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Just got a BCD396T - Review

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icp957

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Jan 23, 2004
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Now that the 996 came out I finally got a BCD396T. I had a 296 for a while but I sold it and got a Pro-96 because the Pro-96 had a lot better performance on the Phoenix CQPSK trunked system. The problem with the 296 is that it was subject to adjacent channel interference and so when another transmitter on a nearby frequency was keyed up it would basically be unable to decode CQPSK digital on the selected frequency. The Pro-96 had much better selectivity so it wasn't bothered as much by strong adjacent signals. With the way the 9600 baud systems have their frequencies spaced so close together you really need to be able to hear only that one channel and not everything else on the adjacent channels.

The BCD396T has a lot of nice features and a lot of extra bells and whistles. The display and the features are much better than the Pro-96, which you would expect because Uniden has always been ahead of Radio Shack when it comes to features and usability. Unfortunately the digital performance is still not up to par on the BCD396T. The decoding is very good when there are no strong adjacent signals, but as soon as another transmitter keys up on a nearby frequency, you can forget about hearing any digital transmissions. I can even hear the adjacent-channel interference on some conventional 800 MHz channels; it's about as bad as it was on the 296. When holding on a conventional 800 MHz channel, I can hear the digital sounds from a transmitter on an adjacent frequency, and of course that means I can't pick up anything on that frequency when the other transmitter is transmitting. And that is with it set on narrow NFM.

You can probably tell that I'm disappointed with this $549.95 scanner. I had hoped that it would be designed to stand up to the rigors of an urban radio environment, which is where most digital systems are. But it really seems to work best in an area where there is not very much radio traffic adjacent to the frequencies that you want to hear. The attenuator takes the signal down from 5 bars to 1 bar or 0 bars, so it's useless for solving the problem.

If you live in a suburban area where there aren't a lot of transmitting towers, the BCD396T is the best handheld scanner ever made. But if you want to listen to CQPSK digital in the middle of the city, stick with the Pro-96 for its better selectivity.
 

icp957

Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2004
Messages
8
Unfortunately the attenuator doesn't help much. It was the first thing I tried. I'm about a mile from a transmitting site and the signal strength meter drops from 5 bars to 0 bars when I turn on the attenuator. In a way it's too good. Basically I can tell when there is adjacent channel interference because the signal strength bar jumps all over the place and the audio cuts in and out.
 

rhutch

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2005
Messages
568
Location
Ontario
Have you tried setting the decode level? I've yet to ever hear what your talking about and I basically am very close to a tower. Maybe you just have a bad unit , see if you can excahneg it for another one.
 

geronimo1974

Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
4
Bcd- 396 T

I personally own a bcd396 and a 996, these are both very impressive scanners. I feel that it will take a long time for me to fully understand this scanner. It is my understanding that others feel the same. I wound up having to ask for help from a friend, who soon purchased one as well. I have to say I feel that if you get your scanner working in a short time, you are either an expert or you are missing stuff. Also, there are a couple of things to remember with these scanners. First, absolutely turn your scanner off (396 model) before plugging the ac power in. Some are probably shaking their heads because they know this, I knew this, but was distracted and plugged mine in. I suspect this is why a diode went out and I got an illegal voltage message on the first 396 t I purchased. I have to send that one back for repair now. Second, for those who dont read directions well, be sure to read about proper grounding for external antennas, Uniden says the 396 and 996 are sensitive and can be damaged because of improper grounding. Also, the batteries take longer to charge in the 396, but I promise you when your scanner says charged, it WILL be ready for service. If you try to charge nickle metal hydride in a radio shack battery charger, then expect much life from your scanner you will be dissapointed. I had the luxury of buying a second 396, and when my first is fixed, the new one will go back in the box as insurance for my future of scanning enjoyment. Honestly, the real critisism I have is, they should have made this scanner with four batteries. On its fullest charge, you can hope for 8 to 9 hours tops.
 

PeterGV

K1PGV, ScannerCast author
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
753
Location
Mont Vernon, NH
It's Called "SELECTIVITY"

Did you guys read what the dude said? He said:

icp957 said:
The decoding is very good when there are no strong adjacent signals, but as soon as another transmitter keys up on a nearby frequency, you can forget about hearing any digital transmissions. I can even hear the adjacent-channel interference on some conventional 800 MHz channels; it's about as bad as it was on the 296. When holding on a conventional 800 MHz channel, I can hear the digital sounds from a transmitter on an adjacent frequency, and of course that means I can't pick up anything on that frequency when the other transmitter is transmitting. And that is with it set on narrow NFM.
And he's right on the money with his comment. No amount of learning about the scanner, adjustment or turning on the attenuator will change the fact that the radio's selectivity is not very good.

