Recommendations on a new radio purchase.

etuck

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Hi group, I'm interested in buying a radio scanner, but so many to choose from. I don't mind spending whatever as long a fair price and will give me the most use without waste, if this makes sense.
I reside mostly in Vero Beach FL, India River County, 32966 areas, and part time in Murphy NC, Cherokee County, 28906 area.
Any help and advice would be greatly appreciated. TIA.
Etuck
 

Whiskey3JMC

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RaleighGuy

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Vero Beach appears to be on the Indian River Co trunked system that does include simulcast and the Sheriff Dispatch is encrypted.


Murhpy/Cherokee Co NC appears to be using VHF in the clear. The state system, VIPER, is currently Phase 1, but will be changing to Phase II in the next year or two. Many areas use the state system in addition to other means of radio communications.


The only scanner designed for simulcast systems are the SDS100 or SDS200 scanner. This appears to be the best choice for FL, however as I mentioned encryption of the SO may make you disinterested in radio traffic there. If that is the case a BCD436, BCD536 or BCD996P2, for Uniden, or Whistler TRX-1 or TRX-2 might be another option. That said, Uniden has continued to offer firmware/feature updates for the SDS scanners, where it has been several years since Whistler has.
 

ScannerSK

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In my opinion a BCD436HP would suffice as a handheld scanner. I owned both a BCD436HP and a SDS100 and took both on a drive one day throughout our large simulcast county and the system worked basically the same on both units. The only difference I noticed was the SDS100 recovered much more rapidly from RF overload (when near strong radio towers) whereas the BCD436HP would become deaf to signals for a while until removed from the area of strong RF interference or by taking the antenna off and putting it back on, etc. The SDS100 I owned would get hot as well and required a special battery. The SDS100 looked nice with all the various colors but was overkill in my opinion and did not actually function any better on my local simulcast systems when put to an actual test (with the one above exception mentioned). At times the BCD436HP was receiving better on my local simulcast system than the SDS100 depending upon location.

I use a simple BCD996P2 as a home/base scanner on my simulcast system and it works well however a slightly more expensive BCD536HP would work also.

Personally, I would avoid Whistler's TRX-1 & 2 scanners. They suffer terribly from many different RF related issues when near strong radio towers. The voice decode was also terrible on these scanners on our local simulcast system and there is some annoying static that goes off and on with each radio transmission (at least on the TRX-2) as the audio circuit turns off and on.
 
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RaleighGuy

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In my opinion a BCD436HP would suffice as a handheld scanner. I owned both a BCD436HP and a SDS100 and took both on a drive one day throughout our large simulcast county and the system worked basically the same on both units.

Personally, I would avoid Whistler's TRX-1 & 2 scanners. They suffer terribly from many different RF related issues when near strong radio towers. The voice decode was also terrible on these scanners on our local simulcast system and there is some annoying static that goes off and on with each radio transmission as the audio circuit turns off and on.

I disagree with his opinions here, but respect his right to voice them, I own and use the Whistler TRX-1, WS1098 and WS1080 in a simulcast area and they work fine at home, though in a number of areas they have limited to severe difficulties. It really is based on location as to how well any scanner, TRX, WS or BCD, will work, where as the SDS is the only scanner designed to handle simulcast.
 

etuck

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Vero Beach appears to be on the Indian River Co trunked system that does include simulcast and the Sheriff Dispatch is encrypted.


Murhpy/Cherokee Co NC appears to be using VHF in the clear. The state system, VIPER, is currently Phase 1, but will be changing to Phase II in the next year or two. Many areas use the state system in addition to other means of radio communications.


