Choosing the Right Scanner
Are you new to scanners or buying one as a gift and not sure which one to buy?
We can help! Simply select one of the two options below.
1. Visit our Compare Police Scanner page
Visit the Compare Scanners
page today. Whether the scanner is for yourself or is a gift, just put in the city/state where it will be used. The site will instantly tell you about the radio systems in use in the area the scanner will be used and will show you the available scanner options that match up with the radio systems in the region. You'll be then able to compare your options and place your order automatically through Scanner Master.
2. Decide for yourself based on some basic information below
For Basic Scanners (non-trunking, non-digital):
This includes: BC72, 95, 340, 370, 350, PSR-100, PSR-200 and all ICOM and AOR Scanners:
Please note that this scanner is a basic analog-conventional model and not a trunking or a digital scanner. Many areas of the country now require a more advanced type of scanner (trunking or trunking and digital) to monitor state-of-the-art local, county and/or state radio systems. The need for an advanced scanner varies widely. In some big cities such as Boston a basic scanner will work fine. But in Los Angeles as well as the backwoods of Michigan, Colorado and other states, you need a digital scanner. If you are unsure of the type of scanner you need for the area in which you'll be scanning, please check out our Compare Scanners page.
For Trunking Scanners (but non-digital)
This includes: BC898T, BCT15, BC346XT, PSR-300, PSR-400:
Please note that this scanner is an analog turnking model and not a digital scanner. Many areas of the country now require an advanced digital scanner to monitor state-of-the-art local, county and/or state APCO-25 digital radio systems. The need for digital varies widely. In some big cities such as Boston a basic scanner will work fine. But in Los Angeles as well as the backwoods of Michigan, Colorado and other states, you need a digital scanner. If you are unsure of the type of scanner you need for the area in which you'll be scanning, please check out our Compare Scanners
Some people living in a big city such as Boston could buy a $99 scanner and hear the police, fire and EMS. Another person in rural upstate Michigan might need a $500 digital scanner because the county sheriff and fire have switched to the state's advanced digital radio system. There's no easy answer as to what scanner will best suit you. Check with the Compare Scanners
page and we'll let you know. Then you can also decide whether you would like us to program the scanner before it ships, making it ready to use right out of the box. If you're new to scanning, you don't want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to program the scanner, or if the scanner is a gift we highly recommend that you have us program the scanner for you. The Compare Scanners
page will also present you with the different scanner types: portable (handheld) scanners, base (desktop) scanners or base/mobile scanners that can be used at home or in a vehicle. Portable and base scanners generally receive equally well (except if you're going to hook up an outside antenna to a base scanner which will significantly increase range). When choosing between the different types of scanners it really comes down to how you expect the radio to be used. If you'll want to take it around town, to the mall or sporting event or air show, then buy a portable. If it will almost exclusively be used on your desk or night table at home, then the base/desktop is the right choice. For mobile use if the radio will be fixed in the car then we recommend a base/mobile scanner.
A question we're frequently asked is how far can a scanner receive. There are so many factors involved that there's no easy answer to this question. Your elevation, the elevation and the power of the transmitting station, the frequency being used, and dozens of other factors all come into play. In general expect to receive 10 to 20 miles but note that there might be a few agencies which could be closer than 10 miles that operate at low power that you will have trouble hearing and that there could be state police agencies operating with mountain top transmitters that you'll hear 50+ miles away. Outdoor and single-band gain antennas and pre-amplifiers will improve reception and we offer these on our web site. Note that to scan the action at a sporting event, particularly an auto race, you have to be at the event itself to monitor. Please see our All About Scanners section for more information.
Another consideration is whether you'd like to have an alpha display of what you're listening to. Scanners for years have displayed the radio frequency of agencies. You can always see 470.8375 in the display but with so many numbers coming up that can get frustrating over time. The low-end scanners only display the radio frequency. The mid-range and high-end also allow you to program (from the front keypad of the scanner or via PC software) an alpha tag so in place of or in addition to the frequency you can also show "Newton Police" in the display for example. It makes scanning more enjoyable. If you're just going to program your local police and fire department though it probably doesn't matter whether you only see frequency.
For listening exclusively at the race track any scanner will do from the low-end to the high-end. We do recommend an alpha-capable scanner though such as the SC230 or BCT246T so you can see program the name of the driver, too. If you're only going to monitor a few drivers though then the BC95 is a good choice.
Whatever scanner we recommend for your area please note that gradually new and advanced radio systems are coming online as federal 9-11 funds are available and as the FCC is encouraging municipalities to switch to digital radio systems. We can make no guarantees as to when new radio systems may come online and require your area to switch to a more advanced radio system but the process generally takes a considerable amount of time.
So, again, if you're not sure if you need a digital (high-end) scanner, a trunking (mid-range) scanner with alpha, or whether a low-end model will do for the area in which you'll be scanning check out our Compare Scanners page.