How to choose a radio scanner: 10 steps (with pictures)

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How to choose a radio scanner: 10 steps (with pictures)
How to choose a radio scanner: 10 steps (with pictures)

With the radio scanner you will be able to listen to all kinds of non-commercial radio stations, police, firefighters, ambulance, government, amateur radio stations (as well as many other types) of radio broadcasts and broadcasts. There is a huge selection of scanners of different models. Prices range from 1,500 rubles for a regular used scanner to models with digital sound / three-channel surveillance system for 15,000 rubles. If you want to know more, read on.


Step 1. Decide which radio programs you are interested in

These are usually police, firefighters and ambulances, but there are many others. Many law enforcement agencies use technology to transmit voice messages (and data), which can significantly increase the cost of radio scanners that can decrypt them. If you are not interested in this kind of information, you can save a considerable amount.


2 Find a list of radio frequencies for the programs that interest you.

Purchase a scanning guide from an online radio store or bookstore. Very often these books are sold in sections - depending on the area of interest to you, as well as the sphere - instead of the content of broadcasts of all frequencies (taxi, business and amateur radio stations, etc.), just the frequencies of the police, firefighters and ambulance. Google is also a free resource for the information you need. By entering "Boston RF Scanner" into Google, you will get a list of Boston, Massachusetts RF channels. Instead of Boston, enter the name of your city, town, county, or state in the search box.


3 View the available frequency range.

If the area (s) of your interest is within the 800 MHz band (MHz = megahertz), then you may need additional features to listen to them. We will tell you more about this in the 800 MHz section.


4 Browse through the radio scanners for sale.

Perhaps there is a radio store (or something like it) nearby - these places are good because there you can at least see these radios with your own eyes and hold them in your hands. Unfortunately, not all stores of the network of radio goods have staff who really understand scanners, so they will not always be able to provide you with competent advice. Do your own research and compare features, prices, features, etc. Step 5. Study professional vocabulary.

Find the meaning of words and terms used to characterize scanners. Most radios have one or more broadcast frequency bands: 25 - 30 MHz Personal radio frequency band and 10 amateur radio band, 30 - 50 MHz VHF low frequency band, 50 - 54 MHz 6 band amateur band, 88 - 108 MHz Commercial frequency modulation, 108 - 137 MHz Airborne radio station (AM broadcasting), 137 - 144 MHz Federal government, 144 - 148 MHz 2 band radio frequency, 148 - 174 MHz VHF high frequency range, 216 - 405 MHz UHF UHF range of decimeter waves, 406 - 420 MHz Federal Government, 420 - 450 MHz 70 cm band, 450 - 470 MHz UHF band, 470 - 512 MHz UHF "T" band, 764 - 775 MHz, 794 - 806 MHz and 806 - 960 MHz 800 MHz (not cellular) and, finally, 1.24 - 1.3 GHz frequency band allocated for radio amateurs. Some examples are given below:

  • If you want to track messages from Boston Logan International Airport on 133.0 MHz, your radio must receive AM signals (not the narrowband frequency modulation (UFM) signals used by most radio stations or the broadband frequency used by commercial broadcasters); tune it to 133.0 MHz.
  • If you want to listen to commercial radio broadcasts, you will have to tune the radio to 88 - 108 MHz broadband (broadband frequency modulation).
  • If you want to listen to the police on 42.4 MHz or 460.15 MHz, etc., then you will need to tune your receiver to UFM (narrow band).
  • If you have an old, non-programmable scanner, it is most likely set up on crystals. Many years ago it was possible to purchase crystals in order to catch a certain frequency. If you wanted to catch 42.40 MHz, then you would have to buy a 42.40 MHz quartz crystal and insert its open radio socket. If you needed to tune the receiver for 8 channels, you bought 8 crystals. The average price of one crystal was about 150 to 250 rubles, so you would have to spend a rather large amount just to catch the right frequencies. If you move to another city, you probably would have to purchase new crystals. Fortunately, programmable radios have put an end to crystal radio.

The Uniden Bearcat BCT15 base / mobile scanner supports trunk tracking and alpha tagging. Step 6. How many channels?

As mentioned above, programmable radios replaced crystal radio many years ago. Thanks to digital programming, it became possible to catch 50, 100 and even 1000 radio channels for a small price. A simple memory location, programmed to a frequency entered on the keyboard, made programming free - but a little difficult at times. Controlling a dozen or more frequencies can get tricky. To the point that some radios offer a hardware and / or software feature that allows for painless programming up close with a computer. The more preset radio stations you have, the more desirable this option becomes. An added bonus is the ability to enter 6 (or more) alphanumeric characters to name the frequency. Step 7. Find a search and check out the speed capabilities.

