Returning the SDS-200 :-(

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AdamHLG

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I am sad to say that today I boxed up my recently delivered SDS-200 and I am sending it back to Amazon.

I will just put it out there that I am disappointed. I am no stranger to scanners and I probably owned 15 different models over 45 years. I primarily listen to P25 systems these days. My last attempt at scanning was about 4 - 5 years ago with the BCD996XT. This did not go well. It is no fault of Uniden, but the multi-path issues ruined this experience. During the various attempts to get the BCD996XT working at the time, and before I really understood multi-path, I spent considerable effort and expense to install a high gain yagi on my roof along with 75' run of LMR-400 to the radio in an attempt to lock in on a specific tower to improve results. I gave up but learned a ton about multi-path. The antenna went unused until this past week as a resorted to Broadcastify for my P25 needs.

Recently, however, I purchased a Unication G5 after seeing someone else that had one of these radios. My eyes widened the moment I saw it and, more importantly, heard it. This is, by far, the greatest radio I ever owned. It is only going to get better when Unication releases the firmware currently in beta that will allow users to scan and hold on a talk group (final FW release is expected in May), and ultimately scan different P25 systems in a confirmed future firmware update (second beta release expected in May). This radio is basically a dream come true for P25 fans. It is small, rugged, and the reception is second to none.

I am not a Unication salesman, and it is only 1 tool for the job. So anyway it has been many years since I was on the forums, but I returned to learn how to program and tweak the G5. So many years, in fact, that I did not even know the SDS-100 and SDS-200 existed until one month ago. When I found out about the new Unidens, I was excited to see that the multi-path issues were apparently addressed. I got caught up in the excitement of learning this fact and, coupled with the boredom of the lock down, I purchased a unit.

Long story short... yes it fixed the multi-path. This is great. However, I am greatly disappointed with the reception of the SDS-200 and, no, I do not believe this to be a "cold solder joint". It is amazing to me that I can sit here with a palm sized G5 and not only listen to my own county P25 system, but I can also receive every neighboring county 5 X 5 crystal clear with no dropouts or garbles with a 1 inch stub antenna. The SDS-200 can receive a few neighboring counties with my rooftop yagi, but frustratingly it loses the ability to decode the control channel on the other counties further away, despite me rotating the yagi in 5 degree increments for the entire 360 degrees. I have spent an entire week playing with attenuation, filters, aiming the yagi, etc. Nothing helps. In fact, I get the same exact reception with the telescoping antenna as I get with the yagi !! Yet, as I try and 'tune' the SDS-200 and antenna and filters to try and get this to work, the G5 comes in 5 X 5 without a single problem. I gave up in utter frustration.

I have resigned myself to this fact: The SDS-200 is a great scanner for the right purpose and it has an incredible amount of features. I am upset that I am returning it as I wanted to love it. I even had ProScan setup, everything ready to go. But it is a consumer device and as such it is tuned to a wide range of frequencies, whereas the G5 is a professional radio at the same price point tuned to a specific band plan. Simple physics - there is no match. Reminds me of the days decades ago that I wished my scanners worked as well as my minitors. Inasmuch as I only listen to P25, the G5 is for me. If I was into P25, air, railroad, whatever, the SDS-200 would be the better choice.

But there is one more aspect to the final decision that is noted. Broadcastify recently introduced custom 'dashboards' and the ability to listen to 6 feeds simultaneously. This too is a game changer and it kind of sealed the decision to return the SDS-200. I found the SDS-200 to be slow to scan, even after assuring that the filters were not set to 'auto' and that I was only scanning control channels for the nearest site. I was trying to scan 6 P25 systems. I would frequently miss calls as the SDS-200 struggled to lock on the control channels for each system as it did the scan. With Broadcastify's dashboards, I can listen to 6 P25 systems simultaneously with ZERO reception problems and, more so, I can listen to the counties beyond those that neighbor my house. It is great.

So anyway I felt like sharing the above. I have nothing negative to say about Uniden or its products as they supported my 45 year hobby. It is great to have choices, and this is simply my story as I head to the UPS dropoff box. I hope to be back one day to try it again.

Stay safe everyone.
 

Ubbe

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You can use ScannerLive to set up to 10 streams of your choice and "scan" them with different delays, audio levels and priority.


"ScannerLive takes online scanner radio feeds and turns your computer into a scanner of your own.

