The Bearcat BC346XTC is Uniden's newest trunking (non-digital) handheld scanner, released in March 2009. The 346XT scanner is a feature-packed scanner that astounds us with its low price. The 346XTC replaces the much admired BC246T which has now been discontinued. With this change though Uniden is standardizing on its 396 style form factor and at the same time providing a plethora of new features that we could have hardly imagined only a few short years ago such as GPS control, multi-colored displays, temporary lockouts and so much more.
Note that the 346XT is not a digital scanner so that if you live in an area with digital you must consider either the Bearcat BCD396XT (which has all the features of the 346 plus digital and even more memory), or the GRE PSR-500. If you're not sure if you need digital then check out our Compare Scanners
page and enter your name and zip code and our system will automatically inform you of the types of radio systems in your area. The 346XT also handles trunking (Motorola, EDACS(R) and LTR) and standard analog (conventional, non-digital) radio systems exceptionally well. Note that there are a handful of non-standard trunking and encrypted radio systems that cannot be monitored on any scanner.
The 346XT does have a very strong competitor however in the GRE PSR-300 and PRO-164 (both of which are also sold by Scanner Master). In the report below we first analyze in great detail the features, operation and design of the BCD346XT and then we compare the scanner against the GRE and PRO-164 (both made by GRE). Be sure to click on the Comparison tab above for comparison tables.Large Photo
Included in the Box
- BCD346XTC Scanner
- AD-1001 AC Adapter
- SMA Rubber Duck Antenna
- PC Serial Cable 4'
- Wrist Strap
- Belt Clip
- SMA to BNC Adapter
- CD ROM with Owner's Manual
- Misc Printed Literature
There is a wealth of information available for the BC346XTC scanner. Websites exist for the radio itself, regional and local scanner groups and software support.
One of the most exhaustive sources is the RadioReference website. This site has an extensive listing of scanner frequencies for the entire USA, Canada and many other nations. For the USA the scanner database is broken down by state and county, then local systems.
RadioReference also has an extensive Wiki section that explains how almost anything scanner related works. There is a large Forums section where you can discuss the BC346XTC or any other topic. Ask questions, make comments and discuss the topics of interest. Active in the forums are experts in all facets of scanning, including some of the movers and shakers in the industry.
You can view the RadioReference Wiki article on the BC346XT at http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/BC346XT
BC346XT Yahoo Group: (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BC346XT)
Yahoo Groups has hundreds of scanning related email based discussion forums. These typically have Files Sections where users can upload and share programming files, documentation and other files, Photos Sections to share pictures and other features.
There are also hundreds of Yahoo Groups for local and national scanner groups and other topics. Due to the vast similarities between the BC346XTC and BCD396XT most of the features discussed on the 396XT apply equally to the 346XT as well. The User Group for the 396XT is much more active and can be of great use to users of the 346XT.
BC346XT Yahoo Group: (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BC394XT)
Uniden's Corporate Website: (www.uniden.com)
Direct from the manufacturer, you can download information about the scanner here, view accessories and order parts. You can go direct to the BC346XT page at:
http://www.uniden.com/products/productdetail.cfm?product=BC346XTor Unidens BC346XT Wiki at http://info.uniden.com/twiki/bin/view/UnidenMan4/BC346XT.
- TrunkTracker III -- tracks the following trunked systems:
- Motorola Type I 800
- Motorola Type II 800, 900, UHF, VHF (including rebanded 800 MHz systems)
- EDACS Wide (standard), Narrow, SCAT (including systems that use an EDACS System Key)
- Location-Based scanning automatically selects programmed systems based on your location when connected to a compatible GPS receiver.
- Temporary lockout automatically unlocks channels when you cycle power.
- Startup Configurations let you automatically lock out or unlock systems on power up to quickly configure the scanner for a different area or application.
- Alert Plus mode -- silences the scanner except for channels that have assigned alerts.
- Channel Number Tagging -- lets you quickly select a channel.
- State-by-State Preprogrammed Channels - let you easily keep up with activity on local police, Department of Transportation, and Highway Patrol frequencies when you travel, without having to program any channels.
- Close Call, with Close Call Do Not Disturb, Close Call Priority (or Primary), and Close Call Temporary Store.
- Fire Tone Out Alert
- Fire Tone-Out Search -- determines the tones received for easy tone-out programming.
- Motorola Control Channel Only trunking
- DCS/CTCSS Rapid Decode
- Channel Volume Offset
- Band Scope
- Search with Scan
- Frequency/ID AutoStore - automatically store frequencies from a service or limit search into a conventional system or store talk group IDs into a trunked system
- 16 character text tagging for each system, site, group, channel, talkgroup, search range, GPS location, tone-out, and SAME group
- Compatible with BC-RH96 Remote Head
- Quick Search
- Service Search - lets you select from Public Safety, News, HAM Radio, Marine, Railroad, Air, Citizens Band Radio, FRS/GMRS, Racing, FM Broadcast, Military Air, and Special (Itinerant)
- Custom Search - lets you program up to 10 search ranges
- 500 (250 Temporary + 250 Permanent) Search Lockouts
- SAME Weather Alert
- Weather Priority
- Priority Scan with Priority Plus
- Priority ID on trunked systems
- PreemptivePriority on Motorola analog systems
- Signal Strength display
- Trunking Activity Indicators
- Adjustable scan delay
- Negative Channel Dropout Delay (Forced Resume)
- Adjustable Hold (scan duration 0-255 sec) per system, custom or service search
- Strong signal attenuation
- Upgradeable firmware
- Channel Alert
- Independent Alert Tone Volume - lets you set the volume level of the following tones: Key Beep, Emergency Alert, Channel Alert, and Close Call Alert.
- Repeater Reverse
- Broadcast signal ignore while searching (TV and radio station frequencies, pagers, etc)
- Quick Recall - quickly navigates to a specific Channel by choosing the System, Group, and Channel.
- DIN-E and ISO Vehicle Mountable (DIN-E sleeve not included optional)
- Reversible Display - Lets you reverse the display to mount unit upside down (and hear the speaker from the top)
- Duplicate Channel Alert
- PC Programming and Control
- Wired Cloning
- Power requirements: 11.0V to 16.6V DC
Antenna Connector: BNC
- 25 - 225 MHz
- 400 - 512 MHz
- 806 - 960 MHz
1240 - 1300 MHz
The Uniden-Bearcat BC346XT Non-Digital Scanner
Features, Operation and Competition
A Scanner Master Ultimate Review
Copyright 2009, Richard Carlson/Scanner Master Corporation
The Uniden Bearcat BC346XT is the analog-only companion to Uniden’s newest premier handheld scanner, the BCD396XT. The BC346XT has more memories (up to 9,000 channels!) and many new features while retaining the 330’s small form factor and price. The 346XT replaces the now discontinued BC246T, a radio that we’ll miss.
