Friday, 2 September 2016

Review - DTS-96 Digital Trunk Tracking Handheld Scanner

Here’s my review of the DTS-96 handheld scanner, this unit is basically a clone of the pro96 from the USA but with some changes to suit the Australia market.
I have been told the DTS-96 is now end of life with DSE so they won’t be getting any more in.

Some of the more important specs:
Most of the important bands from 25 MHz – 1300 MHz, including 70-80MHz unlike the US pro96.
AM / FM/ Digital modes
11 V-Scanner folders – 500 channels in 10 banks per folder.
Trunk Tracker (Motorola and EDACS)
APCO 25 Digital decoding
CTCSS / DCS decoding
12 Character 4 line display
Text Tags
PC Programming

Here’s what you get with it out of the box:

DTS-96 unit:
This is a large handheld unit and is quite heavy, takes 4xAA batteries and seems to last quite a while on them.

This is a must have item as this is a very complex unit to set up and use.

2 x Batterycases
One is black and is for use with non-rechargeable cells, the other is yellow and allows you to charge NiCad or NiMH cells while in the radio, personally I am not a fan of this and I charge my batteries in a normal charger.

Programming the unit:
As you can’t get programming software for this radio I have programmed it all by hand, I have set up a EDACS bank and about 300 normal channels, the process to do this is outlined in the manual but is not as hard as the manual makes it sound, I did all the above in less then 3 hours with adding alpha tags to some channels / talk groups.

Using it for the last few days after programming it shows it seems to work very well both on the EDACS trunking and on normal vhf / uhf channels, doing some side by side testing with my 780 and my 396T shows that the scan speed is very good and that it performs as well if not better then the above units on both the EDACS system and normal vhf / uhf channels, the audio is great and has a very good sound to it, not tinny or anything like that.

Good points:
11 V scanner folders – allows the storing of 11 configs so you can quickly change as you move to different areas, say have one for Launceston and one for Hobart.
APCO25 Digital
Instant CTCSS decode on screen
Good audio from speaker and very natural sounding.
Uses of AA batteries
Fast scan / search
5 preprogrammed search ranges plus 1 custom search range.
Good RF performance, by this I mean I can program channels I want to listen to and hear them well with few – no problems with overload and interference.
Works like a “real” scanner, unlike some units that try to do everything and have all the features under the sun but lack the “fun” factor; I can hear what I want when I want without complex programming steps.
Display / keypad backlight – this works very well.
Text Tags – easy to program and are easy to read.
Display is well laid out and full of information.
BNC aerial connection.

Bad points:
No I-calls on Trunking systems (not a huge issue to me)
Sucks batteries a bit fast
Quite a large / heavy unit.
Some keys a little hard to press (might just be my fat fingers)

So to sum up, am I happy with the unit, yes I am, would I buy one again, yes I would, is it better then a Uniden 396T which is it’s main rival at the moment, well yes and no, I have used both and doing some side by side testing they were much the same but the nicer audio, faster scan rate and easier programming of the DTS-96 just puts it ahead in my book.
If you have a 396T there is little to want to make you sell it to buy one of these but if you are tossing up between the two units try them both and see which you prefer, while it might lack some features of the 396T in my experience it seems to perform as a scanner much better.

Hope this has been helpful, and please let me know if you have any questions about it.”

Now over 2 years later since I got my first DTS-96 and once again I am the proud owner of the DTS-96 (there is no way I will be letting this one go) as I was unable to get a 396T locally from DSE and once again I am glad I have made the choice to stick with this instead of a 396T which is still a good little scanner but for what I do I find the DTS-96 suits me better, here are a few reasons:

-- Overall better RF performance and better APCO25 decoding (from the small amount I have done with it)
-- Louder audio
-- Better screen and keypad backlighting
-- More backlight functions and delays
-- Wider screen fonts
-- More reliable Sub audible Squelch Tail Elimination turn-off codes (debatable)
-- V-Scanner Folders feature (Virtually 11 scanners-in-one or 5500 channels total)
-- Analog volume and squelch controls (UBCD396T has 16 digital steps on each)
-- Easier to store found CTCSS/CDCSS tones/codes
-- V-folders can quickly restore a default setup (clear lockouts, etc)
-- Infinite backlight availability without losing timed setting.

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