“Where can I find a reliable police scanner?” Is a question that most first time users tend to ask. Fortunately, we’ve made this succinct guide to get you started.
Digital police scanners enable you to tune into workings of your city when out and about, your neighborhood and the world around you, automatically detecting the EMS and Police signals in your area. These scanners are good reasons to keep you informed during local emergencies and stay updated on nearby events.
While there are hundreds of police scanner models, we’ve decided to review the top 7 scanners in the market. We’ll show you their advantages, disadvantages, and a firsthand opinion from trusted consumers.
So let’s begin!
Top 7 Police Scanners Reviews
1. Whistler TRX 1 – Best Police Scanner
- Object-Oriented Scanning
- Scan sets
- Weather alerts
- Audio alarms
- Monitors Encrypted Channels
If you’re looking for a high-end police scanner with tons of features, the Whistler TRX 1 is a model you should look into. While this police scanner is costly, it will perform better than budget models.
We like that the Whistler TRX 1 can be used to monitor encrypted channels. Thus, making it worth its money in value, monitoring, and compatibility.
In fact, it’s even micro-SD card compatible! This improves its capabilities in multiple ways. For one, users can use the SD card to store over millions of objects. With a 32 GB maximum, there is a lot of space available.
Also, you can save up to 200 configurations on the card. That way, if you wanted to revert back to your previous customized settings, you could do so. This saves you time from having to reprogram the settings from scratch manually.
Another thing we’ve noticed was that this is a multi-system adaptive police scanner. Since it includes technology such as Motorolla P25 Phase I, Phase II, and DMR, X2-TDMA, it can monitor a few systems.
These systems include MotoTRBO, Hyerta XPT, MotoTRBO Connect Plus, and NXDN. So you won’t have any issues about compatibility when using this device.
Along with its adaptive compatibility, this device gives them features such as an alarm clock, programmable audio alarms, intuitive controls, and an extensive scan list. All of these features have been received positively by consumers, making the Whistler TRX 1 one of the best models on the market.
However, this isn’t recommended for beginners. First-time users found the programming of the device a bit overwhelming. We suggest that beginners either take time to get used to the scanner or buy a cheaper scanner until you’re ready to use it.
- Great audio quality
- Programmable backlight
- Micro SD Card Compatible
- Difficult to read display
- Clunky Programming
2. Whistler WS1040 – Runner Up
- V-Scanner Technology
- Sturdy handheld scanner
- Audible alarms and alert LEDs
- 1800 storage memory
- Access to storm watcher networks
Police scanners with good speakers can be hard to find. That’s why it’s advanced audio hardware is its highlight feature. Besides its audio reception, the Whistler WS1040 also brings better scanning reception. Signals that sound fuzzy in sound come up clear on this device.
First off, the WS1040 is larger than most handheld police scanners. This is due to the large backlight LCD keypad and display. It has a multi-color LED alert light that can be customized depending on the receiving channel.
If you don’t have this scanner at hand, this can be a great feature for helping you determine the signal without even having to leave position. For example, green for fire, and red for a County Sheriff and so on.
Most police scanners are difficult to program, but the Whistler has a user-friendly menu. It walks you through the installation process via a help toolbar. This makes it easier to get used to the device and start scanning vehicles with ease.
The Whistler WS1040 is designed to help users scan in any environment. With its advanced Skywarn Storm Spotter technology, users can get weather updates in real-time. So you’ll be the first to know if bad weather is in your area.
The Object-Oriented Interface was favored amongst most consumers. It has excellent audio quality; you can program it manually after you’ve spent some time reading the instruction manual.
The only issue is that all of the menu settings and customizations can be overwhelming for a beginner. We suggest you use software like Butel or WIN500 to help automate the device’s programming. The local HAM radio stations are a good place of reference to begin with.
- Extensive Frequency Range
- Object-Oriented User Interface
- Digital Data Cloning
- Overwhelming Programming Options
3. Uniden HomePatrol-2 – (Alternative)
- Quick recording & playback
- Instant replay
- Simple programming and channel finding
- S.A.M.E. Weather Alerts
- Trunk Tracker V
Third on our list is the Uniden Home Patrol 2. Using its USB cable, users can update their local database. By typing in your zip code, you can find channels within local areas. With this police scanner, you’ll have access to communication systems such as Phase-1, Phase-2, x2-tdma, ltr system, making it great to use at home or in public.
