Opinions on BearTracker 885

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RockyBennett

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Hello All,
This is my first post here at this forum. I am new to the radio hobby and I plan to include a few thing into my desktop set-up. First and foremost, I am interested in CB radios. I have a couple of handhelds CB radios (no mobile radio) but I want a base radio to go with these for around town communications. I am also interested in a nice emergency band scanner. Thus my interest in this particular kit.

My proposed power supply is a
TekPower TP30SWII 30 Amp
(for possible expansion later to power other devices).

My proposed antenna for this unit will be a Patriot Pat12.

So my basic questions;

1. Is this a good radio? And if it is not considered a good radio is there anything else that I can buy on a budget of less than $600 for the radio unit that will include both scanner and CB?

2. Also, would this antenna be a good match for my needs? I want a small and simple to install antenna because I am a senior citizen and I do not have the know-how to do a lot of home handyman work.

If this is important, I live in Belen, NM, about 25 miles South of Albuquerque. My future plans include 2 meter amatuer radio, thus the power supply is eventually intended to power two separate units. Is that feasible?

Thank you in advance for any ideas and or opinions on my proposed plans.

Rocky Bennett
 

bob550

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Hi Rocky, and welcome to the hobby and RadioReference! So, if you really desire a single radio for both functions, the Uniden BearTracker 885 is the only hybrid on the market. A quick reading of features and comments regarding the scanner function shows that the features and options are quite limited, and could spoil your scanning experience. For instance, the alphanumeric display will only show you the service you're receiving and not the actual police or fire agency name. There's no way to program individual channels or favorite lists as the more sophisticated scanners are capable of doing. So, do considerable research on this versus actual dedicated scanners and CB radios before purchase. You'll find lots of comments on this by searching BearTracker 885 on this forum.

The Patriot antenna is a CB antenna, and because it's designed to work on the 27MHz CB band, would hamper reception on the typical scanner bands in use today. Using the BearTracker, you'd be best with two separate antennas, one for CB and one for scanning, connected to a high isolation A/B switch and then to the radio. I also see comments regarding the inability to adjust the SWR for optimum and efficient transmitting. Normally, the SWR reading is an indicator of how much signal is being transmitted, and affects how well you'll be heard by others.
 

letarotor

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I'm not familiar with the radio system or systems in your area, but if the RadioReference data is correct, it looks like the radio you're wondering about would work on the Belden PD and FD frequencies.


The thing that really makes a big difference is whether or not you want to listen to some other things like your state police frequencies which are on a digital trunk radio system. They are on what is called a P25 Phase II TRS. That would be a digital trunk radio system (TRS) and the specifications for the 885 show that it would receive this type of signal.


I've never looked at or seen one of the Beartracker 885 radios, but after looking up some of the specs, it does look like it comes with a built-in GPS and it automatically tunes the RadioReference database and will receive digital TRS, digital signals, and analog signals. I'm looking to see if it allows you to program in your own frequencies but I'm not seeing that. It might but I'm just not seeing it in any of the advertisements or specs. On the scanner side of things, I would want to be sure that it would allow you to search between a low and high frequency so that you can find new, unlisted frequencies. And I would want to be sure that it would allow you to manually program in your own frequencies or TRS's of interest. I'd call the place you're buying it from and question them about that. If it only allows you to listen to what is on the RR.com national database, well, there's a lot of stuff missing frequency wise. The database is only as good as its contributions and in some areas there may not be a lot of contributors monitoring. It's a great resource and nice to have but you want to be sure you can program in anything new that you might find into the radio.

I'm not familiar with the antenna you mentioned so I can't really help you there. I'm not familiar with any antenna that is a good CB transmitting antenna and scanner antenna other than one that has 0db gain but it has a 25-1300 MHz coverage, or wideband, coverage and it is an omnidirectional discone antenna. That means it receives and transmits in a 360° pattern equally. And you can tune the top element to whatever frequency or frequency band you would be interested in talking on with the CB portion of the radio. The antenna is called the Tram 1411. But it is an outside mounted antenna that you would want to at least put on a pole. As far as mobile antennas go or magnetic types, you're definitely going to lose a lot both in the reception on the scanner and the transmitting on the CB. Even if you had a way to put up a 20-ft piece of chain link fence type of pole or something similar with the antenna like the one I mentioned on the top of it, it would do you a lot of good. I'm not sure if you're an amateur radio operator but you did mention the 2 meter band. That Tram 1411 antenn a can be used to transmit on 2 meters also. While it's not optimal it does work and it works pretty good on 2 meters. I had to use that same antenna to transmit on 2 meters in my area for a couple of months before I replaced it with the antenna I was saving for when I put a VHF Icom transceiver in my living room last year. And In your area, with Albuquerque or the surrounding area being mountainous, well, once again that's one of those things that can be a problem or a benefit but it's impossible for me to say which. However, and outside antenna will help you out a lot and always do better than an antenna not made for home use. But I would imagine that most of the public safety towers would be higher up in the mountainsand if you just are not able to get an outside antenna up hopefully it would help with whatever antenna you do use. There's so many factors it's hard to say without living or visiting the area and listening for a while.

One last thing I mention because I would do this is, you should look at any and all surrounding counties or cities you would be interested in monitoring. Look them up on the RR.com database and see if they are compatible with what the scanner will receive. You should be able to receive P25 Phase 1 and Phase 2 from what I read but you also want to look on the website and make sure that there is no E or DE under the Mode column on any agencies or users that are critical to your wanting to listen to list. Those letters would stand for encrypted (E) or digital encryption (DE) which no scanner will be able to listen to. I didn't look at Albuquerque but I noticed it wasn't too far away. If you plan on listening to agencies like that, you want to be sure that they're not encrypted. And one more time I have to mention this, an outside antenna will do you a world of good compared to any kind of stock antenna or inside antenna in most cases. I know sometimes there's no other options and you just cannot put an antenna up. But if you have the option it's worth putting up an antenna outside of the house even if it's 10 or 20 ft high.

