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Arizona Radio Discussion Forum Forum for discussing Radio Information in the State of Arizona.

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Old 12-30-2013, 7:12 PM
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Default Is a scanner worth the investment?

Hi- was advised to post here in my state forum than the New User, as I am in AZ. I have just about every type of receiver except for a digital scanner. Here's the thing- I wonder if the several hundred dollars to put down on one would be worth the novelty. I am not in Law Enforcement or Medical, so it would be just for fun. I know about Broadcastify, I own an RTL-SDR so please don't tell me to get one (why do people tell people to get these? I have one but it is no "real" scanner its only a fun little gadget- anyway off topic)

What will I hear on a scanner? I know police (we use APCO 25 I need a digital I am aware of the brands thanks) Fire, Medical- what else? Will I hear any type of military? I know a lot of stuff is encrypted that I can never decode (long time SW monitor- don't need to dumb it down for old me)

Is there a website with Arizona scanner logs, that would totally help me out and it would be fun to read. I really don't know what else a scanner would be good for, other than police monitoring.

Someone on the New User forum said something really smart, he said he really appreciated his scanner when the power in his area went down and no one knew what was going on, but he had his scanner so he could keep up on things.

Anyway, thanks for any advice. I won't be able to answer questions til a couple hours later though.
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Old 12-30-2013, 7:52 PM
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That's a tough one that only you can answer. I don't know how many responses you'll get, but I know there are people who will say yes, get it, it's worth it, and others will say.....don't waste your money.

IMHO it has a lot to do with how much extra spending money you have laying around, how bad you want one, and whether or not you can justify it to yourself.

In my case I wanted one for several years after my agency and Phoenix PD went digital, but I just couldn't justify spending the money when there were so many other things to waste money on, like the house, cars, food, gas, insurance, etc.

To make a long story short, I came across about $500 'mad money' and my wife twisted my arm. 'You know you want it, I know you want it, we're doing all right, the money is a bonus..... BUY IT!' I couldn't argue with logic like that, and the rest is history.

I've been listening to fire/PD since the mid 60 when I had a transistor radio that could be manually tuned to the different frequencies. I got my first scanner in the mid 70s, I still have it and a second one that could scan 5-6 channels, and you had to buy separate crystals for each frequency. I probably still have 6-7 scanners around here, some pretty basic, a few better ones, and one digital.

I think a lot of it depends on what you want to listen to. If all you want to listen to is fire dispatches, get a cheap scanner. You won't hear the responses on the digital talk groups, and probably won't hear the analog responses if you're more than a mile or two away.

My primary enjoyment is listening to fire calls, and the digital scanner works great for that. I also like to listen to Phoenix PD 900 precinct and Glendale PD. Much of Glendale is still un-encrypted. I can hear the routine stuff and the original 'emergency' calls for Phoenix, but after the original dispatch the emergency calls are transferred to encryped talk groups. Bummer, but that's life.

Was it worth spending the money for what I listen to? Yes and no. Since I had a little extra money, I'm glad I bought it, If I didn't have that extra, I probably would never have justified it to myself, and would never have bought it.

As far as what to listen to, others on here can probably give you better insight as to what's available and what they like. Since much of the valley is on the Phoenix RWC system, most of the valley PDs use it. Maricopa County and the Sheriffs Office use digital. Luke AFB uses digital if you're close enough to listen to them. APS uses trunked digital. During storms it's interesting to listen to them to see where the power outages are.

Sorry, got long winded again, I do that sometimes.
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Old 12-30-2013, 8:02 PM
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FWIW , I purchased both my digital scanners second hand at pawn shops at about $200.00 a piece. I had to buy power supply and a few accessories but used is an option. Just do your research and buy from reputable sources. Check out the Classified section on this site even , you may find a deal near where you live.
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Old 12-30-2013, 8:23 PM
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No! Wait, yes! Hold on.... No! Wait a minute, what's the question again?
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Old 12-30-2013, 9:25 PM
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I get by with my gre 310 and the scanner app on my smart phone
it's the best I could do.
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Old 12-30-2013, 9:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Romak3 View Post
No! Wait, yes! Hold on.... No! Wait a minute, what's the question again?
hahah good one.

All of these answers sound like what's inside my mind right now. I guess I am mulling it over, but out loud, and using you all as a sound board.

The money part yeah there's the car, house, some loans should be taken care of, but darnit, I know I will be mad at myself for not buying it when I had the chance, had the "mad money".

