Radio scanners, sometimes called CB radios, became popular in the 1970’s and still have quite a following today. It is necessary to check on the legality of using a scanner in different states and countries. In the United States, they are legal as long as you do not monitor cell phone calls. There are scanner enthusiasts around the world, who listen to them for a hobby or even for journalistic endeavors. Scanners can monitor frequencies used by police and fire departments, and also medical emergency services. There are clubs for “scanners” or “radio listeners” where you can enjoy talking to others who are just as passionate about this hobby. If you are just a “beginner” in the scanner field, our information will surely help you to purchase just the right one!
The radio scanner scans the radio waves to select working frequencies. If it is not tuned in to the right signal, it will translate the frequencies into static or a mixture of noises from several different broadcasts. A user can manually search for frequencies until a clear one comes through, or some scanners can search automatically for complete signals. When a scanner is tuned into a signal, it uses a demodulator to decode the signals within the frequencies. The codes are sent to the amplifier which turns them into sounds that are sent to the speakers and listened to by the user.
It’s important to know the basics before figuring out which features you want to have for your radio scanner.
Conventional radio scanners operate on fixed radio frequency channels. In the case of a radio with multiple channels, it operates on one channel at a time. The proper channel is selected by a user. The user operates a channel selector (a dial or buttons,) on the radio control panel to pick the appropriate channel. In multi-channel systems, channels are used for separate purposes.
A channel may be reserved for a specific function or for a geographic area. For instance, in a functional channel system, one channel may allow the City of Springfield road repair crews to talk to the City of Springfield’s road maintenance office.
In a trunk tracking radio scanner, the system logic automatically picks the physical radio frequency channel. Digital trunked systems may carry simultaneous conversations on one physical channel. In the case of a digital trunked radio system, the system also manages time slots on a single physical channel. The function of carrying simultaneous conversations over a single channel is called “multiplexing”. Radios are related by groups which may be called groups, talk groups, or they can be divided into a hierarchy such as “fleet” and “subfleet”, or “agency-fleet-subfleet”, AFS, for short. These can be thought of as virtual channels which appear and disappear as conversations occur.
Let’s go over some of the features that may appeal to you before buying your radio scanner.
The number of scanner channels determines how many agencies and systems you can monitor. Having a scanner with many channels allows you to avoid having to reprogram the radio every time you wish to monitor a new agency and then have to program the original frequencies again. If you are only interested in one agency, such as a local police or sheriff’s department, 10 or 20 channels may be enough. If you would like the flexibility to listen to multiple agencies, including police and fire departments from multiple jurisdictions and news media, buy a scanner with more channels.
In a scanner with a large number of channels, the channels are usually organized into groups known as “banks”. The user will program all frequencies for a common topic, such as law enforcement, into one bank. All fire and medical frequencies would go in another, then all aircraft frequencies go into a third bank. The listener may turn banks on or off at any time when he or she wants to listen to a particular agency. Scanners with “Dynamic Memory Allocation” feature scan lists. Scan lists are like banks, except that the number of channels in each scan list can be changed at any time.
A search mode allows you to search for radio systems on new or unknown frequencies or channels. The frequencies and channel arrangements for many exciting agencies cannot be found in most frequency books, particularly if they are unlicensed, new, or simply not published. Search modes are found on all the least capable scanners, including many inexpensive scanners that sell on eBay.
The scanner’s scan speed is a measure of how many channels it scans through each second, while search speed measures how many frequency “steps” are searched each second. High scan and search speeds are important when scanning many channels at one time or searching a large radio band. For general use, look for a scanning speed of at least 25 channels per second and a search speed of at least 50 channels per second.
Scanners with an alphanumeric display, often referred to as “alpha tags”, can be programmed to display text indicating the agency and users of the “talkgroup” or channel, making it easier to keep track of many channels and talkgroups. This feature is common is many new trunking scanners.
Sensitivity is a measure of the signal strength required to hear a station. It is measured in microvolts. A smaller number indicates a more sensitive receiver since less signal strength is needed to hear the station. Sensitivity is of primary importance in rural areas, or when listening to weak signal transmissions such as military aircraft.
In conventional scanners, the scanner’s dynamic memory is partitioned into fixed banks of channels. While simple to understand and program, unused channels and banks are wasted in conventional scanners. In most applications, scanners are programmed with several large trunking systems and a number of conventional frequencies. Often large trunking systems have hundreds of talkgroups. Dynamic Memory makes better use of scanner memory by eliminating the fixed limitations.
The total Reviews Bee rating sums up the overall picture of every product. Reviews Bee works tirelessly to ensure that we are providing the best product recommendations to you and your family. In rating the various radio scanners available, we strive to give you the best information possible.Our algorithm includes information from both expert and consumer resources. There is no need to spend hours on researches, because Reviews Bee instantly gives all researches and analysis for you and creates a Top list to save your time and money.
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