The only scanner designed for simulcast systems are the SDS100 or SDS200 scanner. This appears to be the best choice for FL, however as I mentioned encryption of the SO may make you disinterested in radio traffic there. If that is the case a BCD436, BCD536 or BCD996P2, for Uniden, or Whistler TRX-1 or TRX-2 might be another option. That said, Uniden has continued to offer firmware/feature updates for the SDS scanners, where it has been several years since Whistler has.
With any of these radios mentioned, would, I be able to program them or will I need special software? Uniden rep told me it would be $100 for their programing fee while asking about their SDS models??? Wow
 

RaleighGuy

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With any of these radios mentioned, would, I be able to program them or will I need special software? Uniden rep told me it would be $100 for their programing fee while asking about their SDS models??? Wow

As @Whiskey3JMC said, please do not pay third party. While you could program yourself manually, it is highly recommended you use free software from Uniden, it is called Sentinel and runs on windows PC/laptops. While it may seem like a difficult task there are a lot of members in the forums that will help you.
 

ScannerSK

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With any of these radios mentioned, would, I be able to program them or will I need special software? Uniden rep told me it would be $100 for their programing fee while asking about their SDS models??? Wow

You can program the scanners manually however this is certainly not recommended for many reasons. Software makes programming scanners these days much quicker and simpler.

Sentinel (free software) works with specific Uniden branded scanners: HomePatrol-1, HomePatrol-2, BCD436HP, BCD536HP, SDS100 and SDS200. An older free software called FreeScan works with the BCD996P2 scanner.

Whistler has their own software called EZ Scan for the TRX-1 and 2 which is free of charge if I remember correctly.

And, there are always various versions of software that can be purchased as well. For Uniden most recommend ProScan for $50 ProScan.
 
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hiegtx

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In my opinion a BCD436HP would suffice as a handheld scanner. I owned both a BCD436HP and a SDS100 and took both on a drive one day throughout our large simulcast county and the system worked basically the same on both units. The only difference I noticed was the SDS100 recovered much more rapidly from RF overload (when near strong radio towers) whereas the BCD436HP would become deaf to signals for a while until removed from the area of strong RF interference or by taking the antenna off and putting it back on, etc.
I disagree with his opinions here, but respect his right to voice them, I own and use the Whistler TRX-1, WS1098 and WS1080 in a simulcast area and they work fine at home, though in a number of areas they have limited to severe difficulties. It really is based on location as to how well any scanner, TRX, WS or BCD, will work, where as the SDS is the only scanner designed to handle simulcast.
I also would agree with RaleighGuy.

Simulcast problems are extremely location specific. If using a scanner, other than one of Uniden's SDS series scanners, you may be able to find a spot in your residence where one of the x36HP or P2 series scanners may work. This is so location driven that a move, of the scanner, as little as a foot in one direction or another makes the difference between receiving clearly, versus missing calls or receiving unintelligible gibberish. At a fixed location, you might use a directional antenna, such as a yagi, aimed at one specific transmit tower results in clear reception. Or perhaps a hill, or cluster of taller buildings, blocks the signal from the multiple sub-sites of a simulcast site, leaving only one, mostly clear, transmission for the scanner to deal with. That might be the case if using at a specific location, but if you are instead using the scanner driving around the area, your reception will be far less than ideal. Should you wish to roll the dice and gamble that a scanner, other than an SDS series, will work, then purchase your x36HP or P2 series scanner from a dealer that does not hit you with a sizeable restock fee if you need to return the scanner & swith to an SDS series radio.
 

hiegtx

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With any of these radios mentioned, would, I be able to program them or will I need special software? Uniden rep told me it would be $100 for their programing fee while asking about their SDS models??? Wow
I suspect that you were speaking with someone at a dealer like Bearcat Warehouse (which has a large"Uniden" logo on their website) about programming. The third party dealers usually charge something in the range of $40 to $50 for programming one (county) location, with fees increasing for additional counties in addition to the base. In your case, with two different residences, in different states, that would push your cost to$100 or more. As noted above, don't pay a third party dealer to program the scanner for you.

