The BC125AT -- initial impressions

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KB2GOM

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upstate New York
A little introduction is in order, I think.

It all started when I was 10. My Dad brought home a Zenith Transoceanic Radio, and I fell in love. The notion that someone could broadcast from South America or Europe and I could hear it in Ohio captured me. Forget all that technical stuff about megahertz and resonant frequencies; radio is pure magic.

Fast forward decades, and I find myself still loving radio and writing about it for PopComm, Monitoring Times, Passport to World Band Radio, and QST.

But I am still a newb when it comes to scanners. Bear that in mind when you read what follows. And, yeah, I did own scanners years ago, in the days before trunking systems, programming via computer, and alphanumeric identifier displays. Frankly, I found the scraps of intercepted audio unhelpful and even annoying.

But now, as I continue to run the Commuter Assistance Network on 2 meter ham radio in the Capital District of Upstate New York, I thought that monitoring area first responders might be a useful addition to the information provided by hams on the net.

A friend programmed my Uniden BCD396T for me. I find it to be a powerful and treacherous tool. Powerful because I can bring up each of the local counties as separate units so I can monitor only those areas I want to monitor, and treacherous because (it seems to me) it is waaaaay too easy to invoke commands that I don’t know how to turn off, necessitating resetting the entire scanner and reloading everything. So I use the BCD396T very carefully.

Lately another ham, N2SQO, has been helping with the Commuter Assistance Network. And he mentioned that he runs a separate scanner simply to monitor ham radio frequencies in the area. That seemed like a good idea to me. He also mentioned monitoring air frequencies, and that sounded like fun. So I ordered a returned Uniden BC125AT from Amazon, and that’s where these initial impressions actually begin.

The BC125AT arrived safely, and my first impression is that the fit and finish is very similar to my BCD396T.

I mounted a Diamond RH77CA to the antenna connector, popped in a couple of AA alkaline batteries, and the 125 immediately began playing the local weather radio. Hmmm, I thought, maybe the previous owner (remember this was a returned radio) had invoked a weather scan before he decided to return it. In addition, Close Call had been invoked, and it was interrupting the weather radio every two seconds.

Using the included USB cable, I connected the 125 to the Bearcat BC125AT_SS software that I had downloaded from Uniden and took a look at what had been programmed into the scanning banks. There were a bunch of frequencies, including weather frequencies, that had been programmed into Bank 1. No wonder this person had returned the radio; they had probably gotten frustrated because they were doing the same goofy stuff that I had been doing years ago with my first scanners, that is, throwing everything into one bank and hoping it works out.

While I was waiting for the 125 to arrive, I had created a file, using the Bearcat BC125AT_SS software, of the frequencies that I wanted to scan. But this time I was smarter . . . I grouped them according to category. So Bank 1 is State Police, Bank 2 is local aviation, Bank 3 is marine and an air emergency frequency, Bank 4 is national emergency frequencies, and Bank 5 is ham radio.

There was one cause for concern in the whole programming process, and that was when I clicked the “upload to scanner” command, and an alert was displayed that this “would erase everything on the scanner.” I swallowed hard and told it to proceed.

A couple of minutes later I found that it did, indeed, wipe out everything in the memory bands, but it did not erase the Service Search databanks or the weather channels stored elsewhere in the 125 . . . and that’s good news.

The operating scheme for the 125 is really simple and pretty intuitive. If you want to scan Bank 1, press SCAN and then 1 on the keypad. If you also want to scan Bank 2, press 2. In SCAN mode, you can simply turn banks on and off by pressing the corresponding number on the keypad. If you want to do a service search of pre-stored frequencies, press Func and Srch and then use the keypad to turn on or off various service searches such as Railroad, Aviation, and so forth. It’s simple, easy, and doesn’t seem to have any hidden traps. I haven’t used any other features of the BC125AT yet.

The receive performance of the BC125AT seems at least as good as the BCD396T and perhaps better on the civilian and military air bands.

Bottom line, I like it, and so far, I would recommend the BC125AT.

Note: I found the manual for the BC125AT clearly written and easy to follow. That is not the case with the manual for the BCD396T.
 

marlin39a

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Messages
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Location
Paulden, AZ.
I’ve got my 125 sitting next to me, with the RH 77CA, scanning my local railroad. It is fantastic at snagging a defect detector 12 miles away, EOT and FOT signals 5 - 6 miles away, and train orders also. A great scanner for my needs.
 

jaspence

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Mar 21, 2008
Messages
2,363
Location
Michigan
A good choice for analog scanning. If you want to add frequencies, you must first upload from the scanner into the programming software, add the new information, and send it to the radio.
 

highwayman1224

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Jan 16, 2010
Messages
253
Location
Buckeye, AZ
A little introduction is in order, I think.

