Best Radio Scanners in 2020



sherry Anti Spy Detector & Camera Finder RF Signal Detector GPS Bug Detector Hidden Camera Detector for GSM Tracking Device GPS Radar Radio Frequency Detector Review:


 You can switch between the RF signal mode and magnetic probe mode by long-pressing the M button. Each of these modes can detect different types of signals. I do like how compact the device is, so you can travel with it pretty easily. It has a red filtered viewfinder that you can look through to detect hidden cameras, which can be illuminated by a ring of red LED lights. For fun, I found as an added bonus it's kinda cool to take photos with your cell phone through the filter. I'm sure I'll fancy this device more, once I can use it in more espionage scenarios.



Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, 25,000 Dynamically Allocated Channels, Close Call RF Capture Technology, 4-Line Alpha display, Base/Mobile Design, Phase 2, Location-Based Scanning Review:


This scanner is capable of receiving the majority of everything (not encrypted) in the Police/Fire/Public Service/Military Air/Gov/Misc bands in either analog or digital modes. It receives APCO P-25 digital (both Phase I & II) signals great for me with a stock antenna but I am in a good location to receive two actual P-25 trunk radio "system site" towers with good signal levels. With digital 800 Mhz signals though, you may need less antenna. About 6.5 inches in length is a good 800 Mhz antenna. With an attic mount ST-2 antenna on a tv antenna booster, I can receive analog signals 60 plus miles away cleanly but that's flat terrain to the top of the Willis Tower.

If you have marginal (P-25) 800 Mhz signal levels you won't get many signal bars lit up, it won't trunk track right and you may see talkgroups show up on the display but no audio is heard/garbled/breaks up because it can't decode the digital modulation, or it just might be encrypted. When you get trunking lock on a control channel in APCO P-25 mode, the actual frequency will show up (small) on the display, otherwise you just get "NFM" on the display which means you're not tracking the system and it will not work. But once you get lock on a control channel, if it all works correctly, it grabs talkgroups at will and you will have to label them or sort out what you wish to really listen to as there will be plenty of (channels=talkgroups) at busy times.

With digital trunking systems, it depends on the tower near you having the talkgroup channels you want to hear available on that tower. As far as digital trunking signals go with any digital scanner, all bets are off. The signals fade out at times, some of these RF tower signals get more/less power alloted to them on each tower. In order to fully monitor one P-25 system, the scanner may have to "listen to" 6 or more towers (in one system) that are all directions from you with varying RF power levels on each frequency, in order to properly receive ALL of your chosen channel (talkgroups) in that Police system you want to hear. If this seems too complicated, well it is. There is a Computer Control channel on P25 digital trunking systems that tells the police system computer what frequency to use or "hop to" (each split second) and you may get that individual frequency's (talkgroup) good/bad/gone off various towers (and all at nearly the same time yet!) This is called simulcasting distortion and makes listening to any APCO P-25 digital Police trunking radio system extremely hard for any new digital scanner. And the nasty winds, rain, leaf foliage too all mess havoc with these signals. No getting around this. You may be in a good/bad location, it all depends. You may have missed details in your programming, yes I did too many times. Could be your location, your antenna, your programming, proximity to too many other "site" towers, winds, (high winds or hot/humid air seem nasty on narrow P-25 signals), or the big TV/Radio/Cell Towers nearby with mega kw watts etc. It is a huge complicated mess even for an expert radio engineer to deal with. A lot of it is...trial and error with P-25 digital. Does it track control signal? No. Move antenna/radio a few inches, try again. But the BCD996P2 (once setup right) excels at receiving everything great!

This scanner works Great for me in my location even on the factory antenna. And the bandscope mode is fabulous too. I love it. It is up to you to sort out the critical-channel-programming first before you use it. Study the Radio Reference website, it might take time. I would advise to use a computer to program this scanner, otherwise you'll just pull your hair out. You can't program this scanner by using zip codes like some others. Freescan (sixspotsoftware) is a great Free program to use, I use it, others exist too. You can plug the scanner into your PC via the included USB cable. My Win 7 PCs found it right away (You setup Control Scanner, Set com port to auto find in Freescan and it should find your scanner on a com port. Then you upload your channels/lineups to the scanner) But first you need to find the frequencies in the Radio Reference website. Freescan also has a Cut 'N' Paste frequency import method which works fine as you select from database info.

