BCD396T Sensitivity

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Dewey

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I have a love-hate relationship with the 396. I love its current features and potential, but I absolutely hate its sensitivity... that is lack of. I am really at a very hard decision of whether to return it, or keep it for its features. I know those who are "in the know" at Uniden, like Paul O. either don't know, or are not allowed to talk about future firmware releases, so my question is this: does anyone know if it is even possible to increase the 396's sensitivity through a firmware release? I ask because to me, this is a hardware issue, and cannot be solved through firmware, but who am I to know. If there is a possibilty that the lack of sensitivity can be addressed through a firmware release, at least I have a glimmer of hope. If not, I'm faced with why should I hold on to an expensive product that I'm not happy with knowing that another one will be around in the future. I don't want to sound like a 396 basher, but sensitivity is important to me... it's the baseline of what a scanner is all about.

Dewey

ps... and yes, I've used better antennas.
 

safetyobc

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I have tried several antennas for various bands and the sensitivity is lacking on the 396. On analog, the Pro-97 blows the 396 away. VHF-High using the same antenna, my VR-120 blows both the 97 adn the 396 away.

I wish it had better sensitivity as well, but I like the features so I just deal with it.
 

scannersnstuff

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yup my pro-97 win's hand's down over my br330t as far as sensitivity.not trying to sound like a broken record but i love the uniden's for the feature's.fire tone out is great <although it kill's the batteries>.i also think that close call is very usefull.when it come's to pulling in the weaker vhf and uhf frequencies though the pro-97 win's.the audio on the 97 is also top's.since i don't need digital yet i'm holding off on buying a digital scanner.
 

dtscho

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Yes, I've found the sensitivity on the 396 to be lacking as well. I think it's particularly poor on UHF. I have several UHF LTR systems I listen to, and they're much weaker on the 396 compared to the 246. Stafford County, VA, which uses conventional UHF-T frequencies, is also weaker. I don't notice too much difference on VHF-Hi and 800. Is this what you guys have found, or is sensitivity worse across the board?

Dave
 

Dewey

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I really appreciate the comments, they support my thoughts on the 396's sensitivity. However, I still wonder... does anyone know... if the sensitivity issue can be addressed via a firmware upgrade?

Dewey
 

scannersnstuff

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although i'm not a radio technician by any mean's i would have to take a stab and say the short answer is no.i think the sensitivity is a product of the hardware and a firmware update could not fix this issue.i think a possible quick quazi fix would be to determine the band/s you listen to most and get a band specific antenna or one that come's close to matching your need's.i use a pryme rd-9 with a sma mount and it work's pretty well.i have also heard that the diamond srh77ca is a decent antenna although it's 16" in length.if you are using the scanner as a base you could alway's go with a base antenna,but you run the probable risk of overloading the front end.i'm also led to wondering if the problem is more of an over sensitive receiver being desensitized ?.any comment's by paul ?.
 

MacombMonitor

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Typically Radio Shack (GRE Mfg) scanners are more sensitive than Unidens. However, this introduces other undesirable effects such as overloading. Numerous users of GRE scanners have to enable the Attenuator when using it with an outdoor antenna.

Years ago we used to say if you lived in a big city that was saturated with R.F., buy a Uniden. If you live far out in the suburbs/country, buy a GRE.

It's highly unlikely the BCD396T's sensitivity can be increased via firmware...but not impossible. Maybe Paul will chime in here and enlighten us?
 

hiegtx

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MacombMonitor said:
Typically Radio Shack (GRE Mfg) scanners are more sensitive than Unidens. However, this introduces other undesirable effects such as overloading. Numerous users of GRE scanners have to enable the Attenuator when using it with an outdoor antenna.

Years ago we used to say if you lived in a big city that was saturated with R.F., buy a Uniden. If you live far out in the suburbs/country, buy a GRE.?
Bill, you described my situation exactly.
While I have other scanners that are more sensitive than my 396, using the R/S 800mhz antenna, I can still hear all the trunked systems that are within my expected range (some in the 25+ mile range), as well as most Uhf & Vhf that I can reasonably expect without an outside antenna.

From my house, it's less than five air miles to to downtown Dallas, where most of the taller buildings have multiple repeaters on the upper floors. Go about 90 degrees in a different direction, again about four miles, to a high point with multiple towers for pager & smr radio systems. About 10 miles away, in a different direction, is the mother of all repeater sites for Dallas County, Cedar Hill, the highest point between here & the Gulf coast. Probably a dozen or so tv/radio towers, each with multiple repeater platforms spaced up along their length vertically. Plus other, shorter, antennas, each with multiple repeaters. You just think your car alarm iremote is gonna work in Cedar Hill. Too much rfi.

