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Railfan Technology > Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT


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Date: 08/19/20 20:20
Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: jbwest

I have read the threads here about scanners and apparently the Bearcat 125AT is the go to unit these days, and not a huge investment.  I have had for quite a few years an 92XLT, and had reasonable success with it (in the sense that I don't know what I am missing).  When I started to shop for a 125AT I was surprised to find that my 92XLT looks exactly the same as the 125AT, except the squelch and volume controls are combined.  I realize it is what is inside that is important, the superficial similarity piqued my curiousity.  I am an older techno dinosaur, so the technical details are over my head, but from a users standpoint I am now curious as to the difference between the 125AT and my old 92XLT.  The folks here have been very generous with info, so I thought it was worth asking before I made a decision.

JBWX



Date: 08/19/20 20:54
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: WW

A big difference is number of channels--the BC-125AT is 500 channels, compared to 200 in the BC-82XLT.  Why is this important?  If one counts all the splinter channels now (since 2013) authorized to be used by the railroads in the railroad band, it's over 180 channels total.  So, programming all the available AAR channels into a 200 channel radios leaves few memory channels for anything else.  Most railfans use their scanners for more than just railroad monitoring, so having 500 channels is nice.

The newer the model of scanner, the more bells and whistles they may have.  Some of those aren't that much use to railfans, so that might not be a reason to upgrade.  Though I haven't compared the specs, where radios in general have made some progress is in selectivity and intermod rejection.  This is especially important today as the airwaves are just saturated with interference.  Selectivity and intermod rejection are what allows a radio to "ignore" all that interference while allowing the listener to still hear the desired traffic.  Scanners typically don't have great selectivity or intermod rejection specs, but the BC-125AT is one of the better ones on the market in that regard.  I have heard complaints from radio users about its predecessor models (the BC-92XLT being one)  that they aren't that good in selectivity or intermod rejection.  I've never had the BC-92XLT and BC-125AT side by side to compare them myself, however.

In short, compared to older models, I would call the BC-125AT evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Is it worth it to upgrade?  That's a matter of personal preference and cost considerations.  Don't expect a striking difference in reception quality, though it may be noticeable, even significant.

I always go back to how a railfan intends to use the radio.  If you live in a place where photographing and chasing trains is like shooting fish in a barrel because of traffic density, etc., then having a superior radio may not be that big of a consideration.  Conversely, if you are photographing and chasing trains on a branch with sparse traffic where having as much information as possible makes the difference between seeing the train or missing it entirely, then having every advantage in receiving what radio traffic there is may be critical.  I tend to railfan more toward the latter, so I try to have the best radio equipment I can afford to be able to hear what scant radio traffic there may be.  In my case, my vehicles have commercial, high quality mobile radios; I will carry a portable radio when I'm not in a vehicle.  If I'm just casually railfanning, I will carry the BC-125AT, but, for more serious chasisng, I will use my commercial portable.



Date: 08/19/20 21:00
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: jbwest

What a quick response, and exactly the kind of info I was looking for.  Many thanks.

JBWX



Date: 08/19/20 21:03
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TCnR

Going through the manual real quick the most obvious difference is the ability to store frequencies on a software program and then load them into your radio, which in my mind is pretty huge.

The RF Sensitiviy is a bit worse, on pg 57, but I've seen the older series having horrible sensitivity and rejection despite what the specs say, which is very major as well. There's some changes in the battery and battery charging, again that's a big issue if it doesn't work well. Having squelch and volume on the same knob doesn't sound like a good idea, sometimes the squelch is also controlled by a seperate menu through the keypad, but I don't see anything like that in the User Manual.

I haven't used either of these radios so I can only go so far with it. The 75XLT that I have used would not be recommended except for an extreme back up. For me the Close Call or Close Capture is totally useless.

What is a good feature about these is the ability to scan multiple bands, which for some folks is not a big deal. They're also pretty easy to enter frequencies and get running very quickly. Very entry level, which is not a bad thing. Oh and yes, the antenna looks really cheesy, a piece of wire would probably work better.

http://www.uniden.info/download/ompdf/BC92XLTom.pdf

a review from the web:
https://www.eham.net/reviews/view-product?id=5510

What did I miss?