I was looking at a few on the classifieds here, husband said no no buy brand new! I feel safe buying from here though. We'll see.

When//if I DO purchase one, it will be within the next 2 weeks- and like I said on the other New User forum I promise not to come back with ''OK I got this new scanner, how do I program it this sucks I spent all this money and it didn't come pre programmed what's this button I can't hear anything what does this wire do how do I listen to my police department I am gonna take this back you all better hold my hand and stay on the board and walk me through it step by step blaah blah blahh wahhhh I want my money back wahhh"


lol The programming looks VERY confusing but I have an extra pair of hands that promise to help plus I think all I would need is on this board I CAN read and follow instructions.

thanks guys you pretty much summed it up. I wish there was a scanners log online though, like they have Shortwave Logs here and there. It would be interesting to hear what else is out there, maybe nothing? Anyhoo back to checking prices online... la dee da...
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:09 PM
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I would wait til the new Unidens are available if I was buying. Just a thought.
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:19 PM
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My advice is to wait for the 436HP and 536HP to become available. Otherwise you may find yourself spending another $500 in as little as 2 years from now when the RWC goes Phase 2. I will be getting a 436 when they become available so if you don't mind waiting I'll be providing the group a detailed review of how well it works (or doesn't) on the RWC radio system.

-AZ
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:22 PM
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Default Where are located in Arizona?

I haven't seen you say where in Arizona you are located.

If you are down around Tucson, then I highly recommend you wait till later in January for the release of the next generation Uniden digital scanners that will work on the new Pima County public safety system. It will be a TDMA Phase II system which will supposedly becoming operational in April if it isn't tripped up again but it is coming. The new Unidens will handle that. There was a GRE PSR-800 that handles it, but since GRE went belly up people are selling them at crazy prices and lets face it it has time under it's belt.

The new scanners will have a simple enter your zip code interface to get you up and running to listen with out having to program yourself if you find that overwhelming.

Another very interesting thing to monitor is the military air radio traffic above AZ.
Luke AFB in Phoenix and Davis Monthan AFB and the F-16 training operation at Tucson International Airport in Tucson. There are many training operations, exercises and such that can make for some very interesting listening...These exercises can get very intense and quite exciting. These take place on the VHF and UHF ranges in the AM mode. I find that a whole lot more interesting then listening to police calls. The Goldwater range usually is very busy airspace. Half the time I can hear plenty of air to air traffic with the pull up antenna. An outside mounted discone antenna makes it a lot better though. The best activity occurs during daylight ans so of the bigger training exercises play out into the night,too.

And you have civilian and commercial air traffic.

Then when the wildfires are raging there are air operations there too.

So, there is a lot of stuff to listen to in Arizona. It's whatever interests you. And of course the $$$ aspect.

A digital scanner will give you access to all this and more. Check out what freq's it covers and modes.

Yes, a new digital scanner is an expense, for sure.

Just make sure what you are going to buy will give you a feature set that will give you whats coming down the line in the region your monitoring in . Better to be prepared for what the future may bring than spending a couple hundred dollars for something that won't grow with system changes. No regrets! As they say stuff changes in a blink of the eye. .... YMMV.

Here's a link to the new Uniden and its first setup to give you an idea. BCD536HP: First Power On - YouTube

Hope this helps you.

All the best
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Old 01-01-2014, 3:05 AM
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Wirelessly posted (Opera/9.80 (BREW; Opera Mini/6.0.3/27.2338; U; en) Presto/2.8.119 320X240 LG VN530)

