SignaLink USB Troubleshooting,
Technical FAQ, and Operating Tips


NOTE:  For non-technical questions, please see our SignaLink USB FAQ.

Please read this brief note before troubleshooting or calling for assistance!

Virtually all of the Technical Support calls that we receive for the SignaLink USB are due to simple configuration issues.  This is true for both new installations, and for those that have been using their SignaLink for some time without any trouble but now find that it has stopped working.  Every SignaLink and radio cable is 100% tested before shipping, and the SignaLink has proven itself to be very reliable since its release several years ago. Unless you have experienced a nearby lightening strike, power supply failure, or some other catastrophic event, whatever issue you are having with your SignaLink USB is most likely due to incorrect setup of the SignaLink, software volume controls, sound card communication program, or radio, and can be resolved by carefully following the tips below.  Please take some time to look through ALL of the information below and you should be able to resolve the problem without having to call Tech Support.  Thank you.


Common Problems

These are the most common problems reported to our Technical Support Staff.  If you are unable to resolve your problem, or if you do not find your problem listed here, then please contact our Technical Support Staff for assistance.

  1. My SignaLink USB was working perfectly but now will no longer Transmit (PTT LED is OFF).

  2. Radio won't transmit (SignaLink USB's PTT indicator is OFF).

  3. Radio won't transmit (SignaLink USB's PTT indicator is ON).

  4. Radio transmits, but there is no power output or it is too low.

  5. My transmit signal is wide and distorted.

  6. The SignaLink USB's TX control is "touchy", making if difficult to control my RF power.

  7. I can't seem to receive.

  8. Why can't I receive some stations.

  9. Other stations never come back to me when I answer their CQ, or they tell me that I'm off frequency

  10. Soundcard Calibration / Sample Rate offset error

  11. Windows System Sounds cause the SignaLink USB to transmit.

  12. Radio cycles between Transmit and Receive when the 13-pin radio cable is plugged in.

 

Technical Questions / Operating Tips

  1. How do I operate "direct keyed" CW with the SignaLink?

  2. Do I select a serial port when configuring my communications program?

  3. What general settings must I make when configuring my communications program?

  4. I see "USB Audio Device", but not "USB Audio Codec" when using the SignaLink USB - Is this correct?


Windows Issues

  1. I don't see a "New Hardware Found" (or similar) message when I first plug in the SignaLink USB

  2. Windows 98 can't find a file during installation.

  3. Windows resets the SignaLink USB's software volume controls to incorrect positions

  4. Every time I open the Window's Volume Control Panel, it has reset back to my computer's sound card

  5. 11025 Hz Sample Rate offset error on some Windows ME, 2000 and XP systems

 


My SignaLink USB was working perfectly but now will no longer Transmit - This is the most common problem we hear about and it is virtually **always** due to the software volume controls being reset by Windows.  This can happen if you unplug the USB cable, change the default sound card in Windows, or accidentally mute the SignaLink's output.  Other things can cause this to happen as well, so please check your Windows software volume controls carefully.  Note that they will most likely be reset exactly opposite of how they should be set, so they can look correct at a glance.  As outlined in the SignaLink Installation Manual and on our web site, the "Speaker" control should be at 100% (max) and the "Wave" (or "Application" control in Windows Vista and Windows 7) control should be at 50%.  Be sure that your volume control panel shows "USB Audio Codec" or you will be adjusting the volume for the wrong sound card.  If you are not sure how to adjust the software volume controls, then please refer to the SignaLink Manual (Windows XP, ME, 2000) or SignaLink Support Page (Windows Vista and Windows 7).

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Radio won't transmit (SignaLink USB's Red PTT indicator is OFF) -

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Radio won't transmit (SignaLink USB's PTT indicator is ON) -

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Radio transmits but there is no power output, or it is too low – The SignaLink USB can provide more than enough Transmit Audio to drive any radio to full power. If you have followed the Audio Level setting procedure in the SignaLink USB manual (Windows XP/ME/2000) or SignaLink Support Page of our our web site (Windows Vista or Windows 7) and still cannot get enough power, then check the following:

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My transmit signal is wide or distorted - This is generally the result of over-driving your radio.  Be sure you are following the guidelines for setting/adjusting your transmit power in the SignaLink manual, and see the common problem listed below if applicable.

