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  #241 (permalink)  
Old 11-16-2012, 9:17 PM
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
Greg, just wondering what you're listening on - your 396xt? I've had mine on most of the day and have heard almost nothing except for a few dispatches with no responses. Thinking I have a real bad location or radio even though I always get the 5 bars for signal strength. According to Google Earth, I have a straight shot (no hills) to the Franklinton transmitter - sure is frustrating.
Hey, just wanted to let you know that I had 2 BCD396T's and neither would correctly interpret the signal. I picked up a GRE PSR-800 (GRE makes their own brand and Radio Shack brand scanners) and I am receiving the system at about 90% + success rate. That's from the house in the Youngsville area with the antenna that came on it. I have gone up to Louisburg on several occasions and it's crystal clear all day long. (Mobile isn't great unless you're real close to a tower) I talked to Uniden scanner customer support several times and they kept telling me it had to be a system issue. I have never once had an issue listening to the VIPER system so I do firmly believe that the Harris system is a bit different. But regardless, the GRE scanners seem to do much better with this system.
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  #242 (permalink)  
Old 11-16-2012, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
Thanks, that's interesting but I'm missing a lot of the calls never mind the multipath distortion. Even when I get within a mile of one transmitter location, the 396XT doesn't seem right. Sure is confusing for an old timer like me. Would love to hear from anyone with the same radio or the 996XT that it works good, maybe my radio is defective.

It doesn't matter if you are 10 feet from a tower, you will still get the distortion from the other towers. They are a huge pain to scan from mobile systems, a permanent base system is the best way to do it. It's what I had to do, and you can set it up to listen from your smartphone on the road. Doing that eventually led me to setup my online feed here as well.

It's a completely different animal compared to the old analog systems, that's for sure.


GRE's handle it better than Uniden's, but neither is going to work 100% unless you can focus on one tower and block the signal out from all the other ones, and the only way to effectively do that is with a yagi.

Last edited by jsncrso; 11-16-2012 at 11:43 PM..
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  #243 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 12:00 AM
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I have definitely seen improvement on the eastern side of the county on my PRO197.

Funny thing is I took US1 from Raleigh to Franklinton today and the audio is terrible in that area. Especially near US1/NC96 as you go down that hill. However in my side of the county I can monitor ~90% of all dispatcher and officer transmissions.

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Originally Posted by jsncrso View Post
It doesn't matter if you are 10 feet from a tower, you will still get the distortion from the other towers.
I don't necessarily see this as being true. I have no distortion at all at approx 2-3 miles from any site. Any further than that and it may become distorted or it may not.

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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
Thanks, that's interesting but I'm missing a lot of the calls never mind the multipath distortion. Even when I get within a mile of one transmitter location, the 396XT doesn't seem right. Sure is confusing for an old timer like me. Would love to hear from anyone with the same radio or the 996XT that it works good, maybe my radio is defective.
What is your scanner doing? Not picking up any transmissions at all? Are you sure your programming is correct? Sometimes mine goes awry and picks up a random talkgroup like 24XX. It could be multiselect but I'm not sure.

Last edited by NCFire11; 11-17-2012 at 12:06 AM..
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Old 11-17-2012, 7:19 AM
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I can see a Yagi might help but how do the Sherriff's cars and handheld radios work with small antennas? If only getting a signal from one tower is key, then the whole system needs to be scrapped or else go back to only one antenna in the center of the county with more transmitting power. If I knew a Yagi would work I'd get one, but without knowing if the 396xt is any good, could be a waste of money and time.

My programming is done by Radio Reference and I load 'Franklin County Project 25 (APCO 25)' - maybe I'm just doing something wrong. What I get, for example is 101 dispatch will be a clear voice and normally no distortion. 'If' I do get something, say on 102, it may or may not be distorted. Sometimes it's so distorted I have no idea what they're saying and other times it's clear, with everything in between. I have left the scanner on all night in my shop with the huge outdoor antenna (scanning only this system) and have only 4 or 5 minutes of recording with no 'full dispatch and replies'. With the old system I'd never get less than 1 1/2 hours of recording and sometimes it would be over 3 hours of Sherriff's talk. I'd consider the 396xt the same as a 'base station' receiver with the outdoor antenna - maybe I'm totally wrong.

Concerning the GRE or PRO197 scanners working much better, that simply says that this Uniden scanner is just not that good, no matter what customer support says - they always have a standard answer. If only I knew this before I wasted so much money on Uniden. (Hopefully I'm just doing something wrong in my setup and the scanner is perfect)

If I program in any other system it seems to work fine. Every Sunday I go to Bojangles in Louisburg for lunch and will take the scanner with me and see how it works. Problem may be during that time there's no activity - will check tomorrow. Maybe if someone can let me hook my radio up to your antenna that works, it would sure be appreciated to check my radio and programming. Good thing I'm already mostly bald or my head would hurt from pulling out my hair! I'm hoping if it's a Uniden problem, they will come out with a programming fix (maybe they read this forum?).