Google found a bunch of frequencies in your area. You can find even more in the scanning guide. But is that all? Of course not. Many frequencies were simply not listed. Some because they are not licensed, others because they are classified, others were not included in the catalog for the simple reason that they have not yet been found. The ability to scan all frequencies in a range is a useful feature to help you find hidden frequency users. When scanning a range of frequencies or even those in the catalog, the quick search function comes in handy. Suppose that even if there were no data transmissions, it took you one or two minutes to scan from channel 1 to channel 100 and start over, how many transmissions did you miss on channel 134? It takes about half a second to scan each channel, but if it only took 1/10, you could scan all channels five times faster.


8 Decide what type of radio you want.

Basic, mobile or portable radio? Much of this depends on personal preference. But remember that in some places the use of scanners in cars is limited. Remember to make sure this is not prohibited by local authorities before installing such a receiver in your car. With the help of technology, new models of portable radios have emerged, whose battery life has become much longer. But walking down the street with such a radio can raise questions, attract attention, or even burglars. Obviously, such a receiver should be used in conjunction with headphones, which will make understanding the transmissions even more difficult. Some portable models are aimed at racing enthusiasts - they have the ability to easily find a channel with the frequency of the desired command and car markings, which greatly simplifies the recognition process. With base radios, you don't have to worry about battery power as they are plugged directly into a wall outlet. Basic audio outperforms portable devices as their speakers are usually much larger and more powerful. The displays tend to be on all the time and for the most part have more memories for storing frequencies and even alphanumeric characters with the name of radio stations such as Boston PD F2 (Boston Police F2) rather than just showing 460.4500 (some portable devices also support alphanumeric characters).


9 Improve signal reception.

You will not be able to listen to the radio if the signal is not strong enough. Almost all types of radios come with an antenna that can be swapped for the one that picks up better. The most important points to remember are that the antenna should be as high as possible and the coaxial cable between the antenna and the radio should be kept as short as possible to maintain good sound quality / less charge loss. Choose an antenna that “catches” the range of the stations you want. If the radio only picks up very low or very high frequencies, and the antenna is designed to receive ultra-high frequencies and 800 MHz, replacing it with a low frequency one should improve the reception quality. An unmatched antenna is unlikely to greatly affect the reception quality of local channels, but it can drastically limit the communication range if you want to listen to 2, 3 or more radio broadcasts. Step 10. Make sure you have an audio output and a tape recorder jack when condensing the received information.

Some scanners have a dedicated recording modulation function. If scanning is stopped, the radio activates the switch to start data processing mode. When scanning is resumed, recording stops until the next time. The recording time of broadcasts for the whole day can be reduced to one or two hours instead of seemingly continuous dialogue.

Radio communication systems in the 800 MHz range

The 800 MHz AGM system consists of 10 or more frequencies making up a talkgroup. Each of the frequencies in this group is programmed to the radio scanner. The trunking scanner detects when the talkgroup is activated - and stops scanning the remaining frequencies, decodes the trunking information transmitter and moves the scanner to the next active frequency in the talkgroup. This ensures that the listener does not miss any data transmission. After exchanging data, the scanner returns to normal search. Without a trunking scan of the frequency system at the end of each data transmission, the listener is unhappy with the frequency change. In a short data exchange or "conversation", data will be transmitted over 5 different frequencies in the 800 MHz range - they will not be transmitted in any particular sequence. Scanners with non-trunking channels will not be able to decode the information transmitted by radio transmitters, as well as determine their next frequency. This then forces the user's radio scanner to sequentially store the frequencies in memory - and these frequencies are not always the ones that were encrypted by the radio transmitters. In addition, there are various trunking methods at Motorola, GE, and Johnson. If all three species are hosted in your area by different organizations and you want to listen to them, then your scanner should support each of them. Most modern trunking scanners support all three trunking methods.

  1. The recent adaptation of the 800 MHz band creates some interference for tracking (not possible in some cases). Currently, there are about 5 or more different methods used by agencies to transmit data in the 800 MHz band. Easiest to track:

    A regular (non-trunking) analog service in the 800 MHz band that can be monitored by any scanner tuned to the 800 MHz service frequency

  2. Everything that follows will be more difficult and cost you more. A common theme is Trunking. The big three radio manufacturers Motorola, GE and E. F. Johnson has its own analog trunking methods. These include:

    • Motorola offers Motorola Type I, Motorola Type II, and Motorola Type I / II hybrid.
    • General Electric offers EDACS.
    • EF Johnson offers Logical Trunking Radio (or LTR).
  3. In addition, Motorola is using APCO Project 25 with digital audio. It is a digital system that can be tracked through any scanner capable of demodulating digital audio. It can be used in a conventional or trunking system.

    There are also other digital trunking systems that have not yet been decrypted at this time

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