Receiver Choices

radio3353

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I am looking for a professional/semi-professional receiver for RR monitoring. Something better than a consumer scanner. I need good, clear audio and ability to dig out the weak signals. Any suggestions? Would a two-meter ham radio (with a 100+ channel programmable receiver scan function) be a candidate over a scanner? Thanks for your ideas.
 

cbehr91

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Yes, a 2m rig would be an improvement over a regular scanner. I recently purchased my first CCR (Chinese Commercial Radio or Cheap Chinese Radio, if you prefer) -- an AnyTone AT-518UV, and so far I'm impressed with it for rail monitoring. For a mobile it's hard to beat a Kenwood TM-281a.

I also briefly had one of those Quansheng radios that you can get for $50 on Amazon. Amazing value and surprisingly good RX and audio quality, but the scan speed is better measured with a calendar (it might be 5 channels per second), and I could find no way to lock out stored frequencies from a scan list or how to disable TX. I ended up returning it.
 

iMONITOR

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What turned you against using a scanner?

I have no idea what you've tried previous but VHF railroad communications do not put high demands on the receiver to monitor them. I would not underestimate the Uniden BCT15X scanner. I think it's a great performer and has numerous features and software programming and remote capabilities you might be giving up with other commercial/professional receivers. Using a good antenna at a decent height and an external speaker I think you'd be pleasantly surprised.

You might want to consider digital capability. Here in Michigan a lot of railroad communications have switched to digital modes like DMR and NXDN. Both these options can be purchased for around $60/ea and Uniden scanners like the BCD996P and later models can be easily upgraded by the end user via firmware when needed.

If you want to spend a lot of money and go balls out, buy an ICOM IC-R8600 for around $2,300.00! But even that won't do the DMR mode if needed. :rolleyes:
 

jaspence

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Railroads that are going digital are moving to NXDN, not DMR. For analog scanning, the BC125 is one of the best performance for cost radios you can buy. The IC-R30 is much more expensive but does everything except DMR well.
 

radio3353

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Thanks everybody for your recommendations. A TM-281a or hunting down a Spectra is my plan.
 

RRR

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If your local railroads are using FM mode, get a Motorola Clean Cab Spectra. It doesn't get any better than that.
There are no Railroads left with an FCC "wideband" waiver. (In the USA)
 

chrismol1

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Haha a spectra loco boat anchor on your desk! Very nice!

If your serious about a using commercial radio, with NXDN if its coming online in your area or for investment for future use I'd go with a Kenwood Nexedge radio for NXDN compatibility. You'd probably be able to find a deal on a used radio on ebay. If course you'd be locked to single band only if space or adding another piece of equipment is concern the dual band ham radio will work fine on analog and for ham use. A popular railfan I follow on youtube uses a Motorola CDM radio in their vehicle for their area for weak signals with a decent antenna. I'd say focusing on a good antenna is key if you maybe outside coverage. Many bungalos for defect detectors Ive seen are using directional antennas focused on shooting the power down the line instead of omnidirectional
 

RRR

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We use the NX700's, but most times, a scanner will out perform the receiver in them. Their strong point is not being a great receiver.
 

iMONITOR

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Railroads that are going digital are moving to NXDN, not DMR. For analog scanning, the BC125 is one of the best performance for cost radios you can buy. The IC-R30 is much more expensive but does everything except DMR well.
Regarding DMR, I was going along with what you said until I accidentally stumbled into some DMR on some of Michigan's railroads today while looking over RR's database.

89584
 
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iMONITOR

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Thanks everybody for your recommendations. A TM-281a or hunting down a Spectra is my plan.

Motorola Astro Spectra Railroad VHF (142-174MHz) Mobile Radio (Analog/P25) (Used-Radios.com)

Spectra Clean Cab on Ebay:

Here is a Spectra Clean Cab Manual:

If you end up with a Spectra, BatLabs has some info you might be interested in:

There's a lot of YouTube videos on Clean Cab radios
 

RRR

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Lots of DMR on Regionals and shortlines. Much more than you'd think. Lots of networked repeaters all over the place for Railroad comms, both DMR and NXDN. DMR primarily on shortlines and regionals.

Sometimes, you would have no idea where to look to locate some of them.
 

JoshuaHufford

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Haha a spectra loco boat anchor on your desk! Very nice!

If your serious about a using commercial radio, with NXDN if its coming online in your area or for investment for future use I'd go with a Kenwood Nexedge radio for NXDN compatibility. You'd probably be able to find a deal on a used radio on ebay. If course you'd be locked to single band only if space or adding another piece of equipment is concern the dual band ham radio will work fine on analog and for ham use. A popular railfan I follow on youtube uses a Motorola CDM radio in their vehicle for their area for weak signals with a decent antenna. I'd say focusing on a good antenna is key if you maybe outside coverage. Many bungalos for defect detectors Ive seen are using directional antennas focused on shooting the power down the line instead of omnidirectional

I use a Motorola CDM1550 myself, which is the same radio used in the youtube channel you mentioned. I do notice a small improvement in reception over my scanner which is a Uniden BC125, however the biggest improvement is the lack of intermod that I get with the Uniden. When using the Uniden with a roof mount antenna on a vehicle, NOAA radio and other services are always a problem when in an Urban area, not so with the CDM. I also added a Motorola external speaker and that puts out some SERIOUS audio, great for when you are outside but near the vehicle, just crank up the volume and leave a window down, you won't miss anything.

The down side with the CDM is you can only scan 16 channels at a time but usually that is enough to cover any particular area you are in, also programming can be confusing at first.
 

WB9YBM

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I am looking for a professional/semi-professional receiver for RR monitoring. Something better than a consumer scanner. I need good, clear audio and ability to dig out the weak signals. Any suggestions? Would a two-meter ham radio (with a 100+ channel programmable receiver scan function) be a candidate over a scanner? Thanks for your ideas.
If possible try to find a source listing spec's (ignoring brand names) and compare sensitivity numbers. Also consider rejection of off-frequency signals...
 
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