- Select multiple online feeds to monitor (up to 10)
- Save your layout in up to ten banks
- Scan all feeds, and if audio is heard on one it will mute the others
- Selectable Delay & Priority settings
- Ability to change the volume settings individually
- Audio meter active on all feeds (even when they are muted!)
- Temporarily lock out a feed
- Manually hold a feed until pressing scan again"

/Ubbe
 

cognetic

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In can relate to much of what you have shared. My technical background is strong as well as in being RF/radio specific. The SDS-200s I have purchased have been a bit disappointing for those same reasons outlined in your message (exception: I don't broadcastify; add: the bulky housing without a remote mountable head control unit which annoys me along with lack of integrated GPS). I have similar receive problems in multiple environments and geographic locals tested. It will remain silent at times next to a G5 or for that matter a BCD436/536 and even an SDS100 that is providing a continuous readable signal. I can't get any of the SDS200s tweaked enough to my satisfaction.

Not a specific brand fan here.. more of usable/functional/professional utility focus and hoping for good competitive spirit to promote improvements in this industry. We should expect more!

-cognetic
 

Cheeseburgers

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I hear you OP, I still have an SDS100 but I acquired a G5 last week... same experience, side by side the P25 receive is remarkable. The SDS will sit there on a single site and miss traffic the Unication grabs no problem.. all with that tiny little antenna. I can bring the G5 all around the house and no problems... the SDS RSSI readings will tank if I move it to places the G5 has no issue with... really a night and day difference.
 

AdamHLG

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Joined
Feb 13, 2012
Messages
200
You can use ScannerLive to set up to 10 streams of your choice and "scan" them with different delays, audio levels and priority.


"ScannerLive takes online scanner radio feeds and turns your computer into a scanner of your own.

- Select multiple online feeds to monitor (up to 10)
- Save your layout in up to ten banks
- Scan all feeds, and if audio is heard on one it will mute the others
- Selectable Delay & Priority settings
- Ability to change the volume settings individually
- Audio meter active on all feeds (even when they are muted!)
- Temporarily lock out a feed
- Manually hold a feed until pressing scan again"

/Ubbe
Thanks for this! This is great.
 

w4amp

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Bear in mind that a Yagi is directional. Unless everything you want to monitor is in one direction, an omni vertical is the way to go. A Comet GP20, fed with LMR400 or better, works great on P25 with a SDS200. I receive 800 mhz P25 signals from three states.
 

iMONITOR

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Macomb Twp, Michigan
I also had to return my first SDS200 quite some time ago due to a few problems I didn't want to live with. However I recently purchased a new one and I couldn't be happier! I'm not aware of any changes in manufacturing but the difference is night & day.

I used to play around with ScannerLive software and it does what it claims to do and does it well. However it didn't meet my needs. No fault of the software but the problem was due to a lack of feeds for my needs. There are no feeds for Macomb County Sheriff, Michigan. The other problem of monitoring via feeds the talk-groups are limited and in many cases not allowed so you typically miss a lot.

I've considered a Unication receiver. A good friend of mine has one and is 100% satisfied with it's ability to clearly receive P25 simulcast systems. However it is a receiver, not a scanner. The "scanner" type features/functions it's missing is something I can't live without. Perhaps I'll buy one in the future in addition to the scanners I have but it will never totally replace the need for a full featured scanner.
 

radio3353

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Messages
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I also had to return my first SDS200 quite some time ago due to a few problems I didn't want to live with. However I recently purchased a new one and I couldn't be happier! I'm not aware of any changes in manufacturing but the difference is night & day.

I used to play around with ScannerLive software and it does what it claims to do and does it well. However it didn't meet my needs. No fault of the software but the problem was due to a lack of feeds for my needs. There are no feeds for Macomb County Sheriff, Michigan. The other problem of monitoring via feeds the talk-groups are limited and in many cases not allowed so you typically miss a lot.

I've considered a Unication receiver. A good friend of mine has one and is 100% satisfied with it's ability to clearly receive P25 simulcast systems. However it is a receiver, not a scanner. The "scanner" type features/functions it's missing is something I can't live without. Perhaps I'll buy one in the future in addition to the scanners I have but it will never totally replace the need for a full featured scanner.
My SDS200 did not work out either. Display problems after two weeks so it went back to Amazon for a refund.

I have two Unication radios (G4 and G5) and they are great. Are you aware Unication is coming out with a software upgrade to add scanning capability? Due out in May. Something to think about because they are stellar commercial grade receivers, especially for simulcast.
 

iMONITOR

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Macomb Twp, Michigan
My SDS200 did not work out either. Display problems after two weeks so it went back to Amazon for a refund.

I have two Unication radios (G4 and G5) and they are great. Are you aware Unication is coming out with a software upgrade to add scanning capability? Due out in May. Something to think about because they are stellar commercial grade receivers, especially for simulcast.
That could be interesting. Does Unicaton charge for firmware upgrades?
 

radio3353

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That could be interesting. Does Unicaton charge for firmware upgrades?
Not usually, but this is more than just a firmware upgrade to fix bugs. It is entirely new capability. Unication has not said yet if it will be a paid upgrade or not, so TBD. I will be happy either way. There are threads on this in the Unication forum. Check it out. Lots of good input from beta testers and Unication. They have several employees in Taiwan who participate in the forum. Very professional.
 

werinshades

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Interesting assessment and I've been following the Unication forum at times and see many familiar names from these forums too. The Unication pagers have a place in the market, and from some of the You Tube videos can see how easy it is to use once it's set up properly. Like these forums, some aren't happy and return them or switch back to an SDS scanner etc. so it goes both ways.

