Is this really a BCD396XT

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don333

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Yes, it does look like it, but there are plenty of other internet sources where you can buy it for about $500 and save yourself some money.
 

gsquared18

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I would but it's the only place where I can do 12 months same a cash because I don't like finance charges on credit cards. Hey question, coming from the analog BR330T and just wanting to monitor the ever growing digital systems in my area, would I be happy with the BCD396T? I could save $180 if I get that instead of the XT. I read a few comparisons and most said it's worth it for the XT but I'm a casual listener and don't really see where it is worth it to pay the difference. Over 12 months, I can easily afford it but $180 is a substantial savings. Thanks for any comments.
 

gsquared18

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Nevermind! I bit the bullet and got the BCD396XT model. I just can't afford either one without a same as cash deal. I can't tell from the Walmart website whether or not it includes the data cable. When I bought my BR330T, the data cable was included. Amazon.com has the BCD396XT for sale and offers a package buy that includes the radio and USB data cable for $32.55. That stinks if this new one doesn't come with it. I still have to buy the ARC software at $39 so $33 bucks on top of that for the cable is putting me in the poorhouse. Anybody know "what comes in the box"?

Thanks,
Greg
 

KE4ZNR

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Nevermind! I bit the bullet and got the BCD396XT model. I just can't afford either one without a same as cash deal. I can't tell from the Walmart website whether or not it includes the data cable. When I bought my BR330T, the data cable was included. Amazon.com has the BCD396XT for sale and offers a package buy that includes the radio and USB data cable for $32.55. That stinks if this new one doesn't come with it. I still have to buy the ARC software at $39 so $33 bucks on top of that for the cable is putting me in the poorhouse. Anybody know "what comes in the box"?

Thanks,
Greg
Let's see if I can remember everything from the accessories list:
--Radio
--Antenna
--2 AA Batteries
--Carrying strap
--9 pin serial data cable
Save yourself some money and try using Freescan first...it is free and works great with both the 330T and 396XT.
Marshall KE4ZNR
 

BHinAZ

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The BCD396XT comes with the same "data cable" as your BR330T. That is a cable with a serial connector on the PC end rather than a USB connector. The extra price cable is most likely a data cable that has a USB plug on the PC end rather than serial plug.

If you are able to program your BR330T with your existing cable, then you are already good to go with the cable you have now, so you should not have to spend any more money on cables to program the BCD396XT.

If you do need a cable with a USB connection, then you can buy a USB/Serial adaptor for around 5 bucks (Meritline.Com) rather than spend 30 bucks for the Uniden USB cable.

As far a software, you can use FreeScan as a free download. It works great and it also works great with the BR330T (but no "Car" support). The advantage is that you only have to maintain one file. It is free, but donations are accepted.

Bottom line, you should not have to spend any more money.

As far as the BCD396XT vs the BCD396T: The XT has some nice functionality improvements. However, I have not noticed any great improvement in digital performance vs the T model. In some cases the T was actually better! Since the XT is a current model, I am hoping Uniden will fix some of the digital issues in future firmware updates. I doubt that they will be putting many resources in the discountinued T.
 

gsquared18

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Awesome news from both of you. Thanks a lot! My son's computer is an older Dell and has the serial input so I'm good there. Plus, I work in the TV biz and have access to a huge engineering department with every imaginable connector so that'll at least save me shipping time if I want to program the radio on my new pc.

Is the 396XT similar in menu configuration and such to the 330T? I read some reviews from buyers that it has a steep learning curve but I know the BR like the back of my hand and hope the 396XT is similar in functionality minus the newer features.

Thanks again for the tips,

G

** Just checked out freescan and OMG, that is an awesome program and pretty similar to ARC. I am going to get this right now and donate some money to their site.
 
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UPMan

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Trunked systems add another "layer" that the BR330T didn't have. Instead of frequencies being entered at the System level, you need to create one or more sites to hold the frequencies. That is really the only "structural" change. Everything else is just pretty much "features."
 