An outside scanner antenna used with at least an RG-6 cable is optimal for the best reception with this extended coverage scanner to hear everything. I also use a cheap (75 ohm) TV antenna signal booster with 18 db gain, on 50ft RG-6 and a 4 port ant splitter. I have a lot of RF signal levels (using bandscope mode) but no overload that I can see or hear. But for local signals (20 miles or less) you probably will do just as well with the back of set stock antenna, for both analog channels and digital systems. For 800 Mhz specific signals, use a 800 Mhz antenna like a Remtronix.

The scanner can be used in the car, it comes with 2 DC power cords, one with a lighter plug, it has a nice bracket and includes the AC adapter. This unit is the base model of the portable BCD325P2 hand held scanner. They are the same to operate/use and program. This 996P2 model has a bottom fire speaker with a "deep bass audio sound" on digital systems and it sounds like a loudness circuit in a stereo, compared to my RS-652 desktop scanner which has a tinnier sound. You can choose one of 7 colors for the display and it has many signal adjustments for each channel/system, which is why you need patience. You can upgrade this scanner now to receive ProVoice, Mototrbo and DMR but Uniden charges an extra fee for each one. I do not have these upgrades and may not get.

These new digital scanners are frustration devices to many people. For the expert, yes, this scanner is marvelous, you can "hear" everything except Encrypted signals. Be sure you have days/weeks of time and patience to spend with this thing first though. The learning curve is very steep. It is not plug it in, put in a few channels and listen like in the old days. Every channel has about a dozen parameters to setup first, a P-25 digital system may have 2 dozen parameters to setup first, then one dozen items per channel on top of this. This scanner does Not use an SD memory card to store channels/data to. These can be problematic and cause odd errors of all kinds. But the BCD996P2 scanner is a techs dream to use (once programmed properly) and a upgraded cousin to my all time favorite pal the Uniden BCD396XT portable scanner. But this scanner is still quite a challenge for anyone to setup/operate/use. Five stars because it is simply a phenomenal scanner (with exceptional abilities) targeted to mostly expert scanner junkies.



Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner. TrunkTracker V, Simple Programming, S.A.M.E. Emergency/Weather Alert, Covers USA and Canada Review:


With over 700 reviews of this product, there is a lot of material out there. If you're like me and have limited time to read reviews, let me sum this product up for you:
1. It is plug & play. Enter your zip code and it knows what frequencies to scan in your area. Game on!
2. If you travel, buy the Uniden-brand GPS unit available on Amazon (Uniden BC-GPSK Serial GPS Receiver for Scanner and Marine Products). The reason to buy the Uniden unit is A) As you travel, the GPS feeds your location into the scanner and the scanner updates the frequencies it is scanning to those near you and B) because it is also plug & play. Mine arrived with the necessary cords to plug directly into the scanner, and it worked from that moment. Perfect!
3. You can connect the scanner to your PC to update the firmware and the frequency database from Uniden. It is easy. No need to buy a third-party web database. Uniden regularly updates their database. I purchased my unit in 9/2014 and used it nine months before performing updates. It works fine out of the box.
4. The scanner has two batteries, a main battery for scanning and a secondary battery for the clock. Charge the main battery first, then turn on the scanner to charge the secondary battery. Oddly, the clock battery charges when the unit is on.
5. On trips, an external antenna will extend your range. I purchased a magnetic mount antenna on Amazon for about $30 (ASIN B004HM9RHE) and it works great. Almost a plug & play device, you do not need an SWR meter as it is pre-tuned. Plug & play caveat: You will need a BNC Female/SMA Male Adaptor (ASIN B00CLFFM4G) to plug the antenna into the scanner.
6. When using in a vehicle, know the law. In Michigan where I reside, you need permission from the state police to have a police scanner in your car. I have been told by the Ontario Provincial Police it is legal to have a scanner in a vehicle in Canada but have not been able to find the law on the books.
7. That's it. This scanner is as simple or complex as you wish it to be. For a busy dad, the simplicity is welcome and the Plug & Play No Fuss Ready-to-Use attributes actually let me enjoy the thing without brushing off my kids to learn how to make it work. It reminds me of the original Apple MacIntosh computer: A product so smart you can turn it on and use it without devoting hours of study to get it to function :-)



Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner Review:


Allow me to say that 4 Stars is Very Good, just with a few minor exceptions.
The radio comes "Pre-Programmed" with a nationwide database and allows you to enter your zip code to begin scanning. It will start scanning everything, mostly stuff you aren't interested in. You'll want to build a custom profile in very short order. There will be no doubt you have a working radio out of the box.

