Ever wondered how informative and entertaining it would be if you could listen on to what the local police personnel is talking about or how they communicate with each other while they are on patrol? Or maybe you are a journalist or a crime investigator who requires being well-informed about the progression going on in an ongoing investigation and will have to gather as much information as possible for your report, but are not being able to find an appropriate device for it. Police scanners or radio scanners are receiver devices that can tune into different conversations that are going on at different frequencies.
Apart from police department frequencies, these scanners can enable you to listen to channels used by the air force, marines, radios that are transmitting at a race track, at public events, and the list goes on. Listening to these multiple radio frequencies will give you a more live and genuine information compared to listening to a formal radio broadcast since you are actually listening to conversations that are not encrypted and are open to being accessed by the public.
Since most of these police scanners require a certain level of knowledge and skill to be able to program the different channels and also a good understanding of how it all works, it might be difficult for you to choose the right police scanner that suits your needs and preferences. Hence we have brought together some of the best police scanners that are available on the market today, along with a comparison among them so that it is easier for you to fix your mind on the one that is perfect for you.
This digital police scanner from Uniden offers many top-notch features along with a sturdy built and a user-friendly design combined with the ability to scan through a wide range of radio systems with high efficiency, which has pulled it to the best pick position on our list.
If you are quite not sure whether using police scanners is a hobby that is suitable for you and is not ready to spend a fortune on acquiring one, yet do not want the quality to be compromised, then this is an affordable police scanner that is reliable and offers many features that you will find useful.
Quick Comparison Between The Best Police Scanners
Apart from our best and the budget picks, there are more police scanners that we found to be highly reliable and useful for anyone who is looking for a great police scanner. In the section below, we will be comparing nine such police scanners that you can find today, along with their description including what we thought is great and not so great about them.
1. Uniden BC125AT
This is a handheld receiver that is highly portable and if you are a seasoned user of police scanners who is experienced and skilled in programming analog scanners, then this is a great scanner to go for. This radio allows you to tune into more than 40,000 frequencies including bands belonging to different police departments, weather, marine, aircraft, etc. Not only that, this radio allows you to save up to 500 channels, with the freedom to set alphanumeric names for each of them so that you can easily access them whenever you want to.
To allow automatic reception of signals from any transmitter that is close to you, this radio is geared with a feature called Close Call RF capture. Additionally, it also has another mode called Do Not Disturb, which prevents interruptions during transmission. The radio offers other handy features such as weather alert function to make you aware of any weather conditions, and a backlit display that allows you to see the screen clearly even in the dark.
2. Uniden BCD996P2
If you are thinking of listening in to as many police channels as possible that are not encrypted, then this is a great scanner to go for since this radio is a digital Phase II radio, instead of analog or digital Phase I, which means that it will enable you to listen in to analog, LTR trunked, EDACS, digital Phase I, and digital Phase II radio systems. Another great thing about this radio is that it can be both used as a mobile radio or at your home radio base station since it is easily mountable on any surface through the mounting brackets.
The radio also offers many useful features that the radio enthusiasts will especially enjoy using, for example, Advanced Dynamic Memory System which is an upgraded system for storing and accessing your channels in a highly organized way. You can save up to 25,000 channels on this radio and access them quickly by using the Quick Key System Access. Since the radio is compatible with GPS, you will get geographical-region based information and alerts, apart from the weather alerts, which is a life-saving tool to have if you frequently travel into dangerous roads with your vehicle. So that you can automatically tune into the channels that are close to you, the radio is equipped with Close Call RF Capture, which is one of the popular features that only Uniden offers. With this radio’s broad frequency coverage, you will be able to listen to all frequencies from 25MHz to 1.3 GHz, except UHF TV and Cellular frequencies.
3. Uniden BCD536HP Digital Phase 2 Base/Mobile Scanner
If you are a scanner enthusiast that do not mind going the extra mile in scanning your favorite police channels and are desiring to attain a professional grade police scanner, then this is a radio that is worth looking into. This top-notch product from Uniden surpasses a lot of the previous models due to its highly upgraded features. It has two features that are rarely found on police scanners, which are Wi-Fi capabilities and a dedicated App that lets you connect to your scanner through your phone or tablet, which is a great tool to have both at home and in your vehicle while traveling.
Another highlight of this scanner is its HomePatrol Programming which is a program that allows you to start loading police, emergency, and fire department channels automatically in an instant once you enter your zip code, saving you from the trouble of extensive and cumbersome programming. This feature makes this scanner the easiest police scanner to use, even if you are a beginner to the world of radio scanners.