It all started when I was 10. My Dad brought home a Zenith Transoceanic Radio, and I fell in love. The notion that someone could broadcast from South America or Europe and I could hear it in Ohio captured me. Forget all that technical stuff about megahertz and resonant frequencies; radio is pure magic.

Fast forward decades, and I find myself still loving radio and writing about it for PopComm, Monitoring Times, Passport to World Band Radio, and QST.

But I am still a newb when it comes to scanners. Bear that in mind when you read what follows. And, yeah, I did own scanners years ago, in the days before trunking systems, programming via computer, and alphanumeric identifier displays. Frankly, I found the scraps of intercepted audio unhelpful and even annoying.

But now, as I continue to run the Commuter Assistance Network on 2 meter ham radio in the Capital District of Upstate New York, I thought that monitoring area first responders might be a useful addition to the information provided by hams on the net.

A friend programmed my Uniden BCD396T for me. I find it to be a powerful and treacherous tool. Powerful because I can bring up each of the local counties as separate units so I can monitor only those areas I want to monitor, and treacherous because (it seems to me) it is waaaaay too easy to invoke commands that I don’t know how to turn off, necessitating resetting the entire scanner and reloading everything. So I use the BCD396T very carefully.

Lately another ham, N2SQO, has been helping with the Commuter Assistance Network. And he mentioned that he runs a separate scanner simply to monitor ham radio frequencies in the area. That seemed like a good idea to me. He also mentioned monitoring air frequencies, and that sounded like fun. So I ordered a returned Uniden BC125AT from Amazon, and that’s where these initial impressions actually begin.

The BC125AT arrived safely, and my first impression is that the fit and finish is very similar to my BCD396T.

I mounted a Diamond RH77CA to the antenna connector, popped in a couple of AA alkaline batteries, and the 125 immediately began playing the local weather radio. Hmmm, I thought, maybe the previous owner (remember this was a returned radio) had invoked a weather scan before he decided to return it. In addition, Close Call had been invoked, and it was interrupting the weather radio every two seconds.

Using the included USB cable, I connected the 125 to the Bearcat BC125AT_SS software that I had downloaded from Uniden and took a look at what had been programmed into the scanning banks. There were a bunch of frequencies, including weather frequencies, that had been programmed into Bank 1. No wonder this person had returned the radio; they had probably gotten frustrated because they were doing the same goofy stuff that I had been doing years ago with my first scanners, that is, throwing everything into one bank and hoping it works out.

While I was waiting for the 125 to arrive, I had created a file, using the Bearcat BC125AT_SS software, of the frequencies that I wanted to scan. But this time I was smarter . . . I grouped them according to category. So Bank 1 is State Police, Bank 2 is local aviation, Bank 3 is marine and an air emergency frequency, Bank 4 is national emergency frequencies, and Bank 5 is ham radio.

There was one cause for concern in the whole programming process, and that was when I clicked the “upload to scanner” command, and an alert was displayed that this “would erase everything on the scanner.” I swallowed hard and told it to proceed.

A couple of minutes later I found that it did, indeed, wipe out everything in the memory bands, but it did not erase the Service Search databanks or the weather channels stored elsewhere in the 125 . . . and that’s good news.

The operating scheme for the 125 is really simple and pretty intuitive. If you want to scan Bank 1, press SCAN and then 1 on the keypad. If you also want to scan Bank 2, press 2. In SCAN mode, you can simply turn banks on and off by pressing the corresponding number on the keypad. If you want to do a service search of pre-stored frequencies, press Func and Srch and then use the keypad to turn on or off various service searches such as Railroad, Aviation, and so forth. It’s simple, easy, and doesn’t seem to have any hidden traps. I haven’t used any other features of the BC125AT yet.

The receive performance of the BC125AT seems at least as good as the BCD396T and perhaps better on the civilian and military air bands.

Bottom line, I like it, and so far, I would recommend the BC125AT.

Note: I found the manual for the BC125AT clearly written and easy to follow. That is not the case with the manual for the BCD396T.
I loved getting my PopComm magazine in the mail every month in the 90's!! Are they still publishing those magazines?
 

a417

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Bottom line, I like it, and so far, I would recommend the BC125AT.
This unit is almost a decade old.

I would be careful with blanket recommendation statements like this, as it doesn't cover the fact that this is an analog only, hand portable unit that does not do any digital coverage. This could be misleading to people who don't know what they need, and are going off your recommendation.
 

highwayman1224

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Messages
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Buckeye, AZ
This unit is almost a decade old.

