Got a bad antenna? How to figure it out.

You spent a ton of money on a new scanner and another small fortune on a fancy outside antenna and feedline. Everything worked great until one day the scanner sent silent. Now what?

Here are some steps to try and figure out what happened. Did your target move to a new frequency or radio system? Did the antenna fail? The feedline? Maybe the radio itself isn’t working. Do this stuff and you can figure out where the problem lies.

First let’s do the easy stuff. Program in the local NOAA Weather station into the scanner. These transmit continuously on 162.400 thru 162.550 MHz. This makes them a great way to test your radio setup for proper reception. It is also an easy way to compare antennas and feedlines. If your radio picks up the weather transmitter then at least the system is working properly. Compare your outside antenna to the back-of-set antenna, the outside one should work better. If it doesn’t then there is probably a problem with it.

If you cannot hear your local weather station (and you know that you could before) then you need to figure out if the problem is with the feedline, the antenna or the connectors. First do a visual inspection of the connectors on the radio and coax and look for obvious problems. If you see nothing wrong then check the other and (at the antenna). If possible use an ohmmeter and check for continuity between the two ends of the coax and that the coax is not shorted. Disconnect the antenna from the coax since some antennas show a DC short when connected.

If you can hear the weather channel then the problem is probably not the antenna. It is more likely a programming issue or perhaps your agency has change radio systems. These days it is very common for many agencies to be converting over to large area-wide digital radio systems. It is often less expensive to do that than to replace older infrastructure. Some states have built statewide systems open to all local and county agencies to use. These states include NC, SC, MI, IN, OH, IL, MN, MO and others. Check your local area at the database and see if there is a new channel or system listed there. Also check at the very bottom of the county page at RadioReference. If there are regional or statewide trunking systems listed check that system for your local agency.

If you find out that your local agency has moved to a new system then it is time for either reprogramming your current radio (if it will work on the new system) or replacing it with one that is compatible. We can help you pick the right radio for your area, just call one of our scanner experts. Don’t throw away the old radio, you can still use it for other things like aircraft, railroads or whatever old channels your agency retained after moving.

Product Test – 824-960, 13dBi, Terrawave Yagi Base Antenna

Customer Scott Fleming wrote us a short e-mail about the 824-960, 13dBi, Terrawave Yagi Base Antenna

Written By Scott Fleming, KG4PBD   

I wanted to take a moment to thank you and Scanner Master for your help in resolving my reception issues.

As you may recall, I purchased an HP-1 from Scanner Master and quickly discovered that the local P25 simulcast system was virtually un-monitorable from my home, due to severe multipath distortion. My location is mid-way between two simulcast sites for the Charlotte Mecklenburg P25 system. I ordered your 13dbi, Terrawave yagi antenna, along with 50′ of LMR-400 coax. My plan was to aim the yagi at the closest site (Matthews), and see if that eliminated the multipath distortion.

My preference was to install the antenna in the attic. I found a good location near a gable-end facing the direction of the tower, and mounted the antenna on a short mast. I tested the coiled coax at the antenna location prior to installing the coax, and immediately saw a huge improvement.

Now that the installation is complete I have almost 100% consistent decode on the system, with very few distortion issues. Overall, it sounds great and I’m very pleased! Check out two pics showing the installation bellow.

Thank you for your time in helping me. I look forward to my next purchase from Scanner Master!

Product Test – Uniden Bearcat BC125AT

By Jonathan Higgins – The Scanner Expert

Product Tested: Uniden Bearcat BC125AT
Cost of product: $139.95

Out of the box
I’m very impressed with the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT, everything I could ask for in a basic analog conventional scanner. Alpha Tagging, PL Tone, NOAA Weather Alerts, and much, much more!

Once programmed, I had great reception inside of our Holliston office. The speaker audio quality was clear and crisp. Unit is pretty light weight even with the batteries installed.

This scanner will be ideal for someone that in area using analog conventional communications . Also great for auto racing, railroad buff or aviation hobbyist.

What makes this scanner different from BC72XLT and BC95XT?
Uniden added a lot of features, that are available in the XT models.

  • ALPHA Tagging – you can program a frequency and assign a name to the channel such as:
  • Private Line Tone (PL Tone) along with programming the frequency you can program CTCSS or DCS. If you’re not sure what the PL Tone is you can do a CTCSS/DCS Search. This is very helpful with blocking interference.
  • Bigger Memory – 500 channels, 10 banks, 50 channels per bank.
  • NOAA Weather Alert Mode
  • Narrowband Compatibles
  • Includes Military Air Band
  • Priority Scan with “do-not-disturb”
  • Close Call RF Capture with Do-Not-Disturb

    BC125AT is very handsome in it black and gray case, with its easy to press black and white buttons. Very compact and can fit in a shirt pocket without a problem. The display is much larger then BC346XT/BCD396XT, and super easy to read. Across the top of the scanner you have; multifunction knob at the top right, head set jack in the middle and BNC antenna connection on the left. Charging/ remote programming port on the right side. The back of the scanner you have the fixed belt clip and AA Alkaline/rechargeable battery compartment.