The BC346XT adds such new features as allowing up to 500 talkgroups per trunked system, Fire Toneout Search and GPS Support. Some of these features have never been available on any scanner before.
The BC346XT uses Uniden’s Dynamic Memory Architecture (DMA) instead of fixed Banks and Channels. This method of programming was introduced a few years back with the BC246T and is also used on such scanners as the BCD396T and BCD996T. While it has a similar effect as the GRE “Memory Object” system (as used on the PSR500), the Uniden method is somewhat easier to fathom and program for many people.DMA allows you to program as many Channels, Systems and Groups as you can until the memory runs out instead of locking you into a fixed amount of banks and channels.
The radio resembles the BCD396D and 396XT but has a black faceplate. Otherwise the general layout is identical, with a single multi-function control knob on the top, 16 button keypad on the front and 2 side buttons on the left side. The right side has the same computer interface jack and power jack, the earphone jack is on the top between the multi-function knob and the antenna.
Also in the box is the BNC-SMA adaptor that was introduced with the BC330 and 396 scanners, the same belt holder, antenna, serial programming cable and wrist strap as the older radios.
The BC346XT directly replaces the Uniden BC330T and BC246T and has all the features of those radios except it does not cover HF as the BC330 did. (Note: The BR330T is still available only from Scanner Master.) Like its predecessor BC246T it competes with the GRE PSR300 and Radio Shack PRO164.
Note that many of the opinions contained herein are of a personal, subjective nature. Others may have a different viewpoint of the features and performance of the radios discussed in this report. We welcome your opinions, many of which we may post on this site in addition to this report. If you find we failed to mention any feature or attribute of the radio, please send us an e-mail. Also, if you find any factual errors in this document, please let us know so that we may correct them.
Features & Functions
System, Group & Channel Memory Architecture
The BC346XT allows you to program up to 9,000 channels. (Remember the days when 20 channels were plenty?) While few would ever need this many available channels, it leaves a nice cushion to allow you to program in all your local and travel scanner frequencies and still have plenty of room left over to explore new channels. The actual total channel capacity is based on total memory usage, so the amount of alpha tags and other items you have programmed will affect the total number of channels you have available.
Average users will likely never fill up the radio but you can have many systems kept in the radio for future use without worry that you will run out of memory space. You can see what percentage of available memory you have by using the menu system. Go to the Settings menu and select “%Memory Used” to see how much memory the radio has in a percentage basis. If you are running low you can delete unused Systems.
With the DMA style programming you do not waste memory on unused channels since bank sizes are not fixed. Instead, Systems only use the amount of memory needed, space is not wasted on unused channels. On older scanners if you had a bank reserved for railroads in your area and they only used 10 channels the rest of the 40 or 90 channels would have been unused and the memory space wasted.
The BC346XT uses two side buttons, labeled as “Function” and “Menu”. The Menu button starts various programming tasks, and will bring you to the various menus pretty much no matter what the radio is doing. When in the Menus the Menu button acts as a Back button.
The Function button acts as a modifier, the Function icon appears for about 3 seconds after you press it and during that time it allows you to perform various tasks, such as turn on and off options like CloseCall or toggle between modes, such as Scan or Search.
You can use Quick Keys, Startup Keys or Search Keys. These allow you to turn on and off systems or options quickly.
-Quick Keys turn on and off Systems or Channel Groups assigned to them while scanning.
-System Quick Keys work the same way but at a radio-wide level.
-Startup Keys turn on all Systems and Searches assigned to it and turns off any of these assigned to other Startup Keys.
-Search Keys allow you to set up a few Searches for quick use.
To program a new system from scratch you follow several steps:
Press the Menu button on the left side of the radio and select “Program System”
Select “New System”
Select the “System Type” (Conventional or one of the trunking flavors)
If you select EDACS you will be asked if you want SCAT or Wide/Narrow
After you select the system type and sub type you will be asked to confirm. This is because once you create a system you cannot change the system type from the radio.
You then can edit or create the System Name and various options. Trunked systems require you to then create Sites, these have their own frequencies (from a particular radio tower site) but share the Talkgroup Lists as talkgroups can usually work with more than one tower. Conventional Systems let you go right into Groups, these contain the actual frequencies you want to use.
Under the System Options menu you can set Quick Keys or Channel Tags. These allow faster access to the various Systems, Groups and Sites, although the new Channel Tag feature does not work with sites.
A representative set of systems are pre-programmed into the scanner, including several of the large statewide trunked systems. You can use these as is, edit them from the radio or with software or just delete them. In many cases these systems contain only a sampling of frequencies or talkgroups for a given area so it’s easier to just delete them and start from scratch using the Butel Software and the RadioReference subscription service, described later.
While older radios would allow one to program up to 200 talkgroups (trunked “channels”) per system the BC346XT allows up to 500, in as many as 20 Groups. This is great news for those wishing to monitor the large trunked systems used by many states, counties and cities.
In conventional (non-trunked) systems you can have up to 1000 channels, again in up to 20 groups.
The BC346XT will scan about 100 channels per second, depending on how the channels are arranged. While most people would never notice the difference some people with lots of time on their hands report that Uniden DMA scanners scan faster when the channels are sorted in frequency order.
The BC346XT can monitor communications in AM or 4 variations of FM. When you program the channels you can set the Modulation Type to either “Auto” or specify one of the below modes:
AM is used mostly for Aircraft operations in the 108-137 MHz and 225 thru 400 MHz. ranges, as well as CB radio.
NFM is used for many Public Safety channels and will be the standard for almost all Public Safety and Business operations by the start of 2014.
FM is the standard 2-way communications mode for most older Public Safety and business systems as well as ham radio operations.
WFM is used on low band (30 thru 50 MHz.) and some specialized operations.
FMB is used on FM Broadcast and TV audio channels. Note that TV audio is going away with the switch to digital TV. Scanners cannot decode digital TV audio.
The Auto mode selects the mode that is most often used on that range of frequencies, due to new rules, many operations will be converting to narrower bandwidths over the next few years so you may need to change the mode.
The radio does not decode P25 audio. For a digital portable check out the BCD396XT or the GRE or RadioShack digital models. The 346XT also will not decode other various digital modes, such as V-SLEP, ProVoice or OpenSky (no scanner can).
The BC346XT has new features for Priority, including the ability to set the interval from 1 thru 99 seconds. This tells the radio how long between checks of the priority channel there should be. You can set any Channel or Talkgroup as a Priority Channel and as many as you need. The more Priority Channels you set the less chance that you will catch important traffic however, so be careful not to set too many channels as Priority.
In regular Priority mode the radio checks the Priority Channels at the intervals you specify, say every 5 seconds. The radio then reverts back to whatever it was doing before if there is no traffic on the Priority Channels, or after traffic has completed if there was traffic.