+ yep WW's last paragraph is exactly right. I make the comparison with how much a person pays in hotel and gas, vs missing a good photo due to any kind of problem with their radio.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/19/20 21:06 by TCnR.



Date: 08/19/20 21:08
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: jbwest

I am currently using the rubber ducky antenna.  I used to have a better antennae but it disappeared during a period when I was not using the scanner.  I suspect my first step should be to get a better antenna.  Thanks.



JBWX



Date: 08/19/20 22:20
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: mojaveflyer

Look at t he Diamond RH77CA, an excellent replacement antenna. For about $25 on Amazon.

James Nelson
Thornton, CO



Date: 08/19/20 22:30
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: jbwest

mojaveflyer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Look at t he Diamond RH77CA, an excellent
> replacement antenna. For about $25 on Amazon.

Done!  I had my eye on the RH77CA antenna, and that was the push I needed.   This has been very helpful.  My plan is to see how my 92XLT performs with the better antenna.  If I think I need to upgrade the 125AT is only about $100, and the new antenna should work with it.

JBWX



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/19/20 22:47 by jbwest.



Date: 08/19/20 23:43
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TCnR

In a situation like this, consider listening to the NWS broadcast channel, then swapping antennas. That way you have a constant transmitter to compare. It's very subjective but much better than waiting and hoping to hear a difference in Road channel reception. You're not looking for which one 'sounds better' but which antenna brings in a distant transmitter compared to the other, or less noise from a distant transmitter. The difference usually has to be pretty dramatic since it's not an accurate indication. This would also depend on where or how the squelch is set, which was described as kinda awkward.

Also consider how the intermod, or crazy paging tones performance is with the two antennas. Some antennas are just a bad match for some radios and cause more of those Intermod style noises. Consider buying an extendable or 'telescoping' metal antenna, adjust it to a quarter wave length of about 17 inches and then make comparisons between the three antennas. In the past some folks insisted on using a telescoping antenna for their everyday receive antenna, but that's getting kinda silly these days. Amazon has one for eight bucks but the URL link doesn't look right.

http://www.66pacific.com/calculators/quarter-wave-vertical-antenna-calculator.aspx

 



Date: 08/20/20 08:48
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: WW

Antennas.  The  RH77CA is a"broad band" antenna.  It is designed to enhance reception across a wide number of bands.  It is ideal for the scanner user who is monitoring all kinds of stuff across the radio frequency spectrum.  Yes, it's generally an improvement over the standard antenna.  That said, the  RH77CA is sort of like a Swiss Army knife.  It will do a lot of jobs, but none of them exceptionally well.  For railfans concentrating the use of their radio for railfanning purpose, buying an antenna tuned to the 160-162 mHz band is the best solution.  The Smiley Slim duck is a good choice.  My personal favorite is the Laird EXH-160, but it can be near impossible to find these days with the BNC connector that most scanners use.  The Laird no. for the BNC connector version of the EXH-160 is EXH-160BN.  Good tuned antennas with BNC connectors are getting harder to find because most amateur and commercial radios no longer use BNC connectors.  Smilley solves this problem by selling its antenna with a threaded connector at the bottom that threads into a provided adapter for whatever antenna connector is on the radio, a BNC in this case.  My biggest complaint about the Smiley is that it is possible for the antenna to unthread from its adapter without the user noticing it.  You look down at your radio and, oops, no antenna there, anymore.

Using the NOAA weather stations to test radio performance for a railfan radio is a good "ad hoc" subjective test, especially if the weather broadcast signal is somewhat distant and weak.  My home is in an ideal location to do that, so I use the "NOAA method" pretty often to check portable antenna performance.

As to intermod and pager interference.  Users commonly blame the antenna for this.  Usually, it's the radio's fault.  The antenna's part of the equation is that a good antenna  improves signal strength going into the radio--including the interference on the frequency.  If the radio does not have the selectivity and intermod rejection capability it needs (and many scanners don't), the interference comes out as unwanted audio garbage.  Using a less efficient antenna or closing down the squelch on the radio can stop some of the interference, but it also makes the radio more "deaf" to desired, but weak radio signals.   This is why commercial radios get expensive--they are designed to allow weak desired signals into the radio, but reject strong interference and intermod at the same time.  That takes some pretty sosphisticated technology.