And we're not even mentioning the multiple cell sites that are along the two freeways near me.

So, if I have to give up a little sensitivity, in exchange for better intermod rejection, then that's a good deal for me. My opinion might be different if I were like safetyobc & lived away from so much interference.
 

Dewey

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hiegtx said:
So, if I have to give up a little sensitivity, in exchange for better intermod rejection, then that's a good deal for me. My opinion might be different if I were like safetyobc & lived away from so much interference.

I do understand your point, and the point in the previous post... BUT... I seriously doubt that I am experiencing an overload issue concerning the 396's sensitivity. I work in DC, an intermod alley of its own, but live in the suburbs out away from the RF junk where I get to do good comparison tests. Each scanner that I have gotten has been better than the previous at rejecting intermod without sacrificing sensitivity. When I got the 250, I very rarely heard intermod unless I went to areas of the city where I knew it was the most heaviest. I only know of one place in the city where I can overload the 96 with intermod. However, with the exception of the Pro-92B model, the 396 is my least sensitive scanner. I can easily confirm my sensitivity issues by since I am in range of a stong and weak NOAA broadcast where I can test the attenuator. Just not something that I would expect for the price when I have a 235, 245, and 250 that have good front ends.

Dewey
 

yaesumofo

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My BC250 is certainly more sensitive than my 396.
That said I have never heard any inter-modulation noise on my 396. The 396 seems to hear everything it needs to.
Personally I am willing to give up a bit of sensitivity for the many other features that the 396 has to offer.

Don't forget when these guys design these radios they walk a tight wire. First of all they have to avoid certain frequencies all together and their images. then they have to maintain a level of sensitivity which allows to radio to work within it's desired band plan. any misstep along the way and they have to start again. It is crazy but they have to block cellular (ridiculous at this point of time) but any images as well. meanwhile letting us hear the bands right in the middle of it all without terrible intermod.

Radio manufactures have become much better at using tracking filters in the front end of these radios. I find it amazing. When you get a chance have a look inside a current Uniden or AOR radio. what a beautiful thing. all of those surface mount components the size of a tip of a pin!! Wow.
The bottom line is this.
use an antenna that is centered on the frequency you want to listen to. This helps with what may be lower sensitivity.
Build your antenna collection.
Yaesumofo
 

h8tdigitalradio

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Hello,

From observations and testing, I find no sensitivity issues with the BCD396T. It is a matter of matching the right antenna with the bands you wish to monitor. I have tried several antennae and the best performer for reception of most bands, even 11 meters, is the Wilson Electronics DB819 Dual Band Cellular Antenna when mobile. No issues with VHF or UHF reception.

The RadioShack 800 MHz antenna is a good performer, but does not match the performance of the cellular antenna.

The BR330T is more sensitive than the BCD396T, and I would like the receiver of the BR330T part of the BCD396T.

The best performing antenna of the ones I have used for the BR330T is believe it or not, the telescopic antenna supplied with the GRE/RadioShack PRO 2096. It outperforms Pryme RD-9, RD-98 and Diamond SRH77CA.

YMMV.

73

Dave AKA The Tripzter
 

Dewey

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h8tdigitalradio said:
Hello,

From observations and testing, I find no sensitivity issues with the BCD396T. It is a matter of matching the right antenna with the bands you wish to monitor. I have tried several antennae and the best performer for reception of most bands, even 11 meters, is the Wilson Electronics DB819 Dual Band Cellular Antenna when mobile. No issues with VHF or UHF reception.

The RadioShack 800 MHz antenna is a good performer, but does not match the performance of the cellular antenna.

The BR330T is more sensitive than the BCD396T, and I would like the receiver of the BR330T part of the BCD396T.

The best performing antenna of the ones I have used for the BR330T is believe it or not, the telescopic antenna supplied with the GRE/RadioShack PRO 2096. It outperforms Pryme RD-9, RD-98 and Diamond SRH77CA.

YMMV.

73

Dave AKA The Tripzter

I will have to respectfully disagree with this. I can put a 250 foot tower in my back yard, and mount the supplied rubber duck on top of that, and might outperform all my other scanners, as well as everyone else's neighborhood receivers. However, this and building the antenna collection are only patches to make up for the 396's lack of sensitivity (at least my 396). Sure there are workarounds... I can mount a mobile antenna on my vehicle, but WHY, when the other scanners work perfectly fine in the vehicle using the RS 800 duck?

