Last updated 05 October 2013
Before I start this review I will give you a little background into the purchase.
I have been a keen airband listener for nigh on thirty years, having started off on basic analogue rotary tuning radios.
During the mid eighties, companies such as Signal and AOR started to introduce broader coverage receivers and while not perfect by today’s standards, some models incorporated the illusive military airband (225-400 MHz) not found on many units at the time. That was something I was after.
Unfortunately, prices were high and I never invested in a decent scanner until much later on – mores the pity. I ended up buying a brick like Realistic (Radio Shack) Pro-43 during the mid-nineties for about £150.
The Pro-43 wasn’t wideband by any stretch of the imagination, nevertheless it had 200 memories, was a proven performer and had full civil/military airband coverage – that clinched the deal.
As time went by I added a Realistic Pro-2042 base scanner and a Yupiteru MVT-7100 to my modest collection. In addition I had a foray into the world of HF monitoring when I picked up a discounted Radio Shack DX-394 from the now defunct Tandy retail chain.
As the nineties ended, and with military aviation assets dwindling, my interest in airband monitoring also faded somewhat and I all but dropped out of the hobby. A couple of years past and with my scanners in the attic gathering dust, I found myself online looking at the latest state of the art scanners (don‘t ask me why). That’s when I came across the all singing, all dancing Icom IC-R20. Next thing I know, I’m trading in everything and in receipt of one of the finest handheld radios ever made. My love affair with scanning had been rekindled and it wasn’t long before I added a Uniden UBC-3500XLT to my much reduced shack.
A good two years passed. The scanners were in fulltime operation – and not just airband – all sorts of stuff including local PMR, Ham, CB, Trains, Marine, HMP and even hearing aids! But with the dreaded digital age and the more “interesting” segments of the radio spectrum now silent my kit was only being used at the odd airshow. Coincidently, I needed some hard cash for another purchase so unceremoniously sold them – which finally brings me onto the TTI TSC-3000R!
I hadn’t planned on buying another scanner so soon. But I felt naked without one. So I started searching online for something basic, no frills, but with full wideband coverage (150kHz-1309MHz or so). It needed to be small, with good battery life, be 8.33kHz capable and not overly complex to use in the field. There is nothing worse than forgetting how to do something when the manual is at home and you’re not!
I set the budget – a maximum of £120 – and started looking around. To cut a long story short, there aren’t a lot of brand new wideband receivers in that price bracket, in fact just two, namely the Alinco DJ-X3 and the TTI TSC-3000R.
The Alinco model lacks a numeric keypad and the silver paint job looked to me like it would rub off fairly readily, but uses standard batteries (3x AA) which I prefer (usually) and can be programmed by computer, albeit via an outdated serial connector (not too fussed about that aspect either). Online reviews were mixed, so I took a closer look at the Korean designed TSC-3000R.
I’d never heard of the TTI brand and couldn’t really find any useful info, other than the manufacturers website http://www.ttiuk.net/index.php and some online sellers. On the face of it, it looked quite good, had the coverage I was after, and well, for a sub £120 radio, was worth the gamble in my opinion.
I purchased this scanner new from Capital Stores on ebay.co.uk
Prior to its arrival I had mentally lowered my expectations, as having had that lovely Icom whose build quality was exceptional, there was no way the TTI would live up to that. Funnily enough, when the 3000R arrived, I was actually surprised how tidy it looked. Sure the plastic is that hard (albeit durable) shiny black stuff typically used on cheaper consumables, but that said, I was never overly impressed with the much pricier Uniden UBC-3500XLT’s plastic casing, despite it being superb in the memory and alpha numeric department.
TTI use minimalist packaging with no glossy photo style boxes – just a simple brown cardboard affair with outline graphics. Inside everything was laid out logically and safely – boxes within a box approach.
Contents include: the scanner itself, a professional drop-in base charger, a single 3.7v 1900mAh Li-ion battery pack, a SMA rubber antenna, earpiece, wrist lanyard and a 60 page handbook. Talking of which, prior to purchase, I downloaded the PDF manual to get an idea of how things would work once it arrived (see link at bottom of this review).
It really is a small radio, about the size of a regular pack of cigarettes. Its definitely the smallest unit I’ve ever owned and fits my palm perfectly.
Visually it is a bit quirky. Especially with the canted top mounted control knob. However this isn’t just a style feature. It actually works better in the hand as your thumb rotates the knob with ease at this angle.
