|N9EWO Review : |
Uniden Bearcat BC898T Scanning Receiver
discontinued Uniden Bearcat BC898T "Scanner" Receiver.
N9EWO's review is below. (Photo : N9EWO)
2 Samples tested for this report.
2004 Tested Sample # 1 Serial Number (approx.) : 322Z440008xx
2006 Tested Sample # 2 Serial Number (approx.) : 322Z640005xx
County of Mfg. (including AD-140U AC Adapter) : China
- Faulty Firmware (as received with sample # 1 new) : U 1.27 , checksum SEd7H
- Properly Working "Updated" Firmware : U 1.29 , checksum EF9SH
- With "Rebanding" Firmware (2009) : U 1.60 , was NOT tested
Ok, it's been a long while since I have owned a real "scanner". Normally I don't cover this type of receiver here as I'm not into VHF/UHF monitoring much and just use a amateur handheld for that. But I wanted to get my feet wet with one of these "Trunking" scanners even if it's used very light where I live , and as well as having a set around for the local PD if the neighborhood does wild. Ease of use is another major issue.
The BC-101 "No Crystal" / BC-210 "Direct Entry" and BC-100 "Handheld" Scanners,
I have owned other "Bearcat" scanners over the years. Let's see.....it started for me with a (non-Uniden Electra) BC-101 in early 1976 I think it was. As many know this was the first synthesized model with the Bearcat name on it that did not use crystals. After 2 samples of this set, I gave up. UHF had so much phase noise mixed in that it almost covered up the desired signal.
About a year later (spring of 1977), I purchased a sample from the first production run of the Bearcat BC-210. This was of course much better with keyboard entry and LED display. A nice front mounted speaker too. But it did not cover the entire 2 meter amateur radio band. 146 to 148 Mhz only. Also had excessive phase noise as well, but not quite as bad as the old BC-101 beast. No doubt it was a landmark "scanner" for the day. No more crystals...yeah. Did not have the greatest keyboard to speak of, but it worked. I think I gave about $ 300. for the thing. That was alot a change in 1977. Lacked the real diecast bezel found on the BC101 however, which I liked.
A few years after that I purchased a Bearcat BC-100 "Handheld" synthesized marvel. The phase noise was again totally unacceptable (as was battery life) and after 3 of these I said "forget it". Well the first one was almost a DOA and again all came from the first production run. The rubber antenna socket on these first units was a total joke and battery contacts/battery cover on the bottom was extremely poor (Note : Both issues were cleared up in later production samples, BNC socket was added and 2 screws on battery cover).
We now avoided Bearcat stuff for many years, even after the Uniden purchase from Electra (Masco). I will admit that after the takeover the new radios looked much more solid all around, but still I said no.
The Uniden BC-890XLT, Another Dog !!
Then I seen the Uniden BC890XLT tabletop unit appear on the market and was thinking "this is pretty neat" as it has a real tuning knob and a large table top design. Yes a low cost receiver of this type but mind you but it's no communications receiver and I understood that. So I made a purchase of one of these and again it was from a early production run. The 800 Mhz band was totally useless for me. Was awashed with cell phone signals and digital buzzies overload across the entire band at my location. Was only a dual conversion scheme. The receiver worked OK in other bands.
Needless to say, that put any additional Uniden "Bearcat" purchases even on hold again for many years to come.
The BC-898T Scanner with Narrow Band FM mode.
I really needed to get my feet wet with all of this new trunking stuff, so a looking I go.
Let me say that I was not prepared to spend alot of money on this new box with trunking, so price was a major issue. I seen the BC895XLT appear on the market but never went for one as it looked too much like the BC-890 and felt that it was the same box, but with trunking added (but as it turns out is a triple conversion set).
But after I seen the updated version of the set appear, I went for one of these BC898T's in mid August 2004. Once again it's from one of the first (if not the first) production runs.
So just a few tidbits on this set that I feel are important. The Bearcat manuals still lack any real receiver specifications to speak of. That part has not changed at all with Uniden over Electra.
of the Uniden BC898T.
Note the standard female DB-9 pin RS232 connector for computer control / programming.
As is the case with most Uniden scanners, a low quality " fork" style (center pin) BNC antenna connector is still used.
Bearcat BC898T Features (N9EWO List)
- Frequency steps include the now important 7.5 and 6.25 khz steps (either not covered on the BC895XLT). The manual indicates that the 6.25 Khz split really means 7.5 Khz when programming 150.00-162.00 Mhz.
- "ATT" (antenna attenuator) function now found on BC898 (missing on the BC895XLT). Can be selected for each channel.
- 500 total memory channels (50 channels in each of 10 banks).
- Wiill store 1000 total talk groups entries.
- 200 Talk Group Skip Memories. 100 Search Skip Memories. 10 search ranges (using the bank buttons).
