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Best Police Scanners of 2020 [Digital & Analog]

“Where can I find the best police scanner?” It is a question that most first-timers and new users tend to ask when they search for one. Fortunately, we’ve made this succinct guide about the best police scanners to get you started.

A digital scanner enables you to tune into workings of your city when out and about, your community and the world around you, automatic in detecting the EMS and local police signals in your area.

These scanners are good reasons to keep you informed during emergencies and stay updated on nearby incidents.

There are several types of radio scanners, including handheld scanner type, or base mobile devices with bigger antenna, although mobile and base ones are usually more expensive. Base mobile type scanners, on the other hand, are convenient to carry and use even in your car.

While there are hundreds of kinds with various accessories, we’ve decided to review the 7 top police scanners in the market to help you find the right one. In this list, we’ll show you the advantages and disadvantages of each product plus firsthand opinions from trusted consumers.

But before all that, here’s a quick summary of our top 5:

Newbies' Choice
Uniden BC125AT
Best - Overall
Whistler TRX-1
Cheap Option
Uniden BC75XLT
Simple to Use
Uniden HomePatrol-2
For Constant Updates
Whistler TRX-2
With a large screen plus 40,000 frequencies, newbies won't have a hard time learning and exploring this device.
This multi-system adaptive scanner features multiple tech for superb scanning and monitoring.
This compact scanner can handle up to 300 frequencies, just enough for the affordable price point.
Simple features and procedure makes this scanner friendly to any type of user.
This programmable scanner provides a nationwide database and SKYWARN button for efficient weather & radio updates.
Newbies' Choice
Uniden BC125AT
With a large screen plus 40,000 frequencies, newbies won't have a hard time learning and exploring this device.
Best - Overall
Whistler TRX-1
This multi-system adaptive scanner features multiple tech for superb scanning and monitoring.
Cheap Option
Uniden BC75XLT
This compact scanner can handle up to 300 frequencies, just enough for the affordable price point.
Simple to Use
Uniden HomePatrol-2
Simple features and procedure makes this scanner friendly to any type of user.
For Constant Updates
Whistler TRX-2
This programmable scanner provides a nationwide database and SKYWARN button for efficient weather & radio updates.

Ready for the rest? Let’s begin!

Best Police Scanner Reviews

1. Whistler TRX 1 – Best Cops Scanner

Features:

  • Object-Oriented Capabilities
  • Scan sets
  • Weather alerts
  • Alarms
  • Monitors Encrypted Channels
  • Various search modes
  • Spectrum Sweeper (near-field search)

Overview:

If you are looking for a high-end digital police scanner with tons of features, the Whistler TRX 1 is one of the best models you should look into. While this great police scanner has an expensive price tag, it will perform better than budget models.

Compatibility

We like that the TRX 1 can be used to monitor encrypted channels. It is also able to tune into AM, FM and digital radio frequencies, thus, which makes it worth its money in value, monitoring, and compatibility.

This handheld scanner is even micro-SD card suitable! This improves its capabilities in several ways. For one, the SD card can store over millions of objects are among its accessories. With a 32 GB maximum, there is a lot of space available for channels.

Also, you can save up to 200 configurations on the card. That way, if you wanted to revert to your previous customized settings, you could do so. This saves you from the hassle of having to reprogram the settings from scratch in manual mode.

Multi-Adaptable Scanner

Another thing we’ve noticed was that this is a multi-system adaptive scanner. Since it includes tech such as Motorolla P25 Phase I, Phase II, and DMR, X2-TDMA, it can also monitor a few systems.

These include MotoTRBO, Hyerta XPT, MotoTRBO Plus, and NXDN. So you won’t have any issues with compatibility when using this handheld scanner.

Consumer Opinion

Along with its adaptive compatibility, this best police scanner also has an alarm clock, alarms, intuitive controls, and an extensive list. All of these features have been received positively by consumers, appointing the Whistler TRX 1 one of the best police scanners on the market. You can listen to local police, fire, EMS, aircraft, etc. 

However, this is not recommended for beginners looking for the right product to start off with. Newbies found the programming of the scanner a bit complicated. We suggest that beginners either take a while to get used to the scanner or buy a cheaper digital police scanner until you’re ready to use it. Still, this is one of the top police scanners around. Click for our full review of the TRX 1.

