Indiana - Digital Scanners

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bamx2

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Friends, help me decide on a digital scanner for use in Indiana. The main usage will be SAFE-T of course, but also LTR systems, and maybe Indy metro.

I would like something that can be easily hooked up to the computer, it has to be portable, and the HP is out.

That narrows me down to the PSR-800, Pro-106, and BCD396XT.

How do you feel about each of these, as they relate specifically to SAFE-T and also the Indy metro system?

Thanks.
 

AK9R

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I have a PSR-800 and a BCD396T (not XT). I will state up-front that I am not a fan of the PSR-800 nor GRE's recent scanners in general. (I say recent because the best non-trunking scanner ever made, in my opinion, was the Radio Shack Pro-2006 which was made by GRE.)

The PSR-800 has very good reception of SAFE-T. The problems that the BCD396T had with some of SAFE-T's digital talkgroups was reportedly fixed in the XT, but I have not made the comparison myself. The PSR-800 is slightly more susceptible to front end overload in the presence of strong signals than the Unidens, so that might be a problem if you operate the radio near a cell phone tower.

In my opinion, the PSR-800's display is a joke. Poor contrast with the backlight off, low resolution characters, and difficult to read. The Uniden HomePatrol is an first-rate example of how to build a scanner display.

I find that the memory management in the PSR-800 is poor--if you aren't careful with how you ask it to select systems from its built-in memory, it will take a long time to build your scan list.

There's also the power consumption issue--go to the GRE forum here and read the threads about batteries.

Finally, make sure you are comparing apples to apples when you are price shopping. The PSR-800 does not come with any batteries nor a charger/power supply. Factor in those items before you compare the price to other scanners.
 
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GTO_04

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The problems that the BCD396T had with some of SAFE-T's digital talkgroups was reportedly fixed in the XT, but I have not made the comparison myself. The PSR-800 is slightly more susceptible to front end overload in the presence of strong signals than the Unidens, so that might be a problem if you operate the radio near a cell phone tower.
Yes, the problems were definitely fixed in the XT. And your comments on front end overload on the PSR-800 would also apply to the PSR-500 IMHO.

GTO_04
 

JStemann

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The uniden's have had a history of complaints on simulcast systems like the Indy metro system. I have no problem with my 396xt on SafeT, and what little time I've spent passing through Indy my 996's have done fine.

From what I've heard, the gre-500 and RS Pro-106 are supposed to do better with the simulcast systems, but I have no first hand experience with either of those. Like w9rxr said, you might check the Radio shack & gre threads to see what they have to say.

Jeff.
 

canav844

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Well I haven't messed around much with the Indy Metro system yet but I've got an older 996t and a Pro-106, The 996 has been a perpetual battle of wills, I'm able to understand and make it work, but the programming layout, button layout, functions, lack of menu changing functions and having to plug it into the computer to accomplish the very same task all add up to be a frustrating experience for me.

So when I looked at handhelds, being very happy with my Pro-95 and Pro-164 (PSR-300), I gave the PSR-500, PSR-800, Uniden 396XT and the HP1 all consideration.

I was able to get in and use several of them at Frys, at varying points in the last 2-3 years, and for the rest I had to read on here.

The HP-1 I found to be an impossible pain to get the touch screen buttons to work and the menus were very annoying and it really doesn't satisfy my interest with being able to really take it anywhere (it's bulky for a handheld) and it did not feel at all suited for hunting and IDing frequencies; and I like to be able to hunt the Fed, Milair and business bands to hear new things, and that's stuff that even if it is in the RR database is often incomplete. I left the HP-1 wondering why anyone would buy it when the same job can be accomplished with a smartphone, an app and access to RR (I know feeds are not all inclusive yet, and some folks prefer the car GPS like interface but I was really let down between RR hype and actual useage)

The PSR-800, I've only been able to read internet reviews and watch youtube videos on, it seems like a fine scanner, but one that will leave me tied to a computer for programming, great for pick an agency and play, not so great for hunt and seeking frequencies or programming on the fly, coupled with that having an added cost over the Pro-106, I opted not to go this route, but I'd likely try and demo one if looking for this style of scanner, as I really do not like how the HP-1 works.

