RCS and the new BCDx36HP scanners - MY observations so far

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JoeyC

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Anyone else in the county have one of these scanners yet?
I have only spent a few hours with the 536HP and I have no experience with HP-type scanners so I have to say it has been a learning experience for me. :confused:

Currently my digital fleet consists of the new 536HP, a PSR500, PSR800 a BCD996XT, a BC785D and a BC796D. The 785 and 796 are stationary at home on an attic antenna The 996 lives in the car, but on occasion I bring it in to run side by side to the 785/796 on that same antenna. I get 5 bars of signal on the RCS South & North Zones as well as the San Diego 800mhz system with this arrangement.

CLEARLY, the oldest scanners of all, the 785D and 796D are the winners where it comes to P25 digital decoding clarity! I have almost crystal clear reception of digital audio on these two dated scanners. The 996 (as long as it is stationary indoors on the attic antenna) and the GRE portables run a close 2nd for digital decode ability, but this new 536HP is just horrible in comparison. Its audio is markedly muffled compared to the 785/796 and it struggles to decode what the 785/796 play flawlessly even with 5 bars of signal. If this is the result of digital distortion from simulcast sites, why do the 785 and 796 handle it so much more effectively on this system? Yes, I have run the thing in manual P25 threshold mode and find very very little improvement beyond the default of 8. (Currently I am settling on a setting of 9 for the most part on the RCS, but that is also variable as sometimes 8 or 10 works better.)

The 536HP also has a slight (maybe less than 1/4 second) delay in processing the digital audio also compared to the 785/796. Perhaps in an attempt to handle simulcast distortion better? Not sure, since these scanners do not suffer from any distortion with the antenna arrangment I have.

Don't get me wrong, the flexibility, capacity and the display alone make the 536HP scanner a winner and it performs very nicely on analog from my limited testing, but WTH did they do right with the Trunktracker 3&4 that lacks in the newer generation scanner where digital is concerned?

I know my observations are not necessarily in concert with some users in some areas of the country. I have read the mixed reviews in the current threads. I just wanted to give a quick report on this radio as it works with the RCS from my vantage point. There is much more learning for me in the next few days as I try to get a grasp on the newer FL/SL/DL organizational structure and how to apply it to the methods that I am accustomed to in my older radios.
 

scottyhetzel

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Great report Joey, kinda sad. 785/796 alpha displays? Im waiting for someone to report on the ICIS LA system and OCCS in OrCo... Im sure UpMan is scrambling to fix this issue on the next firmware update.
 

JoeyC

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There are 16 character 2-line displays on the 785/796 but you are limited to 10 banks with 10 Lists inside a bank. I love the 996xt and want to love the 536HP, but time will tell. Ugh.
 

AA6IO

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Great report Joey, kinda sad. 785/796 alpha displays? Im waiting for someone to report on the ICIS LA system and OCCS in OrCo... Im sure UpMan is scrambling to fix this issue on the next firmware update.
My first post on Radio Reference although been scanning for 30+ years and RR member for 5-6 years.
Had to answer ICIS and OCCS P25 question. I now own two BCD536HPs and awaiting 436HP.
Also have the BCD996T and XT, BCD396T and XT, Home Patrol, PRO-106, PRO-197, PSR-600, etc,

Using the 536HP, get excellent P25 performance on LA Police (all departments), ICIS (Burbank, Glendale, Montebello), ICIS 25 (Pasadena), and all P25 stations as part of LA cities (which for non LA scanners is still about 85% analog). No problems with decoding at all. That said, I never had any real problems with 996XT or 396XT on all the above. Same with RS and GRE scanners, except, like most, I thought P25 audio was better on those units. I would say with the 536HP, perhaps the audio is bit better than XT series.

Now the problem. I live in Cerritos, which for those not familiar with So. Calif, is right in the heart of the LA basin. I can monitor LA, Orange Cty, and San Bernardino with little difficulty. The closest trunk system to me is OCCS. But I have always had problems with Uniden in decoding much of the P25 stuff. Don't know why because all sites (CW, N, NW, S, and SW) are all strong. With GRE/RS scanners, usually pretty clear.
To my disappointment, the 536 still seems to have problems with OCCS P25. If I run attenuator, it clears up somewhat, but not nearly as nice still as say the PRO-106 or PRo-197 on OCCS P25. Have moved the 536 around house, taken outside, used RS 800 ant, my two TerraWave yagis pointed in all directions. Same thing. Best overall reception for P25 with 536 for OCCS was with RS 800 Mhz antenna.
But there were definitely some P25 stations clear as a bell with PRO-106/RS-800 Mhz ant that were choppy, to say the least, with 536HP and various antenna configurations.
Perhaps I need to experiment around with the P25 settings on 536.
Sorry for the long first post

Steve (AA6IO) . Ham since 1962.
 

scottyhetzel

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Great info. Steve, it was not a long post...rather detailed. I appreciate the details, welcome to RR.

Joey: thanks for the info..those scanner are going for $200 bucks plus and still kick butt.

On another note, just wondering what CHP installed as their scanner. I assume a 996xt since its got RS-232 control via the LCD control head.
 

inigo88

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For what it's worth, the sound quality on my GRE PSR-500 (with RS 800 MHz antenna) is virtually identical to the Motorola XTS2500, as well as the Motorola Gold Elite dispatch consoles on the RCS. I was always a big GRE fan because they just bought the license for the DVSI IMBE codec outright rather than trying to figure it out themselves. Uniden definitely caught up in quality but it wasn't right away.
 

