the receiver site: Quiet 55%; Rural 53%; Residential 42%; Industrial 26%; Noisy 23%. It appears that a noise quiet area has a 3 dB advantage.

+3 dB ~ 5/8 wave vertical vs. ¼ wave vertical hence the popularity of the 43 foot vertical.

+3 dB ~ Extended Double Zepp antenna.

+3 dB ~ Raise power from 100 to 200 watts.

+3 dB ~ vertical stacking of 2 identical antennas (0.5 to 0.75 wavelength spacing).

+3.4 dB ~ Moxon antenna.

+3.9 dB ~ 2-element Yagi parasitic director.

+4.3 dB ~ 13-32 MHz Log Periodic.

+4.5 dB ~ 4 element collinear array.

+6 dB ~ Raise power from 100 to 400 watts.

+6.6 dB ~ Rhombic 2 wavelengths per leg.

+6.8 dB ~ 4-element yagi beam.

+7 dB ~ Switch from CW to PSK31.

+7.3 dB ~ 2-element Cubical Quad.

+7.5 dB ~ 10 wavelength long wire at peak lobe.

+7.9 dB ~ 5-element yagi beam.

+8.5 dB ~ 6-element yagi beam..

+8.7 dB ~ 3-element Cubical Quad.

+9 dB ~ Raise power from 100 to 800 watts.

+10 dB ~ 3-element tribander.

+10 dB ~ Rhombic 4 wavelengths per leg.

+10.5 dB ~ 4-element Cubical Quad.

+11.1 dB ~ 11-element yagi beam.

+12 dB ~ Raise power from 100 to 1500 watts.

+13.4 dB ~ 19 element yagi beam.

+20 to 25 dB ~ switch from SSB to CW. It is mostly the signal-to-noise (S/N) improvement on the receive side that gives you the advantage on CW.  Assume a 2.5 KHz receive filter needed for SSB, and a 250Hz receive filter used for CW.  Now you have a 10dB advantage.  However, it is also easier to hear a CW tone than it is to understand SSB in a noisy environment.  I.e., the required S/N for CW copy is lower than for SSB copy. So, add a few more dB advantage to CW.  So, a rule of thumb is that CW has about a two S-unit (12dB) advantage or so over SSB. A 100-watt CW signal is equivalent to a full legal limit SSB signal. 20 to 25dB is a reasonable expectation for seasoned CW ops when the entire system includes the operator.

+25 dB ~ Switch from CW to FT8.

+25dB ~ Switch from CW to JT65.



These charts are from “How Much ‘Punch’ Can You Get from Different Modes?” by Kai KE4PT and Bruce N0ADL in QST, December 2013.

COMMENTS – Any change in power has no effect on receiver capabilities. Antenna gain figures are typical for that type of antenna. No cost/benefit attempt is made here. Most hams have limited pocketbooks. Besides marketplace prices are ever changing. And time is limited. Elevating you vertical slightly and installing 4 radials is a lot faster than laying down 120 radials!                                      73,  Layne AE1N


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One thought on “It’s All About The Decibels – Factors In Enhancing Station Effectiveness”

  1. Add:

    +4.5 dB 2-element Cardiod Phased Elements. Two identical elements spaced 1/8 wavelength apart with 135 degree phase delay. Front-to-back ratio >25 dB.

    +4.2 dB 2-element Cardiod Phased Elements. Two identical elements spaced 1/4 wavelength apart with 90 degree phase delay. Front-to-back ratio >20 dB.

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