Since it is a digital Phase II radio, it will allow you to access a wide range of radio systems, including Phase I, Phase II, EDACS, Motorola, APCO-25, etc. This powerful scanner will allow you to receive frequencies in the range of 25-512 MHz and 758-960 MHz, and not only that, its 4GB storage and ability to increase storage using SD cards allow you to store a virtually unlimited numberof channels, with the added advantage of keys for quick access to channelsaccording to departments or locations.
Apart from its stellar performance, this radio has a modern, sleek design with a backlit screen and keys that will enable to operate the scanner smoothly even in the dark.
4. Whistler WS1088 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
When it comes to police scanners, a brand name that we come across the most, besides Uniden, is Whistler. This is a handheld police scanner with which you can do much more than listening into conversations going on at police channels, for example, taking it to a race track to listen into your favorite racing team’s transmissions, receive weather alerts, etc. The layout of the keyboard on this scanner is highly organized, paired with a backlit display screen and the navigation of the functions is easy to do, due to its menu-based system. With this, you can tune into digital Phase I and Phase II radio systems and also edit and create trunked systems on your scanner, which means you can organize your frequencies into talk groups with IDs, which will allow you to use your radio channels more efficiently.
This handheld scanner comes as a good news even for the inexperienced users of scanners, since the SD card that is included within the scanner has all US and Canada frequencies programmed from beforehand so that you do not have to painstakingly program them one by one and which means the scanner is ready to be used, right after you take it out of the box. The radio also comes with a USB cable and a computer software that you can use to customize your scanner using computer software and store the scanned channels in files that are compatible with Windows. Apart from informational and entertainment purposes, this is a useful scanner that can notify you of any emergency weather conditions that are found on NOAA channels.
5. Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner
If you are an avid radio enthusiast and want to sit back in the comfort of your house and listen to the local police department channels or if you are professionally involved with the police department and want to track the channels while you are off-duty, this is a great desktop scanner that is easily mountable on a surface at your home or in your vehicle.
This scanner from Whistler is a digital trunking scanner which means you can use it to listen into many kinds of radio systems or channels such as digital Phase I, Phase II, X2-TDMA, conventional channels, etc. with the added user-friendliness of being able to divide and gather your saved channels into specific groups, which makes it easier to navigate through your scanner memory. The advantage of being able to group your channels according to similar categories is that it will be easier and quicker for you to access and listen to different channels whenever you want to. Another handy feature of this radio is that the SD card that comes with the scanner will have US and Canada frequencies preprogrammed into it which cuts down on your time and effort of having to program the channels before starting to use the scanner. Moreover, the scanner offers you an access function to instantly listen to any channel of your location, simply by entering your zip code into the scanner.The design of the radio, the backlit screen, a full-fledged keypad and a button for weather alerts makes it a highly user-friendly police scanner that can be smoothly operated by both seasoned and novice radio enthusiasts.
6. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
If you are tired of low-end scanner's poor audio quality and disorganized channel allocations, then you will not be disappointed by this police scanner from Whistler that offers excellent features for organizing and accessing your channels and a high-quality sound output.
Instead of a rigid channel saving structure, the memory of this scanner is dynamic, which means that it will form its memory efficiently and in a way that is suitable to your needs and you will have a great amount of flexibility in what you want to store and how you want to organize and sort your channels according to your preferences.
It is always time-consuming to get used to a new police scanner as you have to learn and become familiar with each menu options, but the good thing about this scanner is that it provides information in a few lines on the screen about each of the items on the menu so that it is easier for you to program the scanner from the very beginning.
The scanner is also equipped with a feature that is unique to Whistler radio scanners, called Spectrum Sweeper which sweeps through RF spectrum in 1 MHz range with a high speed and saves it and notifies you whenever it finds an active channel. You can also use this sweeper ability to search for only police department frequencies, which makes it easier for you to spot any police channels near your area.
Many of the low-quality sound output on a scanner results from the variations in the incoming frequencies and to compensate for that, this radio scanner comes with a feature called AGC or Automatic Gain Control which ensures a loud, high-quality sound output regardless of the frequencies that the scanner is receiving.This is also a great scanner if you live in an area or with a high occurrence of storms and other harsh weather conditions since this scanner will let you access storm spotting frequencies quickly, due to its Skywarn Storm Spotting function.
