Best Radios for ATCS Monitor


Calling a radio "the best radio" for ATCS Monitor is a little like debating which is better, Ford or Chevy? ...and of course, we all know the answer to that debate is Dodge.

That being said, this information is meant as a general guide to what's out there, and how it works for others. If you have fellow ATCS Monitor users in your area (or in areas you wish to monitor via radio), sometimes you're better off talking to them and getting their opinions as well. The usefulness of one receiver verses another receiver can be affect by other transmitters in your area, the areas topography, the methodology a particular railroad uses in setup of their radio codeline (antenna locations, types, etc), as well as what code-line protocols the railroad uses.

There's a database of Radios on the ATCS Monitor Yahoo group (Yahoo login required).  For each radio there's a user-submitted evaluation and rating showing receive quality, ease of discriminator access, cost estimate, etc.  More detailed information may be shown here on the Wiki, as people contribute.

Advice to New Users

Before you go off and spend several hundred dollars on a new radio for ATCSMon, don't discount whatever scanners you've already got. The modifications to a modern scanner (withing the past 10-15 years) really isn't that difficult, and your current scanner may be enough to get you started monitoring.

Using Portable/Handheld Scanners

Just a heads up about portable scanners...

Many portable scanners incorporate the battery saving technique of only turning on the receiver section every few seconds to see if there is carrier. This generally works fine for listening to people talk as you only lose a small part of the conversation and can infer what was said.  Not so with data!

A way to tell if your scanner does this (besides the manual) is to put in a normally idle freq in manual mode, plug your discriminator into your sound card, and un-mute the Line-In playback mixer channel. Simmer for 10 minutes. If after a period of time you still hear the continuous rush of open squelch noise, you are either OK or there is a strong enough signal on the freq to keep the battery-saver from kicking in. If you hear regular bursts of noise between complete silence, you have battery-saver.

Workarounds: - Leave your squelch knob cranked wide open. Volume can be turned all the way down so you don't hear it. - Instead of setting the scanner to the manual channel, set it in scan mode and lock out all other channels in the bank. Battery-save won't engage in scan mode.

My Uniden trunktrackers do this even though they are plugged into a 12V external supply. Found out that the Pro-2067 scanner does it too, even though it's a mobile/base. Of course when you open it up, it becomes obvious that the boards are the same used in the portable version!

Radios and Receivers

Commercial Radios

Microwave Data Systems (MDS)

  • MicrowaveDataSystems1000u(?) - Information on the 1000u/9600FP
  • MicrowaveDataSystems1000(?) - Information on the crystal-controlled 1000

Motorola Radios

High-End Scanner/Receivers



  • IcomPCR100(?) - PCR-100, The original Icom computer controlled scanner
  • IcomPCR1000(?) - PCR-1000 Computer controlled scanner with built-in DiscriminatorTab(?)
  • IcomR10(?) - R-10 Previous generation hand-held scanner

Other Scanners/Receivers

Radio Shack/Realistic

  • RadioShackPro2006(?) - Radio Shack Pro-2006 Tripple-Conversion from the early 90's



-- BrianSwan - 25 Oct 2006

Topic revision: r2 - 2006-10-27 - 06:21:56 - GaryHahn
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