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The SignaLink USB's TX control is "touchy", making it difficult to control my RF power - This is most likely because the radio’s Mic, Data or Accy Port gain control is set too high, but before continuing, please be sure that you have NOT installed special jumper JP3 inside the SignaLink.  This jumper is rarely needed, and will normally cause the SignaLink to provide too much audio to the radio making adjustment of the TX knob difficult.

If the SignaLink is attached to your radio's Mic jack, then you can resolve this issue by turning the radio’s Mic Gain control down.  If the SignaLink is attached to the radio's Data or Accy Port, then your radio likely has a menu setting or trimmer to adjust the gain. This gain adjustment is often called “Packet Input Level” or “Packet Gain”, but may have another name, so check your radio manual carefully.  Note that the radio's Mic Gain control on some older radios may also affect the Data/Accy Port (TS-440 for example), so you should check this as well.

If the above solutions don't help, then we suggest that you install Special Jumper JP4 inside the SignaLink and LOWER the software "Wave" control for the SignaLink's sound card. Note that the "wave" control is the "Applications" volume control if you are using Windows Vista, or Windows 7.  The "Wave" control can be lowered to just above the point where the SignaLink's PTT LED turns OFF, so as to provide minimal TX Audio to the radio while insuring that the SignaLink's PTT circuit functions correctly.  We recommend finding this threshold while transmitting a steady test tone, and with the SignaLink's Delay knob set to minimum.

ATTENTION IC-7000, IC-746PRO and FT-450 Users - Some customers have reported that these radios have unusually sensitive Data Ports, which can make adjustment of the SignaLink's TX knob somewhat difficult.  If this is the case with your radio, then you should find that the procedure above where you install jumper JP4 and lower the Wave volume control resolves the issue.  However, you may also need to turn the radio's RF Power menu setting down for better control.  A power setting of 35 to 45 watts usually works well for 25 to 35 watts of actual RF output as measured on a watt meter, or the radios Power Output meter.  For lower power levels, we would suggest setting the radios RF Power setting to 5 to 10 watts above the actual RF power level that you would like to use.  For example, for 5 watts of actual RF power on PSK31, set the radio's RF Power setting to 10 or 15 watts, and then adjust the power output using the SignaLink's TX knob until 5 watts is observed on the watt/power meter. 

If you are unable to control the power output sufficiently with the SignaLink's TX knob, then please check that you are following our  instructions carefully and try again.  If you are still unable to resolve the issue and you are confident that you are doing things correctly, then please contact our Technical Support Staff by telephone and they will go through it with you.

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I can't seem to receive:  It is perfectly normal for some signals not to be copied (see "Why can't I receive some stations" below).  However, even without proper decoding, you should still see audio/noise from the radio appear in your sound card communication program's waterfall, spectrum, or other display.  You can check this by turning the radio OFF and ON, or adjusting the SignaLink's RX control from minimum to maximum while watching the program's display.  If you do not see a clear change indicating that RX Audio (noise) is reaching the SignaLink, then check the following:

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Why Can't I Receive Some Stations - No matter how good your antenna and radio are, there will always be some stations that you cannot copy (even with strong signals!). While the reason for this may be because of operator error (wrong mode or baud rate, off frequency, etc.), radio wave propagation problems can often prevent you from receiving.  Some modes are more susceptible to this than others.  For example, even though PSK31 usually works very well with weak signals, sometimes even strong PSK31 signals cannot be copied at all because of multipath and Doppler Shift propagation problems.  Other modes like HF Packet and RTTY do not work well with weak signals and are susceptible to multipath and Doppler Shift.