In Priority Plus mode the radio checks only the Priority Channels.
You can also set the maximum amount of Priority Channels the radio checks in the MaxChs/Pri-Scan menu. This limits the checking of Priority Channels to limit the disruption time while checking them.
Simply put these are great new capabilities, typical of Uniden’s creativity in feature design.
Most scanners these days, the BC346XT included, allow you to set them up to alert on NOAA Weather Radio channels with SAME or single tone codes. SAME codes allow the radio to monitor weather alerts for a specific area, on a county basis. Enter the SAME FIPS Codes (available from NOAA’s website) for your county and, if you want, other nearby counties to have the radio alert you when there is a severe weather alert in your area. Up to 8 county codes can be entered. You can also set up to 5 sets of FIPS codes as “Regions”, helpful if you use the radio at different locations.
Weather Alert Priority
While most scanners allow you to monitor Weather Alert only to the exclusion of doing anything else the BC346XT allows you to check for weather alerts while scanning, searching or in CloseCall.
The scanner world is a dynamic place, things change all the time. The BC346XT allows you to update the radio to accommodate some of these changes by upgrading the firmware of the radio. This feature allows you to apply fixes and updates provided by Uniden. Some of these changes might include bug fixes, rebanding fixes, updates due to new FCC rules or allocations, or new features. So far all Uniden Firmware updates have been free, although Uniden has indicated that there might be some future optional updates that you can purchase if you want them.
You can view the current Firmware Version in the Settings Menu under “See Scanner Info”
The BC346XT supports the three most popular trunking types in North America:
Within the overall title of Motorola Trunking are several variations. Older Type I systems are occasionally still seen, these will be phased out as Motorola no longer supports them. Motorola replaced that with Type II trunking.
What does all this mean? Well, basically it was a way for talkgroups and radio ID’s to be assigned. Early Type I systems used a more rigid method, until they figured out how to relax these restrictions in Type II systems, during the conversion there were systems that had characteristics of both Type I and II, these were called Type Iii or Hybrid.
Trunking, formerly sold by G.E., is now sold by Harris Communications and may be used by business or government users. There are a few variations that the BC346XT supports, including “Wide” (most 800 MHz. systems) “Narrow” (most UHF and 900 MHz. systems), SCAT (Single channel sites) and ESK (EDACS Security Key). EDACS systems can be set up as a single site or networked.
The ESK feature allows managers of trunking systems to control what radios operate on the system and changed the data format that scanners use to track the system. Older EDACS scanners would not track ESK systems, the BC346XT is the first Uniden to do so.
LTR (Logic Trunked Radio)
LTR is used mostly by businesses, often on UHF. It is different from Motorola, APCO25 and EDACS in that it does not used dedicated control channels, but sends system information on the voice channels.You can tell when an LTR system is in use by the occasional silent transmissions sent on an otherwise unused channel.
Trunked System Search
The BC346XT and some other Uniden scanners have a Search feature that allows you to look for Motorola trunked system control channels and then track the systems it finds. This is an outstanding feature that you’ll find fun and useful both. Since Motorola systems control channels transmit the information needed to track the system in most instances the radio will automatically track the trunked system and display active talkgroups.When editing a Custom Search set the “C-CH Only” option in the Search Options menu to make this feature work.
The radio will also work in a similar method with LTR systems. It will not work on EDACS systems.
Automatic System Identification
One feature that Motorola trunked systems has is an identification number for each trunked system. These are called System ID’s, or SysID for short. Each Motorola trunked system has a unique 4 digit ID code that is in a Hex format. This ID code is used to allow only radios with the correct programming from accessing the system. For scanner users it can act as a type of Trunked System fingerprint. Several scanners and software applications can decode this 4-digit ID code, you then look it up in your files or by searching the Internet to see who it is.
The BC346XT and some other Uniden scanners (including the BCD396XT, BC15, BC330, BCD396T and BCD996T) takes this a step further. Set up a “Custom Search” and select the “C-CH Only” option and set the radio to search a band segment. The radio will search for Motorola trunked control channels and when it finds one will look into its internal database for that systems SysID. If it is listed (and it probably is!) it will display the System’s name while the system is tracked. Great stuff!
This feature only works on Motorola 3600 Baud trunked systems, it does not work on EDACS or LTR systems.
Multi-Site trunking Support
Networked trunking systems use the same talkgroups at a number of trunking sites that use different frequencies. Multi-Site allows you to set up these systems with an additional layer within a System called “Sites”. This allows you to share a single set of talkgroups among many Sites instead of having to have each Site programmed as a System like older radios. Since the Talkgroups are the same across the entire Networked System this saves you from having to duplicate the Talkgroup list. Previously this was only available on BC15 and BCD996T mobile scanners, the BC346XT is the first handheld (along with the BCD396XT) with this feature.
Combine this with the GPS feature and you can use the scanner all over the area and never have to touch it, just let the radio turn Sites on and off as you approach them or leave the area.
Motorola’s version of Networked trunking is called SmartZone and there is even a version of SmartZone called OmniLink. SmartZone takes several or many trunking sites and connects them so that users can roam around an area larger than what could be covered by a single site. OmniLink takes this one step further and extends the reach to a even larger area. The BC346XT handles Networked Trunking in the Motorola or EDACS modes. When programming these systems you program the talkgroup list once for the System and then the frequencies for each individual Site.
Simulcast Trunking Sites
Motorola and EDACS trunking systems can have Simulcast Sites, set up either as a Single Site Simulcast or as a Networked system with simulcast sites. Some networked systems use a combination of simulcast and single sites. For example, the Northern Illinois Commonwealth Edison system has simulcast sites in the larger metro areas and in more rural areas are mostly single sites.
A Simulcast Site has from 2 to 16 towers, each tower has exactly the same frequencies assigned to it and every bit of data and voice message is sent on the same frequency from each tower.
When programming Simulcast sites treat it the same as you would a single Site. Since all the frequencies are the same, you only need to fill them in once.
(This section deals why and how Rebanded systems exist, skip to the next section to learn how to program them)
Due to issues with interference from Nextel services, whose frequencies are scattered among the same ranges as some 800 MHz. systems the 800 MHz. band is being “Rebanded”. In other words, frequencies are being rearranged so that Nextel services are being assigned the 866-869 MHz. range and trunked radio users are being assigned the rest of the 800 band, 851-866. This is resulting in trunked and conventional users of much of the 800 band being relocated to other frequencies. The project is far behind schedule but is starting to take place in many areas.
Current users of the 866-869 MHz. band are being changed to frequencies in the 851-854 band, each channel will be exactly 15 MHz. lower than the original. Prior users of the 851-854 range are being relocated to the 854-861 band, wherever channels can be found in that area.
