Tecsun PL-660 vs Uniden BC125AT for Air Band

Status
Not open for further replies.

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
This is somewhat longwinded so please bear with me. This is kind of an aircraft monitoring/equipment question.

I'm about 8 miles north of KSNA and monitor flights on approach with my Tecsun PL-660 with the built in telescoping antenna. Aircraft on approach sound great, as they normally call in about 2 miles east/west of me, but tower transmissions are difficult. So Cal Approach and Departure are better, but not great. The radio doesn't scan and doesn't have squelch, so the noise monitoring is distracting. External antennas for the air band don't work with the PL-660 so there isn't a lot more I can do with it. I still like it for SWLing with a long wire. It's a great little radio, but has some limitations.

My plan is to buy a Uniden BC125AT and add a Diamond RH77CA antenna for listing outside or at airshows. Although I live in a condo where outside antennas are prohibited, I'm not opposed to placing an antenna in my attic for when I'm home and adding a second mobile antenna on my car, both with FM filter traps. I understand the FM filter really cleans up air band, especially in areas of strong FM interference like Southern California.

The real questions is whether or not that effort is really worth it. Even with the Diamond antenna, can I expect the BC125AT to outperform my Tecsun with regard to reception? Also, is a attic located base antenna likely to improve reception/overload the BC125AT scanner?

Thanks.

Chris M. (n2dpsky)
 

N9JCQ

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 30, 2005
Messages
679
Location
Buffalo Grove, IL
I have a BC-396T, not a 125AT but I can tell you that hands down, the 125AT with the RH-77CA will out perform you PL-660 for aircraft, both in performance and function.
 

safetyobc

Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2004
Messages
3,354
Location
South Arkansas
I had the 125 and Diamomd antenna. While I've never owned a dedicated airband radio, the 125 is one of the best scanners I've ever had for airband. I recommend the 125 all the time to people looking for an airband scanner. The reception on it is very good.
 

jaymatt1978

Member
Joined
May 18, 2003
Messages
1,784
Location
Cape May,NJ
I agree the 125AT is one of the best mil-air scanners out there today!! I used it an airshow and it worked great!!!1
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
Thanks to everyone for their input. That seems to be the general consensus. When I pull the trigger, I'll do a quick video on YouTube and compare the differences.

Thanks again.
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
BC125AT and RH77CA......meh.

Okay, based on the advice here and my own research, I decided to buy the Uniden BC125AT and the Diamond RH77CA. Amazon only wanted another $10.99 for next day delivery so I went for it. Both arrived today.

Most of the comments I’ve read are pretty accurate. The speaker is a little toy-sounding and the programming overly complicated by today’s standards. The standard antenna works with the strongest signals, but little else. The RH77CA does make a significant difference. I'd say that addition alone made it usable. Without it, I would have returned it.

Being able to have squelch (I know half of you are laughing at me) and the ability to scan (both things my Tecsun PL-660 was not able to do) were strong selling points. However, the one thing my Tecsun can do is receive and it's a touch more sensitive than the BC125AT/RH77CA even with the squelch turned off. Using the PL-660’s telescoping antenna and the gain turned all the way up, it just pulls in fainter signals than the Bearcat.

The Tecsun is known for its sensitive receiver for SWLing, but it continues to impress me every time I use it. If it had squelch and an ext, antenna port for the air band, it would be nearly perfect for all it does, but it’s no scanner. For the BC125AT, some signals are just too weak to break squelch when the 660 receives them, even on the lowest squelch setting. The fact that the Tecsun has a much better speaker probably helps on weak signal. Now, don’t get me wrong, these differences are not huge, but certainly noticeable.

Squelch and the ability to scan are probably reasons enough to keep it. It also has frequencies my other radio doesn't have. I also have the ability to use mobile and base antennas (additional reasons why I chose it in the first place). At the end of the day, I’ll probably keep it. The BC125AT is certainly a decent radio when coupled with a better antenna like the Diamond. It does things my other radio doesn’t, but I wish I could say it was clearly more sensitive. It’s just not.
 

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,642
Location
Bowie, Md.
Keep in mind that the tower is not meant to be heard at a great distance at ground level - it's meant to have great air coverage, and that's why you have a difficult time hearing it. While a better antenna would undoubtedly help, don't expect miracles, no matter what scanner you use. It's always going to be the weaker of the signal between the aircraft and tower.

Mike
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
Your point is well understood, but it's clear that some radio/antenna combinations do better than others. On one radio I do receive some tower and ground transmissions from my location, but some of it's in the noise, and on one radio I simply don't. This really isn't about expectations of the signal, but how can I maximize what is possible with the equipment. This thread was started due to a lack of comparative reviews on these two systems that would have provided that information. Hopefully, this may benefit others in the future. I'll more thoroughly detail my findings and post on my blog in the coming weeks.

