Best Radio Scanners

Review & Comparison, Last Update June 10, 2021
Ever wanted to hear the thoughts of the people around you? While that may be a pipe dream, a radio frequency scanner can help you tap into any wave out there and listen in on previously unavailable radio stations, hear racecar drivers chatter, and much more. ...Read more ...Read less
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BEST 2021
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Type
Range
Modulation
Frequency Range
Control
Power Source
Features
Kit
Warranty
 
PROS

The Close Call technology allows for saving the strongest signals automatically without interrupting your regular listening.

CONS

The manual is needlessly complicated.

OUR VERDICT

The Uniden BCD436HP is a smart device that automatically sets itself to the right frequency and saves the strongest signals. While it takes a bit to really master, you'll surely end up liking functions like the recorder, the GPS sync, and broad modulation compatibility. A versatile choice for many uses though a bit tough on newbies.

detailed parameters
Type

Handheld

Range

Up to 50 miles

Modulation

AM, FM, NFM, WFM, FMB, APCO25, DMR, PRO VOICE

Frequency Range

25-1300 MHz

Control

LCD screen with mechanical backlit keypad

Power Source

3x AA Batteries (8 hours Operation), AC power supply, DC power supply

Features

Trunk Tracker V Operation, Multi-Site Trunking, Control Channel Only Scanning, S.A.M.E weather alert, Close Call RF capture with 4GB of memory, Radio System Analysis and Discover Modes, PC Programming and Control, Replay feature (up to 240 seconds), GPS Connectivity

Kit

Belt clip, strap, USB cable, batteries

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The Band Scope mode displays how strong the signal is and helps improve scanning.

CONS

The device is not that easy to program.

OUR VERDICT

If you're willing to really take a few hours to learn about programming the Uniden BCD996P2 and its features, it's a true treasure trove among other scanners. It works on a broad range of frequencies and can be used both in your car and as a desktop device. A real bargain if you're not averse to digging deep into the manual.

detailed parameters
Type

Base/Mobile

Range

25-30 miles

Modulation

AM, FM, NFM, WFM, FMB, APCO25

Frequency Range

25-1300 MHz

Control

LCD screen with mechanical backlit keypad

Power Source

AC power supply, DC power supply

Features

Trunk Tracker V Operation, Advanced Dynamic Memory System, Close Call RF Capture Technology, GPS compatibility, Multi-Site Trunking, Band Scope Mode, Priority/Priority Plus Scan, Intermediate Frequency Exchange, Key Safe Mode, Automatic Channel Setup, PC Programming and Control

Kit

AC Adapter, Vehicle Accessory Power Cord, Three-Wire Harness, Mounting Bracket and Hardware, Antenna, USB Cable

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The programmable alerts will light up the screen when a channel you usually listen to becomes active.

CONS

The interference suppression is a bit weak.

OUR VERDICT

Though it is a good choice for beginners, the Whistler WS1065 is also sure to impress more experienced users with how easy to program it is and how many quality-of-life improvements it has. While the sound quality could use some fine-tuning, we like this affordable model overall and can certainly recommend it for those shopping on a budget.

detailed parameters
Type

Desktop

Range

~20 miles

Modulation

AM, FM, NFM

Frequency Range

25-1300 MHz

Control

LCD screen with mechanical backlit keypad

Power Source

Batteries (rechargeable or non-rechargeable), AC power supply, DC power supply

Features

Menu Driven Programming with Context Sensitive Help, Alert LED, Automatic Adaptive Digital Tracking, Data Cloning, Digital AGC, Free-Form Memory Organization, Key Lock, Lock-out Function, Multi-System Trunking, PC programmable, SAME and All Hazards Weather Alerting, Skywarn Storm Spotter Functionality, Spectrum Sweeper, V-Scanner Technology

Kit

PC/IF Cable, DIN-E Adapter, AC Adapter, DC Cable, Telescopic Antenna, Mobile Mounting Bracket, USB cable

Warranty

1 year

PROS

You can program your scanner and set up to 10 priority channels to make the search quicker and easier. 

