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Uniden UBC72 XLT

Images taken with sony Eriksson w800i Camera phone

 

New UBC 72XLT With Close Call Feature to find frequencies FAST !

The UBC 72 XLT has a wide frequency range and 100 memories for ultra-flexible scanning. Its high sensitivity, triple conversion architecture and high quality AM / FM demodulators make sure you’ll hear all the action. It’s got flexible frequency steps – including the new 8.33kHz for airband.

FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS

CHAIN SEARCH – lets you enter personal search bands in 10 locations and search all locations in a chain of frequency bands.
TRIPLE-CONVERSION SUPERHET – virtually eliminates any interference from IF images so you only hear the selected frequency.
CHANNEL STORAGE BANKS
– the scanner has ten banks, and you can store up to ten frequencies in each bank for a total of 100 memories for easy channel storage and recall.
TWO SECOND SCAN DELAY – delays scanning for about 2 seconds before moving to another channel to you can hear any reply made on the same channel. Almost eliminates irritating broken conversations!
LOCK OUT FUNCTION
– lets you set your scanner to skip over specified channels or frequencies when searching or scanning.
PRIORITY CHANNELS
– lets you program one channel in each bank (10 in all) and then have the scanner check that channel every 2 seconds while it scans the bank so you don’t miss calls on those channels.
TWO SERVICE BANKS – frequencies are preset in separate aircraft and FM CB to make it easy to locate specific types of calls.
KEY LOCK
– lets you lock the scanner’s keys to avoid accidental changes to the operating mode or programming.
DISPLAY BACKLIGHT – makes the display easy to read in low-light situations
FLEXIBLE ANTENNA WITH BNC CONNECTOR
– provides excellent reception in strong signal areas and also works with weaker signal strengths. It’s flexibility means it is much less likely to break than solid telescopic antennas. Alternatively, you can connect an external antenna (not supplied).
EXTENDED MEMORY BACKUP
– keeps the frequencies stored in memory for an extended time if the scanner loses power
DUAL POWER OPTIONS – the scanner can operate from internal batteries (high capacity rechargeable Ni-mh batteries are supplied as standard) or from the supplied mains adapter / charger.
BATTERY LOW ALERT
– lets you know battery power is low instead of just switching off with no warning.

SPECIFICATION

 FREQUENCY RANGE
25.0 – 87.2625 MHz 108.0 – 173.99 MHz 406.0 – 512.0 MHz
STEP SIZE - 5, 6.25, 8.33, 10, 12.5 kHz (depending on band) Selectable 8.33 / 12.5kHz on air band
SCAN RATE Normal – 60 steps per second (max) Hyper – 180 steps per second (max)
SENSITIVITY 0.3uV (25-86 MHz, FM) 0.5uV (118-135 MHz, AM) 0.3uV (138-173 MHz, FM) 0.4uV (406-512 MHz, FM)
AUDIO OUTPUT 490mW maximum from 32mm dia 8 ohm speaker
Supplied accessories : 2 x AA Ni-mh rechargeable batteries 1 x mains adapter / charger 1 x BNC flexible aerial 1 x belt clip


We Have had close call equipped scanners for some time now but only available in the states. This has resulted in people from Europe and the UK ordering scanners from the states. Also this has resulted in calls for close call scanners to be released over here where they are readily available and complete with our specifications such as step size etc. Calling on Uniden europe for what you want isn't as good as calling on Uniden USA. Uniden USA are in direct contact with the end user and finding out how they can better their products. But sadly Uniden europe are not so "on the ball" so to speak.