This will affect scanner users in various ways. Scanners of EDACS, LTR and conventional 800 MHz. systems will only need to change the frequencies assigned to the System and scanners of P25 systems only need to change the Control Channels listed for the system. The very item that made Motorola systems easy to monitor in the past makes it more difficult to deal with now.
Motorola handles frequency assignments differently than other systems. EDACS and LTR systems assign users to Channels in the system, these channels are predefined as frequencies in the radios.
Motorola trunked systems assigns users to specific Frequencies, although by use of conversion “Tables”. For this reason, Control Channel Trunking works well most of the time on Motorola systems, the scanner understands the instructions from the trunked system’s control channel to look up the assignment code in the Table programmed into the scanner and then send the scanner to the proper frequency to look for that conversation. Tables contain the formulas used to determine the frequency from the computer code on the control channel. Standard 800 MHz. systems have used the same table for years and scanners were built around these Tables. Rebanding changes the Table so scanners will need to be updated for these changes. Since some older scanners do not have the ability to be updated those older scanners will no longer work on rebanded Motorola systems.
During the conversion process however there are multiple Tables in use, the original Motorola Tables used on non-rebanded systems and the new Tables used by rebanded systems. Further complicating the matter is that the final version of the Table may not be etched in stone until the Rebanding project is completed some years down the road.
For these reasons scanners of Rebanded Motorola trunked systems in the 800 Band will need to use the Custom Tables feature of the BC346XT to monitor rebanded systems.
Programming a Rebanded System
When setting up the scanner for a Rebanded System in the 800 MHz. band you set the radio up for Motorola trunking then select “Custom” in the Band Plan section of the Menu. You then set the Base Frequencies and other parameters as shown below:
BandBase FreqBase FreqOffsetPolaritySpacing
2851.0125868.9875 0+25 kHz
Then go back and enter the frequencies used on the system.
Search & Scan Trunking Systems
When monitoring Trunked systems you can Scan them or Search them. SEARCHing a Trunked system allows you to hear all talkgroups used on the system, regardless of whether you have them programmed in Scan Groups. If you have a talkgroup in a Group the Tag you programmed will appear when the talkgroup is active, otherwise just the TGID will show. Use Search when you are unsure of all interesting TGID’s.
When you set the radio to SCAN a trunked system it only checks the talkgroups you have programmed in Groups. Use Scan when you know the specific Talkgroups you want to monitor.
Unit ID’s: Look Who’s Talking Now
The BC346XT now allows one to view trunked Unit ID’s. With Firmware version 1.05.00 or later, available from Uniden at
you can turn on the Unit ID feature by going to the Settings menu and selecting “Disp Unit ID”. This allows you to view the individual radio ID’s when listening to trunked systems using EDACS, Motorola and P25 protocols. Every radio on a trunked system has a unique number assigned to it that allows the system to determine if it is allowed to use the system, what talkgroups it is authorized to use and, in some larger systems, what towers it will work on. They are also used to set up Private Call conversations.
You can use Unit ID’s to help figure out what talkgroups are used for by comparing known ID’s and the talkgroups they use. For example, lets say that you know that radio ID’s 1 thru 100 are fire units, 200-300 are police and 500-600 are Street department. You know the regular talkgroup assignments, but are hearing odd car-car communications on a new talkgroup. Now that you have upgraded your radio to the latest firmware you can see the Unit ID’s and see that the cars talking have Unit IDs of 214 and 251. It is safe to assume then that the talkgroup is likely a Police Car to Car assignment.
To upgrade the firmware on your scanner you need to download the actual firmware itself as well as the firmware updater program. Both are free downloads from the above web address at Uniden. You will need a Windows computer and the Uniden serial cable or USB-1 cable (available from ScannerMaster).
When you download the updater program install it following the instructions. After downloading the firmware update note that it comes as a “.zip” compressed archive. You must remember to extract the “.scn” file from the Zip file FIRST! This is the most common cause of firmware updates not working! After extracting the archive remember where on the computer you put it (it doesn’t really matter where you put it, just be able to find it!). Run the Updater program and follow the instructions, browse to the .scn file (Not the zip file!) and install the update.
The Unit ID feature is a neat feature, but if you get distracted by the various numbers you might want to turn it off. You may also note that some transmissions do not show up with a Unit ID. If you don’t happen to be on channel at the very beginning of the conversation or if the signal drops for an instance during the ID portion of the transmission then the ID won’t appear.
I-Call (stands for Individual Calling) allows users to communicate with only specific users, the traffic would not be shared with other users on the system. Only the two radios involved in the call would hear it. The BC346XT allows you to monitor I-Calls by entering a I-Call number in a Group, or monitor all I-Calls by entering an I-Call number of 0. This is different than older Unidens that had you turn I-Calls on and off in a menu option.
I-Calls work on Motorola and EDACS trunked systems but not on LTR. Not all trunked systems use I-Call, it is up to the system’s manager.
Hex or Dec or AFS: What’s in a number (or letter)?
The BC346XT allows you to view Motorola Talkgroup ID’s as either Decimal (using numerals 0 thru 9) or Hexadecimal (0-9 plus A, B, C, D, E and F as numerals). Hex is the format in which many trunked systems are programmed in. This dates from the days when memory was expensive, Hex allowed programmers to save memory by using less characters to represent larger numbers. For example, it takes 4 characters to represent the number 1234 in Decimal yet only 3 in Hex (4D2). While scanners in the past converted the Hex to a more easily understood Decimal number purists and programmers would prefer the Hex version.
For EDACS systems scanners give you the option of using AFS, short for Agency-Fleet-Subfleet or Decimal. Decimal mode uses regular numbers, up to 2047.
The AFS system is based upon a binary version if the talkgroup number and is broken up into 2 sections divided by a dash, such as 12-157. In this example “12” is the “Agency” number, “15” is the “Fleet” and “7” is the Subfleet. There are up to 16 Agency numbers (00 thru 15), 16 Fleet codes (00 thru 15) and 8 Subfleets (0 thru 7).The BC346XT allows you to program a system with Wildcards so that you can hear all talkgroups within an Agency or a Fleet using the AFS mode.
Some users are more comfortable with one method or the other, and the BC346XT allows users to choose which method you want to use to represent systems. Most scanner information resources use both methods to identify talkgroups, if your reference only uses one then you can change your scanner to match. If you program a System using one method you can change the method and switch over to the other, the radio automatically translates to the other version.
Priority ID Scan
Now you can include trunked systems and ID’s in your Priority settings. You are no longer limited to conventional channels for Priority.
Preemptive Priority on Motorola analog systems
When scanning Motorola trunked systems you can set a channel (talkgroup) to Priority to force the scanner to go immediately to that channel even when the radio is already engaged on another voice channel.
The BC346XT has a lot of options that you can set, many of which you will never see. Some however obscure, may come up from time to time, and some of these are in the Setting Menu.
You can do things like:
-Adjust the Keyboard Beep volume so that it follows the volume control or is set to a specific volume level regardless of the regular volume control.