The 396XT, was in many ways very familiar, having and using a 996, however to me it's time in my hands was short lived because the compact size but the same attempt to cram all those features in meant that everything I dislike about the 996 user friendliness was overly exaggerated, taking advantage of anything but the first 10 quick keys (so 90% of the scanlists) is such a pain I such don't bother with them on the Unidens, and you still have to go through and tweak every little setting to get it so that conversations aren't cutting out because three levels down one of 3 methods of close call or weather alert is on and the other methods aren't shutting it off. Uniden made these scanners of great potential, but made them such a headache to use, that frankly the products I have used of theirs are drastically under utilized and that's very frustrating considering the premium I paid for their product. The big things Uniden does have going for them is the opportunity for use of free software (that I think now is even Mac compatible), and the GPS; and if you can find one used, the discontinued remote control and display head, I am unsure if they are XT compatible or not though.

The PSR-500/Pro-106 is a bit bigger (and slightly larger than my ham HTs even the FT-270), but for me it's a much more usable interface, the computer isn't necessary if I want to add modify, adjust or rename something, if I need to name something I can type in a manner similar to texting on a phone rather than scrolling through the alphabet, menus names and labels for things all make sense to me, and easily access all 20 scan lists. The Pro-106 when it's on sale is also putting me out about 50-70% of the cost of the 396 to get the same basic job done, and I can typically find the accessories included PSR-500 for about 20% less than the 396. I haven't gotten up to Indy to try the 106 out on the IDPS system (it was MECA the new acronym escapes me now) but I've used it on SAFE-T and been very pleased with it.

When it comes to the front end being overloaded, or one being more sensitive than the other, I've got to say they've worked just fine directly under a SAFE-T tower and there's enough towers that I'm really yet to encounter any coverage issues (and many times find myself with SAFE-T signal decoding above 95%, but lacking cell signal), and I haven't noticed any cell tower interference, when it comes to analog signals, I'll always do much better with a dedicated mono-band TX/RX handheld that the difference between the scanners is negligible in normal use to me. I did have some major multipath issues with the Uniden when trying to use multi-band antennas (VHF/UHF/800), so it requires me using an 800 RS duck or a stubby to not have those issues; I'm not sure if the 396 holds up to the 996 in that manner, but I am trying to give a fair what I have.

The above paragraphs are all my experiences and opinions, I don't own everything you're looking at so some experiences are more detailed than others, and as a result I'm not going to tell you what to get, but understand that different features accommodate different uses and the User Interface schemes operate differently so if at all possible take the time to meet up with people or find a store you can demo the scanners in, so you get an idea of how you will interact with them, and chose the one that will suit you best; because they will all receive the two systems you're looking at as long as you're within about a county of a tower.
 

racin06

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I've owned the PSR-800 for a couple of months and I'm impressed with its performance. I live in Westfield and I primarily monitor the Hamilton County Public Safety EDACS system, Hamilton SAFE-T, Boone SAFE-T, Marion SAFE-T and Hendricks SAFE-T. The 800 performs excellent on these systems. Regarding Marion MECA, depending on where you are located, you may need a direction antenna in order to monitor.....this is the case for me and I've yet to purchase a directional antenna. However, when I'm within Marion County, the 800 performs very well on MECA. Regarding programming the 800, yes creating scanlists within the radio does take a few minutes, but I've been able to do so without a hitch while on recent business trips in Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati. Though I will admit that the best way to program the 800 is by using the software. Regarding the display, I find it to be very good...don't know how it would be difficult to read. Oh, one last thing, the 800 has awesome audio, which really can't be said for the HP.
 

bamx2

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Ok, so narrowed down to the 500 or 396. What does the 30%+ I'd pat for the 396 get me?

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AK9R

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Looks like the only major difference in the supplied accessories is batteries. The PSR-500 comes with no batteries and the BCD396XT comes with a set of three NiMH AA cells.

When I did a comparison test between the PSR-600 and the BCD996T, the differences in memory management kinda frustrated me. With the PSR-500 and -600, you can only create 20 scan lists. That wasn't enough ways to divide things for the way I like to set up my scanners. On the other hand, the Uniden DMA scanners let you create up to 100 systems and each system can have up to 10 groups. Selecting a system is a matter of pressing the 0 through 9 key on the keyboard for the systems 0 through 9. Above 9, you press the period key (.), then the two digit number of the system. To select a group within a system, hold the Function key then press the 0 through 9 key corresponding the group.