    Memory System
    Bank structured memory system with 500 channels, 10 banks with 50 channels per bank. The layout is very simple to understand for someone trying to field program the scanner.

    Band Coverage
    25-54 MHz
    108-174 MHz
    225-380 MHz
    400-512 MHz

    Service Searches
    Very simple to turn off and on Press “Func” then “Srch”. The services are broken down into banks and you can turn them on and off by press it number. Let’s say you want to turn off “CB Radio” press the “8” button to turn it off and to turn it back on just press the “8” again. To return to normal scanning press the “Scan” button.

    1. Police
    2. Fire/Emergency
    3. Ham Radio
    4. Marine
    5. Railroad
    6. Civil Air
    7. Military Air
    8. CB Radio
    0. Racing

    Custom Band Search
    Band Searches, press “Srch” button, you can set up to 10 custom search band limits. While in this mode press “Func” then “Pgm” then Select “Program Limits”. You will have a list of 10 custom search bank.

    Powering the Scanner
    Very much like IPhone/IPod, the BC125AT comes with a multipurpose USB cable. This cable can connect to the PC for programming and firmware updates. This cable powers the scanner via a USB AC or USB DC adapter (Sold Separately). Rechargeable batteries can be charged inside the unit.

    Programming Software
    Programming software will be available from Uniden and from BuTel software shortly. Uniden Software will be very basic vs. the BuTel Software will more advanced. With the BuTel Software you will have capability to import frequencies from with a paid Membership.

    Weather “WX”
    This compact unit is great for monitoring NOAA Weather radio. You can also receive NOAA Weather Alerts while the scanner is scanning. Or you can run the scanner in Weather Alerts Standby mode. In this mode the BC125AT will act as weather station, audio will kick-in with weather alerts. To see all weather options on the scanner press “Func” then the “3 WX” button.

    In the Box

  • BC125AT
  • Rubber Duck Antenna
  • Multipurpose USB Cable

    Owners Manual
    (available online PDF)

    Recommend Optional Accessories
    Scanner Master is currently developing multiple carrying cases and we will keep you posted on that. We carry both optional AC USB and DC USB adapters, along with backup rechargeable batteries. We also have full line of portable antennas with BNC connections. If you plan on using the BC125AT in the home make sure you check out “Spectrum Force Desk Mount for One Portable Scanner“.

  • Product Test – GRE 800 MHz Rubber Antenna

    By Jonathan Higgins

    Product Tested: GRE 800 MHz Rubber Antenna
    Cost of product: $19.95

    Looking to improve your reception on the 800MHz? Over the past month Scanner Expert Greg Jolly and I tried out the “GRE 800 MHz Rubber Antenna“. Not only did it improve on the 800MHz reception we saw improvement on VHF-Hi and UHF system as well. This antenna comes with BNC connection you can convert this to a SMA with an optional “SMA to BNC adapter” for Uniden units. For $19.95 you can’t go wrong with trying this antenna!

    Product Spec:

    • 800MHz Rubber Antenna
    • Straight design
    • 7 inch size
    • BNC Connector


    Product Test Ferret 8 Band Base Antenna

    By Jonathan Higgins

    Spring is just around the corner, what better time to get a new antenna for your home or office.

    The Product: Ferret 8 Band Base Antenna

    Last September, my dad and I installed the Austin Ferret 8 Band Antenna at my home in Attleboro, Massachusetts. After about 2 hours, my new antenna was up and running. For this project we used 50’ LMR-400 Coax cable, 2’ wall mount bracket, 4 port multi coupler, two 3 foot jumper cables, and, two 50 RG-58 coax with BNC.


    When mounting an antenna outside make sure your clear of any power lines, and never install antenna by yourself. Try to find the best route for the coax cable, make sure you measure the route and only allow a little extra. Rule of thumb, higher the antenna the shorter the coax is always the best.

    We had to get a 2’ wall mount bracket two clear the roof overhang. Once the bracket was secured to the side of the house we then installed the antenna to the post using U-bolt brackets. After drilling 1 inch hole into the side of the house we ran the LMR-400 Coax into the 4 port multi coupler in my hobby room. In my hobby room I have Uniden BCD996T and the classic Uniden BC780XLT, hook up both scanner to the multi coupler via the 3’ foot jumpers. The remaining two ports were used for scanners in the living room and master bedroom connected via the two 50’ RG-58 Coax cable.

