VHF-Low Performance - GRE or Uniden?

Who delivers the best conventional VHF-Low (around 40 MHz) reception?

  • GRE 500/600, Pro-106/197 family

    Votes: 7 43.8%
  • Uniden 396/996/15X

    Votes: 7 43.8%
  • Other brand (please comment in thread)

    Votes: 2 12.5%

  • Total voters
    16
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RadioDaze

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Based on your experience, which radios do you feel have the edge for VHF-Low sensitivity: GRE 500/600 family, or Uniden 396/996 family?

I'm planning to set up dedicated California Highway Patrol receiver in the car. (I would be unlikely to use HP-1 or PSR-800 due to driving ergonomics, regardless of performance.)
 
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W2PMX

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Neither. Antenna. The range on VHF-lo for most mobiles is only going to be a few miles - if you have an adequate antenna. Using the antenna that comes with a scanner, inside a car, is going to limit your receiving range to blocks, not miles.

Sorry, but that's the nature of the physics of the thing - no scanner can receive a signal that the antenna doesn't feed it, and a short (or even quarter-wave - which is 3-4 feet on VHF-lo) antenna isn't going to be picking up much. Your best bet is a physically resonant antenna (IOW physically one quarter wavelength on the frequency of interest) mounted on the trunk.
 

tglendye

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I agree that the antenna is the biggest factor, especially with VHF-Low. And if it is dedicated to VHF-Low, you do have a "perfect" opportunity for a 1/4 wave antenna since you won't be monitoring the other bands. Not sure what you would like to mount on your vehicle. A quick search on eBay for "VHF Low Antenna NMO" yielded a few good results.
 

W6KRU

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The other posters are correct. No scanner will work without a proper antenna. On equal antennas though, I'll give a slight edge to my PSR-500.
 

RadioDaze

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On equal antennas though, I'll give a slight edge to my PSR-500.
Thank you. I should have stated in my post that I'm aware of the effect of an inadequate antenna.
There are several low-banders from DPD, Comtelco and Larsen that I'm considering. I like the idea of an Austin Spectra, but a bit concerned about mechanical issues that have been reported.
 

ka3jjz

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I've had a Spectra for many years now, and had no problems with it at all. It's lasted through hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms - and all I've had to do is to clear out the spring and connection every so often.

As to how well it performs on VHF lo - keep in mind this is a 2 foot antenna with loading coils. It works pretty well for a 2 foot antenna (and remember the top section can be cut and retuned - which I've done with mine for the 39 mhz area, where Md. State Police can be found).

It's just too physically short, as others have already mentioned, to be naturally resonant on that band. If all you're interested in is the 40 mhz area, a dedicated VHF lo antenna is going to beat this out every time. Any of the other multiband antennas - including the Spectra - is quite likely to be a compromise on 40 mhz.

Getting back to the Spectra for a moment, it's important with this antenna to have a very good ground plane. Many verticals are nothing more than one half of a 'dipole' - the metal underneath the antenna forming the other side of the format. I have a heavy duty Diamond NMO mount which I made sure the screws that hold it in place actually made a connection to the car body (a quick check with a cheap VOM to a bolt that holds the front seat in place confirmed it). It's quite likely that whatever you buy will also need a good ground plane, unless it's one of those no-ground plane types (there are many such antennas in the ham world, I wouldn't doubt there would be something like that in the commercial world). It's something to keep in mind. A poor ground connection will very likely have a detrimental effect on the performance of the antenna.

best regards..Mike
 

mancow

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Comparing the 197 and the 996T I would give the nod to the 996. The 197 seems to have a more harsh squelch circuit that at times can be an issue with low level fluttering lowband signals. The 996 just seems to provide a more even and pleasant signal that will roll off into white noise when things drop briefly.
 

W8RMH

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I always found the old crystal scanners to have the best performance on low band.

