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PSR-500 – An Amateurs look at the best of GRE.

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SCPD

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Introduction:

My name is Mathew Yeske, I have been a radio hobbyist “full time” since May 2007. All of my life I have been extremely interested in radio and communications. From the time I was a young lad I was pulling apart my RadioShack walkie talkies and my dad’s shortwave radio. (Doh!) Just so I could understand how they work. I don’t claim to know everything about radio or the science behind them; however I, being one of the first 1000 people to own a PSR-500 think its only right to review and give others my thoughts on it. Don’t expect a lot of technical mumbo jumbo! This review is from the point of a novice /amateur scanner hobbyist and is meant to give those out there a feel for the radio on the same technical level as I have experienced it. My main reason for reviewing this radio is to help people with little to no experience with radios, make there decision on this radio or possibly a competitor’s model. I hope you enjoy this simple look at the PSR-500. Please keep in mind I have no real bias to a brand or type or radio. The radios in my collection include ICOM, RS, GRE and UNIDEN. This review is being done only 4 days after I have had my new PSR-500, however in saying that I have not put this radio down for the past 2 days and have probably run and used this radio a total of 20 hours since I came into contact with it. So with out further adue here is my simple review. Oh and please don’t mind my spelling, I am writing this in haste at work! Hehehe 

Rating system:
*- Poor, **- Acceptable, ***- Good, ****-Awesome, *****-Outstanding.

Topics:


• Asthetics
• Accessories
• Durability
• Functionality: (Digital, Conventional analog, Sensitivity, Button layout, Object database/programming.)
• Battery
• Extras: ( Computer programming / RR / Win500 )
• Final thoughts


Asthetics

Being a simple “Meat and Potatoes” type man I enjoy a nice clean look to all of my electronics. I tend to go with black, gray or silver gadgets that do not attract a lot of attention while in use. I tend to find that most radio companies try to adhere to the simple yet tough look to there radios. My first approach to the PSR-500 was that it looked like my old Pro-97. Now there is nothing wrong with this. The charcoal and silver approach makes the radio look clean and well… like a radio should look. I would not complain if the radio was entirely black but can understand why GRE decided to go with the silver highlights. The screen placement in my opinion is way better then its predecessors Having the speaker above the screen seems to project sound better when I’m on the road or just have it sitting table top. Button layout is intuitive and they have coated the buttons in what I can only explain as a hard shell plastic. This makes the buttons tactile response very easy. Ie: You know when you have depressed a button. Gre have gone with a new volume / squelch knob (thank the lord) which allows you to independently adjust the volume and the squelch without effecting one of the other (a common problem with pro series radios from radio shack). Lastly the little LED that changes colors! For a lot of people this may seem a bit annoying or flashy but I find this is the icing on the ascetic cake. Having this light has already helped me avoid accidents on the road (we will get to this more in-depth later) and in a pure ascetic value… ITS JUST PLAIN COOL. Over all you have a very simple looking radio maybe even a bit stealthy but all around it’s a very pleasing radio to look at. The only change I would have made is added the multi color changing LED to the screens led’s as well as the indicator. Instead of that old boring orange back light, again my personal change others might say that this would get annoying.
**** 4/5 Stars.

Accessories

Holy heck, what can I say about this topic! GRECOM was bang on with this radio. Included in the box was a power adapter, both yellow and black battery holders (Yellow has a charging circuit in it). Software based manual and *drum roll* a USB CABLE! Thank the heavens! When using the USB based cable to upload a full 20 scan list + 300 objects it took around 6 seconds. None of my other radios had all these accessories in the box, leaving me to go shopping at RadioShack for C-type adapters and third party cables. The psr-500 left nothing to desire for base accessories for the radio. The only thing that some people may find important to upgrade or change is the stock antenna. I find this antenna works like a dream for the area that I am in. city of 1,000,000 people. Some however may want a specialized antenna for air, 800 MHz systems ect… I also chose to add a screen protector and a Lilkase to my radio. I wanted to protect my near $600 investment.

***** 5/5 Stars.

Durability

Like any responsible electronics owner I love to keep my gadgets in pristine order, Id rather have something last me years then have to re buy it in a few months. Unfortunately at the end of the day most companies build there electronics with about a 1cm drop allowance. Screens that scratch, paint that chips, buttons that wear. These are all just a part of where our valued electronic companies have gone to save a few extra bucks.
The Psr-500 is built out of “High tensile plastic” this allows the radio to be stuffed in a bag or put on a belt with no real concern for a broken radio. I have not seen many other radio’s with the exception of HAM radios that are built much differently. Bottom line if you drop it enough it’s going to break, but that goes for anything so I can’t rate it on drops. The screen seems to be pretty scratch proof, I added a screen protector just for good measure. The buttons are much nicer then most radios I have met. The hard plastic coating ensures that after years of sweaty fingers and outdoor use will not cause the numbers and letters to wear off. Overall I can only suggest just like any other radio, you buy a case for it if you want to protect it. I have yet to see a hard case for this unit and my soft case from lilkase is on the way. If I had it my way I would have used some metal on a radio like this, even at this cost, however I could see it adding weight turning some users off.

