Uniden BCD396T - Monitoring Times

Uniden Raises the Bar Again – BCD396T
By Larry Van Horn, N5FPW
Assistant Editor Monitoring Times
ob Grove says it’s “the most advanced
scanner ever designed.” And when
you look at all the scanning capability
built into this small package, truer words have
never been spoken. The new Uniden BCD396T
handheld is truly a marvel of modern scanning
Released hot on the heels of the extremely
popular Uniden BC246T scanner, many of the
innovative features included in that scanner can
be found in this new release. Some of the features
have been expanded and updated, and new features have been added. You can read our complete
review on the BC246T in the December 2004 MT
First Look, pages 79-80, or on the Monitoring
Times website at: http://www.monitoringtimes.
❖ Case, Controls and the
The BCD396T is a descendant of the popular
BC296T scanner. However, other than sharing
some of the same frequency coverage and the
same basic RF and trunk capability, there is very
little similarity between them.
The 396 case is much smaller than its 296
predecessor, measuring 2.40 (W) x 1.22 (D) x
5.35 (H) inches and weighing in at 9.6 ounces
with batteries, four ounces without.
There is a cobalt blue backlight system for
the 1-5/16 by 13/16-inch liquid crystal display.
There are four user selectable menu options
for display backlighting: backlight on for 10 or 30
seconds (push button selectable), squelch (backlight illuminates when the squelch opens and
stays on for five seconds), keypress (backlight
turns on when any key is pressed then stays on
for 10 seconds), and infinite (backlight turns on
when you press the multi-function power on/off
key, then stays on until you press it again). The
keyboard is also backlit using the same color and
control features that the LCD screen uses.
There is only one knob (scroll type) on
the top of the unit that controls a variety of the
scanner’s functions. Depending on which other
controls are depressed, the multi-function scroll
knob is used to set volume and squelch levels,
adjust menu settings, enter text, change channels
in the hold mode, resume scanning, and change
display screens.
There are two push buttons on the side of
the 396 that perform the same operations as the
buttons on the side of the 246 – function and menu
selections. These controls are the heart of the
scanner’s menu, display, and additional control
functions, in conjunction with keys on the front
July 2005
of the scanner.
In a major departure from previous Uniden
scanners, the 396 uses a flexible antenna with an
SMA connector. They have included a BNC to
SMA adapter for additional antenna connection
options. Antenna jack impedance is 50 ohms.
❖ Checking under the hood
Looking inside the radio we found a world of
scanning capability. Here are some of the features
that BC246T owners will be familiar with.
• Close Call© RF capture technology can set the
scanner so it detects and provides information
about nearby radio transmissions. In a head
to head test we performed between the 246
and 396, the Close Call© function was much
improved in the 396 due to the increased sensitivity figures that the 285/296/396 scanners
have over the 245/246 series of radios.
• Dynamically allocated channel memory was
first introduced in the 246 (see our review
mentioned above for a detailed description of
how this works). This type of scanner memory
can be organized so that the scanner operation more closely matches how radio systems
actually work, making it easier to program and
use the scanner, and to determine how much
scanner memory is being used and how much
is left. The 246 has a total of 2,500 memory
locations used for frequencies, talkgroups, and
alpha tags. The 396 has a whopping 6,000
memory locations for programming for the
same uses mentioned above.
Searches – There are over 160 preprogrammed
systems covering police, fire, and ambulance
operations in the most populated counties in
the U.S., plus the most popular digital trunk
systems. The unit also has a custom search
feature that lets the user program any of 10
custom search ranges simultaneously.
100 Quick keys let the user quickly select
systems and groups by using the keypad.
This makes it easy to listen to or quickly lock
out those systems or groups to scan or not to
12 Service Searches – Frequency ranges are
programmed for searches of the following
radio services: public safety, news, amateur
radio, marine, railroad, civilian air, CB radio,
FRS/GMRS, racing, TV broadcast, FM broadcast, and special searches.
Personal computer (PC) control allows the user
to transfer programming data to and from the
396 and a PC, or actually control the scanner’s
operation using a computer. Uniden will be
supplying 396 owners their free UASD PC
control and programming software on their
company website http://www.uniden.com.
Cloning over-the-air and wired – User can
clone all data over-the-air (frequency is selectable by the user) from a PC to one or more 396
scanners (a new feature from Uniden). Cloning
includes all programmed data, the contents
of the scanner’s memory, menu settings, and
other parameters. Cloning is also possible
from one 396 to another 396 using a serial
computer cable, null modem adapter, gender
changer (not included), and the computer
interface cable included with each unit.
Like many of the recently released Uniden
scanner models, the 396 will perform a NOAA
weather band search, SAME weather alert,
and weather priority scan. There is also a very
fast CTCSS/DCS tone search capability. This
feature has been much improved over earlier
Uniden scanners that included this capability.
There are a lot of other BC396T features that
BC246T users will recognize – far too many to
include in this review. You can get more information on these features by viewing a copy of the
owner’s manual on the Grove Enterprises website
at: http://www.grove-ent.com/bc396tman.
❖ New Trunk Tracking
4-3/4 Stars
The BCD396T is a Trunk Tracker IV ©
model scanner. Like its 246 sibling, this lets
the user follow unencrypted conversations on
analog Motorola, Motorola mixed mode (3600
MT First Look Rating (0-10 scale)
Audio Quality...................................8
Audio Levels ....................................9
Backlight/Display .............................7
Battery Life ......................................8
Ease of Use ......................................8
Feature Set ......................................9
Keyboard/Button/Control Layout ......8
Overall Construction ........................8
Overall Reception ............................8
Owners Manual ..............................8
baud) systems, Motorola Astro 25 (APCO 25
9600 baud) systems, EDACS (wide and narrow),
EDACS SCAT, and LTR trunked radio systems.
