BCD996XT: Please Help! First digital scanner

Status
Not open for further replies.

jforsman

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
2
Location
Minnesota
Hello everyone.

Just got my first digital scanner from RS. Uniden 996xt. Brought it home and attempted to load my local area's P25 system. However, upon using FreeScan and only loading one Simulcast site (EnfieldSherburne) (Minnesota) into my scanner I am very disappointed with the quality of the sound and limited conversations I am hearing.

Okay, for all the veterans to digital scanners, be gentle please:) I am sure there is a way to tweak the settings to improve the quality, I just don't know where to begin. I did some extensive research into what scanner to buy before I made the purchase and was confident that this BCD996xt with the lasted firmware improvements would be able to deal with the P25 simulcasting problems that have been present in this county (Wright County, MN) since the unveiling.

My firmware is the lasted update out of the box 1.07.03 and my P25 settings are Mode (11), Level (50). I also only have the stock antenna that came with the unit (I plan on buying the RS 800mhz antenna later this week.

So can so of the great people on this forum point me in the right direction for what I need to do in order to achieve above average performance? Thanks a lot!

73

Josh
KC0WPX
 
Last edited:

JamesO

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2003
Messages
1,816
Location
McLean, VA
Lots and lots of variables here.

I am not familiar with your area and how bad Simulcast can be, however, Simulcast can be a real bear to deal with. You may need a different antenna, different antenna location or even a Yagi antenna to reject some of the additional sites.

Hopefully you only have the closest site configured?

Also if you are new to the scanner, suggest you put it in Search rather than Scan mode, this way should pick up all traffic for the system rather than limiting it to specific Talk Goups.

The scanner can only do so much with Simulcast/Multipath. Antenna will have far more impact on everything overall.

Might even put the scanner in the car and drive to different areas of town and try and see what happens.
 

jforsman

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
2
Location
Minnesota
Thanks for the reply,

Just not my day, had a nice long reply ready to go and I click on a side button on my mouse and lost the whole thing, urghhhhh. Anyway,

Just wondering about the question you said about having the closest site configured? Am I able to do that with this scanner or to do that would I need to use a Yagi to physically direct the antenna in the closest tower's direction.

I have posted a picture of the simulcast towers in my county (hopefully it is up to date). I live about 6 miles to the east of the Annandale tower. Also, I would really love to learn how to determine which groups I am listening to instead of having to weed through all the communication that is out there, apart from Police, Fire, Ems, etc...

I really would like to be able to solve this soon, otherwise I am probably going to return the scanner in the next three weeks if I can figure it out. It is very frustrating now having to move over to digital. Analog scanning was a piece of cake to this stuff. My main area of interest is like I said Police, Fire, EMT, in my county and surrounding counties. I am a Skywarn spotter/chaser and love having a scanner available to be able to listening to more information about the storms in the area.
 

Attachments

wtp

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2008
Messages
3,357
Location
Port Charlotte FL
might be easier

sometimes just going outside will do the trick.
many homes are built like a faraday cage with aluminium foil faced insulation and metalised windows.
my daughter has to step outside to talk on the phone. even the text takes quite some time to respond.
so get out there and see.
 

bailly2

Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2009
Messages
536
Location
suburban hell
re: BCD996XT Please Help! First digital scanner

if conversations are inaudible because of simulcast distortion from many radio towers transmitting at the same time, i have had better reception after building my own yagi for 770mhz and using 2 metal screens for a window to block the offending transmitter (receiving a tower 20 miles southeast, another tower that is soutwest is simulcasting, one metal screen is facing north/south and another east/west
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
The 996XT can be challenging when it comes to decoding simulcast systems.

Essentially your scanner is being bombarded with transmissions from two (or more) transmitters on the same frequency. This is similar to two people talking to you at once and you have trouble making out what both are saying.

The symptoms of this simulcast distortion are either garbled audio, or absent audio even though you know there are transmissions in progress.

As noted previously a Yagi antenna pointed at one of the sites has helped some folks with simulcast distortion.

Things you can try to make it better before going the Yagi route:

1. Relocate your scanner, if possible, to another area. Sometimes even just a few feet can make a difference.

2. Get into your programming software and set the attenuator to "On" for this site. (What you are trying to do is decrease the signal that your scanner is receiving.)