In addition to the new pair of Uniden scanners that will be coming out in about 2 weeks, Whistler bought the rights to the GRE line of scanners, and they're supposed to be reintroducing the PSR-800, and introducing new models as well.
So there could be quite a selection of scanners to choose from in another month or two. (I *think* Uniden also has additional models slated for release later this year, but don't quote me on that.)
As for what to listen to, around Phoenix at least, besides city/county/state and Reservation public safety, there are some federal cops you can still hear, such as the Federal Protective Service (part of Homeland Security) and the BLM LEO's. Tonto National Forest LEO's can be heard on the MCSO Lake Patrol talkgroups.
There's the State, BLM and Tonto Forest wildland firefighters.
Civilian aircraft and Luke AFB. 123.025 is used by all the PD, medical and media helo's around the Valley to talk to each other. 123.550 is Phoenix PD's helo "Company" channel that they use in addition to 123.025.
BNSF and (SP? UP?) railroads.
The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (Emergency management and the National Guard) has both analog FM repeaters just below the 2 meter Ham band, as well as a couple of digital talkgroups on the APS trunked system.
The G-deck Interop talkgroups on the RWC trunked system are almost always interesting to listen to. There's special events like Tempe's NYE block party, and NASCAR is here twice a year at PIR, and of course every Cardinals home game in Glendale; there's the DUI Task Forces every holiday weekend, etc. Almost any time an incident occurs on/near the border between 2 cities, G-deck comes active with both PD's working it.
I live in an SRP service area, and I wish I could monitor them during storms (they can't be) but APS (trunked system) and Southwest Gas (analog FM around 173.300 +/-) can be. I don't know about CenturyLink. I've had contractors out recently due to issues, and they didn't have an antenna on their vehicles.
Check the Arizona section of the database. I don't know if anyone has any real logs of what they've heard, but the database is a good place to start. (Although there's more than a few things that still need to be updated, and if I had a real computer, I would submit those updates.)
Bottom line, wait for the new Unidens, at the very least, if not for the new Whistlers as well, and use that time to go through the other forum posts here in the Arizona section, as well as go through the Arizona section of the database, to get an idea of what everyone is listening to.
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Old 01-01-2014, 1:07 PM
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I'm going to agree with the others who've suggested waiting until the new scanners come out later this month or near future, but I would definitely recommend getting one. I was out of the hobby for several years and during that time Phoenix and my home city went digital. When I went to buy a new scanner I couldn't afford a digital and thought I could still hear plenty on analog, which is true, but not enough for my tastes. And even though two more cities were going digital, I still had a hard time justifying spending that much money on myself. Then Radio Shack had the pro-106 on sale for Black Friday and I had the money so I bought one. I listen mostly at work, but I'm hoping to pick up one of the new ones for home use.
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Old 01-01-2014, 1:50 PM
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My dad got me in the hobby in the 1970 period there is always something out there to listen too. PD, FD, Air etc I think it's a great hobby I am retired now and it's even better.
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Old 01-01-2014, 6:03 PM
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Arizona seems to be heading in the direction of a statewide digital trunked system at some point down the road. Little by little, agencies to the north of Yuma County are migrating to Yuma's system. This is a Phase I APCO-25 system.

When I travel on highways, no matter what state I'm in, I want to be able to listen to the state's department of transportation and their highway patrol. When I travel to the Phoenix area to visit my wife's family I want to hear the Phoenix District of ADOT, as well as the other districts that are still on conventional analog systems. Being able to hear ADOT while traveling to and from Phoenix has saved us several times when accidents or other incidents have jammed up the freeways there. Recently ADOT's Phoenix District moved to the Yuma system. I run a GRE PSR-600 in my "out of town car" so I haven't missed a beat.

I spent a lot of money in 2008 to get the latest scanners so they would be as future proof as possible. Except for the development and installation of Phase II systems my PSR-600's and a 500 will work for many years to come. These scanners included the 700 MHz band, which didn't have a channel plan at the time. GRE built the radio with firmware that allowed it to be updated after the channel plan was determined.

However, if you were to buy a used PSR-600 today for $300 to $400 dollars you would have to replace it much earlier than the new Uniden's. I've been scanning since the late 60's and have always tried to get the latest model I could. I've spent less than I would have if I kept trying to save money in the short run.

Take a look at the You Tube videos of the new Uniden products as someone else stated. There are some good new features built into them that don't have anything to do with Phase II, but make the scanner much easier to use.

As far as a hobby, scanning is much cheaper than most hobbies. A $500 scanner today is cheaper than a top of the line model from the 1980's. In fact in equivalent dollars the newest scanner today cost less than the Regency crystal tuned scanner I bought in 1969. Think about the expense of snow and water skiing, woodworking, photography, fly fishing, to name a few. At ski areas in the west you can't ski for 10 days for the price of the latest scanner. Look at the price of computers needed to visit this site and program the scanners I'm on a partial retirement (got real sick before I was 55 and 25 years of service so my retirement is pretty lousy) and somehow I've been able to afford an occasional scanner and a ham radio now and again. I had to give up cable TV (with no over the air option here), all magazines, driving my 4WD and ate $2 dinners for 10 months, but I now have a scanner that will be useful, at least in rural areas, for many more years.
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Old 01-02-2014, 9:43 PM
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Why can't they stay with phase 1 , they keep on keep on changing phases this why I use feeds from here to supply my phx pd and Maricopa sheriff calls
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Old 01-09-2014, 4:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZScanner View Post
...Otherwise you may find yourself spending another $500 in as little as 2 years from now when the RWC goes Phase 2...

