DFW scanner recommendations

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Saga

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I’m in Dallas county pretty close to Denton. I’ve been thinking about getting a cheap P25 scanner just to see what’s out there (sold my Radio Shack Pro96 10 years ago!).
 
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Saga

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What are some models that work well with simulcast systems?
 
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hiegtx

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What are some models that work well with simulcast systems, in your experience?
Simulcast digital distortion - The RadioReference Wiki
The only true scanners that work well on simulcast, regardless of location, are Uniden's SDS100 (handheld) & SDS200 (base/mobile). Occasionally, when first programmed for a local system, reception is not as good as expected, but in most cases it can be much improved by tweaking the filters for the scanner on a per system basis.

The Unication pagers (usually the G4 & G5 are referenced in posts, but I don't own either), also work very well in simulcast areas. However, those two models are not true scanners. While you can program more than one system and one site, you can only monitor a single site at a time. I've seen comments that Unication has been creating firmware updates that allow more "scanner like" features, such as holding on a talkgroup. If you only were interested in one system & site, that would work. But with the SDS100/-200 you can program and monitor multiple systems & sites.

From where I live, in Dallas, there are numerous systems with simulcast sites in the area. But, my location is far enough outside those systems that the simulcast does not affect me, and I can use any number of other scanners, such as the 325P2, BCD436HP, and536HP, and still monitor them. If Dallas & Dallas County ever complete and switch to their planned P25 Phase II system, then likely simulcast will affect me at home. That's one big reason I purchased the two SDS series scanners. The SDS200 is used at home. When I'm out & about, I have the SDS100 with me, and can monitor those simulcast systems even when I'm in known "problem areas" as reported by other scanner owners.

Depending on your location in Dallas (far North Dallas, near Carrollton or Plano?) you might be far enough outside Denton County to monitor either the Lewisville or Denton County simulcast sites.
Map for the Denton Simulcast sites
Lewisville Simulcast site on Denton's P25 system
I have a friend that lives in Grapevine, that I usually see about twice a month. From her house, I can monitor the Denton system on both the SDS100 as well as a 436HP. I can also monitor the Northeast Tarrant County Simulcast from there on either scanner. I gave her my old 996T, and she can listen to the Northeast Tarrant site on FWRRS with it. For Northeast Tarrant, the Grapevine site is about half mile or less from her, so that strong signal overrides the out of synch transmissions from the other sites. For my 436HP, monitoring Denton County, their Grapevine area site is just north of Grapevine Lake, so it works.

Location is very important for whether or not you can hear a simulcast system with scanners other than the SDS series scanners. If you are very close to one of the sites, the strong signal may wipe out any problems. Or, if you are far enough away, the other signals are too weak to matter. While I'm out of range to hear Denton from home (unless & until I get an external antenna replaced), I can hear the Metrocrest system, even though many people in one of the member cities have problems with the simulcast. In some cases, even moving the scanner a few feet in one direction or another can help reception. While you can also use a directional antenna, such as a yagi, to aim at one specific tower of a simulcast site and enable reception, you are pretty much limiting yourself to just that system, unless other systems' sites are close or strong enough to be received even though the directional antenna is not aimed at them.
 

Saga

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Simulcast digital distortion - The RadioReference Wiki
The only true scanners that work well on simulcast, regardless of location, are Uniden's SDS100 (handheld) & SDS200 (base/mobile). Occasionally, when first programmed for a local system, reception is not as good as expected, but in most cases it can be much improved by tweaking the filters for the scanner on a per system basis.

The Unication pagers (usually the G4 & G5 are referenced in posts, but I don't own either), also work very well in simulcast areas. However, those two models are not true scanners. While you can program more than one system and one site, you can only monitor a single site at a time. I've seen comments that Unication has been creating firmware updates that allow more "scanner like" features, such as holding on a talkgroup. If you only were interested in one system & site, that would work. But with the SDS100/-200 you can program and monitor multiple systems & sites.

From where I live, in Dallas, there are numerous systems with simulcast sites in the area. But, my location is far enough outside those systems that the simulcast does not affect me, and I can use any number of other scanners, such as the 325P2, BCD436HP, and536HP, and still monitor them. If Dallas & Dallas County ever complete and switch to their planned P25 Phase II system, then likely simulcast will affect me at home. That's one big reason I purchased the two SDS series scanners. The SDS200 is used at home. When I'm out & about, I have the SDS100 with me, and can monitor those simulcast systems even when I'm in known "problem areas" as reported by other scanner owners.

Depending on your location in Dallas (far North Dallas, near Carrollton or Plano?) you might be far enough outside Denton County to monitor either the Lewisville or Denton County simulcast sites.
Map for the Denton Simulcast sites
Lewisville Simulcast site on Denton's P25 system
I have a friend that lives in Grapevine, that I usually see about twice a month. From her house, I can monitor the Denton system on both the SDS100 as well as a 436HP. I can also monitor the Northeast Tarrant County Simulcast from there on either scanner. I gave her my old 996T, and she can listen to the Northeast Tarrant site on FWRRS with it. For Northeast Tarrant, the Grapevine site is about half mile or less from her, so that strong signal overrides the out of synch transmissions from the other sites. For my 436HP, monitoring Denton County, their Grapevine area site is just north of Grapevine Lake, so it works.