*** 3.5/5 Stars. (did not know how to make a half a star on a keyboard lol)

Functionality

With more features and options then I can shake a stick at I don’t even know where to begin. This radio does pretty much anything you would want a scanner to do. With the exception of the hardcore fan boys of the illegal side of things Ie: cell phones and decrypting encryption.
Keep in mind folks there is a lot of radio between 0 – 1300 mhz! Sure there are steps but who wants to listen to half a cell phone conversation or an FM radio station on there 600$ piece of equipment. From what I understand most of you are looking to listen to HAM, PUBLIC SAFTEY, AIR (Military and otherwise) and COMMERTIAL.
These are what I see most people talking about on the forums and this is what I spend most of my time listening to. For that reason I will try to break down functionally on a simple level and explain what I have found. Warning: I will not be getting into the technical aspect of how these bands work, nor will I argue that one things works better then the other. By now we should all know there are a million different add on’s and antennas that do different things to make signals sound and work well. I am solely looking at the functionality of the radio in these situations. Note as well that this is my opinion in my city; this may change in a smaller or larger setting.

Digital Trucking: (PUBLIC SAFTY / SOME COMERTIAL): I would say this was 90% of the reason I bought this radio. I had been putting around in the analog world for a long time. I was Limited to EMS and FIRE public safety on a 800mhz Motorola type II hybrid system. I was also limited to conventional and analog based commercial systems. Let me tell you something folks I am confident in saying this is the best sounding radio I have personally ever heard decode a digital system! Expect for a few minor signal quarks and blips, I can clearly understand what a dispatcher or unit is saying from 15 – 20 feet away. Over the weekend I was driving in a reasonably loud 1989 Camery windows down and my radio in the cup holder. I could hear every nuance of radio with no problems and that was only using the speaker provided in the unit. Even my girlfriend who has been a back seat listener to my hobby commented on the quality of sound compared even to my analog pro-97. I have listened to 996’s and 396’s and found the sound to be tinny or at best compressed, like talking through a mason jar. This radio seems to be very concise and clear even some bass tones make it out of that tiny speaker. Color me impressed, if you want digital action this radio functions like a dream. The other half of functionality is the programming and use of this system. That’s where Object orientated programming comes in…

Object programming: At first I was hesitant to even think on this level. WHAT?! No banks!, just a bunch of objects floating around in a tank? How is the radio going to know what to do? Well that’s the thing! Scan lists are there to help! If you throw in lets say a 800mhz trucking system MOT II you program all aspects of this system as objects, even the trunk system itself is an object. You can then address the objects ether by the object itself in a manual fashion or by using scan lists, (a nice way of saying banks.) So what’s the benefit you ask? If you have a system that you wish to split up say you have a digital system with FIRE, EMS and POLICE in it. You only have to put in one System and tell the objects which scan lists to adhere too. EX.

My radio is programmed as such (this is my first attempt at programming It seems to work great for me)

Scan lists 1-20

Calgary digital – all of the Calgary digital system.
Calgary police- all of the districts and police channels only.
Calgary ems- All ems Chan only.
Calgary fire- All fire Chan only.
Airport authority- Only airport digital chan
Enmax- Only digital Enmax (our city power company)
Courts- Only digital Courts
Traffic Police- Only traffic chan
Special Police- Only special channels
Dist 1 – Police
Dist 2
Dist 3
Dist 4
Dist 5
Dist 6
Dist 7
RCMP – Conventional FM
ATCO – Convention FM
Simplex – Convention simplex chan for public safety.

See post 2.
 
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SCPD

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Cont...

The nice thing about this setup is that all scan lists can access any object floating in the pool. Weather it be a ID for district one or a conventional limit search. No need to program it into a separate bank if you want to listen to it in a different query. I find this fascinating as I can single out say a district but never miss an all call for FIRE, EMS or POLICE because I can tell it to watch those ID’s as well even if I’m just scanning one list. Bottom line is I don’t think I will ever go back to banks in the future! For the sake of doing it I have filled all my lists but I will eventually reprogram the lists so I have a few free for other city or spare frequencies I find. (Sorry if this part is confusing im still new at the whole thing perhaps I will add to this review more once I fully understand V-scanning ect).

Convention frequencies: Ham- I have been able to listen to signals that were not coming in from repeater in and around the city on my stock antenna, no annoying road noise when driving clicking and clacking just clean radio.

