Charlottesville/Albemarle 800 system

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ervfc288

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Hi all, first time poster here. I'm a firefighter in Albemarle County, recently frustrated with the lack of a quality feed for our County on broadcastify has led me here.

Over the course of the last week, I setup a new feed using a BCD886XT -- Albemarle County Fire and Rescue Departments. My goal for this feed was to only broadcast 4 channels from our 800 trunked system. (ACFR Disp, ACFR Resp(Priority), ACFR ATAC3, ACFR ATAC4. I was successful in this endeavor, as far as setting up the hardware and the feed goes. I get a good quality stream and sound from it most of the time. Our 800 system is here: Simulcast Site Details (Charlottesville / Albemarle)

During my research, I'm led to believe that I'm experiencing a common issue with digital/choppy audio caused by the Simulcast nature of the system. The feed scanner is located at 38.005659, -78.377426. At this moment, it's using the retractable antenna that came with the scanner, but I have the resources to mount a mast antenna on our building. If my research is correct, then the closest tower for this system is 37.98233, -78.48236 (Carter's Moutain). With several others in the area.. Peter's Mtn, Liberty Hill, Fan Mtn, Bucks.

How can I determine exactly which towers this system is simulcasting from so I can determine the best type of antenna to purchase in an effort to attenuate the offending signals?

Random note: I actually live in the town of Culpeper, and when I set the scanner up initially and programmed it, everything on the 800 system came in crystal clear all the way from albemarle. I'm assuming the signal I was receiving was a lone signal being broadcast from Peter's Mountain.

Thanks for all the great info here and I hope you guys can open my eyes to the world of radio frequencies, I'm a total noob at this stuff, but once I dig into to something, it really becomes a hobby of mine.

Looking forward to chatting here!
 

QDP2012

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Hi all, first time poster here. I'm a firefighter in Albemarle County...
Welcome to RR, and thanks for your service.

During my research, I'm led to believe that I'm experiencing a common issue with digital/choppy audio caused by the Simulcast nature of the system... If my research is correct, then the closest tower for this system is 37.98233, -78.48236 (Carter's Moutain). With several others in the area.. Peter's Mtn, Liberty Hill, Fan Mtn, Bucks.

How can I determine exactly which towers this system is simulcasting from so I can determine the best type of antenna to purchase in an effort to attenuate the offending signals?
A better-quality (possibly external) antenna will increase your reception-capability from all towers, and as a result will make it more difficult for your radio to separate one tower's signal from another. You might consider using the Attenuation feature of the scanner to try to reduce simulcast-distortion. It's not the ideal solution, but it might help. Ideally, you would position the scanner/antenna in such a way that it received one tower's signal much more strongly than signals from other towers.

Also, from what I've read in other related threads, the BCDx96 scanners suffer the simulcast-distortion problem more than the GRE/RS/Whistler designed scanners. It has something to do with the circuitry. There is a VSP trooper on here who compared the BCDx96 to the RS106 and noticed a major difference in how the BCDx96 was not receiving the Charlottesville/Albemarle Trunked Radio System as well as the RS106.

So, antenna position is one problem; radio-design is another.

Random note: I actually live in the town of Culpeper, and when I set the scanner up initially and programmed it, everything on the 800 system came in crystal clear all the way from albemarle. I'm assuming the signal I was receiving was a lone signal being broadcast from Peter's Mountain.
In Culpeper, you received a more understandable signal because one tower's signal was much stronger/closer than the other towers' signals.

Thanks for all the great info here and I hope you guys can open my eyes to the world of radio frequencies, I'm a total noob at this stuff, but once I dig into to something, it really becomes a hobby of mine.

Looking forward to chatting here!
In case you haven't heard through official channels, or not yet found it in the other Charlottesville/Albemarle threads, supposedly, the system will be upgraded in the next year or so, from a Motorola Type II Smartnet to a P25 Phase II system, which means you likely will need a newer Phase II capable scanner to monitor it.