BHinAZ

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In addition to the included items already mentioned above by KE4ZNR, the BCD396XT box should also include the SNA/BNC antenna adaptor and an AC wall charger. These are the same as what you should have received with the BR330T. You can use either charger for either radio.
 

gsquared18

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Are those 70's looking telescoping metal antennas they make for walking around better than the rubber ducky that come with it. I have my mag mount mobile antenna for the Suburban which is decent but if there's something better than the RD that comes with it, pass it along please. I'm usually in the 100's, 400's and 800mhz areas.
 

gsquared18

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Trunked systems add another "layer" that the BR330T didn't have. Instead of frequencies being entered at the System level, you need to create one or more sites to hold the frequencies. That is really the only "structural" change. Everything else is just pretty much "features."

I'm confused:( The 330T is a trunker, is it just a different config?
 

UPMan

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It is called Multisite. Instead of putting 5 sites' control channels into one system, where only the first received will be monitored, you put each physical site's frequencies into a site in the scanner's system. Then, you can turn on/off reception for each site individually.
 

click23

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gsquared18,

Take a look over at http://forums.radioreference.com/tennessee-radio-discussion-forum/120894-chattanooga-hamilton-county-rebanding.html and Tennessee Valley Regional Telecommunications System Trunking System, Varies, Multi-State - Scanner Frequencies. This is a new system that is getting started up, and you can put the new features of you 396xt to use. I live down in Athens and just got my 396xt last week to replace my 330T, if you send me a PM with your email I can email you a freescan file of this new system and for just about every public safety frequency between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
 

BHinAZ

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I think the steep learning curve comments are based on people trying to understand the concepts of the DMA memory, which requires more abstract thinking than the fixed bank conventional memory model. Since you are comfortable with you BR330T, I assume you understand the DMA programming. If that is the case, then you should not have a problem with the XT since it is very similar to the BR330T in design, although features have changed. And yes, the menu structure will be familiar.

Although things are similar, they are not the same, so there is some learning curve for things that have changed and things that have been added. Examples: You can now press and release the function key and it will remain in the function mode for several seconds, or you can hold the function key for several seconds and it will then remain in the function mode until you press the function key again. Also, some of the function keys have been changed. The BR330T used Func "." to hear the Reverse freq,, whereas the XT uses Func 8. The 330 allows you to drill down to a channel with the Func 7, whereas this feature is no longer available on the XT! (The XT has added Number Tagging, which is nice, but I wish Uniden had retained the Func 7 feature.)

Unfortunately, the XT does not have a printed Owners manual. Ther CD has a wiki which appears to contain documation for all the new models (which can be confusing) and a PDF reference document. Both have room for improvemet. I suggest you start with PDF file.

- Pg 9 - 13 Reviews all the features of the radio, including the items new to you.
- Pg 16 - 20 Goes over the controls and use of the keys.
- Pg 21 - 22 Goes over the display
- Pg 25 - 27 Goes over operation of the scanner
- Pg 111+ Goes over scanning mode
- Pg 167 Weather Scan (Changed from the 330).

That should give you a good start to mastering the XT.

The PDF is hard to find on the CD.
Manual > Rsrc > UnidenMan4 > BCD396XT > BCD396XT_Complete_Reference.PDF

How is that for intuitive! There are more current updates available online, but it is sloooow browsing.

Let me add some detail to Paul's note above. The advantage of the XT "sites" is when an agency has multiple antenna sites using different frequencies but all sites have the same talk groups. With the XT, you only have to program the talk groups one time for one system, then add each site with the different frequencies to the one system. The 330 would require you to duplicate the system multiple times.

Implied is a potential problem when you want to share the same programming file between the XT and the 330. There is no problem with FreeScan if you only have one site per system. It will automatically create the site on the XT when reading a file obtained from the 330. I do not know how it handles a situation where you have a file from an XT containing multiple sites and you want to load it to a 330.

