BCD396XT Impressions

I’ve had the BCD396XT for a week now, long enough to form some impressions of the radio and pass them along.  I’ve been working with Butel’s ARC XT software to come up with good programming for it after initially importing BC996 programming files for it.  The BCD396XT works very similar to the BCD996T, so the 996 files made for a good starting point.  This post isn’t intended to be a review of the scanner, just information on what I’ve found useful and what I like about the radio.

BCD396T at left, BCD396XT at right

The BCD396T and BCD396XT are very similar in construction with the main distinguishing feature being slightly different coloring to the cases and the speaker grille shape.  Disregard the display color, I’ll have more to say about that later.  The receiver quality seems to be identical on AM/FM signals including my favorite band the UHF milair band (225-399.975).  I tested them out using a Diamond RH77CA antenna with a Diamond BNC-SMA adapter and couldn’t tell a difference in received signal strength between them.  P25 Digital performance is where the BCD396XT really shines over the BCD396T however.  The 396XT’s digital audio quality is far better than the 396T’s based on monitoring a number of different systems on different bands (Fed VHF, Fed UHF, Mil UHF, 700 MHz, and 800 MHz).  Beyond the P25 digital audio improvement, Uniden has added some more improvements over the 396T:

  1. Multi-Site Trunking:Just like the BCD996, the BCD396XT will trunk multiple sites within a system instead of just 1 site.  This comes in very handy with multi site systems such as the Chatham-Effingham TRS.  As you move around the area, the radio scans all of the sites instead of just locking on the first one it finds making for a much more enjoyable listening experience.
  2. NAC Capability: The BCD396XT has the ability to decode and use digital NACs (Network Access Codes).  The NAC works just like a PL code on an analog system, you can set the scanner to just pass digital signals with a particular NAC just as you can set a tone squelch to pass just signals with a particular PL tone.  The 396XT can search the NAC out as well as use it for squelch purposes.
  3. Multiple Display Colors: The BCD396XT has a selection of colors for the display backlight (although the keyboard has only white backlighting).  Personally I prefer the red backlight (really almost an orange-ish color) because it isn’t as bad on night vision.
  4. Tone-Out Decoding: This isn’t a feature that I’ve tried or used yet, but the 396XT can decode the tones used for dispatching and page out.
  5. Band Scope: The BCD396XT offers a bandscope feature that can be helpful in finding new frequencies.  In and of itself without software it isn’t something I’d use but I love this feature when combined with ARC XT’s bandscope which also offers a waterfall display.

Overall, I’d say that Uniden took an already great all around scanner and made it even greater.  It does a great job with everything  I want to listen to which is a varied lot from MilCom to Public Safety including AM, FM, Digital, Conventional, and Trunked systems.  The BCD396XT is definitely a radio I would suggest if you were looking for a general purpose digital capable scanner.

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