1. #1
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    Default Good and cheap scanner for a firefighter in a rural area where reception is bad?

    I'm a volunteer firefighter and EMT first responder. And the reception in my house is horrible. My pager gets nothing at all and I can barely hear my radio most of the time because of all the static.

    I've got no idea what to shop for and what would work with my frequencies. I am a computer technician and I'm pretty smart with anything electronic, but when it comes to radios and scanners. I'm dumb.

    I need a good scanner that will get good reception and that I can program to my county's frequencies. One of the frequencies I'll be using is 159.18000.

    The max I can spend is $250 but I'd like to go under $200. As long as it works and will do the job, I don't care if it's cheap but it can't fail on me.

    I had this one in mind: http://www.amazon.com/Uniden-BC350C-...2609100&sr=1-3

    Are there any other suggestions?

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    What area are you in, and what agencies would you like to monitor? Depending on the type of radio system you're trying to monitor (digital, analog, trunked, etc), the scanner you might need could range from $100 to $500.

    One of the best bets you can make is to visit RadioReference.com forums, then go to the state in which you live, and check with other folks in your area about what scanners they're using.

    Also remember that 90% of a radio system is the antenna. You can have the nicest scanner ever made, but if it doesn't have a good antenna, you'll never hear anything.
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    Get the cheapest scanner you can get and spend your money on a roof top antenna (a good one) with a superior cable.

    Seriously, the scanner has little to do with your reception.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Also remember that 90% of a radio system is the antenna. You can have the nicest scanner ever made, but if it doesn't have a good antenna, you'll never hear anything.
    Read that part again.

    Two things will really help you - a tuned antenna and height.

    You've got a limited budget, so I'll offer two fairly inexpensive options:

    A simple ground plane antenna will be a good starting place. This happens to be a very simple design and the parts aren't hard to get - Radio Shack will stock the PL239.

    If you've got some basic plumbing skills (like soldering tubing together), you can try a J Pole Antenna. I've built a couple, and they're pretty efficient - and surprisingly inexpensive.

    There are commercial antenna's available, too, but they'll be more expensive.

    Of course, mount any antenna as high as possible, and especially with the J Pole, make sure you have a good ground - particularly if you live in an area with lots of lightning.

    If your coax will run 50-100' or less, RG58 will suffice. Any further than that and you should give serious consideration to using RG8. Both are 50 ohm cables.

    All the usual caveats about climbing, towers, power lines, etc, apply.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    Read that part again.

    Two things will really help you - a tuned antenna and height.

    You've got a limited budget, so I'll offer two fairly inexpensive options:

    A simple ground plane antenna will be a good starting place. This happens to be a very simple design and the parts aren't hard to get - Radio Shack will stock the PL239.

    If you've got some basic plumbing skills (like soldering tubing together), you can try a J Pole Antenna. I've built a couple, and they're pretty efficient - and surprisingly inexpensive.

    There are commercial antenna's available, too, but they'll be more expensive.

    Of course, mount any antenna as high as possible, and especially with the J Pole, make sure you have a good ground - particularly if you live in an area with lots of lightning.

    If your coax will run 50-100' or less, RG58 will suffice. Any further than that and you should give serious consideration to using RG8. Both are 50 ohm cables.

    All the usual caveats about climbing, towers, power lines, etc, apply.
    Well I'd still need a scanner to connect the antenna to :P
    If I put my radio in the window it works, but to get is clearly I have to put it on it's side. If I was to get a scanner like the one I mentioned, the antenna would be better than the one that's on my radio wouldn't it? I could even put foil on it to improve :P

    What if I just got a scanner such as that, then get a powered antenna? (one with power injection to improve clarity)

    btw, I live in southern Illinois. The only channel I would need is Alexander County 911

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68
    If your coax will run 50-100' or less, RG58 will suffice. Any further than that and you should give serious consideration to using RG8. Both are 50 ohm cables.
    Tree... wouldn't a scanner/receiver just need 75 ohm RG59 or RG6 cable?

    50 ohm RG58 or RG8 is for transmitter; i.e. two way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kerrjon View Post
    Well I'd still need a scanner to connect the antenna to :P
    True that.
    If I was to get a scanner like the one I mentioned, the antenna would be better than the one that's on my radio wouldn't it?
    I wouldn't count on it...

    What if I just got a scanner such as that, then get a powered antenna? (one with power injection to improve clarity)
    I wouldn't waste my money. Just getting a decent antenna outside and up as high as possible will make a world of difference.

    btw, I live in southern Illinois. The only channel I would need is Alexander County 911
    ISP is on 800MHz trunked, so listening to them is out of the question on your budget. Your neighboring counties and your local law enforcement all seem to be on VHF-High, the same band as you are, so you could snoop on them some if you wanted to using a tuned antenna.

