Top 11 Best Radio Scanners

With the activities of the people around us affecting our way of life, we all need to stay up to date with what’s happening in our local area.

We want to pick up communications from police, fire departments, racing events, air traffic controls, and other area agency personnel that use a two-way radio to communicate. And what other devices will capture these conversations better than the radio scanners?

A radio scanner is one surefire way to keep you in the know of what’s happening around you even before it hits the news. Having reliable information on weather and road conditions can turn incredibly helpful!

Now, there are two types of radio scanners: handheld and base radio scanners. The handheld version is small and easy to carry around. Base radio scanners on the other side are larger and are for mounting in the car and home use.

Whether you want a handheld or base/desktop version of a radio scanner, picking the right option isn’t a straightforward affair. Find your next purchase from our review of the top 11 radio scanners.

Top Pick
Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner. 500...
  • Listen in and stay informed, this sophisticated scanner has 500 alpha-tagged channels in a convenient compact design with loads of features. Close Call RF capture technology instantly tunes to signals from nearby transmitters and the Do Not Disturb Mode prevents Close Call checks during a transmission.

11 Best Radio Scanners

#1 Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Base/Mobile Scanner

Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Base/Mobile Scanner

Although the handheld variety is more convenient to move around, base radio scanners have stronger antennas for better reception. The Uniden BCD536HP falls in the category of base scanners. Hence, you can count on it to pick up more of what’s happening in your local area.

Whether you have used a radio scanner before or it’s your first time, you will find this device easy to use. It doesn’t need any programming. Once you pull it out of the box, all that’s remaining is turning it on and feeding it with your zip code- and you are good to go!

The WiFi option allows you to connect it to your mobile phone or tablet via the Uniden Siren App. By linking it to your device, you will be able to remotely control it at the convenience of your handheld gadget.

You can organize your system into favorite lists depending on your priority. Additionally, this device also has custom alert functionality. This feature lets you set the tone pattern, volume, color, and flash pattern for every alert you receive.

The MicroSD card slot supports up to 32 GB when you need additional storage. The extra storage area will give you enough space to keep all your favorite lists, settings, and for scanning less-used frequencies.

Although it does its job perfectly, we must also acknowledge that this radio scanner is a step or two from perfection. For instance, the screen may grow a bit dim after several years of use. You will still use the screen, so that shouldn’t be a major concern.

Pros
  • It doesn’t need programming.
  • It connects to smartphones and tablets.
  • It supports an SD card.
Cons
  • The LED backlight may grow dim with time.

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#2 Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner

Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner

The Uniden BCD436HP is also another reliable device you can count on to keep you and your family aware of everything happening near you. It’s a handheld version, so it’s easy to bring along with you almost everywhere you go.

Although it’s small, this radio scanner is a feature-rich device. The advanced auto-tracking capabilities mean that it’s one of the units you can count on to meet your needs excellently, whether you are a professional or a scanner enthusiast.

Like the earlier sibling, getting started with this unit is a cinch! Turn it on, enter your zip code, and that’s all! That said, if you don’t want the hassle of programming, the Uniden BCD436HP should make a great option.

The size of the display is decent for a handheld version and will show details in a large and readable format. Also, most users appreciate that this handheld scanner has an instant replay function. This feature allows them to rewind recent transmissions up to 240 seconds back just in case they miss something.

With this device, you will find it easy to customize your alerts. It lets you choose between 15 volume settings, 9 tone patterns, 7 colors, and 3 flash patterns. Your alerts will now come in the exact way you want them!

Pros
  • It has instant replay.
  • It feels great in the palm.
  • You can customize alerts.
Cons
  • The full volume setting is a bit low but very clear.

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#3 Uniden BC75XLT 300-Channel Handheld Scanner

Uniden BC75XLT 300-Channel Handheld Scanner

Uniden is the industry-leading manufacturer of radio scanners. That’s why her products are very popular in the market. In fact, with her products taking the first three top spots on our list, that’s enough to tell you more about the manufacturer.

The Uniden BC75XLT is an easy-to-use device. It’s thoughtfully-built to last for many years. For instance, the antenna is rubber-coated to ensure that it doesn’t bend or break easily. Also, the buttons are soft and sensitive to give you an easy time when programming.

This handheld device lets you program up to 300 channels in the available 10 banks. I mean, with this device, you can group up to 30 channels of a common interest or agency in the same bank to make it easy to turn them off and on at once.

The CC RF capture technology allows the device to detect any nearby transmissions including those not programmed. Therefore, with this device, you will always be up to date with all activities happening near you as they unfold.

Although it boasts fantastic capabilities, the Uniden BC75XLT is very affordable. That’s why we see it as an ideal option for anyone looking for a handheld scanner that will do the work right without having to pay for it through the nose.

Pros
  • The construction is very sturdy.
  • The price is fantastic.
  • It’s easy to use.
Cons
  • The user manual isn’t very clear.

