Friday, March 23, 2012

Uniden BC125AT Full Review

Uniden BC125AT Full Review

Video review of the BC125AT:

Construction and Build Quality:

The BC125AT is Uniden's latest scanner.  It is touted as an "event scanner" focused on being used at air shows and racing events.  However, this scanner is much more than that!  This is a great analog, conventional scanner for VHF-High band, Civil Air band and Mil-Air band.

The Uniden BC125AT feels solid in the hand and has a large LCD Display.  The keypad buttons are well spaced and larger than most handheld scanners.  The buttons have a soft rubber feel to them and give a nice tactile feedback when pressed.  The keypad has a nice layout and is easy to remember for manipulating in low light (keypad is not backlit).

The BC125AT has a belt clip similar to the BC246T.  The belt clip is rigid and does not hinge.  It hangs on a pocket or belt as intended, but anything over 1/4" deep will have a hard time accommodating this style belt clip.

The sides of the scanner has grooves molded into the plastic which helps to grip the scanner in the hand.  The plastic used on the case feels a bit cheap.  I don't think the outer case would handle a direct impact from a fall very well.  It's not terrible, but doesn't seem as solid as say a BC396XT or the Icom R6.  It feels similar to the BC246T or Pro-97 (Pro-164) casing material.  The BC125AT reminds me a lot of the BC246T even though they have different memory management systems.   They are similar in size but the BC125AT has a larger screen and better keypad in my opinion.   The BC125AT has banks and channels versus the Dynamic Memory or the BC246T but still incorporates some menu options for programming, setting LCD options, etc.

The BC125AT is well balanced when sitting upright on a desk, even with the Diamond RH77CA antenna, which is significantly longer than the stock antenna.  The scanner doesn't tip over easily with the extended antenna.  The BC125AT uses a BNC type antenna connection.

The battery compartment on the bottom, rear of the radio has a slide on/off door that snaps into place.  The door fits tight and has no movement when in place.  The batteries fit into the scanner very snug.  Almost too snug at times because the batteries can be hard to remove.  There is a switch on the inside of the battery compartment for selecting either rechargeable batteries or alkaline.  This switch prevents the scanner from charging alkaline batteries in the scanner when plugged into AC power or USB.  However, you do have to remember to slide that switch to the proper position.  I never recommend charging batteries in a scanner but sometimes this can't be avoided.

BC125ATThe large LCD display is one of the best features in my opinion.  On this large LCD display you can see your alpha tag, channel number, frequency, mode, PL Tone, and signal strength meter.  Also on screen are active banks, close call and/or weather priority symbols, if activated.  I wish I could dim the back light. It isn't overly bright but it would be nice to save the batteries.  You can turn on/off the LCD backlight with the press of a button.  Or you can set it to come on with squelch only, keypress only or both.

To access the LCD menu, press the Func button followed by the power button.  This will allow you to set the backlight modes as mentioned above and set the LCD contrast from 1 - 15.  I prefer contrast setting at 12.  In this menu you can also set the time the scanner will charge the batteries when connected to external power.  1 to 16 hours of charge time is available for your choosing.

The Uniden BC125AT covers from 25 MHz to 512 MHz (Included coverage is: 25-54, 108-174, 225-380 and 400-512 MHz).   You can set the mode on each channel that you program to FM, NFM, AM or Auto.  On service search of Mil-Air it looks like the mode is preset to NFM between 138.0000 MHz and 143.9875 MHz and 148.0000 MHz and 150.7875 MHz.  At 225.0000 MHz it changes to AM. These modes are not user changeable in service search.  There is no 800 MHz coverage on this scanner.  There is also no trunking or digital modes receive on this scanner.  It is known as a conventional, analog radio scanner.  

The Uniden BC125AT is a bank/channel type scanner.  The scanner can hold a maximum of 500 channels in 10 banks.  50 channels per bank.


The scanner is very easy to program by hand.  I have yet to break out the Owner's Manual.  I  programmed about 250 to 300 channels with tags and PL tones by hand before downloading the free Uniden software (more on the software later). It is tedious to program by hand, but not hard at all.  It is just a little time consuming.

To program a new channel manually simply press the Hold button (if you aren't already in hold mode).  Scroll to an empty channel using the multi function knob on top.  Press the Func button followed by the Pgm/E button.   From here select the Enter Frequency option by pressing E (or pressing down on the multi function knob.  Input the desired frequency.  (Note:  If the frequency is already programmed into the scanner, it will give you an alert telling you of a duplicate entry.)  Once you have the frequency entered, for instance 122.8000 press the E button.  You are returned to the Program Menu screen where you can Edit Tag, Set CTCSS/DCS, Set Modulation, Set Priority of the Channel and/or set the Delay time.  You also have the option of deleting the channel from this menu or clearing the entire bank.  To edit the alpha tag simply select the Edit Tag and press E.  Use the multi function knob to select the character desired and use the 4 and 6 key to move the cursor on the screen.  Press E to save the text.  You can press the . / clr button to clear the text entry completely.  Once you have saved the text you will be back at the program menu screen.  You can either set the other options or scroll to exit to move on.  Very simple to program the scanner.  There are several button clicks and knob turns involved but all in all I think Uniden made it easy to program their scanner.

