7 Best UK Radio Scanners in 2024 Reviewed

7 Best UK Radio Scanners in 2024 Reviewed

There are many decisions to make when choosing a new radio scanner. Affordability, ease of use and whether to opt for digital or analogue are critical concerns for most enthusiasts.

As well as covering those three key issues, this review drills down into that all-important detail that can be hard to access without actually buying and trying: What makes each scanner the best?

We have tested all of these radio scanners ourselves plus researched what other users have to say about them. You can find the results here, with each selection prefaced by a handy indicator for what it rates best in class for, in our best UK radio scanners reviews.

 

  EDITOR'S CHOICE              
  AOR AR-DV10
WHISTLER WS1010 ANALOG
UNIDEN UBC-125XLT
AOR AR-DV1
UNIDEN SDS-200E
UNIDEN BEARCAT UBCD-3600XLT
ICOM IC-R15
Type Handheld Handheld Handheld Desktop Handheld Handheld Handheld
Frequency Range 0.05-1300 MHz 29-512 Mhz 25-960MHZ 100-1300 MHz 100-1300 MHz 25-1300 MHz 76-500 MHz
Digital mode Yes Analog Analog Yes Yes Yes Analog
Channel Memory 1200 400 500 200 2000 1300
Pre-programmed No No Yes No No No No
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1. Best Overall Choice/Editor’s Choice – AOR AR-DV10

 

 

The AOR AR-DV10 Digital Handheld scanner is one of the most advanced portable scanners used by government departments worldwide because of its range.

It supports a variety of digital and analogue modes, delivering massive functionality in your hand on the move.

The superior features of this scanner use a simplified circuit backed by the latest SDR digital processing technologies. It comes equipped with an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA and an Analog Blackfin DSP.

Another feature that distinguishes this exceptional handheld scanner is its IPX5 water-resistant rating. The rating follows the IEC 60529 protocol.


 

PROS

  • Digital Auto-Mode Feature – A received signal is instantly recognised, and the scanner automatically switches to the applicable Digital or Analogue mode.
  • Weatherproof for outside in the field – IPX5 water-resistant.
  • Large full-dot matrix display – The display clearly shows mode, user setting and menu selection.

CONS

  • Price – this scanner is a serious outlay.
 
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2. Best Budget – Whistler WS1010

 

Affordable and user-friendly, the Whistler WS1010 Analog radio scanner offers all the most popular transmissions. A friendly ergonomic design means you can use this scanner just like a walkie talkie and take it out and about.

A quick search button finds the most common frequencies, including FM radio bands, air and HAM. You don’t have to spend ages on complicated searches when you have this device.


 

PROS

  • Priority channel - Set the scanner to monitor your favourite channel for new transmissions every two seconds.
  • 200 channel memory – Store your favourite frequencies in ten separate storage units for quick and easy access.
  • PC programmable – Avoid manual programming and use your PC to programme all the frequencies you want using third-party software.

CONS

  • Programming for beginners – The Whistler 1010 Analog is tricky for novices to programme.
  • Lengthy battery recharge time – You can charge the batteries for the scanner when it is on, but it takes a very long time. We advise purchasing an external battery charger and two sets of rechargeable AA batteries.
 
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3. Best Handheld – Uniden UBC-125XLT

 

 

The Uniden UBC-125 XLT handheld is an analogue scanner with 500 selectable frequencies. It is lightweight, sturdy and well made.

An analogue scanner may seem outdated to those under a certain age used to digital technology. Still, it can open up a whole new world, particularly for areas where digital signals are weak.


 

PROS

  • In-built banks – The Uniden UBC-125 XLT has in-built banks to search through for marine, CB radio and civil aviation.
  • Close call feature – Picks up nearby transmissions and alerts the user.
  • Programmable using software – This eliminates the need for manually selecting and inputting channels and then saving them.

