Using a two-way radio as a scanner

One of the more common question we get here at the opulent ScannerMaster Palace is how do I program this (Brand X) radio to my local systems. Usually it is one of those off-shore $40 two-way radio with unpronounceable names that are flooding the market on eBay and in stores.

The basic answer is that you don’t. These radios are intended as Ham radios and are basically toys. Some can be made to receive on VHF and UHF conventional analog channels and even talk on them.  This is not a good thing. First off the build quality on these things is poor. They are designed not for performance but for cheapness. If the radio breaks it usually cannot be repaired.

If your area still uses VHF or UHF analog channels then these might be able to be used to receive your local channels but they cannot do any type of digital or trunked system.

These cheap radios are not ideal for most monitoring anyway. They lack the features scanner buyers have come to expect such as banks, scanlists or quick-keys. They also usually do not support other typical scanner features like CloseCall, Fire tone out, easy field programming etc. They often do not work on aircraft, either civilian or military.

For not much more than you will pay for one of these cheap toys you can get a decent basic scanner like the BC125AT or WS1010 that will run rings around  them with the feature sets.  Our basic scanners start out at under $100 and have way more features than these junk toys.

Questions? We have answers!

Here are a few of the common questions we get here at ScannerMaster’s World Headquarters as well as the answers we provide. If your question isn’t listed please call us and ask.

Q: Do you have scanners that will allow me to hear Encrypted/Scrambled communications?

A: Nope! There are 2 reasons why we don’t sell scanners that work on encrypted channels. First of all it is illegal. Our people like sleeping in their own beds at night and not on cots at the county jail. Second, even if it were legal the technology just isn’t there to break modern encryption, especially on a device sold to the public.

Q: Do you sell scanners that can hear cell phones?

A: Nope, sorry, for the same reasons we do not sell encryption capable scanners, it is illegal and impractical. Years ago one could clip a diode and open certain scanners for the old analog cell phones but those days are long past.

Q: Can you tell me the frequency for my hometown police department?

A: Sure we can. You can also find the freqs at

Q: Are you guys the same guys at RadioReference? Broadcastify? Uniden? Whistler?

A: No, we are ScannerMaster. We are friends with these other companies and do business with them but we are all separate companies. We sell products from Uniden, Whistler and others but if you need support beyond what we are authorized to do we will refer you to the right place. We can often answer a quick question here and there about these places but we have no access to their files.

Q: Can you fix my scanner?

A: We do offer a programming service and programmed replacement SD Cards for ZIP Code scanners but we do not do repairs or sell internal parts. Newer scanners should be sent to Uniden or Whistler for authorized repairs, One great source for older scanners repairs and parts is G&G Communications, they can be reached at 585-768-8151 or

Q: Can my scanner be upgraded to DMR/ProVoice/NXDN?

A: Well, that depends on the scanner you have. Here is a list of the scanners that can be upgraded for these modes. Some of these can change in the future so be sure to check back! If you have an older scanner then it cannot be upgraded for these modes.

Maker            Model             DMR               ProVoice        NXDN            Notes

Uniden            BCD996P2     Paid                 Paid                 No

Uniden            BCD325P2     Paid                 Paid                 No

Uniden            BCD536HP    Paid                 Paid                 No

Uniden            BCD436HP    Paid                 Paid                 No

Whistler          TRX-1            Free                 No                   Free     Via Firmware Update

Whistler          TRX-2            Free                 No                   Free     Via Firmware Update

Whistler          WS1095          Free                 No                   No       Via Firmware Update

Whistler          WS1098          Free                 No                   No       Via Firmware Update

Whistler          WS1080          Free                 No                   No       Via Firmware Update

Whistler          WS1088          Free                 No                   No       Via Firmware Update

GRE                PSR800           Paid                 No                   No       Only thru Whistler

RS                   PRO668          Paid                 No                   No       Only thru Whistler

RS                   PRO18            Paid                 No                   No       Only thru Whistler

Hosting a stream

One of the most popular ways to listen to the local scanner action these days is via a live-streaming service over the Internet. By far the largest source for this is Broadcastify.Com. While this is a great place to listen, it is dependent on someone hosting a scanner for the area you want to listen to. If no one does you can do it yourself. Here is what you need to set up your own feed:

Step 1:    Make sure there is no feed already covering the traffic you wish to stream. If there already is one look at the noted for that feed and see if there is something different that you will do.

