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SLATER Antenna? I'm in Kirkwood... INSIDE

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rjvalenta

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I have had a radio shack discone lashed to my chimney for years, and before the rebanding it worked well - too well, I had to put an FM trap on to hear the riots last year.

I'm using a Pro-197 on my desk, set to scan with a well shielded line to the roof.

Then, the change happened...

I have had WIN500 import everything SLATER and MOSWIN, and the reception has not been great. I also have an antenna from Antennas Direct that's just for OTA TV which I think I'm actually getting better reception out of... but still, it's not great.

A buddy of mine thinks my location is perfect to hear everything I could want out of the south SLATER towers (I'm just off Manchester on the Kirkwood/Glendale border). So I decided to get an 800mhz specific little rubber ducky - and that gets me NOTHING.

So, I'm at a loss...

My questions for those who know more than I:

- Is the RR database that my Win500 is feeding from the right set of freqs and talkgroups? yes, I'm starting to wonder if I just don't have the right info in my machine.

- Is there another antenna I should try, and is there an antenna anyone can recommend for use inside? i realize that having the antenna up on the roof is best in many ways, but isn't this system and all it's towers supposed to offer awesome coverage? I'd like to think if PD was in my office and a foot from a window (which the scanner is) they wouldn't lose their signal... I'd like to be able to move the scanner around instead of having the wires to my roof that I've had for years.

- Is there a chance that scanning is part of my problem? Another buddy of mine lent me his Home Patrol 1 (I had to replace the antenna on that to get it to work reliably), and while I can pick up Kirkwood fairly well, it's reception is horrific while scanning - if I leave it on Kirkwood PD all the time, the reception, with my eBay rubber ducky, is fairly reliable.


Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 

teufler

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#2
Well Kirkwood is on Slater, and if you have st louis north and south and the 5 or 6 talk groups for Kirkwood, If you have other groups programmed and you hear them, like sunset hills, Brentwood, st louis county districts, if you are hearing them you should be hearing Kirkwood. I use an Austin Condor for an inside antenna. I also use a larsen colinear 5/8 wave for 800. I live in St Peters andf pick up Kirkwodd, sunset hills, and all of st louis county, and all the antennas are inside antennas.
 

w0hfc

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#3
A couple things jump to my mind, something for you to consider at least. If you use an external antenna, you have to worry about signal loss of RG-58 coax at 800 MHz if that's what you're using. Belden 9913 is the best, its what I would use if I had marginal signals. Also, if all you're listening to is 800 MHz, then an external antenna for that band rather than a VERY broadband discone type would be much better. In extreme situations, you may look at either a beam or a corner reflector to direct your antenna at a SLATER tower. I'm testing out a BCD996P2 and it does amazing listening to SLATER in my St Charles basement on the supplied whip, so I would think you should be doing much better since you're closer. You might also start to chase down possible RFI in your home or area that could be attenuating signals? Anyway, just a bunch of thoughts - that are worth no more than you paid for!
 

kruser

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#4
My bet is simulcast distortion being as Slater is a simulcast system.
Where the OPs location is, is a bad area for simulcast issues. Especially with a GRE made scanner such as he is using.
I cannot receive Slater for nothing with my GRE's unless I use notch filters for at least the FM broadcast band and the 152 MHz paging band.
The VHF paging bands at 152 and 158 also tear up the VHF MOSWIN signals from Imperial and Weldon Spring.

I'd try turning ON the attenuator function and see if that knocks down the signal from some of the tower locations and allows the radio to actually receive the towers.
He should also have no problems receiving the North STL County system and may actually have better luck than the south system if this is a simulcast issue.

Being as he does have an FM trap, it may be one of the cheap ones RadioShack sold. I bought like 2 dozen of those FM traps and no two filtered the FM Broadcast band the same. Many were set high and ended up knocking out much of the VHF aviation band instead. Some were so poorly tuned that they knocked out the rail band in the 161 MHz area!
Plus you needed adapters to get you to an F fitting and back again to BNC or whatever his antenna needed. I've seen many of those fail, some brand new and some failed over time.

For the OP, how is your reception with your discone of the two NOAA transmitters we can hear in our area? The main one on 162.550 and the other on 162.450?
If those analog signals are weak, something has happened to your radio or in the feedline or any filter or other devices you may have inline.

