Radio scanner gift - Houston

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nberry

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Hi all,

I have been reading through some threads, but it is not clear to me what is a good beginner radio scanner for someone living in North Houston as a gift. My father has retired now and I am trying to find him a new hobby.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!
 

QDP2012

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Good evening nberry,

Hi all,

I have been reading through some threads, but it is not clear to me what is a good beginner radio scanner for someone living in North Houston as a gift. My father has retired now and I am trying to find him a new hobby.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!
As I'm sure you know, years ago when most people listened to only analog systems, a "good beginner radio scanner" would be the defining criteria for purchases like yours.

But, today, the use of digital trunking systems requires a digital trunking scanner, even though these scanners require a steeper learning curve than the analog-only scanners from years ago.


The first step to getting good advice here would be for you to please list here the exact systems or communities that you want to monitor. (I imagine that North Houston is a large area.)

The RR members who are familiar with those systems or communities can help clarify which scanner(s) will monitor them. It might be that a "good beginner radio scanner" might not even receive the items you want to monitor.

Hope this helps,
 

nberry

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Houston, Texas
Thank you for the response. That is is along the lines of what I have read, that there is no real beginner/intro level anymore. That I would probably need to spend ~$500 to get good enough hardware to listen to anything interesting.

I think he would want to listen to Police/Fire/EMS for Montgomery and Harris county though, if you can comment on specifically that. Thanks!
 

QDP2012

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Thank you for the response. That is is along the lines of what I have read, that there is no real beginner/intro level anymore. That I would probably need to spend ~$500 to get good enough hardware to listen to anything interesting.
That might be true if you prefer new equipment with warranties, etc. as many people do. There also might be some used equipment for sale that might save you some money. I make no recommendation either way.

I think he would want to listen to Police/Fire/EMS for Montgomery and Harris county though, if you can comment on specifically that. Thanks!
In RadioReference's Frequency Database, when you navigate to Texas, you can see that the listings for Harris County and Montgomery County are rather long, just for the conventional frequencies. At the bottom of each of those county's pages are the links to the Trunked Radio Systems (TRS) applicable to that county. As you can see in those lists, there is a whole lot of things you can monitor.

Unless you already feel comfortable with the detailed steps involved in programming a scanner to receive the systems-of-interest, you might consider some of the automated options available in the current generation of scanners.

Depending on the model of scanner you choose, you might be able to "simply" enter the zip-code and have the scanner "automatically" scan that community's frequencies/TRS's.

You might also consider getting a scanner that has a programming-cable, and getting the appropriate software, so that you can use your computer to program your scanner. This option would allow you to "manually" build your preferred scan-lists in the software and then upload them to the scanner, saving you the effort of trying to use the little buttons on the scanner to do all of the work, and giving you the ability to save your configuration for future use, in case the scanner gets goofed up, or in case you simply want to update it.

If you do choose to get a scanner with a cable, and get the appropriate software, you might then also consider getting a premium membership to RadioReference so that you can use that software to download directly from RR's DB to the computer software, and then upload to the scanner. It avoids a lot of trouble that can happen from accidental key-strokes, and can make it easier to learn the programming steps when you can see the correct way it should look.

Beyond this, I must defer to others who live or travel in your area as they can comment about which scanner model actually receives signal better in that region.


If you would like to do some additional reading, there is a lot of information in the RadioReference Wiki that can help you learn about the technologies and about individual scanners, etc. On the Wiki Home page, the blue-ish rectangle in the upper-right section contains Links for Newcomers. Farther down the page, is the "Popular Topics" section, including a link to the Category: Digital Scanners category-page, which lists articles about digital trunktracker scanners.

And of course, there is a lot of good information already in the Forums, and many very knowledge people here who are willing to answer specific well-thought questions.


Hope this helps,
 
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hiegtx

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Thank you for the response. That is is along the lines of what I have read, that there is no real beginner/intro level anymore. That I would probably need to spend ~$500 to get good enough hardware to listen to anything interesting.

I think he would want to listen to Police/Fire/EMS for Montgomery and Harris county though, if you can comment on specifically that. Thanks!
As you're talking about the Harris & Montgomery County area, I would strongly suggest a P25 Phase II scanner. Most of the public safety agencies in your area (Fire, Police, and EMS) are either on this system, Texas Wide Area Radio Network (TxWARN) (P25) Trunking System, Various, Texas - Scanner Frequencies, or will be migrating to it.

The City of Houston is mostly using Phase II P25, and a number of their talkgroups are encrypted. The smaller cities are a mix, some using Phase II, others still Phase I P25. Look at the Mode column on that system I linked.
A D in the mode column indicates current usage is "Digital", in other words, P25 Phase I.
If the letter in the Mode column is a T, that talkgroup is used for P25 Phase II transmissions.
An E in the mode filed indicates that transmissions are usually encrypted, and thus cannot be monitored at all.

From what I have seen noted here in the forums, as well as mentioned on the HoustonScan Yahoo group, all users on the TxWARN P25 system will be required to shift over to Phase II on the next few years, so while you may be able to get by for a time with a P25 Phase I only scanner, sooner or later Phase II will be the only valid choice.

There are a number of choices available. Uniden has the hand-held (portable) BCD325P2, and it's base/mobile stablemate the BCD996P2, both of which will handle both Phase I & Phase II. They come with a cable for programming, and FreeSCAN software can handle the programming.

Uniden also has other P25 Phase II capable scanners:
The Home Patrol-2 is one of the easiest to program scanners, and has a large easy to read display. This can be programmed using your zipcode, and has the database for the entire country on a memory card.

Two other scanners, the BCD436HP (hand-held) and BCD536HP (base/mobile) also have the database on a memory card, and can be programmed using your zip code. They also have more extensive features than the HP-2, but the display is smaller, and not near as view able. The HP-2, as well as the 436HP & 536HP, come with a programming cable, and Uniden provides their Sentinel software for these scanners (one version for the HP-2 and it's P25 Phase I predecessor, the HP-1, and a different version for the 436 & 536 units).

Whistler makes several models of Phase II capable scanners that also feature the database on a memory card, and programmable using your location. The WS1080 & WS1088 are handheld scanners, with the WS1095 and WS1098 being base/mobile versions. The WS1088 and WS1098 have a numeric keypad, the 1080 & 1095 do not. The TRX-1 (hand-held) and TRX-2 (base/mobile) are the two newest Whistler scanners. These also have the database loaded, and can be programmed using your location.

Whistler also makes the Pro-668 for Radio Shack, and you might be able to find a good deal on this model. However, one caution: Radio Shack has mostly abandoned the scanner market, and no longer supports them with firmware updates or repair services.
 

pinballwiz86

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If money is a concern, I recommend the Uniden BC125AT. It is no frills but it can listen to just about anything that is not digital. Your father would get a kick out of listening to the local cab company for example.
 
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