Ease of Use
The Uniden Home Patrol 2 has gained its reputation as a “simple program scanner.” Unlike competing scanners that try to fill this claim, this device actually fulfills it. It’s easy to install, program, and use.
While its ease of use is one of its standout features, it has a few other hidden treats as well. S.A.M.E. Weather alerts, TrunkTracker V, and the ability to receive coverage in the USA and Canada makes this an excellent scanner regardless of your skill level.
If you need a tool to record what you’re listening to, the Uniden Home Patrol 2 has you covered. A micro SD card is included so you can store your recordings later. It’s activated by pressing the record button.
The recordings reflect the unit information metadata and the recordings that reflect the traffic channel on screen.
One consumer noted that the scanner does not detect encrypted radio transmissions. Some of the communication channels are encrypted, not all of them. Just because a channel is on the radio reference database doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access to it.
But, there were some minor flaws in the scanner’s control settings. For power users, they felt limited due to the scanners inability to encrypt decrypted channels. Still, the Uniden Home Patrol 2 is a great choice if you need a home device that’s receptive enough to spot multiple traffic signals.
- Easy to use
- Intuitive user interface
- Enhanced Scanners
- Lacks control for power users
- Screen is slow to respond
4. Uniden BCD436HP Handheld Digital Scanner
- Range control
- Programmable front panel
- Instant replay
- Multi-Site Trunking
- Analysis mode
For an all-purpose police scanner, the Uniden BCD436HP is the best in its class. While the scanner has a higher price range, but the price reflects the powerful features that are equipped with this scanner.
Close RF Capture
Uniden is known for its simple-to-use police scanners, and the BCD436HP is no different. In fact, it’s a balanced choice amongst this list. Don’t want to scan over tens of thousands of frequencies? With its Close RF Capture, if you see a transmission within your proximity, the device will tune to automatically receive it.
Trunk Tracker V is a feature that most high-end police scanners have. The BCD436HP also has it, making it easier for users to hear transmissions on trunked systems. With this feature, users can find more signals with no problem.
GPS connectivity is featured on the BCD463HP. Setting up the device to work with GPS is effortless. And the GPS and the scanner works together so you’ll be always aware of your location while scanning relevant frequencies.
Most of the consumer’s reviews have been mostly positive. Here’s what the consumers had to say.
Consumers liked the scanner’s temporary avoid feature. As its name suggests, it allows you to avoid or place unwanted systems in silent mode. Basically, it won’t disrupt any frequency that you’re currently in.
The best thing is that you can restore the system if you’d like to. The device will be brought back to normal cycling power once you turn off the temporary avoid function. This means you’ll have additional options for this function. This is a great feature to make sure that you have the right transmission.
- Time stamping
- Close Call RF Capture Technology
- Programmable LED
- Difficult for beginners
5. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT
- 40,000 Frequencies
- Comes with a Do Not Disturb Mode
- Includes both Military & Civil Aircraft Bans
- Alpha tagging
- Close-Call RF Frequency Counter
The Uniden Bearcat 500 is a versatile scanner that has a solid grip and over 40,000 frequencies to listen to. It allows you to organize 500 channels by location, department, area of interest, or any other form you’d prefer.
Performance and Audio Quality
Performance wise the Uniden Bearcat 500 is highly effective. Reception wise, the VHF-High can pick up broadcasts from police stations. Thus, you can use this device to find signals from fire departments.
The audio is good on this radio. The speaker is loud enough to be heard over radio noise. Cranking the audio settings to its highest, the device causes some distortion, but not too much to make it unintelligible.
The device’s large LCD screen is one of its standout features. On the display screen, you’ll see the alpha tag, frequency, mode, signal strength meter, channel number, and PL tone. Also, the screen shows weather priority symbols, if it’s activated.
We wish that we could dim the backlight. It’s not too bright, but we wish we could save the batteries. It would be nice to Users can turn off the LCD backlight by just pressing a button. Or you can program it to come on with keypress only, squelch only, or both.
The side of the scanner has plastic molded grooves which helps the user easily grip onto the scanner by hand. It’s well balanced when it placed up right on the desk. Also, it doesn’t tip over with its extended antenna.
Direct access is one of the main reasons why consumers buy this police scanner. For example, if you have the local police on channel 300. To directly go to a channel, click the Hold button, then the 300 buttons to reach the channel. Now you’re on channel 300 waiting for a transmission!