Step 2:    If you are not already a RadioReference or Broadcastify member (with user name and password) set up an account. You can set up a free account, paid accounts offer great benefits but are not needed to host a feed. If you are already a member skip this and go to Step 3.

Step 3:    Go to the Broadcastify site and submit a Feed application. They need your information, the channels you plan to stream and some other details. Once you submit your application it takes a few days (usually) for a response, and if approved they provide a code that is entered in your feed software to enable it.

Step 4:    Set up the hardware. This is the computer that you are going to use and the radio itself. You will need an audio cable to connect the computer and radio. If you are using a Uniden scanner you can also connect a USB or serial cable so allow channel tags to be sent along with the radio traffic. See below for the best scanners to be used for feeds.

Step 5:    Set up the software. The software is free from Broadcastify, you can download it there. It is pretty simple to install and set up, print out the instructions that come with it and follow them. If you follow them correctly it will work great!

Step 6:    Adjust the levels. Once your feed is live listen to it and make sure the audio levels are set properly. If the channels you set up are not very active try programming in the local weather channel for a few minutes to use to set the levels properly. Once you have the levels set where they sound best be sure to note the settings in case you need to move something later. Don’t forget to get rid of the weather channel!

What is the best radio for a feed? Well, it is the radio you have that will listen to the traffic you want to stream. Remember, once you commit to hosting a stream that radio must be dedicated to that stream 24/7.

If the radio you use does not have a record jack then you need to set the volume and leave it where it is. Be sure to mark the level with a dab of White-Out in case it gets moved.

For feeds the Uniden BCD15X (analog) and BCD996P2 (digital) are favored by many streamers since they are reasonably priced and have a record jack on the back. The Record jack is ideal for feeds, as the sound level is not affected by the volume control. You set the sound level with the computer’s sound controls and you can use the scanner volume to allow you to listen to the scanner locally without affecting the feed volume. They also support sending channel tags so the listener can see the channel names.

Streaming hints and tricks:

No one likes to hear static, noise etc. Make sure you monitor your stream to be sure that it doesn’t lock up on noise or interference. Make sure the audio levels are good and that the feed sounds good.

How many channels can I stream? The best answer is less is more. If you have a lot of channels or a bunch of real busy ones then the scanner is going to be busy all the time and some channels are going to be missed. Some really busy feeds (like Chicago PD) have just a single channel that is active almost continuously.

What kinds of channels can I stream? These rules are listed in the Terms of Service for the streaming service. Broadcastify has rules against certain tactical or sensitive traffic. Make sure none of the channels you have include the prohibited traffic.

Can I stream 2 radios at the same time? Yes! Set up one radio to the left channel and the other to the right. Possible scenarios are police on one and fire on the other. Make sure you note this in the feed description!

What do I do if the agency doesn’t want me to stream them? Well, that is up to you. Streaming is legal and the agency cannot force you to stop streaming their traffic. They can however add encryption, then it will not be able to be heard at all by anyone.

Broadcastify has a complete set of rules and procedures on it’s page at If you use a different service be sure to read their rules before setting up your feed.

All those weird ports on the back of the scanner

Modern scanners have a plethora of various ports, jacks and sockets on them. Here is a look at some of them.

Taking a look at the rear panel of the BCD536HP scanner there are 6 different ports on it. From left to right they are:

  • BNC antenna jack
  • External Speaker Jack
  • USB Port (used for WiFi unit only on the 536)
  • GPS Serial Port
  • 3-pin power port
  • Coaxial power port

Other common ports on scanners include:

  • USB programming port
  • Record jack
  • Headphone jack
  • Various serial ports.

