St. Louis Metro Scanning

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qubix

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Alright, please forgive me for not keeping up with the times but, I have to ask. This whole digital P25, Trunking, non-digital, 800, 900, has me confused.

I'm just moving back to the St. Louis metro (St. Louis City), and I can't stand listening to the city feed on here (no offense) I just want to be able to select a district and listen to one district if I want, and not scanning everything or whatever the feed does.

None the less..... I need help.

Uniden Bearcat BC-RH96 Remote Head
RadioShack PRO-163 Scanner
GRE PSR-410 Scanner
Uniden Bearcat BCT15X Scanner

I have no freaking clue! I don't want to spend 400 dollars on a scanner, I'll stick with radio reference. But the scanners above range from 150-220 dollars. I'm more than ok with this... but when I saw a scanner in this range it said something like non-digital, and I'm scared to make the purchase and it not work with scanning St. Louis Metro, St. Louis City, MOSWIN, etc.

Any (cheap) input would be greatly appreciated.
 
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polo807

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Re

Hello
The one problem you are going to run into everything is eventually going digital and the City of STL is slowly going completety encrypted so no scanner can monitor them. Plus the FACTS are not out what Saint Louis County Police & MSHP locally will do. Will they go fully encryption? One good thing you will be able to listen to is point to point and pursuits because not every department will not be able to afford to go fully encrypt. Now that is what I have READ on this thread about the muni's and encryption.

Good Luck
 

kruser

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Alright, please forgive me for not keeping up with the times but, I have to ask. This whole digital P25, Trunking, non-digital, 800, 900, has me confused.

I'm just moving back to the St. Louis metro (St. Louis City), and I can't stand listening to the city feed on here (no offense) I just want to be able to select a district and listen to one district if I want, and not scanning everything or whatever the feed does.

None the less..... I need help.

Uniden Bearcat BC-RH96 Remote Head
RadioShack PRO-163 Scanner
GRE PSR-410 Scanner
Uniden Bearcat BCT15X Scanner

I have no freaking clue! I don't want to spend 400 dollars on a scanner, I'll stick with radio reference. But the scanners above range from 150-220 dollars. I'm more than ok with this... but when I saw a scanner in this range it said something like non-digital, and I'm scared to make the purchase and it not work with scanning St. Louis Metro, St. Louis City, MOSWIN, etc.

Any (cheap) input would be greatly appreciated.
What polo807 said is pretty much the deal around here.

You will pretty much need some form of digital scanner. It could be the Uniden 396Xt or 996XT or Home Patrol or the GRE models like the PSR500 or 600 or 800. You can get the GRE models with the RadioShack brand for cheaper. They are the Pro-106 and 197 which are the same as the PSR500 and 600. I don't know the RS match for the PSR800 plus I think the RS version of the 800 may not be exactly the same as the PSR800.
Radioshack often puts the PRO-106 and 197 on sale for as low as $300 I think I've seen mentioned here.
You mentioned the BC-RH96 in your list above. That is not a scanner at all. It is just a remote head so you can mount your scanner elsewhere and then control it via the RH96 remote head. It works great if say you wanted to mount the actual scanner out of site in the trunk of your car.
The RH96 is compatible with the following Uniden models: The BCT15, BCT15X, BCD996T, BCD996XT, BCD396T, BCD396XT and the portable versions of the BCT15 which I think may be the 346 but I have forgotten the model number of that one. The RH96 allows you to do about everything with the scanner but it will not control power nor does it have a speaker output. You must also run a speaker cable from the scanner as well as a means of controlling the power if the scanner is mounted out of reach. I don't know why they did not factor in some method of power control into the RH96. The speaker audio is not a problem as I've never wanted the speaker right near the RH96 anyway so running those extra wires was not a big deal in my case. I guess it would have been nice to pass the audio at line level to the RH96 and then have an audio amp built into the RH96 with a speaker jack. The connection between the scanner and the RH96 is serial though so maybe there was no good way of including the audio signal even at line level over the same cable. As it is now, the RH96 only needs three wires to work. Someone here at RR made up interface boards that mount at the radio end and at the RH96 end that connect via an standard ethernet cable. That device allowed power and audio to pass to the RH96. It was a neat idea but I'd already wired mine up before that idea came along. Maybe if I ever use the RH96 again, I may buy one of his kits if they are still available. I no longer use the RH96 in a mobile environment.
GRE is also releasing a mobile version of the PSR-800 called the PSR-900. It will have a removable faceplate that I think also doubles as a remote head. There is a pre-release thread over in the GRE forum that discusses it.
There are also older models that will do digital but are no longer produced. The PRO-96 is one and then the older Uniden 396T and 996T are some others.
I see them on eBay from time to time but they are still not that cheap. The Pro-96 is sometimes seen pretty cheap but I'm not sure that it will cover the 700 MHz band as it is allocated today. I think it does OK with rebanded frequencies though.