Here is a suggested map to initially program your XT based on your 330, using FreeScan.
- Set up FreeScan so it is using the same baud rate as the 330 and port as set up on the PC.
- Use the data cable to connect the 330 to the PC, turn on the scanner.
- Click on "Queue System List" to load the sytem index.
- Have FreeScan read the 330 data.(Scanner to Computer).
- Errors should be zero. Review the data. Save the file.
- Turn off the 330 and disconnect.
- Reset the XT to clear out the Uniden channels, and to return any settings to the defaults.
(Press down 9, 2, Hold Keys while powering up the scanner.)
- Connect the XT to the PC, then turn on the scanner.
- Set the baud rate on Freescan and the scanner to the same value.
- Write the FreeScan data to the scanner.
-- Do not select Erase system, the Reset did that already.
-- Do NOT check Send Custom Radio Settings
If checked, the XT splash screen will say BR330T when you turn it on!
- Errors should be zero.
- Turn off scanner and disconnect.
- Start playing with your new scanner.

You can now start programming the digital sytems, either directly in FreeScan, then loading to the scanner, or in the scanner, then copying to FreeScan. You can also customize any search ranges.

If you make the XT the master radio as far as the programming content, then you can duplicate the non digital information on your 330. Just hook the 330 up to the PC, then bring up FreeScan, which should contain all file updates, and load the programming into the 330. Just uncheck any digital defined systems and do not copy the Custom settings.

One new feature of the XT relates to HOLD. If you press down on the HOLD key for a few seconds while holding on a system, HOLD will start flashing on the display. Then when you press scan, the scanner will only scan that sytem rather than all systems. Here is the catch, the only way to get out of this mode is to press down on the hold key again for a few seconds. I mention this because it is easy to get in this mode by accident and not know how to get out of it. (Do not ask I how found out about this!!)

Good luck with the scanner.
 
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gsquared18

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Holy moly you guys are over-the-top helpful. Where do I donate;). Thanks for this intuitive cheat sheet because it's really going to help. I sold the 330 so I'm starting from scratch but Freescan looks like it'll put in everything I would ever want to listen to in my area. I'd be lying if I said I understand DMA but once I programmed the systems into the 330, peeking into the menus, I kind of understood how it all works. All I can do is thank the radio gods above for sending down programs like ARC and Freescan as well as all of you here in the forums.
 
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BHinAZ

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Did you save a copy of your BR330T programming before you sold it? Uniden provides UASD programming software for this radio. As I recall, you can download the free demo version that will read the radio info and save it to UASD files. (For an additional cost, all features are turned on, mainly full write functionality to the radio.)

If you have a UASD copy of your 330 programming, then I believe FreeScan can read the UASD files and save them as a FreeScan file. The end result would be like you read it directly from the BR330T radio. You can then follow the steps in my above note and write the programming out to the XT.

As far as antennas, here is a site put together by a guy that compared a bunch of antennas. He did a great job and is worth the read.

AWH: See How Different Scanner Antennas/TV Antennas Rate!

The Uniden supplied antenna is a good general purpose antenna if the signal strength is decent. However, acceptable digital requires a good signal, so you may need an antenna specifically for the band you want to monitor.

Most trunked systems seem to be in the 800 HHz range. An excellent choice is the 800MHz by Radio Shack (20-283). I have used my brother's and it was best for 800 MHz compared to my antennas. It is a great value for about 20 bucks, not to long, and easy to get. The only downside is it is not as great on the lower frequencies, so it is more of a special purpose antenna. (The Seeker 800 is supposed to be ever so slightly better and good on the lower frequencies.) The Radio Shack antenna may be an excellent additon for you to scan digital trunk systems.

The best around general purpose antenna I have used is the C.Crane (CCrane.Com) CCSuper Gainer (also my brother's). The one I used had a BNC. I compared it to my Diamond SRH77CA (SMA), also an excellent antenna, and found his to be ever so slightly better on 800 MHz. They were the same on the other bands and absoutely better than the Uniden antenna. The downside is these antennas are long. The CCGainer is made by Diamond, I think this is the RH771 Japan model. C.Crane has a great price for this antenna.