-Set the radio to go into Battery Saver mode or not and set how for how long the radio will charge batteries.
-Make adjustments to the AGC (Automatic Gain Control) settings for both digital and analog signals.
-Adjust the LCD contrast of the display to suit your tastes.
-Adjust how the radio communicates with the GPS unit and how it will display coordinates.
-Set the speed of the serial port to match your GPS and computer as needed.
-Adjust the default step size and modes of the various scanner bands. When these modes change the radio can change with it.
Like its predecessors the BC346XT has the CloseCall feature that allows you to find nearby transmitters. This is basically a very fast search thru large chunks of spectrum looking for strong signals. When a signal is detected the search narrows quickly and then stops on the active channel. All this takes place in milliseconds.
You can set the radio to find CTCSS or DCS codes during CloseCall. CloseCall may be set up to run at the same time as other scanning or search occurs, with “Do Not Disturb” (DND) so that it only check for Close Call when there is no other traffic being heard, or with CloseCall Only.
When you set the radio to “Close Call Only” mode the display shows the numbers 1 thru 7, and relative signal strength bars. When a signal is found the number that corresponds with the number flashes, so you can tell what band the hit was from. When you press a key the frequency is displayed, along with the CTCSS or DCS code if that mode is on. The bands are numbered:
1VHF Low25 to 54 MHz.
2VHF Low54 to 108 MHz.
3Aircraft108 to 137 MHz.
4VHF High137 to 225 MHz.
5VHF High225 to 320 MHz.
6UHF320 to 512 MHz.
7800763 to 1300 MHz.
Close Call Temporary Store
A new Close Call Feature is the Temporary Store. This saves the last 10 Close Call hits in an easy to find memory space. This is great for finding new frequencies at the mall or around town, even if you don’t have a pad to write them down.
The BC346XT has the Uniden “Repeater Find” feature. When the radio detects activity on frequencies it recognizes as repeater inputs in the UHF and 800/900 MHz. bands it will check for activity on the corresponding repeater output channel. If traffic is heard there then the radio will monitor the output channel instead, assuming that the traffic is being heard thru a repeater.
This allows you to hear traffic from responding units that may be out of range of your radio but being rebroadcast on the repeater. Since UHF and 800/900 MHz. have dedicated input/output frequencies this feature applies there, VHF repeaters do not have dedicated inputs so this feature does not work on VHF.
While CloseCall is a great feature many people are bothered by the constant interruption of regular scanning when CloseCall checks for activity, the radio will be interrupted in much the same way Priority does.
Close Call DND (Do Not Disturb) allows you to use the CloseCall feature but it restricts the radio from checking for a CloseCall hit if it is already busy listening to something else. This feature was first seen on the BCD996T and added to a firmware upgrade on the BCD396T and is standard on the BC346XT.
This allows you to restrict the radio from hearing CloseCall hits on specified frequencies or frequency ranges. You can turn these bands off individually or all at once, and even set up ranges of your own. For example, you want to use CloseCall on VHF but have no interest in the railroad freqs, just set up a Broadcast Screen on 160.215 thru 161.595 and off you go.
The BC346XT allows many types of Searches so you can find frequencies and channels you never knew existed. In addition to the CloseCall searches, you can set the radio to search between specific frequencies, check bands or perform several searches consecutively. You can even set it to search one range, then scan some groups and then return back to searching. This is a unbelievable feature that not everyone takes advantage of but we highly recommend it. (For example if your doing rail-fanning/rail-scanning by searching the RR service search range you can also scan the local police and fire departments at the same time.) Temporary and regular lockouts also work for most searches. Some of the Close Call search functions are also applicable to regular search.
Service Search allows you to quickly search thru frequencies commonly allocated to specific types of users. Service Searches include:
News Media (broadcast channels including IFB audio feeds)
Ham Radio (10-meter, 6-meter, 2-meter-, 220, 440, etc.)
Special (all low-power walkie-talkie frequencies)
*This is a general search through the popular public safety bands which does include what is now UHF TV in some areas and public safety in others between 470-512 MHz, this can cause the search to lock up in areas where TV signals are used in this band.)
Note that in the marine and railroad service searches the scanner will show both the frequency and the rail or marine radio channel number, a very handy feature.
Called Custom Searches in the Menu, these allow you to set up specified frequency ranges to search. Set a lower and upper limit, a couple other parameters and off you go. If you know your monitoring target uses radios in the 460-465 range for example, set up a search between these limits and listen for your target. You can also set these up to search for trunked control channels to search out trunked systems.
Search & Store
During your searches you can have the radio store finds and then you can refer to them later. This can be done on a trunked system, in which case the radio will store active Talkgroups, or on conventional (non-trunked) frequency ranges, where it saves the actual frequencies it finds. You can also use this on Service Searches.
Search & Scan & More
You can even set it to search one or more ranges, or one or more service searches, then scan some groups and then return back to searching. This is a unbelievable feature that not everyone takes advantage of but we highly recommend it. (For example if your doing rail-fanning/rail-scanning by searching the RR service search range you can also scan the local police and fire departments at the same time.) Temporary and regular lockouts also work for most searches. Some of the Close Call search functions are also applicable to regular search.
Quick-Access Search Keys
This allows you to have 3 different Searches preset in your radio. You then can turn on any of these quickly and perform the search you want.
Search & Close Call Options
CTCSS and DCS Close Call Search
You can set the radio to search for CTCSS and DCS codes during searches, the code will appear on the display if there is such a code transmitted.
You can use this feature to determine the proper codes used for your monitoring targets and program these into your Systems and Groups. These are also handy to use as sort of a fingerprint. For example, you hear traffic on a new channel in your area that could be any of several local fire departments. You know that on their regular channels that Mayberry uses a CTCSS of 127.3, Mt. Pilot uses a DCS code of 311 and Riverdale uses a CTCSS of 192.8. If your Search hit uses a CTCSS of 127.3 you can make an educated guess that the traffic might be Mayberry.
When setting up Search or CloseCall you can turn on other options, including delay times, auto-store limits and whether the attenuator is on. These are set thru the Menu system.
The BC346XT also has a bandscope that allows you to view active band segments during searches. Bars on the screen display the active frequencies relative to the current channel. This allows you to see if there is an active frequency above or below the current one.
While not a true spectrum display it is a great way to see where other active freqs are quickly and get a visual indication of activity on the band. Band Scope is set via the Search menu items and can be set to one of the Search Keys.
When you are using Band Scope the MFK allows you to move the marker so you can see the relative frequency of displayed hits.
Users of Uniden’s BC15 and BCD996T mobile scanners have loved the GPS feature, another Uniden exclusive. Now, for the first time, this is available on a handheld scanner. Using the included serial port cable and a null modem adaptor (purchased separately) you can connect a GPS unit to the BC346XT and use it to automatically turn on and off systems and tower sites as you move around. When purchasing a GPS unit, make sure it has a serial port (RS-232), the BC346XT is not compatible with USB GPS receivers.