7. Uniden HomePatrol II TouchScreen Digital Scanner
This upgraded version of Home Patrol I from Uniden, which came as a ground-breaking innovation in the world of police scanners, and won over hearts of many radio scanner hobbyists, come with newer and better features compared to its older version.
This scanner is quite different from the traditional scanners in the sense that anyone who is interested in listening to what is going on in the police, fire or air force in their location can immediately start listening to those channels simply by entering the zip code of their locations, without involvement of any of the programming that is required for operating any conventional radio scanners.
Another unique thing about this scanner that makes it more fun and a more user-friendly device compared to the others, is its full-color display that is also a touch-screen, which is a rare thing to come across in the scene of police scanners. If you are intimidated by all the small buttons, knobs and controls that look highly technical and complicated to control on other scanners, then this scanner will be the perfect device to go for. The scanner is also compact and comes with a stand that you can use to make it sit on any surface and start scanning all the unencrypted police channels in your location. Since it is a digital scanner, you will be able to listen to a wide range of radio systems including Digital Phase I, Phase II, APCO-25, etc. Not only does it work within your home but since the scanner is compatible with GPS, you can take it along on your travels and connect it to GPS receiver and tune into any of the police channels that are near the location that you are traveling in.
8. Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
If you find the features provided by Whistler radio scanners useful and are looking for a handheld scanner from them, then this is a great scanner to choose. It offers all the features and functions that you want in a great Whistler scanner including dynamic memory, Skywarn Storm Spotter, menu items with helpful textual information on the display, etc. This scanner also allows you to save up to 1800 frequencies and also to scan for channels according to type, which makes the process faster and easier.
9. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
This is one of the newest and the most popular handheld police scanners from Whistler and when you take a look at its features, you will have an idea of why. This handheld scanner that weighs only 7.4 ounces is packed with useful functions and features. The compact design also comes with a moss green casing which adds to the durability and the aesthetics of the scanner and makes it look more attractive than the conventional products of this category.
The scanner also allows you to access channels according to your location by simply entering your zip code, which when paired with its ability to tune into a wide range of digital, analog and trunked radio systems can bring out a phenomenal improvement in scanning the police frequencies in your location. This is one of the rare scanners that allows you to tune into even NXDN, which is a narrowband frequency and cannot be accessed unless the scanner allows you to do so.The SD card of this scanner also comes with pre-programmed US and Canada frequencies so that you can start using the scanner right out of the box, but if you want to, you can program and upgrade the scanner using the appropriate software.
Now that you are familiar with some of the most useful and efficient police scanners that are available on the market, all you have to do now is to read about the few factors to be considered before buying a police scanners, that we discuss below to equip yourself with an in-depth idea of what makes a great police scanner and how to choose a police scanner that is best suited to your needs.
Things to consider before buying a police scanner
Handheld or Mountable
Police scanners come in two major forms, handheld, and mountable scanners. The handheld ones are great if portability is high on your priority list and you want to be able to be scan different channels at events or during outdoor activities. The mountable ones are great if you are looking for higher battery power, bigger display screen and controls and you want to scan the police channels from your vehicle or at your base station.
The two most popular brands that have been in this industry and have been producing reliable and user-friendly police scanner are Uniden and Whistler. It is completely up to your personal preference which one to go for, but each of the two companies offers different unique features in their products. For example, many Uniden scanners offer a feature called Close Call RF capture, which can automatically pick up any active frequency nearby, whereas Whistler scanners offer a popular feature called Skywarn Storm Spotter, which instantly gives you access to storm spotting channels so that you can stay updated about any kind of alarming weather conditions from beforehand.
Radio systems that are supported by the scanner
In police scanners, a very key feature that will help you decide whether a scanner is a right choice for you is to know which radio system it operates on. A radio scanner can operate on Analog, Trunked, Digital Phase I or Digital Phase II systems. A Digital Phase II radio scanner will allow you to listen to all radio systems, Phase I will allow you to listen to all except Phase II, Trunked will allow you to listen to only Trunked and Analog radio channels and Analog radio scanner will only allow you to listen to analog radio channels. This is why, before buying a radio scanner, you should do a little research on what radio system your local police or any department such as air force or fire department that you want to listen to, transmit on so that you can avoid buying a scanner that will not be compatible with those systems.
With all this information regarding the best police scanners on the market and how to carefully select the one that is most suitable for your hobby or professional purposes, you are ready to dive into the world of police scanners full of educational, entertainment and useful information being transmitted along thousands of frequencies!