Monday, December 5, 2011

Radio Shack Pro-97

Let me start by saying the Pro-2055 and Pro-97 are my very first GRE Products. I have owned all Uniden scanners up to this point. The Pro-97 is basically same scanner as the Pro-2055 except the 97 is a handheld version. The Pro-97 scanner is an excellent buy at the $149.99 sale price. Be aware that the Pro-97 is not Rebanding supported. If you have a Motorola 800 MHz system in your area that is going to be rebanded, then you may want to look for another scanner. However, if your system isn't going to be rebanded, or you monitor VHF, UHF, LTR, or EDACS, you will be more than pleased with the scanner.
My first impression of the Pro-97 when it first arrived wasn't a good one. Looking at the scanner in the plastic blister pack, didn't give me the impression of a quality product. I like my scanners boxed up nice and neat like Uniden does it! The blister pack was very easy to open but it seems like a cheap way of doing things. I have heard that the Pro-97 now comes in a box. I open the package and the scanner is really light weight. The buttons have a nice feel, kind of a glossy feel/look to them. Very firm buttons that are nicely arranged. The front of the scanner is what I really like about it. The LCD, the colors used, it looks nice to me. The back of the case and belt clip seem very flimsy. Although I didn't buy the 97 to carry with me day to day, I would still like the 97 to have a good belt clip to attach to scanner stands and for minor belt transport.

Pro-97 Package Contents
In the package, all you get is the Pro-97 Scanner, antenna, 2 battery holders (one for rechargeables and one for alkaline), belt clip, manual and other literature and that's it! Like I said on the Pro-2055 review, I feel GRE/Radio Shack should include a computer programming cable but they don't so Ebay, Radio Shack or is where you have to get those to use with Win97 programming software. Also Uniden provides batteries and an AC adapter where Radio Shack does not. Maybe that is why RS can sale the Pro-97 for $149.99? As with the Pro-2055, programming by hand is a pain. It can be done, but entering text is very painful after several hundred frequencies. I cloned my 97 from the 2055 using a standard 1/8 to 1/8 mono cable. Cloning is very fast. It cloned in less than 1 or 2 minutes all 10 banks and SAME codes. The Pro-97 is by far a "hotter" receiver than the BCD396T, BC246T, BC250D, BC80XLT, and a few others I have used.

Pro-97 LCD: Scanning
The Pro-97 receives transmissions where the BCD396T just keeps on scanning. Not only does it receive those VHF-High transmissions, they are very clear (hardly any static). Actually I would compare it's sensitivity to the Icom R5, but with better audio and less static. I am impressed with the VHF-High and Civilian Air receive using only the stock antenna. I plugged in about 150 or so Civ Air freqs I have accumulated and when I open those banks, the scanner can't go a full round without receiving an Aircraft transmission. The nearest (fairly large) airport is 100 miles north of me (Little Rock, AR).The BCD396T is using a VHF-High band specific antenna and still can't receive the signals the 97 is pulling in. I have been told that if you want features, buy Uniden, if you want performance, buy GRE. I am starting to believe that statement using the Pro-97. Don't get me wrong, I love Uniden. In fact if I could only have one scanner, it would be the BCD396T but the 97/2055 scanners are very hot (sensitive)! But the drawback to the sensitivity is when you connect to an external antenna, like my Scantenna, it overloads the scanner whereas the above mentioned Uniden scanners don't overload easily. You can help this problem by activating the attenuator on the Pro-97 and Pro-2055. I connected this scanner to my mag mount Antennex VHF-High Band antenna and the scanner shines even more. Pulling in signals I didn't think I could receive on a Mag Mount. I have to say again, I am really impressed with this Pro-97. I am in a rural area with not a lot of interference, but man this thing is cool.

Pro-97 Keypad
Overall, I would put this scanner up against any analog scanner currently made in the performance area on stock antennas. The scanner is the hottest thing I have used here in rural Arkansas. It picks up better than any of the Uniden's I have owned which include the BC246T, BC80XLT, BC250D,and BCD396T. As well as some Uniden made Pro-2051 and Pro-2052 The 2052 was the closest in receive to the Pro-97/2055. Sure some of the Uniden's have cooler features like dynamic memory and a few others but the performance of the 97 is unmatched in my opinion.
The Pro-97 and Pro-2055 are neck and neck on the stock antennas. I guess they should be seeing how they are the same scanner. The Pro-97 seems to catch a little more interference but I suppose that is due to the plastic case versus the metal case of the 2055. If you want sheer performance on VHF-High band, the Pro-97 will get it done. I am impressed with it's receive capabilities.

