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Knowledge Base:  
Basic Settings Descriptions

Last Updated: 08/04/2014

This is a list and description of some of the more important settings in the RT Systems programmer. Please note that this is a general list – some radios may not have all of these settings, and some will have settings not described here. If you’re ever uncertain about what a setting does, it will be described in your radio’s manual.

For the absolute beginner, the most important settings in most cases are Receive Frequency, Offset Direction, Tone Mode, and CTCSS.

Receive frequency:

This is the most important column. It is the frequency your radio ‘listens’ on. Most of the time, if your radio is showing a frequency on the face, that frequency is the receive frequency.

Based on the receive frequency you’ve entered, the software may automatically select offset and transmit frequency settings for you. These automatic settings will be based on the most typical setups for a particular frequency band – if the automatic settings are not correct in your case, you can change them manually.

If you’re using a repeater, the receive frequency setting will be equivalent to the repeater’s output.

Transmit frequency:

Generally, this column is only shown for clarity – usually it’s defined by the combination of receive frequency, offset direction and offset frequency. If you set the offset direction to ‘split’, you can set this directly, instead.

If you’re using a repeater, the transmit frequency setting will be equivalent to the repeater’s input. Please note, however, that many repeater listings do not explicitly include a transmit frequency. Rather, they may be formatted as a receive frequency and a + or – sign. This corresponds to offset settings, as described below.

Offset Frequency:

The setting here allows you to define how large the offset will be. The most typical offsets in amateur use are 600 kHz in the 2m band, and 5 MHz in the 70 cm band.

Offset direction:

Often, especially if you’re trying to access a repeater, you will want your radio to transmit and receive on different frequencies. If you are doing this, you will use what’s called an ‘offset’.

Simplex: This means that there is no offset. This is most frequently used for radio-to-radio communications

Plus/minus: This means the transmit frequency is either above or below the receive frequency, respectively.

Split: This allows you to set the transmit frequency independently of the receive frequency

No transmit: This will disable transmitting for the channel

Operating mode (also may appear as transmit mode and receive mode):

This setting determines the modulation mode you'll use.

Wide FM: Frequency modulation. This mode has a +/- 75 kHz deviation. This is the mode used by broadcast FM radio stations.

FM: Frequency modulation. This mode has a +/- 5 kHz deviation. This is most commonly used in amateur radio. This is occasionally referred to as “Wide FM”, but that’s a bit of a misnomer, as Wide FM most correctly refers to broadcast FM stations.

FM Narrow: Frequency modulation. This mode has a +/- 2.5 kHz deviation. It is not commonly used in amateur radio, but is very common in professional radio use. Use this setting to listen to emergency frequencies.

AM: Amplitude modulation

USB: Upper Sideband – A type of single sideband (SSB) modulation often used with frequencies above 10 MHz.

LSB: Lower Sideband – A type of single sideband (SSB) modulation often used with frequencies below 10 MHz

Name:

This does not affect channel operation at all. It’s simply an identifier for the channel. Depending on the specific radio model you’re using, you may need to change a channel specific setting (there will be a column labeled “Show Name” with a checkbox), or click on Settings > Radio Menu Settings and change a setting there to get the name to display.

The length of the name field will vary between radios. Typical lengths are around 6 – 10 characters long.

Tone mode:

This allows you to set an outgoing/incoming tone. Usually used to access a repeater, or to squelch (mute) unwanted signals. If the repeater you want to use requires a PL or DPL, you will not be able to transmit to the repeater without the appropriate tone setting.

If you only wish to listen to a channel (such as an emergency frequency), you do not need to worry about tone settings – they do not improve reception in any way.

None: No outgoing tone or squelch mode is applied.

Tone: A CTCSS (or PL) tone is applied to outgoing transmissions. No squelch mode is applied. This may also be known as “Encode Only”. This setting will allow you to access most repeaters, and is our recommended setting in most cases.

T Sql: A CTCSS (or PL) tone is applied to outgoing transmissions. Incoming transmissions are squelched unless they have the selected Rx CTCSS tone. This may also be known as “Encode/Decode”. This setting will allow you to access most repeaters, but if it’s not set up properly, you may accidentally squelch (mute) all incoming signals. Not recommended unless you’re getting a lot of interference on the repeater channel.

DCS: A DCS (or DPL) code is applied to outgoing transmissions. Incoming transmissions are squelched unless they have the selected Rx DCS code. This may also be known as “Encode/Decode”. DCS is not commonly used in amateur radio – it’s much more common with professional and emergency frequencies.

D Code: A DCS (or DPL) code is applied to outgoing transmissions. No squelch mode is applied. This may also be known as “Encode Only”.

T DCS: A CTCSS tone is applied to outgoing transmissions. Incoming transmissions are squelched unless they have the selected Rx DCS code. Very rarely used – you will likely never need this setting.

D Tone: A DCS code is applied to outgoing transmissions. Incoming transmissions are squelched unless they have the selected Rx CTCSS tone. Very rarely used – you will likely never need this setting.

User CTCSS: Allows you to specify a CTCSS tone other than the standard list available.

CTCSS/Rx CTCSS:

CTCSS stands for “Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System”. You may be familiar with terms such as “Private Line” (PL) or a generic “Tone”. These different names all correspond to the same thing, referred to in RT Systems software as CTCSS.

These columns are not active (and the numbers in them do not matter) unless you’ve selected an appropriate setting for the tone mode. If the number is greyed out and you cannot edit it, then the field is not active.