As far as encryption goes, only time will tell what will be encrypted if any.
The STL city system does use encryption but only on a per radio basis so far. This makes monitoring that system with the PSR 500 or 600 a pain as neither of those models will mute the encryption sound. The PSR800 will mute the audio when it detects encryption but it will hang on the channel or talkgroup until the signal drops or you manually tell it to resume scan again.
Hearing the encryption sounds drives me crazy to the point I'll just shut the radio off. It is very annoying and also the reason I never monitor the live feeds for that system here at RR. I think someone is using a Uniden model now for a feed so that one may be OK but you are correct and can only hear what the OP chooses to set the radio on.
The Unidens will bypass encryption completely on the STL City system and keep right on scanning or searching. I really wish the GRE's did the same as they generally do a better job at handling the multipath distortion that comes with a simulcast system.
That is something you may or may not have problems with. It all depends on your signal where you will listen from. Sometimes it can be cured with the use of a Yagi beam antenna aimed at one tower only. If you live near one tower, using the attenuation feature can also help a ton as it will reduce the signal from the far tower so your scanner only hears the near tower. Sometimes it is even better to use a small indoor antenna to further reduce signal from the far tower. But that is not good if you also want to monitor distant systems.

Then the GRE made radios are susceptible to overload or desensitization of their front ends from all the local RF in the area.
The Uniden scanner handles this problem much better.
For example, I cannot use my GRE radios for any VHF monitoring because of several high power paging transmitters near me. FM radio stations also cause the same problem for many with the GRE's. This can be cured with more money spent though! An FM trap if it is radio stations that cause the overload or notch filters for paging signal overload.
This is not usually a problem for any 700 or 800 MHz signals on the GRE's.
But be warned that VHF monitoring may be affected if you chose a GRE made radio.

Then even our local power utility, AmerenUE (ex Union Electric), has a new P25 digital system on the air now. They still have their old analog EDACS system running but I expect that to be shutdown very soon. I've been monitoring the Ameren P25 system for a while now and everything I'm hearing on the edacs system is also now heard on the P25 system so I'd say they have almost all radios switched over now with just a few still carrying the old edacs radios.
We had an 8 hour power failure here the other morning so I monitored them to get an idea of what the problem was and how long it may be until power was restored. I was able to follow the entire crew assigned to this problem on both systems.
I lost my notes though as the text tags here at RR for the P25 system are pretty generic tags still. I was able to see the edacs text tags and then figure out the new P25 talkgroup ID. I wanted to submit that info but it is forever gone it seems as my notes are gone.
I did notice an audio delay on the P25 digital system when also monitoring the same group on the edacs system.
It was not seconds even but maybe a quarter second delay for the analog to digital convertors of the P25 system to do their thing. You figure the audio is converted to digital at the transmitting end and then converted back to analog again at the receiving end so that adds delay in the audio path.

So yes, you will need a digital radio of some type for this area as a lot will be going digital very soon. The new STL County system like polo mentioned and then the new statewide system (MOSWIN) will be digital.
Some of St. Charles county is already digital and shares the STL city system but it is a 700 MHz system out there.
Jeffco (Jefferson County) is also installing a new system that sounds like it will be a part of the STL City system or at least patched into it somehow. That system will be P25. There is not a lot of widespread MOTOTRBO use in the area yet. Some use it but I don't think any local government users are using TRBO. No scanners will decode MOTOTRBO yet anyway but it can be decoded via software and a discriminator tapped scanner. Actually, P25 systems can also be monitored via software using a discriminator tapped scanner. I'm not sure how well they will track a trunked system though if at all. I've only tried it while sitting on a single frequency. I was able to decode TRBO and P25 signals rather well using DSD. There is a Windows port of DSD also but I've not tried it yet.

There are also some single channel (non trunked) P25 stations on the air.
Ladue, St. Charles County Sheriff, Crestwood and I think Bridgeton. Only the mobiles are P25 for Crestwood, dispatch is still analog using a PL tone.
Crestwood, Ladue and Bridgeton are in the 450 MHz band and St. Charles is a VHF frequency. There may be others as well. Crestwood is odd as they still dispatch in conventional analog using a PL tone but the mobiles all reply in P25.
Then it is expected that many of the smaller municipalities in the area will join into the new P25 STL County system when it is up and running.
It is totally unknown as to how many or who will join the system.
It sounds like it is going to be a hodgepodge of systems here and who knows how anyone will talk with anyone else unless they keep the old 155.370 point to point system in place and then keep analog vhf radios in the mobiles for the riot channels.
I'm not convinced that what is going on will help at all really. It may make things worse.
It seemed in the past that everyone could communicate with everyone else just fine but now all of a sudden, the officials are saying they cannot communicate with their neighbors because of being on different bands.
They talked fine before and they still do today so why the reason for the new system. Maybe if everyone switches, it will work fine but I don't see that happening. I bet many departments are very happy with their existing analog VHF systems that have served them so well for a many a year so why change.

It is going to become very interesting around here as the new systems (state and county) come online in the area.