Eventually news came in that Uniden had released a close call scanner, called the Uniden UBC72 XLT. Everyone started to rub their hands together and started to order them. Who said they had close call? Well the US version has close call so why should this not have? Oh not to forget the advertising states it too. Now imagine the faces of these people when they opened up the boxes of their shiny new scanners only to find that they did not have the close call feature. I mean what the hell were uniden europe thinking about? They replied that it was to keep costs down. Well look here chaps all you have done is kept sales down. The retailers were obviously confused and had to take off the "Complete with close call feature" from the web sites. For those of you that do not know what the close call feature is then let me explain. Basically this is a built in frequency counter if you like, that not only displays the frequency found but also tunes in (Lets you listen). We have had frequency counters for years that displayed the frequency of any nearby transmitters. But you then had to tune your scanner manually to the frequency and by the time you had done that you probably missed the transmission. There was of course the option with some scanners to "Reaction tune" but this meant having the scanner and the frequency counter connected to each other via a data cable. In a nutshell not very practical. Close call has all this in one package.

A few months later and it appears Uniden have started to get their act together when I heard that they had now indeed released a European version complete with close call feature. After confirming that it was available I contacted Nevada Communications and asked Mike Deveraux if I could possibly loan one for review, to which he kindly agreed and a couple of days later I had one in my hands. Apart from the close call feature I also wanted to find out if the specs were correct for our band plan or if like most low cost scanners it was still US orientated.

Ok so on with the review.

I opened the box and the first impression reminded me of the Uniden BC246t scanner of which I had previously used/reviewed/owned. I would say the case is probably the same size, and shape, in fact the only probable difference is the colour and the lack of a computer connection port and that it does not have a fixing for a hand strap. Also this one looked different to the 72 images I had saw before in as much that it has a yellow frame going around the display. The display itself is ample in size and about right this can display up to 5 lines of information and is easily viewed from all angles but a little less so when viewing from above.

I have no problem with this, I always regarded the case on the 246 slightly toyish in appearance but on a scanner of the price the 72 sells for this does not look out of place at all.

On the left of the keypad (As you look at it) you have from top to bottom a hold button which doubles a the close call button when used in conjunction with the function button. A scan button again doubling as a search button, a lamp button, doubling as a key lock button, a function button and a power on/off button. To the right of these are the number buttons, some of them also being used for other functions when used with the Function or "Func" button. and below this we have the speaker grill.

The sides are made up of raised ridges a la bc246t which are obviously for gripping purposes. I much prefer the rubber gripping used on the 396t/UBC3300 scanners but again you can't complain on a scanner of this price. The back is made up of the battery compartment and belt clip. Again the clip looks the same as the one utilised on the 246 nothing fancy and probably easy to break but I loved the ease in which it slipped on and off of the top of my trousers. Not only that but it does not protrude too much so is not bulky when slipped in a pocket.

The top of the case has a volume and squelch knob a earphone socket 3.5. and of course the bnc connector for the aerial.

The frequency ranges covered are as follows. 25.0 – 87.2625 MHz 108.0 – 173.99 MHz 406.0 – 512.0 MHz

So what can we hear and not hear on these frequencies? Well 25.0-87.2625 will get you CB users on 27 MHz, low powered devices on 30 and 49 MHz as well as some pmr firms that operate on the 85-88MHz band. 70MHz fire is in this band but there is no provision for AM mode in the scanner on this band so it will sound distorted.

108-173.99 Covers civil airband frequencies, PMR users galore plus some emergency services, amateurs and other users.

406-512MHz will net you plenty of PMR users, amateurs and countless other users of radio systems. There is no coverage of fleetcom systems on 177-207MHz if that is at all important to you.

Step sizes are as follows

STEP SIZE - 5, 6.25, 8.33, 10, 12.5 kHz (depending on band) Selectable 8.33 / 12.5kHz on air band. Unfortunately these are not quite correct for UK use but it does not mean you will lose anything. For instance most VHF use is in 12.5KHZ steps but on this band on the 72 (Using band plan 3) 10 khz steps are used but you can easily tune to the nearest frequency and hear just as clear as if you were listening to the correct frequency. e.g. 165.4625 would require you to tune to 165.460 and you would get them perfectly loud and clear. It would however be nice to know you are actually on the correct frequency and I think it's high time Uniden stop cutting corners and make scanners step sizes according to the country where the units are going to be sold.