Trunk systems in VHF, UHF, the new 700 MHz
public safety band, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz bands
can be programmed. This includes trunk systems
now being installed by the Department of Defense in the new 380-399.9 MHz LMR subband.
This makes the 396 the first scanner capable of
following trunk systems in all the bands where
trunk systems are operational. The scanner can
also scan both conventional and trunked systems
at the same time.
In addition, the 396 does Motorola control
channel trunking: If the scanner is set to scan
Motorola trunk frequencies, the user sets it so it
tracks the trunk system using only control channel
data. In this mode, as long as all possible control
channels have been programmed into memory,
you do not have to program the system's voice
channel frequencies.
❖ What's New
There are several new features and innovations in the 396. This is the first Uniden scanner
that has the APCO digital card built in (no extra
card to purchase).
Other noteworthy new features include:
• Adaptive digital threshold – Automatically sets
the digital decode threshold for APCO digital
systems. User can also manually adjust or
reset to default digital reception levels.
• Analog and digital audio automatic gain control (AGC) – Helps automatically balance the
volume level between different radio systems,
both digital and analog.
• Fire tone-out standby – Lets the user set the
scanner to alert you if a two-tone sequential
page is transmitted. You can set up to 10 settings (transmit frequency, tone frequencies,
tone duration and tone gap) then select one
of the programmed positions for standby
monitoring and alerting.
• Broadcast screen – Sets the scanner so it
ignores Close Call© or search hits on FM/TV
broadcast frequencies, including known pager
• Custom screen – Lets you input up to 10
frequency ranges that the scanner will ignore
during Close Call© or search operation.
❖ What's in the box?
In addition to the BCD396T scanner, accessories included in the box include a PC interface
cable, three "AA" 2300mAH rechargable batteries, wrist strap, AC adapter/charger, swivel belt
clip, rubber duck antenna, BNC/SMA adapter,
owner's manual, Bearcat frequency guide, and a
National Public Safety Trunk System frequency
Unfortunately, the two printed frequency
guides included in the box are out-of-date. If
you are looking for current information I recommend you visit the Radioreference.com website
or purchase a current Police Call book for your
❖ Overall Rating and Final
Most of the complaints about the Uniden
BC246T I penned in my review last December
have vaporized with the release of the BCD396T.
Overall, I am very impressed that Uniden has
packed so much into such a small package.
Milair enthusiasts are the big winners with
the release of the 396 and they are going to love
this scanner. Imagine going to an airshow not
knowing any of the frequencies being used, and
being able to find most of the active frequencies
using the 396 Close Call feature in the 225-400
MHz band. That is a huge plus for milair monitoring.
I do have three minor complaints with the
BCD396T: audio quality, backlight of the display,
and keypad durability.
While the scanner’s audio quality is very
good, it falls just a notch below the audio delivered by the BC246T. The addition of the analog
and digital AGC circuitry is a big plus for audio
levels, however.
The cobalt blue color of the backlight
doesn’t impact keyboard usage nearly as much
as it does the display portion of the unit. Even
with maximum contrast dialed in, the screen can
be difficult to see in certain lighting situations.
While the overall display has improved over the
BC246T, the blue backlighting still makes viewing difficult.
Finally, I am concerned about keypad durability and the permanence of the keypad button
printing. Some have complained of the imprinting
wearing off the buttons on the BC246T, and this
could still be an issue with the BCD396T. Only
time will tell.
Bottom line, Uniden has raised the scanner
market bar again. No one in the marketplace
currently offers a scanner – whether handheld or
base/mobile – that equals the frequency coverage plus listening capability to be found in the
Table One: BCD396T Frequency Coverage
Freq Range
Step (kHz)
25.0000-27.9950 AM
28.0000-29.6800 NFM
29.7000-49.9900 NFM
50.0000-53.9800 NFM
54.0000-71.9500 WFM
72.0000-75.9950 FM
76.0000-87.9500 WFM
Note: The scanner’s frequency coverage is not
continuous and does not include the cellular
telephone, UHF TV bands, or the 956-1240
MHz ranges.
Table Two: Miscellaneous Specifications
Dynamic allocation capacity
Systems: 400 maximum
Groups: 20 per system
Channels: up to 6000 (3000 typical)
Channels (talkgroups) per trunk system: Up to
Operating temperature:
Normal –20°C to +60°C
Close Call –10°C to +60°C
Scan rate:
100 channels per second (conventional
Search rate:
300 steps per second (5 kHz step only)
Scan delay:
0-5 seconds
Audio output:
400mW nominal into 24 ohm internal speaker
30 mW nominal into 32 ohm headphone
6 mW nominal into 64 ohm earphone
Power Requirements:
3 AA Alkaline batteries (4.5V DC),
or 3 AA rechargeable batteries (3.6V DC),
or AC adapter (6 VDC 800mA regulated)
(Model AD-1001)
External speaker jack: 3.5mm
DC power jack (EIAJ TYPE-2 center positive):
Remote jack: 4 pin mini
Note: Features, specifications, and availability of
optional accessories are all subject to change
without notice by the manufacturer. Information presented above was based on the test
unit provided by the manufacturer.
The Uniden BCD396T (SCN 47) is available
from Grove Enterprises (1-800-438-8155 or
http://www.grove-enterprises.com) for $524.95
plus shipping.
July 2005