The LCD display is crisp and backlit with an amber hue. There is a fully automated power save feature which comes in action when nothing is received – a boxed “S” flashes to denote this is active. In fact everything required is on the display and its well organised and easy to interpret (see below).
The only thing that should have been amended in the design phase is the right hand side cover. This hides (and protects) the earpiece/alternate power/cloning sockets, but requires a small Philips screwdriver to remove – not very handy in the field. I suppose it could be left off if these sockets are regularly used, but why oh why was not a rubber grommet type cover not used? I don’t plan to remove it at this stage, so its of little concern – it just detracts from what is a neatly engineered compact radio.
As mentioned, I downloaded the manual before it arrived so (sort of) knew how it worked, though its not until the unit is in your hands that you really appreciate what it can and can’t do.
As a scanner user for many years I didn’t find it too difficult to get to grips with, though at times the manual and brain work in reverse making simple things seem much harder. As a Korean/English manual goes it’s a fairly intuitive interpretation. Just give it a few hours to sink in while fiddling and pressing buttons randomly (!).
The 1900mAh battery pack clips on to the rear of the radio and can be removed by pressing down on the ribbed catch. In the hand, the battery does tend to move a bit (from side to side) although it is very securely attached – the lateral movement is nothing major, but worth mentioning. I wasn’t too keen on going down the Li-ion battery pack route with no other power options (i.e. AA’s), but so far the life has been exceptional going many days between charges and even then not taking long to top up.
Interestingly, as designs go, this is the first scanner I’ve owned that doesn’t have a belt clip, just a wrist lanyard. I suppose if you needed that option you’d have to look around for a small carry case (a PMR446 style one would suffice). Funnily enough, the TTI TX-1446 model uses a sturdy plastic clip on belt mount which looks as if it’d fit perfectly, as both radios share the same casing (barring a few cosmetic changes).
Update, 26 February 2013: I recently stumbled across a belt clip (TBC-1006) for this scanner from Funkelectronic.de. They also sell spare 1900mAh battery packs (TBP-1194L).
Update, 9 March 2014: Unfortunately the Funkelectronic.de website is no longer available and as such I don’t know of another source for the belt clip. Spare batteries can be purchased here.
The drop-in base charger is a luxury and nice touch. Sitting on my desk it looks the business and makes the whole set-up appear far more expensive than it actually is. Not forgetting its a really safe way to store the radio when not in use – it definitely won’t get knocked over, that’s for sure. There is a plastic spacer that needs to be pushed into the slot prior to use. Incidentally the charging base is the same used by the TTI TX-1446 PMR446 business radio. I’ve never run the battery flat but a fully discharged battery will require around 12-15 hours to fully charge at 300mA. As is common the base charger LED changes from red to orange to green during this phase.
The radio controls can best be broken down into three distinct areas. The top, front and left side. The top comprises of a rotary (non pushable) knob with a single white marker and a small red rubber power on/off/keypad lock button. Push and hold to turn the unit on (up will pop the start-up screen message: TSC3000 r2.54) and when on, briefly push to lock. Simple as that.
On the left side (viewed from the front) are four rubber buttons. SQL (Squelch up/down arrows), FUNC (Function) and Menu. These work in unison with other buttons on the keypad and in conjunction with the rotary knob depending upon what is being selected.
The illuminated numeric keypad is fairly straightforward enabling the user to enter frequencies, start scanning/searching, change mode, plus a host of secondary function options like most modern scanners. The two arrow buttons near the LCD are for volume and menu selection.
In practice, loading up frequencies into banks is quite simple (enter a frequency in VFO>FUNC>MW, select Ch/Bank, then E/VFO to store). Maybe not as simple as using a PC, but I wanted to get away from that and go old school. Ch/Bank copy, delete and move options are also provided. This unit cannot be controlled or programmed by a computer, but can clone another TSC-3000R with a suitable cable.
There are 40 banks available and each bank can hold a maximum of 100 frequencies, that’s not to say you can store 100 frequencies in all 40 banks as there are only 1000 memories not 4000! This makes perfect sense (to me anyway) as its way more important to have bank versatility especially when there are 1000 memory channels to deal with.