Air – This area is a bit sketchy I know the stock antenna is probably the fault. If you are looking for an air radio out of the box this is not it. If you spend a bit of cash on an air antenna I bet this radio sounds just as good as others. Most the the air I pick out on my Uniden and Pro-97 sounds good. This radio sounds faint and crackly so it’s not A1 for this application.

Commercial – 400 &00, MHz range – Booming, that’s the word for it. Signals that made it in under the wire are now booming! What a difference I don’t know what happened with this radio but someone added in a little audio magic.

Thanks pretty much all I can say about the functionality right now. If you read the manual (Which you will have to, to understand the Object programming) you will find that the layout and function is relatively easy.

***** 5/5 Stars.

Battery

This machine is a bit of a pig on the ole batteries. I sort of half think the whole idea of shipping with a big wall wart was to offset the battery use. That being said I have been running this bad boy on 2650milliamp NMHI batteries with backlight turned on and led on almost always. Here are my findings thus far.

With LED and Backlight full time on a digital system = 4 – 6 hours
With LED and no Backlight full time on digital system = 7 – 8 hours

I will let you know an updated battery time as time goes on but I think it’s fair to say the reason this pig chews batteries is because the digital processor is running 9 times out of 10. That and the LED indicator light is an added drain to the old juice. Upside is if you are strapped for a charger you can always throw in some cheep corner store AA’s.

**** 4/5 Stars.

Extras

I kind of threw this in at the end to comment of the use of third party software ie: WIN500. I can’t stress this enough. Starrsoft makes a bad ass program called WIN500! If you own this radio you are going to want to invest in this program $30 I believe. Why you ask? Because it makes your life about 1000 times easier when it comes to programming. It also hosts many of the advanced options and *Drum roll* a remote control software that is controllable and monitorable from remote locations via IP address. This means when I’m at work I can leave my scanner running and remote into it to listen at work.
Other neat extras include the ability to natively discriminator tap this radio. No need to open this unit up and solder crap into it I plugged it into Unitrunker and bam I had my system up on my computer screen. Im excited to see any future advances in third party software for this rig, its re brand capable and thus far the firmware updates have been great and easy (thank you gre) to use.

***** 5/5 Stars.

Final thoughts

The first thought that comes to mind is… Wow I wrote a lot about a radio I have only owned for 4 days. I guess all I can really say is that this radio and all the hype around is true. Gre listened to the RR community and delivered with this rig. There are always going to be some of us out there that are die hard fans of the bearcat and the icom ect..ect..ect. But if you give this radio a fighting chance I think you will fall in love with it. As for if you are a new buyer to GRECOM do not worry, I think you will be unbelievably satisfied with this rig. If I were new to the radio community and I was willing to invest 500$ I would have gone this route from the day I started.

I hope you have enjoyed my simple layman’s review on the PSR-500. I know I enjoyed telling you all about my new love of my radio life. Lol
73 and happy scanning.

I GIVE THE PSR-500 a 4.5 STARS OUT OF 5 STARS, THIS IS AN EXCELLENT PRODUCT.
 

Patch42

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Nice review. I have to concur with most of what you said. One of the few criticisms I have is the case. I have a very nice digital camera that cost right about the same amount as the PSR-500. Given the optics and motors and color display on the camera, I have to guess that the per-unit manufacturing costs are considerably greater on the camera. Yet the manufacturer managed to include a considerable amount of metal in the case. Having already dropped my PSR-500 once -- and considered myself extremely lucky that it suffered just a few superficial scratches -- I have to say I would greatly value a radio body I know will not crack or shatter.

My only other significant criticism is the lack of the in-depth documentation this radio needs and deserves. The manual leaves much unexplained or inadequately explained. Every feature, every setting needs a full explanation, not just a few words included in a table at the end of the manual.

These items aside, I have to say I'm very happy and very impressed with my PSR-500.
 

wnjl

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Very nice review and I also concur. Ever since my county went to a Motorola digital TRS I sort of lost interest in the scanning hobby, but reading the reviews of the PSR-500 piqued my interest and the scanner has lived up to the hype for me. In fact I think it's enhanced the hobby for me with the fine job it does decoding P-25 signals and with the features the scanner has.
 

DaveNF2G

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Ascetics are people who prefer a very plain lifestyle and reject any sort of luxury.

Maybe you meant "asthetics"?
 

SCPD

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DaveNF2G said:
Ascetics are people who prefer a very plain lifestyle and reject any sort of luxury.

Maybe you meant "asthetics"?
Again I'm sorry for the spelling, I was at work when I wrote this and allowed Microshaft to do the work for me.
 

SCPD

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RogerH11 said:
Mathew,

You need to add audio quality and audio loudness to your reviews.

Thanks.
I think I did make a few comments on the audio quality under digital, I said something along the lines that even my girlfriend who is not into the hobby commented that she was able to understand what the dispatchers and units were saying clearly. This is in comparison to an analog radio which is my biggest surprise.

