Radio Scanners FAQ "Q & A" Page - Advanced Specialties Inc.
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The Information Below will help clear up any Questions you may have on Scanner Frequencies, Radio Models, Reception, Modifications & More.
- WHAT CAN I ACTUALLY "HEAR" ON A RADIO SCANNER?
A - Just some of the Interesting transmissions that can be monitored with scanners include: Police, Fire, Ambulance, Civilian and Military Aircraft, Coast Guard & Boats, Federal agencies, Ham Radio Operators, various state, local & federal agencies, News Media Vans & 'Copters, "Commercial interests" such as Plumbers, landscapers, electric & Water companies, Security officers & others using two-way radios; Also Officials & others at various Sporting events, including Race drivers & pit crews. Some scanners will also receive CB channels, FM & AM radio, shortwave & more!! Each radio model is different, & of course not Every scanner model is capable of receiving all of those mentioned above.
- WHAT ABOUT THE BEARCAT & Whistler "DIGITAL" SCANNERS?
The Digital Scanners released by Uniden and Whistler (The BCD-325P2, BCD-996P2, BCD536HP, BCD436HP Home Patrol II, BearTracker 885, TRX-1, TRX-2) can pick up Police, Public Service & other 2-way radio Transmissions using the Standard non-encrypted "APCO P-25" type Digital signal, as well as traditional analog & trunked transmissions , and some are able to do "DMR" "Moto-turbo" Digital too. Non Encrypted APCO-25 Digital is a standard used by Many, (but not all), 2-way radio systems that transmit using the newer "Digital", rather than "normal" Analog method.
Keep in mind, unlike over-the-air Television, there was not any "mandatory" switch over required of two-way radio users to any digital format, they're not "all switching to digital" soon, although every year there are more digital systems to monitor. These Digital scanners Will NOT be able to get any "Encrypted" or scrambled Digital Transmissions, nor Any Type of Digital Cellphone Transmissions, Digital or Spread Spectrum Cordless phones, XRS, XM radio or any other other Digital Transmission formats (none of these are "APCO-25"), & the Radio can't be "modified" in any way to do so.
If the Digital system to be monitored is an APCO p-25 Digital System, You would need these models. If the system is APCO P25 " Phase II ", You will need to check if the Digital Scanner Model is capable of Phase 2 ( such as BCD436HP/BCD536HP and TRX-1 / 2). Digital reception mode will Not be needed on "normal" non-digital transmissions used by most 2-way radios today. Digital models all pick up regular analog as well.
- WHAT IS THE "ctcss (PL) & dcs (DPL)" FEATURE, & HOW DOES IT WORK?
A - PL & DPL (ctcss & dcs tone squelch)Enable your scanner (if it has this feature), to select who you want to hear or not hear on a frequency that is shared by more than 1 user or department. Many Police & other Radio users have a "PL Tone" (ctcss), & if you know this tone number, you can enter it into the scanner channel, along with the frequency, & you will only hear THAT department when tuned to that channel, even if other users are on the same Frequency!
- What Is The "P25 NAC" FUNCTION FOUND ON SOME DIGITAL SCANNERS?
A - Much like CTCSS and DCS with analog signals, (see above), P25 Network Access Code (NAC) is used to provide selective squelch operation on conventional P25 digital channels. Uniden's BCD-996XT, BCD-396XT and GRE's PSR-500/600 Advanced Digital Scanners will detect the NAC that is being used on a P25 conventional digital channel, and will allow you to program NAC codes to block transmissions that do not have a matching NAC, including analog traffic on the same frequency!
- WHAT IS ALPHA or ALPHANUMERIC DISPLAY?
A - AlphaNumeric Display allows you to enter a "name" for each channel. For example, you could enter "NY POLICE" or "FDNY-1", & when your scanner stops on that channel, you will actually "see" what you are tuned to. Scanners with this feature, (Such as the SC-230 & BC-346XT), will, of course have limits on the amount of characters you can have in the display, depending on exact model.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FREQUENCY, A BAND & A CHANNEL?
A - An example of a "Frequency" would be "154.740 Mhz". This may be a local Police Frequency. You can store this frequency in one of your radio's "Channels" for monitoring & scanning (similar to the presets on your car stereo). A "Band" is a range of frequencies, for example, the "VHF-Hi" Band ranges from 136 to 174 Mhz. The more "channels" & "Bands" your scanner has, the more interesting frequencies you can store, scan, search & monitor!
- IS IT LEGAL FOR ME TO HAVE & USE A SCANNER?