If all of your systems you monitor are P25 this would be good for you. I did read that you can't mix analog and P25 on the same channel to scan, so that might be an issue unless that's changed with he recent firmware updates? You're also limited as to your bands based upon your model...P25-UHF or P25-VHF.

CAP+ or NXDN Trunking isn't available, but I did read a DMR upgrade is available for additional purchase but it doesn't allow trunking. This would also be an issue for some, including myself.

As far as your SDS200 issues, I think a previous poster mentioned not using a yagi to monitor further away systems and instead use a multi-directional antenna. I can confirm using an omni-directional antenna does help receiving further away systems that I couldn't receive with my 536hp.

I'm not sure if you mentioned analog issues, but I've been using a combination of filters and modulation settings and have previously reported, improved reception over my 536hp which used to sit in the same spot on the same antenna.

It appears you jumped the gun on the SDS200 purchase and after only having it a month I believe, you returned it for the next best thing. I have a few friends who I convinced to purchase a SDS100 due to simulcast issues, and have fielded a few calls due to their lack of understanding and frustration. Once they figure it out, they enjoy it.

Either way I hope your satisfied with the G5 and understand it's limitations. Unication has done a very good job, but never compares themselves to a Uniden scanner for obvious reasons. Keep us posted or i'll see you on the Unication forums. (y)
 

Project25_MASTR

There's stuff I can't tell you...
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I've tested several scanners and pagers over the last few years (with actual test equipment). I will say, yes the Unication G4 and G5 have much better receivers compared to your average scanner (10 to 15 dB better). It's one of the things that makes it a great scanner for P25 trunking sytems, it's also one of the things that makes it a horrible pager. Some great examples, I had one about two and a half years ago that I was doing some heavy testing on a large P25 system (VHF/7/800 MHz) and I picked a spot somewhere between a 800 MHz site and a co-located VHF/800 MHz site. Did the pager settle on the 800 MHz site, the 800 MHz side of the co-located site or the VHF side? No, it settled on a VHF site 70 miles away. The other big issue is the things wouldn't roam until it lost the control channel entirely, which at that point you may be 3 counties away. While it's not as big of an issue in a simulcast only system, it is unusable when it comes to receiving pages reliably on a wide area system. For conventional application, it works great and you can scan multiple channels and not miss a page...but you can also do that with pagers half the cost.

Unication set out to build a P25 pager...it ended up being a solution looking for a problem. They built a great scanner though.
 

AdamHLG

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Joined
Feb 13, 2012
Messages
200
Interesting assessment and I've been following the Unication forum at times and see many familiar names from these forums too. The Unication pagers have a place in the market, and from some of the You Tube videos can see how easy it is to use once it's set up properly. Like these forums, some aren't happy and return them or switch back to an SDS scanner etc. so it goes both ways.

If all of your systems you monitor are P25 this would be good for you. I did read that you can't mix analog and P25 on the same channel to scan, so that might be an issue unless that's changed with he recent firmware updates? You're also limited as to your bands based upon your model...P25-UHF or P25-VHF.

CAP+ or NXDN Trunking isn't available, but I did read a DMR upgrade is available for additional purchase but it doesn't allow trunking. This would also be an issue for some, including myself.

As far as your SDS200 issues, I think a previous poster mentioned not using a yagi to monitor further away systems and instead use a multi-directional antenna. I can confirm using an omni-directional antenna does help receiving further away systems that I couldn't receive with my 536hp.

I'm not sure if you mentioned analog issues, but I've been using a combination of filters and modulation settings and have previously reported, improved reception over my 536hp which used to sit in the same spot on the same antenna.

It appears you jumped the gun on the SDS200 purchase and after only having it a month I believe, you returned it for the next best thing. I have a few friends who I convinced to purchase a SDS100 due to simulcast issues, and have fielded a few calls due to their lack of understanding and frustration. Once they figure it out, they enjoy it.