The scanner is also PC programmable.  I downloaded ARC125 demo. It is a great piece of software and would be very handy if I wasn't such a tightwad and didn't want to spend $25 on something that, in all likelihood, I would use only one time. Uniden does provide programming software free of charge.  It doesn't provide RadioReference import like the ARC software but it may be a better solution than trying to program the scanner by hand.  A trick you can use instead of the radioreference import is if you do have a premium subscription to RadioReference (which you have to have for the import feature as well) you can download CSV files of the counties, agencies, or systems, open them in a spreadsheet program and copy/paste them into the Uniden Software.   This is the method I chose to go with!  Not to say that the ARC software isn't great.  I have ARC software for the BC396XT and PSR-500.  ARC makes excellent software.  However, I use the ARC396 and ARC500 a lot.  And I knew that I wouldn't use the ARC125 as much.  Your mileage may vary!

Main Features:

ALPHA TAGGING!!!!! I am not sure I could use a scanner without it anymore. I am glad Uniden put in the feature on this sub $140 scanner! It makes all the difference in the world.  It would be very difficult to remember what 500 channels are without the text tags.

Close Call DND and Priority DND are awesome! I have gotten several hits on Close Call. The DND (Do Not Disturb) feature checks for signals only when the scanner isn't actively receiving signals so it doesn't interrupt a transmission.  On some other scanners you will hear a pause in the audio every 2 seconds while the scanner checks for the Priority or Close Call.  To enter the Close Call Menu, press the Func key then the Hold (CC) key.  From there you can select Close Call Mode, Close Call Bands, Close Call Alert, Scan Hits, Set Delay, CTCSS/DCS Search, Review Lockouts or Exit the menu.  

The Close Call Mode menu is where you can turn Close Call on/off, activate the Close Call DND, Close Call Priority or select to use the scanner in Close Call Only mode.  Close Call Only mode will scan only the close call bands selected and not any programmed channels.  

Close Call alert menu allows you to set the scanner to alert on any close call hits.  You can set the LCD to illuminate or not and have the scanner give an audible beep or not.  These two alerts are independent of each other so you can have the light alert on and the beep off or vice versa.  You can have them both set on or off.

Close Call Bands menu allows you to turn on or off the included bands:  25-54 VHF - Low, 108-137 CIV-Air, 137-174 VHF-High, 225-320 MIL-Air, and 320-512 UHF.  

The BC125AT also has Close Call Temporary Store which stores and scans the last 10 Close Call hits in the Close Call Hits system.

As stated previously, I get Close Call hits quite regularly.  I have gotten them from my home as well in the car when mobile.  I'm not sure the exact sensitivity of Close Call, but I have found it to be quite nice.  I am sure that something like an FRS radio isn't going to activate Close Call without being very close.  But a repeater pushing 100 + watts would get picked up by Close Call at some distance.  Don't expect to get Close Call hits over about 1/4 to 1/2 mile though.  I picked up my local PD repeater about 1/2 mile with Close Call.  Police mobile radios in their cars, a few hundred feet and handheld police radios even closer than that.  So the sensitivity of the Close Call is determined by the power output of the radio it is picking up I would assume.  However, Close Call has picked up local businesses as I passed by their locations on the highway.

Temporary Lockout is one of the greatest features of this scanner in my opinion.  This is a great feature since the scanner does not have an attenuation function.  When you press the L/O button 1 time, the scanner will temporarily lockout the frequency that you are currently on.  Pressing 2 times in rapid succession will lock it out permanently, requiring you to either scroll to the channel or go into the menu and unlock that channel.  However, all channels that were locked out using temporary lockout will be restored (unlocked) after the next power cycle.   

The BC125AT has CTCSS and DCS Squelch modes.  This provides rapid search for CTCSS/DCS tones/code used on some channels. The scanner has 50 CTCSS tones and 104 DCS codes available.  It's a great feature for reducing interference as well as some agencies use the same frequencies but different CTCSS/DCS allowing for multiple uses.  The 125AT search option for CTCSS/DCS is very fast.  I would say it near instantly displays the tone/code when you have search activated on a programmed channel or Close Call.

SAME weather alert codes would have been a nice feature to have, unfortunately they are not included on the BC125AT.  However, the general weather alert (which picks up the 1050 Hz tone) is available on this scanner.  When activating the weather menu, simply press Func button then the #3 / Wx key.  You can select from Weather Scan, Alert Standby, Alert Priority, or Set Delay.  To enter any of these options, simply scroll to the option using the multi function knob on top and press the PGM / E button or press down on the multi function knob.  