Battery Power

The 72 comes complete with charger and two 1800 mah Ni-mh AA Batteries. Again thank You Uniden that really is a nice touch. I charged mine overnight not with the supplied ones, I used Uniross 2100 mah and they gave me plenty of hours of use. A full day in fact. When cells are nearly depleted you get an audio beep and an icon of a near depleted battery cell flashes on the LCD.

I would have liked to have seen some sort of LCD display informing me of the charging state of the batteries like you get on the 396 Such as "charging" and "Charge complete" but the screen remained blank.

 

Programming

The UBC72 comes available with 3 band plans that you can set depending on your location in the world. Basically band plans are step sizes for differing frequency ranges. A look through the options shows that none of them are geared towards the UK with only 5 or 10KHz steps available in VHF PMR when we in the UK use 12.5KHz and no option of 12.5KHz in UHF pmr. But the step sizes for UHF are 6.25KHz which is good for pmr 446 frequencies. I settled on Band plan 3 as probably the best option.

The 72 uses conventional banking for programming as opposed to the 246/396 method of dynamic memory allocation, so this should be easy for most people to get to grips with.

Ok lets try and program some known frequencies. I thought I would try and see if like nearly all Uniden conventional scanners (Not the dynamic channel arrangement types such as 246/396) this can be done with common sense and not having to refer to the manual. I tried first of all just tapping the frequency in and pressing enter. That did not work. Next I tried pressing pgm (Program) tap in the frequency and enter but that would not have it either. Next I tried Func pgm and then tap in the frequency and enter. Success.

It soon became apparent that nearly all functions performed with this scanner requires the use of the function button first to get it to do an action. It's a good job it is only a 100 ch scanner because I really did start to miss the computer programming capabilities of it's bigger brothers.

With a few frequencies programmed in and with the stock antenna it soon became apparent that this scanner was very very good indeed on uhf pmr bands bringing in signals much better than the 246/396 scanners. This left me a little miffed, I had paid a lot of money for my 396 and here it was getting its arse kicked by it's little brother. I really am amazed at the sensitivity of this unit on uhf. I was pleased to find it came complete with 6.25khz steps on uhf so I could program in the pmr 446 frequencies. Also I noted that stored frequencies can be stored with or without a delay per channel. Also I was surprised to find that you get a warning if you try to enter a frequency into memory more than once. This I did not expect on a budget priced scanner. On the down side You are restricted to either 5 or 10 Khz steps on vhf pmr frequencies.

Moving down into civil airband found the 72 to be a very decent receiver. With the standard stock antenna I found it left a bit to be desired but fitting the Watson W-889 telescopic, My standard review antenna found that it performed very well on airband, and swapping antennas between it and my 396 I found it very hard to distinguish which of the two was the better performer on several Coventry and Birmingham airport frequencies, If I had to say which was the best at a push then I would say the 396 very very slightly edges it. This is good, I have rated my 396 as one of the better performers on vhf airband and to get this close means you wont be disappointed. Not only this but 8.33KHz steps are supported for airband.

So Far the scanner has received praise from me for it's sensitivity. But it appears there is a price to pay for all this. It soon transpired that on VHF if there is a good strong signal it will be heard 10 KHz below or above the proper frequency. For instance my hospital porters/security use 165.150 which is a good clean signal but if I program in 165.160 for another user then 165.150 will come in loud and clear all over this frequency too. Quite why this is I do not know. Maybe if it was possible to set for 12.5KHz this would not happen. It is a triple conversion set so I would not have expected this. What's more there is no ctcss available on this scanner to combat it. I wonder if it's something to do with Zeromatic, which is something that stops any bleedover on adjacent channels on some scanners that was used but would only work on a search. Indeed I tried searching the bands and this problem did not duplicate itself, it only happens in memory scanning.