Just as a dumb comment on my part, 'shouldn't a $9,000,000 system be up and running perfectly over a month after the County switched to it'? Imagine an airplane manufacturer doing that with newly delivered plane.
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  #245 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 8:20 AM
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
Greg, just wondering what you're listening on - your 396xt? I've had mine on most of the day and have heard almost nothing except for a few dispatches with no responses. Thinking I have a real bad location or radio even though I always get the 5 bars for signal strength. According to Google Earth, I have a straight shot (no hills) to the Franklinton transmitter - sure is frustrating.
I use a 396XT with the 800mhz antenna. I live outside of Spring Hope which is on the Eastern side of Franklin County. I have no problem picking up the System even in Rocky Mount on my 996XT. Although the audio is distorted sometimes, beacuse of the simulcast.
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  #246 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 8:50 AM
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A $500 scanner is not going to have the same decoding capabilities as a $3,000 radio has. Their radios have DSP's which are able to filter out and process the incoming signal to a point where they don't have distortion like we do (although it can and does happen in certain "hot spots). That's why the system works fine for them and not for you.

And no, the distance from an antenna site is not going to have much affect on distortion. Again, it's the signals received from the others towers slightly off phase that mess up your scanner, not the signal strength from the nearest tower. Remember, you are dealing with a digital signal, so (for lack of a better explanation) there is no real level of gain like their is on analog, it's either on or off, and this is what causes the trouble.

The Uniden's decode just fine. I scan one of the most difficult simulcast systems there is (6 towers, mostly over water) and my 996XT picks up 100% of the transmissions (even better than those $3000 radios), but if I unplug the yagi and put the stock antenna on, I get about a 30% decode rate. GRE's aren't that much better, and you would still be having the exact same issues you are now if you have a GRE. You are just going to have to get a yagi if you want to scan this system. There is absolutely no other way or explanation around it.
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  #247 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 9:28 AM
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Interesting, so a 396xt can work, just not sure if mine is working right or if I programmed it correctly. Guess I'll have to take a trip to the east side of Franklin county to check the radio itself, or better yet, go park next to the Franklinton tower which is closest to my house. I do understand about the Yagi, the digital signal, time lag and a real radio. Something has changed in the last few weeks after I've heard a lot of Harris testing on 105 and especially on 109, then I used to get a lot more transmissions by the deputies in their vehicles. There were times when actual people were doing the testing and making real time adjustments, but this past week has been quiet. Their signal would go from distorted to clear as a bell so it can be done. Maybe my part of the county just has no crime or emergencies so that explains why the signals go East now. Still frustrating!
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  #248 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 9:47 AM
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
or better yet, go park next to the Franklinton tower which is closest to my house.

If you do that, remove the antenna and point the open BNC connection towards the tower. If you still get 5 bars, enable the built in 20dB attenuation on the scanner. That should work in lieu of a yagi.

Also, distortion changes with weather conditions, and relative location to other objects. Remember, you are dealing with stuff at the speed of light. That's why it happens sporadically.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:05 AM
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The testing on 109 I assume was the repeated test counts? That's when they were trying to recreate the problem, which they did. Now they are trying to figure out is causing the problem, and that is what is giving them the trouble.

I myself use a 1/4 wave VHF whip on my vehicle and have no problem 80-90% of the time monitoring this system. Now not long after i get out of the county the audio goes to pot, but in the county it is a lot better than it was a few months ago.

Oldfisherman you just happen to live in one of the areas they are having problems. The deputies are reporting distorted audio especially from youngsville, through Royale, and almost to Bunn...and thats on $5,000 mobile radios. So I wouldn't bash your Uniden quite yet and give it a few weeks to see what those wonderful overpaid Harris engineers can come up with. Like I said when i drove down US1 in Youngsville and Franklinton yesterday the audio was horrendous.

Last edited by NCFire11; 11-17-2012 at 11:09 AM..
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsncrso View Post
A $500 scanner is not going to have the same decoding capabilities as a $3,000 radio has. Their radios have DSP's which are able to filter out and process the incoming signal to a point where they don't have distortion like we do (although it can and does happen in certain "hot spots). That's why the system works fine for them and not for you..
Something else to keep in mind is that the actual subscriber radios are not passively
monitoring the system like a scanner...they are communicating with the control channel
and if their RSSI drops below a certain point they will look for the next closest tower and
affiliate to the tower that gives them better reception.
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  #251 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 11:48 AM
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Yes the 109 transmissions a while ago were automated test counts. After that it was humanoids doing testing and talking while adjusting something to make for clear intelligible speech.

