12/10/08 161 W - + 8 - 11 Best Place to Obtain a Digital Trunking Scanner?

A reader inquires, what's the best place to obtain a digital trunking scanner that will receive the Wake County Motorola digital system? Here's my take, though it has been over two years since I acquired my scanners. Readers, please add, edit, or update my information. There are two brands of digitial trunking scanners to consider. Uniden and Radio Shack. Both have hand-held and base versions. Both are priced between $400 and $600. They may be cheaper on eBay, at times. Used versions are also available on eBay. Both can be programmed by hand, but the task is made far easier when using a computer. I have experience using the Radio Shack base unit, programmed using third-party software (not free) and a configuration file sent from a friend. It's worked fine, no complaints. How do Uniden digital trunking scanners differ? I await reader respectives there. Where's the best place to obtain them? Ditto, readers please advise.

For monitoring local fire calls, I recommend adding a couple cheapo VHF scanners. Tune one to Raleigh fire dispatch, the other to Wake fire dispatch. Then lock out those talkgroups on the digital scanner, so you’re only monitoring tac channels. You could also add an analog trunking scanner, for dedicated Cary fire dispatch monitoring. Airport fire dispatch is digital only, however.
Legeros - 12/10/08 - 07:42

You can get the PRO-96 Digital Trunking Handheld Scanner now for $349 as they are getting ready for the next version to sell. I had to have then transfer mine from another store, so may take some time to get.
2redline - 12/10/08 - 08:55

I have the Uniden BCD396T which is a handheld unit, and have been very happy with it. Scanner World (http://www.scannerworld.com/content/product/model/BCD396T) is selling these new for $499, which is the same price as it was nearly 2 years ago. USA Scan also has them, looks like they give discounts for bulk orders (http://www.usascan.com/files/bcd396t.cfm). They’re great units, we also purchased several for our members at Apex FD. Easily programmable with the software and cable, works very well for listening in on fire / ems / etc. calls – even has a paging capability (although I found this to be not as reliable, so do still carry the fire pager around).
ncfirewolf - 12/10/08 - 17:03

Mike: You should have come to me brother! You know that No one knows scanners better in Central NC than me! There are actually 3 brands of scanners to consider: Uniden, Radio Shack, and GRE. A caveat: Radio Shack does purchase some of their scanners from GRE and rebrands them with the Radio Shack logo. If you can wait a month or so Uniden will have a new digital handheld out on the market called the Uniden BCD396XT. It is basically the previous version (BCD396t) with additional features..you can find more info on it here: http://tinyurl.com/6b2tq5.. I would suggest stopping by the forums at radioreference.com and reading up on all 3 scanner manufactures and find out which you like more. Feel free to email/call me if you have questions. I know all of the radios inside and out! Happy Monitoring!
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 12/11/08 - 08:55

So Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR how would you rate the three brands? Then how would you rate them in relation to cost? It seems like the Uniden has many more features than the Radio Shack, what extra features do you find most useful? Worth the extra cost? Sorry this sounds like 20 questions, thank you for any response.
Adam - 12/11/08 - 12:06