CONS

The package is rather scarce. 

OUR VERDICT

The Uniden Bearcat SR30C is a sound 500-channel choice for newbies. It offers all the basic features you'd expect from a device like this, including scanning feature, ability to set Police/Fire/Emergency, receive the weather forecast, and so on. It also has a quick search option, making it easier to pick the needed channel.

detailed parameters
Type

Handheld

Range

10-25 miles

Modulation

AM, NFM

Frequency Range

25-512 MHz

Control

LCD screen with mechanical backlit keypad

Power Source

2 x AA batteries (not included), 2 x AA rechargeable Ni-MH batteries (not included), AC power supply, DC power supply

Features

PC Programmable, Custom Search (program up to 10 custom search ranges), Quick Search, Turbo Search, Search Lockouts, Lock-Out Function, Priority Channels, Priority Scan with Do Not Disturb, Duplicate Channel Alert, Ten Service Bands, Key Lock, Direct Access, Memory Backup, Key Confirmation Tones, Battery Low Alert, Battery Save, Scan/Search Delay/Resume

Kit

USB cable, Belt clip

Warranty

1 year limited

PROS

The data cloning feature can be used to transfer the programmed data from one WS1010 to another. 

CONS

The sound isn't always clear.

OUR VERDICT

The handheld CB radio in question offers the convenience of one-touch searches of marine, fire/police, air, ham, and weather frequencies. Its 200-channel memory will offer you plenty of memory space to store all of your favorite frequencies.

detailed parameters
Type

Handheld

Range

~15-30 miles

Modulation

VHF, UHF

Frequency Range

29-512 MHz

Control

LCD screen with mechanical backlit keypad

Power Source

4 AA batteries, 4 rechargeable batteries, 110V AC

Features

PC programmable, Data cloning feature, Lock-out function, Memory backup, SAME and all hazards weather alerting, Spectrum sweeper, Priority channel feature

Kit

AC Adapter, Flex Antenna, Black Battery Shell, Yellow Rechargeable Battery Shell, User Guide, Quick Start Guide, Belt clip

Warranty

1 year

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Uniden BCD436HP

Catch Them All

Like listening to new music or obscure radio shows, collecting these auditory experiences all over? You don’t have to do so via the Internet as the Uniden BCD436HP is a portable and elegant device that does the trick while resting comfortably in your hand.

You can rest assured that you won’t miss a single station as the device browses AM, FM, NFM, WFM, DMR, and many other modulations, ranging from 25 to 1300 MHz. Plus, even if you find a station that you enjoy but the quality is poor, don’t despair! The device has a Close Call function that automatically saves these frequencies and then searches for a better source of the same signal, doing so automatically even as you listen to other things.

However, we do have to admit that a few automated functions don’t make the Uniden BCD436HP an easily accessible device. It has dozens of settings and options, which is good because versatility is key. But it’s also a problem because the manual that comes with the purchase is pretty poor and won’t be of much help. Prepare to spend some time researching your portable radio scanner.

As for the small but pleasant details, well, the Uniden BCD436HP picks up signals in a 50-mile range and you can use the built-in recorder to save whatever sounds you get. This means you could potentially end up with a recording of a space shuttle’s signal. And don’t worry, your device won’t give out in the middle of a listening session as the AA batteries keep it going for 8 hours easily and, if you’re at home, you can even charge it via AC/DC power.

There’s lots more to like about the Uniden BCD436HP such as the accessories that come with the purchase and the GPS and replay functions. But we’ve already touched down on the key characteristics and hope that you see why the Uniden BCD436HP is a great choice for listening and recording radio waves.

Review of Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer

Last updated price $489.88
Stock In stock
ASIN B00I33XDAK

What customers say about this product

Features

This is a very easy scanner to use that can accomplish very complex scanning tasks. Easiest use of all the scanner's features benefits from using a computer software package.

