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How to REALLY program this scanner (Quite tedious)
on April 9, 2013
(The following review is for the Uniden Bearcat BC355N scanner, and does not apply to other models.)
DISCLAIMER: I work for a well-known electronics store that currently sells this scanner along with other brands and models. Despite this, I am NOT endorsing this model of scanner, or any other particular model. I am merely posting this information as an FYI to anyone who currently has or is planning to purchase this model of scanner. Because of my professional relationship with a corporation that regularly sells scanners and other radio equipment, I have opted to select a "neutral" rating of three stars on this product. Any opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions, and are not shared by my employers or their parent corporation.
As many others have stated, this scanner is extremely difficult to program. This is because it is not a "direct-entry" scanner. I.E., you cannot manually punch in a frequency, then save it to an empty channel. This is quite bothersome. With that said, it IS possible to manually program this scanner...but it is an extremely tedious and slow process.
First off...forget the owner's manual. It implies that the only way to program a frequency into the "Private" bank is to wait until the scanner happens by miraculous luck to stop on the desired frequency while someone is broadcasting on it. Although that is one way to program it, there is a better way.
1. Make a note of the frequency you want to program in
2. Press "BAND" repeatedly until you select the band range that contains the desired frequency.
FOR EXAMPLE: If you want to program in 146.3150MHz, press "BAND" repeatedly until it says "144-148"
3. The scanner will begin searching that band range.
4. Once the display gets near the frequency you want to program, push "HOLD" to stop the search.
5. Using the UP and DOWN buttons, manually select the frequency you want to program in.
6. Push the "PROG" button. This tells the scanner that you want to save that frequency.
7. Push the "PRIVATE" button. This automatically selects the first unused channel in the "Private" bank.
8. Push the "PROG" button again to save the frequency to that channel.
You will need to repeat all of the above steps for each frequency you want to program in. All told, it's actually not too hard...it's just EXTREMELY tedious.
A few caveats you need to be aware of: First, this scanner does NOT check for duplicate entries while programming in frequencies. Thus, if you try to program in a frequency that's already been saved to a different channel, it won't alert you, and it'll effectively be a wasted channel.
Second, although this scanner is advertised as having 300 channels, the "Private" bank actually contains only 100 channels. The other 200 programmable channels are integrated into the "PD/FD/EMG" and "AIR/MRN" banks. Thus, to use the other 200 channels, you MUST have those other banks turned on. Although this might not be an issue to some people, for others it greatly increases the risk of the scanner randomly stopping on frequencies you may not wish for it to stop on. Yes, it is possible to lock out these unwanted frequencies, but depending on your location the number of unwanted frequencies may exceed the maximum number of frequencies you are allowed to lock out.
Lastly, this scanner does NOT in any way support "cloning". A vast majority of scanners made during the past 10+ years can be connected either to a computer or another scanner of identical make with a special cable, thereby allowing you to either program the scanner via software, or by copying the data from another scanner that has already been programmed. Since this scanner lacks cloning, the ONLY way to program it is by hand. Thus, the tedium mentioned earlier.
Aside from the difficulty/tediousness of programming, I'd rank this scanner as "average". The compact size is nice, but the clarity on the built-in speaker is a little lacking. Reception with the included telescopic antenna is adequate (I have not yet tested the vehicle window antenna), but you would definitely get better reception with a third-party antenna (Luckily it has a standard BNC connection for the antenna to facilitate this). I have not had any opportunity to test the "Close Call" feature, so I cannot comment on that.
Personally, I'd choose something else. But, as I said before, I'm not necessarily endorsing this or any other scanner. I simply wanted to post info on how to program the scanner, along with my thoughts in general so you can make an informed decision.