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Windows "System Sounds" Cause The SignaLink USB To Transmit – This will NOT happen if you configure Windows to use your computer’s sound card as the default sound card. See the “Connecting The Computer” section of the SignaLink USB Installation Manual to resolve this problem.

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Radio cycles between Transmit and Receive when the 13-pin radio cable is plugged in - Please check that you have the radio cable plugged in correctly by comparing the position of the plug with the socket on the radio.  Do not assume that the cable is plugged in correctly because of the position of the notch on the end of the plug!  As unlikely as this may sound, we have seen several 13-pin plugs installed upside down and the results are immediate cycling between Transmit and Receive.

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How do I operate "direct keyed" CW with the SignaLink - This is done by simply connecting the SignaLink's PTT and Ground lines to the "Key" and "Ground" lines of your radio's Key jack.  One of our un-terminated radio cables can be used to make these connections.  You will need to attach the appropriate plug for your radio's Key jack to this cable.  Using our SLCABNC cable, we suggest attaching the white/orange wire to the tip of the plug, and the orange wire to the plug's body/sleeve.  You will then need to install the SignaLink jumpers as follows; PTT to 1, and G (ground) to 2.  Note that direct keyed CW is limited to about 25 WPM on Transmit (there is no limit on Receive), so if you need to transmit faster than this, you'll want to run AFSK CW.

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Do I select a serial port when configuring my communications program - Some communications programs will have a COM Port selection for PTT (Push To Talk), and some will also have COM Port selection for radio control ("CAT" control).  The SignaLink does NOT use a serial port for PTT control, so your communications program should be set to "None", "COM0", "External VOX", or a similar setting to indicate that a serial port is not used. Some newer programs have a "SignaLink" setting that should be used if available.

If you have a CAT interface and will be using it for radio control, then the CAT control portion of your communications program should be set to use the COM Port that the CAT interface is plugged into.  If you do not have a CAT interface, then this should also be set to "None" (or similar).

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What general settings must I make when configuring my communications program - As explained in the SignaLink Installation Manual, you must configure your communications program to use "USB Audio Codec" as the sound card for BOTH Transmit and Receive.  You may also need to disable serial port PTT control and CAT control as mentioned in the question above.  These are typically the only settings required to use the SignaLink USB with most programs, but some programs do have other "special" program specific settings such as "use AFSK in place of FSK", or "send CW as AFSK" that may need to be set.  In general, you can configure most programs properly if you remember that you will be operating AFSK (audio tones/modulation) and NOT using a serial port for.

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I see "USB Audio Device", but not "USB Audio Codec" when using the SignaLink USB - Is this correct?  Windows ME and 2000 may display the SignaLink USB as "USB Audio Device" instead of "USB Audio Codec".  If this is the case on your system, then you simply need to select "USB Audio Device" instead of "USB Audio Codec" as the sound card.

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I don't see a "New Hardware Found" (or similar) message when I first plug in the SignaLink USB - This is generally not an indication of a problem.  You may not see a "New Hardware Found" message when plugging in the SignaLink USB for the first time because of a number of reasons, including the speed of your computer, the version/build of Windows you are running, or the way Windows is configured.  If you want to confirm that the drivers were properly installed, then (after waiting a minute or two after the initial plug-in) open your communication program (DigiPan, etc.) and confirm that the SignaLink's "USB Audio Codec" sound card is available in the list of available sound cards.  If it is, then the drivers are properly installed. Note that the SignaLink MUST be connected to the computer, or you will not find it listed as an available sound card even if the drivers have been installed. 

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Windows 98 can't find a file during installation - There is a bug in all versions of Windows 98 that causes the Operating System to sometimes "forget" what drive the installation CD is in during installation.  If you receive a "Can't Find File..." error message during installation of the SignaLink USB, then you will need to manually enter the location of your Windows CD drive into the dialog box when prompted.  For example, if your CD drive is "D:" then you will type "D:\WIN98".  Note that you may also be able to click the location drop down menu and select the correct CD drive location.