- Modes cover AM / FM and now the new important NFM mode (lacked on the 895). This will be most needed in a few years time as well as the 7.5 khz steps in the VHF band.
- Tuning steps and modes are not tied down to certain bands. You can select any mode : FM, FMN or AM or step on any band. (There is no FM wide on the BC898T, nor is frequency coverage for those modes provided.)
- Large "top mounted" speaker
|A Couple Of Standard "Uniden" Keyboard Tricks That Work On The BC898T|
|This Information is NOT
found in the owners manual of course.
- For a "Hard Reset" (will clear all the settings and memories) : Hold " 2 + 9 + MANUAL " while turning power on.
- To check the firmware version : Hold " 2 + 4 + 9 " while turning power on.
(versions tested : U 1.27 , and U 1.29).
Coverage over old BC895 model / Excellent CTCSS - DCS Search That
is Super Easy To Use
Frequency Coverage now dips down to 25 Mhz. The "10-4" Citizens Band is now covered. The BC895XLT started at 29 Mhz. No, the BC-898T is not a wide band coverage set. But it's not priced at $ 500 either.
So coverage goes (AM, FM and FMN modes):
25 to 54 Mhz
108 to 174 Mhz
216 to 512 Mhz
806 to 823.9875 Mhz
849.0125 to 868.9875 Mhz
894.0125 to 956 Mhz
DCS now included with the CTCSS (895 lacked DCS), and I have also been told that it decodes MUCH faster than the old BC895 (and other Uniden sets) did with CTCSS search. It's indeed very zippy in searching CTCCS or DCS tones or codes, excellent in fact. It does not mute the receiver as it's doing this either. You don't even have to know what type as it will figure out which one it is.
It's extremely easy to use too (a no brainer). Here is where amateur radio transceivers fall flat on their face, tone scan is usually some weird chore that is slow at best.
Bad News Right Out of the Box on first 2004 sample. the CTCSS/DCS failure issue.
With the first 2004 sample I purchased the CTCSS/DCS function failed to function after about 8 hours of operation. Worked fine until then. Regular signals continued to be received OK even after the channels that had CTCSS/DCS on them went sour.
The real stinker is if I powered off the receiver and then back on, "boom" it would all work again. But only for another 8 hours or so. It again died again after the same time period.
I was not the only person reporting this issue with the BC898T either on these first units. For some owners it has been reported that the problem took as long as 3 weeks to show up.
After talking to Uniden's "so called" customer service twice on the phone for a couple of "run-a-rounds", I was told to send my sample back to Uniden (Ft.Worth Texas) and about a month later it was returned to me with new firmware installed (U1.29). The receivers firmware is indeed flashable with the BC898T model.
This indeed cleared up the problem, but this also proves that the set DID NOT receive enough beta testing before it was placed on the market, leaving many owners TOTALLY in the dark and in a nasty mood (including me) !!
Real "Line Audio Output" that is just about useless. Triple Conversion.
The LINE OUT jack is now a real line out. Unlike the BC890 and 895 that were not (just a attenuated speaker output). Volume control does NOT affect the line output on the BC898T. Toggled for each channel with Line button for use with VOX tape recorders. No more relay "remote" jack.
The down side is that there is a NASTY lag time that can be about 2 SECONDS once the squelch is broken before the "line" jack has any audio. So you can miss up to the first 2 seconds on a tape recording. Great that they have a real line out now, but this excessive delay is a worst nasty I think. Also it's bit hissy (as the receiver is anyway) and the line output level is on the light side with a nasty pop every time the squelch is broken or engaged. Needless to say the "Line Out" jack is pretty much useless. NOTE : The older BC785D model also suffers from this same bug.
The BC898T is using the same "Triple conversion" receiver layout as the old BC895XLT. So that should make the first IF around 380 Mhz, second about 45 Mhz and 450 khz on the 3rd ?
"Top" view of the main PC Board in the Uniden BC898T (left).
The older BC785D model uses greater internal shielding (right) (N9EWO Photo's)
Good Audio (slightly hissy), But Still Needs External Speaker to
Sound Right. External Speaker Jack On Front Panel.
The BC-898T has a fairly large top mounted speaker. It generally gets the job done, but it has a bassy trait that I do not care for. I used a external "audio response" speaker that made a huge improvement. Why the external speaker (and line output) jack continue to be found on the front is strange. These should be located on the rear panel in my view with a HEADPHONE jack still on front with the anti-blast resistors (this should not replace the external speaker jack either). The general output is a bit hissy as well, but not to any nasty levels like the Yaesu VR-5000 "hiss king".
Good Overall Performance, 800 Mhz just OK / VHF-Lo Fair / No Alpha Tags / NOT Using LED's for Backlighting.