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#4 Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Digital Scanner

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Digital Scanner

The Uniden HomePatrol-2 picks up a wide range of walkie-talkie frequencies in the vicinity, thanks to its powerful antenna. Therefore, if you are too curious about what’s happening near you, this digital scanner will keep your curiosity fed.

With this device, you can listen to communications by the military, aircraft controls, fire fighting personnel, weather spotters, and other area emergency personnel. It’s also a breeze to use. In other words, once you turn it on, it will only require you to enter the zip code and city before it takes care of the rest.

The simplicity of use makes it a nice scanner for anyone new to radio scanners. The ease of use also makes it ideal for professionals who want to avoid the hassle of programming the device before it’s ready for use.

The digital touch screen provides a quick and convenient way of performing customizations. The large screen also displays information in a large and clear format that is easy to read at a glance.

The package includes everything you need to get started right away. Other than the device itself, you should find a USB cable, four NiMH batteries, flex antenna, desk stand, and more.

Pros
  • The touch screen is nice.
  • It comes with batteries.
  • The package includes everything you need.
Cons
  • The operation manual is in the software.

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#5 Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Whistler is also another big name in the industry. The Whistler WS1040 comes as one of her flagship products. Thus, it’s one radio scanner that really stands out in terms of quality and user-friendliness.

The handheld device has a sturdy construction for long-lasting durability even with the roughest handling. The device also feels great in the palm, so you will find it easy and comfortable to carry around and operate for long hours.

Like all the previous models, the set-up for Whistler WS1040 is pretty straightforward given that it doesn’t need any form of programming- just feed it with your zip code and you will be ready to rock!

Unlike some members of the competition that work exceptionally well in everything but poorly in sound, Whistler pays keen attention to details when designing every bit of this product. That’s why the audio is very clear and loud enough to hear from afar.

The device also boasts plenty of storage space. The generous storage means that you can use this device for many years before the need to free up space for new data comes. The large storage also eliminates the need for an external SD card.

Pros
  • The size and weight are nice.
  • It’s user-friendly.
  • It has a large storage capacity.
Cons
  • The price is a little high for a handheld version.

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#6 Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Scanner

Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Scanner

While it’s similar to the earlier siblings in many ways, the Uniden BC365CRS is different from any of the preceding picks. The unit will allow you to program a maximum of 500 channels in 10 banks.

With this device, you will be able to listen to police, EMS, marine, aircraft transmissions, and more. Nonetheless, since it doesn’t have trunking capability, the Uniden BC365CRS will only allow you to listen to non-trunked radio traffic.

The device is user-friendly. All the keypads are very responsive to allow for smooth programming. The large screen also is very nice with great readability that gets closer to that of a smartphone. The backlight feature of the screen lets you use the unit correctly even in low light conditions.

Other than detecting frequencies, the Uniden BC365CRS features a built-in FM radio. This additional property means that you can tune to your local radio stations to catch your favorite programs, news, and sports.

Also, this affordable unit has a functional alarm clock. With all these features, the Uniden BC365CRS is a versatile unit that will do little of everything. While it doesn’t use state-of-art technology for its core job, it’s the way to go for those living in areas that use non-trunked technology.

Pros
  • It has a built-in FM radio.
  • The alarm works very well.
  • It scans up to 500 channels.
Cons
  • It doesn’t have trunking technology.

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#7 Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

Remain up to date on weather and road conditions as you travel by using this radio scanner. The device is a member of the handheld variety. Thus, it will work well for people who want a unit they can carry with them on the road.

The scanner obtains its power from six AA batteries. The batteries are in the package to get you started right away. It can also run on a cigarette lighter adapter of your car if you don’t want to use the batteries. The mobile adapter is also in the box so you won’t need to buy it separately.

Although it’s only a 4-watt device, the Midland 75-822 offers up to 40 communication channels. This number is higher than what you get from the majority of devices with the same level of output power.

The handheld unit also has instant access to NOAA weather radio. This feature provides you with weather information in your area at any time of the day. Also, we appreciate that this radio scanner has a dual watch. This functionality allows the user to monitor channel 9 and another channel of their choice at the same time.

The channel scan automatically searches for activity. Once it detects any active channel, this device is programmed to delay for five seconds. Lastly, we like that it allows you to store and instantly access up to five channels of your choice.

Pros
  • It has a built-in ANL.
  • The last channel memory feature increases convenience.
  • It lets you save favorite channels.
Cons
  • The screen isn’t backlit- the light shines from the sides.

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#8 Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held CB Radio

Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held CB Radio

Although most radio scanners work well to detect transmissions, many of them don’t have clear sound. The high interference makes it very likely to miss important information. Now, that’s far from the truth when talking about this handheld scanner.

The Cobra HH50WXST is a hand-held device that works incredibly well than most competing models. The soundtrack system reduces up to 90% of noise, ensuring that you get a high-quality sound with amazing clarity.

This handheld gadget has standard 40 Citizens Band (CB) channels. Additionally, the ergonomically-designed portable unit has access to a whopping 10 National weather channels. Hence, you will always be aware when that storm will roll in even before you hit the road.

