An old timer meets modern technology BCD536HP / HomePatrol 2

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K1IWN

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Greetings RR faithful...

I have been a long time lurker to this forum, a member for ten years but just started to post recently. I would like to thank those who have put countless hours into this site, providing a treasure trove of information that is invaluable to community.

I've been a scanner guy from back in the day when Radio Shack was a real radio store. My first scanner was a handheld four channel analog from the 'Shack that required crystals. I have had several other units, all Bearcats, since then. I have tried to keep up with the times but I stepped back for a while as I raised children and paid a mortgage, along with pursuing other hobbies and professional aspirations.

I bought a BC890XLT back in the early 1990s when CTCSS first debuted and I have used it for years. The unit served me well. I had it for 23 years and it still works well to this day. Granted, times have changed to trunking and digital. Since I live in Maine, the digital and trunking revolution has been slow to come but I've noticed it creep in as I lost monitoring of state police and others. It still amazes me that the 890XLT still manages to pick up what it does, even now. I read a few reviews recently where people said they weren't impressed with it, but I definitely got my mileage out of it and enjoyed the use of it. I hooked up a CCrane scanner antenna to it and got everything I wanted to monitor with it and more when I ran searches, even a few things I wasn't supposed to, but I won't get into any more detail than that.

I've kept track of the trunking and digital revolution to a certain degree, peeking around to see what is the new thing and reading here about what folks thought about the new scanners. Seeing the train coming, I decided that now is the time to upgrade. I figured if I make the right investment now, I won't need anything for a long time.

I am one of those types of people that need to see and "feel" a unit before making a purchase. One thing I have noticed over the years is Radio Shack can't even hold a birthday candle to its former self, and I can't find a retailer anywhere in Maine that sells Bearcat units off the shelf. After an exhaustive Google search, the closest place I could find to my part of the world where I could put my hands on a unit and talk to someone about it was the Ham Radio Outlet in Salem, New Hampshire. So I took a two hour ride and checked it out. I was glad I did. My wallet was a few hundred dollars lighter when I left, and I had a bit of new unit anxiety as I drove back that afternoon. "Did I make the right purchase?" "What if this is way too complicated to program and tweak?" It took me a while to figure out by old 890XLT, and figured there would be a learning curve with this one.

I bought a BCD536HP. It was quite a jump from the 890XLT. I was impressed that all I needed was a zip code to get started. Wifi monitoring from my phone? Unreal. I fired that unit up and began hearing things I've missed for years, and some things I was unaware of. Some of it I liked, some of it I could live without.

I like to keep my monitoring simple. I had my old 890XLT with 180 of the 200 channels fully loaded, and then I missed out on what I really wanted to hear, so I cut it way back to about 30. Over the years some those 30 channels started to disappear due to new technology, and now I get about 20 of the channels I programmed on it. This is when I started to use Sentinel to set up my favorite lists, which I continue to tweak. It was an adjustment to get used to, but thanks to some videos by Upman and K4DPS and reading the comments here, I was able to figure it out. I still consider this a process, rather than an event. It took me a good year of piecemeal fooling around with my 890XLT, and I expect the same with this one.

While I was looking at the BCD536HP, I was a bit intrigued with HomePatrol. HomePatrol just seemed too simple, and I got the impression it was on the cheesy side. I mean, touch screen, no physical buttons outside of power and volume, it's small, made out of plastic. I love the 536 because its metal. It had a solid weight to it. It "felt" like a scanner should be to me.

I went back down to HRO in Salem, NH to return an external speaker that I didn't need and poked around and looked at a bunch of things. HRO reminded me of what Radio Shack used to be. My father and his father were Ham's. They had the big boxy radios with the glass tubes and homemade antennas talking to people all over the world. QST magazines all over the house. Walls of QSL cards. Half the time they were chatting with people while tinkering with another radio at the same time. Looking at all the ham radios took me back to that time when I was a kid and would sit with them at night as they talked and tweaked. Anyway, as I poked around the store, I spotted the HomePatrol 2 and watched it in action. For a tiny unit, it was impressive.