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/20 08:56 by WW.



Date: 08/20/20 10:15
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: jbwest

Just gets better.  The antenna I lost was some kind of  "broadband" antenna  and it worked much better than my rubber ducky.  However the suggestion for one tuned to 160mHz makes sense since I only use the scanner for railfanning, so I changed my order and will try out the Smiley Slim Duck.  It's nice to get input from folks who actually know something about all this technology!  Again thanks.

JBWX



Date: 08/20/20 10:28
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: cchan006

jbwest Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Done!  I had my eye on the RH77CA antenna, and
> that was the push I needed.  

I've been using my Uniden BC72XLT + Diamond RH77CA combo for at least 12 years. They have served me well so far - people who know my railfan habits should know that I have a pretty good kill ratio for nabbing targets using this seemingly mediocre setup. RH77CA should work well if you are "hunting by FRED" as it picks up the EOTD and DPU chirps reasonably well.

I also have a magnetic mount 1/4 wave antenna tuned to 160-162 MHz when I'm driving, which has helped tremendously.

In support of what TCnR and WW have said, there are better combinations of scanner/antenna, and I've done side-by-side comparisons with other people's equipment to confirm that. Nice to know, if you want to improve your setup.

In the meantime, learn the limitations and behavior of your equipment. I can actually estimate how far away trains are, by listening to static from my cheapo 72XLT's mediocre sensitivity. Since I often hunt for trains instead of waiting for them to show up, this "bug" helps me figure out when to go near the ROW and look for lit signals. Useful in mountain territories where you might not be able to see the tracks from the highway you're on.



Date: 08/20/20 11:04
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: WW

I'm glad to help folks out with my posts on radio equipment, based on my 30+ years experience (literally) messing around with radio equipment.  And I'm still learning new things every day.



Date: 08/20/20 13:39
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TCnR

Highly recommend "hunting by FRED" and hunting by DPU when possible.



Date: 08/20/20 14:13
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: WW

TCnR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Highly recommend "hunting by FRED" and hunting by
> DPU when possible.

EOT and DPU chirps are usually only receivable over fairly short distances.  What they tell the listener is that there is a train in the vicinity, not much more.  Because they are transmitted every few seconds, they can also continually stop a scanner on the EOT or DPU channel, which means the listener may miss part or all of a transmission on the voice channel.  What I will sometimes do in my railfanning vehicle--which has both a commercial VHF mobile and a dual-band VHF/UHF amateur radio--is to tune the amateur radio to continually search the RR UHF band for EOT/DPU signals and leave my commercial VHF radio monitoring the RR voice channel(s).

What all this is actually an endorsement for is to have a commercial VHF mobile radio in your vehicle with a quality antenna, so that you can hear distant train and dispatcher communications better, and thus have better information on what, where, and when trains will be where you can intercept them.  Here's a real world example of why having a good quality mobile radio can be important:  A few years back I was photographing a reletavely infrequent train movement on a fairly isolated branch line.  The train was operating under Track Warrant Control.  I had heard the train get a Track Warrant to a siding several miles beyond where I wanted to photograph--a location where the train would likely tie down because the train crew was running out of time on Hours of Service.  Based on that information, I was making my way to my photographing location over a very rough 4WD road.  Because I had a good receiving mobile radio, I heard the train crew, now around 20 miles from my location, call the Dispatcher to inform him that they would not make their  "target" siding under their Hours of Service.  The Dispatcher instructed the crew to take a siding a couple of miles from their location, tie down their train, give up the remainder of their Track Warrant at that point, and that a crew van would pick them up.  'spatch also indicated that the train would not be re-crewed until well after dark that night.  I would have heard none of this conversation on a portable radio or cheap scanner.  Without that information, I would have likely spent a couple of hours waiting for a train that would never come.  As it was, I was able to redirect my target for photography to another line several dozen miles away, with sufficient time to get there to photograph some interesting traffic there.  Without a good radio and/or just using an EOT-sniffing radio, I would have never gotten the information that my original target train was not going to show up and I would have missed my alternative target, as well.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/20 14:14 by WW.