PROS:

  • Crisp sound
  • Programmable backlight
  • Suited with Micro SD Card

CONS:

  • Difficult to read display
  • Clunky Programming

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2. Uniden HomePatrol-2 – (Alternative Good Police Scanner)

Features:

  • Quick-recording & playback
  • Instant replay
  • Simple programming for finding channels
  • S.A.M.E. Alerts
  • Trunk Tracker V

Overview:

Third on our best police scanner list is the Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital mobile scanner. Using the HomePatrol USB cable, anybody with a device from the HomePatrol series can update their database. By typing in your zip code, you can look for channels within a local area like EMS, fire, etc. With this HomePatrol digital police scanner, you can join Phase-1, Phase-2, x2-tdma, ltr system, that means it is great to use at home or right outside. For our in-depth review of this police scanner, follow this link: https://ratedradardetector.org/police-scanner/uniden-homepatrol-2-review/.

Ease of Use

The Uniden HomePatrol-2 has gained its reputation as a “simple program scanner.” Unlike competing radio scanners that try to fill this claim, the HomePatrol-2 portable police scanner fulfills it. It is easy to install, program, and use. Its battery lasts long too, while the included USB cable makes it easy to fill the battery up again.

While its ease of use is one of HomePatrol-2 ‘s standout capabilities, it has a few other hidden treats as well. S.A.M.E. alerts, TrunkTracker V, and the ability to receive coverage in the USA and Canada makes this an excellent police scanner from Uniden HomePatrol series regardless of your skill level.

Recording Functionality

If you want a tool for the documentation of the transmissions you listen to, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 has you covered. A micro SD card is included as well so you can keep your recordings later. You can activate it by pressing the record button.

The recordings reflect the unit information metadata and the recordings that reflect the traffic on-screen on this HomePatrol scanner.

Consumer Opinion

One consumer noted that the Uniden HomePatrol does not identify encrypted radio transmission. Some of the communication channels are encrypted, not all of them. Just because a channel is on the reference database of the radio system doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get info from it.

But, there were some minor flaws as well in the HomePatrol scanner’s control settings. For advanced use, these felt limited due to the inability to encrypt decrypted channels. Still, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 is a great option if you need a home scanner that’s easy to use and receptive enough to spot multiple traffic. The built-in antenna on this digital mobile scanner ain’t that good as well.

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive user capability
  • Enhanced Scanners

CONS:

  • Lacks command for experts
  • Screen is slow to respond

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3. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Police Scanner

Features:

  • 40,000 Frequencies
  • Comes with a Do Not Disturb Mode
  • Includes both Military & Civil Aircraft Bans
  • Alpha tagging systems
  • Close Call RF Capture Technology
  • Easy search with direct access

Overview:

The Uniden Bearcat 500 is a versatile handheld scanner that has a solid grip and over 40,000 frequencies to listen to. You’ll find it allows you to organize 500 channels by location, department, area of interest, or any other form you’d prefer. Let’s dig deeper into what this best police scanner can offer.

Performance

Performance-wise, you’ll find that the Uniden Bearcat 500 radio scanner is highly effective. Reception-wise, the VHF-High can pick up transmissions from police stations. Thus, you can use this radio scanner to listen to anything from fire departments, air agencies, and local transmissions.

The audio is good on this radio scanner as well. The speaker has a volume that’s just right to be heard over radio noise. Cranking the volume settings to its highest, the handheld scanner causes some distortion, but not too much to make it unintelligible.

LCD Screen

The device’s large screen is one of its standout features. On it, you’d see the alpha tag, frequency, mode, strength meter, number, and PL tone. Also, the LCD shows weather priority symbols, if it is activated.

We wish that we could dim the backlight although it’s easy to read. We find it not too bright, but we wish we could save batteries. It would be nice if it can find a way to switch off the backlight by just pressing a button. Or you can program it to come on with keypress only, squelch only, or both.  

You’ll find the side of the scanner has plastic molded grooves that enable the user to easily grip onto the scanner. It is well balanced and holds well when placed upright on the desk. Also, it doesn’t tip over with its extended antenna.

Consumer Opinion

Direct access is one of the main reasons why consumers buy this best police scanner, because it’s relatively easier to do a quick search especially in a local area. For example, if you want to listen to the cops on Ch.300. To directly go to it, click the Hold button, then the 300 buttons to find the channel. Now that will be on Ch.300 waiting for a transmission!

However, some consumers have concerns with its connectivity. All of the police channels are encrypted, making it difficult to spot them. This is not a police scanner, but a specific frequency scanner.

PROS:

  • CTCSS/DCS features
  • Weather Alerts
  • Portable, lightweight design
  • 500 channels

CONS:

  • Weak Wifi connection

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4. Whistler TRX-2 Police Scanner

Features:

  • Spectrum Sweeper
  • Removable magnetic head
  • IF Discriminator Out
  • Simple Zip Code Programming
  • DCS and CTCSS audible detector
  • Digital Scanning

Overview:

The Whistler TRX-2 digital desktop scanner 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. This showcases that external accessories to keep it upright won’t be necessary anymore.