Using the included whip, sensitivity in the VHF-Hi (108-174 Mhz) and UHF (400 to 512 Mhz) area's to me are very good if not excellent. I can hear a weak 222 Mhz amateur repeater on the BC898T quite well. This is one of the very few receivers I have even done this with only using the back of the set antenna. 800-900 Mhz sensitivity being only average but no more. However the VHF "Low Band" (25 to 54 Mhz area) is only on the fair side on the 2 samples I have used.
As may pepole have already said, the set does lack any "alpha tags" and is a very important missing feature. But the price point would suffer I think if it were to be added, so it goes.
A MAJOR gripe : Why Uniden used 4 "panel lamps" (2 on each end) to light up the display is beyond me ?? LED's are cheaper these days and last much longer. Arrg !! At least a way to dim it down or turn off the backlight all together. And "Uniden" if you might change to LED backlighting down the road with this style, how about ONE other LED color display selection added the same time (I would say GREEN). Even the older BC785D model (from 2003) that I have used uses 8 LED's to light up the LCD display.
The tested samples were used in a city of about 80,000 , so were are not talking about a huge metro city here. Only using the included "back of the set" antenna, I noticed a pretty heavy amount of intermodulation products in the 400 to 440 Mhz government part of the spectrum from signals in the 460~465 Mhz area. Other than this I noticed no other nasty receiver quirks. Please note that no outdoor antenna's were used in testing , just the back of the set antenna .
: I will NOT be held responsible for any information that
is listed here.
Adapter "Hums" Slightly.
If one uses the included AD-140U AC adapter and listens very carefully, I hear a slight hum with the internal audio amplifier. Note: I'm very sensitive to this sort of thing and many may not even detect this.
The audio amplifer in most "lower cost" receivers (including the BC898T) do not see any internal power regulation that the rest of the circuits see. The audio amp receives the raw input voltage. Well almost as with the BC898T it does see a power choke, 2800 ohm surface mount resistor and a elect. capacitor, but that's about it (no internal voltage regulation with the audio amp IC).
Nice Tuning Knob (encoder) / Some keys only fair.
The tuning knob uses a mechanical encoder , and as the case usually is with these, it will skip a channel once in awhile in rotation. But is not as much of an issue as with a shortwave receiver as it's use is much less and the price point gets in the way again.
Most buttons all have a good feel and work good. However, the numeric entry keys (0 to 9), and the 6 keys just left of the LCD are very stiff and require more of a punch for entry. A number (say 4) of proper size stick on rubber feet on the rear bottom edge of the cabinet is a good idea because of this. Remove the paper white sticker on that bottom edge along with the sticky remains before you do this. Allow at least 48 hours before you more it around after you stick these on so the feet's glue sets properly.
Nice scanner but why did we have to put up with the CTCSS/DCS bug at all ??
The BC898T performs well with many features and ease of use in a great larger package with that super "tuning knob" to boot. The receiver sensitivity is excellent across the range for the price point. Above frequency average coverage as well. One has to remember that this is a "scanner" and NOT a communications receiver. It was the largest and heaviest scanner in Uniden's product line until it was discontinued in September 2009. Of course if you need P25 digital mode, this is NOT the model for you.
However, why did I have to put up with the headaches that I had to deal with on the first sample, and the extra money spent (for shipping, etc) back in 2004. There should have been more time "beta" testing of this product before it was placed onto the market.
Anyway, I'm very glad to see that the problem is behind us with Uniden fixing this MAJOR problem even if it took a good month back in the fall of 2004. But a few "not so happy" customers in the process. Uniden's extremely POOR customer service sure did not help.
The owners manual is the another area that totally unacceptable. Yes, it's that bad to my eyes. It might make a "trunking newbe" to heave it all in the trash not having the computer software.
"scanner" was in 1975 (left photo above), a Radio Shack
(GRE) " Realistic PRO-5 ", cat. number 20-169 ($ 120.
USD + crystals).
4 Channel UHF band only "crystal" receiver, used 4 AA batteries for power and was super neat for the day.
However, the AA battery holder's 2 plastic mounting tabs broke off. The 4 low cost slide switches failed in time as well.
FYI : The "GRE" Realistic PRO-4 was the FIRST handheld scanner on the market in late 1973 (right picture above),
and this model ran on TWO 9 volt batteries , later samples (by mid 1974) used only a single 9 v battery.
FIRST "public service" receiver (portable radio) owned
back in 1972 .The Sears "3 band" model 564.2272 (made by
Sanyo) at $ 29.50 . Actually had a variable squelch control, but
only worked fair at best. Back in these days, the VHF-Hi band was
all that was needed in my town . Included a AC adapter wall wart
(6vdc at 200 ma). 4 AA batteries.
(Then the local police moved to UHF, so for the PRO-5 above). My sample went to radio heaven by 1975.
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