While I also know that no one antenna does good on all bands, carrying band specific antennas is not a good patch either as far as I'm concerned. The Baltimore-Washington area is loaded with rich scanner intercepts from VHF-Lo through the 800 MHz band. I don't want to have to pull over and switch antennas every 5, 10, or 15 miles just to make up for what the other scanners do on the single RS 800 duck!

I really do appreciate all the comments, because nothing beats constructive criticism. However, this is why I asked if the lack of sensitvity could be addressed via firmware (I just don't see this happening, but would love to get a honest yes). It's kind of hard explaining to the wife why I loved the 396 enough to fork out over $500 USD for it, yet I still carry at least one of the older scanners with me also just in case that jewel of an event comes out. Oh well, this explains the "love-hate" relationship that I mentioned in the first post.

Thanks to all,
Dewey

PS... Believe me when I say that this will be my BIGGEST obstacle (read: disagreement) when that "newer and better" scanner comes out, and I decide that it may be worth a try!!!
 
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scannersnstuff

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macombmonitor i don't totally agree with your statement.year's ago radio shack scanner's had pretty bad sensitivity.in fact i remember when the pro-2004 came out the sensitivity was outrageously bad <at least on mine>.it did have the metal case so that may have been part of the problem.the interference rejection was good however.the pro-2005 was more sensitive in my opinion.i was alway's under the impression that uniden's sensitivity was better.i have my bc780xlt on an attic mounted discone and on channel's without ctcss/dcs it get's crushed by intermod.remember ctcss/dcs will help with interference but if the noise is still behind the squelched channel it's still going to mess the signal up.year's ago i had a radio tech.friend tell me that at his mountain top house he absolutely could not use any type of uniden on his base antenna because the intermod was so bad.he had to use gre scanner's because his logic was he would rather hear a frequency with no pl on a gre than a frequency with ctcss on a uniden.there's a lot of variable's to the theory i guess.the famous bill cheek used to say something to the effect of "give me a $10.00 radio and a $100.00 antenna and i'll play radio with the best of them.and i did". bill's philosophy was that radio shack scanner's were the only decent one's made.he was especially fond of the pro-2004/2005/2006.
 

scannersnstuff

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just to add to what dewey said.i usually end up going with 2 scanner's when i'm mobile.i take the pro-97 as my primary mobile scanner and have it backed up with the br330t doing close call.when i'm home the br330t is pretty much relegated to acting as a fire pager doing fire tone out's.as much as i like the 330 i think it has issue's too.i think uniden did a real sloppy job with the backlighting on this radio.they also put a box as a cursor when you enter a text tag.it is extremely hard to see the character you want to select thru it.some say to just adjust the contrast.it does not work.it's very difficult to see the text tag in most circumstance's.don't get me wrong,i would not give it up because it has plenty of feature's.i still don't think it cut's the mustard like the pro-97 does.the sensitivity and audio on the 97 are outstanding.the text tag's are easy to read.you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure the 97 out.
 

MacombMonitor

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pdfdems286 said:
macombmonitor i don't totally agree with your statement.year's ago radio shack scanner's had pretty bad sensitivity.in fact i remember when the pro-2004 came out the sensitivity was outrageously bad <at least on mine>.it did have the metal case so that may have been part of the problem.the interference rejection was good however.the pro-2005 was more sensitive in my opinion.i was alway's under the impression that uniden's sensitivity was better.i have my bc780xlt on an attic mounted discone and on channel's without ctcss/dcs it get's crushed by intermod.remember ctcss/dcs will help with interference but if the noise is still behind the squelched channel it's still going to mess the signal up.year's ago i had a radio tech.friend tell me that at his mountain top house he absolutely could not use any type of uniden on his base antenna because the intermod was so bad.he had to use gre scanner's because his logic was he would rather hear a frequency with no pl on a gre than a frequency with ctcss on a uniden.there's a lot of variable's to the theory i guess.the famous bill cheek used to say something to the effect of "give me a $10.00 radio and a $100.00 antenna and i'll play radio with the best of them.and i did". bill's philosophy was that radio shack scanner's were the only decent one's made.he was especially fond of the pro-2004/2005/2006.

A full metal enclosure on a scanner radio is a good thing! It would not have a negative impact on performance, it may actually improve it. Intermod has more to do with poor selectivity and dynamic range, than the radio being sensitive, or not.
 

hiegtx

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Dewey said:
I do understand your point, and the point in the previous post... BUT... I seriously doubt that I am experiencing an overload issue concerning the 396's sensitivity. I work in DC, an intermod alley of its own, but live in the suburbs out away from the RF junk where I get to do good comparison tests. Each scanner that I have gotten has been better than the previous at rejecting intermod without sacrificing sensitivity. When I got the 250, I very rarely heard intermod unless I went to areas of the city where I knew it was the most heaviest. I only know of one place in the city where I can overload the 96 with intermod. However, with the exception of the Pro-92B model, the 396 is my least sensitive scanner. I can easily confirm my sensitivity issues by since I am in range of a stong and weak NOAA broadcast where I can test the attenuator. Just not something that I would expect for the price when I have a 235, 245, and 250 that have good front ends.