Well, I just spent an hour sitting almost under the Franklinton tower and the radio worked great - that means a signal problem back at the house. Wish I had an SWR meter that worked to check my antenna but ---. My next plan is to build up another vertical antenna to see what happens, hopefully I'm not in a 'dead zone'. If that works better but not good enough, will probably go with one of those Yagi antennas. By the way, I could hear a small amount of distortion next to the tower but it wasn't bad. At least now I have some hope again- this is exciting and Uniden is out of the dog house!

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  #252 (permalink)  
Old 11-17-2012, 4:21 PM
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I spend part of every month in Wilmington and I have had similar issues with the Wilmington/New Hanover P25 800 mhz simulcast system with my 396XT where I am staying at. What I have found that works for me is to use one of the stubby antennas for use at race tracks that are just over an inch long. Currently I am using one from Racing Electronics and for the most part, it does pretty good. From the location where I am at, it seems to pretty much get the signal from the nearest tower and it cuts down the reception of the other towers in the system. I still get a some distortion from time to time but the stubby does a lot better than the Radio Shack 800 mhz antenna that I used to use. I see no reason why it would not work on VHF also, especially if one lives near a tower site. Another thing I have tried is to use a Comet HT antenna that is hinged on top of the BNC connector so that it can swivel to different directions and angles and it also extends to different lengths. Laying it flat at a 90 degree and and facing the the closest tower will work like a yagi sometimes.

I must say that mobile is a different story, I use a 996XT with a tri-band Larsen scanner antenna mounted to a front fender and it is pretty much hit or miss with simulcast systems. I have been thinking about switching to one of the low-profile antennas that looks like an upside small paper cup to see what it would do.
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  #253 (permalink)  
Old 11-18-2012, 7:22 AM
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I have a theory why I'm still having a problem tracking the Franklin County trunking system. First, this is what I did:

* Checked out the 396XT almost in front of the Franklinton tower and it tracks perfectly - but I can almost feel the signal while looking at the tower.

* Installed a brand new Diamond 510 2m/440 Vertical on my back porch yesterday. (Gain: 8.3/11.7 and is 17.2' high) I know it's not tuned for the trunking system but it's close
- Was listening to Rockingham County EMS last night on 155.28, about 60 miles away, clear as a bell

Ok, I could hear some transmissions 'perfectly clear' from the trunking system and have been assuming it has been coming from the Franklinton tower 6.8 miles away (they can be either from a car or from dispatch, but not both for the same conversation). The signal is strong, but not strong enough to make the 396XT track properly.

Now my theory:

The Franklinton signal is aimed towards Louisburg so I'm at a 90 degree angle from the tower which means minimum signal, I live on 96 one mile west of Rt. 1. I think what I'm getting is the signal from another tower which is aimed towards me, maybe the one near Mapleville or Centerville (not sure where the Louisburg tower is aimed). 'If' that's the case it explains why it takes a huge antenna to even get a signal here.

I've been researching Yagi antennas and found a Maxrad MYA1505K 5 element 150 - 174Mhz, 9.2db gain, for about $130 to the door. I think that's what I need, just a matter of doing some more research. (I thank JSNCRSO for the hint).

Wonder if anyone can tell me where the other towers are actually located (what roads) so I can tell how to aim the antenna when I get it. I guess the 396XT is just not as 'sensitive' to weaker signals as the GRE but it will work.

Anyway, just a theory but I think it makes some sense. Going to the Jarsfest in Benson today, maybe they have one of the Yagi's that will work good. Still think there is a basic problem with signal strength for the new system in my area. Let me know if I'm full of beans, this has all been so frustrating when the old system worked so good for scanners.
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  #254 (permalink)  
Old 11-18-2012, 11:06 AM
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The antenna locations are listed under this page: WQOR820 (FRANKLIN, COUNTY OF) FCC Callsign Details

Louisburg: 287 T kemp Road(FC Sheriff's office)
Pilot: NC39, near the intersection of Pilot-Riley Road
Franklinton: 2 miles north of Franklinton on US1
Hosley Forest(Centerville): Very end of Thomas Jones rd, off of Wood Church Road
White Level: 831 White Level Rd
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Old 11-18-2012, 12:09 PM
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Appreciate it! Thank you
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Old 11-23-2012, 7:43 AM
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got it! Finally able to receive Franklin County P25 system. Have to thank NCFire11 and jsncrso for helping me figure out why all I was getting was garbled speech. This video describes my listening problem perfectly.
P-25 Simulcast Distortion - YouTube
First, what I initially did until the light came on and understood what was wrong.