Either way I hope your satisfied with the G5 and understand it's limitations. Unication has done a very good job, but never compares themselves to a Uniden scanner for obvious reasons. Keep us posted or i'll see you on the Unication forums. (y)
This was a great and informative post to read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My only postscript is that I did not jump the gun to return the SDS for the next big thing. I actually had the Unication first and owned it for 3 weeks and love it. There was really no reason for me to get the SDS for when I am local. Rather, I liked the idea of a full featured radio via ProScan via a networked solution and that was very appealing to me being the gadget freak I am. I liked the idea of tracking TGIDs and alpha tagging them and setting up what I hoped would be this insane ProScan portal tracking all 5 neighboring counties including my own with recordings of calls, alerting, you name it. More so, it would allow me to have my IT guys firewall off the feed so I could use ProScan on my laptop remotely over a 4G hotpot tether from my phone to play with my SDS anywhere in the world which is how I set it up previously with my 996XT (it was a sick setup you gotta admit). But all the bells and whistles in the world will not solve reception issues, which is why it went back.

Now, you raise a great point with the antenna choice. This gives me hope that perhaps I will take another run at at. A previous poster said he had success with a Comet GP20. I googled it. Do you have thoughts on other models for comparison that I might research? Depending on cost and return policy I would take a run at it again. Its a hobby so if there is a solution I don't want to leave a stone un-turned.

BTW I do not have a need for DMR or analog or really anything other than P25 for this setup. For anything else, I am intrigued with SDR and might try that next if this does not work out. That looks like something to occupy my curious mind as an offshoot of my historical listening habits.
 

AdamHLG

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Joined
Feb 13, 2012
Messages
200
I've tested several scanners and pagers over the last few years (with actual test equipment). I will say, yes the Unication G4 and G5 have much better receivers compared to your average scanner (10 to 15 dB better). It's one of the things that makes it a great scanner for P25 trunking sytems, it's also one of the things that makes it a horrible pager. Some great examples, I had one about two and a half years ago that I was doing some heavy testing on a large P25 system (VHF/7/800 MHz) and I picked a spot somewhere between a 800 MHz site and a co-located VHF/800 MHz site. Did the pager settle on the 800 MHz site, the 800 MHz side of the co-located site or the VHF side? No, it settled on a VHF site 70 miles away. The other big issue is the things wouldn't roam until it lost the control channel entirely, which at that point you may be 3 counties away. While it's not as big of an issue in a simulcast only system, it is unusable when it comes to receiving pages reliably on a wide area system. For conventional application, it works great and you can scan multiple channels and not miss a page...but you can also do that with pagers half the cost.

Unication set out to build a P25 pager...it ended up being a solution looking for a problem. They built a great scanner though.
For my usage case its amazing but that was a really insightful and interesting post. I will need to read that a few times and let it sink in. We are on a simulcast only system and my department does not simulcast tones on 800 anyway (I wish!) so its not even possible to be a pager for me. (our tones are still on dinosaur VHF low). But what a great radio when I am on duty and my APX8000 is on my primary talkgroup and the G5 is strapped to my radio strap to listen to a second talkgroup or scan multiple talk groups. Plus to just have it with me to listen to the County when I am not at station is fantastic. It is like a personally owned receive-only mini of an APX8000!
 

werinshades

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Chicago , IL
This was a great and informative post to read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My only postscript is that I did not jump the gun to return the SDS for the next big thing. I actually had the Unication first and owned it for 3 weeks and love it. There was really no reason for me to get the SDS for when I am local. Rather, I liked the idea of a full featured radio via ProScan via a networked solution and that was very appealing to me being the gadget freak I am. I liked the idea of tracking TGIDs and alpha tagging them and setting up what I hoped would be this insane ProScan portal tracking all 5 neighboring counties including my own with recordings of calls, alerting, you name it. More so, it would allow me to have my IT guys firewall off the feed so I could use ProScan on my laptop remotely over a 4G hotpot tether from my phone to play with my SDS anywhere in the world which is how I set it up previously with my 996XT (it was a sick setup you gotta admit). But all the bells and whistles in the world will not solve reception issues, which is why it went back.

Now, you raise a great point with the antenna choice. This gives me hope that perhaps I will take another run at at. A previous poster said he had success with a Comet GP20. I googled it. Do you have thoughts on other models for comparison that I might research? Depending on cost and return policy I would take a run at it again. Its a hobby so if there is a solution I don't want to leave a stone un-turned.

BTW I do not have a need for DMR or analog or really anything other than P25 for this setup. For anything else, I am intrigued with SDR and might try that next if this does not work out. That looks like something to occupy my curious mind as an offshoot of my historical listening habits.
Unfortunately, I can't speak about that specific antenna. About 20 years ago, a friend of mine and I put up a few antennas on on a chimney bracket and happy to report after numerous weather events here in Chicago, they are all still standing..lol! All I remember is I purchased them from Radio Shack and they have served me well over the years.

I also have 2 996XT's which are currently scanning Chicago Fire & EMS. These two workhorses have also served me well, and until a simulcast problem develops, they will be staying right here.

I hope you find something that works for you whatever that is..
 
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