Secondly I did also mention that the position of the speaker did help the audio loudness of the unit when I was on the road with my windows down. I was able to hear everything I needed to hear over the road noise and the engine.

GRE has increased the size of the holes that the speaker is cased behind. And also you can see that the speaker is of better quality it is mesh built and carries some low bass tones. Like any internal speaker when you crank it to 100% you get some vocal distortion however over all I think it beats out the 396 and the pro series radios I have had the chance to meet.

Hope that helps.
 

SCPD

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My only other significant criticism is the lack of the in-depth documentation this radio needs and deserves. The manual leaves much unexplained or inadequately explained.
I can agree with you, I went as far as printing the entire manual on regular paper and stuffing it into a binder. I think over time you will find that a radio hobbies may write a more simple and down to the brass tax manual online. Much the same as some of the alternate manuals you can find for the pro-97. The "Easy to read series".

The funny thing I found with the documentation is it says right in the front, this manual was designed to be easy to understand even for someone new to this hobby.
 

Patch42

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CalgaryToad said:
The funny thing I found with the documentation is it says right in the front, this manual was designed to be easy to understand even for someone new to this hobby.
Certain parts of the manual leave a bit to be desired in the area of clarity, but that's not my biggest issue with it. It's the stuff that's left out and explained to only a cursory level that bothers me. It's like they had great ambitions with the manual and spent a lot of time on the introductory parts, but ran out of steam and/or time when it came to explaining all the fiddly bits. For instance, I've looked several times and have been unable to find even a mention of the Analyz function. I've used it at least a dozen times and still have only a vague notion of what it's telling me. And that's just one of dozens of features and settings that are inadequately explained in the manual.
 

Patch42

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DaveNF2G said:
Ascetics are people who prefer a very plain lifestyle and reject any sort of luxury.

Maybe you meant "asthetics"?
The guy writes a review that obviously took several hours to prepare and your only comment is to snidely point out a spelling error? Very constructive.
 

RoninJoliet

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Excellent review , the audio and digital is fantastic on this GRE500...One thing also to mention is the response you get from the folks at GRE if you have a problem or question ...I sent them a "Ticket" on a Motorola problem of clipping and they answered me in "one day", thats very good service...Thank You GRE!!
 

Star56

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Replaced Pro 96 with PSR500

I just recently replaced a Pro96 with a PSR500. I monitor the Lucas Co Ohio P25 and Ohio MARCS nets.

WOW! What an amazing difference. The nasty motorboating that drove me nuts on the Pro 96 is absolutely gone. The signal decay/monkey chatter is gone.

It is a completely different scanning experience. Worth every penny for the upgrade.
 

DaveNF2G

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Patch42 said:
The guy writes a review that obviously took several hours to prepare and your only comment is to snidely point out a spelling error? Very constructive.
Sorry if it came across as "snide." I forgot to include the smiley face.

In fact, the review is very thorough and, according to my experience with the radio, quite accurate.
 

DaveNF2G

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Patch42 said:
And that's just one of dozens of features and settings that are inadequately explained in the manual.
In case anyone missed it, the online manual was revised a few weeks ago. I have not yet printed it out to compare with the original.
 

tglendye

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Let me first say great review.... thanks for taking the time to compile it.

DaveNF2G said:
In case anyone missed it, the online manual was revised a few weeks ago. I have not yet printed it out to compare with the original.
That brings up a question I've been meaning to ask. Is there a way to determine what has changed in the updated manual? I don't want to print a new manual each time it is revised. I'd like to just reprint the pages that have been added or changed.
 

emscapt9816

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Excellent Review

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review. OK everybody, maybe I missed the answer somewhere, but I have a silly question. When connecting an external speaker to this radio, is it loud?, Or, do I need to "modify" the circuit with the "paper-clip"?

I can't wait to get mine.
 

SCPD

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emslt245 said:
Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review. OK everybody, maybe I missed the answer somewhere, but I have a silly question. When connecting an external speaker to this radio, is it loud?, Or, do I need to "modify" the circuit with the "paper-clip"?

I can't wait to get mine.
No no no, it's perfect! I am assuming your going powered speaker. I have mine hooked up to a JVC powered boom box, and I have to leave my volume on the radio at about 15 - 20% because its a bit too loud. Works like a charm.
 

mikey60

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emslt245 said:
Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review. OK everybody, maybe I missed the answer somewhere, but I have a silly question. When connecting an external speaker to this radio, is it loud?, Or, do I need to "modify" the circuit with the "paper-clip"?

I can't wait to get mine.
It's got the same configuration as other GRE radios. If you want full volume out of the headphone jack, you need to do the "paperclip" routine to get it.

Mike
 
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