I had an eight channel Regency crystal VHF low scanner in my car with a stainless-steel 102" whip CB antenna cut down to 34 mhz. and it worked as good as, if not better, than the Motorola units in the cruisers (that took up half the trunk)

As I watched scanners progress I noticed more reduction of low band performance with every new radio, but hey, everyone was moving to UHF anyway.

If I was going to stream low band I might even consider using a crystal scanner.

I don't listen to low band anymore so I've never evaluated low band reception on the modern scanners.
 

gmclam

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Of those radios I'll pick the PSR-500, but ...

I'm planning to set up dedicated California Highway Patrol receiver in the car. (I would be unlikely to use HP-1 or PSR-800 due to driving ergonomics, regardless of performance.)
Especially in a vehicle, and especially when it comes to CHP, it is essential that you have a proper antenna outside the vehicle if you want to have good reception.
 
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Like everyone said good antenna that's tune for lowband and if have the crash I would get a commercial low band works the best.

Good luck!
 

kruser

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I had to go with the Uniden. My GRE's all desense too easily due to the high RF environment I live in. They are almost useless for any kind of VHF monitoring if I'm also trying to pull in weak signals.
The attenuator must be used all the time here and it attenuates too much for DX reception.
The Uniden seems to handle the high RF much better than the GRE.
Now if I'm in the country, the GRE’s do a fantastic job and beat the Unidens but I attribute that to the overly sensitive front ends in the GRE's. I do wish they would tame them down some for those in areas like mine.
Or maybe offer a two step attenuator as the stock one is too strong in my opinion if it must kill weak signals in order to receive local strong signals at all. I do have external attenuators for use with the GRE radios.
Of course I am using decent antennas cut for the bands of interest and mounted fairly high. This does not help with scanners much as they can overload or desense so easily.
I have a lot of vhf high power transmitters near me and must use PAR filters in the two VHF paging ranges for all but the Icom’s. My state is building out a VHF statewide P25 system. It is going to be interesting to see how well I can receive it here as I see some of the frequencies they are using fall within the paging bands that the PAR filters work with.
For my true low band vhf DX monitoring, I use an Icom R9000 and R7000. Those radios are completely immune to the overload that kills the GRE's.
The GRE's are needed here though for the few 800 P25 systems I like to monitor. They beat the Unidens for almost all 800 systems here.
My older 996T is an exception as it allows me to adjust the P25 decode rate unlike the 996XT where they removed that option for some stupid reason.

When I travel to my country property, my choice will be a GRE product for low band vhf always. Their extra sensitive front ends work well when away from a high rf environment. And the Icoms are too darn heavy too tote around unless I'm going for a week or longer.

When I'm home, my choice is the Uniden for scanning the state patrol and then the Icom’s for manually searching out DX in the low band vhf range.

When I hook a GRE up to a dedicated low band antenna here at home, the digital signal meter in the radio is pegged full strength although the squelch still works. The same antenna hooked to the Unidens or Icom’s give me no signal strength on the meters unless I'm receiving a true signal. I blame this on the GRE's front end design (and the horrible paging transmitters that are on the air almost 100% of the time).
I have four vhf high paging transmitters within one mile or less of me in two directions. Guess which way I do not point my beams! Then I counted 23 cellular towers in a 2 mile stretch of road leading to my place. 23 of the things is crazy. That is just crazy but the GRE handles the RF from them very well even though I do attenuate it by about 8dB. I also use a custom PAR filter that filters the 929 to 932 MHz range for the paging systems there. Those stations do desense the Uniden and the GRE at 800 MHz. I also have at least four of the 930 paging systems here also. They are all located on three different hospitals that I can see from my rooftop.
I live in RF hell and it makes for a great challenge to receive anything with a scanner. Dedicated radios for each band are almost a must here really.

I do also use a variety of crystal scanners that are set with low band crystals for my state but I mainly like them for the much better sound quality over modern day scanners. They all suffer from intermodulation distortion between the paging signals and weather service transmitter. PAR filters again come to the rescue for the crystal scanners.