The positives: Whistler provides frequent free updates to the radio firmware and the programming software and is easily downloaded. I purchased this radio to receive NXDN, and after the firmware upgrade, to allow decoding, NXDN reception works well. I haven't tried DMR, but assume it works just as well. I live in an area with P-25 simulcast which is intolerable to older generation receivers. The TRX-2 does a very good job of reception with very little digital garble. It's on par with my Uniden BCD536HP. I also purchased the TRX-2 for the detachable control head for mobile operation. This is a great feature as well and only requires a standard 8 conductor LAN patch cable (included) to connect with the radio portion. The included programming software is quite good with some room for improvement. You won't need to spring an extra $45 or more for a third party programming application. I can't understand why the program won't allow you to copy a setting down an entire column, like a spreadsheet though. (Suggestion for a firmware upgrade?) Enabling and disabling scanlists is very easy.

Negatives: The LCD display is not as "polished" and smaller as compared to the BCD536HP display. The radio lacks an automatic shut-off. (Sleep timer) This could be solved with a firmware upgrade.

Summary: This radio, like any other P-25 trunking scanner is not easy to program correctly. YOU WILL SPEND HOURS becoming familiar with digital trunking, frequencies, talkgroups, software, and programming (and re-programming). To me, this is part of the ownership experience. The TRX-2 manual (along with any other brand's) does not take you by the hand. Trial, error and patience. Or find someone who has programmed one and is willing to share.

In conclusion: I'm glad I got this radio. I'm very pleased with the performance, the included programming software and especially the continued firmware upgrade process that will keep this radio fresh for years. If you are ready to spring for one of the "Big Iron" P-25 scanners, the TRX-2 is one of the choices you have to consider.

Updated May 16,2017
After 4 months of ownership and installation into my vehicle.
For mobile applications, I strongly recommend the TRX-2 over the Uniden models. The control head is held in place and has never slipped out of place. The strong magnets hold the control head rock solid. I had to be a bit creative about how to mount the control head, but the nylon spacers worked great. Mobile VHF P-25 works well, 850 MHz is much more prone to multipath distortion.
If you are planning on going mobile, the TRX-2 would be the more appropriate choice for digital scanner radio.



Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner. 500 Alpha-Tagged channels. Public Safety, Police, Fire, Emergency, Marine, Military Aircraft, and Auto Racing Scanner. Lightweight, Portable Design. Review:


I had a 25 year old Radio Shack Scanner 10 channel (not ten bank) scanner and it was time to update. Living in the rural area of Northern California, and being an ex-volunteer firefighter, my wife and I depend on our scanner to keep alerted to local emergency events.

I decided on the Uniden BC125AT after helping a friend program his. There were a number of things I found that helped me decide:

THE GOOD

• Good sound. The filtering in this scanner was able to filter out the static noise from the various electronics in our home.
• Compact size and comfortable in the hand.
• Alpha Numeric channel programming and labeling. The ability to add labels to each channel as it appears on the screen during a transmission makes it easier to know what is actually happening. I can instantly know what dispatch center is transmitting.
• The free Windows software available from the Uniden website (link in the owners manual) allowed me to quickly and easily enter the frequencies I wanted along with a name for each channel, save it to a file on my computer, then upload the file to the scanner. With ten separate banks of 505 channels each, it was a simple matter to create separate banks for Fire, Police, Air Firefighting Resources, and even separate banks for local city emergency resources. After I programmed the friend's unit I received mine about two days later and it took just a few seconds to upload the data into my BC125AT.
• The ability to lock out banks. It is very easy to lock out any of the banks so, for example, you can lock all out except one bank where you program local fire resources.
• Scan all banks, scan one bank, or pick on channel to scan. In an emergency it is nice to be able to just listen to the main fire dispatch channel and it is easy to select that function.
• The multi-function "volume knob." The rotary knob has many functions including setting the volume, adjusting the squelch, scrolling through the channels saved in banks.
• Adjustable screen brightness and contract