GPS Control of Sites and Channel Groups
The GPS feature on the BC346XT has the ability to control Sites and Groups. Individual Sites or Groups can be turned on or off manually or automatically as you travel.If you travel in an area with a large networked trunked system you can set the radio to turn on and off specific Sites within the System as you travel. You can use it for conventional Groups as well. When you are in one area you can listen to channels assigned there, when you leave those channels can be turned off and another group turned on. These areas can be set in circles (Distance from a central point) or boxes (set the corners).
Like most scanners these days you can program the BC346XT from a Windows computer (or a Mac running Windows). If you have an RS232 Serial Port (using a DB-9 connector) you can use the included cable, otherwise you need a Uniden USB-1 cable (available separately from ScannerMaster) or a USB to Serial adaptor (available from electronics or computer stores).
No software is packaged with the radio although Uniden’s UASD software should be available for free download soon. You can also use ARC’s ARC-XT (available soon from ScannerMaster) or other commercial and shareware applications. ARC-XT and others allow you to not only program the radio but to control it directly from the computer. This allows logging of activity, viewing the scanner information from the computer and allows remote access.
RadioReference System Programming
Another terrific feature is the ability to program your radio directly from the RadioReference.com scanner website. RadioReference.com is a nationwide scanner information site that has information on trunked and conventional systems all over the world. It has detailed information on almost every locale in the USA and Canada, provided by members.
While the information can be viewed for free, in order to program directly to your radio you need to be a paid Premium Subscriber. For $30 a year you can use your software to query the extensive RadioRefrence.com database and program various Systems directly into your radio, complete with System types and text tags. Going on vacation soon? Download the systems used in Grandma’s town before you leave and save hours of tedious programming.
In order to use the RadioReference.com programming interface you need to have the paid Premium Subscription plus a software package that supports it, such as the Butel ARC-XT software available through ScannerMaster.com.
Fire Tone Out
Like other Uniden radios introduced in the last few years the BC346XT has the popular Fire Tone Out feature. This allows you to set up the radio to act as a pager like those carried by firefighters. The radio will remain silent until there is a fire call preceded by tow-tone codes. While in this mode the radio cannot be used for other purposes.
Fire Tone Out Search
The biggest problem with the Fire Tone Out feature is figuring out the tones used. It became a kind of cottage industry among scannists to discover the proper codes, and numerous magazine articles, web posts and forum discussions described several methods of decoding them. Unless you were able to find the codes on the Web you were usually stuck with spending days monitoring an agency and using trial and error to decode the tones. You could also buy or download audio analytic software to dig out the proper codes.
The new BC346XT ends all that, and makes it a snap to find the codes used. Just program the radio with the proper radio frequency and leave the tone codes set to 0.0 and 0.0 Hz. Wait for a tone out to come over the air and watch the scanner display, the tones used will be displayed automatically, just jot them down for later programming.
One thing I have noticed is that the tones are often off a couple Hz. or so one way or another. This isn’t a huge deal, the radio will open up as long as the tones are that close. You can download lists of common tones used and figure out the probable true tones.
The keypad on the BC346XT is backlit, with red light, matching the display color.
Temporary Lockout allows you to lockout a channel during searches or when scanning on a temporary basis instead of permanently. This is great for channels that annoy you now but you want to listen to later. There is also the ability to use Temporary Lockout in Close Call searches as well. When you turn off the radio the temporary lockouts are reset.
Startup Configurations/Startup Quick Keys
Startup configurations allow you to set up the scanner in several ways and choose the one you want when you turn on the radio. Select which groups or systems you want to set in a startup configuration and set a Startup Quick Key. Then when you turn on the radio select the Quick Key and those groups and systems will be scanning and searching. Set one for work, one for play and another for travel.
On older “Banks and Channels” scanners you turned on and off banks by pressing a number key on the keypad. Simple, right? Well, the BC346XT and other DMA scanners from Uniden still allow this but you need to program a Quick Key first. The neat thing is that you can use Quick Keys for Systems, Groups or Searches. Wait, it gets better! You can control multiple Systems from a single Quick Key! Program several to a System Quick Key (SQK) and each System is turned on or off with a single key. Mix Systems, Sites and Searches on single quick keys. Set one for the ride to work, set another to use at the mall, and a third when you are at the airport…
Groups can be assigned to Quick Keys (GQK) but only work within a System. You can tie together multiple Groups to a single GQK if you want. You can assigned Quick Keys from programming software or manually from the keypad.
System /Channel Number Tagging
This allows you to set a tag to any channel or system and quickly send your radio to it by pressinga couple buttons. For example, your police department uses 4 channels, called “Channel 1” and so on. Set these channels with these Channel Tags and you can then quickly go to these channels just by pressing Hold, the number and then the Menu button.There are 1000 (0 thru 999) Channel tags you can program.
Individual channel volume offset
You can set individual volume levels for different channels. If you have a channel that is particularly loud or soft in your area, set a volume offset to make up for it.
Intermediate Frequency Exchange
All scanners have “Images” (reception of channels on frequencies other than the correct one) and “Birdies” (self generated signals) that can interfere with legitimate scanner channels. This is a fact of life and cannot be avoided. The BC346XT however allows you to alter internal settings, called Intermediate Frequencies (IF) on individual channels to move these Birdies and Images to frequencies unused in your area.
Ever spent hours programming your scanner and then lent it to someone hoping they wouldn’t erase all your hard work? Worry no more, Set the scanner to Key Safe mode and keep it programmed just the way you had it. Press FUNC when you turn on the radio to lock out programming and permanent lockouts, do the same to turn off the Key Lock.
This lets you flag a system so that it cannot be read out of the scanner or modified. This mode is set by the various programming software packages available for the BC346XT.
Negative Channel dropout delay (forced resume)
This allows you to resume scanning after a set period even if the channel is still active. This allows you to catch action on busy channels without tying up the radio for long periods of time. Some Communications Receivers (such as the Icom R7000) and ham transceivers employ this method of scanning which seems to be more popular in Europe and Japan, but had not really taken hold in North America.
Programming your BC346XT
If you are familiar with the BCD396T or BC330 you can jump right in and play with the BC346XT with few problems. While there are some new features and menu items the basics of the scanner are the same as the older version. If you have used a BCD996T or BC15 you can probably figure out the BC346XT as well.
If you have never used any of these before you will have to learn a new programming language. While this sounds daunting, it really isn’t that difficult. Just forget the old “Banks & Channels” method of programming and start thinking Systems, Sites and Groups. Systems pretty much replaces Banks, these are the main division of channels. Groups are divisions of Systems and may consist of one to many Channels.