There is no way to link banks during scanning, just individually (single bank) or in their entirety (all banks). This is achieved by FUNC>MR press SCAN/SRC then select BANK/BAND and rotate the control knob to move through memory banks). To scan all banks hold SCAN/SRC for 2 seconds. Individual bank scanning requires a quick press of SCAN/SRC. That probably comes across as quite confusing, but it quickly becomes second nature I assure you!
There are additional scanning options selectable from the Menu including a preset Delay (1-10 seconds) and a Busy or Timed (5 seconds – displayed as T5) pause when activity is encountered. Personally, I prefer Busy and a Delay of 5 seconds. There is also a Priority channel feature (selectable between 1-10 seconds). I like this – it works even when searching and not just scanning. Being able to select a longer priority period such as 10 seconds is also very handy.
As mentioned, the memory is flexible (or as TTI call it “variable”) in as much as you can fill the banks with 1000 frequencies in whatever way you like (not exceeding 100 frequencies per bank mind). You could use 10 banks of 100 frequencies, 20 banks of 50 frequencies or 40 banks of 25 frequencies (or a combination that suits your scanning needs within the confines of the internal memory allocation). For example, I have a single bank containing the 8 PMR446 frequencies and another containing 100 mil-air air/air frequencies, similarly I have the 40 EU CB channels in a bank and the 40 UK CB channels in another and so on – you get the idea. Even some more costly scanners (mentioning no names) have less user friendly bank/memory systems – so credit to TTI, 40 banks and “variable” memory is a godsend.
To keep an eye on memory capacity simply select Menu and scroll to see how many channels remain. A standard SKIP function (FUNC>SKIP) locks out unwanted frequencies in search and scan modes. Note: while skipped memory channels remain in scan mode, if frequencies are skipped while searching they get reset when the scanner is switched off – no doubt a memory saving feature.
There are also 25 pairs of programmable limit search banks, 25 pairs of Dual Watch allocations and 200 Automatic Storage Memories (Auto Write to you and me) in two banks of 100 (each).
The programmable search feature appealed as its always nice to be able to do a quick search and save it. This works in the most part, but unfortunately, the step size is linked to the internal band plan. So you can’t always select your own personal step size or it will revert to plan as it reaches it. For example, I set up a program search for 225.0000-380.0000 AM mode and 25kHz step. I started searching and once it hit 255.1000 (or more precisely 255.1125) it flicked down to 12.kHz step size! Fortunately, it stayed in AM mode so no major drama, but all the same, a bit impractical, especially as searching at 12.5kHz is painfully slow – so you are stuck with internal band plans for this option.
There is a solution however. Simply use normal Limit Search (L1/L2). It works fine and doesn’t revert to band so that’s something positive.
The Dual Watch feature had me drooling after my recently departed Icom IC-R20. However, it doesn’t work in the same way. While you cannot listen to two simultaneous transmissions like on the IC-R20, you can activate and save 25 pairs of frequencies. Why? Well say you are at an airshow and you want to monitor just the Tower and Display frequencies, with the 3000R you can enter these in DW and it will continuously monitor both – a bit like having two priority channels. Personally I have these set up with local WFM broadcast stations rather than having them in the scan profile.
AW mode enables auto storing from searching preset bands (only), but mode and step size can be changed. I hardly ever use AW as too many birdies, data channels and general interference gets recorded, as well as duplicate frequencies (wish that didn’t happen – I recall my old Pro-2042 would skip anything already in memory – shame that can’t be said here). I tested it and it works fine enough.
ATT (attenuation) cannot be assigned to single channels so its effectiveness is restricted. Not a huge gripe as most budget models work like this.
And finally, before I forget, there is also a feature called Tone Reflection. This is TTI’s version of Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and Digital-Coded Squelch (DCS) decoding. Be advised, it is not possible to assign a tone to a memory channel, however you can search for tones in VFO mode. First, start searching or select a known active frequency, for arguments sake lets input 164.4375 FM. Next, press FUNC>Tone (#9 on the keypad), TONE is thus activated and will be displayed on the LCD for confirmation. Then you’ll need to scroll through the Menu system until you come to TONE (its between PRIO TM and BUS/TIM). To start tone scanning press SCAN and a small square will rapidly start moving (from left-to-right) in the lower right corner of the LCD (above DLY TONE). To stop press SCAN again. Once the correct tone is found the squelch will open – there is no time out, it will continuously tone scan whether there is a carrier or not (as can be gauged by the S-meter). The system works well and tones are decoded very quickly. Unfortunately, this info is not even in the user manual – I discovered it by chance!