You had given the price tag of $600 or less. If you buy this radio it looks like you'd be paying a little bit over $300 to $350. That would give you extra money to get an antenna like the Tram 1411, tune the top element to the CB frequency or maybe the center frequency, ie channel 20, so that it is tuned for the CB band, and then buy some coaxial cable to run into the house and to the radio. It really just boils down to how far you want to listen / transmit out and what you want to listen to or talk to.

I hope this helps a little bit and I'm sure others will have some good advice or even more knowledge on the radio you're looking at getting. Good luck...

Brian (COMMSCAN)
KI5FLE
 

RockyBennett

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Wow, thank you for the replies and information. I was just looking at the manual for that Uniden and it does have two antenna inputs. I was not aware of the difference for the different types of antennas, so I will have to rethink this project.

I guess I need more research into a scanner for my area. I really want to keep my antenna array as simple as possible, and that is really the part of this project that I am struggling to deal with. Before I buy any scanner I will need to look at antennas as well as checking the RR.com database for compatibility.

I will look at the Tram 1411 but in all reality I might have to go for two separate antennas. I am not good with outdoor projects, but I will have to weigh the options to make this project work. My philosophy is to do something right the first time so that way I don't have to worry about it latter.

As a thought. I have one roof mast, can it be used for two antennas?

Thanks guys for the info.
 
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My philosophy is to do something right the first time so that way I don't have to worry about it latter.
That's the best - and most effective - approach.

In my opinion, the 885 is just a gimmick "radio".

I would buy a "real" scanner and a "real CB" if you want one.

Here is a listing of scanners - base and mobile.


Yes, you can use two antennas on one mast as long as they are not on top of one another.
 

mmckenna

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I will look at the Tram 1411 but in all reality I might have to go for two separate antennas. I am not good with outdoor projects, but I will have to weigh the options to make this project work. My philosophy is to do something right the first time so that way I don't have to worry about it latter.
Your radio system is only as good as your antenna. If you have a limited budget, put the money into the antenna, it'll make a bigger difference in performance.

You will want two separate antennas if you want this to work well.

On that note, I'd never recommend anything from Tram, Browning or any of the other Cheap Chinese Antenna companies. Tram and Browning used to be big American CB manufacturers back in the 60's and 70's, but the names have been bought out by a company in the US and used on cheap Chinese knock off antennas.

A discone can work on CB, but one that size is not going to work well. You could tune the top whip for CB, but the lack of proper ground radials under it is going to severely hamper performance.

If you want any sort of reliable performance form a base CB, get a dedicated base CB antenna. I won't recommend any, since I haven't really been active on CB in a very long time, but there are some knowledgable people on here that can provide some recommendations.

As a thought. I have one roof mast, can it be used for two antennas?
Depends entirely on the size of the mast, what it's made out of, how it is attached to the house, how well it's supported. A good base CB antenna is going to be pretty tall, and it's going to need a sturdy support.

You can mount two antennas on the same mast, but you'll have to put some work into it.
The CB antenna will want some clear space around it, so it'll need to be mounted up high and in the clear. Ideally a scanner antenna is going to want the same thing, but if you only have/want one antenna support, you can mount the scanner antenna down below the CB antenna. You'll just want it standing off to the side, not up against the mast.

You also need to consider your coaxial cable, don't go cheap, especially on the scanner antenna. As coaxial cable gets longer, losses go up. Also, as you go higher in frequency, the losses increase. You'll want to keep your coaxial cables as short as possible, and don't skimp on quality.

Also, since you are in good lightning country, you'll need to carefully consider your system grounding. It's required by the National Electric Code. Not impossible to do, but often gets overlooked. Your antenna support needs to be grounded properly and you need to have a lightning suppressor on your coaxial cables where it enters the home.
 

Trucker700

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Jun 24, 2017
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I have an 885 and used it mobile for quite some time. It's not a bad radio, but it does have its limitations. If there are no simulcast systems in your area and you don't plan to travel to areas that have such systems, it works well. It is not customizable like a normal scanner. And is limited by Categories. Law enforcement, Fire, Ambulance, DOT, and a 5th unlisted category Misc. Which are inner agency channels for systems that use a centralized system that dispatches different services on the same system. And, as noted above, you are only shown the category and not the actual agency name like a normal scanner.
One other downside I have found is the display is almost impossible to read in bright sunlight. But, if you think about it, when driving, (I had mine in a 18 wheeler) one should not be looking at a display for any length of time. (distracted driving laws in some areas are strictly enforced).
After purchasing a Uniden 536 for my home system, I decided to purchase an SDS-100 from a guy in Phoenix, Az. He gave me a good deal.
And I bought a good mount for the scanner and an external antenna. I have been much happier with that setup than the previous one.
I have an old Cobra CB for keeping up with road conditions or around rock quarries where I load.
You will need two antennas for the 885. It comes with a wire antenna for the Scanner portion but, I quickly found it was next to useless.
I bought a Larsen mirror mount scanner antenna and the radio's scanner worked 100% better. (be sure to get a cable with a BNC connector
on one end for the radio. Otherwise, you'll need an adapter)
Good luck and enjoy whatever radio you end up with.
James
Trucker700
 

RockyBennett

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Thank you. Because of the information provided to me by the great folks here, I have decided to go a different route. I will buy a separate CB radio and a separate scanner. I am going to start with a CB radio.

Thanks for all the help and ideas.

Rocky
 
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