    Sometimes listening to local law enforcement can give you a jump on responding, especially if they dispatch LE before fire/EMS to things like MVA's.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaladinKnight View Post
    Tree... wouldn't a scanner/receiver just need 75 ohm RG59 or RG6 cable?

    50 ohm RG58 or RG8 is for transmitter; i.e. two way.
    Any scanner I've had has been 50 ohm. 75 ohm is usually cable TV.

    Coax is coax, price-wise.

    A really cheap antenna is just cutting off ~18" of the outer jacket of the coax and skinning the braid back over the cable. That leaves an 18" "radiator" that works surprisingly well.
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    So for now would I be best off experimenting? Buying that scanner then going ghetto and rigging my own antenna?

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    Build the ground plane and get it up in the air. Aside from the parts specified in the link for the antenna itself, you'll probably need a 50 length of coax, probably available from RS with the PL259 connectors already installed, as well as an adapter for the antenna jack on your scanner, unless it's got a PL239 already. Most pocket scanners have a BNC, some base scanners have a "banana" plug or an RCA.

    Worst case scenario you have to buy the cable and solder on a couple of connectors. If you've got $50 into an antenna when you get done, I'd be amazed, but it'll be worth every penny.
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    I use RG8 and have also used LMR 400 (sweet stuff).
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    Quote Originally Posted by kerrjon View Post

    I had this one in mind: http://www.amazon.com/Uniden-BC350C-...2609100&sr=1-3

    Are there any other suggestions?

    Absolutely, Yes, I have a suggestion. Several of them.

    A. Your link shows a scanner that I absolutely want nothing to do with. If it doesn't have a keypad so you can manually enter the frequencies that YOU want, stay the heck away from it. Uniden makes good scanners, but the concept behind that one is garbage. Second, stay the heck away from Amazon. Buy a Scanner from a Scanner Store, after all, you don't go to Jiffy Lube to get a prescription filled. Look up an outfit called Scanner World (Google it) and look thru their website. I bought a Scanner from them in January and I haven't had any problems with the Scanner or the Store. There are a few others out there that a Search Engine will dig up for you.

    B. The folks who have discussed Antenna options for you are both reliable Fire/Rescue folks who have been around for a while, and they are also reasonably knowlegeable in electronics. In other words, you asked the right folks, pay atttention to them.

    C. Most Important - Make sure that what you buy is "Narrow Band Compatible". The FCC has mandated certain changes in public safety radio, including reducing the width of the Frequency (Bandwidth??) I have a hunch that Chief KN can elaborate on that....... Good Luck, and let us know how you make out.........


    OK..... Page 2. I looked up Alexander, Pulaski, Union and Johnson Counties which should pretty much cover anything that you might want to listen to..... When you put an Antenna together, get it set up for optimum performance around 156.0000 since that is the Middle of the Frequencies in use around you. I got the info from www.radioreference.com which is free to anyone to look up stuff.
    Last edited by hwoods; 08-08-2011 at 10:51 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Stay the heck away from Amazon. Buy a Scanner from a Scanner Store, after all, you don't go to Jiffy Lube to get a prescription filled. Look up an outfit called Scanner World (Google it) and look thru their website. I bought a Scanner from them in January and I haven't had any problems with the Scanner or the Store. There are a few others out there that a Search Engine will dig up for you.
    What's wrong with Amazon? They're cheaper and they got you covered if there's any problems.

    Could you link me to a scanner you think would be best for me?

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    http://www.scannerworld.com/


    Look at this site. Look at the Home Patrol, several folks I know have it and works very well for them and it may for you as well.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptOldTimer View Post
    http://www.scannerworld.com/


    Look at this site. Look at the Home Patrol, several folks I know have it and works very well for them and it may for you as well.
    I've looked at that website before. Thing is each one of their radios have different features and cover different frequency ranges... and I don't know which one I *need*

    *edit as far as building that antenna which tree mentioned. I haven't got a way to solder it. Or else I would give it a try.
    Last edited by kerrjon; 08-08-2011 at 11:49 PM.

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    [QUOTE=kerrjon;1287475]I've looked at that website before. Thing is each one of their radios have different features and cover different frequency ranges... and I don't know which one I *need*[/QUOTE




    IF you look at the specifications on the scanners, you will see what they will cover!

    If you know the frequencies that your department , police, sheriff , high way patrol and any other s that yo0u would want to listen to, then the specification showing the frequencies will indicate to you which radio you might buy.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    If the only thing you're interested is Alexander county, and you're not worried about listening to the Illinois State Police, or any of your surrounding localities, you can go with a pretty basic scanner.