However, some consumers would find issues with its connectivity. All of the police channels are encrypted, making it difficult to spot them. This isn’t a police scanner, but a specific frequency scanner.
- CTCSS/DCS features
- Weather Alerts
- Portable, lightweight design
- Weak Wifi connectivity
6. Whistler TRX-2
- Spectrum Sweeper
- Removable magnetic head
- IF Discriminator Out
- Simple Zip Code Programming
- DCS and CTCSS audible detector
The Whistler TRX-2 provides a different set of features than the TRX-1, but has the same overall excellence. The desktop designed for TRX-2 weighs 2.1 pounds and has a carrying handle, which acts as a small stand lift when placed on a flat surface.
Additionally, there is a weather button and SKYWARN button to determine inclement weather that will give users weather reports hours before the local news. For users trying to be notified quickly, it will give you reports in real-time manner.
This adaptable scanner supports Phase I, Phase II, DMR, Motorolla P25 Phase I, making it capable of finding unencrypted systems such as:
- Hytera XPT
- MotoTRBO Connect Plus
- MotoTRBO Capacity Plus
- MotoTRBO Linked Cap Plus Systems
Thus, you’ll be able to connect to multiple channels with this scanner. This places it a step ahead its competitors. It’s able to scan up to 70 channels per second. For users wanting to have high-speed connectivity, the Whistler TRX-2 is the best option.
Wondering what the consumers said about the Whistler TRX-2? Here’s a summary of their opinions:
Consumers like how the Whistler TRX-2 is pre-programmable with a nationwide database. It allows you to enter a zip code and will start scanning signals within the area. Some of the signals you might not want, so the device allows you to make customized profiles to find your favorites.
Another reason why consumers like this scanner are its frequent radio updates. Users can also detect signals via NXDN after installing the device’s firmware. Because of this, its a no brainer while consumers frequently use this product.
- Free radio updates
- Stores different functions with V-Scanner
- User-created profiles
- No third party software support
- Backlight display issues
7. Uniden BCD996P2
- Continuous band coverage
- Trunk Tracker V
- Location-Based Scanning
- GPS compatibility
- 24,999 Dynamic Radio Channels
Last on our list is the Uniden BCD996P2. This full-sized police scanner is filled with features such as GPS control, Close call, and more. If you’re in need of a replacement police scanner, this is the right device for you.
Dynamic Memory System
This police scanner has an advanced memory system. It allows you to keep track of the weather, local events and is an ideal tool for police cars. The Uniden BCD996P2 is known for its accuracy and even features a mount for users to place it on the car’s dashboard or cabinet.
The Uniden BCD996P2 has 25,000 channels that are automatically allocated. It can follow signal communications such as Phase 1, Phase 2, Motorola, apco 25, edacs, x2-tdma, ltr trunked systems and much more.
There were mixed reviews about this device. Here are some of the consumer’s opinions on the Uniden BCD996P2.
You can use the scanner in the car, making it great for mobile travel like the best police scanner apps. It features 2 DC travel cords and one with a lighter plug, and it has an AC adapter. And it features a bottom speaker that has a “deep bass audio sound,” which sounds like a loudness circuit on your stereo.
The BCD996P2’s Computer Control channel helps users find nearby police channels. And it has a USB front port for programming and updates. With this feature, you’ll be able to connect the scanner to your desktop computer.
On the other hand, there are some flaws associated with this device. Some users experienced a small bug in the USB device. While it does give you information on local signals, the USB will stop working after its been plugged to your computer. Make sure you turn the scanner off and on to reset it.
Users can easily program the Uniden BCD996P2 to find the signals within their location. Consumers suggest using “Radio Reference” and “Free Scan” to help utilize the scanner. Basically, you’ll have a high-quality scanner the next time you’re on the road.
- Great sound quality
- Easily scan multiple channels
- Designed and built with a clear display
- USB Driver doesn’t work occasionally
- Transmission can stop in between
- Keyboard doesn’t work occasionally
Still confused on what police scanner is available? Here’s some buying advice to help you find out which scanner is the best for you.
How Police Scanner Radios Work
If you know how AM/FM radio stations work, then you already know how police scanners work. AM/FM signals send broadcasts via radio waves. So are the signals to cell phone, CB radio, and television.