Location is very important for whether or not you can hear a simulcast system with scanners other than the SDS series scanners. If you are very close to one of the sites, the strong signal may wipe out any problems. Or, if you are far enough away, the other signals are too weak to matter. While I'm out of range to hear Denton from home (unless & until I get an external antenna replaced), I can hear the Metrocrest system, even though many people in one of the member cities have problems with the simulcast. In some cases, even moving the scanner a few feet in one direction or another can help reception. While you can also use a directional antenna, such as a yagi, to aim at one specific tower of a simulcast site and enable reception, you are pretty much limiting yourself to just that system, unless other systems' sites are close or strong enough to be received even though the directional antenna is not aimed at them.

Thank you very much for this post, it is extremely helpful. I am in north Valley Ranch, very close to Coppell. It's likely I'll move to North Coppell in the next few months. I don't have a lot of experience yet, I had a Pro-96 years ago but sold it because I couldn't find anything too interesting to listen to back then, I lived in Flower Mound at the time. These days I have a cheap Baofeng that picks up some DPD dispatch and a few other things, but I would like a scanner, and it seems that to listen to Irving and Coppell PD's it has to be a Phase II capable model. I think Irving may be encrypted.

From my very quick research, some of the desirable things to have in a scanner are Phase I and II capabilities, DRM, Provoice, etc.

Ideally I don't want to spend a lot of money. I was looking at a PSR-800 a member here has for sale as an option, but I'm thinking now it may be a bit limited for what I would ideally want. I'm considering whether it would be more cost effective to build an SDR system, with the added benefit of being able to also use it for shortwave listening. But I only started thinking about that option late last night when browsing the forums. I don't know if there are SDR programs that can receive DRM, Provoice, etc. or how they handle simulcast distortion. I"m learning a lot along the way.

What would be your thoughts on that PSR-800?
 

hiegtx

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The PSR-800 is 12 year old technology. Definitely not a good choice if you are dealing with simulcast. If it has been sent to Whistler, for their "upgrade", it would have DMR, but it's not capable of NXDN. The only public safety agencies using NXDN are four suburban cities in southern Dallas County:
Cedar Hill, Desoto, & Duncanville are on SWRCC
Lancaster is on their own NXDN system.

Highland Park has a DMR system, but they, and University Park, will be moving to GMRS after adding a couple of sites in their cities.
CareFlite is on the Megahertz DMR trunked system, and can be heard dispatching their six helicopters here in North Texas.
Many of the large hospitals in the area are using DMR, as are a number of hotels.

I would not advise ProVoice for our area. I added that upgrade to one of my scanners (one of the 436HPs) when it first became available, but not on any of the other scanners that could get the same upgrade. At that time, DFW Airport was still on their ProVoice system. But they have since moved completely to a P25 Phase II system that is fully encrypted. Abilene is, for the minute, still using a ProVoice system,, but as you can see from a recent thread, their move to P25 Phase II is imminent. The only other systems within several hundred miles of us here in Dallas are Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. Both will move to P25 in the not too distant future. Unless yu spend a lot of time in one of those two cities, don' waste your money.

You definitely need P25 Phase II capability, as many systems are using that, and most of the ones using Phase I will, at some point, move to Phase II.

As long as you are monitoring from home, or a fixed location where you have access to a PC, then the SDR system is your most cost effective choice. That way, you could 'get your feet wet', and at some point, look into a scanner that can be used when you are not at home. I am not using an SDR at this time, but from what I've seen posted, you definitely would be able to P25, Phase I or II, DMR, and NXDN. From what I've read, the SDRs handle simulcast well. There are a number of threads on using these. I can't give you much advice, as I am not into those at this time, but many members on RR have commented that their SDR setup works well.
 

hiegtx

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I am in north Valley Ranch, very close to Coppell. It's likely I'll move to North Coppell in the next few months. I don't have a lot of experience yet, I had a Pro-96 years ago but sold it because I couldn't find anything too interesting to listen to back then, I lived in Flower Mound at the time. These days I have a cheap Baofeng that picks up some DPD dispatch and a few other things, but I would like a scanner, and it seems that to listen to Irving and Coppell PD's it has to be a Phase II capable model. I think Irving may be encrypted.
Irving is fully encrypted on their PD talkgroups.
Unfortunately, Coppell is as well (for PD) on the Metrocrest system.
The Fire talkgroups are not encrypted. Coppell is part of the "combined dispatch" for fore departments on the Metrocrest system. Irving has their own set of talkgroups for Fire on FWRRS.

In north Coppell, you might be close enough to the Coppell site for Metrocrest, which is near their FD station 1 in the southwest part of Coppell. Northwest part of Coppell might also put you close enough to one of the Denton County system sites to help negate simulcast. You'd be close to sites from both the Denton & Lewisville simulcast sites.
 

Saga

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Interesting...I really appreciate your guidance! I will look into getting an SDR setup. Fortunately I have a decently powered laptop I can devote to this, and I can set up an antenna outside my house without too much problem. I really like the idea of building a single box that can receive pretty much anything, as I love shortwave radio (even if there's not much to listen to here these days) but my Tecsun PL-880 died after only a year of use., so I have been using websdr's to listen.
 
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