THE BAD (or at least, not as good)
• The included rechargeable batteries are decent but the charger in the Uniden is set by time only in hours. Insert a fully-charged pair of cells and plug the Uniden in and if the charger is set to charge for six hours, it will charge for that period of time. This overheats the batteries which can shorten their life. Thy get quite warm to the touch, but so far not dangerously so. I suggest keeping a spare set of batteries charged and switch them out as needed.
• It charges through the USB cable, and only charges the batteries when the unit is turned off. If the BC125AT is on, the batteries will not receive a charge. When turned off the charge restarts and will run the full length of time you selected in the menu system.
• When I purchased this, the Amazon link to the warranty information was to an old PDF page from 2010 from Uniden that stated the unit had a three (3) year warranty. THAT IS INCORRECT. The printed manual that came with the scanner (©2012) states it has a one (1) year warranty. I called Uniden today (8/6/2018) and that information was confirmed.
• The owners manual could be better. This is a powerful unit and can do a lot of things. To access much of the menu system takes multiple button presses. The manual describes these is somewhat more complicated text than is necessary. Flow charts for each functions would have been MUCH better. I know- I have written owners manuals and created flow charts for similar programming and function systems.

CONCLUSION
I give this unit 4 stars instead of 5 only because of the outdated battery charging system. Other than that, this is a very nice scanner for under $100. I do suggest purchasing the extended warranty so that you have more than one year's protection.

NOTE: The linked PDF warranty file on the Amazon sales page when I purchased this scanner stated that the warranty was three (3) years. IT IS NOT! That PDF file was from 2010. The ©2012 owners manual that comes with the scanner states that the warranty period is one (1) year. I verified this with Uniden Customer Service.



Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner, Close Call RF Capture, Pre-programmed Search “Action” Bands to Hear Police, Ambulance, Fire, Amateur Radio, Public Utilities, Weather, and More Review:


I'm a beginner when it comes to police scanners and am glad this was very easy to set up. You just literally plug in the power and plug in the antenna and you are good to go.

Thanks to earlier reviews I bought an aftermarket antenna and used it at the get go so i haven't run into the issues with reception that other reviewers have mentioned.

Also thanks to another earlier review I was able to (fairly) easily program my local police department's channel into the private bank. Although it did take a little extra time because for one I couldn't input the channel directly and for two the search arrows have to be pushed over and over again for each channel change instead of being able to simply hold the button down and have it scroll through quickly to the channel I wanted. This lead to me having to hit the scroll up botton I kid you not 150 times before I got to the station I wanted and was able to save it into the private bank. But now that it's in there it is super convenient.

The built in speaker is adequate and quite loud when turned up all the way. It is a tad fuzzy but it's hard to tell if that is due to the quality of the speaker or the quality of my local police's radio equipment (I live in a small town that is kind of behind the times when it comes to technology). That being said, even though it's a little fuzzy, I am still able to understand almost all of what is being said.



Anti Spy RF Detector Hidden Camera Detector Bug GPS Wireless Signal Alarm Scanner Detection Device [Military-Professional Version] Review:


Wow very impressed! To help shorten your learning curve here is what the unit does. 1. Finds camera lenses using the red light with four flashing settings ( just user preference). Camera lenses very quick and easy to spot as you will see a red dot. 2. Locates magnets which are used for say in cars with hidden gps devices. Works by the dull purple light on antenna turning white and vibrating. 3. AI will scan for transmitted signals and set off alarm( some spy devices are not constantly on. Tested finding cell phone, walks talkie, microwave( now wonder if my microwave is leaking) lol, and security camera lenses. I do not know what the numbers are used for on top of the unit? Also by using the sensitivity dial up top makes finding signals very quick and easy. Very sensitive just set between 1 and 2 position and start your RF search.



Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) with 9,000 Channels, TrunkTracker III Technology, Base/Mobile Design, Close Call RF Capture Technology with Location-Based Scanning, - Black Color Review:


Like most Uniden scanners today, this is a phenomenal piece of equipment that does everything they say it will. Getting it to DO everything, however, can be a time consuming process and takes reading the manual - which in this case STINKS. I would recommend going to Uniden's web site and downloading the manual for the prior version of this hardware, the BCT15. Most of what this unit does, its predecessor did, so the manual is almost complete for this unit. Also, do a web search for "easy to read BCT15X manual. There is a different web based manual out there which is better than Uniden's. For software, find FreeSCAN, which, as the name implies, is free. I've had wonderful success in programming my BCT15X with this software. However, start by clicking upload -> COM setting -> Auto Detect so that the software will find your scanner. I understand the negative reviews of this scanner. If you aren't a dedicated scanner and computer hobbyist, this can be a difficult product. But it is EASY after you've taken the time to learn the system, and after that, a great scanner.