Date: 08/20/20 15:04
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: JClark6747

I love my 125AT except for 1 thing, it sure does eat up the battery quick. I have the rechargeable ones but I always carry spare standard AA batteries. I got the computer programming disc and it was so easy to program it( except putting all the channels in the program]. Overall its a great compact scanner.
 



Date: 08/20/20 15:14
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: WW

^Yes, battery life and charging time is the Achilles heel of the BC-125AT.  By contrast, my Icom IC-F3161 commerical portable can typically go 12 hours or so on a charge and changing out the battery to a fresh one is about a 15 second operation.  Also, if one wants to carry it, the 115V rapid charger for the Icom can be carried in the vehicle and plugged in to an AC adapter in the vehicle.  It will charge a battery pack in less than 2 hours.



Date: 08/20/20 17:21
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TCnR

Well no, the EOT is pretty short range but the DPU signal goes quite a long way, with the right topology an easy 20 miles but usually in the 5 mile range. Even in the PRB you'll hear it a long time before you see the train. The advantage is you know there's a train out there, maybe in a canyon or not visible or going away, but that's still a big clue. There's also characteristics that you pick up along the way, some RR's purposely repeat the EOT through the DPU equipment, so there's more info there like when two trains are passing. It's like putting a beacon on a train, except they did it for us. In a train dense area there's too many beacons to follow, leave the DPU channels in a seperate bank and disable the bank. Or use a radio dedicated to the DPU channels, it's that trains per dollar formula again.Obviously if the train is not using DPU's then that's one less clue.

In some areas folks use a modified radio to decode the ATCS signals between the Dispatcher and the signals, monitoring the EOT and DPU is easy peasy compared with bringing your own ATCS. Other folks have the ATCS Monitor running on a home computer then remote log in to it on their smart phone. Obviously, that doesn't work if the RR is not using ATSC radio network.

Poking holes in your car roof and the whole antenna thing is kinda strange once you have a decent receive radio. If you want to QSL your long lost Cousin in Australia that's a totally different topic.

> -----
> > Highly recommend "hunting by FRED" and hunting
> by
> > DPU when possible.
>
> EOT and DPU chirps are usually only receivable
> over fairly short distances.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/20 17:36 by TCnR.



Date: 08/20/20 17:41
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: cchan006

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> EOT and DPU chirps are usually only receivable
> over fairly short distances.  What they tell the
> listener is that there is a train in the vicinity,
> not much more.  Because they are transmitted
> every few seconds, they can also continually stop
> a scanner on the EOT or DPU channel, which means
> the listener may miss part or all of a
> transmission on the voice channel. 

But that's the beauty of listening to EOT and DPU, that a train is nearby. Some of the railfans call it "the 5 minute warning."

I haven't experienced the problem of EOT/DPU stepping over voice conversations. The chirp will release in a split second, and the voice conversations, usually much longer, will step over the chirp almost every time. The times the chirp interferes with a dispatcher/train conversation, it's usually the split second at the beginning, and in most cases the railfan's brain should be able to reconstruct what was missed.

It helps to mention that I have the 2 second delay (DLY) disabled on the EOTD/DPU frequencies, so it releases right away.

As for carrying more than one scanner and assign each one a dedicated function (one for EOTD, another for voice), that's a nice luxury to have. I personally tried it with a Radio Shack Pro 92 (made by GRE) in addition to my Uniden. The GRE did better picking up voice conversations using the same antenna, but it was bad with the EOTD frequencies (~450 MHz) so it was obvious which was assigned to which task. Uniden did fine with EOTD, even inside the car with RH77CA.

The hassle outweighed the effectiveness, especially since much of my railfanning involves air/train travels + rental car, so I stuck to just using the Uniden, and I'm satisfied.



Date: 08/20/20 18:21
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TCnR

Agree, some of this gets way too if and or but. Generally once you know where the train is you get a photo.

Thanks for the reality check.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/20 18:25 by TCnR.



Date: 08/20/20 18:40
Re: Bearcat 92XLT versus 125AT
Author: TheNavigator

Another vote for the Smiley 160MHz Slim Duck antenna.  I compared the Diamond RH77CA and the MFJ-1717 with the Smiley by using the NWS broadcast method as mentioned above on my BC125AT, and the Smiley pulled in the more distant signals better than the other two.
GK



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/20 18:42 by TheNavigator.



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