A - "Generally Speaking" it is legal to sell, buy & use FCC-approved Radio Scanners in the USA. HOWEVER, Mobile (automotive) use of scanners may possibly be regulated or restricted by certian State or local laws. For example, last time we checked, in New Jersey it's Legal to have a Scanner in your car, EXCEPT during the commission of a Felony or crime. Scanner Use during a crime brings an additional penalty. Other States laws vary, check with your State & local Authorities before attempting mobile use of a Scanner. Also, use of a Scanner, (or most any other item), to "break an existing law" is also usually illegal. Many jurisdictions have laws against tapping or bugging into private conversations without the persons knowledge, & use of a scanner, or any other item to do this may violate that law. NONE of this information should be considered legal advise, check with your local authorities or a lawyer if you need more information on this subject.
- WHAT DOES "CELLULAR BLOCKED" MEAN?
A - "Cell Blocked" means that the older analog USA Cellular phone Frequency reception is "blocked" from being entered into the Radio Scanner. As of April, 1994, an FCC rule required ALL Scanners Sold in the USA to be Cellular frequency Deleted (Blocked) by the Mfgr, & all the Scanners offered in the USA therefore are cell blocked. Even the very Older or Export "unblocked" scanners were/are only capable of hearing the now obsolete old "Analog" cellphones that are no loger sold or in use today. There is No Scanner, new, old, modified or "export", that can hear the current "Digital" Cellphones being sold & used today. The "CDMA", LTE, EVDO or "iDEN" 5G, 4G, 3G, 1x & WiFi Digital cellular systems are not part of any scanner radio's inside circuits or technology. See next Question for additional information.
- CAN SCANNERS BE "MODIFIED" TO PICKUP CELLULAR PHONE OR OTHER FREQUENCIES?
A - No. Some very Older scanner models, built before 1994, were able to be frequency "modified, or Restored" to hear the older obsolete "analog" cell signals as mentioned above. All the Current New scanner models sold in the USA, by law, have the cellular Frequencies Permenently Deleted from their Internal chips, They aren't "hidden" in there, and there isn't any circuits able to decode celleur transmissions in a scanner, so they can't be "restored or modified", & these older modified, or "export" models could receive only the now obsolete "analog" phone signals. ( Older Scanners that could be "modified", were actually being "UN-modified", as they were built with these frequencies, & then "blocked"). Also, Remember, since ALL newer cellphones are iDEN, CDMA, LTE or GSM "Digital", even these older, or export model cellular frequency-capable scanners simply can't "hear" any of the current Digital cellphones, even if tuned to their frequencies.
- WILL A "MORE EXPENSIVE SCANNER" HAVE BETTER RECEPTION OR LESS INTERFERENCE THAN MY CURRENT "$129" DOLLAR MODEL?
A - If you want to upgrade your current scanner, Plan on puchasing a "more expensive" scanner primarily for the additional features/channels/modes you will get, not nessessarily to get "better reception". It is quite possible that at a certian specific frequencie(s), even a "cheaper" scanner could actually receive as good, or even better than one costing much more, or vice/versa. The higher end model will give you a Wider frequency coverage, AlphaNumerics, PL & DPL, Trunking, Digital or other features you may want, however. If you do get any reception improvement with a new scanner, consider it an "unexpected" bonus!
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SEARCH & THE SCAN FEATURE? A - "Scan" allows your Radio to run through your preset memory channels, stopping on any channel that is active. "Search" allows you to search a range, or band of frequencies, without entering "specific" channels or individual frequencies. Some scanners allow you to program an upper & lower freq "limit",("limit search") & will then Search all frequencies between them. Other Scanner Radios may allow only searches within Factory Preset Bands,("Band, or Service Search") or both. Some units do Not have any Search features.
- ARE THERE SCANNERS WITH FREQUENCIES ALREADY BUILT-IN? A - Yes. The Uniden Home Patrol, BCD436HP & BCD536HP have built-in SD cards containing the entire USA & Canada RadioRef frequency database. They are Capable of both Digital & Trunking, as well as Analog & trunking. You simply select what you want to listen to, from the built-in (updateable) database, & the scanner programs itself to those areas, Frequencies, AlphaNumerics, PL's & all! The Home patrol model even lets you enter a city name or zipcode, & the scanner does the rest. See our Shop OnLine Catalog for more info.
- WHAT IS THE "CLOSE CALL" FEATURE? A - "Close Call", a feature found on all the current model Bearcat HandHeld Scanners & some base/mobiles, is a built in wireless frequency counter function, & instant signal "grabber". This new feature allows the radio to Instantly auto tune itself to any nearby Radio transmission, without the need to scan, search or know the frequency! It usually works up to a couple of hundred feet, depending on the transmitter.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A "SCANNER" & A WIDE-FREQ "COMMUNICATIONS SCANNER-RECEIVER"?