The following information is from my own experience. I have no test equipment so its just good old fashioned ears. Your experience may/will differ because of local activity or lack thereof and location of course. I am only using the supplied SMA antenna so its limiting certain aspects (range mainly). I wouldn’t recommend attaching the 3000R to an external antenna as I reckon it would overload the front end. Incidentally the SMA connector is recessed so it maybe difficult to fit another antenna without an adaptor (maybe switch from SMA-to-BNC?). Do let me know if you have done this.
Update 05 October 2013: I have just picked up an SMA-to-BNC adaptor (Maplin part code: RS85G) thanks to the advice given by Gadget Buyer (see comments section). Finally, I can use a BNC antenna on this radio.
Okay, lets start with a flick through the bands. By far my favourite bands are civil and military airband. Pleased to say good across both. VHF decent clear audio from my locale and I was surprised that UHF was on par. My Icom was a bit deaf on UHF airband (around 300 MHz) so that’s a real bonus.
I regularly monitor my local PMR446 internet gateway on Ch 08 and that is fine. One thing I notice in the 400 MHz+ range is that the signal strength meter is always showing some activity even if not enough to open the digital squelch. Two or three segments are displayed as if there is some sort of internal interference effecting it – even with the antenna disconnected.
Moving down the box, I picked up a guy from Heidelberg, southwest Germany on Euro CB Ch 32 a few weeks ago when “lift“ was good. Pretty much 5/9 all the way – not bad considering the supplied antenna is not geared around this part of the radio spectrum. In fact 25-50 MHz is much better than I thought it’d be.
Marine Band comms on 156 VHF is not a fair one because I live just 5 minutes walk from the sea and not too far from the Coastguard Station – good strong audio.
WFM Broadcast transmissions to me seem a bit off frequency and need to be knocked down 50kHz or so in some instances for crystal clear audio otherwise the audio has a slightly distorted feel.
AM Broadcasts in the MW band were better than expected, but vary through the day and with location (upstairs makes a difference!).
I use a pair of wireless headphones for the PS3 when the Missus is in bed, so tried that next. Tuned to 863.500 WFM, the signal could be picked up well over 300 ft away.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the reception capability for such a cheap and cheerful unit. Audio is clean without too much hiss considering the mini speakers dimensions. The Squelch works in selectable increments from 00 (open) to 09 and then AT (auto) and the volume from 00 to 31, which is loud enough to be heard in most circumstances. An earpiece is also included should you wish to go stealth monitoring.
Sure, its lacking in a lot of high tech areas and while it may sound weird, that’s exactly what I wanted to get away from this time around – been there done that – this is actually more fun like scanning used to be when there wasn’t alphanumeric displays and you got to know users by frequency alone. Its not the sort of scanner you are scared to take outside for fear of dropping, so it’ll see more action as a result of its reasonable price tag.
I like this little scanner – its ideal for a beginner or someone who wants a no nonsense handy for the car. Its easy to use and while its not going to win any awards for scanning/search speeds (it is a bit of a slouch at around 5 ch per sec) or ground breaking features, its still a capable radio with the basics covered. Miniscule proportions mean its ideally suited to outdoor use – just load it up with a bunch of frequencies, slip it in your shirt pocket and away you go – that’s what I bought it for, though its equally at home on my desk as a local listening post.
Let me know what you think of your TSC-3000R in the comments section!
- Frequency coverage : 0.150-1309.995 MHz (no gaps)
- Number of memory channels : 1300 (incl. limited search memories, dual watch memories and auto write memories)
- Frequency resolution : 5, 6.25, 8.33 *, 9 **, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, 25, 30, 50, 100, 500KHz & Auto. * Selectable between 108 – 135.99127 MHz * * Selectable between 0.504 – 1.620 MHz
- Operation temperature range : -10°C to +60°C
- Reference frequency stability : 6 ppm°C (-10°C to +60°C)
- Power supply requirement : 3.7V Li-Ion pack
- Current drain
- Standby (power saved) : 50mA typical
- max. audio : 320mA typical
- Charging (at 9V DC) : 300mA typical
- Antenna connector : SMA (50 )
- Dimensions (proj. not included) : 62.5(W) x 98.0(H) x 32.6(D)mm
- Weight (approx.) : 220g