Let’s look at each port and what it is used for: (*Bonus! See below for an explanation of the weird hole smack in the middle…)

Antenna Jack:  Of course this is used to connect an antenna to the radio. Most scanners these days use BNC, the little push and turn job you see in the picture. Some handled scanners use the smaller SMA connector. Some older scanners had Motorola or even SO139 connectors and some had both an external connector and an internal threaded connector with a hole in the case to insert it.

External Speaker:  These are used to plug in an external speaker and are different than headphone jacks. Speaker Jacks do not limit the volume like a headphone jack will. When you plug in a speaker into the external speaker jack the inside speaker is disconnected.

Headphone Jack:  The Headphone jack has a limiting circuit to protect from overly loud sound that can damage your hearing. Otherwise it works much like the external speaker jack. Headphone jacks are usually in the front panel of desktop scanners while speaker jacks are usually on the rear. Handheld scanners usually just have a headphone jack on the top.

Record Jack:  The Record Jack allows one to pull audio from the scanner at a constant level that is not affected by the volume control. This is important when the radio is used as a source for recording or streaming. Some older RadioShack scanners and some current Uniden scanners have record jacks.

GPS Serial Port:  Unique to Uniden scanners, the DB-9 Serial port (male) is used mostly to connect a GPS receiver to allow location based scanning. It can also be used to program or control the scanner with the properly constructed cables. Do not confuse this with the female DB-9 port used for programming on older scanners like the BC780XLT or the BC898T

USB Programming port:  Most scanners these days use a USB-Mini port on the front or side to program and control the scanner. On many handheld scanners these ports are also used to charge the batteries and power the radio. On the BCD325P2 a special cable is used to connect a GPS to this port.

Other serial ports:  Some older scanners use different type serial ports. Older Unidens (like the “XT” series) use a unique 4-pin square connector for programming and connection of the RH-96 remote head. HP-1 and HP-2 scanners use that same port style for connecting to a GPS. Older design RadioShack/GRE/Whistler scanners use a jack that is just like a headphone jack for serial port connections.

Coaxial Power Port:  Most desktop/mobile scanners have a coaxial power port to provide 12 VDC to the scanner. There are 2 different jacks in common use. The majority of Uniden mobile and desktop scanners use a “Type M” male jack while most recent RadioShack, GRE and Whistler mobiles use a “Type T” female jack. Both use center-pin positive. Some older handheld scanners use smaller coaxial power ports but newer portable scanners usually use the USB port for charging and external power.

3-pin power port:  This is another unique to Uniden port, similar to the power port used on some of their CB products. On Uniden scanners there are the regular black and red wires for power and a third orange wire used to control the brightness of the display when connected to the lighting circuits of the car.

Discriminator Jack:  This is probably the most popular jack that doesn’t come on scanners. Discriminator audio is used to provide an unfiltered audio source mostly for data decoding. This type of decoding usually does not work from the record or speaker jacks due to the filtering circuitry in the radio. Scanners usually do not come with jacks for this but it is often added on by advanced scanner hobbyists to allow data decoding.


Bonus Round

See that threaded hole smack in the middle of the back panel in the picture at the top of the page? Most Uniden base/mobile scanners have that. It is used to allow a rear bracket to stabilize the radio under the dashboard. It is not mentioned in the owner’s manuals but is shown in the diagrams.

DMR, ProVoice and Ultimate Self Updating

Most people who want the various paid updates for Uniden scanners (DMR, ProVoice or Ultimate Updates) have our staff add the updates to the radios when they buy it. It is simpler and worth the little bit of added expense for a lot of these folks.

There are times when it is not convenient for one to have us do these updates at the time of purchase. Maybe you bought the radio elsewhere (shame on you!) or didn’t know you needed the update until later. Perhaps the target you want to listen to changed to a new system.