-AZ
Please, tell me that you aren't sure that this is true? You mean to tell me that the PSR-600 is about to become obsolete for RWC? UGGH!
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Old 01-09-2014, 5:07 PM
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Quote:
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My dad got me in the hobby in the 1970 period there is always something out there to listen too. PD, FD, Air etc I think it's a great hobby I am retired now and it's even better.
Well put. There will always be those times you wish you had a scanner and there is always something to listen to.
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Old 01-10-2014, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
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Please, tell me that you aren't sure that this is true? You mean to tell me that the PSR-600 is about to become obsolete for RWC? UGGH!
It's going to depend on what the FCC does. If the RWC gets a reprieve from the 2016 deadline for narrowbanding, then they'll likely take their time switching over to a full Phase II network, but if not then they are going to have to be completely Phase II by 2016 (and the budget for this is already approved, so money isn't the issue - this WILL happen).

The good news is you've still got a couple of years left regardless, so you'll get a bit more mileage out of that scanner. But the day will eventually come when yes, the PSR-600 will stop working on the RWC. Whistler will likely have re-released the PSR-800 by then so you'll have options for the RWC if you want to stick with GRE scanners.

-AZ
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Old 01-10-2014, 11:58 AM
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Why can't they stay with phase 1 , they keep on keep on changing phases this why I use feeds from here to supply my phx pd and Maricopa sheriff calls
Blame the FCC, without whom Phoenix would probably still be on VHF analog. Hopefully Phase II will be it for many years to come, at least until the Federal Government initiates Phase III (encryption mandatory on all public safety communications) which I still say is coming one day to "protect us".

-AZ
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:10 PM
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It's going to depend on what the FCC does. If the RWC gets a reprieve from the 2016 deadline for narrowbanding, then they'll likely take their time switching over to a full Phase II network, but if not then they are going to have to be completely Phase II by 2016 (and the budget for this is already approved, so money isn't the issue - this WILL happen).

The good news is you've still got a couple of years left regardless, so you'll get a bit more mileage out of that scanner. But the day will eventually come when yes, the PSR-600 will stop working on the RWC. Whistler will likely have re-released the PSR-800 by then so you'll have options for the RWC if you want to stick with GRE scanners.

-AZ
Thanks for the info. Unfortunately my experience has been that the PSR-800 may have some super cool features, but it has fairly poor sensitivity. Distant systems, especially P25 it seems, just aren't pulled in the way the 500 and 600 can pull them in. I am really hoping that the new scanners from Uniden address what I consider to be fairly poor P25 audio / decoding that is present on the BCD996XT and BCD396XT. Those also just can't compare to the P25 voice decoding present with the PSR-500/600.

As a side note, I know several PS people who use the RWC every day and the general feeling is that it just plain stinks compared to the old VHF system, which still gets used where the RWC won't work (certain locations and on firegrounds). I was talking to a friend who drives a rescue and he said on large accident scenes it's really awful because there is no simplex and back to VHF they go. At the worst times he goes to key up and gets the busy tone during times of heavy traffic. He usually carries a VHF radio and his partner carries the K dec radio. He gets the calls on VHF a few seconds before she gets hers. Not a big deal, just interesting.

On the coming of all-out encryption, I totally agree. Our government consistently makes moves to become more secretive, never less, and it's always in the name of "public safety" and to prevent "terrorists" from harming the good people. I always felt that keeping non-tactical ops in the clear "keeps honest people honest", but I don't want to open up the whole encryption debate for the millionth time, so I'll just leave it at that.

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Old 01-10-2014, 12:19 PM
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Blame the FCC, without whom Phoenix would probably still be on VHF analog. Hopefully Phase II will be it for many years to come, at least until the Federal Government initiates Phase III (encryption mandatory on all public safety communications) which I still say is coming one day to "protect us".

-AZ
Oh yeah, the government consistently makes changes that increase their privacy, never moves that decrease it and offer more transparency to the public. All in the name of "public safety" and "stopping terrorists". I always felt that having non-tactical ops in the clear meant that we were keeping honest men honest, and that it helped to provide extra sets of eyes and ears at times, but I won't try to open up the encryption debate for the ten-millionth time. Just agreeing that it's all going that way sooner or later, and that we need to enjoy the hobby while there still is a hobby (PS monitoring).
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