I brought my 536 to work this week to see how the reception would be. I work in a steel building with a private office, with windows. I just used the zip code to run the unit for the day, and it did well considering even with the original antenna. This got me thinking. A decent external antenna would really boost the reception and help with performance. Then the thought of that HomePatrol 2 crept into my head again. I could really use a scanner in my office.

So I bit the bullet again. I ordered up the HomePatrol 2 and an extension antenna from HRO. It's currently sitting on my desk at the office, and it works like an absolute charm. I kick myself on how easy a unit it is to use, as well as impressed with what it pulls in. It's the perfect size, and it's plug and play with minor work.

It was quite an investment to lay out the cash for these two units along with the upgrades to go with them, along with a few accessories. It was money well spent. I am totally impressed with both of these fine pieces of equipment. I can't thank the folks at HRO in Salem enough for their service. Great folks, great knowledge, great store.

The only thing I miss on these new units is one touch access to wx. I listen to NOAA weather radio a lot. I like the SAME idea for alerts. I just don't like going into menus to fish it out. I can live with it, but I wish it was still there.

A little long here, but thanks for reading me out. It's a fun hobby, no matter which radio, manufacturer, or where you buy it. You folks have been a big help, and I thank you for that.

Happy DXing!
 

mciupa

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While I was looking at the BCD536HP, I was a bit intrigued with HomePatrol.

It was quite an investment to lay out the cash for these two units along with the upgrades to go with them, along with a few accessories. It was money well spent.

Happy DXing!
Nice post K1IWN. :) It's about time you joined us in the forums! :wink:

I quoted the part that I want to comment about.


As you can see in my signature, I own both and feel extremely satisfied with their performance. I like especially using the Replay features when I'm looking for new talkgroups.

For me, the extreme upgrade for the Homepatrol and DMR for the 536HP are well worth it.
 

bkantor

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Jan 22, 2002
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268
Location
Bay Shore, NY
Great post - enjoy seeing positive posts like these from other long-time scanner enthusiasts. I have the 536 as well as a Home Patrol 1, and as you say, both nice radios. You are very lucky to have HRO - I really miss going down to the Shack to play with the radios and talk to the local scanner geek that works there (I was that geek for almost 10 years!). Everything is on-line now - which is convenient, but I really miss that human touch. Enjoy your radios to the fullest!
 

K1IWN

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Dec 31, 2007
Messages
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Location
Kennebunk, ME
Nice post K1IWN. :) It's about time you joined us in the forums! :wink:

I quoted the part that I want to comment about.


As you can see in my signature, I own both and feel extremely satisfied with their performance. I like especially using the Replay features when I'm looking for new talkgroups.

For me, the extreme upgrade for the Homepatrol and DMR for the 536HP are well worth it.
Thanks!

There is no question that these are impressive units. I have all the upgrades (DMR + ProVoice for the 536, Extreme for the HP-2) which is likely more than I need at the moment. DMR is trickling into the state, and I suspect PL25-II isn't far behind.

Unlike some areas of the country, the evolution is rather slow here in Maine. I hope to get many years out of these two great radios.
 

K1IWN

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Messages
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Location
Kennebunk, ME
Great post - enjoy seeing positive posts like these from other long-time scanner enthusiasts. I have the 536 as well as a Home Patrol 1, and as you say, both nice radios. You are very lucky to have HRO - I really miss going down to the Shack to play with the radios and talk to the local scanner geek that works there (I was that geek for almost 10 years!). Everything is on-line now - which is convenient, but I really miss that human touch. Enjoy your radios to the fullest!
Exactly. Let me put my hands on it and ask questions. I may have knocked Radio Shack a bit harshly, but it's tough to find an associate that has a clue about scanners, let alone not high strung and hustling purchases like a used car salesman.

HRO is a bit of a hike for me, but it is worth the ride. ScannerMaster and others are great also, but I wish they had a retail store to make eye contact with people.

Thanks! :)
 
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