Instead, if you are getting one of the Uniden database scanners (x36HP, or SDS series), install Sentinel on your PC, even if you have not yet ordered (or received) the scanner you intend to purchase. Once Sentinel is installed, and you've updated the database (in Sentinel), you can set your location, and a range, as well as select the service types that interest you. With those set, you can have Sentinel create a favorites list for you to get started. You can then edit that list to delete (or set as Avoid) channels & systems that are not of interest.You would basically do that twice, once for each location in their respective states. The memory cards in the x36HP & SDS series scanners can easily hold separate favorites lists for more than one area. It's also possible that if you ask, politely, in the Florida and North Carolina state forums, you may find someone in your area (in either state) that will share a programming file for your specified location.

As also already noted, Sentinel is a free program, supplied by Uniden, for the database scanners. For the P2 series (325P2 & 996P2) you would need to either create a file manually, or use a file that someone near you might offer to share. While you can manually program any of these scanners using the keypad, it's much quicker, and less confusing, to use software for these scanners. FreeSCAN can program either the 325P2 or 996P2 units as long as you do not need any DMR or NXDN systems entered. If you need those system types, then use either ProScan or ARC. These are not free, but they do have a 30 day free trial period where you can decide which one you prefer. My preference is ProScan. For the P2 series scanners, you would find a premium subscription to RadioReference well worth the cost That allows you to import exactly what you want from the main database. ProScan handles the P2 scanners, as well as the x36HP & SDS series. There are two separate ARC software packages, one for the P2 scanners, a different one for the database scanners (x36HP & SDS series). ProScan is a $50 licensing fee, with free updates as features are added or refined. Besides programming, ProScan includes logging of activity as we;ll as virtual control. The ARC software packages have two versions: Basic, about $40, only handles programming. If you wish to have logging & virtual control capability (in addition to programming) then you'd need the "Pro" version, about $70. These also have free program updates.
 

ScannerSK

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I also would agree with RaleighGuy.

Simulcast problems are extremely location specific. If using a scanner, other than one of Uniden's SDS series scanners, you may be able to find a spot in your residence where one of the x36HP or P2 series scanners may work.
Just for some clarification, I drove around for over 1 hour on my test drive and the SDS100 and BCD436HP worked nearly identical in all spots on my local active to very active simulcast radio system in Weld County, CO which can be a real challenge at times to receive. During my drive, I had the same police and fire channels enabled in both scanners using the stock antennas supplied by the manufacturer. My drive included everything from stopping at traffic lights to driving into valleys to driving upon elevated locations to driving near multiple strong radio towers. Most of the time both scanners were receiving this simulcast system equally as well. Sometimes one would decode slightly better than the other however not to any appreciable difference where one stood out as a clear winner. There was nothing dramatically better in the reception of the SDS100 over the BCD436HP. The only difference I noted was that the SDS100 recovered quickly in areas experiencing strong RF overload when repositioned whereas the BCD436HP would remain deaf to the control channel of the trunked system, as if it was off the air, even after the scanner was repositioned multiple times. Removing the stock handheld antenna from the BCD436HP and putting it back on would often enable the BCD436HP to once again begin decoding the control channel. It's almost as if what the SDS100 is doing is resetting the non-linearity experienced by the RF front-end section of the receiver during strong RF overload, similar to removing and reinstalling the antenna. Other than this one exception, there was no appreciable difference between the two radios when monitoring a busy and somewhat difficult to decode simulcast system on an over 1 hour drive. The SDS100/200 claims to be superior on simulcast systems but after my live experimentation (between the SDS100 and BCD436HP) this is just a bunch of hype and many are getting suckered into paying hundreds more for something that really does not perform any better in reality.

I can only report my personal results. Take this with a grain of salt if you prefer but understand I conducted this experiment to determine whether one scanner actually performed better than the other or not. I did not care one way or the other. I just wanted to know for future reference and to decide which scanner to keep on hand. If the SDS100 had actually decoded noticeably better on my test drive of my local active simulcast system, I would likely still own one today. Anyone can perform a similar test and your results may be identical to my results or possibly different.

Again, there is one exception. If a person is located in a large city or other very rich RF environment, the front-end of the BCD436HP may frequently overload causing the control channel to temporarily stop being received/decoded altogether. In such an environment, the SDS100 should definitely work better as it can recover from this overload situation much more aptly. Otherwise, my testing shows they both receive equally as well on an over one hour test drive.
 
