The police scanner is still one of the most versatile tools in the journalist’s arsenal, sometimes right up there with the No. 8030 Gregg Ruled spiral reporter’s notebook and a pencil (pens are unreliable when it’s -10 degrees or if its raining).

Spot news photographers are famous for their scanners. I once rode along with a photog who had five scanners going in his car at once. Personally, whether I’m on the road or in the office, the scanner is usually clacking and beeping away with potential news from around Boston or the surrounding towns.

The antennas that come with scanners aren’t exactly professional grade, but they get the job done … mostly.

But there exists a whole, eager, dedicated group of hobbyists in the field of scanning. Some of them build their own antennas, and others buy any of a variety of commercially available ones.

Lately, there’s been buzz about a so-called “Snoop” antenna, which is essentially wire inside a PVC pipe. It’s popular on eBay and some other online retailers especially.

So I bought one.

Here is some technical jargon:

The antenna claims to be tuned to 30 – 1200 MHz, but the lower bands, 30-200 MHz come in very poorly compared to the higher end of the spectrum, 450-900 MHz.

The majority of police and fire departments around Boston use 450-490ish MHz, but many still operate on the lower band, 150-162 MHz, and some towns even operate on the 25-50 MHz band.

Technical jargon over.

The Snoop antenna picks up the 400 MHz frequencies very well in my tests, pulling transmissions from Brighton to as far north as Andover, as far west as Framingham, and all the way south to Plymouth. Plymouth and Andover are well more than 20 miles away, but Framingham is much closer, and I believe the reason I’m not picking up many more is because more departments in MetroWest use the lower frequencies that the Snoop isn’t picking up.

I’m not an expert, and I don’t have sophisticated, expensive equipment to compare it to, but if you want one guy’s advice: The Snoop picks up frequencies from farther away and works well on higher frequencies. Overall, it does work better than a stock antenna, but don’t expect miracles.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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