Base on my readings, I am thinking the Seeker 800 would be the best choice for a general purpose antenna, I am thinking about purchasing one (Radiobooks.Com). Downsides are a large diameter, more expensive and 12 inches long.

If you want to do it right, put up an outside antenna. It will be leaps and bound ahead of any rubber duck antenna. I have a tiny Radio Shack VHF/UHF Outdoor Scanner antenna (20-176) and am amazed at how well it does for what it is. It is mounted on the same mask as the outside TV antenna at the top of the pole. Retail is 27 bucks plus cable and connectors. I doubt if HOA's will object since to the uniformed, it blends in with the TV antenna. I am in north Phoenix, AZ and can receive the VHF amateur repeaters on top of Mt. Lemmon on the north side of Tucson, AZ (100 plus miles). I also use this for a VHF transmit antenna on my amateur radio and can communicate with the Tucson Mt. Lemmon repeaters from my Tempe, AZ (south side of Phoenix) location using a 5 watt hand held.

I forgot to mention in my previous notes that I think you will find the reception/sensitivity of the BCD396XT to be somewhat better than your BR330T (and a BCD396T). Hope that helps you justify the additional cost of the XT. I also remembered a couple of more items included with the BCD396XT not specifically mentioned above in the incuded items notes - a CD and a belt clip.

Let us know how things work out after you get the radio.
 
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gsquared18

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Well I'll for sure be in the 800mhz range for police, fire and ems so I'm going to get the 20-293 but I love trying to monitor the Smoky Mountain Park Rangers which I hear are on P25 Conv around 166-170mhz but I have had no luck receiving it on my BR330T. I hope the 396XT will change that.

Will the 800MHz RS 20-283 give me any improved reach in that range over the stock Uniden antenna or do I have to carry a separate one for the park rangers? I know it's primarily for 800mhz but just asking.
 

BHinAZ

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The Radio Shack 800MHz is a great antenna for the higher band, but I doubt that it will be much better than the Uniden at 160 MHz. The antenna is at my brother's so I was unable to compare, but I do remember from previous testing that the VHF performance was not the greatest. So yes, I think you will have to get a separate antenna to have a chance at hearing the Park Rangers. (It may be that no rubber duck type antenna will be able to do what you want for that site.)

The second antenna I would strongly recommend is the C. Crane CCSuper Gainer (Diamond RH771). You would have a hard time finding anything in it's class that will beat it on UHF. It absolutely excels on that band (450 MHz area). It also does a very acceptable job on the other bands which makes it a good choice for a general purpose antenna.

I did some comparisions with the CCSuper Gainer this morning after reading your note. I tuned in Prescott Weather on 162.525 which is about 75 miles from me. With the Uniden antenna, I could barely hear that there was audio if I held the scanner in a sweet spot, but I was unable to make out much of what was said.

However, with the CCSuperGainer, I was able to understand all the words even in the spots that the Uniden antenna was dead. I also put on an old Antenna Specialist conventional rubber duck VHF antenna cut for 148-155 MHz. It was about three quarters of the way between the Uniden and the CCSuper Gainer, The CCSuper Gainer was definately the best of the three.

I also did a comparision on the AM air band (Sky Harbor ATIS at 127.575). The CCSuper Gainer was noticeably better than the Uniden antenna, but not quite as good as a rubber duck air band antenna that I have. (I have no idea who makes the airband antenna).

I am not recommending the CCSuper Gainer as a top choice for VHF, but it will be noticeably better than the Uniden antenna. However, I do think it would be a good buy for you because it is one of the best for an all around antenna, it will be better than the Uniden on all bands, it is a great value, and it is one of the best rubber duck types for UHF.

Sorry to say I have no idea what antennas are best in class for a VHF specialty antenna in a rubber duck type form. I hope some other members will post some recommendations and comparisions on VHF antennas.

Another possibily for the Park Ranger challenge is to get a VHF mobile antenna with a mag mount and stick it on a metal ground plane such as a refrigerator. Quite a few hams do this with their hand helds and it works. This will be much better than any rubber duck antenna.
 
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