The rise of DX clusters has changed the face of DX considerably over the years. Nowadays many DXers use and rely on these clusters to find rare DX stations, and many people blame the pile-ups that inevitably occur on the fact that rare DX finds immediately are flooded with people attempting to contact them as soon as they get ‘spotted’ onto a cluster.
That being said, using DX clusters is a great place to start – particularly for people who are new to DX. With clusters now able to show users the DX results that are relevant to them and the area that they’re in – you can get all the information you need about potential DX stations. To use DX clusters effectively however, you need to know the basics:
All DX clusters have the same data
There are so many DX clusters out there that choosing which one to use can be tough – except when you consider the fact that all DX clusters have the same data. The way it works is when someone ‘spots’ a DX station onto a cluster, that cluster then shares the data with all the other clusters so it almost instantly appears on them too. The only difference between DX clusters is their interface and features – so pick whichever one suits your fancy.
Always establish contact before spotting a DX station
Remember this rule – because the last thing you want to do is spot a rare DX station before you’ve established contact and then end up getting lost in the pile-up that will almost certainly take place. Generally most experienced DXers tend to allow a certain amount of time so that all the initial people who found the DX station manually are able to establish contact – and only then will they ‘spot’ it.
Don’t bother spotting common stations
When you first start using a DX cluster you may be tempted to spot any and all stations that you come across that aren’t already showing up. However if it is a relatively common station then most DXers really aren’t going to care much and there’s no reason to spot it. At the end of the day DXers are focused on finding rare or long-distance stations, so common stations from nearby aren’t a big deal.
Double-check your spots before posting them
Whenever you’re about to spot a DX station – double check it to see whether or not it has been posted already (in which case you don’t want to overlap) and whether you got all the details right. It can help to avoid some really unpleasant situations such as typing the code for North Korea and having everyone get really excited to get a contact from there only to find out it was a rookie mistake on your part.
Frankly, using DX clusters isn’t all that hard and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. In fact, you’ll soon begin to realize that you can use it to learn a lot about propagation and even as a predictive tool to figure out when you’re likely to be able to establish contact with certain parts of the world.
Of course to do that you need to give it a try and it would be worth finding out more about DX clusters by heading over here to see what your options are. Be sure to look around before settling on a DX cluster, and then spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with it so that you don’t end up getting lost.