This is the specific analog tone you want to use. It can be set to a number of frequencies in the range of 67.0 Hz – 254.1 Hz. CTCSS is the tone applied to outgoing transmissions, while incoming signals are squelched unless they have the Rx CTCSS tone. Usually, the Tx and Rx tones will be the same.

Many radios do not have a “Rx CTCSS” column, or the Rx CTCSS column may be inactive and greyed out even with a setting like “Tone Sql” which would normally require a Rx CTCSS setting. In these cases, the value in the CTCSS column will be used for both transmission and reception.

DCS/Rx DCS

DCS stands for “Digital Coded Squelch”. You may also see it referred to as “Digital Private Line” (DPL) – these are different names for the same thing.

DCS is essentially the same as CTCSS, as described above, but for digital codes instead of analog tones. These codes can be from a selection between 023 – 754. DCS codes are not often used in amateur radio.

DCS Polarity

DCS Polarity is another part of the DCS code. In addition to the number (e.g. 023 or 255), each DCS code has a polarity. I won't go too much into the theory here, but there are two different options for polarity: Normal (sometimes referred to as +) and Reverse (sometimes referred to as inverse or -). An example normal DCS code might be listed as 432 or +432, and the corresponding inverted code might be listed as -432. If a repeater is listed as requiring a DCS code but no polarity is specified, it's generally safe to assume normal polarity.

Both N: Both transmit and receive DCS are set to Normal polarity.

TN-RR: Transmit DCS is Normal, Receive DCS is Reverse. Rarely used.

TR-RN: Transmit DCS is Reverse, Receive DCS is Normal. Rarely used.

Both R: Both transmit and receive DCS are set to Reverse polarity.

Tx Power

How much power the radio puts into transmission. A higher setting means the signal will go farther, but the radio will heat up more and/or drain the battery faster. The actual power output will vary from radio to radio – check your radio manual for specific setting values. Hand held radios typically range from 0.5 W to 5 W, mobile and base station style radios can often reach 50 to 100 W or higher.

Squelch Mode

There aren’t many radios that have this column. The few that do handle squelching in a kind of unusual way. If you wish to squelch a signal based on CTCSS or DCS, you'll need to set the relevant “Tone Mode” setting, and then set up the squelch mode, too. There are 5 squelch mode settings.

Carrier: No squelch is used.

CTCSS/DCS: Squelch is opened if the incoming transmission has the proper CTCSS tone or DCS code, as set in the Tone Mode setting.

OS: Squelch is opened if the correct Optional Signal is received, as set in the Optional Signal setting. This is generally a DTMS, 2-Tone, or 5-Tone signal at the start of the transmission.

CTCSS/DCS And OS: Squelch is only opened if the correct CTCSS/DCS tone/code AND the correct Optional Signaling tone is received.

CTCSS/DCS Or OS: Squelch is opened if either the correct CTCSS/DCS tone/code OR the correct Optional Signaling tone is received.

The following settings are either less common or not important for regular channel operation

Scan Add

If you activate this setting, the channel will be scanned during a memory scan. If it’s off, the channel will not be scanned during a memory scan.

Some radios have a third option – “P Scan”. P Scan stands for priority scan. Channels marked P Scan will be scanned as normal during a memory scan. Additionally, radios with this option will have a priority scan option. During a priority scan, only channels marked P Scan will be scanned.

Skip

Some radios have a Skip setting instead of a Scan Add setting. Essentially, it’s the reverse of the setting above. If Skip is activated, the channel will not be scanned during a memory scan – it will be ‘skipped’. If Skip is off, the channel will be scanned during a memory scan.

Some radios have a third option – “P Scan”. P Scan stands for priority scan. Channels marked P Scan will be scanned as normal during a memory scan. Additionally, radios with this option will have a priority scan option. During a priority scan, only channels marked P Scan will be scanned.

Busy Lock/Transmit Inhibit

If on, this setting will disable transmission if the radio is receiving a transmission already. This is useful to prevent you from causing interference.

Step

You should almost never need to change this setting, nor will it affect your reception and transmission if you do. This is a useful setting for VFO modes but in a radio’s memory mode, it’s largely useless.

Squelch Level

This affects the strength of the squelch. A higher number will require a stronger signal to activate the radio, a lower setting may be likely to allow white noise to get through.

Display Mode

This affects how channels are displayed.

Channel: Shows only channel number

Channel + Frequency: Shows channel number and frequency

Channel + Name: Shows channel number and name

Clock Shift

This can be activated to remove a spurious “response birdie”. It does not affect reception or transmission quality except to remove a response birdie.

Talk Around

This can be activated to “talk around” a repeater. It will cause your radio to transmit and receive on the frequency listed in the “Receive Frequency” column – it’s used to transmit on the same frequency that a repeater transmits on if the repeater is down or you’re unable to ‘hit’ it for whatever reason. This setting should not be activated in almost all cases.

Bank Channel Number

Some radios allow you to arrange channels in a bank into a different order than they are listed in the main memory. It is perfectly fine to leave this setting blank. If left blank, the programmer will automatically assign these channels to the same order in which they’re listed on the spreadsheet.

Comment

This does not affect channel operation at all. In fact, it won’t even be sent to the radio. It’s solely for your reference while programming the radio. Some users like to print out their frequency lists for reference, and the comment field can be filled with a little more information on the channel.



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