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Posted: 3/3/2010 7:45:36 PM EDT
Howdy group. I am looking for an inexpensive (under $200?) scanner for home use. Would someone please point me to the correct forum to ask questions, or answer them here?

Is a base unit better than a handheld?

I need to pick up the local Sheriff, DPS, a couple of Fire Departments, LifeFlight, a few city police departments.

I recently became a volunteer with the local County Sheriff's Department and would like to monitor calls for response (or not) to same. I am probably 20 miles from the closest tower.

As usual, I suppose the antenna is quite important.

Recommendations? What NOT to get?

Digital? Triple trunking? What the heck am I talking about?
Link Posted: 3/3/2010 11:47:09 PM EDT
Where in AZ do you live? I ask because most of the Phoenix metro area and several smaller cities in other counties are now digital and trunking. I have to say that it is almost a waste of money to even buy a digital trunking scanner, since most departments encrypt all the good calls now. You should really do your homework and find some people who monitor the departments you want to listen to before spending money on a scanner. Back when I was considering a digital scanner for Phoenix PD, I needed to spend 500 dollars and was pretty much told all the "hot" calls, car to car, info, traffic enforcement, and other interesting stuff would be encrypted. Not worth the effort. Not to mention, digital sounds like shit so much of the time.

Years ago, when you could listen to analog signals and police only used individual frequencies for specific traffic, it was great! Then trunking came along and that kinda spolied the fun in certain areas IMO, but Phoenix and many others held out for digital. The conversion to digital was it for me. They don't want us non-LEOs to be able to listen I guess.

Here's a good website that has some feed for local scanning: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/?ctid=100 You can get an idea of what it sounds like and what traffic they broadcast. I just know that the audio levels are all over the place, or they used to be in the beginning. Plus, I still think a lot of good traffic is encrypted depending on the department, so it may get boring fast. I can still listen to Scottsdale on analog trunking and it is so fucking boring. They seem to use their MDTs for so much that normally would be broadcast. Either that, or they aren't very busy. I don't know. Scottsdale PD and old Phoenix analog is like night and day in terms of excitement.
Link Posted: 3/4/2010 3:39:45 AM EDT
... yup, monitoring active police and fire is a thing of the past
Link Posted: 3/4/2010 5:03:21 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/4/2010 5:13:41 AM EDT by slanky]
Uhh not sure what you guys are talking about - I monitor the Maricopa regional wireless cooperative, which most of the police depts use right now with a digital trunking scanner just fine. Digital does not necessarily mean it's encrypted. Some specific channels are encrypted (Mesa PD), but there's tons of other freqs in use that are not encrypted - just simply digital voice.

Talkgroups and freqs can be found here: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?sid=2508

Maricopa County Trunked Radio System

Maricopa County operates a mixed-mode analog and digital, APCO Project 16 800 MHz trunked radio network. System users operating on digital talkgroups (as opposed to analog talkgroups) use APCO Project 25 digital audio. This network provides service for many agencies throughout the metropolitan area, and is one of two large networks from which various cities and other agencies may receive two-way radio service (Regional Wireless Cooperative being the other large network).


See also: http://www.scannerstuff.com/swfd_Maricopa.htm

The scanner I use: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3348288 which essentially just a rebranded GRE PSR-600 http://www.greamerica.com/PSR-600.html

I scored mine on eBay a couple years ago brand new for $225 shipped. You don't always see them that cheap, but if you pay attention you can get a deal on them. I wouldn't pay the $499 that Radio Shack wants, however, unless you're desperate. Usually RS puts them on sale once or twice a year.

BTW OP - visit the HAM forum for all things radio related - HAM radios, GMRS, scanners, etc. That's the best place to talk about this stuff and there's tons of scanner recommendation threads there

Oh and btw, if you do decide to get a digital trunking scanner of some sort, buy the programming software - you do NOT want to program talkgroups and freqs by hand for the new scanners. It's not simple like it used to be where you just punch in 40 freqs and hit scan

For the GRE PSR500/600 and Pro-197: http://www.starrsoft.com/software/win500/default.asp
Link Posted: 3/4/2010 7:19:25 AM EDT
To OP:

If you are in Phoenix, the Phx Fire Dept is still dispatching calls on "Channel 1" which is non-digital.

DPS is still using UHF for all their dispatching.

MCSO is digital and Phx PD is as well as many other local departments.

So if you want to hear basically just DPS and Phx Fire Dispatch you can pick up a scanner easily for under $200. Check Craigslist and pawn shops. I have both a hand held and base. The base is in my truck.

