The Radio scanner hobby can be technical with more advanced receivers being produced all the time but starting out with scanners doesn’t have to cook your brain cells trying to understand your shiny new radio.
There are some excellent scanners that are inexpensive and will ease the novice into this fascinating hobby while letting you listen to some interesting transmissions. We are going to show you some of these scanners and cover the basic types to find the one that suits your needs.
To make a good choice when choosing a scanner its important to understand exactly what you want from this piece of equipment, even more so if this is your first radio scanner.
Handheld vs Home base Scanners
Due to the technology used to make scanners being so much smaller these days there is not much in the performance side of things that will separate home base from handheld scanners but both have advantages in other areas.
Because most of the signals you listen to on a scanner work on the line of sight principle getting a bit of height with your handheld scanner will greatly increase the amount of transmissions you are able to receive, where as the signals available to the home base scanner are limited by its static location.
The antennas on handheld scanners work perfectly fine for receiving transmissions but are limited because the antenna length is coiled to fit into the small size. Setting up a quality wide band home base antenna mounted high outside your house will outperform the handhelds antenna by a huge factor.
Manufactures like to keep the size of handheld scanners to a minimum and the one challenge is always going to be giving you a control and display that is easy to use. Because of the limited space on the front of the scanner the display will be smaller and many keys will have dual functions compare to a home base scanner that will have a larger easier to read display and a more comfortable spaced out control panel.
Home base scanners will take their power from the main supply where handhelds will rely on a unique rechargeable battery of standard battery types (AA or AAA). Buying a handheld scanner that has a unique battery means that once that battery is dead you cannot use the scanner until you get it charged but buying a scanner that uses off the shelf standard batteries gives you the option to swap them out any time you choose.
To save yourself a big chunk of money over the long term its advisable to invest in some quality rechargeable batteries to power your handheld scanner.
What to Look for in a Radio Scanner
There are a number of important features to take note of when choosing a new radio scanner and some of these will depend on what transmissions you intend to use the scanner to listen to.
This is probably the most crucial feature that you should look at on a new radio as the range of frequencies is going to tell you exactly what radio signals you are going to be able to receive. Any scanner that covers from 25 MHz to around 800 MHz is going to be useful as long as there are not too many gaps within this range.
Popular Scanner Frequency Bands
27 MHz to 28 MHz : Citizen Band (CB) Channelized FM transmissions.
50 MHz, 70MHz, 145MHz, 433MHz : Amateur Bands, lots of FM transmissions.
108–118.00 MHz : VHF Aircraft Band, Always aircraft transmissions to listen to.
Airband is nearly almost standard these days on new scanners and if you have a choice of two radios and one is fitted with the airband option then pick that one.
Be careful to check that the radio covers the required frequencies and has the AM receive mode as both of these are needed in an airband radio scanner.
Public Services and Trunking Radio
Many countries now use a digital system called trunking to transmit emergency and public service radio signals. Receiving these signals requires a Trunking Scanner to successfully decode and track conversations on a trunking network. A basic scanner will be inexpensive because it will not have digital trunking capabilities and unable to receive some public service transmissions.
More memory is always better in any scanner as this is where your can store all your favorite frequencies for instant recall. A good index system is important to be able to name, sort and group all your stored frequencies for easy access.
We hope you have found this page useful for finding a good beginners radio scanner.
For more information about home base scanner antennas please go to our Scanner Discone post.