You can send the radio to us using the regular Mail In Programming Order Form and have us do the update for you. We can do the updates with or without the programming services.

If you cannot send the radio to us for the updates you can get them directly from If you live outside the USA or Canada however then Uniden cannot process your credit card for payment. We can!

The first thing you MUST do is to update the firmware to the latest version. On each radio except the 996 and 325P2 it is done thru Sentinel. For users of the 325 and 996P2 you download it from Uniden’s website and run the updater.

After you update the firmware call us and provide the below information and we will then email you with the one-time code to unlock the feature set on your radio.

Model (HomePatrol 1, Home Patrol 2, BCD436HP, BCD536HP, BCD325P2, BCD996P2)

Electronic Serial Number (Not the one on the label!)

HP1, HP2: Press Menu>Advanced, scroll down then press Version Information

All others: Press Menu>Settings>See Scanner Info> Firmware Version

Sum Code (HP1 and HP2 it is the 3 digits right of the dash after the ESN)

Of course will need your email address to send you the code as well as the proper billing address and credit card information.

Once you get the code from us go to the Update menu on the radio and enter it via the keypad. Once the code is entered it remains on the radio forever, you cannot erase it or transfer it to another radio. On the 325, 996, 436 and 536 scanners you can have either or both of the DMR and ProVoice updates. The HP1 and HP2 only support the Ultimate Update.

If you have questions on these updates you can call our scanner experts at 1-800-SCANNER.

Windows 10 and Scanners

Many people have recently been upgraded to Windows 10, whether they like it or not. For most people it seems to work fine, it just looks different. Most scanner software, such as ARC products, Sentinel and EZ-Scan works just fine in Windows 10 but might take a few steps to get it to work. Here are a few steps to make your transition a little easier:

1)         Update the cable.

If you have a Uniden XT series scanner and use the USB-1 cable make sure you have the newer version. There are 2 versions of the USB-1 cable. The older version will not work in Windows 10 (or Windows 8 for that matter). The ones we sell now work just fine in all versions of Windows. If your cable worked in Windows XP or 7 and no longer works in Windows 10 then it probably needs to be replaced by a newer version. You can also try a USB-Serial adapter and the Serial Port cable that came with your scanner.

Most RadioShack, GRE and Whistler orange, blue and black USB scanner cables seem to work fine in Windows 10. If your scanner (Uniden, GRE or Whistler) has a “Mini-USB port on the front or side of the radio that looks like a little trapezoid then a standard USB device cable will work.

2)         Update the driver.

Some cables and scanners require drivers. These are small files that tell the computer how to relate to and communicate with the radio. Check the ScannerMaster page for the cable or radio that you have for links to the current drivers. Most of the time it is better to install the driver first, then plug in the cable or device. Make sure that you install the driver for your operating system. If Windows 10 isn’t listed then use the Windows 8 driver, chances are it will work fine.

3)         Update the program.

Sometimes the application itself needs to be updated for Windows 10. Just like drivers however, if it worked in Windows 7 or 8 it should work in 10.

4)         If all else fails reinstall the program.

Sometimes after you upgrade to Windows 10 you will still not get the radio and program to communicate. We have found that many times, especially with ARC products, simple uninstalling the program and reinstalling it will fix your connection issues. Make sure you are updating to the latest version of the program. You can download the latest versions at the program’s website. Your activation keys will still work with newer versions of the same program.

As with any program, your results may vary. The above steps will fix a majority of the issues with scanner programs, they have fixed every issue I have had. Depending on the computer hardware, software, operating system and a host of other factors you may have an issue that just doesn’t want to work even after doing all this. If you still get stuck then you may need to contact the software’s support department.

When bad things happen to good scanners: Heap Errors

On certain Radio Shack, GRE and Whistler scanners, specifically the ones using Object Oriented programming, one can be beset with an error message that reads “Heap Error” along with some seemingly random text.