3. Do a search of this forum for "paper clip" antenna. Some folks have found these to be helpful. (Again, you are trying to get less, not more, signal to your scanner. Unfortunately if you are trying to receive more than the ARMER system, a bent paper clip isn't helpful with that, but I believe most everything around your parts is on ARMER.)

4. You can attempt to tweak the P25 Adjust Mode and P25 Adjust Levels. I've found this improves, but not totally eliminate the problem for my local system.

This is done by shutting down the scanner. Then while pressing the HOLD button, turn the scanner back on. You'll see the display lights change color, telling you that you can access certain hidden settings which the P25 Adjust Mode and P25 Adjust Levels are.

Then, and this is a trial and error situation because there are so many variables based on system and your specific location, change these two settings. For me P25 Adjust Mode of 13 and P25 Ajust Level of 175 gives the best results. But yours may be different - all you can do is experiment to see what fits best. It probably would be good to note the default settings so you can revert to them if needed. However most likely you will find some improvement with the changes once you find a "sweet spot".

Here's a link to Mark's Easier to Read Scanner Manuals on this topic. Also this manual is a good reference tool for additional things.

Easier to Read BCD996XT Digital Scanner Manual

Good luck and let us know whether this helps!
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
PS. You might also try programming the Hennepin West site into your scanner and possibly some of the sites around St. Cloud (if my Minnesota geography memory is working) and see how these do.

Hopefully you'll be able to receive the state patrol units for the St. Cloud and Hennepin districts along with the police, fire and EMS folks.
 

AZScanner

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
3,360
Location
Somewhere in this room. Right now, you're very col
Not sure about your system but here in Phoenix we have the regular Simulcast sites plus a bunch of Intellirepeaters. If your system has them, see if a nearby Intellirepeater carries the talkgroups you're interested in listening to. Intellirepeaters are usually single sites and as such they don't cause the same simulcast distortion issues on scanners that a regular Simulcast site does.

-AZ
 

JamesO

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2003
Messages
1,816
Location
McLean, VA
As far as my comments, I generally approach things as a bit simpler.

All systems have their own level of complexity and tricks employed.

Without spending a lot of time to determine where a person may live and how exactly the system is set up, I start with some basic questions.

There tend to be a number of system configurations: Single site, multi cast and simulcast. Some simulcast sites may also sometimes have different frequencies on a specific tower in the system. So many times you have to become an expert on the specific system in order to fully understand what is going on.

If the system is clearly a simulcast with multiple towers transmitting on the same frequencies, then this becomes more of a challenge and selecting specific site cannot be done by frequency but by using an antenna/attenuator/directional antenna or some sort of reflector(s) as someone mentioned.

The problem about using small paper clip for an antenna is it kills the scanner for other than just the Trunked system you want to monitor. Then you will need another scanner that monitors everything other than the Trunked simulcast system you are having issues with.

Default settings may be tweaked, but this may not be good enough.

As someone else mentioned, house construction can help or hurt. My house has the foil covered foam insulation board behind all the brick and any siding. My windows are older, they are not the double panel low E windows with metal vapor deposited on the inside, if they were not much would work inside my house.

So yes and outdoor antenna may help, may hurt, only way to figure it out is to try it out.

This is also why taking the scanner to different areas in town to make sure you can get a solid performance is always a good idea. Some systems use Encryption that sounds like chopped and mixed up conversations. So you need to make sure this is not something you are running into.

How many signal strength bars are on the display and are they pretty solid or are they constantly pumping if you hold on a specific talk group.

Also make sure Close Call, Priority and Weather Priority are not enabled, these will cause all of your comms to be chopped.

Good luck.
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
Josh-

You may find the following link to be of interest. It is the initial participation plan for Wright-Sherburne county in Armer.

http://www.nwmnradio.org/docs/sample/WShPartP.pdf

I'm pretty sure this started out as a three site simulcast system and they may have added some more sites. If I read the map correctly it could now be as many as eight sites for this two county area.

This report, though seven years old, shows who would be using this sub-system along with the thinking at the time about what would and would not be encrypted.