Key Specs

The 436 sets up easily and I was scanning within 2 minutes of putting in the batteries. The pre-programming takes all the work out of scanning. Because the 436 can receive Project 25 Phase 2, it can be used anywhere in the US or Canada

Sensitivity (12db Sinad) Nominal

This handheld scanner covers just about anything you might want to listen to. Trunking operation is great. Good sensitivity. Feature rich.
 

Uniden BCD996P2

Chasing the Signal

Hate your current car stereo that barely picks up signals and mostly plays interference? You could do a quick upgrade to a more expensive system or opt for the Uniden BCD996P2 instead. This CB radio scanner can be slotted into your dashboard (or left at home, the choice is yours) and pick up signals from a 25-30-mile radius. You can listen in on radio stations as well as conversations between truckers, switching back and forth effortlessly as the scanner works pretty fast. Plus, the Band Scope mode will show you how strong the signal is and help keep it stable.

We did feel like the Uniden BCD996P2 was a bit tougher to program than some of its counterparts. However, it’s worth in the end if you want to get serious about intercepting radio chatter and hearing more than you would on a basic radio system. Plus, it comes with the advanced dynamic memory system that’s actually pretty easy to navigate as you save preferred settings and stations for later.

Last but not least, the Uniden BCD996P2 comes with an array of handy accessories including all the necessary mounting parts and cords as well as an AC adapter. Plus, you can connect the scanner to your PC via the free USB cable to program it a bit faster and use it at home if needed.

All in all, if you’re ready to spare the time and set up the Uniden BCD996P2 properly, it’s one of the better scanners out there in terms of both price and functionality. It’s most useful for car owners but will work well as a desktop model as well.

Review of Uniden BCD996P2 Digital T.T. V, Close Call, 25000 Ch, 4Line Alpha display Base/Mobile, Phase 2

Additional Info

    Manufacturer

Last updated price $398.95
Stock In stock
ASIN B00UJU5MUE

What customers say about this product

Sensitivity (12db Sinad) Nominal

Good sensitivity, no intermod and good selectivity.

Features

By far my favorite feature is the display alert. Programmed frequencies can be setup to change the display color when the channel is active. Very useful if the volume is low, and if you're annoyed by priority cutouts.

Key Specs

Great sensitivity and selectivity! Picks up very well and not much intermod from nearby strong signals. I would recommend this scanner to anyone who has the patience (it's not difficult) to learn the dynamic memory setup. P25 phase one clear as a bell also; Don't have phase II in my area yet.
 

Whistler WS1065

Easy Access for All

Want an easy way to get into ham radios and surf the frequencies, looking for curious waves and transmissions? We recommend the Whistler WS1065, a simple yet functional digital trunking scanner.

For example, a lot of newbies worry that their radio hobby may get time-consuming as they wait for the timed transmissions or spend hours programming the device to actually catch those. However, the Whistler WS1065 is easy to program and you can adjust it to automatically light up your scanner’s display when a channel goes online. That way you never miss a message!

You might, however, have trouble hearing it occasionally if the signal is a bit weak. This model doesn’t have the best interference suppression, especially if the signal is on the outskirts of the 20-mile range. However, the device does try its best to find the frequency with the best quality.

As for the quality of life features, you can save lists of preferred frequencies, keep the device on via battery or AC/DC power, clone the data you’ve received, and track storm warnings via a special function. Nothing innovative but quite a few points that we’d call necessary for your first scanner.

Even if it’s not your first foray into the radiowave world, the Whistler WS1065 still manages to impress with an affordable price and a nice array of features that will be of use to both newbies and professionals.

Review of Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer

Last updated price $250.94
Stock In stock
ASIN B00IID3OLI

 

Uniden Bearcat (SR30C)

Excellent Entry Level Radio Scanner

If you're looking for an inexpensive radio scanner, why not consider buying an analog one? Cheaper and simpler in functionality, more often than not, it offers all the essential features you'd find in digital scanners but at a more attractive price. Need proof? Consider the Uniden Bearcat SR30C.