Let’s say you have a System for your home town. Within the System you might have 3 Groups, one for Police, another for Fire and the third for Local Governments.On an old scanner you would be limited to 20, 50 or 100 channels in a Bank, now you can have hundreds of channels or just 1, and not waste all that memory on unused channels.
The same method of programming works for Trunking systems. Program the System with the trunked frequencies and the trunking type, the Groups are for Talkgroups. Again, you can have many groups, with as few as 1 or as many as hundreds of talkgroups (channels).
Trunked systems have one more item to program, these are “Sites” While simple trunked systems may have just one Site, networked or wide are systems might have several or many. Networked trunked systems can share a single list of talkgroups, and you can program multiple Sites with different frequencies. (See the GPS section for how you can use this.)
Included in the Box:
• BCD346XT Scanner
• AD-1001 AC Adapter
• Rubber Duck Antenna
• 4' PC Serial Cable
• Wrist Strap
• Belt Clip
• SMA to BNC Adapter
• Manual on CDROM
Other Accessories in the Box
The BC346XT uses the same SMA antenna mount as the other Uniden handheld scanners recently and the included rubber coated antenna works well for casual use. The SMA mount saves space and is actually a better connector than the BNC that is more traditional for scanners, but is less robust and convenient. Uniden packs a nifty SMA-BNC adaptor so you can use your other BNC antennas with the radio. The adaptor works well and is good looking.
The BC346XT works with 1800 mAh NiMH rechargeable cells and Regular alkaline AA batteries. Power jack does not charge rechargeable batteries, and optional charger would be needed.
The included AC adaptor has changed to an 800 mAh switching wall-wart style (the older 396 and BC330 had larger non-switching supplies). The advantage of the switching supply is that it is lighter and smaller and generates less heat as well as drawing less AC power to generate the same DC power.
The BC346XT, like its predecessors, does not come with an Auto adaptor. These can be purchased separately. Also available at ScannerMaster.com are cases and other accessories.
The BC346XT comes with the same RS232 serial cable as other Uniden scanners. Since most computers these days do not have the venerable Serial Port anymore you must use a USB solution. The alternative is the USB-1 cable made by Uniden and available at ScannerMaster.com. This cable will connect directly to a USB port and may be used to program and control any of the Uniden models it fits, including the BC346XT. You will also need to download a small piece of software code called a driver from the ScannerMaster.com or the Uniden.com web site.
So far the Uniden UASD software for the BC346XT has not been released, it should be available soon. For previous analog scanners (BC330 and BC15) UASD has been a paid download or included on a CD with the radio, it is expected that Uniden will continue to do so for the BC346XT. While the UASD software performs its functions, it has never been seen as an elegant solution. There are other software packages available for the BC346XT (or will be soon). These include ARC-XT from Butel (available from ScannerMaster) and others. The Butel software is a very easy-to-use, elegant and powerful software package that makes programming the 346XT far easier.
The BC346XT supports not only computer programming like most scanners these days but also computer control. Control allows one to log activity over a period of time, remote access and viewing of scanner activity on a computer rather than the radio display. It also allows use of the Uniden RH-96 Remote Scanner Head.
The BC346XT supports firmware upgrades, done via the programming cable. This allows updates to features and bug fixes. So far all updates and fixes have been free, but Uniden has hinted at using this ability to add new features for a fee while keeping fixes and minor updates for free. Updates to prior radios have included digital decoding fixes, changing parameters for the Fire Tone Out mode and setting up the radio for rebanded trunked systems.
Owner’s Manual (on CD-ROM only)
What’s NOT in the box is a paper owner’s manual. There is a CD that contains a PDF version of the manual. The PDF manual is well bookmarked with web style links that make it pretty easy to find what you are looking for. Some people will miss the printed manual, the older radios’ manuals were compact and fit the glove box well. Buyers of the BC346XT will have to deal with viewing on a computer or printing the manual themselves.The manual however has not been optimized for printing, at least not yet.
Comparisons and observations
The obvious competitor to the BC346XT is the GRE PSR-300 and Radio Shack PRO-164. The PSR-300 and PRO-164 are both made by GRE and are almost identical.
Size, fit and finish
The BC346XT is a compact radio, roughly 4 ¾ inches tall, 2 ½ inches wide and an inch thick, weighing in at 9.9 ounces (by my scale), quite a bit smaller and lighter than the GRE PSR300 or Radio Shack PRO-164 (5 ½ x 2 ½ x 1 ½, 13.3 oz.). The BC346XT fits in a shirt pocket without ripping, in a camera bag while still leaving room for your camera, or on a belt without pulling down your pants. It is about as big around as a pack of cigarettes.When compared side by side the BC346XT looks even more dramatically smaller than the GRE.
The BC346XT feels and looks like a more well-built device, the tolerances look to be closer than that of the GRE’s. The BC346XT has a rubber grip around the outside frame that helps keep it from being dropped, the GRE does not.
Pressing Needs (Buttons and Knobs)
The BC346XT has a 16 key keypad vs. 30 buttons on the GRE. The BC346XT uses the side panel’s Function and Menu buttons to modify key presses, as well as the multi-function knob (MFK) on the top of the radio.I find that it is easy to get lost in the maze of buttons on the GRE.
While the GRE has separate Volume and Squelch controls (a concentric pair of knobs) the Uniden uses the MFK for these purposes as well as programming. It is easier to adjust the volume and squelch on the GRE because of this.
The keypad buttons are larger on the BC346XT than the GRE, but there are only 16 vs. 30 for the GRE. In addition the labeling on the GRE is smaller so it is harder to find the button you want sometimes. Still, many people prefer the ability to access functions without having to go into a menu as you often times must on the Uniden scanners.
The BC346XT uses Uniden’s DMA method of programming “Systems & Groups” while the PSR300 uses the old fashioned fixed Banks & Channels.
With the small size come some sacrifices. For one the speaker is small, and audio quality suffers a bit compared with the GRE competitors. While rated at 400 mw audio output compared with the GRE’s 250, the GRE has a larger speaker and enclosure and can produce louder audio with less distortion. Both radios allow you to use iPod style earphones with sound going to both the right and left channels.
The Uniden uses three AA cells and includes rechargeable 1800 mAh Nickel-Metal Hydride cells. The radio seems to last just as long on three cells as the PSR300 does on four, I typically get 8 to 10 hours of moderate use on a charge or set of alkalines.
Reception, Sensitivity and Interference
In the old days Uniden and Bearcat scanners had a reputation of higher sensitivity the Radio Shack scanners but were usually more prone to interference from strong signals, including intermod and images. These days however those roles are reversed. The GRE’s (including the Radio Shack PRO164) we find to be somewhat more prone to interference from strong signals such as taxi data, broadcast stations and pagers.