A - Although often lumped "in" with & called "Scanners", the Wide Frequency range Communications Receivers, from makers such as Alinco, AOR & Icom, are actually a bit different. They tend to have a very wide continuous frequency range, but most or all of these receivers do not offer the very specific "Police/Public service" monitoring features, such as TrunkTracking or Digital technology, Dynamic System/Bank grouping, fire Page tone-out, close call or Digital P25 APCO reception, found on many Bearcat or Whistler models. They also generally tend to scan a bit slower than a BearCat scanner, & tend to also be different in their programming, features & use. The Uniden Bearcat models are Optimized for Scanning frequencies above 25Mhz, & below 1300Mhz(The Police, Air, Fire, EMS & Marine "Action" Bands), & many of the modes, steps & functions are preset automatically simply when you enter a frequency. Those other Scanning Communications Receivers, however, tend to offer reception below 25Mhz (shortwave & AM broadcast), & sometimes above 1300Mhz, with more limited scanning functions, and may have other advanced modes and other features.
- HOW CAN I GET BETTER RECEPTION ON MY SCANNER?
A - Generally Speaking, the best way to get better reception across a wide range of frequencies is to get a Longer/larger antenna than what you are currently using, & mounted up higher. Trading your 5 inch "rubber duck" for a different brand 5 inch "rubber duck" probably won't make much difference. Go with a 15" rubber duck ( such as an ANLI RD-88H or Maldol AS-30 ), or better yet mount a scanner antenna on the roof ( such as a Discone in our OnLine Catalog), of your house or car for a more noticeable improvement. Most signals that you will listen to on a Scanner have "Line of Sight" reception qualities.
- WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE WITH A "RACE or SPORT SCANNER" ?
A - There really is no big differece from "regular" scanners & those labeled "Sport", "NASCAR" or Racing" on the package. It has become very popular for Racing fans to bring Radio Scanners to the Racetrack & Sporting events, to listen to the drivers & Pit crews, so some of the Scanner makers have been using these "Sport" & "Race" type terms on the product & Packaging to appeal to Race fans or Coloring the scanner Red or Yellow. You generally want features such as Freq coverage to 956 Mhz, at least 100 channels and AlphaNumerics for the Best "race" use...
- IS THERE A WEBPAGE THAT COMPARES FEATURES OF THE VARIOUS SCANNERS / RECEIVERS?
A - Yes, We've taken care of that! See our Scanner Radios Comparison Page To see a listing of many popular radios, & their major features, differences & frequency coverage!
- WHAT IF THE SCANNER WON'T ACCEPT MY FREQUENCY?
A - There are a couple of possibilities. Some scanners were designed for "6 digit" freqs only, so trying to enter "462.7125" might cause it to default to a nearby freq like "462.710. In cases like this it is Usually OK to allow the scanner to default to the nearest freq, it should be close enough to receive, in most cases. This is known as the "step Rate" of the scanner. Remember, most scanners will only accept the standard step rates, If you try to enter, say, 452.176, the radio will default to the correct 452.175, since the FCC does not allocate radio users in a 1kz step, & that would not normally be a vaild user frequency. Some radios have selectable step rates, allowing for great flexibility to enter most frequencies. - The other possibility is that you are trying to enter a frequency the scanner doesn't have the capability to accept at all, such as a cellular phone freq, or other freq band that gives an error.
- IS THERE A SCANNER MADE WITH A BUILT-IN CB RADIO or FRS TRANCEIVER?
A - No. Some Scanners, such as the Uniden BCD-996XT, BC-125AT, BCT-15X & others, will receive the 40 CB channels & FRS, but none will transmit.
- WHERE CAN I FIND THE CORRECT FREQUENCIES TO ENTER INTO MY SCANNER?
A - Frequencies can be found by doing an internet search, using terms such as "Scanner Radio Frequencies for "New Jersey", of course substituting your area in the search..
- CAN I USE NEW HiCAPACITY NICKLE HYDRIDE BATTERIES IN MY SCANNER?
A - Yes! If Your Scanner takes 'AA' sized cells, (such as the Bearcat BC-75XLT, BC-125AT or BCD-436HP, TRX-2), You can safely charge NiMi batteries, & benefit from longer run-time between charges.
- WHAT IS TRUNKTRACKING, & DO I NEED IT IN MY SCANNER?
A - The Trunking, or TrunkTracking feature of the radio is Only used to monitor a special computerized "trunked" radio system. Agencies that are using a Trunked system have a central computer that "handles" multiple frequencies (channels) & Transmitter sites, putting various & multiple different system users/groups on any vacant frequency(s) as needed. A user/group could theoretically be on a different "channel" every time they key the microphone. This multiple frequency "jumping", & multiple different user groups sharing the same channels at different intervals makes it hard or impossible to "follow" conversations, or realize what group is talking, when using a non-trunktracking scanner. Keep in mind, If the signals & channels you monitor are not part of any "Trunked" Radio system, then the scanner's Trunking features would not, & cannot be used for them, & trunk tracking capability gives no additional benifit when monitoring your "regular" channels. Contrary to rumors, "TrunkTracking" has Nothing to do with "radios mounted in cop car's "trunks", nor scrambled or Encrypted signals.