Driving past my test pager site with eleven 152mhz frequencies loaded and the 72 got no interference off them at all which is good. However when in my city shopping centre one 441mhz frequency experienced problems from another nearby 441MHz trunk control ch. This is also experienced on my 396 but with the 396 I can set the attenuator and the problem is gone, but the 72 being a budget scanner it does not come with an attenuator so I had two options, suffer it until I got a bit of distance between myself and the offending transmitter or lock out the frequency that was experiencing the problems and miss all the conversations taking place on that frequency. There was another option that I didn't think of at the time or try and that was to set the squelch setting higher to see if that defeated the problem. Connecting the 72 to my discone brought in a bit of pager interference on 167MHz area.

With only 100 channels available the scan speeds I suppose don't have to be ultra fast which is a good job because the 72 isn't. It is more than ample though.

Audio

The audio on the 72 does not appear as powerful as the 396/246 scanners (Remember I am going from memory on the 246 as I have not used one for some months now so I may be wrong) but it is ample and when cranked up to its full setting it does not suffer from any distortion whatsoever. Using in my car rattling along at 80 MPH (Sorry officer) and audio was easily heard above any road noise.

Backlight

The 72 comes with the orange backlight that we have come to know well on the Uniden's. It is very effective and the display can be seen from all angles. I did miss having my keypad lit up as well but like the 246 it can easily be controlled "Blind" once you get familiar with the keypad. There is no option that I could find to keep the light on for more than 15 seconds. Again this is a budget priced scanner.

As far as I can tell any number of frequencies can be locked out of memory by pressing Func/LO. Channels can later be taken out of lockout individually by going to the channel and following the same key press procedure. I tried to see if by first pressing Func/LO and keeping the LO button depressed for two seconds it would unlock all locked out channels in one go, as can be done with the 246/396. I am pleased to say that I heard the satisfying double beep and it did work. This can save loads of time, rather than scrolling through each channel unlocking individually.

Searching

The 72 comes with 10 pre-set frequency ranges which can be changed, tailored to your requirements.

Uniden call the searching of several banks "Chain search". To enable it simply press "func" and then scan buttons. To deactivate/activate search banks is simply a matter of pressing the button number corresponding to that bank e.g. you don't want to monitor search bank 1 any more simply press the number 1 button and it will no longer be searched until you enable it again. Searches can be done in ascending or descending order.

Frequencies found during a search can be programmed directly into memory. Up to 100 channels may be locked out from a search but these will also be locked out from any close call searches and vice versa.

 

Close call

Ok this is what you have been waiting for. This is what is going to sell or not sell this scanner depending on what I tell you here. This for me and I know many others of you out there, this is possibly going to be this scanners biggest selling point. Currently there are no others available in this country with this feature. So You all want to know before you shell out the best part of a hundred quid how good it is. Well let me tell you this The Uniden BC246T and the 396T sell for more money and have many more features, but they both get their asses kicked in this dept. The close call feature on the 72 is absolutely awesome. My first journey into town along a main road is usually uneventful however I found myself constantly locking out frequencies found by the close call feature. It appeared to find every single pager,mobitex,taxi frequency around. I was very surprised how good this feature worked it is absolutely awesome. Into town on a sunday afternoon I step out my car and bingo it finds the input frequency of the retail system as some unseen user transmitted. As an example I was shopping in tesco, which has 4 active frequencies. Close call was getting them all from good distances (The store is massive the biggest in europe) I sent a text to my friend who lives as the crow flies about 400yds away He said he would key up on his 4 watt radio to see if it would get it from there, I replied to him not to be so bloody stupid, he went ahead anyway and guess what? Yep the signal travelled those 400 yds and through the building and close call got it loud n clear.

The close call feature on the 72 takes a bit of a departure from the 396/246 and appears to be that the sensitivity depends on the squelch setting . I had mine set just at the threshold just before you get the crrkk! squelch tail when a transmission ceases for maximum sensitivity. To back this up if you turn the squelch to where you get the horrible background noise you will actually halt the close call search and it will stop at whatever point it was in the search.

Uniden still require you to press a button to see a frequency when found but at least it shows you before hand what band it is in. For instance if it finds an airband frequency it will display "Air" and then you press a button (I always press Hold button) to display freq found. Pressing hold again will hold the found frequency until you press hold again and then it will resume looking for active close by transmitters.