However, I will say that the above paragraph delves into user interface issues that are very personal. Some people like the GRE interface; some like the Uniden interface. You really won't know which one is best suited to you until you try them out. As Scanner Master points out on their web site, "The GRE Object Oriented format and the Uniden DMA perform the same goal in different ways."

By the way, if you haven't looked at it yet, go to the Scanner Master site, select either of the scanners you are interested in, then click on the "Comparison" tab that appears just above the detailed description of the scanner. Very interesting.
 

K9IEL

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I guess it depends on how much control you want. My roommate recently bought the Uniden BCD396XT, so I re-evaluated my current radio (PRO-96, predecessor to the PRO-106) and looked at the radios you're looking at. Here are my impressions.

PRO-106 - Recently got to play with this model when my roommate bought it for his father. I was already pretty familiar with this radio, since it's similar to my PRO-96. I found this radio to be easier to program (using software/programming cable) than the BCD396XT. However, I found the BCD396XT easier to navigate once programmed and in my hands. The PRO-106 doesn't have as many bells and whistles as the BCD396XT, but is still a great radio for novice/moderate users.

PSR-800 - The impression I got from reading the manual on this radio is that it's perfect for someone who doesn't want to mess with the hassle of programming a radio. I loved the idea of being able to drill down to the radio system I wanted to listen to, similar to browsing the RR database. You select the state, then the city, then the system you want to monitor. Ultimately, I wanted more control over my listening experience and decided to stick with my PRO-96. But this radio (as well as the Home Patrol) are good radios for those who want to be able to get up and going quickly without too much programming.

BCD396XT - This was my roommate's first trunked scanner. He got disgruntled by Uniden's horrible manuals and FreeScan's user interface... not to mention that the first radio he received was defective, causing him a lot of unnecessary headache. Once up and going though, he's thoroughly enjoying it. I had a chance to program it and while FreeScan isn't as intuitive as StarrSoft's software, it gets the job done and has all the options you could ever need to program your radio (plus, it's free!).

As for scanning systems like MECA and SAFE-T, you'll have issues with MECA since it's simulcast (from what I've read). Even my PRO-96 doesn't get it right 100% of the time. To help remedy this problem, I bought an 800Mhz antenna, as well as locking out the sites (on MECA, at least) that are farther away. I think all of these radios will give you a strength indicator as to how good of a signal you're getting while monitoring each specific site.
 

bamx2

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I just ordered the uniden. Go Big or go home I suppose.

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K9IEL

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I just ordered the uniden. Go Big or go home I suppose.

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Great choice! I don't think you could go wrong with the PRO-106 or the Uniden, they both are good radios. :)
 

W9NES

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The Uniden 396XT was a good choice.I own one and I have had NO problems with the scanner. I also have no problems hearing Safe-T, IDPS, and Hamilton County EDACS.
 

bamx2

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It's marked as out for delivery on UPS. I spent last night setting up banks in FreeScan. I have to say, I'm pretty excited.
 

bamx2

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This is quite possibly the most complicated device I've ever owned.


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AK9R

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This is quite possibly the most complicated device I've ever owned.
Compared to bank-oriented scanner, the Uniden DMA scanners do have a steep, but not insurmountable, learning curve. I remember when I bought my 396T. It took some playing around with the programming software to really grasp what was going on.

The Uniden DMA FAQ in the RR Wiki may be of some assistance:

Uniden DMA FAQ - The RadioReference Wiki
 

W8RMH

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Bcd396xt

Compared to bank-oriented scanner, the Uniden DMA scanners do have a steep, but not insurmountable, learning curve. I remember when I bought my 396T. It took some playing around with the programming software to really grasp what was going on.

The Uniden DMA FAQ in the RR Wiki may be of some assistance:

Uniden DMA FAQ - The RadioReference Wiki
:D Uniden just released a free firmware update for the 396XT which greatly improves it's P25 performance.

Click Here for an easier to read manual.
 

bamx2

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:D Uniden just released a free firmware update for the 396XT which greatly improves it's P25 performance.

Click Here for an easier to read manual.
Thanks. I've been trying to read the easy manual. It helps. Still alot of questions about how the quick keys work, I posted on in the Uniden forum if anyone has a chance.
 
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