What coax are you using and are your connections well sealed? It sounds like you have tried an indoor antenna though with the same poor results so that should rule out a signal problem related to your antenna or feedline.

In your area, you should be able to receive the north and south Slater sites with a simple indoor antenna and get good to great signal levels.
But you tried the 800 MHz duck so that also should rule out signal level problems for Slater at least. Moswin is another story as it is mostly VHF here but Moswin is highly manipulated by VHF paging towers. The two main Moswin sites for our area use control channels smack dab in the middle of the 152 MHz paging band on 152.600 and 152.660.
The only way I can receive Moswin with my GRE made radios is by using a PAR notch filter for the same 152 MHz paging band!
The PAR filter knocks down the paging signals just enough that my GREs front ends are no longer desensing or overloading yet they still receive the two Moswin sites just fine.

I'm still thinking simulcast distortion but I also would not rule out some type of failure in your Pro-197. The NOAA tests should confirm if the radios RF sections are still okay. Even with that 800 MHz duck you have, you should still get a fairly decent signal from 162.550 but I'm not sure it will pull in the NOAA transmitter on 162.450.
Try that test though and report your findings.
Another possibility is that a nearby transmitter has come on the air near you that is causing your 197 to go into desense. The Attenuator function may help with these type problems but it will also knock out weak signal reception if you are into that aspect of the hobby. The GRE made models such as the 197 have very sensitive front ends with poor filtering mainly of the FM broadcast band. Mine overload from VHF paging on all bands. But I do live between several tall hospitals that all carry the 152.240 MHz paging transmitter on their rooftops even though these hospitals are only 2 to 4 miles apart from each other. Why the heck they all need that same signal is stupid. They brute force the signal down into their basement areas where most have the ER department located and usually diagnostic imaging.
I always thought they would be better off with one high power transmitter on one of the taller of all the hospitals and then install decent receive only radios with "leaky" coax systems located in their lower levels. But nope, each hospital near me transmits the exact same signal with power levels near 500 Watts ERP. There is also a simulcast broadcast of the same paging system in the 158 MHz band but I forget its exact frequency now. It could be the one on 158.700. I get a strong signal from that one also but it is not strong enough that my radios AGC circuits cannot handle like the 152.240 signal.
The other bad thing is this paging system runs a near 100% duty cycle. Especially during the day and at night after large sporting events or concerts let out and the emergency rate climbs usually due to traffic accidents.
I don't think you are near any hospitals though but there could still be a VHF paging site near you.

Have you looked at the actual FCC licenses for SLATER and seen if any of the towers are located near you? A real close tower could be desensing your radio across an entire band. If none are close, then I'd say a simulcast issue is killing your signal.

You could try the 800 MHz duck again both with the attenuator on and off while placing the radio in windows on all four sides of your house. If the towers are far enough away, your home would become a directional attenuator.

I'm near the northeast corner of Chesterfield. I must aim a yagi pretty much due south in order to receive the north & south Slater systems. I have no idea which actual tower I'm receiving from for each system but it works and it works very well. I also have aims that I can get great decodes from for either the north or south systems in STL County but those aims usually cause sever simulcast distortion from the other Slater system.
When I aim due south, I can also copy the South Jeffco site but not the north Jeffco site. With a due south aim, I also get near perfect decodes from the single St Charles Slater system. I have no idea which tower I'm getting the St Charles signal from but I suspect it is from the St Charles tower located due north of me and I'm picking the signal from the rear of the yagi. Just a few degrees of aim change can cause loss of decodes from all Slater sites. I still show really good signal strengths from all sites but the decode rate drops way off due to simulcast issues.

As teufler said, if you are getting one city or town or muni that is on Slater, you should be getting them all as they are all on the same systems.
Page is the imaginary dividing line between the North and South slater systems in STL county but most everything along Manchester will usually be logged or heard on the North site as well. I find that only the far north or far south users are the ones only heard on one site or the other as radio signal have no hard boundaries and Page Ave does not really mean anything to a radio signal. At some point in time as the systems become more fully loaded, they could start not allowing any Kirkwood users from affiliating with the north site as an example as Kirkwood is fairly distant from Page. They do that now with Jeffco and St Charles users. Most of those users radio signals make it to all the Slater site but when you look at the CC data, you will see that those users are denied affiliations with either of the STL County sites. Some exceptions are appearing now and you will see some Jeffco users allowed to affiliate with one or both of the Stl County sites. Same thing for St Charles users. It is mostly fire that they are allowing the users on the other systems which makes sense. Of course certain interop channels are or should also be allowed on all the systems otherwise what good is interop if they are not allowed to talk with adjoining counties!