- WHAT IS "REBANDING", & IS MY SCANNER READY FOR IT?
A - The FCC has required "Nextel" to move/swap it's phone frequencies to reduce interference to nearby Public Safety channels in many areas. This may effect a scanner's ability to track certian 800Mhz Motorola type Trunked Public safety communications. To understand this better:
FIRST, lets look at what rebanding will NOT have any effect on - Rebanding will Not affect any frequencies below 800Mhz or above 900Mhz, so listening to police or users on frequencies below 800Mhz will still be able to be monitored as normal with any scanner. SECOND, Users that do have frequencies in the 800Mhz band will Only be affected if they are on a Motorola Trunked System. Users on EDACS or LTR trunked systems will still be able to be monitored with all existing trunktracking scanners. THIRD, Users on regular "non-trunked" 800Mhz channels will also be able to be monitored as normal with current scannners, no effect.
What rebanding WILL effect is users of Motorola Trunked systems on 800Mhz. Once the channels are rebanded in an area, the current trunking firmware in the scanner will not be able to track the conversations, without a scanner Firmware Upgrade, if available for your model.
Uniden has stated that All current, & some discontinued Uniden Bearcat Trunking Scanners we have offered in our Online Catalog Either already are compatible, or will have firmware updates available for download to the radio, from the Uniden Website. No worries about rebanding with Uniden-Bearcat current model scanners.
- WHAT SCANNERS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BE UPGRADED FOR REBANDING?
A - The Following Radio/Scanners will NOT be able to be upgraded for rebanding:
1) Some Older, discontinued Bearcat TrunkTracking Scanners, such as the BC-235, BC-75XLT, BC-245, BC-780, BC-785D, BC-895 & BC-250D.
2) - Many former/older "Radio Shack" brand scanners.
3) ALL scanner recivers from Icom, Yaesu, Alinco, Kenwood, AOR, Yupiteru & others, since none of these brands have ever produced a radio capable of monitoring Trunked radio systems anyway.
- WHAT SHOULD ONE "WATCH OUT FOR" WHEN ORDERING / BUYING SCANNER RADIO EQUIPMENT?
A - There are some things to avoid, that may be unknown to a person "new" to the Scanning Hobby.
--* First, remember that, Regardless of mail order Advertizing gimmics, Scanners are NOT "Cop car Detectors" or "Radar Detectors" ect. There is Not, & Never has been a Scanner that can simply "sense" whenever a Police trooper is nearby!
--* First time inexperienced buyers may want to get what they currently need in terms of features, & upgrade to more elaborate models if & when they feel they need those extra features, & have a better understanding of the hobby. This can avoid the "overcomplicated" feeling of getting a product loaded with seldom used functions that make it harder to use & understand.
--* WATCH OUT, & Stay Away from the Numerous Radio Dealers that have "Unlisted", "Unknown", or High shipping charges when doing internet or Mail order. It's very easy for some dealers to "advertize" a $175 "sale" on an item that really sells for $199 elsewhere, when they Actually charge you $209.50 "delivered" for that "supposed $175" dollar item!
It's Truly Amazing how many Internet dealers expect their "customers" to actually "Purchase, Check out, & enter Credit Card info" without ever knowing exactly what the extra shipping/hdlg charges will be!!
--* Be Careful also, when looking thru other Online Retailers webpages. While Every Single One of the Scanners, & radio equipment items we offer Are Brand New, with Full USA Warranty, NO exceptions, you may see many "other" Online dealers actually selling refurbished, "Factory renewed", "B", "Like New" and "Grey Market" export & no-warranty items, all mixed on the same page! This put up a big "Red Flag" warning in our book!!
Other "Red Flags" to watch out for are no Storefront address, strange hours, no phone number, just a "PO box", "PayPal Only" for payments, & "Fine Print" shipping Terms that tell you to wait for "days" before even requesting common sense information such as your order's tracking number! We here at Advanced Specialties Inc are an Established & Respected Radio Dealer, We ship items daily, & just some of our customers include The US Goverment & Military, Major Network News, Movie & TV production Companies, Police & Fire Departments, US Marshalls, FBI, NYC and Ambulance Departments, and regular hobbyists worldwide!!
Remember... ,In this day & age, it is easy for even a teenager with a "PayPal" account to whip up a colorful website & try & take people's money!!
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