I would be careful with blanket recommendation statements like this, as it doesn't cover the fact that this is an analog only, hand portable unit that does not do any digital coverage. This could be misleading to people who don't know what they need, and are going off your recommendation.
Although if someone is interested in a certain scanner they should do a little research first before they buy it. His recommendation wasn't a "blanket" recommendation, it's his honest opinion. I had one and loved it, doesn't matter that it's a decade old scanner because it does what it's supposed to.
 

a417

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I politely disagree, I see it as a blanket statement as it does not really determine compatibility of the device and the end user's potential need. Granted the quote below is from a financial source, it still applies on a broad sense.

a popular online source said:
A blanket recommendation is a recommendation sent by a [financial] professional or institution to all clients to buy or sell a particular security or product, regardless of whether the particular asset is compatible with their investment goals or risk tolerance.
I am glad that the reviewer is getting what he wanted out of the device, it is nice to see people finding that older equipment fills particular requirements and niches...if I could only justify the basement full of antique Moto gear to everyone else who sees it. :oops: :ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO:
 

iMONITOR

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Messages
8,821
Bottom line, I like it, and so far, I would recommend the BC125AT.

Note: I found the manual for the BC125AT clearly written and easy to follow.
Welcome to Radio Reference!

Great choice on the BC125AT & the Diamond RH77CA antenna! I've owned that combination more than once. Every time I think I don't need it anymore I end up selling it only to buy them again! DOH! I just bought them again recently. It's excellent for both civilian & military aircraft!

You might be interested in these:

Scan 125 Control Program Suite

Scan125Convert Utility Program
 

N4DJC

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Messages
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Upstate
The BC125AT is fantastic analog scanner.

With a decent antenna a railfan couldn't ask for a better hand held.
 

KB2GOM

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Jun 1, 2020
Messages
128
Location
upstate New York
This unit is almost a decade old.

I would be careful with blanket recommendation statements like this, as it doesn't cover the fact that this is an analog only, hand portable unit that does not do any digital coverage. This could be misleading to people who don't know what they need, and are going off your recommendation.
Well, you are right; I should have pointed out that the BC125AT is an analog-only scanner. And I could have pointed out that the BCD396T is a far more sophisticated scanner with much greater capabilities.

If there were an edit function, I would amend the last line to: Bottom line, I like it, and so far, I would recommend the BC125AT for those looking for an analog-only scanner. Bear in mind, however, that this was an "initial impression," and that the "so far" implies that the recommendation could be modified in the future if my experience and/or impressions change with additional usage of the scanner.

If I were doing a full-out review, it would have been much longer and much more detailed.
 

a417

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There is an edit function, but it times out after 30 minutes.
 

sallen07

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Well, you are right; I should have pointed out that the BC125AT is an analog-only scanner. And I could have pointed out that the BCD396T is a far more sophisticated scanner with much greater capabilities.
Actually the BCD396T is a couple generations of digital scanners behind. :)

But you did nothing wrong. You started off by saying you weren't a scanner expert, and all you did was review your new scanner and say that you would recommend it. You didn't say "Oh this is the BEST scanner that EVERYONE should buy for EVERYTHING".

I would recommend the BC125AT too ... it's a great analog hand-held scanner. The fact that the model is 10 years old matters not; the fact that they are still made suggests that they are still the right tool for that job.
 

TailGator911

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Messages
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Location
Fairborn, OH
If I were to suddenly have to vacate and evacuate and only had time to grab n go radios I would go with the SDS100 for digital, BC125AT for analog, and a Yaesu FT60 for coms. I also cast a vote for the 125AT, fantastic analog scanner.
 

KB2GOM

Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2020
Messages
128
Location
upstate New York
Additional: a cool thing about the BC125AT and a not so cool thing.

The cool thing is the temporary lock-out function. If you have a channel that you want to lock-out for this session but don't want to permanently lock-out, press the lock-out button once. It will lock out until the radio is turned off and then back on; then the channel will reappear. If you hit the lock-out button twice, the channel locks out until you have to manually make it reappear again.

The not-so-cool thing is that the BC125AT chews up alkaline batteries pretty fast. I saw one estimate that they last about 4 hours. That seems pretty close to me.

So, a couple of questions:

1. If I pop in the rechargeables that came with the radio, can I plug the usb cable into usb/powerline tap that I use to recharge my kindle?

2. Has anybody tried Lithium AAs or some other batteries (other rechargeables, perhaps) to power the BC125AT?
 

PriorMike

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May 26, 2016
Messages
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Location
Arnprior, Ontario, Canada
I have a 125AT, and despite all of the other handhelds I have, I like to bring it out as it's a very good, simple scanner.

As for the post above, you should be getting more than 4 hours out of it. I use Duracell rechargeables.
 
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