Back to your problem, if all your hardware checks out and you are able to receive at least the two NOAA sites I mentioned, then I'd say you have a severe simulcast problem.
Another great test for 800 MHz simulcast issues is by programming Ameren's non simulcast sites in using your discone again and programming in the Ameren sites for Stl County or actually Creve Coeur, High Ridge and the St Charles county sites. That will give you three directions of 800 MHz sites that are not simulcast sites. Those three sites are all easily received in your area and well beyond. The Creve Coeur site should be easily heard with just the 800 MHz duck you have. Those sites are great for testing 800 MHz for reception problems relating to your antenna, coax etc. Ameren does not use a Motorola system. Their systems are made by Harris but are true P25 sites using Phase 1 so great for testing as they are not simulcast.
I don't know if the Stl City Ameren site makes it out your way. I can barely hear the city site even with a 12 element yagi from my location so I rarely use that sire for testing unless I'm looking into antennas for greater 800 MHz range.

For the Ameren test, go to this page: AmerenMissouri (P25) Trunking System, St Louis Metro Area/E MO, Multi-State - Scanner Frequencies and select sites 104, 105 and 106. Also make sure you enter all frequencies as Ameren does roll their control channel through the sites available channels each night around 11PM or midnight. I see that mostly on the Creve Coeur site but have seen them roll the CC for the two other sites from time to time.
When they had the old EDACS sites running, it was not uncommon for them to roll the active CC every 12 hours.

If you get no or very low reception from the Ameren test, first play with antennas and switch from the outdoor to the 800 MHz rubber duck. The Creve Coeur and High Ridge sites are hot and should provide a useable signal with either antenna. If no signal or very weak on both with any antenna, the same suspicions would apply that your front end is being desensed (overloaded) or something has failed in your radio.
If you can take your radio to some place 10 miles or so away to the west from home and reception improves noticeably, it will likely be a desense issue and you need to try and find the offending signal which is not always easy with a GRE made radio and their hot front ends. I've found with the GREs that the offending signal causing overload can be in any band the radio receives or it can be in a band the radio cannot be programmed too. That can make for a challenge in finding the offender so you can get a notch filter made to knock it out.
On the other hand, if taking your 197 10 miles west does not improve reception on any system, I'd be fairly certain the radio has developed a hardware problem. It could be something as simple as a broken wire connecting the BNC jack to the radios RF board. That has been a very common problem in almost any brand radio or scanner but mostly seen on portables where the antennas are disconnected the most. If that is the problem, the fix is usually very easy for almost anyone with basic soldering skills involving electronics. It's actually an easier fix than trying to work around simulcast distortion!
The Ameren sites should prove or disprove simulcast as being the cause though being as Ameren does not use simulcast sites. They do use overlapping frequencies between their sites but the three I listed do not overlap and should provide good tests. If you take the radio 10 miles west, you should still hear at least the St Charles Ameren site and most likely, all three depending on your antenna situation when going mobile. I monitored Ameren's sites when they first went P25 and was able to pickup all 3 well west of the Grey Summit exits on I-44. Some as far as the St. Clair exit or the Warrenton exits on I-70. 10 miles west of your home location should get you out plenty far enough away from any local towers that would overload even a GRE made radio.
If you go out 44, you should start receiving the NOAA transmitter on 162.525 out of Bourbon, MO pretty easily. I can hear that one here in Chesterfield pretty much any time of day or night but sometimes the ground wave conditions change and I end up with a NOAA site out of Illinois instead. Basically, you need to get your 197 out of the RF rich urban area you are in now so you can better determine if it is a radio problem or something else local to you knocking it out.

This is a lot of info but all in all, it is actually just a bunch of fairly simple tests you can do yourself to try and find the sudden loss of signal and hopefully an easy cure!

Did this problem seem to occur overnight or did you notice things getting worse over time?