SKYWARN Button

Additionally, there is a weather button and SKYWARN button to determine inclement conditions that will give reports hours before the news. For those trying to be notified quickly, it will give you real-time reports to listen to.

Scanning Capabilities

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

Thus, you will be able to associate with multiple channels with this scanner. This places it a step ahead of its competitors. It can browse up to 70 channels per second. And because it supports an SD card, you can store millions of channels on this one. You can listen to police, EMS, fire, aircraft, and whatever you need. For high-speed link needs, the TRX-2 is the best option.

Consumer Opinion

Consumers like how the Whistler TRX-2 is pre-programmable with a nationwide database. You’ll find that it allows you to enter a zip code and will start surveying signals within the right area. Some of them you might not want, so the device allows you to make customized profiles for your favorite local area search.

Another reason why consumers like this scanner product is its frequent radio updates. It can also perceive via NXDN after installing the device’s firmware. Because of this, it is a no-brainer why consumers say that this product works well.

PROS:

  • Get free radio updates
  • Stores different functions with V Scanner
  • User-created profiles

CONS:

  • No third party software support
  • Backlight problems

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5. Uniden Bearcat BC75XLT Police Scanner

Features:

  • 10 Programmable Search Ranges
  • Close call RF Capture Technology
  • Allows programming of 300 Channels
  • PC desktop programming port & free software
  • 2 AA alkaline or Simple cord-charging
  • NOAA weather channels

Overview:

The last on our list is the Uniden BC75XLT, a handheld digital type with a compact build that makes it portable and convenient for listening in any condition—even during disasters and extreme situations. It works awesome even in a moving vehicle, making it easy to listen to new reports coming in from disaster response teams. In addition, you’ll find it easy to select bands with the BC75XLT, including NOAA weather broadcasts and other ones used by Amature Radio Operators. Guides on happenings, auto races and other channels you want can be heard with theBC75XLT too. 

Programmable Memory

With Uniden BC75XLT, you get the convenient option of having up to 300 frequencies programmed into the scanner. This allows seamless switching to tune into various events after their nearest transmissions are saved in the BC75XLT. No need to waste hours looking for them.

Close-Call RF Capture and NOAA Weather

You’ll also find that the BC75XLT monitors the weather with a capturing ability for wide and long-range frequencies, much earlier than the news. New owners will find weather and close call transmissions helpful, especially for public-service workers that need to look for any close sign of risk in their local area and guides everybody in observing precautions with their vehicle, home, and family.

Consumer Opinion

Customer’s opinions on the BC75XLT vary, with many wanting to recommend the product and some finding it hard to operate the handheld digital scanner. However, the positive reviews seem to outnumber the negatives. Here are some of them:

The Uniden BC75XLT is a product that is easy to set up with mounting accessories, as well as reliable power in linking to signals even in a railroad vehicle or yard. People prefer it as it simply works while events are in action, but also the ease in the programming. Monitoring of frequencies isn’t that necessary in having to operate the BC75XLT because 300 channels can be stored in the memory.

However, on the account of some buyers, as they try mounting the BC75XLT they felt the poor construction of its body, simply made from plastic. Consumers want a sturdier build. Some even find it hard to market BC75XLT because, among other products, it has an incomprehensible manual.

PROS:

  • All-system compatible
  • Long battery life
  • Clear signal reception compared to other products

CONS:

  • Use isn’t allowed while charging
  • Bulky design, especially on the base part

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Buying Recommendations For Police Scanners

Still confused about which one of the best police scanners you need to purchase? Here are some buying tips to help you pick which scanner on the market is the best for you.

How Police Scanners Work

If you know how AM/FM radio stations work, then you already know how scanning gadgets work. AM/FM sends broadcasts via radio waves. So are cellphones, CB radio, and television.

A radio scanner allows you to communicate with UHF and VHF range. This allows users to listen to conversations between sanitation workers, and emergency workers, and others within your community. If you’re not familiar with the police codes on radio scanners, check out this page.

Uses

Here are the most common uses of a police scanner:

  • Neighborhood watch
  • Hospitals
  • Dispatch centers and patrols
  • Corporate security workers
  • School structure
  • Radio hobbyists and home workers

Anyone involved in communications infrastructure or emergency response might need radio scanners – plus anyone in the local area who is curious.

Frequency Coverage

Different agencies use different frequencies, and different models cover many frequencies. With advanced radio scanners, you can look up frequencies within your local agencies that you’re into following in your area.

