Scanner Selection – Part Three

I have many scanners.  Too many.  After dabbling with all of them the last couple weeks I have come to the conclusion of which one a scanner enthusiast should purchase.

That’s it.  But with some exceptions which I’ll get to in a minute.   You’d think in this day and age there would be dozens and dozens of choices and price wars in the radio scanner market.  There isn’t.   In fact there really are maybe only 15 or 20 choices AT ALL.

I count 8 Uniden digital scanners and 4 Whistler digital scanners.  You can get Unication digital pagers which will track P25 digital systems and there are a couple other offerings (old) from GRE and Radio Shack.   I’m sticking with my estimate of 15 to 20 choices.

Most digital systems out there have multiple towers that transmit the same data at the same time for maximum coverage over the First Responders area of operations.  That is called Simulcast.  It can also produce distortion ESPECIALLY if a couple towers are a few milliseconds out of whack.

Currently there are only TWO scanners that have circuitry designed to deal with Simulcast.

  • Uniden SDS100
  • Uniden SDS200

Hence my recommendation above.  Here are the exceptions.

Here are some reasons other scanners might work for you:

  • You don’t have a digital system in your city or county.  There are several Analog scanners which you may see marketed as NASCAR scanners.
  • You do have Simulcast but for some reason don’t suffer the effects of Simulcast distortion.  I have a Uniden HomePatrol 2 which works perfectly on my local Simulcast system.  No other scanner I own (except the SDS100 and SDS200)  work very well on the Simulcast system here.
  • You have a directional outdoor antenna that you can point directly at just one of the towers.  But then your scanner is tied to a hunk of coax cable.

Now let’s say you don’t have a Simulcast issue in your listening area but you travel.  Your less expensive scanner not designed for Simulcast reception is going to eventually run into problems.

There is however a magic bullet regarding this dilemma……….but it is geeky.  You can get two RTL-SDR’s and use a Windows program called DSD+ and make your own digital tracking scanner on a laptop or desktop computer.  It works, it works good.  No Simulcast issues at all.

If you are really budget conscious you can get a Raspberry Pi and ONE RTL-SDR and run a program called OP25.  Again no Simulcast issues and it costs maybe less than $100 total.

Setting up DSD+ or OP25 is not for the faint of heart though.  But to be clear, you can make your own scanner CHEAPLY that doesn’t suffer from Simulcast reception issues.  So if I can do it…………….why can’t a dozen other manufactures do it and inject some competition to the scanner market?  I only know of one place doing it now called BlueTailTechnologies however their latest offering costs $449 which is creeping up on SDS100 money.  Also it has no LCD monitor and requires some level of geekiness as well.

On the bad side of “Roll Your Own Scanner” to include the BueTailTechnologies offering, is that it is digital trunking ONLY.  Forget analog reception.  I like analog reception.

Let’s recap.  If you want to buy a dedicated radio scanner that will work most everywhere (not on encrypted systems) you have TWO CHOICES.  Just two.  Unfortunately neither one is inexpensive.

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