Keep digging. There's a lot to learn. This is a great resource for learning. Enjoy.


Hope this helps,
 
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fredva

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Some people have reported that Uniden Scanners do not do as well on the older SmartNet simulcast systems as GRE/Radio Shack/Whistler models. If you happen to know somebody who has a GRE/Radio Shack/Whistler scanner, you might see if you could borrow it to try out at your feed location. If it works better, you may want to consider replacing your current scanner. Or you could try a directional antenna.

I'm not trying to start a GRE vs. Uniden debate. And you'll always hear from somebody with either brand who isn't having any problems. But it's like a lot of things - different brands have their strengths and weaknesses.
 

ervfc288

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Thanks for the fast replies! I'll do some research on the attenuation feature and antenna placement. I hadn't heard about the impending upgrade... well shucks.. that stinks, I just spent $350 on this one!
 

Nitsud

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I tried and tried to get unidens to work on the cville system.

They just don't. Period. Trust me. You will go nuts trying different settings and antennas and holding you tongue out while pointing your uniden towards the southern sky. They don't work. Period

As hard as it is to admit, gre/rs scanners are the only scanners that consistently work on the cville system
I have a psr-600 it works great
 

fredva

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Since a system upgrade may be in the not-too-distant future, here's something to consider:

As mentioned, the GRE/Radio Shack/Whistler radios generally do better on older Smartnet simulcast systems than the Unidens.

But -
The new Uniden x36hp scanners generally perform better on newer P25 simulcast systems than their GRE/Radio Shack/Whistler counterparts.

That may leave you with a tough choice in terms of scanners.
 

John

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Welcome to RR, and thanks for your service.

In case you haven't heard through official channels, or not yet found it in the other Charlottesville/Albemarle threads, supposedly, the system will be upgraded in the next year or so, from a Motorola Type II Smartnet to a P25 Phase II system, which means you likely will need a newer Phase II capable scanner to monitor it.

Keep digging. There's a lot to learn. This is a great resource for learning. Enjoy.


Hope this helps,
Even when they upgrade to P25 as long as they are still Simulcast you will continue to have this problem. In fact in seems worse on a full P25 system. The same solutions are your best choices to fix it. Try a different scanner, antenna, location or directional antenna.
 

fredva

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Even when they upgrade to P25 as long as they are still Simulcast you will continue to have this problem. In fact in seems worse on a full P25 system. The same solutions are your best choices to fix it. Try a different scanner, antenna, location or directional antenna.
I wish there was a single, "magic-bullet" scanner that the OP could buy that was guaranteed to work well on both the current system and the future system, but I'm not sure that's the case. For example, my PRO-18 works well on the current C-A system. But if the future system turns out to be like Stafford County's P25 simulcast system, then my PRO-18 probably wouldn't work well at all.
 

gcgrotz

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Welcome! If you are in Culpeper, I'd try a yagi aimed at Peter's Mtn. If you have a good path it should work. Since nobody mentioned it, I will state the obvious. Simulcast means all the towers transmit the same thing at the same time so if you can get a signal from one tower, that's all you need.

Additional 2 cents worth: I use an older BC396 and it works pretty good most of the time. I swap antennas sometimes depending on where I am in the area.
 

ervfc288

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I fought with this thing for hours last night at the firehouse, trying all suggestions. Paperclip, setting attenuation, building mounted attention, P25 adjust level... I gave up and brought the damn thing home! From the town of Culpeper, i'm about 27 miles, line of sight, from Peter's mountain and I can pickup everything crystal clear with the stock retractable antenna. I'm just going to provide my feed from here for now. I do have another BCD996T that provides a feed to speakers inside the firehouse, and I'm going to look into an antenna solution to attenuate all signals except one to get past the simulcast issue.
 

fredva

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Glad you were able to find a way to get clear audio on your feed.

Some scanner owners use cellular band yagi antennas as a directional antenna. I think they are relatively inexpensive. I don't have any firsthand experience myself. That's just a suggestion. You wouldn't necessarily have to mount it outside.
 