Pro-97 vs. BCD396T
The backlight is great on the Pro-97. The LCD is nice and bright but not too bright. However when the backlight is off, in normal indoor lighting it can be very hard to see. The backlit keypad is a great addition as well. I love the way it looks in the dark. I really like that the Pro-97 displays my frequency and Alpha (text) tag at the same time. This is one thing I miss on the BCD396T, BR330T and BC246T. I like to see the frequency as well as the text.
The Audio on the Pro-97 is good. It can get very loud without distortion. Not as loud as the Pro-2055 but still plenty loud for normal use! Much better than the BC246T's audio. Very crisp audio on the Pro-97. Likely the best audio I have heard on a handheld scanner.
The signal stalker feature works, however you have to be within "range." You can't use signal stalker to pick up transmissions 20 miles away. However, if you use the feature as it was intended it works great. If you are within about 100 feet of the transmitting source (i.e. handheld or mobile radio) the scanner will pick up the transmission. It works very good if you happen up on an accident scene, fire scene, or other incident and are not familiar with the agencies working the incident. I have even heard reports that some have received overhead aircraft several thousand feet in the air, using the Signal Stalker function.

Pro-97 Top View
The SKYWARN feature is really neat. You can program Bank 9 channel 97, 98 and 99 with frequencies used in your local SKYWARN or weather net(s). Push and hold the WX button with the SKYWARN and the scanner jumps to Bank 9 Channel 97.
The CTCSS/DCS mode has to be on one or the other when searching for tones. You can't search for both at the same time, but this is minor because you simply press the mode button when you are on that frequency to change from CTCSS to DCS search. I love the fact that the CTCSS/DCS was added to this scanner. It is a very useful feature and should be included on every scanner built!
Trunking works very well on the Pro-97. I monitored a local electric company Motorola 800 MHz trunking system flawlessly. I also monitored an 800 MHz Motorola System 45 miles from me, albiet using the RS800 MHz antenna and some good monitoring conditions. The scanner has a feature for LTR Trunking that allows you to find the LCN's. I have not had a chance to use this feature but it is a great idea for those who don't know the LCN on their local LTR systems.

Pro-97 Backlight
The manual is written well enough. It could have been better, but you can usually figure out how to operate the functions of the scanner using the manual. I am used to Uniden scanners so some of the controls and functions I have to check the manual and what I am looking for is usually easy to find in the manual. You may have to read through the manual carefully and take programming step by step to get the hang of it.
I debated on which to get first, the Pro-97 or the BR330T. The BR330T has many more features over the 97 like dynamic memory, fire tone out, search with scan, and a few others. After owning both, I can say that the Pro-97 is the more sensitive scanner. But the BR330T has wider frequency coverage and several features that cannot be found on the Pro-97.
The Pro-97 has all the functional features you could use in a modern scanner:
  • Attenuator
  • Priority
  • 1000 channels
  • Custom Search
  • Preprogrammed Searches
  • SAME Weather Alerts
  • Weather Alert Priority
  • Backlight LCD and keypad
  • 16 character Alpha Tags
  • Computer programmable
  • Triple Trunking and a few more features.
Pro-97 In Service Thoughts:
While the Pro-97 is scanning, it displays the bank tag that you have assigned. But when stopped on an active channel the bank tag is not displayed. This is a little annoying. But that is where the CTCSS/DCS is displayed when on an active channel.

Pro-97 LCD Close up
One thing I like about the Pro-97 is if a bank is off, when you push the corresponding bank key to turn it on, it automatically starts scanning at that bank. For instance, the scanner is on bank 9 and you push 4 to turn on 4, the scanner goes from bank 9 to bank 4 which if you have the bank tagged will display the name of the bank. Signal stalker and Preprogrammed searches work the same way. If the group is off and you turn it on, it will display the search range that you just turned on. Pretty neat!
The Tune feature could be useful as well. You press "Tune" and you can manually enter any frequency (within the scanners range) and the scanner will go directly to that frequency. You can un-pause the scanner and it will begin a search from that point. Or you can press the up or down arrows and manually step through the frequencies. You can also be holding on a frequency that you have programmed into the scanner and press function then tune and go directly to the tune feature at the frequency you were holding on. This is yet another cool feature of this scanner.
I love how the Weather Alert Priority works. You assign your local NOAA weather frequency as your priority channel which is simple to do. You just press the Wx button and when the scanner stops on the active NOAA frequency press Function and then Pri and it is set. Then when you want to turn on Wx Alert Priority, simply turn on Priority. The scanner then checks for the 1050 Hz tone every 3 to 4 seconds. It works too! A few severe storms just rolled through here, I used the Wx Alert Priority on the 97 while using my other scanners to monitor other agencies and the 97 worked great. The 97 alerted me of a Tornado Warning for my county way before our tornado sirens were set off. I can see how some won't like this because it does tie up the Priority channel but for me, I really like it.