Weather scan will do just that, scan the  7 US NOAA Weather channels.  The scanner will stop on an active channel or you can hold on any 1 of the 7 channels.  

Weather Alert Standby will scan the weather channels and stop on the weather channel with an active signal.  At that point the scanner will stop on that channel, remaining completely muted and wait to receive the 1050 Hz tone from the NOAA Weather Station so long as you have a receivable signal from NOAA.  When a tone is received, the scanner will produce and audible alarm and the station will open so you can hear the message.  

Weather Alert Priority can be set either Off or On (Set to off by default).  If you set the Wx Alert Priority On, when scanning your programmed channels the scanner will check the for the 1050 Hz tone every 5 seconds, which will cause you to hear a pause in the audio if a channel is being received.  I have noticed that if a Weather Channel signal cannot be received the scanner will automatically turn off the Weather Alert Priority.  This could be a safety issue if you are using this to alert you to potential severe weather, so just be aware of that fact.  Of course, if you can't receive the channel, you aren't going to hear the tone anyway.  However, I think that it would be a nice feature if the scanner would continue to look for an active NOAA frequency rather than turning off the Weather Alert Priority.  It could be that you move the scanner from one room to the next and during the transition signal is lost and the alert priority is turned off.  Then you go to bed thinking its on with severe weather approaching.  For more information on the weather operation refer to page 65 of the Owner's Manual.

Direct Access feature allows you to directly access any channel with a few presses of the buttons.  For instance if you have your local police stored on channel 200.  To go directly to that channel press the Hold button, then 2 0 0 then Hold button again.  Boom, you are on channel 200, holding waiting on a transmission!

Service Searches are separated in 10 preset banks.  1. Police, 2. Fire/Emergency, 3. Ham, 4. Marine, 5. Railroad, 6. Civil Air, 7. Military Air, 8. CB Radio, 9. FRS/GMRS/MURS, and 0. Racing.  These can come in handy for just skimming a specific range of common frequencies.  To enter the service search feature of the scanner press the Func button followed by the Srch/Svc button.  Then you can press the number keys 1 - 0 to activate/deactivate the 10 preset searches.

Priority features abound on this little radio.  Priority scan with Do Not Disturb lets you program up to 10 channels as Priority (1 in each bank) and the scanner will check the channels marked as priority every 2 seconds.  Priority Do Not Disturb works just like Close Call Do Not Disturb in that the scanner will not interupt an active transmission and will only check for activity on the priority channels when the scanner is not receiving audio from another channel.

UnidenBC125ATScannerPriority plus allows the BC125AT to scan only the priority channels. 

To enter the Priority Menu, press the Func button followed by the 1 / Pri button.  This gives you the Priority menu.  From there you can select Priority Off, Priority DND, Priority Scan, and Priority Plus.

Delay time can be set on each channel, Close Call Search, Custom Search, and Service search.  This controls whether the scanner pauses at the end of the transmission for the set amount of time.  You can set the amount of time it holds on that channel before resuming up to 5 seconds or a negative delay to -10.  

Custom searches can also be set up in the scanner.  You can set up to 10 custom search ranges.  To enter the custom search press the Srch/Svc button.  To program a custom search, enter the custom search by pressing the Srch button then press Func followed by E / Pgm button.  From there you can set the limits of the search bands, delay times, CTCSS/DCS search, review any lockouts and you can save a frequency form the search function to the programmed channel scan.

You can also do a quick search.  While the scanner is scanning programmed channels, press the Hold button.  Then input the frequency and press the Srch button and the scanner will start searching from the entered frequency frequency.  

Pressing the number keys during a programmed scan, service search, close call, or custom search will turn on/off bands, banks, or search ranges just like all other bank/channel type scanners. 


I am running the BC125AT beside the Icom R6 and the PSR-800.  The BC125AT and Icom R6 are using the Diamond RH77CA antenna, I can't tell a difference on the signals they are pulling in on civilian air band.  They seem to be pulling in the same signals at the same signal strength.  That is very impressive to say the least!  The 125AT seems to be keeping pace with the Icom R6, which is well regarded as a great receiver.  I am actually very impressed by the BC125AT.  I think that on VHF-High band the R6 edges the 125AT by a slight margin.  The R6 will pick up fringe signals where the 125AT won't.  However, the R6 also picks up a ton of interference whereas the 125AT isn't affected by it as bad.  The BC125AT vs the PSR-800 on VHF-Air, is no comparison.  The 125AT seems to win hands down in my unscientific tests.  The PSR-800 is excellent on the 800 band, but the 125AT doesn't cover that band.