CONS

  • Restricted usage during charging – You can’t operate the scanner whilst charging or from the USB power, only from the batteries.
  • Weak antenna – The antenna supplied is only suitable for close-range or close signals, so it may need upgrading with a telescopic antenna.
  • Less traffic – Many services are digital now or encrypted, so dependent on location, you may find that traffic is limited and quite dull.
 
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4. Best Digital – AOR AR-DV1

The AOR AR-DV1U is a wideband communications receiver covers 100 kHz to 1300 MHz in traditional analogue modes (SSB, CW, AM, FM, S-FM, W-FM) as well as various digital modes.

In fact, we know of no other radio in this category that can decode Icom's D-Star mode, Yaesu's new C4FM mode, Alinco's digital mode, NXDN (note: 6.25 kHz only), P25 Phase 1, etc.

Interesting features include: 2000 Memories (in 40 banks of 50), Memory Scan, AM Synchronous Detection, Noise Reduction, Notch, Digital Data Display, Clock, Calendar, Alarm, Timer. The SD/SDHC jack supports logging functions. There is also a micro USB port. This radio will support field firmware updating. High performance is achieved since the receiver employs direct conversion below 18 MHz and triple conversion superheterodyne above 18 MHz. 


 

PROS

  • Wideband Reception 

  • Compact

  • Crisp and clear display 

  • Intuitive Interface 

CONS

  • Price ‐ It's the most expensive scanner in this review 

  • Learning curve ‐ It will take some time to understand the features

 
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5. Best Digital – Uniden SDS-200E

The SDS-200E by Uniden may seem similar to the handheld SDS100, but it kicks it up several notches with speciality features.

Uniden have given this scanner the moniker ‘the world’s most advanced scanner radio’, and with the massive choice of options and customisation settings, it seems a worthy title. 


 

PROS

  • Best digital decode performance – The SDS-200E features True I/Q receiver technology, offering the best digital decode functionality even in challenging receiving environments.
  • Easy initial setup – Although this scanner has almost unlimited options and settings, the initial setup is pretty straightforward. You can be up and running in minutes with the easy user interface.
  • 8GB memory – The memory card with its 8GB capacity hold the complete database of the US and Canadian radio systems still with room left to record 100 hours’ worth of audio.
  • Fully customisable display – Customise the display with different colours to suit your requirements, plus a backlight for better nighttime viewing.

CONS

  • Price – There are plenty cheaper, but the easy usage and advanced technology make this scanner well worth the money for many radio users.
 
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6. Best for Professionals – UNIDEN BEARCAT UBCD-3600XLT

Experience the power and control of scanning technology with the Uniden UBCD3600XLT Handheld Scanner. Its TruckTracker V operation covers a wide range of frequencies from 25 to 1300MHz, including APCO 25 Phase 1 and Phase 2 and more, allowing you to monitor a diverse range of radio transmissions.

Equipped with user-friendly features like close-call RF capture, location-based scanning, and multi-colour LED alerts, the ICOM IC-R6 scanner offers a seamless experience for professional users.


 

PROS

  • Wide Frequency Range: The Uniden UBCD3600XLT Handheld Scanner covers a broad spectrum of frequencies.
  • Versatile Features: Packed with features for added functionality.
  • TrunkTracker V Operation: With TrunkTracker V operation, this scanner can efficiently scan trunked radio systems, providing seamless monitoring of complex communication.
  • Battery Life: It offers versatility with rechargeable Ni-MH and alkaline batteries.

CONS

  • Price: The Uniden UBCD3600XLT Handheld Scanner has a relatively high price tag compared to other scanners, which may deter budget-conscious users.
    Complexity: Its extensive range of features and advanced capabilities may be overwhelming for beginners or casual users.
 

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7. Best for On The Go – ICOM IC-R15

The ICOM Icom’s new IC-R15 receiver lets you stay on top of what’s happening. This handheld scanner gives you access to a wide range of frequencies so you can keep tabs on everything from emergency services to aviation chatter. With the IC-R15, you can monitor two channels at once. Use the dualwatch function to scan marine and land mobile frequencies simultaneously or check in on police and fire department transmissions at the same time. The large colour display makes it easy to keep track of both channels.