Pro-97 Search Screen
Another Weather feature I like is the SAME feature. Even while listening to the NOAA Weather radio, the SAME alert is still active. I have never heard my Uniden's do this. Usually you have to set it for SAME and not hear any audio until a Watch or Warning is activated. But on the 97 I was listening to NOAA and a Tornado Warning was issued for a neighboring county and it displayed "Tornado Warning" on the screen as well as set an audible alarm. I really like this! One thing that does bug me a little is if you are in SAME standby mode, you can't press Scan to scan your programmed channels. You have to press Function then Wx to go back to the Weather Scan mode, then press Scan to resume scanning.
The scanner uses 4 AA batteries. To me that is a little excessive but I suppose it helps with battery life. I use Energizer 2500 mAh rechargeable batteries. I haven't had a chance to give a good estimate of battery life and will report back here once I have made a good evaluation. But for a general idea, I have been using a set of 2500's at the time of this review. I got almost 12 hours out of one charge on a set of 2500's. This was with moderate traffic with backlight used about 6 hours out of the 12.

Pro-97 Signal Stalker Screen
The volume/squelch knobs being together bother some people but I like it. I thing it gives the scanner a cleaner look and it works well for me. I love the analog squelch and volume. I have been using the BCD396T that seem to have a more digital approach to squelch/volume. The squelch on the 97, you turn it when receiving a weak signal and you can actually adjust the squelch to a point where it actually blocks the signal or will receive the weaker signals. The 396 isn't like this (at this point). The 396 squelch is either fully open (nothing but static) or it is on and seems unadjustable to me.
I downloaded the Win97 Software. I was surprised at how easy this software is to navigate and operate. You can use the software free for 30 days. Mr. Don Starr, states on his site that you should use the software for the 30 day trial period to see if you like it. I am sure you will. It has all the functions you need plus many extras all in an easy to understand and navigate format. It reminds me a little of ARC software but the Win software definitely has it's own attributes! The software allows you to tweak things you couldn't without it. Like at what voltage the low battery beep begins. That is just cool. Also adjust the backlight time settings, and a few other tweaks. You can edit and adjust the 6 searches of the scanner including the limit search by adding Attenuator, and turning on/off certain functions as well as locking out channels. Same goes for the Signal Stalker function. Of course you can add and edit all 1000 of the scanners channels and all the Talk Group ID's. Win97 supports copy and paste, because I copied almost all of my information from my UASD396 program and pasted into Win97. You can do neat things like justify all the text tags either to the left, center, or right. Also you can check for duplicate frequencies. You can also have the software sort by alpha tags or frequency in the bank and on the Talk Groups. There is also a search function that searches for alpha tags, frequencies or talkgroups. And with Win97 you can import from the database. Of course Win97 also supports the Pro-2055. The Win97 software is a must have for either of these two scanners! It is well worth the $25.00 to keep your data well organized.If you have any questions about this scanner, software, or functions, please feel free to contact me.

Pro-97 SAME Weather LCD
I would recommend this scanner to someone looking for a good "receiver." No scanner is perfect (yet) and the Pro-97 would be close with dynamic memory but I love the performance of this scanner. The Pro-97 is my new work horse! The Pro-97 is a great bang for the buck, especially at the $149.99 sale price Radio Shack has been famous for. You can usually find a used Pro-97 for around $100. I give this scanner an 8 out of 10. I knocked off 2 points because of the programming, flimsy back of scanner, and flimsy belt clip. I mean, if you are going to make a handheld scanner, make it durable enough to be portable.

Pro-97 is hard to see with no backlight
All in all, this is one of the best analog scanners I have ever used.
Written: 04/06/06
Updated: 03/22/2007

Pro-2055 and Pro-97