Radio scanners allow you to pick up signals from the UHF and VHF range. This allows users to listen to conversations between sanitation workers, and emergency workers, and others within your community.
Users and Uses
Here are the most common uses of a police scanner:
- Neighborhood watch
- Dispatch centers and patrols
- Corporate security workers
- School systems
- Public building workers
- Radio hobbyists and home workers
Basically, anyone involved in communications infrastructure or emergency response might use radio scanners – plus anyone in the area that’s curious.
Different agencies use different frequencies, and different scanners cover multiple frequencies. With a police scanner, you can look up frequencies within your agencies that you’re into following.
Types of Radios
If your police scanner uses one frequency for each communication channel, it’s a conventional radio system. You can’t use conventional radio scanners to hear a trunked conversation.
With trunking radio systems, a myriad of agencies can use a few frequencies. This allows for users to share in congested circumstances. Usually, trunking is founded in urban areas. Trunking systems will pick up conventional systems, but conventional systems can’t read trunking systems.
Most larger cities have switched from analog to digital systems. Digital systems have better quality and reception. Even while digital police scanners cost more than expensive ones, you’ll have to shell out extra money to buy one that’s used in your area.
Analog is the most basic, inexpensive, and common police scanner models available. Analog scanners are usually found in smaller towns and rural communities. However, analog scanners won’t detect signals that are being transferred via digital systems. Before you buy an analog scanner, make sure it’s commonly used in your community.
What features should you look for when shopping for a police scanner? Here is an overview that helps you make the best choice when making product comparisons.
Lists & Banks
This feature lets you organize multiple categories into “banks.” For instance, you can store different frequencies such as Fire and Aircraft. If the scanner has Dynamic Memory Allocation, you might also have Scan Lists. This is similar to banks, except that users have control over what channels are in each list.
Search and Scan Speed
This tells you how fast your police scanner can scan throughout channels. If you have hundreds of channels to scan through, having high speed is important. If you are listening to just 10 channels, check for a scanning speed around 16 scans per second. If you have more channels to view, you’ll need a search speed of 50-100 channels per second.
Trunk systems have a feature that allows it to find the right mode for any available frequency. This feature lets users override the selection more if necessary.
This feature will give users more control over their banks. When using a fixed memory scanner, the banks have the same size. That means if all slots in the bank aren’t filled, it removes the remaining memory slots.
If your device has a memory system, you can customize the bank sizes so you’ll have room for smaller banks if you need them. This frees up memory slots for larger banks.
Scanning sensitivity is measured in microvolts. The higher the sensitivity, the lower the number. You want a scanner with higher sensitivity so you can hear radio transmissions even if they’re weak. This feature is useful if you live in a rural environment or monitoring aircraft.
Some police scanners are better designed for emergencies than others. If you want a scanner that works during a disaster, look for one that has automatic connections to a weather station like S.A.M.E.
Also, you have to consider about battery life. Scanners that use AA batteries are easy to get power from. That can keep your device going for longer when disaster strikes.
There are thousands of radio channels out there. Finding a scanner that can detect local radio stations makes it easier to listen and find radio source transmission. That’s what most people want to hear, especially police department broadcasts, not the police that is four towns away.
With GPS compatibility, you can make your police scanner more optimized to your location.
The majority of radio signals you’ll hear from your police radio scanner is legal to hear. Some communications that are unavailable are encrypted or scrambled communications. In additions, there are laws that prohibit using radio communication systems for financial gain or committing crimes.
Local and state laws can impose additional restrictions on your scanner use, usually on scanner use to hear police radios on the network. Even with states with these laws, you can listen to fire, police, and other configurations when you’re at home.
The information on scanner laws is a brief summary of the US scanner laws. It’s not supposed to replace an attorney’s counsel or act as legal advice. Most prosecutions are attempts to disclose phone calls or tamper with law enforcement.
Scanners who listen to local emergencies such as car accidents or house fires should not enter the emergency site. Listeners should not block access to the district officials who might be under space or time conditions.
Whether its a regular or hand held scanner, this review has both to help you find the device you need. For an overall high-quality scanner that can record multiple frequencies, go for the Whistler TRX-1.
However, if it’s your first time, the Uniden Home Patrol 2 or the Whistler WS1040 are good alternatives. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have a police scanner whose value will meet its price.
Do you have any questions about buying police scanners?
Tell us in the comments below.