DrWhoVa

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I tried and tried to get unidens to work on the cville system.

They just don't. Period. Trust me. You will go nuts trying different settings and antennas and holding you tongue out while pointing your uniden towards the southern sky. They don't work. Period

As hard as it is to admit, gre/rs scanners are the only scanners that consistently work on the cville system
I have a psr-600 it works great
Funny because I pick up that system on my 996T quite well. Some days I can pick it up from Oillville, Va all the way up there.
 

QDP2012

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Funny because I pick up that system on my 996T quite well. Some days I can pick it up from Oillville, Va all the way up there.
The simulcast-distortion problem described by Nitsud happens (with certain scanners) when the scanner is located between two or more towers (within Albemarle County), such that the scanner cannot determine which tower's signal is dominant.

When your scanner is in Oilville, Goochland County, it gets a dominant signal from the nearest tower, and receives it clearly, because the scanner is not located between two or more towers.

Hope this helps explain the problem,
 

Nitsud

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yes, on the outskirts of Albemarle: Madison, Nelson, Louisa, Augusta; it picks up great on any scanner.

Im curious about if the new system that may be coming (while still simulcast) will work the same way.
 

John

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As long as the new system is also Simulcast (same frequencies from multiple sites) than the same problem will exist. Just look at this forum for experiences other people have had in areas that are already using a P25 simulcast system to see that the problem still exists (Roanoke, Virginia Beach, etc).

Jhn
 

Nitsud

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its simply baffling to me that there is such a LARGE difference in performance between any scanner these days.

I completely understand WHY the simulcast system makes it tougher on the scanners, but what i cant understand is how GRE/RS products can perform 99% better than Unidens in this situation. And what I mean by that is not an under appreciation of GRE/RS, but more of a lack of understanding as to why Uniden can't get their product to perform at the same level.

When i had my uniden(s) (996t, 996xt, 536hp), I thought that potentially there was a magic setting that I was unaware of to make the problem disappear. But the only magical setting I could find was to sell my unidens, and buy GRE/RS. They just work ALL the time. In the middle of Cville, in the county, and all over town.

I just never could figure out the issue.
 

Ghstwolf62

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The thing is just weird. I had my PSR-600 on the dash with the metal telescopic antenna that comes with it and it worked fabulous when I was in town.

Added a decent rooftop antenna on my car, hooked it up, and it turned to crap.

Just weird PITA systems is what they are. Most I've seen suggest getting an M radio and setting it up to monitor.

Don't know.
 

John

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In my experience the new Uniden BCD436HP and BCD536HP work almost flawlessly on these systems. Far better than the GRE/RS scanners. It is just the rest of the scanner features that make it undesirable. It is hard to use. Uniden support is horrible. They are still missing features that were supposed to be included. Overall the user interface design and displays are horrible. But they do perform well on simulcast receive. Just my opinion.


its simply baffling to me that there is such a LARGE difference in performance between any scanner these days.

I completely understand WHY the simulcast system makes it tougher on the scanners, but what i cant understand is how GRE/RS products can perform 99% better than Unidens in this situation. And what I mean by that is not an under appreciation of GRE/RS, but more of a lack of understanding as to why Uniden can't get their product to perform at the same level.

When i had my uniden(s) (996t, 996xt, 536hp), I thought that potentially there was a magic setting that I was unaware of to make the problem disappear. But the only magical setting I could find was to sell my unidens, and buy GRE/RS. They just work ALL the time. In the middle of Cville, in the county, and all over town.

I just never could figure out the issue.
 

John

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Correct. I was referring to P25 simulcast systems... my experience with them on SMARTNET Analog simulcast systems has been similar though I haven't tried them on SMARTNET Astro simulcast systems like Charlottesville has today.

By "these systems," I'm assuming you mean P25 simulcast. SMARTNET simulcast tends to be different than P25 simulcast.
 
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