As a Minnesota native and one who travels up that way to visit family, I like to stay conversant with this system. That is so that when I travel there with my scanners, I can listen to the system.

While an outside Yagi type antenna is a viable suggestion, the things I mentioned can be done with expense of antenna purchase and install, particularly since you aren't sure if you'll keep the scanner.

Also for whatever it's worth, I've used a 396T, 996T, 396XT, 996XT and have the new 536HP to listen to the local simulcast system here in Louisville. I've done a lot to dampen the signal comping in the 396T and it does pretty good. The other 96 seriers aren't very good. However the new 536 is excellent at decoding Louisville simulcast system.
 

teufler

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
2,365
Location
ST PETERS, MISSOURI
enfield sheburne files

This is a Freescan 2.17 file. I have included counties around where you live, perhapsd they will give you better reception. I have put in system quick keys so you can shut off to isolate sites better. Systems are set to search, control channel. Per RR rules, file is zipped though any zip utilty will exploud the file. All the digital stuff sounds like Donald Duck is under water, though we can figure out what has been said. In the Band Plan editor, I have changed 849 to 868 as FM rather than the factory setting of NBFM. There was a discussion awhile back that some had experience better sounds when the mode was FM. There have been , I can't count the number, discussions on making the p25 sound better. There have been many "tricks" that people have posted. Factory documintation is poor, private documintation is far better and little tricks have been great.
 

Attachments

Ryan8429

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Messages
11
Location
Clive Iowa
I'm also having some of the same problems, i also just got a Uniden 996xt i've programed the scanner and its not picking anything up. Now if i leave it in search mode i can pick up the p25 system im trying to program so i know it works. But when i program it it picks up nothing. I have a different scanner picking up the old system so i know people are talking. any ideas.
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
By "search mode" do you mean it's doing a frequency search as in starting at one frequency and ending at another, or are you scanning the P25 system using ID Search?

Then if you can post a link to the system you are trying to receive, that might be helpful along with saying what software you used to program the system.
 

Ryan8429

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Messages
11
Location
Clive Iowa
yes search mode going through all the frequency. I didn't know you could do an ID search. I'm using scancat lite plus software to program the scanner and this is the system I'm trying to program the Westcom P25 new radio system in Iowa.
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
It sounds like you've "stumbled" across voice frequencies for this system as compared to programming the trunked system.

When the system is programmed as a trunked system, you can do ID Searches to discover new talkgroups that haven't been programmed into your scanner.

Unfortunately I'm not familiar with Scancat lite. Lots of folks have downloaded and used FreeScan (freeware) or ARC XT (costware) to program their scanners. If you are a premium subscriber, these programs can go in the RR database and "grab" the needed frequencies and talkgroup ID numbers. This information can then be downloaded into the scanner. They work quite easily and yield excellent results.

https://sites.google.com/site/sixspotsoftware//products/freescan
ARC XT software for Uniden BCD396XT BC346XT BCD996XT BCT15XT models scanner free demo
 

Ryan8429

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Messages
11
Location
Clive Iowa
Thanks for the help with software to use. Free scan worked great and was very easy to use. Now I just need to get the P25 setting working so I can understand what they're saying.
 

llwade

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 28, 2009
Messages
589
Location
Chillicothe Illinois
just want to add another note, I use the ARC XT PRO software package. Doesn't get much easier.
but you do have to purchase this software. Good Scanning to you !
 

ofd8001

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 6, 2004
Messages
7,230
Location
Louisville, KY
That's normal and not a problem.

You have pressed the hold button, then scrolled through all of the entries. When scrolling on hold, you will see the talkgroups you have programmed, then frequencies that have been programmed. It is sort of like a system review function.

In a trunked radio system, only one control channel is active per site at any given time. So that's why it appears there is just one active channel.

All you need to do is hit the Scan button . . .
 

Ryan8429

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Messages
11
Location
Clive Iowa
I put the scanner in hold for the video. That one channel thing helps, thanks for that. During the video you saw Clive law ops come up, I get that with the Ids it come up but no sound and when there is sound you can't understand it. Is it just the P25 adjust and level I need to get perfect so sound and understandable voice comes through. Oh yeah if I haven't said it thanks for the help. I know my biggest problem is my lack of scanner knowledge.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top