Some good questions. I think you can make the same comparison that you do with buying cars: it all comes down to personal preferences. Each radio company has pluses/minuses. Uniden does have some great pluses with the upcoming BCD396XT including memory for around 25,000 channels, Fire Tone Out decode, Built-in Control Channel Decoding for use with external decoding programs such as Unitrunker/T4Win, External GPS location support, NAC decoding, multi-colored display, etc. On the other side GRE has some great features with the PSR-500 (which Radio Shack rebrands and sells as the Pro-106) which include Virtual Scanner Folder system, Trunked System Radio ID or RID display, Built in Control Channel Decoding for use with external decoding programs, Multi-Led Display, etc. Over the last few years GRE has had a slight advantage with sensitivity and selectivity when it comes to decoding digital systems HOWEVER GRE made radios are prone to overload/intermod in urban (High RF) areas. Uniden has had the advantage with Fire Depts with the Fire Tone Out Feature and the external GPS feature which is really cool. There is not one scanner that is the “best” out there. You just have to decide which features are important to you. I have been beta testing a radio for one of the 3 companies (can’t say which one) and I can tell you that both GRE & Uniden care about the end user and want to give their customers the features they want. Before spending $500 on a radio I would strongly recommend stopping by the GRE/Radio Shack/Uniden Forums at radioreference.com and reading up on the radios each company provides. You would not buy a car without reading reviews/reports online and doing research would ya? Feel free to email me at KE4ZNR@radioreference.com if you have further questions. Long gone are the simple crystal controlled scanners of years past. Scanners these days require some research into setting them up and I don’t mind helping out. Happy Monitoring!
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 12/11/08 - 12:28


I dont know a whole lot about this yet cause I just got it but this is the Pro 106 from radio shack. It is the next step up from the Pro 96 and is on sale at radio shack for $399 right now. One cool feature is the transmit light changes colors depending what channel it locks on. Red=Fire Green=EMS Blue=Police. If youre going to spend $349 for the 96 then I would pay the extra $50 for the 106. Marshall you seem to know a lot about this. Whats your take on the Pro 106?
my two cents - 12/12/08 - 01:19

My Two Cents-
The Pro 106 is a GRE PSR-500 rebranded with the Radio Shack name. I am impressed with the radio. It has GRE’s version of the Uniden Dynamic Memory Structure which they call “Object Oriented Memory Management”. Only negative to the radio is that it can be a little too sensitive or “hot” in high RF area. If you have not already stop by the Radio Shack & GRE Forums at Radioreference.com and make sure you have the latest firmware loaded onto your radio. I am just happy that with the economic situation we are in that companies like Uniden & GRE still consider scanners to be a viable market. Feel free to email me with any other questions you have. Oh, and the next meeting of the Tarheel Scanner/Shortwave Listeners group is this next Monday, December 15th in Raleigh. http://tinyurl.com/6c33t2 Anyone is invited to bring your radio and say hey! Happy Monitoring! Marshall KE4ZNR
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 12/12/08 - 07:29

KE4ZNR—what would you recommend for a mobile scanner i.e. one that can be mounted into the vehicle? I’ve never been a big fan of a handheld since the only time I listen is when I’m in the car. I’m assuming the tone-out feature means you can program a dept’s fire tones into it and it’ll alert just like the pager?
Tim - 12/12/08 - 10:17

Oh Oracle, thanks for your scanner input. Keep it coming! What’s your pick for a weather alert radio, while you’re here?
Legeros - 12/12/08 - 20:32

1st off weird…I typed a long response to Tim’s questions at work earlier today…I saw it was here on the blog this afternoon now it has disappeared…I will have to wait until I get back to work and try to repost that response cause it was “chock full o’ info”...Mike, as far as WX alert radios: you will be happy with any of the WX radios Radio Shack has in the $40 range..just make sure you have the SAME alerting capability. In my humble opinion the Weather Alert feature in $500 is useless..yes I like having access to the actual WX frequencies/channels in a pinch but WX alert in every scanner on the market is an either/or situation…meaning you can do your normal scanning/trunking OR you can leave your $500 scanner parked waiting for a SAME alert BUT you cannot do both. And you can be sure if I have spent $500 on a radio it ain’t gonna sit there quiet waiting for a SAME tone and doing nothing else…so my advice is: buy a $40 WX alert radio with same capability and forget about the SAME alert function on your $500 GRE/Uniden Rig…Marshall KE4ZNR
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 12/12/08 - 20:57

have two midlands the wr300 silver desktop – very good, has radio and alarm built in (available in camo as well for more$), and the portable HH50, tiny and cheap, but with horrible sound, but it does its job
cornerhydrant - 12/13/08 - 01:26

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