Either way, I hope you can get it going as Slater is proving to be a fun group of systems to monitor! It used to be that you could only get those near you unless they used repeaters but with Slater, you can hear everything across the county with equal quality.
And despite what you may read here, much of it is in the clear. All muni's or whatever you want to call them, do have channels officially called Support channels or talkgroups for their use. Those TGs are always fully encrypted if used but I find that most do not use them for normal day to day traffic. U-City did at first but they have been using their clear dispatch TG lately.
Jeffco went to encryption from the second they turned their new radios on. I actually expected them to be the ones to use ENC the most so who knows what they may be hiding. I know they have above average drug problems out that way but not something I feel warrants using ENC 24x7.
A lot of your old Stl County PD car to car stuff is still found in the clear but they do make use of ENC when working in teams looking for someone. I don't really blame them if you ever listened to some of their old radio traffic they passed across the old analog channels they had. Fire even makes use of ENC on some of their tac channels. Who knows why but my guess is they are passing sensitive info or stuff that simply should not be said in the clear depending on what they find at some fatal fire scenes and most likely traffic used by the fire investigators when arson is suspected.
I think Jeffco fire is mostly in the clear but all law type Jeffco stuff is ENC.
I don't monitor the St Charles site much but they also seem to be mostly in the clear. I'd say Slater is 95% or more in the clear if you take Jeffco out of the picture.
Moswin is also mostly in the clear except the TGs that are possibly being used by federal users and some smaller towns like Sikeston who was one of the first test users on Moswin. They do talk in the clear but they also use more encryption that any other Moswin users it seems if you remove those TGs that are probably federal users.

Oh well, I hope you find something useful in this mess of info in my post!
Good Luck!

As to your main questions, Yes, the info in the RR database for both Slater and Moswin is correct. You may want to wipe your 197 back to defaults and reload everything from scratch though just to make sure.
Make a copy of your radio first before wiping it if you have created custom names and suck. Thee 197 and the portable version as well as the real GRE models do have memory chips that have failed due to exceeding the chips write capacity. Mine was one that failed and the longer I left it turned off, the more data corruption I would find. In most occasions though, the corruption was so bad that entire systems would no longer scan or the radio would throw an error on the screen when I powered it up. I swapped the memory chip myself and my PSR600 and Pro-197 have been working fine since the memory chip swap minus the simulcast issues they have always had.
I think you are fine with the antenna tests you have done. I think your problem is something else but once you figure that out, I'd give your coax and any outdoor connections a good look based on the face you have had the discone out there for several years. If water got into the coax, it will never come back out and replacing it all is really the only option. Use a goof quality coax seal for all outdoor connection can go a long way in making that stuff last. If the actual antenna has failed, you should be able to spot that by eye unless there is a loading coil that went open or shorted but they typical discone does not use a loading coil unless your model has the low band whip on top. Simply removing that whip will tell you if it is the problem as its purpose is only for low band below 50 MHz.
You have already tried other antennas though so I'd say that stuff is all good unless you are hooking your test antennas up through the same old coax.
As far as scanning verse sitting on a users talkgroup should not really make much of a difference unless you have a poor control channel signal but even then, the control channel still tells the radio which voice channel to tune too so scanning or sitting on a given TG should not really make a difference.

I'd bet you did it already but if not, then I'd backup your current scanlists and other data and reset the radio to defaults and then do a fresh install from some of the systems you are having problems with using the current data as listed in the current database here.
That will tell you right away if that was the problem.
Moswin has undergone some changes but mainly just new data, your frequencies and other settings should still be correct.
For Slater, It's pretty much the same story unless you are still using some of the original listing from before anyone really knew what was going where. Slater went through a series of license cancelations and frequency changes in the days well before it went live so you would need to be using some pretty old database info if that is the problem! The Slater database has been accurate for a long time now so unless you have not updated it in over a year, your radios stored info should work but several talkgroups would display with generic info or not at all if you don't have the wildcards programmed. I'd bet that info is all good though.