These are caused when the radio doesn’t know how to deal with an Object programmed into the memory, usually a Talkgroup (TGRP) not assigned to a  Trunked System (TSYS).

If you can get into the radio programming you should make sure ALL talkgroups entered as Objects are assigned to a Trunked System. This is pretty easy to do in ARC500 or other programs but a lot more difficult without software. These radios are hard enough to program manually let alone find orphaned TGRP objects.

When programming by hand be sure to associate every TGRP with a TSYS BEFORE saving it. When programming with software sort the TGRP list by TSYS and make sure all are assigned to a TSYS. If it says “New” for the TSYS then you need to change or delete the TGRP. Also check for duplicates in your list of TGRP’s. These can also cause errors.

If you don’t have software to program the radio and can’t get into the radio to edit the objects you may well have to reinitialize it and start all over. (Press 0, then 1, then enter during the startup screen.) While this will erase the radio it will get rid of the dreaded Heap Error. If you have software you can usually read the radio even if a Heap Error is present.

Object Oriented programming is used for the following scanners:

GRE: PSR310, PSR410, PSR500, PSR600

RadioShack: PRO-106, PRO-197, PRO-651, PRO-652

Whistler: WS-1040, WS-1065

Scanner Tip of the Day: Search, Search, Search!

Most scanners these days have Search functions. These can be “Service Search”, “Range Search” and some sort of near-field search. Each works differently but provides a similar result: New stuff to listen to.

Service Search allows you to root out users of specific services, like aircraft, marine, railroads etc. Select the service you want from your scanner’s controls and the radio will go thru frequencies used by that service and stop on active traffic. Like to listen to planes, trains or boats but don’t know what channels they use in your area? Use Service Search and find out.

Range Search allows you to set up a pair of frequencies (or several pairs on some radios) and search from one end to the other over and over, stopping on active frequencies. This is handy if you know about where they operate or want to search out and find new stuff in a specific frequency range.

Near Field reception (called CloseCall by Uniden, Spectrum Sweeper on GRE and Whistler radios etc.) is a fascinating way to find operations where you least expect it. CloseCall and it’s brethren allows you to find a nearby transmission so you can listen to very local operations. While it works a little differently behind the scenes, the results are very similar with GRE/RadioShack and Whistler radios.

On a mobile scanner in a vehicle using an outside antenna you may well hear base station traffic within a few miles or so and mobile radios within a few blocks. Using a handheld scanner your range will be less but then likely you will want to hear stuff closer to you anyway.

Next time you are at the mall take your handheld scanner with a set of earbuds and walk around a bit. You will be amazed at the amount of radio traffic you can hear. The largest department stores to the little boutiques all use radios these days. It isn’t just the security and maintenance guys either.

Some radios also let you store hits from the various Searches. Then you can go back and review them to figure out who or what they are.

2014 Holiday Shopping Tips

It’s that time of the year again for finding the right gift for that special loved one. How about a scanner? Here are 4 things you should keep in mind when buying a scanner.

1. What type of scanner would be the best?
Give us a call, and speak to one of our scanner experts at 1-800-722-6637
Monday – Friday 10AM – 4PM or send us an email.

2. Deciding Base/mobile vs Portable?
Base/Mobile Scanners are normally kept in one location, either in the car or home. Desktop scanners are for home or office use only. Portable Scanners are great for someone that wants to use the scanner everywhere they go (out and about or from room to room in the home, etc.).

3. Scanner programming options:
We strongly recommend our software or our HomeTown Programming option when you buy a scanner. The HomePatrol Series Scanners are pre-programmed for the nation although we still recommend our Set-up and Optimize service. With these services the scanner will be ready to use right out of the box! Programming typically takes 5 to 10 business days and possibly more as it gets closer to the holidays.

4. Accessories
Make sure they have everything they might need or want when they receive their new scanner! A carry case, computer cable, software, mobile antenna and so on. With each scanner on our website you can make your own package and when you buy accessories with the scanner there are added discounts.