Types of Radios

Conventional

If your police scanner uses one frequency for each communication channel, it is a conventional radio system. You can’t use conventional radio scanners to hear a trunking conversation.

Trunk Tracking

With trunking or trunked radios, a myriad of agencies can use a few frequencies. This allows sharing in congested circumstances. Usually, trunking is found in urban areas. The trunked mechanism will pick up conventional ones, but trunking can’t happen vice-versa.

Modes

Analog and digital are the two modes. Some scanners support both analog and digital, but what’s the difference?

Digital

Most larger cities have switched from analog to digital. This new mode has better quality and signal response. While digital scanners have a high price, you should shell out extra money to buy one used in your local area.

Analog

Analog is the most basic, inexpensive, and common models of scanners available. Analog scanners are usually found in smaller towns and rural communities. However, they won’t discern those that are being transferred via digital. Before you pick an analog scanner in the market, make sure it’s commonly used in your community.

Features

What should you look for when shopping for the ideal police scanners? Here is an overview that helps you make the best selection when doing product comparisons that are more than just accessories.

Channels

How many channels do you need? Before, only 10 channels are included. If 10 to 20 channels is enough for you, then you’re probably listening to only a few agencies in your area. Today, many models offer a large number of channels, with some providing 300 channels or even 500 channels.

Lists & Banks

This lets you organize a large number of channels into “banks.” For instance, you can store different frequencies such as Police Fire and Aircraft. If the police scanner has Dynamic-Memory Allocation, you might also have Listed. This is similar to banks, except that users have authority over what channels are on each list.

Search Speed

This tells you how quick your scanner can search throughout channels. If you have hundreds of channels to search 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 search and transmissions to listen to, you need a search speed of 50-100 channels per second.

Alpha Tags

A trunked radio system allows the device to get the right mode for any available frequency. This lets people override the selection more if necessary.

Dynamic Memory

This gives people more supervision 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 slots.

If your radio scanner has a memory system, you can customize the bank sizes so you can have room for smaller banks if you need them. This frees up slots for larger banks.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is measured in microvolts. The greater the sensitivity, the lower the number. You want a digital scanner with higher sensitivity so you can hear radio transferral even if they’re weak. This is useful if you live in a rural environment or monitoring aircraft. Often this depends on the antenna, so make sure to get a scanner with the reliable antenna installed, no matter if you’re using a handheld or base scanner. The antenna may be purchased as part of separate accessories.

Emergency Use

Some excellent police scanners are better designed for crises than others. If you want a digital scanner that’s quick so you can listen to public safety transmissions during a disaster, look for one that has automatic connections to a weather station like S.A.M.E.

Also, you have to consider battery life. Scanners that use AA batteries are easy to get power from. That can keep your scanner going for longer when disaster strikes in an area. Most battery-powered scanners come with a cord to charge the battery too, so it is more convenient. The crucial thing here is to keep your batteries charged always.

Local Priority

There are thousands of radio channels out there. Finding a scanner that can detect local radio stations makes it easier to listen to radio source transmission services. That’s what most people want to hear, especially local police department transmissions, not the policemen that are four cities away.

With GPS compatibility, you can make your police scanner more optimized to your location.

Legality

The majority of what you can listen to from your police radio scanner is legal to hear. Some unavailable communications are encrypted or scrambled communication services. Besides, some laws prohibit using radio communication for financial gain or committing crimes.

State laws can impose additional restrictions on your scanner use, usually on scanner use to listen to cops’ radios on the network. Even with states with these laws, you can listen to police fire, air, and other configurations when you’re at home if you’re keen on being informed about public safety.

The information on laws about police scanners is a summary of the US scanners’ laws. It’s not supposed to replace an attorney’s counsel or act as legal advice. Most prosecutions are attempts to disclose phone calls to mess with privacy or tamper with local police or law enforcement. For the most part, listening is legal, unless you’re tampering with the signal or information communicated. Much like radar detectors are legal in most states, while police laser jammers are not.

Scanners who listen to emergencies such as car accidents or house fires should not enter the emergency site. Listeners should also not block access to the district officials who might be under space conditions.

Conclusion

Whether its a regular, portable handheld, base mobile scanner, this review has different kinds to help you search and buy the best device you need for your personal use, inside the car or in public. For an overall high-quality police scanner that can keep track of miscellaneous 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. Whichever one you listen to, you’ll have a police scanner whose offers and value will meet its price. For other options not on this list, you may see our separate reviews for Uniden BCD536HP and Uniden SDS200 (here).

Do you have any questions about buying leading police scanners?

Tell us in the comments below or explore more of our website.

William

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