Dewey
Dewey,
I also understand your point on sensitivity. As you can see, I own a number of other scanners, including a 245, 250, & a 780. (I also have a 235, but it's loaned out). I think we all want to hear the most we can, from our location. I'd like to be able to hear Ft Worth, but distance (about 30 miles) & terrain make that impractical no matter which scanner I use. Whether your particular 396 is less sensitive than normal, no way for me to know. My point was that, for the features, the sensitivity on my 396 is acceptable to me. Your situation, and scanner, may well be different.

When I travel, I always carry more than one scanner. The 396 gets all the trs systems likely to be within range, plus anything digital; and usually the 330T gets the conventionals. Occasionally, I use the 250D instead, but the 330 is smaller. (The 250 does beat it in sensitivity, but not size & carrying convenience.) I use the 396/330 combo because it's easier to program them quickly, and I can share system files between them in UASD.

I doubt that a firmware change would affect sensitivity. That would be in the receiver circuitry rather an item the processor could change with reprogramming. While there are some other changes I'd like to see in the 396, as I've seen other members' wish lists, there's a limit how much can be changed after the fact. I suspect much of what's been discussed may be hard-coded in the firmware, beyond changing by flashing the eeprom.
 

teebee

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After reviewing the replies concerning the sensitivity on the 396, I am kind of thinking of what the sensitivity will be like on the new BCD996T. I have owned a Pro-34 and Pro-2006 scanner and the 800 sensitivity rocked. I have owned the BC 780 and the BC785D. The 800 sensitivity was poor compared to the RS scanners I've had. I have been crossing my fingers hopeing that the new 996's 800 sensitivity would be better than the rest of the Uniden radios I have tried but giving there track record I have my doubts after hearing all of your reports. I would have thought by now Uniden would have steped up to the plate and turned up the heat in this area. There are a couple of systems I like to monitor, I can only monitor on my 2006 and cannot monitor on my 780. I need a sensitive trunktracker that can monitor the system giving the 2006 is not a trunker. I have hard time departing from the 2006 because of its ability in its reception. All we can do is hope the new one out performs the rest.
 

rhutch

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NO radio is going to do everything for everyone. Remember they sell thousands and there are only a few who complain so.... My 296 had better reception than my 396 so I went and tried a few antennas and now I have the comet sma3 and it now receives the same systems equal to or better than the 296. If you are trying to pick up marginal systems you're not going to pick them up with a wide band rubber duck. Get a proper outdoor antenna and if the system is really marginal you might have to get a pre-amp too.
 

alins

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Interesting comments on BCD396T's sensitivity from http://www.ukmidlandscanner.co.uk/unibcd396t.htm

Quotes:

"First of all I wanted to test the sensitivity of the 396. First thing I did was remove the fitted rubber duck (I have heard its only good for 800MHz) Screwing on the aforementioned sma-bnc converter and attaching my test bench Watson W-889 Telescopic, Quickly entering some test features into a system that I named...well, "Test" I found the 396T not very sensitive at all on all bands and was very disappointed. It wasn't until I played with the squelch settings and found it was preset on the highest setting that that was the reason for the poor sensitivity.

The squelch setting is not adjusted by just rotating a knob like most scanners first of all you press function button on the side of the radio and simultaneously down on the rotary control knob and from there you can adjust it to whatever you like. I settled for setting "1" select "0" and all you will get is the harsh crud that you normally do when squelch is turned right down. Letting the 396 scan My inputted frequencies it was obvious this little baby is about as sensitive as it gets. Picking up My local airport comm's both ground and air on 119Mhz in my kitchen has been a feat no scanner I have owned to date has been able to do. Right up into the pmr vhf bands this scanner performed flawlessly. I wanted to try it on the fleetcomm trunked frequencies at 180MHz (The 246 does not cover this area) I was fascinated when doing a search to find out it was picking up control channels from miles away. Again better than other scanners I have owned. I now had to try 70MHz fire again an area the 246 did not cover. Now my local fire stations have had many a scanner struggling as the signal is not that strong. I even stood next to a fire engine once that had it's door open and even that was struggling. The 396 had the signals booming in. So much in fact that I have now become a keen fire listening enthusiast. "


Could this issue of lack of sensitivity be related to the squelch setting?
 
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