Whistler WS1040 Review

13th Feb,2022

When it comes to powerful performance and an impressive feature set, the Whistler WS1040 Digital Handheld Scanner is one of the best police scanners out there. It provides a large memory, dynamic storage options, and other innovative features. The WS1040 is a mid-range digital scanner that advanced users love.

In this Whistler WS1040 review, we discuss the multiple things that make this police scanner shine as well as some exciting features that may be new to you.

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What’s in the Box

  • Whistler WS1040
  • Rubber duck antenna
  • AC Adapter
  • PC/IF Cable
  • 2 Battery Cases (1 for alkaline, 1 for rechargeable)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Owner’s Manual


A handheld digital scanner like the Whistler WS1040 is a handy piece of equipment to have whenever you need the latest updates on-the-go. This scanner covers an increased spectrum since it can decode both analog and digital signals. If you’re still using a basic analog scanner, it’s time to make the switch to a digital one. After all, digital models are sweeping the market and that trend is not about to go backward. If you like to stay on top of things, going digital is a wise move. 


The Whistler WS1040 is handheld, making it easy to carry with you at all times. Although bulkier than other handheld scanners like the Uniden BC125AT, the WS1040 packs in a lot for its size. Both the LCD screen and the keypad are backlit so you can easily operate it in low-light conditions. Many scanners out there only have a backlit screen, so the keypad in the WS1040 provides a real advantage. 


The device has a broad spectrum that covers 25-1300 MHz. It can detect signals in the AM, FM, NFM, P25, and also CTCSS and DCS. A competitive advantage of the Whistler WS1040 over most Uniden models is its ability to decode P25 and CTCSS/DCS during searching, whereas Uniden can’t do both actions at the same time. Furthermore, the device supports multi-trunking systems and scans most trunked radio system signaling formats. Overall, it’s a digital scanner that covers a wide range of channels so you don’t miss out on anything. You can read up on the codes for police scanners to understand what’s being transmitted through the channels.

Free-form Memory

While older police scanner models have rigid memory banks, the Whistler WS1040 uses free-form memory which is more dynamic and efficient. Instead of frequencies, the device scans “objects” which can include channels, talk groups, service searches, spectrum sweeps, and more. You can then create up to 20 Scan Lists where you can add these objects to for easy access later. Scan Lists are the core of the WS1040, and they can be named, organized, and structured in any way you want. As such, even though the Whistler is advertised to be able to store 1800 frequencies, it actually has space for about 38,000 scannable objects. With almost limitless list combinations, the way you manage your device is entirely up to you. 

Object-Oriented User Interface 

As previously mentioned, the Whistler WS1040 scans for objects. This can be channels, trunked system talk groups, limit searches, service searches, or spectrum sweeps. Unique to Whistler, the Object-Oriented User Interface (OOUI) makes things easier to operate due to a more logical layout of the elements and options. 


You can program the WS1040 manually. If you’re a beginner, you’d have to refer to the manual for instructions and take a little bit of time to get it right. You can also refer to our own guide, video tutorials and forums if you like. PC programming can be done too as there’s a PC Cable included in the box. You do need software like the BuTel ARC500 for this.

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Multi-color LED Alert 

One of my favorite features in the Whistler WS1040 is the bright LED light that can be programmed to show a different color for certain notifications. For instance, you can set a certain color for each channel type you listen to – red for fire and emergencies, blue for police, green for amateur radio, and so on. With this, you can determine the scanner’s activity at a glance even if you’re not holding it.

Audible Alarms 

Used in conjunction or separate from the alert LEDs, audible alarms can be programmed to a different tone depending on the type of activity the scanner does. As such, you’re alerted to scanner activity even if you’re not looking at the device.  

VScanner Technology 

Another impressive feature of the Whistler WS1040 is its ability to store complete radio configurations for later use. With 21 sets of scanner memories, this is like having 21 different scanners that can be brought up at any time. Configurations can depend on user habits and various scanning targets. If you share the WS1040 with family members or a team, each individual can bring up their own custom scanner setting.  

Automatic Adaptive Digital Tracking 

This ensures you always have a clear signal by automatically adjusting to the transmission. No more manual adjustments every time a transmission is fading, the WS1040 will do it for you.

Digital AGC 

Digital systems normally have low raw audio levels. The Whistler WS1040 compensates for this by boosting audio levels with a digital AGC. 

One-touch weather access 

At a single push of a button, you can activate the SAME and Skywarn Storm Spotter function so you are instantly updated on the latest weather news.

Pros and Cons

Of course, this Whistler WS1040 review would not be complete without listing the pros and cons of the product. In a nutshell, here’s what to like and not to like about the product:

  • Handheld and portable
  • Free-form memory
  • Backlit LCD and keypad
  • Object Oriented User Interface
  • LED alert and audible alarms
  • V-Scanner technology

  • Bulkier compared to other models
  • Advanced options can overwhelm beginners

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Whistler WS1040 Review Conclusion

On the whole, the Whistler WS1040 is one of the best handheld digital scanners in the mid-range plane. It offers outstanding analog and digital decoding, object oriented interface, V-scanner technology, and a ton of other options for the advanced user. It definitely packs in an impressive performance for the price. Still too hefty for you? You can still go a little more affordable.

William Johnson

William Johnson is the owner and founder of RatedRadarDetector.org. He writes about car accessories, with his passion stemming from a deep enthusiasm for all things automotive. His website, RRD, focuses on in-depth reviews of car accessories to help people find the best and latest products in the market.