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Windows resets the SignaLink USB's software volume controls to incorrect positions - If the SignaLink's USB cable is unplugged or the default sound card in the computer is changed, Windows may reset the SignaLink's software volume controls to incorrect levels.  The symptom for this problem is that the SignaLink USB was working perfectly, but now will not transmit.  This issue can be resolved by manually setting the "Speaker" volume control back to maximum, and the "Wave" control to 50%, or by using the "QuickMix" utility to save and restore your volume control settings.

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Every time I open the Window's Volume Control Panel, it has reset back to my computer's sound card -  This is perfectly normal.  Windows will ALWAYS show the default sound card (which should be your computer's sound card) when opening the Volume Control Panel.  The only place you should see the SignaLink USB's sound card "stick" is in your communication program (DigiPan, etc.).

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11025 Hz Sample Rate offset error - Due to a Windows system issue, some Windows ME, 2000 and XP computers may show an abnormal sample rate offset error of around 7000 ppm at the 11025 Hz sample rate (other sample rates are NOT affected).  If this offset error occurs on your computer, it can result in your transmit (modulation) frequency being off from your receive frequency. When operating digital modes, this can manifest itself in several different ways.  With PSK31, other stations may not respond when you answer their CQ, or they may respond but say that you are off frequency.  It can also result in both you and the person that you're talking to "walking" across the waterfall as each of you corrects your tuning after each transmission.  On MT63, this problem can result in other stations not being able to copy you, or they receive your text in lower or upper case only, or certain characters such as spaces are missing.

This issue can be easily resolved in virtually all cases by simply changing the sample rate in your communication program from 11025 Hz to 12000 Hz.  It's important to note that changing the sample rate will NOT hurt anything if this problem doesn't exist on your computer, so if you're not sure, we suggest changing it just to avoid the issue.  Also, other standard sample rates (8000, 22050, 44.1, etc.) work just fine and do not need to be changed.  It should also be noted that Windows 98SE and Windows Vista systems never show this offset error.

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Sound Card Calibration - Transmit and Receive sample rate errors and sample rate offset errors occur with all sound cards, and can cause you to experience transmit and/or receive problems when operating digital, if the error is large enough.  The sample rate error can cause a variety of problems depending on the mode that you are using.  With PSK31, other stations may not respond when you answer their CQ, or they may respond but say that you are off frequency.  Other stations may respond to your CQ, but be off frequency so that you can't copy them.  These errors can also result in both you and the person that you're talking to "walking" across the waterfall as each of you corrects your tuning after each transmission.  On MT63, this problem can result in other stations not being able to copy you at all, or they receive your text in lower or upper case only, or certain characters such as spaces are missing.  With SSTV, sample rate errors result in slanted pictures.

If you are using Window ME, 2000, or XP it is important that you see the "11025 Hz Sample Rate offset error" issue above before going any further.  This will resolve most sound card calibration issues.  If this doesn't completely fix the problem you are experiencing, then sound card calibration might be necessary to remove the remaining error.  This can be done with your communication program's built-in calibration routine if available (see your program's documentation), or with the "Check Sample Rate" utility that comes free with the popular "Mix-W" program.  If you use the Check Sample Rate utility, be sure to select the SignaLink's sound card and let it run for at least 30 minutes.  Do not use your computer for anything else during this time, and do not let it go into sleep or suspend mode, or the results will be invalid.  After at least 30 minutes of operation, the TX/RX offset error displayed at the bottom of the program window will settle and can entered your communication program to correct for any sample rate error.  In DigiPan, for example, you would enter these numbers in the "Configure - Sample Rate Corrections" menu.  Other programs have similar options - See your program's Help documentation for details.

For the most accurate calibration possible, you can calibrate your system using the sound card calibration procedure contained in the MMSSTV program's "Help" documentation.  This procedure uses your transceiver and the WWV time station to obtain sub 1Hz accuracy.  While some users might want to do this for the sake of having the most accurate signal possible, it should be noted that this isn't normally necessary.  Excellent performance can virtually always be achieved by using one of the procedures listed above.

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