My house is one mile west of Rt. 1 on 96 to give a reference point and what I did was initially mount my 17' vertical on a 10' antenna mast and attached it to my porch so overall it was about 30' high - what this did was get the whole antenna above my roof line for the best signal(s). No matter how I tuned my 396XT, my reception was 'garbled'. I went to Google Earth and plotted the exact angle from my house to each one of the Franklin County Towers - then everything started to make sense.

The worst thing I could have done was use a huge vertical antenna for signal strength and on top of that, get it above my roof line to receive signals from all the towers - I gave myself P25 Multipath Distortion big time. According to the Google Earth plots, it was obvious only one tower, the Zebulon one, was in a straight line if I brought the vertical down to ground level on the south side of my porch and left the Franklinton, Louisburg and Centerville towers only a signal path though my house which has aluminum siding.

Without doing back flips, let me just say it now works perfectly 100% of the time. It's amazing to get back to the normal analog days other than for the poor quality of digital voices that I recognize. Anyway, that takes care of scanning in my house but my 40' x 60' metal shop is not so easy. It's at the wrong angle to use a vertical for anything but receiving all towers at once. Have a 9.2db Yagi sitting in Raleigh now to be delivered Monday. When I get that up, will let you know if it is directional enough to work without Multipath Distortion. Hope this makes sense and you don't waste time and use a huge vertical like I did out in the boonies when a directional antenna like a Yagi is needed.
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Old 11-23-2012, 9:07 PM
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Glad you got it squared away. I still don't know why my 1/4wave vhf antenna picks up the system so well, but hey, im not complaining.
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Old 11-24-2012, 6:52 AM
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Guess it's mostly due to location. If I was going to buy a radio now based on all that I know, I'd go for the GRE PSR-800 which is less than $400 on Ebay right now. Live and learn
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Old 11-25-2012, 8:33 AM
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
got it! Finally able to receive Franklin County P25 system. Have to thank NCFire11 and jsncrso for helping me figure out why all I was getting was garbled speech. This video describes my listening problem perfectly.
P-25 Simulcast Distortion - YouTube
First, what I initially did until the light came on and understood what was wrong.

My house is one mile west of Rt. 1 on 96 to give a reference point and what I did was initially mount my 17' vertical on a 10' antenna mast and attached it to my porch so overall it was about 30' high - what this did was get the whole antenna above my roof line for the best signal(s). No matter how I tuned my 396XT, my reception was 'garbled'. I went to Google Earth and plotted the exact angle from my house to each one of the Franklin County Towers - then everything started to make sense.

The worst thing I could have done was use a huge vertical antenna for signal strength and on top of that, get it above my roof line to receive signals from all the towers - I gave myself P25 Multipath Distortion big time. According to the Google Earth plots, it was obvious only one tower, the Zebulon one, was in a straight line if I brought the vertical down to ground level on the south side of my porch and left the Franklinton, Louisburg and Centerville towers only a signal path though my house which has aluminum siding.

Without doing back flips, let me just say it now works perfectly 100% of the time. It's amazing to get back to the normal analog days other than for the poor quality of digital voices that I recognize. Anyway, that takes care of scanning in my house but my 40' x 60' metal shop is not so easy. It's at the wrong angle to use a vertical for anything but receiving all towers at once. Have a 9.2db Yagi sitting in Raleigh now to be delivered Monday. When I get that up, will let you know if it is directional enough to work without Multipath Distortion. Hope this makes sense and you don't waste time and use a huge vertical like I did out in the boonies when a directional antenna like a Yagi is needed.
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Originally Posted by OldFisherman View Post
Guess it's mostly due to location. If I was going to buy a radio now based on all that I know, I'd go for the GRE PSR-800 which is less than $400 on Ebay right now. Live and learn
So glad you were able to get this working! The power of the minds at RR comes together and solves a huge issue, I love it!
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Old 12-02-2012, 6:59 AM
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Just wondering if anyone knows the latest status of the new Franklin County system - seems like the Zebulon tower is not transmitting anymore. It was last Thursday when I was testing out a new Yagi antenna there were two guys talking on a Sheriff's channel saying things like 'let's change the two DAC cards; putting the cards back to original position they won't initialize; the frequency seems to be drifting; there seems like a wire missing to a switch', etc. When they talked the signal was perfect and I had a good chance to see how the Yagi was directional and it sure is - points just where I plotted on Google Earth straight to the tower (the antenna was 10' above the ground). Heard a little more testing Friday evening then that was it. Now with the Yagi, still in that direction, I get nothing. Seems like some major problems but it's tough to tell without inside info. I tried turning the antenna around and the only direction that would work was towards the Louisburg tower but I have to have the antenna above the roof line to get that. This fun hobby can sure get frustrating.
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