DISCLAIMER: I do not have any vested interest in any product I review, other than possibly being an owner/user. I try to be objective, and welcome any dissenting opinions.
I recently upgraded my handheld scanner to a BCD-396 by Uniden. I work in an area with 800 Smart-Zone trunking, and the NC Viper system has recently built several Zone 2 sites in my home area. My primary interest in the 396 was its "dynamic" memory, and also its' Tone-Out capability.
I am currently a full-time registered nurse. Prior to that I was a career EMT-P and have volunteered for several rescue squads. I've even been a volunteer firefighter once for a short period (you guys are nuts! LOL hats off to you all!). I am not now involved in public safety in any way except as an active ARES member with my ham radio club.
Even though not active in public safety, there's times when I love to monitor and keep up with what's going on but it's just not convenient to have something constantly squawking with routine traffic. Thats where the tone out capability comes in.
I don't know about you guys, but the EMD's and Emergency Managers in my area are pretty tight lipped about the dispatch tones. I've sent emails to all my contacts from "the old days" (yes they remember me), but after a month I've still been unable to get a list of the tones.
Just recently, I read an ad on RadioReference.com for a "Two Tone Decoder" available from Com-Tekk. At a price of only 40 bucks, I decided to give it a try.
There is no "free trial" for this product, but it does come at a reasonable price. It works utilizing the computer's sound card. Installation is quick and simple, and the interface is pretty straight forward. Calibration is simple utilizing a shielded cable with a stereo 1/8" plug on each end.
After calibration, you simply connect the audio output of your scanner to either the "line in" or microphone input utilizing the same cable you used to calibrate it.
As is common with most software, the first version had a few bugs in it and I was initially unable to get it to decode at all. Part of the problem was probably my own issue, and the need to get familiar with the software product. Just 3 or 4 days after the first release, Brian released an upgrade (all upgrades are FREE to registered users) which was a great improvement, and also fixed a re-calibration issue. Since installing the updated version, it is consistently decoding the local tones accurately.
The one email I sent to tech-support was answered in a timely fashion, and was helpful in resolving my issue.
Future upgrades are rumoured to include a feature that will save the tones to a log file, and also generate a wav file of the tone & dispatch so they can be matched to the department. This will allow the program to run unattended.
Timothy Whitson N4AVQ
The product is available at