 

PROS

  • Wide Frequency Range: The ICOM IC-R15 covers a broad spectrum from 76 to 500 MHz.
  • Rugged and Waterproof: This receiver has IPX7 waterproof rating and can withstandrain, snow and can be submerged in water upto 3 feet for 30 minutes.
  • Dual watch function: The ICOM IC-R15 provides the dualwatch function that allows you to monitor two frequencies simultaneously.

CONS

  • Limited Display: The ICOM IC-R15 features a compact display, which may pose challenges for users who prefer larger screens for enhanced visibility and readability.
  • Price: One of the more expensive scanners.
 

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What To Consider When Choosing the Best UK Radio Scanner

Frequency Range

The frequency range of a radio scanner determines the variety of signals it can receive. Look for a scanner with comprehensive frequency coverage to ensure you can monitor a diverse range of transmissions, including airband, marine, amateur radio, and public safety frequencies.

Features

Consider its features when selecting a radio scanner. Look for capabilities such as frequency coverage, scanning modes (e.g., search or scan), memory channels, programmability, signal filtering options, and additional functions like GPS compatibility or digital mode support. Choose a scanner with features that align with your scanning needs and interests.

Ease of Use

When selecting a radio scanner, consider its user interface and functionality. Look for intuitive controls, transparent display screens, and ergonomic design to ensure effortless operation, especially for beginners. Advanced users may prioritise customisable settings and programmable buttons for enhanced versatility and convenience.

Portability

Consider the scanner's size and weight, especially if you plan to use it on the go. Handheld models are ideal for outdoor use, while larger base/mobile units are better suited for home setups. Evaluate battery life and power options for portable scanners.

Mode Support

Radio scanners vary in their ability to support different transmission modes such as AM, FM, USB (Upper Sideband), and LSB (Lower Sideband). Consider the transmission modes relevant to your listening interests, such as aviation (AM) or amateur radio (USB/LSB), and ensure the chosen scanner can accommodate them.

Legal Considerations

Ensure compliance with local regulations regarding radio scanner usage. Some frequencies, such as those used by emergency services, may be restricted. Please familiarise yourself with legal restrictions and ensure your scanner usage adheres to them to avoid any potential legal issues.

Brand Reputation

It's essential to consider the brand's reputation. Established brands often offer better quality, reliability, and customer support. Researching reviews and user experiences can help gauge the reputation of different brands in the market. Opting for a trusted brand can ensure a better overall experience and product satisfaction.

Price and Budget

When selecting a radio scanner, consider your budgetary constraints. Prices can vary widely based on features, brand, and model. Determine your budget range and look for scanners that offer the best value, balancing cost with desired features and performance.

Available Accessories

Consider the availability of compatible accessories such as antennas, carrying cases, earphones, and external power sources. Access to various accessories can enhance your scanner's functionality and usability, allowing customisation to suit your specific needs and preferences. Additionally, check for the availability of optional add-ons like frequency expansion cards or software upgrades to maximise your scanner's versatility over time.

Warranty and Support

When selecting a radio scanner, it's essential to consider the warranty and support options the manufacturer or retailer offers. A robust warranty ensures protection against defects and malfunctions, providing peace of mind to the user. Additionally, reliable customer support channels can assist with troubleshooting, software updates, and technical inquiries, enhancing the overall user experience and product satisfaction.

Conclusion

The top seven scanners that have made it into our review offer something for everyone, whether a beginner with a small budget right or an experienced radio user with a deep pocket.

Based on our trials, we have steered products towards specific categories or types of users, so if you have a priority like best coverage or best features, you can hone straight in on a particular review.

The best reviews come from people who understand the tech and use the products. What we say is authentic and designed to help you make an informed purchasing decision, thereby landing the scanner you need.