Scanners for Receiving Digital Radio

In order to accomplish your radio reception goal, it helps to have the right equipment. I hope this information increases your reception effectiveness while also saving you time and money. If you have a specific goal, I recommend that you ask others in your area what they use to accomplish the same goal—ideally borrowing their equipment to confirm that it works for you.

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Digital Radio Scanner Receiver Comparison

ModelP25 Phase 1 & 2DMRNXDNProVoiceStyleDFS Quick ImportRemote HeadFirmware Updates
Uniden SDS100
Whistler TRX-1
Uniden BCD436HP
Whistler WS1088
Whistler WS1080
Uniden BCD325P2
Unication G4/G5
Uniden SDS200
Whistler TRX-2
Uniden BCD536HP
Whistler WS1098
Whistler WS1095
Uniden BCD996P2

Table Legend:
P25, DMR, NXDN, and ProVoice columns: = Supported = Requires separate purchase for activation = Not Supported
Style: = Portable–handheld radio = Mobile–desktop radio
DFS Quick Import: = Digital Frequency Search Quick Import provides data formatted for this scanner = DFS does not support this scanner
Remote head: = Mobile scanner with remote head = No remote head   "N/A" = Not applicable to portable radios
Firmware Updates: = Firmware update applied via PC application = Firmware update copied to memory card, applied via radio (doesn't require PC connectivity during update)

Digital Radio Scanning Receivers

The following scanners are capable of receiving at least DMR and P25 digital radio. Since scanning goals differ and each location is unique, it would be impossible to issue blanket recommendations on a webpage. Therefore, many popular models are included below. When comparing prices, keep in mind that some scanners require an additional purchase to activate digital reception modes.

Digital Scanner with True IQ Reception and Full-Color Display

The Uniden SDS-200 is among the best—if not the best—radio scanners currently available. Along with the Uniden SDS-100, the newest line of Uniden scanners features an upgraded receiver that significantly improves the audio quality on digital simulcast systems. The SDS-200 can receive all of the digital formats on this website (DMR and NXDN require a paid upgrade).

The scanner has a large display and a user-friendly interface. I installed the Uniden SDS-200 in my vehicle two years ago and use it routinely for work. I highly recommend this scanner.

Best P25 Simulcast Reception on a Handheld Scanner

The Uniden SDS-100 features a True IQ receiver that provides substantially better reception of P25 simulcast sites than older scanner models. It has a full-color display and features per-call recording. However, also consider the battery life and that the battery size is quite large.

The SDS-100 is capable of receiving P25 out of the box. DMR, NXDN, and EDACS ProVoice each require a separate paid upgrade.

Fully featured portable scanner receiver supporting P25, DMR, and NXDN out of the box.

The Whistler TRX-1 is a handheld scanner receiver capable of receiving all of the digital radio frequencies on this website. No additional purchase is necessary to receive DMR and NXDN.

Digital frequencies can be imported form this website into EZ Scan (the TRX-1 programing software) in just a few steps.

The scanner’s user interface consists of an elaborate menu system and a handful of shortcut keys.

Portable digital radio scanner for those who need ProVoice reception.

The Uniden BCD436HP is a popular handheld radio scanner that scans P25 out of the box. It is also capable of receiving DMR; however, DMR activation requires a separate paid upgrade. The Uniden 436 has a paid upgrade to add EDACS ProVoice reception, which is not available on Whistler Scanners. It’s been my experience that this scanner handles EDACS the best.

Firmware updates are completed via the memory card after reboot, so firmware updates are generally a smooth process.

Popular programming software includes Sentinel, which is provided with the scanner, and BuTel ARC536, which is a third-party program. Digital Frequency Search provides frequencies in a format accepted by each of these programs.

NXDN, P25, and DMR capable mobile radio with remote head mounting option.

The Whistler TRX-2 is a base–mobile scanner receiver capable of receiving all of the digital radio frequencies on this website. The Whistler mobile scanners have a unique “remote head,” which allows you to mount the display and keypad separately from the rest of the receiver.

Digital frequencies can be imported form this website to EZ Scan (the TRX2 programing software) in just a few steps. Objects (frequencies or talkgroups) from various systems can be combined in custom made scanlists.

Please note: Many scanner dealers offer paid “programming” options for new scanners. These upcharges generally range from $35-$80 per county. I recommend against purchasing such add-ons. The dealer programmed configurations I’ve seen are not impressive, and it’s possible they are merely doing a library import—something that takes just a few minutes. Instead, find someone who will truly customize your scanning configuration while also teaching you how to program the scanner yourself.

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