UnidenBCScannerMil-Air receive seems to be quite good as well.  I have picked up several programmed Mil-Air frequencies.  I am not in a high traffic Mil-Air area (South Arkansas).  However, there is an airforce base about 100 miles to my north.  I have heard several Mil-Air comms as they fly in my area.

VHF-High band has great receive as well.  I regularly pick up a police department about 20 miles to my west with good audio and good signal strength.  As well as a county SO about 20 miles to my south and one that is about 15 miles to my north.  I think that is decent for a hand held scanner with a duck antenna.  I am pleased with its performance in this area.

UHF receive seems to be pretty decent as well.  A local fire department uses UHF Band and it sounds great.  I do not have enough low band in my area to test this.  

Audio is very good on this radio. The speaker has a clear tone and loud enough in the car to be heard over road noise.  Comparing to the R6, the 125 has a cleaner sound to me.  The R6 has a teeny sound in my opinion, although it can get loud the smaller speaker doesn't give as good of a tone.  VHF-Air audio is comparable to the PSR-800 as far as tone.  Cranking the audio all the way up to 15 on the BC125AT causes a little distortion, but not so much that it is unintelligible.  Typically sitting on my desk, I find that having the audio set between 6 and 8 is a comfortable listening volume.

The BC125AT uses batteries very quickly. I am scanning using back light on all the time. I am only getting about 4-6 hours out of a set of fully charged (and fairly new) Energizer 2300 mAh, as well as the supplied generic 2300 mAh batteries.  These batteries are always charged in a MAHA C9000 Charger.  Usually it is closer to the 4 hour mark.  Compared to my little R6 which runs for 10 + on 2 of the same batteries with back light on full time.  Of course, the R6 has a much smaller LCD and speaker to power. This isn't a huge deal since I have a backpack full of charged batteries with me most of the time.  The BC125AT has a low battery beep that becomes audible when the scanners batteries are almost exhausted.  On my 125AT the scanner will beep for about 1 to 2 minutes before the scanner powers itself off.  Not much warning, so if you hear the beep, you might want to start looking for those extra batteries or plugging your scanner into external power.

No ATT button? That is about all that is missing on this great little radio.  Some channels, especially when I place the scanner near my computer or driving around in the car, will receive interference.  Attenuation would be great in these instances but the temporary lockout works to block those channels.  Out of the 300 to 400 channels I have programmed in the scanner, 1 maybe 2 or 3 channels actually get plagued by interference regularly near my computer.  So I don't think it is a huge problem.  The scanner seems to handle strong nearby signals fairly well.  But if the channel being plagued by interference is a channel you really want to monitor, this is a problem.

You cannot rename the bank names.  This would be very handy.  As it is now, the banks are named Bank1, Bank2, etc.  I am quite sure being able to name the banks would be possible via a firmware update, but I am unsure if it will ever happen.  Being able to name the banks would allow a better memory management and easily recall what you have programmed in a specific bank.  

At the time of this review (3/23/12) having 7.5 kHz steps is not possible.  However, Paul Opitz (Uniden Product Manager) posted on radio reference that this option is coming in a future firmware update.

I have a dedicated 800 MHz P25 scanner. The 125AT makes a great 2nd (or 3rd, 4th, or 5th ) scanner if you need the 800 MHz, digital coverage.  I don't miss 800MHz coverage on this scanner because I am using it for Air band and Mil-Air mostly and some local VHF-High public safety.  

I would definitely opt for the Diamond RH77CA antenna to replace the stock duck antenna.  The RH77CA is longer but pulls in signals so much better.  I wouldn't throw away the stock antenna, but if I lost it in my junk drawer somewhere, it wouldn't bother me much.  I do use the stock antenna from time to time just to cut down on footprint of the radio.  If I clip it to my pocket or belt, then the stock antenna comes in handy.  Other than that, the BC125AT has the Diamond antenna on it and they work very well together!  Pairing the Radio Shack RS800 Mhz antenna on the BC125AT does cut down on the civil air band receive somewhat.  It seems to be only slightly better than the stock antenna in this band.  That is to be expected since the RS antenna is tuned for 800 MHz.  I used an extendable antenna from a GRE base/mobile scanner on the BC125AT and had very good results.  The extendable antenna performs similar to the Diamond antenna.  The extendable antenna is about 24" in length vs the Diamond that is 16" in length.

If you only need coverage below 512 MHz, non-digital, non-trunking scanner, I don't think you can go wrong with this little radio.  Especially at the price that Uniden released it at. ($139.99 at most dealers).  I picked mine up from Amazon for $139.99 with free shipping.  ScannerMaster or Grove are also good dealers.  All in all I think it's a great deal for $140 (and possibly cheaper online).

Matt Outlaw

Uniden BC125AT vs Icom IC-R6

BC125AT BC246T BC346T
BC246T vs BC125AT vs BC346T
Thanks to DaveIN from RadioReference for this pic!