I have considered picking up a digital, they have come down in price a tiny bit, but after what others have said here, I will hold off.
Link Posted: 3/4/2010 11:56:19 AM EDT
Originally Posted By slanky:
Uhh not sure what you guys are talking about - I monitor the Maricopa regional wireless cooperative, which most of the police depts use right now with a digital trunking scanner just fine. Digital does not necessarily mean it's encrypted. Some specific channels are encrypted (Mesa PD), but there's tons of other freqs in use that are not encrypted - just simply digital voice.

[/div]

Well, from everything I've been told, all the interesting calls are encrypted. So chases, bank robberies, kidnapping, and similar "hot" calls are encrypted. You might hear the call and a few exchanges, but for the most part what you do hear is all the boring shit. I really don't care to listen to a call about kids skateboarding on private property or a civil matter call that genertates no traffic over the air. Just because some of what they Tx isn't encrypted, doesn't mean it isn't boring as hell.

Same goes for listening to DPS or other agencies using analog still. DPS has to be the most boring agency in history to listen to. Why spend money just to listen to "plate-runners" all day?
Link Posted: 3/8/2010 7:37:26 PM EDT
+1

Everything you need to know can be found at radioreference.com in the forums.

Originally Posted By slanky:
Uhh not sure what you guys are talking about - I monitor the Maricopa regional wireless cooperative, which most of the police depts use right now with a digital trunking scanner just fine. Digital does not necessarily mean it's encrypted. Some specific channels are encrypted (Mesa PD), but there's tons of other freqs in use that are not encrypted - just simply digital voice.

Talkgroups and freqs can be found here: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?sid=2508

Maricopa County Trunked Radio System

Maricopa County operates a mixed-mode analog and digital, APCO Project 16 800 MHz trunked radio network. System users operating on digital talkgroups (as opposed to analog talkgroups) use APCO Project 25 digital audio. This network provides service for many agencies throughout the metropolitan area, and is one of two large networks from which various cities and other agencies may receive two-way radio service (Regional Wireless Cooperative being the other large network).


See also: http://www.scannerstuff.com/swfd_Maricopa.htm

The scanner I use: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3348288 which essentially just a rebranded GRE PSR-600 http://www.greamerica.com/PSR-600.html

I scored mine on eBay a couple years ago brand new for $225 shipped. You don't always see them that cheap, but if you pay attention you can get a deal on them. I wouldn't pay the $499 that Radio Shack wants, however, unless you're desperate. Usually RS puts them on sale once or twice a year.

BTW OP - visit the HAM forum for all things radio related - HAM radios, GMRS, scanners, etc. That's the best place to talk about this stuff and there's tons of scanner recommendation threads there

Oh and btw, if you do decide to get a digital trunking scanner of some sort, buy the programming software - you do NOT want to program talkgroups and freqs by hand for the new scanners. It's not simple like it used to be where you just punch in 40 freqs and hit scan

For the GRE PSR500/600 and Pro-197: http://www.starrsoft.com/software/win500/default.asp


Link Posted: 3/8/2010 10:31:05 PM EDT
MCSO is digital and requires a digital scanner. Your choices are the GRE PSR500 or the Uniden 396XT.

The GRE go for about $417.00 and the Unidens about $525. Over the $200 price you have. That aside the new scanners do receive well, especially the GRE - the receiver is much better on all bands than the Uniden, especially with the Radio Shack 800mhz antenna..

All of Phoenix & Mesa Police are digita with some encryption. Phoenix Fire is using 800 digital for some calls.

DPS will be going digital in the future.
Link Posted: 3/9/2010 6:09:55 PM EDT
Thanks for the replies and help. I guess I should have said I am on the West side in the OP. I didn't know there might be a difference in type out here in the sticks.

I have consulted with another volunteer who has a small handheld unit with about a 6" antenna. We are actually only about 5 miles from the closest tower, and he picks up everything even 'upriver' (above Parker Dam). When I first heard the unit from outside the shed, I thought it was a base unit. It sounds as good as the radio/scanner in the car. He told me of another volunteer who has a 'real' high dollar police scanner. A bit of overkill, as I am not a wannabe cop.

It seems I don't need all that fancy of a scanner in this county. He leaves the handheld plugged into 110 all the time, but says it doesn't run very long off batteries. Works for me as I have an inverter in both my vehicles.

It has been recommended I go to the Radio Shack in Lake Havasu to get the radio. I have been told they will program the scanner right there and then for volunteers. We will see.

Thanks again gents for the input and education.
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