New here, need recommendation

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Hey folks, long time reader first time poster.

I've finally decided to get my hands on a digital handheld scanner. My radio experience is limited to shortwave listening but I'm ready to get one of these as a new toy.

I know very little about scanners. I know that I want digital, that it has to be a handheld, and of course pick up the police around here, along with GMRS communications.

So far, I've looked at a few and have done literally hours of research. Considering price and performance, I'm leaning towards the Uniden BCD396T.

But before I spent that kind of money, I wanted to check with you folks to see if you had any insight on this model, any advice or recommendations with regard to the purchase, or had suggestions about other scanners that would fit the bill that may be better.

Very much appreciated.

Mike
 

captclint

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Welcome to RR. There are really only 2 choices :GRE Radios and Uniden Scanners . RS is customer unfriendly, and very slow to incorporate firmware fixes and improvements. Uniden and GRE make radios for them, and the are both good about firmware updates, but RS delays firmware updates from both. GRE is the most aggressive and slightly better on customer relations. Also see: Digital Scanner Comparison Chart - The RadioReference Wiki

The basic considerations are as follows:


  1. GRE is more sensitive(gets weaker signals), but that very feature makes them prone to overload if in the city or near any type of radio/TV/cell towers. Previously, GRE was better with digital, but I think that difference has been minimized with the latest firmware from Uniden...see how important firmware can be.
  2. Uniden does not overload as much (hence is not as sensitive), and generally has more features, which you will probably appreciate once you are familiar. For example, they skip over encrypted communications, while GRE just hangs on them producing annoying noise. Also has GPS system control (limited value for a Base unit), and Fire Tone outs (limited value IMHO)
  3. You really need software to program and better understand a digital radio. There is an excellent program for Unidens that is free: FreeScan. GRE typically costs $30-$40

You will find diehards in either camp, but I think they all generally agree on the points above, so you need to decide if you are far enough from the radio signals to justify a GRE.
 

ka3jjz

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Mike it would help greatly if you would go into your User CP (found in the blue toolbar under the thread title) then click on Edit Your Details in the left frame. Put in your county/state. This will help narrow down your responses to those folks that are in your general neck of the woods - that's not to say Capt is wrong, he isn't - but the best recommendations for scanners and such are often folks that are in your general area. 73 the other Mike
 
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Wanted to add a bit here.

captclint; thanks for the run down. After looking at the GRE PRS-500 here on the wiki, I found myself looking at the Radio Shack Pro-106. Here's what I got;
"The Pro-106 is functionally identical to the PSR-500 and uses the same radio control software and scanner cables. Firmware updates are NOT compatiable between this radio and the GRE PSR-500 though. "

and also, "The PSR-500 is very similar to the Mobile/Base version of the PSR-600 and uses the same radio control software and scanner cables and is nearly identical to the Radio Shack Pro-106"

Well then. If the 500 is comparable to the Uniden I mentioned, and the RS version is virtually identical, then why not go for it? It's $100 cheaper and I can get it in person. Not to mention I have an RS gift card that would offset the tax. Other than what we've already covered, why should I choose the PSR-500 or the BCD396T over the RS 106?

I'm trying to find a reason to not get the 106 at this point. Any insight on this? Thanks again.
 

ka3jjz

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Watch it - if memory serves, the GRE includes the USB cable needed to program it, the RS does not.

73 Mike
 

ka3jjz

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And from what I understand, the 396XT has a far and away better digital decode than the original 396T. You will need a separate USB cable to program this - the USB-1 from Uniden is sold through Scanner Master, and there's one from Monoprice that some folks seem to have had pretty good luck with.

Once again, our wiki comes to the rescue with the appropriate links..

Connecting scanners via USB - The RadioReference Wiki

When you're ready, we'll start talking about DMA and how to program the scanner using FreeScan (which is freeware). Since I see you're in Colorado, time to jump there and start asking questions about your area. Start getting familiar with the 'lay of the land', as it were. 73 Mike
 

ka3jjz

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There's a link in the wiki article I quoted. Remember anything in blue is a link...73 Mike
 
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Ok. That's just a cable that turns serial to USB for computers that no longer have serial ports. It's not a scanner cable, it just works with the cable that interfaces with the scanner but has a serial connection on the end.

I'll need it anyway, because I don't have serial ports.

Will need a USB-1 cable, that monoprice doesn't have unfortunately :(
 

ka3jjz

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If memory serves, the 396XT comes with a serial cable; the USB cable goes in between your PC and the serial cable. It's a pain, I know, but that's what we get for losing serial ports on our PCs. Never did understand why they took them away in the first place 73 Mike
 
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Ok, it's a done deal. Ordered the BCD396XT. Spent a little more for the XT based on the recommendations and advice here. I'll be sure to make a video of it when I get it, and then proceed to bug you good folks about all kinds of things :)
 
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Ok, got the BCD396XT. This thing is hella complicated heh.

Still reading manual, but trying to switch to the preprogrammed Colorado DTRS and just can't figure it out. Anyone have the solution? I'm not finding it yet. It's set on Alaska.
 
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