    One of the first things when deciding is if you want a base radio or a portable radio? Do you plan on taking it with you on the road, or is it something that you'll just use at home?

    If you're looking for a base scanner, you could go with something as inexpensive as the GRE PSR-200U or the Uniden BC340CRS. I'm a Uniden guy myself, so I'm biased towards their products.

    Note that the links I provided are to ScannerMaster.com, the only place that I purchase my scanner wares from.

    As for the antenna itself, do you think you'd mount it outside, or in the attic? There are as many antenna selections as there are scanners, so that answer could help provide us some direction as well.
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    On the Scanner World site, look up the BCT15X Scanner and the Spider Antenna. That combination will do everything you need and in your price range....... Good Luck.
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    Pretty much anything you can buy today will give you narrow band coverage.

    I'm also a Uniden Fan, so I'm biased to any of theirs.

    I have bought quite a few scanners on Ebay. Just check the rating of the seller, most are on the up and up.

    With that said, most scanners have the same features.

    If you are only going to listen to a couple of channels, then a simple scanner would be fine. I've found that once you start listening.. you'll probably want to listen to more and more. But you could always buy up.

    The HAVE TO HAVE feature, in my opinion, is CTCSS/PL/DPL... these are sub "frequencies" that are used to filter out what you want to hear on a given frequency. Also known as Channel Guard or Private Line...

    Harve gave you a GREAT resource. www.radioreference.com

    There are specific forums there for each state, and those folks can give you great advice, might even program your scanner for you, give you antenna advice, etc.

    That scanner you referenced is not easy to program. I would suggest you look for a scanner that has a numeric keypad on it.

    I know you want a simple solution.. but you'll have to do a bit more research and learn a little about scanners to really get what you want and be happy with it.

    As for antennas, you may get away with simply putting a nice antenna in the attic attached to a rafter. Elevation and no obstructions are the name of the game. I get noticably worse reception from the leaves growing on the trees for more distant stations.

    A DISCONE antenna gives you great options. If you are going to spend the money a "Diamond Discone D130J" is what I have and it is AWESOME.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    As for the antenna itself, do you think you'd mount it outside, or in the attic? There are as many antenna selections as there are scanners, so that answer could help provide us some direction as well.
    I'm in a trailer so it's have to be outside my window.

    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    On the Scanner World site, look up the BCT15X Scanner and the Spider Antenna. That combination will do everything you need and in your price range....... Good Luck.
    Actually that's just outside my price range =\

    Thx for all the help guys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kerrjon View Post
    I'm in a trailer so it's have to be outside my window.



    Actually that's just outside my price range =\

    Thx for all the help guys.
    I would give you a good one, if you were close by.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kerrjon View Post
    I've looked at that website before. Thing is each one of their radios have different features and cover different frequency ranges... and I don't know which one I *need*

    *edit as far as building that antenna which tree mentioned. I haven't got a way to solder it. Or else I would give it a try.
    Buy a cheap propane torch
    http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?...llow&cId=PDIO1

    Then click here http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=how+to+solder+copper+pipe

    Also if your radio has a removable antenna get a matching connector and you can connect your radio to the antenna you build. The only caveat there is if you use that antenna to transmit you will be running afoul of FCC regs but as long as you only listen to it you're in line with the law. You can probably spend less than 50 bucks for everything you need to improve your reception but if you really want to get the scanner there's nothing wrong with that option.

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    First off let me say that I would always defer to the radio experts who have already weighed in here because they've forgotten more than I'll ever learn on the subject; however it seems to me that
    1) You're on a limited budget
    2) As said - it's the antenna not the receiver that makes the difference
    3) You already have 2 receivers (Radio & Pager)

    Wouldn't it make better economic sense to simply invest in a good antenna and then connect that to a charging base w/ the external antenna hook up - for either the pager or the radio (they do still make those right or am i showing my age)?

    Anyhow - just a passing thought. Carry On Gents.
    Last edited by N2DFire; 08-09-2011 at 02:50 PM. Reason: Fix "brain fade" issues
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    N2D - I haven't forgotten a thing!

    Now, what was I going to say????

    For using the existing radio/pager - Even a "passive" repeater, with an outside antenna (and the J Pole will come in under $25, IIRC) and 18" of exposed center conductor (per my post about a really cheap solution) next to the radio will probably help.

    The ideal solution is to have the antenna directly connected to the radio/scanner, of course.

    A trailer is just a big tin box - just like they use to block radio signals. With a marginal signal in the first place, being inside that tin box pretty well wipes you out.

    Another thought - that's tornado alley - a scanner will allow one to tune in to the local NWS transmitter when the weather threatens.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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