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hiegtx

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I can only report my personal results. Take this with a grain of salt if you prefer but understand I conducted this experiment to determine whether one scanner actually performed better than the other or not. I did not care one way or the other. I just wanted to know for future reference and to decide which scanner to keep on hand. If the SDS100 had actually decoded noticeably better on my test drive of my local active simulcast system, I would likely still own one today. Anyone can perform a similar test and your results may be identical to my results or possibly different.
In your case, the way the systems are laid out (both the statewide DTRS, as well as your regional Front Range), there are some simulcast, as well as non-simulcast, sites. While I've never been to your area, I'd bet that your terrain has far more hills & valleys than basically flat Dallas. So, in your case, things come together to allow using a scanner other than one of the SDS series units. Which is why I always recommend that if your area has one or more simulcast sites, and you want to see if something less expensive than the SDS100 or SDS200 might work, make that purchase from a dealer that won't rip your head off with fees if you find that you do need to return an x3HP, or P2 series scanner. Bear in mind that if you do need to do a return, even if the dealer does not apply a sizeable restock/return fee, you still will be on the hook for the return freight. Also, if trying out a "lesser" scanner, be sure to retain all the original packaging, accessories, & manuals that came with the scanner. Otherwise, the dealer may well apply a fee, since your return would be considered a 'previously owned' unit instead of a new in box (everything that comes with a new unit).
 

Robbie1984

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You cant go wrong with the Uniden SDS 100 and 200 series radios however if you're looking for something much more simpler maybe look at the 436pt or 536pt as they do same job just without all the bells and whistles of which come with an SDS series scanner plus there's the option to purchase DMR,NXDN and Pro-voice packages as separate downloads

I've got both versions of the pt scanner being a private fire fighter, coast guard radio operator and volunteer radio monitor they keep track of the South Australia Government Radio Network very nicely allowing me to monitor all emergency situations without delays that come from online scanners
 

etuck

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In your case, the way the systems are laid out (both the statewide DTRS, as well as your regional Front Range), there are some simulcast, as well as non-simulcast, sites. While I've never been to your area, I'd bet that your terrain has far more hills & valleys than basically flat Dallas. So, in your case, things come together to allow using a scanner other than one of the SDS series units. Which is why I always recommend that if your area has one or more simulcast sites, and you want to see if something less expensive than the SDS100 or SDS200 might work, make that purchase from a dealer that won't rip your head off with fees if you find that you do need to return an x3HP, or P2 series scanner. Bear in mind that if you do need to do a return, even if the dealer does not apply a sizeable restock/return fee, you still will be on the hook for the return freight. Also, if trying out a "lesser" scanner, be sure to retain all the original packaging, accessories, & manuals that came with the scanner. Otherwise, the dealer may well apply a fee, since your return would be considered a 'previously owned' unit instead of a new in box (everything that comes with a new unit).
Yes, the one area I'm in is coastal, flat, and the other is in mountain areas. A lot of this radio talk is still Greek to me, I am just learning bits and pieces. Out of the previous advice given thus far, I'm thinking I should just pay the extra $$ and go with one of the SDS models and be on the safe side of getting the most overall coverages of both locations. Would I be correct on this??
 

BinaryMode

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There's also the Unication option to deal with possible simulcast distortion. Unication Voice Pager Receivers - The RadioReference Wiki

If you're just interested in Fire/EMS, and if your communications dispatch service supports it, The Pulse App works great. It's even linked to Broadcastify.

Me personally, I like Uniden, own many of their scanners, but for me I'd use Unication if simulcast distortion was an issue for me. I don't trust Uniden's implementation of SDR in the SDS model scanners. But that's just me... I've read there have been too many issues with that line of scanners. Even the Homepartrols. I'm waiting for a new SDR variant. I wish Icom's digital capable receivers were trunk capable. I'd buy two!
 