    Reception Test

    In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, most of the public safety is using VHF High Band or UHF. I was amazed by the reception. I was able to pick up UHF systems for 15 to 30 miles away without a problem, and as for the VHF, about 30+ miles away. In Massachusetts, the State Police are on an analog 800MHz trunking system. I was able to pick up the local site with ease and neighboring sites up to 20 miles away. I found that the height of the Ferret really brings in the VHF Low Band without a problem.

    If you’re a Railroad buff like me, this is the antenna for you. Being in Attleboro along the Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor there is a lot of active on AAR Channel 54 160.9200 Mhz. With this antenna I’m able hear more of the communications between the dispatch and train, since most railroad systems are line of sight without a repeater a great antenna is key.


    With almost 20 years of experience, I have to say this is one of the best roof top antennas I have ever used. If you decide on the Austin Ferret, make sure you get high quality coax cable like the LMR-400. The coax cable is just as important as the antenna to get the ultimate performance.

    Details about the Ferret…

    All band omnidirectional antenna covering the following bands – 30-50/88-108/121/146/150-174/225-400/806-896/1.2 Ghz. The Ferret is in-case in 8 foot fiberglass tube protecting all of the elements for the eight bands

    Recommend Coax for the Austin Ferret:
    The LMR-400 is the best coax on the market for roof top antenna installations
    LMR-400 Coax Cable, 25′, N Male to BNC Male
    LMR-400 Coax Cable, 50′, N Male to BNC Male
    LMR-400 Coax Cable, 75′, N Male to BNC Male
    LMR-400 Coax Cable, 100′, N Male to BNC Male

    Austin Antenna, a locally based company right here in New England, has been in business for the last 25 years. We carry the full Austin Antenna scanner product line; the Ferret, the Condor and the Spectra.

    Product Test Uniden 4″ External Speaker

    By Jonathan Higgins

    The Product: Uniden 4″ External Speakers

    Do you have your eyes set on new base/mobile scanner? If you’re installing any base/mobile scanner in your car, trunk, home or office, please check out the Uniden 4” External Speaker. I have tried many speakers in my almost 20 years in this hobby and I have found this speaker to be one of the best. The speaker is black with Uniden’s signature paw print embossed on the speaker’s metal grill. Included in the box is the adjustable mounting bracket along with a 10 ft cold with a 1/8 (3.5mm) mono plug. You can expect high quality sound to be transmitted from this heavy duty external speaker.

    Product Specs:

  • Speaker: 4″ Plastic Cone
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Maximum Power: 12 Watts
  • Wire: 10 ft. cord
  • Plug Type: 1/8″ (3.5mm Plug)
  • Frequency Response: 500Hz-5KHz
  • Includes ratchet type mounting bracket & hardware
  • Product Test WAN-97A Active Nomad Base Antenna

    By Jonathan Higgins

    The Product:
    WAN-97A Active Nomad Base Antenna – Indoor Antenna

    Are you living an apartment? We feel your pain, trying to find the right antenna, with the restrictions of apartment or condo living. Recently I was able to test the “WAN-97A Active Nomad Base Antenna”; I was amazed at the performance of this indoor antenna! Just hang this vertical antenna near a window or in attic and you will be amazed how much more you can hear. The WAN-97A has a built-in pre-amplifier that powered with four AA batteries or with optional external 12 Volt powers supply (Uniden AD-1009 AC Adapter).

    Product Specs:

  • 25MHz – 1300MHz
  • Element length 4 feet
  • Coax lead length 10 feet
  • Power source; 4 AA Batteries or with optional 12 Volt AC Adapter
  • Above is the WAN-97A set up in Greg Jolly’s office.

    First Look at the Uniden BCD996XT

    By Jonathan Higgins

    The New Uniden BCD996XT looks very similar to the Uniden BCD996T, but its body is totally black, while the front face is glossy black. All of the buttons on the key pad are still the same, but some changes have been made to the Function Quick Keys. The Uniden BCD996XT is packed with the same great features that the recently released Uniden BCD396XT portable version has, but in the base/mobile form.

    Key feature upgrades Uniden BCD996XT
    • 25,000 Channels/ 500 Systems
    • GPS on Systems and Groups
    • Fire Tone Out with build-in tones Search
    • NAC Decoding
    • Individual Channel volume Offset
    • Support EDACS ESK
    • Multi-color display backlight (7 colors)
    • Re-banding ready
    • System/Channel Number Tagging – rapid access to channel or system

    I was able to program the scanner with ease with the ARCXT software, which works on 4 scanners (BC346XT, BCD396XT, BCD996XT and the soon to be released BC15XT). If you already own the BCD396XT and you saved the profile you can clone the BCD996XT with the same file. If you’re setting up your first XT, programming is made simple with the importing capability from (with a paid membership to their website).

