Other Radio Hobbies
|Scanners are much different than other consumer-level radios ---- or even shortwave radios, for that matter. If you're looking to buy your first scanner, you probably feel a bit confused and overwhelmed by the features and specifications of the models you're considering!
As with most consumer items,†there is no one "best" scanner radio for everyone. Many police and fire services are now utilizing technology that was unknown even 20 years ago. This means that you must first consider what to purchase and where to get information to make an informed purchase.
What About These Wideband Radios?
Radios like the AOR DV-10 and Icom IC-R30 offer a convenient way of monitoring different services and a wide number of frequencies. In addition to VHF/UHF coverage, they also receive AM and shortwave stations. However, when it comes to public safety scanning, they fall short for several reasons. One is that these radios donít scan quickly enough, even if you are just listening across a few frequencies. Chances are that if it gets busy enough, you might miss parts of the action. Perhaps the biggest fault with these radios, in terms of public service scanning, is that they are incapable of TrunkTracking.
What is TrunkTracking?
TrunkTracking, in itís simplest terms, is the ability to follow a single conversation that moves among several different frequencies within a given type of radio system called a Trunk System. Read this article from Unidenís Paul Opitz, to learn more.
Who Makes Scanners That Can TrunkTrack?
The two primary distributors of Trunktrackers are Uniden and Whistler. The specific models can be found on this page. Radios from the Uniden BCD325P2 to the SDS200, along with Whistlerís TRX-2 and WS-1040 are all capable of trunktracking.
You should know that there are many scanners from Uniden, GRE and Radio Shack out on the used market as well, and could save you money if you are on a budget. Unfortunately both GRE and Radio Shack have exited the scanner market, and manufacturer support for their models range from limited to non-existant. This is important because adding newer forms of trunktracking may not be possible with these scanners.
There is one notable exception to the lack of support. Whistler has a program that upgrades the GRE PSR-800, Radio Shack PRO-18 and PRO-668 to add new TrunkTracking capabilities. See the link at the bottom for more information on this procedure.
Are There Modes That Canít Be TrunkTracked?
Unfortunately, yes. In addition some systems are either wholly or partially encrypted, and cannot be decoded by any consumer scanner.
In recent years, modes have been added (like MOTOTRBO™ and ProVoice™) that, in many cases, can be TrunkTracked that could not be in the past. Adding these to your Uniden or Whistler scanner usually involves a firmware update offered by the manufacturer. In some cases there may be a charge for these updates.
How Can I Find Out What Is Being Used In My Area?
This question should be one of the first you ask when considering a scanner purchase. Books and CDs can and often do become outdated very quickly. However there are a couple of places you can go for more up to date information. The RadioReference website has an extensive database (with data submitted by members) for the US, Canada and limited information on other areas such as Europe. There are a number of forums devoted for each area. Joining RadioReference is free, and there is a premium service Ė for a fee Ė that allows you to download data for your scanner using an external application. In addition, there are numerous mailing lists on the popular Groups.io reflector which specialize in a given area. There are even websites that specialize in a specific region, such as Scan New England.
I Donít Know The Terminology
Just like any technical hobby, scanning has a huge list of terms, many of which are unfamiliar to the casual user. The RadioReference Wiki has an extensive glossary of terms that will help explain what may be unclear.
How Can These Sites Help Me With My Decision?
Sites like RadioReference host members from many states and countries; people that are in your area are often the best resource to find out which scanner would work in your area and understand the various systems found there.
Iím Interested In A Particular Scanner. How Can I Learn More?
The RadioReference Wiki maintains an extensive list of scanners, along with their capabilities, mailing lists, compatible software and much more.
Where Can I Go To Learn More About Scanning?
The RadioReference Wiki contains numerous articles designed to help the newcomer get started in the hobby. Here are just a few of them. Note that anything written for GRE/RS scanners applies to Whistler scanners as well. This is because Whistler bought out the designs and rights from GRE.
Universal Radio offers a good selection of scanners and wideband radios.
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