After two days of use of the BC125AT/RH77CA, it is growing on me. I do like it and intend to keep it. Although it's not as sensitive as my other radio by a very narrow margin, it's certainly more useful for aircraft monitoring than my Tecsun. I'm already getting used to its unique features and benefits. I would also say that I am satisfied with the RH77CA for now.

A mobile antenna is a my next item, which may also include the addition of an FM 88-108 MHz notch filter, although I'm still researching those. Right now I'm leaning towards a DPDP VHF Air (118-136 MHz) 1/4 Wave Mobile Antenna with a magnetic mount. (DPD Productions - VHF Air/Aviation Band, FBO Base, PCL, AWOS, ACARS & ADS-B Antennas) Since my primary focus is aircraft, this seems
like it might be the one. Any comments on this model antenna or others suited for aircraft monitoring would also be appreciated. Are there any good 5/8th wave mobile antennas recommended for air band?

Chris M.
(n2dpsky)
Local Meridian — Explore Where Your Are
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
I've never made an antenna, but it might be a fun challenge. As for the mobile antenna, I might go with something commercially made for now, if for no other reason as to be sure it works and looks clean on the vehicle. However, when I install a base antenna, I might decide to go for something home built. I have a bit to learn, but I'm up to the challenge.

Thanks.
 

p1879

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Messages
194
You may enjoy having a dedicated tabletop scanner for your airband passion. I once found a RadioShack Pro-2045 scanner at the flea market--it is a legendary scanner for civil and milair scanning. I think I paid $35 for it. On a good outside antenna, hearing signals from 300+ miles to aircraft at altitude are routine, if you are in a decent location. Of course, that is also possible with your handheld radio using the Diamond whip if you are on a good mountaintop/hill.

Almost all "obsolete" scanners have airband. Perhaps a cheap, used one could augment your capabilities, and maybe free up your other radio for exploration or favorite frequencies. The BC-780 scanner is liked by some airband listeners also.

Of course, this being RR, you will frequently hear crusaders for "more radios"; some of us have obvious bias.
 

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,642
Location
Bowie, Md.
I suspect that the airband was added on the 660 as an afterthought - it probably has all sorts of compromises that would affect its sensitivity. Personally I would never compare a scanner with a portable radio like this - the comparison simply isn't valid. Mike
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
You may enjoy having a dedicated tabletop scanner for your airband passion. I once found a RadioShack Pro-2045 scanner at the flea market--it is a legendary scanner for civil and milair scanning. I think I paid $35 for it. On a good outside antenna, hearing signals from 300+ miles to aircraft at altitude are routine, if you are in a decent location. Of course, that is also possible with your handheld radio using the Diamond whip if you are on a good mountaintop/hill.

Almost all "obsolete" scanners have airband. Perhaps a cheap, used one could augment your capabilities, and maybe free up your other radio for exploration or favorite frequencies. The BC-780 scanner is liked by some airband listeners also.

Of course, this being RR, you will frequently hear crusaders for "more radios"; some of us have obvious bias.
I'm afraid I may end up with lots of radios. I sure wouldn't rule out a desktop model.
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
I suspect that the airband was added on the 660 as an afterthought - it probably has all sorts of compromises that would affect its sensitivity. Personally I would never compare a scanner with a portable radio like this - the comparison simply isn't valid. Mike
This is exactly what I concluded. I assumed (or hoped) a dedicated scanner would be significantly more sensitive, but that was not the case for air band. However, the scanner I bought is certainly more efficient and useful. I'm still enjoying it after a weekend of use.

The Tecsun has side band, so I've always enjoyed listening in to HF DXers using a long wire antenna. Now I'm enjoying 2m and 70cm on the scanner. It's going to force me to study to get my HAM license.

This morning I'm getting sporadic signal on KSNA clearance freq, which is not bad for a portable 8.4 miles from the antenna. It's not consistent, but not bad.

The more I use the BC125AT, the more I am enjoying it.
 

w8prr

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 23, 2005
Messages
262
Location
West Liberty, Ohio
With your airband interests, I'd also suggest you try out the HF aero frequencies. Many are listed online and you may like hearing an aircraft over the ocean talking to ground stations that you will also be able to hear.
 

n2dpsky

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2016
Messages
35
Location
Orange, CA
With your airband interests, I'd also suggest you try out the HF aero frequencies. Many are listed online and you may like hearing an aircraft over the ocean talking to ground stations that you will also be able to hear.
Thanks, W8PRR. I never even considered that. That would be fun to try. Thanks for the suggestion.

Chris M.
 

WA8ZTZ

Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
795
Chris,

You mentioned in your first post that although you live in a condo, you are OK with putting an antenna in the attic. Even a simple ground plane in the attic will make an amazing improvement over the whip antenna on the scanner. If the run is long, avoid RG-58 and use RG-8X or better yet,RG-6 instead. My BC125AT is connected to a ground plane in the attic and allows me to hear ships and trains 40 miles away and aircraft even further. IMHO it is a great little receiver that has provided me hours of enjoyable listening. :)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top