The only other suggestion I have is if you are using a preamp or one of the made for TV multicouplers. Preamps are not needed and usually do more harm than good unless you truly live out in the sticks!
Multi couples made for TV use are also not needed or recommended as they also usually do more harm than good. TV preamps are also "RF noisy" for the typical scanner use. They may work okay for TV but the noise they produce at their output will usually ruin a scanner signal. Especially digital scanner signals. If you are using anything similar, stop using them and get them out of line. You surely do not need to amplify Moswin or Slater at your location!
If you do have a need to feed more than one scanner from a single antenna, get a true scanner multicoupler like those sold by Stridsberg Engineering for example. I think their 4 port model uses a model number of MCA204, They also sell passive models that do not alter the signal but would reduce very weak signals. Those are good if you are working with decent signal levels and only need a coupler to give you true isolation between each output port.
A splitter made for TV may also work but they don't offer the port to port isolation that a true multicoupler will give you plus you need adapters again to get you to and from the typical F type connectors used for TV applications. In general, the fewer adapters you need to get your antenna hooked to your scanner, the better off you are. Ideally, you don't want any adapters but sometimes that is unavoidable.
If using adapters in your coax feed, stay away from old RadioShack stock or Chinese made stuff! Go with quality build adapters from companies like Amphenol. I'd imagine eBay is loaded by now with tons of old junk sold by RadioShack.
Oh, test without the FM trap you mentioned. Those things do change with tine and could be responsible for some problems.
PAR also sells a quality built FM trap that works much better than any that RadioShack ever sold. The RadioShack traps were good for testing though.

Edit: this post sure came out WAY larger than I expected. Sorry for that.
It does pertain to similar problems others may be having though so hopefully someone will get something good from it.

It would be nice if a manufacturer could produce a receive only radio with the same specs as those made for public safety but nobody could afford such a beast especially with many wanting even greater frequency coverage. That could be done but it would just create poor performance in other aspects of the radio.
It would also be nice if someone offered a model tailored to the end users needs but still had the performance of a true radio made for public safety, I could not even begin to think how much something like that would cost.
Expensive SDR based receivers will probably be the highest end radio the typical scanner hobbyist could ever afford and SDR based receivers still have a ways to go before their specs will match those of a commercial quality radio made for public safety or even military applications.
The days of buying a commercial grade radio for receive only are about gone also with the need for the radio to transmit and affiliate with many of today's systems.
 
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scanman1958

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#5
I also believe you have multisite distortion. With over 25 towers in StL County alone the distortion is terrible. Unfortunately most scanners today don't have the "innards" to decode the sites well. As stated above you would need a receive only radio specific for a frequency band. Or as I have suggested before, we should have scanners that are designed to receive specific frequency bands. I would have no problem what so ever buying a scanner specific to the ever growing 700 MHz on up freq bands. You just can't have a scanner or antenna that will "equally" receive VHF low band and 800 band with the same accuracy. It is not possible. With any specific band antenna there will be a sweet spot (sweet freq) that will receive the best. Anywhere up or down from that feq the reception will get worse.

You could get a yagi and point it in the direction of the nearest tower (there is one in Kirkwood) and that should help quite a bit. Also the MOSWIN system should be easy as heck to receive. It is one of the best statewide systems I have ever heard. You should have no problem what so ever hearing it.

I have been listening/scanning for over thirty years. Right now is a very tough time for us. Encryption, multisite distortion and 800MHz systems that just don't travel far are just some of the problems. Unless we have specific band scanners and antennas or unless scanner manufactures "improve" their innards it is just going to be tough.

Check and recheck all your connections and programmed frequencies. Sometimes it can be something simple.

Good luck.
 

oby

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#6
I live in Kirkwood. I have the Home Patrol 1. I can no longer pick up Kirkwood PD. I sent my unit to scanner master to get re-programmed, and still nothing.
 
Joined
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#7
I only listen to County on my 436 but it works great off the rubber ducky all over; Kirkwood, Webster, Fenton, my house in SOCO.

My only complaint is wild extremes in volume between units. Dispatch can be loud or at a whisper. Same with the cars and portables. I assume this is a system problem and not my reception. Officers tell me they have the same issue.
 

rjvalenta

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#8
so... while the solution is far from perfect, what allowed me to receive Kirkwood, from here in Kirkwood was turning the squelch completely down on both my Pro-197 and my HomePatrol. of course, i can't have anything conventional in my scanner, but what's left that's conventional? the few things that are, i'll add to my older scanners and amateur rig.
 
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