It's not just with digital decoding, either. It's with every signal. I live waaay out in the country in New Hampshire, and I can give you two examples of this lack of selectivity:

1) There are several PS agencies (155MHz) that have frequencies that happen to be near several strong paging services. When scanning, my 396t will frequently stop on one of these agencies when there's no transmission on the chanel and just output noise. I start it scanning again, it'll scan for a while, and then it'll stop again sometime later. I just got used to it.

2) If I bring my 396t, scanning VHF frequencies, into my shack when I fire-up my 100W HF radio transmitting on 14.070MHz, the 396t will stop scanning and output all sorts of noise... effectively picking up my HF transmission. Note that transmission's about 140MHz away from where I'm scanning!

It's just the way it is. You COULD have a radio that's far more selective, but it'd probably cost a more money.

Oh well... SOMEday, maybe we'll get a scanner that's selective, sensitive, and rugged. Of course, it'll probably cost $1K... and how many of them would they sell?

de Peter K1PGV
 

vmishg80

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2005
Messages
61
Bummer on the problems, sorry to hear - don't give up hope, this is a tweeking hobby.

Santa dropped off early a spanking new 996T to add to my 396T(w/ remote head for my truck). I also have the same duo from the competitor. I gotta say I am very impressed w/ the 996T - it does not motorboat and is rock solid on the signals. I do run LMR 400 to a 7' MAXRAD omni and on my other line a rotor w/ Wilson YAGi. I really think my antennas and cables have a huge impact on these great scanners. After owning both brands, I like Uniden by far - layout of programming, it decodes terrific (I did adjust threshold a couple points).

I am in Minneapolis so yeah, it could be something to do with so many towers and all the simulcasting. I could be one of the very fortunate scanner guys that lives in an ideal spot too.

I'd try to improve the line/antenna ? I know it's easy to say but sometimes really hard to do.

Best regards,

Pete
 

rhutch

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2005
Messages
568
Location
Ontario
I hope he has given up, fixed it or moved on to a radio that meets his needs as the original question is over a year old.
 

Statevillian

Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2006
Messages
252
Location
Chicago, IL.
I agree with the selectivity as posted above. I work near a transmitter site for a petty big public safety user and it's like I have them programmed in but the display is wrong. Gross overriding of the intened frequency or the image just bleeds right through. It is worst on UHF frequencies for me and coincidentally....the tower has VHF (fire) and UHF (police). No amount of setting adjustments help at all.
 

Shoreman22

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 19, 2007
Messages
20
Location
Toms River
Stick with what I got??

Guys,

Please help me out here (and forgive my ignorance).

I scan the central and northern part of New Jersey using the BC 296D. I scan from VHF on up through 900. I seem to do well in the UHF range and the 800 is decent.

I've been reading many comments about the 396T and I'm not sure there's enough there to justify the investment v. keeping what I have.

I'm a novice at best, so I'm not well steeped in the technical. I'm just interested in hearing local FD and EMS dispatching and on-scene activity. Not big on PD (they talk too much...), although I will need to stay with the 800 as some FDs are now upgrading their systems.

Am I better served by just keeping what I have instead of making the upgrade?

Opinions are much appreciated.

Also, a question on the 296 programming. Can I program more than one trunked system in one bank? If so, do both systems have to be the same (i.e. motorola)?

One more question (thanks for being patient!). I've noticed that, from time to time, the scanner cuts off a transmission and returns to scanning (priority is off). Is this typical?

Thanks again!!
 

slicerwizard

Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2002
Messages
5,341
Location
Toronto, Ontario
geronimo1974 said:
Also, there are a couple of things to remember with these scanners. First, absolutely turn your scanner off (396 model) before plugging the ac power in.
That is a load of el crapo. Plugging in a powered AC adapter doesn't cause a diode to blow.


Some are probably shaking their heads because they know this, I knew this, but was distracted and plugged mine in. I suspect this is why a diode went out and I got an illegal voltage message on the first 396 t I purchased.
I'm shaking my head because rather than just accept that your scanner had a manufacturing fault (lots of the 396's did), you feel compelled to make up far fetched excuses.


I had the luxury of buying a second 396, and when my first is fixed, the new one will go back in the box as insurance for my future of scanning enjoyment.
Right - so when you pull it out in a few years, it'll be obsolete.

BTW, do you think you could read up on how to use paragraphs?

And why exactly did you hijack this ancient thread?
 

PeterGV

K1PGV, ScannerCast author
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
753
Location
Mont Vernon, NH
HA! That's what I get for not looking at the date of the original post. They should auto-lock posts after they get to be a certain age, to prevent this sort of thing.

Never mind,

de Peter K1PGV
 
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