I did find however that sometimes the close call feature would sometimes stop a few khz short of the actual frequency but this could possibly be minimised had I cranked up the squelch setting a bit. This is no doubt a small price to pay for the sensitivity of the close call feature, users of frequency counters will be well used to frequencies being found that are not spot on. Sensitivity and step sizes utilised are no doubt responsible for these small errors. It was nice to see pmr 446 ch's that were found displaying the correct frequency, with 246 and 396 they are rounded up. For example ch1 will display 446.000 or 446.005 whereas the 72 will display the correct frequency of 446.00625. Close call has several options, you can set it whilst scanning. If this method is selected the scanner will go about it's business scanning as normal and then pausing every two seconds looking for a close by transmitter. It is nice to report that the pause does not appear as harsh as on the 246/396 scanners and I found myself using it all the time whereas with the 246/396 there appears too much information lost during the pause for close call check, resulting in my hardly ever using this option, and either selecting just scan or just close call option.

Of course with the 72 you can also select just close call,where it will just be on the look out for strong local signals. However you don't get the options you have with 246 and 396 to save the found frequencies on the fly into a close call found frequencies system that you can peruse at your leisure some time later on. Again this is a budget scanner and that is one of the shortcomings you should expect. Frequencies found by close call can be locked out. Up to 100 frequencies can be locked out of a search. If you do lock them out they will also be locked out of a chain search. Note Using the close call feature in any town or city is going to take up most of these 100 frequencies as the sensitivity of the close call feature will pull in all pager frequencies mobitex data etc. That you will have to lock out of subsequent searches.

Key Lock

To prevent accidental key pressing the unit comes equipped with a key lock function again this is set by press first of all the "Func" button and the lamp button, highlighted with a light bulb on it. To deactivate is again the same procedure to set it.

Final thoughts.

OK i have been a bit unfair to this little scanner constantly comparing it to it's big brothers the 246T and even bigger brother the 396T. But it is very similar in appearance and the fact that it has the Close call feature, so similarities are going to be cross referenced even if they are worlds apart on features and cost. Again in my defence your honor, the 72 even showed itself to be a better performer in some respects such as close call and sensitivity on uhf. It possibly beats the 246 in all areas on sensitivity but I have not got a 246 to compare.

So who is this scanner going to appeal to? Well if you are looking for a cheap readily available good performing scanner with close call feature to sniff out those elusive frequencies then this is the scanner for you. This scanner really does outperform every other close call equipped scanner I have used.If you require more than 100 ch's then maybe you could use this for finding out the frequencies and another scanner for storing them. If you want alpha tags, trunking,Custom search ranges, ctcss/dcs computer control capabilities then go for a 246 if you require even more features and military airband then go for the 3300 or 396. To get things into perspective lets compare the 72 with a scanner I bought some years ago that cost more money and see what you are getting for your £89. About 10/12 yrs ago I bought a tandy pro-35 100 ch scanner for about 130 quid if my memory serves me well. It was made by uniden had 100 ch's and that is where the similarity ends. First of all it was huge, display was tiny, it had one priority ch. A massive battery pack and close call was not even thought about in them days. So you can see you really do get more for your money.

Towards the end of this review I lay in bed connected it to my discone and just scanned away for a couple of hours. I would like to say it was a pleasure and sometimes having limited amount of memories shows what traffic you do miss if your scanner has loads of memories due to its sampling the other couple of hundred frequencies for activity when there is plenty going on on your 100 favourite frequencies.

Personally I think this little scanner is going to sell by the bucket load. I know if I did not have a close call scanner then I would not be sending this unit back. I would send a cheque instead. Trust me this is a great little scanner for its price snap it up now before Uniden realise they have under priced it!!

I would like to once again thank Nevada communications for the loan of this set. Nevada are the distributors for Uniden products and this scanner can be purchased direct from them here for £89.95