Difference Between a Digital & Analog Police Scanner

by Kim Dieter ; Updated September 28, 2017

Police scanners allow the public to hear police, fire fighter, ambulance and other radio transmissions. During operation, police scanners scan through pre-programmed channels. The type of police scanner depends on the type of radio transmission it is expected to monitor.

Analog Police Scanners

Analog or conventional police scanners pick up analog (non-digital) radio transmissions. A keypad allows frequencies to be entered and stored in the scanner’s memory. Many smaller cities and rural areas use analog radio transmissions.

Analog Trunking-capable Scanners

In large cities, trunked radio systems allow more users to share the same frequencies. There may be many users sharing a pool of frequencies, and conventional police scanners are unable to monitor all of these users. Analog trunking-capable scanners successfully monitor trunked radio systems.

Digital Police Scanners

Larger cities are switching to digital systems because of clearer sound and a greater range of reception. With digital systems, channels may be encrypted, and only authorized users hear the transmission. Digital police scanners pick up analog, trunked and digital radio transmissions and are more expensive than analog scanners.

About the Author

Kim Dieter has taught agriscience classes, developed curriculum and participated in the school accreditation process at the secondary and community college levels since 1980. She holds a Master of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, in animal science.

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