Sorry for the long post but there is no simple single scanner answer for my situation!
 
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I always found the old crystal scanners to have the best performance on low band.

I had an eight channel Regency crystal VHF low scanner in my car with a stainless-steel 102" whip CB antenna cut down to 34 mhz. and it worked as good as, if not better, than the Motorola units in the cruisers (that took up half the trunk)

As I watched scanners progress I noticed more reduction of low band performance with every new radio, but hey, everyone was moving to UHF anyway.

If I was going to stream low band I might even consider using a crystal scanner.

I don't listen to low band anymore so I've never evaluated low band reception on the modern scanners.
I agree. A CB antenna will work the best for monitoring CHP. Compared to my Diamond 2 meter mobile antenna, my Wilson 1000 was able to pick up CHP offices that were very far from me. Being in Los Angeles area, I was able to pick up Barstow and San Juan Capistrano offices.

As for scanner, well I just have one. I found that the PSR 500 works just fine. Although you may need to desense the signals.
 

kruser

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I agree. A CB antenna will work the best for monitoring CHP. Compared to my Diamond 2 meter mobile antenna, my Wilson 1000 was able to pick up CHP offices that were very far from me. Being in Los Angeles area, I was able to pick up Barstow and San Juan Capistrano offices.

As for scanner, well I just have one. I found that the PSR 500 works just fine. Although you may need to desense the signals.
I recall another model that did very well with low band.
That was the original old Electra Bearcat 250's and I assume others from that era like the Bearcat 300 and maybe the 220. They all pretty much used the same RF board. For an early synthesized scanner, they did an excellent job at low band. I can remember listening to pursuits from half way across the state. I could hear the mobiles during the pursuit and they were still out in Rolla, MO and I was in St. Louis. I did have a tall tower back then and a commercial gain antenna tuned for 42 MHz though. I could hear them all the way from Rolla to the point they dropped off the pursuit as they went into Illinois! Those were the good old days for sure. I guess that would have been in 1979 or the early 80's as that is when Electra released those models. I still use them today like the old Bearcat III crystal scanners that I use for low band. They also had great sounding audio. I wish I could recall the antenna maker. I got the antenna from a tower that belonged to Guy Mullen ambulance service on 47.620 I believe. The owner had a tower at his home in Creve Coeur on his business frequency.
The owner passed away and the new owners wanted the tower down. A ham wanted the towers lower sections and I wanted the antenna if it could be removed safely. It could not as it was too dangerous to climb the rusty tower. We dropped the upper half of the tower and amazingly, the antenna mostly survived. It snapped only in the middle of its lower section but did not hurt the loading coil or the ground radials. I was able to insert a smaller sleeve into the broken sections and join the two pieces back together. We had a vhf low band paging system at work on 35.020 (I think) and I used that to test the antenna for a proper swr. It had adjustable sections so I was able to get a good swr on it. I then hooked a BC-250 up to the thing and was amazed at how well I could hear the state police mobiles on 42 MHz.
I later installed it up on my tower at about 60 feet and it worked fantastic for many years. I only used it for receive from that point on though. It lasted there until that home was sold about six years ago. It came down in the same fashion as when I first got it but it did not survive the last fall. The loading coil and ground radial mounting plate were all destroyed.
My old BC-250 spent a good part of its life hooked to that antenna!
 
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kruser

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Considering that you tuned the antenna 15% off, that really is amazing.
Say what?
The antenna was fully adjustable on both the ground radial section as well as the vertical element. I could collapse it down for use just above the 47.620 that is was set at when I received it and extend it longer for use down around 33 MHz from memory.
I never messed with the ground radial adjustment as it was close enough at 42 MHz for my reception needs plus the fact that it tuned up fine at 35 MHz told me the radials were best left alone.
It was a stretch though and I'm not sure what the manufacturer claimed the tuning range to be as it was old.
 
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