The 4-watt obtains its power from batteries or the 12V port in your car. The dual-powered feature increases reliability and convenience. The most interesting part about the batteries is that they are rechargeable. Hence, no need to worry about the future cost of replacement batteries.

Although the batteries keep going for long, you can prolong their life by up to 75% by utilizing the high/low power switch. I mean, you can switch to low power when you are speaking to someone nearby and then to high power when conversing with some who is very far away.

Pros
  • The sound is clear.
  • The battery life is amazing.
  • It is user-friendly.
Cons
  • The antenna doesn’t radiate the best.

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#9 Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner

Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner

The Uniden BCD996P2 is another fantastic unit designed with reliability in mind. The durably-constructed unit is a member of the base category, meaning that it’s one of the most powerful models we have out there.

Extraordinary performance needs extraordinary features. And yes, the Uniden BCD996P2 packs a whole host of fabulous functionalities including an advanced dynamic memory system, GPS compatibility, Close call RF capture technology, and more.

The powerful unit has instant access to NOAA weather radio and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) weather alert. Hence, other than just keeping you informed about the military, this device will let you know what to expect when away from home.

The scanner has a large readable display with an intuitive interface. The backlit feature makes it easy to program the unit or read the details on the screen correctly even when in areas with poor lighting conditions.

The box includes everything you need to get started right away. I mean, other than the radio scanner, the package contains an AC power adapter, USB cable, mounting bracket and hardware, antenna, and other important components.

Pros
  • Programming is not difficult.
  • The box contains all the essential components.
  • The backlight feature of the screen is great.
Cons
  • The manual isn’t the best.

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#10 Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Even with the compact design, there is much you can do with this digital scanner radio. The high-quality device picks up just about everything, ensuring that you and your family will always be aware of everything happening in your local area.

As a handheld device, the Whistler TRX-1 comes with portability in mind. Other than being lightweight, it’s an ergonomically-designed device that interacts well with the palm to allow for hours of comfortable use.

The size of the display is nice and has a backlight for convenient operation when using it in the dark. Additionally, this accessory has high-quality keypads that are highly responsive to make it easy to adjust your settings.

The quick location-based programming means that all you need to feed in the device is your zip code or city. The audio is also loud and high-quality, ensuring that you catch every bit of the conversation with excellent clarity.

The record feature allows you to record up to 50 hours of audio. When recording, the device will save each file based on the date and time of occurrence, so that you will know exactly when what you are listening to was captured.

Pros
  • The buttons are easy to read.
  • It is a high-quality product.
  • It has a recording feature.
Cons
  • You have to remove the protective case to access the battery and SD card.

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#11 Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner

Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner

The last option on our list is yet another market-leading accessory. It originates from a reputable brand and has everything that a device of its kind needs to have to take scanning and subsequent programming a level higher.

The scanner comes as a desktop version. Therefore, it will work well for home use. But for the people that spend most of their time on the road, this unit installs in the car. That said, you will be up to date with information about public safety, weather, road traffic conditions, and more.

Like the preceding handheld version, this digital scanner supports quick location-based programming. The device lets the user group objects based on certain criteria. This feature makes it easy and convenient to scan objects of a common group or interest.

For those interacting with a device of its caliber for the first time, it’s easy to get the most out of the device. It offers functional keypads and a high-quality display that lights up in the dark for accurate customizations.

The scanner embraces advanced technology for easy monitoring of unencrypted systems. But with everything it has onboard, there is still room for improvement. For instance, the LCD screen is quite smaller than most users would want it.

Pros
  • The programming software is good.
  • The software is easy to use.
  • The front panel is detachable.
Cons
  • The screen is quite smaller.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can radio scanners pick up?

Radio scanners were originally referred to as police scanners because they were popular for monitoring the corps. However, they have evolved with time and now pick up more than just police conversations. With a modern radio scanner, you can listen to military, utility companies, weather spotters, taxicab companies, and more.

Do police use UHF or VHF?

It depends on your local area. In the United States, most law enforcements use UHF and VHF. Most use frequencies in the VHF band (148-174 MHz) although that may differ.

Do police use encrypted radio?

Initially, police were using unencrypted radio. However, due to improvement in technology and the development of tracking tools, most police around the world have switched to encrypted systems to avoid eavesdropping. But other than the police, there is much you can listen to using your radio scanner.

Does VHF or UHF have a longer range?

The VHF signals work perfectly in an open space where there are no obstructions. However, for areas with buildings and other obstructions, the UHF signals are way better.

Can civilians own police scanners?

In the United States, police scanners are legal to own. If not in the United States, ensure that you confirm whether they are legal before buying to avoid trouble with the law enforcement personnel.

Final Verdict

Whether you are a professional or new to radio scanners, you can attest that getting the right radio scanner is such a stressful ordeal.

With the right device, you will realize that there is much you can do with a radio scanner.

They may not be the easiest devices to use, though, but with patience and the desire to know more, it’s possible to get the most out of your radio scanner with time.

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