For a start, you'll be impressed with how many programming frequencies it can be programmed at. In fact, the unit can swiftly search channels across up to as many as 500 frequencies, picking up the most popular channels that are commonly used by the non-digital police, emergency medical and fire services, etc, which is nothing short of amazing given the scanner's affordable price. More importantly, though, it already comes pre-programmed, so if you've never programmed a scanner before, you'll still be able to use it without spending hours learning how to do it.

For more advanced users, the Uniden Bearcat SR30 allows customizing the pre-set channels using the computer. Hence, if needed, you can change the presets by tuning in to the strong signals from your local transmitters and selecting those that are of more interest to you.

Overall, the Uniden Bearcat SR30C is an excellent entry-level handheld radio scanner. It looks good and it won't take you ages to get to the grips with how to use it. Besides, it's very portable. With a weight of just 400g, carrying it in your pocket or clipped to your belt won't be a problem whatsoever. What's also nice is that it can be charged from any USB power source, making it just perfect for on-the-go use.

All in all, if you're in search of an inexpensive radio scanner to pick signals from the nearby transmitters in a range up to 25 miles, the Uniden Bearcat SR30C will prove to be a sound choice.

Review of Uniden Bearcat (SR30C) 500-Channel Compact Handheld Scanner

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer

Last updated price $104.71
Stock May be out of stock
ASIN B07S9H8YH3

 

Whistler WS1010

Program the Radio

The Whistler WS1010 is a handheld CB radio that is defined by a number of crucial features. These features make the product a great option for the kind of customers who aren't new to these instruments and know exactly what they're looking for. For instance, there's the data cloning feature that can be used to transfer the programmed data from one WS1010 to another. There's also the memory backup function that stores frequencies for an extended period of time even without batteries. By the way, speaking of the programmed data, what's particularly impressive about this battery-powered radio is that it provides the user with the opportunity to backup data, update the database, and program the instrument directly from a computer.

Aside from these features, the Whistler WS1010 is also one of the more powerful options on the market. Its 200-channel memory will offer you plenty of memory space to store all of your favorite frequencies. You can use it to listen to FM radio bands. Plus, you can categorize those frequencies into 10 separate memory banks. Naturally, the model also includes the SAME and all hazards weather alerting. However, it also incorporates a dedicated Skywarn button for storm watchers. The manufacturers also didn't forget about the usual set of convenience features, like lock-out function, spectrum sweeper, or priority channel feature.

Having said all of that, some could certainly make an argument that the best thing about this handheld CB radio is that it offers the convenience of one-touch searches of marine, fire/police, air, ham, and weather frequencies.

Review of Whistler WS1010 Analog Handheld Scanner

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer

Last updated price $139.94
Stock In stock
ASIN B00IID3O72

 

What Is a Radio Scanner?

So a handheld radio scanner might not be enough to tap into the thoughts of your peers, but these devices can help you discover radio waves that aren’t regularly available on less intricate models. This includes public radio stations, broadcasts from ham radios, chatter from racecar drivers, and sports match commentators. In fact, if you take your time and set your programmable gadget to the proper range and frequency, there’s a chance you might pick up a signal from space! It’s rare but it’s known to happen.

Using the scanner to tap into broadcasts can be difficult as you’ll have to learn about what types of modulations there are and what each of them is used for. But the dive into the technology of radios will likely be worth it as you tap into a trove of knowledge and frequency surfing. You can use your radio scanner to listen in on the weather report or enjoy some music, it’s all up to you.

If you end up snared in the allure of radio technology, check out some CB radios, an old-school way to communicate out on the road. And if you also want to look at the easier side of things first, look at our clock radios review.

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Publish Date: 2018-08-29 13:18:16