JoeyC

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So I've been fiddling with this thing on and off for the last 24 hours and last night I had terrible reception for some reason. Today has been a lot better (no clue why, nothing else has changed). I've set the radio to manual P25 threshold mode with a level of 10 and I seem to get the best quality sound there (at least for today).

Listening to the 536 held on one talkgroup that is held on one site alongside the 796 and the 536 breaks squelch (or decodes audio) anywhere between 1 and 5 seconds AFTER the 796 does on a radio transmission that occurs before the repeater has dropped after another radio had unkeyed. Transmissions that begin on a new channel grant do not seem to be delayed, in fact 99% of the time the 536 keeps up with the 796 there but you are almost guaranteed to miss the first 1-5 seconds of a reply that comes back quickly. Again, these observations are only on the RCS (for now) and only on digital talkgroups. As a side note, audio on analog talkgroups is very clean and without issue.
 

KI6AOK

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I'm also monitoring the RCS (North Zone) on the 536. I have not done any side by side comparisons with other scanners. The "muffled" or bassy audio is a problem on some digital talkgroups. In regard to clipping the first part of transmissions, I found improvement by setting each talkgroup to either Digital Only or Analog Only, instead of All. I find that the North Zone control channel varies in strength no matter what antenna I use (or what scanner). You can hear this if you listen to 863.150.

Love the 536, but still tweaking it to get the best results.

I look forward to more discussion of this...

- Laura
 

JoeyC

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A few more days of fiddling, I'm settling on a P25 threshold value of 10 sounds best to me. With any of the usable values I get the fewest errors at 10 and at any value I get clipping at choppy audio at times. When the digital audio isn't plagued with crackles and pops the clarity is very good. Now moving on to the US Department of Defense P25 system, this system sounds GREAT in comparison. No snaps, crackles, pops or breakups and the digital audio is clean, even when the signal strength is only 2 bars.

Laura, how is your reception and what P25 threshold setting have you settled on? How many bars of signal do you get on the North Zone?
 

KI6AOK

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Laura, how is your reception and what P25 threshold setting have you settled on? How many bars of signal do you get on the North Zone?
I get full bars on the North Zone. I using have been using a threshold of 9, but based on your comments I've changed it to 10 and we'll see how that works. I've also changed from "auto" modulation to "NFM," hoping to cure some of the bassy audio.

~ Laura
 

JoeyC

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I'd be interested to know what your ERROR levels are when operating under your best setting. For me, on the RCS I get the fewest errors on 10 and even there, I get errors in the range of 25-50 always. On the DOD system my errors are in the 0-8 range even with the 2 bars I get on the Pt Loma site.
 

K6CDO

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I'm watching the thread with interest. Just as a point of order for those who may not know, the RCS is not a true P25 system while the DOD system is.
 

JoeyC

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Yes. I have programmed in the new city P25 phase 1 system and tomorrow hope to hear how the trash guys BS'ing sound as they are the only users on the system right now. If they are sounding as good as the DOD system then the scanners are doing a nice job on true P25 systems but Uniden has some (hopefully) changes to make to the software. At least I HOPE that is where the troubles lie.
 

JoeyC

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Ok my latest results are in.

For those that have listened to it, the new San Diego city Phase 1 P25 simulcast system is apparently in testing stages and has only sanitation workers who have probably been instructed to talk until they have sore throats because that is just what they do. Almost nonstop chatter like 15 year old girls. ANYWAY, the system sounds GREAT on the 536HP. Absolutely NO breakups, no missed replies, no delays in decoding the next guy to key up the mic and 0 errors as reported by the scanner. (On the DOD system I average on the lower end of 0-8 even when receiving a nominal signal). The only poor audio I hear is from the occasional bad signal into the repeaters that everyone on the system would hear but the overall ability of this scanner to handle the pure P25 systems is very very good. At least as a stationary unit as mine is. So this is good news at least for P25 systems. I hope UPMAN is reading all of these threads pertaining to the x36 scanners.
 

mikeshepard

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Joey:

Have had my scanner for a week and have the same issues on digital...choppy and intermittent even with full signal strength. Any luck with new settings?
 

JoeyC

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Mike, situation is the same. I've settled on P25 threshold of 10 and anxiously await Uniden to introduce some new firmware to address the problems. The digital, when it comes in without issue, is very clear otherwise.
 

JoeyC

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Mike, change your trunked sites Modulation type to FM instead of Auto. I have changed mine in the last 10 minutes and so far the 536 is keeping up with the 796 with much improved performance now. I still need much more time listening, but this is a definate improvement so far for me! There have been no delays, and no snap crackle pop like before, SO FAR anyway!
 

KI6AOK

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Joey,

Thanks for the tip on the FM versus NFM. I had been playing with this setting, but I was convinced NFM was the way to go. I switched to FM today and I think this makes the scanner sound more like the county radios do. I'm not 100% convinced that it has solved the clipping problem, but I'll keep listening. I can say that the scanner is now doing better with a lower error rate (the threshold is set at 10).
 

JoeyC

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When I have my modulation set at Auto or NFM I have noticed an occasional lag as long as 5 or 6 seconds as well as the clipping. Since I've changed it to FM its almost 90% on track with what the 796 is doing. The largest lag I've seen now is about 1 second.
 
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