The BC346XT has shown so far to be less bothered by strong signals than my PRO164. A recent excursion to an area full of pagers and taxi data towers made the PRO164 go crazy while the BC346XT had no real issues. While I locked out a bunch of CloseCall hits from these with both radios, the PRO164 received hits on several images of real strong signals that the BC346XT only received on the actual frequency. There were a few instances of hearing a strong signal on adjacent freqs when the actual freq was locked out on the BC346XT but you had to be close enough to touch the tower for this.
One would think that reduced interference levels like this would mean less sensitivity. In my experiments I was unable to discern any real difference in sensitivity. While a detailed analysis with a service monitor might provide such details, real world users probably won’t notice much difference. Most forums however tend to lean towards the GRE being somewhat more sensitive.
I had very similar results with the Uniden BCD396XT and RadioShack PRO106 scanner.
Both radios have impressive feature sets. The features the Uniden has that the GRE doesn’t include Fire Tone Out, GPS connection, Multi-Site, and IF Exchange. The GRE has few features the BC346XT lacks. Overall the Uniden is a far more feature-rich radio. Not everyone will make use of these features, of all which have been described in this report, but it’s nice to know they’re available.
The GRE display is a bit larger than the Uniden but the main portion of the Uniden display (frequency and text tags) use larger characters. The Uniden display is less cluttered but the GRE provides more instant information. The backlighting on the GRE is brighter and provides more contrast than the Uniden.
The BC346XT display has six lines, they may display different items depending on the mode. During Scanning operations the display is set up as follows:
-The first line displays such things as the signal strength, lockout and priority status.
-The second line has the System text tag or radio status.
-The third line displays the frequency, talkgroup, Group or Site tag.
-The fourth line displays the modulation type and the priority icon.
-The fifth line displays the System number.
-The sixth line displays the Group number.
The BC346XT is a fantastic radio that provides almost every conceivable feature you could want in an analog scanner. Even so, it is not perfect. While the small size is convenient for discrete use, it forced Uniden into compromises such as the small speaker and the Multi-Function Knob. With a bit larger case they could have replaced the MFK with a traditional volume and squelch control and separate programming knob.
Some people prefer the extra buttons instead of needing the Function and Menu buttons on the side, a larger case could have allows extra buttons to provide an easier method of programming. As it is it takes 2 hands to program the radio. While the keypad is logically laid out now, a slightly larger case would allow extra button rows in both the vertical and horizontal planes to simplify programming.
Radio Sensitivity compares well with the BC330 and the PSR-300/PRO164. The VHF High and UHF bands seemed pretty much identical to the other radios, while the 800 band seemed to be slightly better on the BC346XT. I heard no unusual interference in my suburban neighborhood. While mobile the radio did not suffer from any more overload problems than my PRO164.
The Fire Tone Out feature is an ingenuous addition to the Uniden line of scanners. The new FTO Search makes it even better.I wouldn’t suggest spending $500 for the BCD396XT just for this when you can get a BC346XT with FTO for half the price. Of course if you need digital the 396XT is a great way to go.
The added memory allows one to program almost as much on the BC346XT as you can use, up to about 9,000 channels spread amongst hundreds of Systems. The PSR300 allows 1000 channels split into 10 banks.
Another feature that sets the Uniden radios apart from the GRE is the GPS connection. The ability to turn on and off systems automatically just by traveling in an area is superb. When I first got a BCD996T I was wary about this, but after spending a little time putting together a file with GPS coordinates for our statewide trunking system I was hooked.I can’t imagine not having this now, and am thrilled about having this on a handheld.
The ability to use the innovative RH-96 Remote Head is also a huge plus for the BC346XT. While the RH-96 is actually larger than the BC346XT, it is more practical for use in a car. Since the RH-96 does not provide speaker audio you will need to strategically mount the radio itself however. Unfortunately at this time we do not know if Uniden will continue to manufacture the RH-96.
If Uniden relocated the earphone jack to the side of the radio and made it slightly larger they could revert to a more conventional volume/squelch control and still maintain the programming knob. Adding up/down buttons as well as a few others to simplify programming on a larger radio would make programming easier.
A larger case would also allow a larger speaker as well as room for a fourth battery. While more audio output would use more power from the battery a fourth cell would be able to cover that and retain the decent battery life already provided.
We would also have liked a printed manual to be included or at least as a low cost option. Since the radio will often be used mobile or in the field, the ability to have a quick resource will be missed. The last batch of Uniden HH scanners had manuals that you could tuck in your back pocket or in your glove box, this would have been ideal for this radio. Perhaps an enterprising individual will produce a manual like this.
Which Radio do I want to buy?
Once you decide you want to buy a new scanner it is time to decide which one to get. Assuming that you want a high-end handheld analog scanner you have to decide then which one, the PSR300/PRO164 (just called the GRE from here on out) or the BC346XT.
The GRE is better if these are most important to you:
* You prefer a larger radio with better audio.
* If you prefer separate volume and squelch controls.
* If you don’t want or need the extra features of the BC346XT
* If you are not bothered by excessive strong-signal interference.
* If you need higher sensitivity.
* If you prefer the Banks/Channels method of programming.
You will want the BC346XT if these are more important:
* You prefer a smaller, compact radio.
* You prefer a more solidly built radio.
* You prefer a simpler but more detailed display.
* If you want the fancy features of the BC346XT
* You prefer the Banks/Systems/Groups method of programming.
* You need or want the GPS features.
* You will use the radio in a high interference area.
* You want to have a lot of channels available all the time.
* When fire tone-out capability is important.
* You monitor a large networked system with multiple sites.
When people invest $250 for a scanner, they probably want to protect it, get some accessories to go with it or otherwise add to the experience. Scanner Master (http://www.scannermaster.com) has a full line of scanner accessories such as cases, antennas, computer cables, power adaptors and references to make your scanner more enjoyable.
Many of the accessories for the other Uniden DMA scanners will work for the BC346XT as well. Here are a few that you might be interested in:
Cases: Spend this much on a radio and you will want to protect it from scratches, drops and dings. Nylon and soft leather cases are available.
Since Uniden does not provide a car charger for these radios you can use this Scanner Master power adaptor.
No Serial Port on your computer? Using a Mac to program your radio? You need a USB cable to program the radio. The USB-1 cable allows you to program the radio directly from a USB port, available on all computers from the last 10 years. Drivers are available for a free download for Windows 98 thru Vista. Mac Users with Windows (via BootCamp, Paralells, Fusion, etc.) can also use this cable.
Lose your AC adapter/charger? Want a second one to keep for travel? Use this adapter from ScannerMaster.
Want to use the BC346XT in the car? You can use the Uniden RH-96 with the scanner and have an easier time at accessing the controls.
You can also buy an assortment of remote speakers (amplified or not), headphones, antennas and more. Just go to the Accessories page and choose what you want.
For a list of all accessories specifically for this scanner only, visit the BC346XT Accessories page.