Scanning has changed drastically over the past 10 or so years here.
I still have several old analog crystal scanners running that work fantastic. I also have tons of programmable analog scanners with many being trunk trackers but not digital.
I also own seven or eight digital scanners (mobile and portable) that are needed for the digital systems in the area. I don't need that many but I do find that the GRE's will work better for some systems and then the Unidens do much better for others so having one from each manufacturer is almost a must where I live. It sure can become a very expensive hobby very fast! I've been into radio as a hobby for over 40 years now and still have much of my original radios still running. I also build my own accessories as well as repair my own equipment as I'm also involved in radio for parts of my day job. It is still 90% hobby for me though. I refuse to get a day job that is also my main hobby as then I'd grow bored and need yet another hobby!

Ask away if you have more questions and I'm sure someone will offer advice!
 

lynxrufus

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Messages
143
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St. Louis
Alright, please forgive me for not keeping up with the times but, I have to ask. This whole digital P25, Trunking, non-digital, 800, 900, has me confused.

I'm just moving back to the St. Louis metro (St. Louis City), and I can't stand listening to the city feed on here (no offense) I just want to be able to select a district and listen to one district if I want, and not scanning everything or whatever the feed does.

None the less..... I need help.

Uniden Bearcat BC-RH96 Remote Head
RadioShack PRO-163 Scanner
GRE PSR-410 Scanner
Uniden Bearcat BCT15X Scanner

I have no freaking clue! I don't want to spend 400 dollars on a scanner, I'll stick with radio reference. But the scanners above range from 150-220 dollars. I'm more than ok with this... but when I saw a scanner in this range it said something like non-digital, and I'm scared to make the purchase and it not work with scanning St. Louis Metro, St. Louis City, MOSWIN, etc.

Any (cheap) input would be greatly appreciated.
Don't be confused. There is only one New Deal!

For years I debated buying a trunking scanner, not to mention a digital one. I finally broke down and bought a PRO-197 at Radio Shack last week.
Did I need it? Of course not. Do I regret buying it? No.
I scan mostly fire frequencies in the Clayton, Richmond Heights, Maplewood, Brentwood area, including the St. Louis Fire Department. For that I don't need a digital scanner. I listened to the St. Louis police occasionally on a non-trunking scanner many years ago but wasn't intersted enough to buy a trunking scanner. The last time I bought a new scanner was probably 25 years ago.
The main reason I bought the new scanner was that I thought the the St. Louis FD might go to the P25 system. At least for now, they don't seem to be in any rush so I really don't need a digital scanner. All of what I really want to hear I can still hear on my old scanners.
However, I really like the new scanner and am glad I bought it.
I'm not all that interested in police frequencies but now I can listen to StL police if I want to. I can also listen to city EMS, which I couldn't do before, although I'm even less interested in that than police.
Not being able to hear the St. Louis Fire Dept. would be a bummer for me. Since they haven't gone to the P25 system yet, I still hear them fine on my other scanners. So, as I've said, I really didn't need the new digital scanner. But it's nice to hear a lot of other things I couldn't hear before.
A digital trunking scanner is a lot more expensive than other scanners. Whether it's worth it depends on how serious you are. I don't see any point in buying a trunking scanner that's not digital. My old non-trunking scanners work just fine and I can stll hear a lot on them. But I'm glad I bought a new scanner. It only took me 25 years. Now, if somebody goes to P25, I'm ready.
Some have found the RS Pro-197 scanner difficult to program. I didn't. But I've programmed scanners (and a number of other things) before.
 

nick1427d

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As far as fire districts go remember that most fire houses and vol use vhf/uhf paging. I'm unaware of motorola (or any other pager company) having any 800mhz capable pager. Therefore the chances of vhf paging for tone outs going away anytime soon is unlikely. It would be very costly for FDs to totally disband vhf paging capability.

For instance all St Clair county IL fire dept dispatched by CENCOM went to STARCOM P25 years ago and have continued to use vhf paging. The main fire frequency is patched so anything you transmit on fire main will be heard on 154.190. There was an attempt to use tones over the TRS with portable alerts but there were many bugs, and could you imagine giving every volunteer a portable? $$$

I know first hand that StL county fire departments have been meeting recently about a new digital system, so I'm certain it's coming in some form especially with illinois there already.

So if you wanna hear actual radio chatter especially scene ops I would start looking at buying a digital scanner. If all you want to hear are tone outs then don't worry and stick with an analog of some form until you can afford a digital. Like what was said earlier most scanner nuts have multiple receivers. Be careful it's addicting.

my 2 cents
 

lynxrufus

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Like what was said earlier most scanner nuts have multiple receivers. Be careful it's addicting.
It is addicting and I have several scanners myself but, when it comes to conservative fire departments being in a great rush to spend money in a time of budget constraints to adopt a new technology, I'm skeptical. I suspect there will be some push back and the digital disease may take a while infect everyone. How long did it take Brentwood to adopt the unit numbering that had been in place in the rest of St. Louis County for a long time? And that didn't even cost anything. Is the St. Louis FD in any great rush to go to a P25 system? I suspect they have reservations about it.
 

qubix

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Saint Louis, Missouri
Thanks a ton

I can't thank you all enough for the information. I can't tell you how long I'm going to spend googling everything that's been said. I work in communications for a helicopter company.. So I'm sort of up on the overall idea, but, scanning and digital, not digital, trunked, not trunked, and the whole lot, has my head spinning.

Thank you all again.
 
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