Beginner Looking at Digital Scanners

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Nattgew

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Apr 10, 2010
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Renton, WA
I've had my first scanner, a BC72XLT, for about a month now. I'm really liking it, but I'm thinking about getting a digital scanner. From where I live, I can get a lot with the analog scanner, but it would be nice to get all of the digitally trunked signals, as well as for going on trips. I'm still not totally convinced about whether to get a digital scanner and, if so, which one to get. I've looked around here and looked at scanners and I have some questions...
First, is scanning digitally trunked systems like scanning analog ones? I know it depends on the system in question and what radio you have. How easy is it to enter a digitally trunked channel compared to an analog one? And can digital scanners scan the whole frequency range for signals like you can with analog? If I traveled with it, would I have to program everything ahead of time or could it pick out digitally trunked signals on the fly?
I'm also wondering what digital scanner I should get. I don't want to spend very much, so I'm really considering a refurbished Pro-96 off of Overstock.com. I've found some people had bad experiences with this, but in general it's supposed to be a good scanner. Right?
I've read some of the reviews here and elsewhere, and I'd consider a PSR-500 or BC396T despite the price if it were really worth it. Coming with the extra accessories is a plus (especially AC adapter and cable for computer). I bought a BNC antenna that won't work with the BC396T (oddly enough), but that's not a deal breaker.
Any thoughts or advice is appreciated.
 

kayi4cle

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Aug 19, 2008
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Intermod Alley
Welcome to Radio Reference! Yes, scanning digital trunked systems is like scanning analog ones, and it is just as easy to pogram. However, the current crop of digital radios program differently than the older ones with banks. But you can learn how to do it by studing the manual and asking questions. I wouldn't recommend a Pro-96 because it lacks the capability to trunk in the 700 MHz range (which you might not need). Other than that, I like it a lot. Yes, you can search for digital frequencies and can use your law enforcement service search in your travels (although it's better to program ahead of time the systems you want).

I would use the Radio Reference Database to get some idea of what your digital needs are and ask questions in your state forum about whether there are any issues in monitoring the particular systems you are interested in before buying. Also, the Wiki has lots of information for comparing various models.

Good luck and happy scanning!
 

Astrak

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Feb 17, 2005
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Mesa, AZ
I will have to respectfully disagree with kayi4cle, I have moved from an EDACS analog trunked area to Phoenix which is predominately P25 digital trunking and there is a huge difference. Digital trunk tracking scanners do not perform well on simulcast digital systems unless you can find a sweet spot. You could still invest in one if you are interested in monitoring digital and you may be able to hear what you want but it will take a little more experimenting to be able to receive audio clearly.
 

kayi4cle

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You make a very good point regarding reception, and I think simulcast will be causing more and more of us headaches as time goes on (and TDMA is coming to my area in a couple of years - oh joy!). However, I was merely referring to programming the system into a radio and then monitoring it - virtually the same. Now reception is another thing, and sometimes analog reception isn't so hot either. But I was responding in general rather than specific terms.
 
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