    HomeTown Programming:
    If you’re a beginner in this hobby and you looking to get the Uniden BCD996XT scanner I would strongly recommend our HomeTown Programming Service. After a week to ten days your scanner will be programmed and shipped to you ready to go out of the box.

    GPS Programming:
    The GPS scanning feature is amazing. Once set up, the scanner will turn on and off each programmed group as you travel. How is this done? The ARC software allows you to set up a center point’s latitude and longitude for each group. Let’s say your home town is in group one, you can find the center point by simply entering your zip code in the software. You can set the scanning range anywhere from 0.5 to 100+ mile(s). As you approach X mile(s) of that center point, the group will become unlocked. GPS Programming will also work with trunking systems. If you set up the trunking systems with multiple sites, you can set up each site with a center point and range.

    Installing the optional GPS Antenna:
    Its pretty simple, just plug the GPS antenna serial female end in the back of the serial male end on your BCD996XT. The GPS Antenna needs to be powered by simply plugging it into cigarette lighter/ mobile power outlet in your car. Then put the magnetic GPS antenna on a flat surface on the trunk or vehicle’s roof. Power-up the scanner; it may take several minute to process the GPS info.

    Road testing the Uniden BCD996XT
    In this road test, I will be hooking up the following to the Uniden BCD996XT; GPS Antenna, Comtelco Antenna with Mag mount, and the Uniden RH-96 Remote head. My first observation was that the sensitivity was great; it was able to pull in signal clearly from all around. I was amazed by the overall sound of both digital conventional and digital trunking systems. It was nice and clear without that under water sound. I found the new “Individual Channel Volume Offset” feature very handy for those low volume systems.

    What is the “Individual Channel Volume Offset”?
    This feature permits the volume adjustment of the individual channel, either up or down three notches.

    RH-96 Remote Head:
    If you have a remote head you can use it with any of the new XT models after updating the Remote Heads Firmware. You can do this once you register the remote head at – Firmware Link

    Final thoughts on my first test:
    Uniden made the great BCD996T even better with the BCD996XT… Better digital sound, more memory, rapid access to channels, more GPS control, and ready for rebanded systems.

    This unit is great for either a mobile or a base application.

    Helpful Links about this Product:
    Uniden BCD996XT
    ARCXT Basic Software
    ARCXT PRO Software
    GPS Receiver

    Testing the Austin Spectra Mobile Antenna

    By Jonathan Higgins

    Hello Everyone,

    I would like to introduce myself. I’m Jonathan Higgins, lead on-site “scanner expert”… I’m happy to be a part of the Scanner Master team for over a year now, with almost 20 years of scanning experience under my belt. Over the years, communication systems have made a lot of advances with trunking and digital communications. My first scanner was a Radio Shack Realistic PRO-2014, a 50 channel scanner. Some of my favorite scanners are the Uniden BC246T, BCD396XT, BC780XLT, BCD996T and the GRE PSR-500.

    Along with Rich, I will be posting information and advice on our Scanner Master Blog.

    Testing the
    Austin Spectra Mobile Antenna

    The Spectra is 33 inches tall and its tuned for all 4 public safety bands:

  • VHF Low Band (30-50MHz)
  • VHF High band (150-174 MHz)
  • UHF (430-512 MHz)
  • 800MHz (806-896 MHz)

    The coax cable and mounting gear are sold separately. I used the 5” NMO Mag Mount for my test. The scanner used was the Uniden BCD996T …So off I went on a road trip!

    In Massachusetts, most of the public safety is using VHF High Band or UHF. I was amazed by the reception. I was able to pick up UHF systems for 10 to 15 miles away without a problem, and as for the VHF, about 15+ miles away. In Massachusetts, the State Police are on an analog 800MHz trunking system. I was able to pick up the local site with ease and neighboring sites at times. I found that the height of the Spectra really brings in the VHF Low Band without a problem. Overall, a great antenna! It’s a true performer on all bands!

    Check out the many mounting options we have available for this antenna:

  • 5″ NMO Mag Mount
  • NMO Hole Mount
  • NMO Mirror Mount
  • NMO Trunk Lip Mount

    Austin Antenna, a locally based company right here in New England, has been in business for the last 25 years. We carry the full Austin Antenna scanner product line; the Ferret, the Condor and the Spectra.