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etuck

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In your case, the way the systems are laid out (both the statewide DTRS, as well as your regional Front Range), there are some simulcast, as well as non-simulcast, sites. While I've never been to your area, I'd bet that your terrain has far more hills & valleys than basically flat Dallas. So, in your case, things come together to allow using a scanner other than one of the SDS series units. Which is why I always recommend that if your area has one or more simulcast sites, and you want to see if something less expensive than the SDS100 or SDS200 might work, make that purchase from a dealer that won't rip your head off with fees if you find that you do need to return an x3HP, or P2 series scanner. Bear in mind that if you do need to do a return, even if the dealer does not apply a sizeable restock/return fee, you still will be on the hook for the return freight. Also, if trying out a "lesser" scanner, be sure to retain all the original packaging, accessories, & manuals that came with the scanner. Otherwise, the dealer may well apply a fee, since your return would be considered a 'previously owned' unit instead of a new in box (everything that comes with a new unit).
Yes, the one area I'm in is coastal, flat, and the other is in mountain areas. A lot of this radio talk is still Greek to me, I am just learning bits and pieces. Out of the previous advice given thus far, I'm thinking I should just pay the extra $$ and go with one of the SDS models and be on the safe side of getting the most overall coverages of both locations. Would I be correct on this??
Also, is there any Quality Difference in the two radios other than the sds100 being portable, and only $50 more for the desk model?
 

RaleighGuy

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Out of the previous advice given thus far, I'm thinking I should just pay the extra $$ and go with one of the SDS models and be on the safe side of getting the most overall coverages of both locations. Would I be correct on this??
I believe that would be correct and your best choice, not to mention it is still support with firmware and enhancement upgrades and will probably last you longer than any other scanner on the market.

Also, is there any Quality Difference in the two radios other than the sds100 being portable, and only $50 more for the desk model?

My personal opinion, I'd much rather have a handheld than a base unit just in case you need to leave the house (forced to leave due to wx, fire, or public safety reasons) and still want to monitor what is going on. While I don't have the SDS I've not heard of any major difference.
 

hiegtx

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Yes, the one area I'm in is coastal, flat, and the other is in mountain areas. A lot of this radio talk is still Greek to me, I am just learning bits and pieces. Out of the previous advice given thus far, I'm thinking I should just pay the extra $$ and go with one of the SDS models and be on the safe side of getting the most overall coverages of both locations. Would I be correct on this??
You would not need to fret simulcast issues in Cherokee County, NC. I do see one fire department showing use of DMR, but that upgrade might not be of interest for that one agency.

For Indian River County in Florida, the county's Phase II capable trunked system does use a simulcast site. Even if you 'hit the simulcast lottery', being able to monitor a simulcast system on a scanner other than one of the SDS series scanners (as ScannerSK did in his Colorado county), odds are that if you travel at all, taking your scanner, if your travels take you to, or through, a major urban area, simulcast sites will be encountered. So the SDS100 or SDS200 would be your best choice.

Also, is there any Quality Difference in the two radios other than the sds100 being portable, and only $50 more for the desk model?
There is not a significant difference between the SDS100 and the SDS200.

My personal opinion, I'd much rather have a handheld than a base unit just in case you need to leave the house (forced to leave due to wx, fire, or public safety reasons) and still want to monitor what is going on.
You would not see a noticeable difference between the handheld SDS100, and desktop/mobile versions of these scanners, SDS200.

If you had a lot of interference from other electronic devices near your scanner, such as your PC. printer, or broadband modem, the metal case of the base/mobiles, such as the SDS200, might help reduce that interference. But using the available filters in the SDS scanners can potentially deal with interference from other devices.

My preference, if I only had one scanner, is al;so for the handheld model. No problem grabbing it & taking it with you to another part of your house or in your vehicle. As the handheld runs on a battery, it can still be usable if power was lost at your location. One of the power bricks, such as those used to charge cell phones and tablets, can run your scanner for several days in case of a longer power outage.
 

trentbob

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@etuck, I'm very familiar with this topic and discussion. Personally I have nothing to say or add, it's all been said, very clearly!
 
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