I thought I would write a little article about how you can listen to your scanner that is back at home, on your mobile wherever you have signal or Wifi.
What is required
- A Scanner with a headphone, Line Out or Aux Socket
- A PC with sound card as long as it has a “line in” or “mic” socket
- A Smartphone (Using iOS, Android, Blackberry OS 10+, Windows Phone)
- An Audio cable (3.5mm stereo plug to 3.5mm stereo plug) (You can purchase one from us for £7.50 P&P Free)
- Two e-mail addresses (For setting up two Zello Accounts, one for PC, one for Mobile)
The thing that makes this possible is a Free app called Zello, I use it regularly myself and there are even a few Channels you can access from other people.
There are certain legal issues surrounding the use of scanners that you may wish to look into before you use or purchase a scanner. That being said the use of scanners in the AVGeek world is fairly open and widespread, nearly everyone spotting at airfields will be using one. However this is meant to be a guide for your information so you can decide what you wish to do, anything you listen to with your scanner is nothing to do with me.
If you intend to listen to your scanner on a mobile data plan be very careful about your data use, if you have a small allowance you may find you use it all up fairly quickly by listening to live audio streams and when you go over your limit some networks charge a huge amount for you using that extra data, so monitor your usage, download a usage app and consider upgrading your data allowance if you wish to use it regularly. My plan costs me £20/month (Excluding Phone) and I get unlimited mintues, texts and data. (After so many GB’s the company slow your connection but not by enough to cause me inconvenience)
Most scanners have a 3.5mm Socket and most computers have a 3.5mm Line In or Mic Socket, therefore you need a 3.5mm Male to Male Audio Cable, just make sure you select one of the right length to run from your scanner to your PC Soundcard. We can supply you pretty much any length of cable in budget, standard and premium quality so just get in touch, tell us what you need and we will quote a price and accept PayPall/Card Payment. Underneath you can buy our Standard Quality 1.5m Cable for £7.50
Setting up Zello on your PC
- Download Zello for PC, register for a username and password for your home PC, the username for this will be visible to the world, even if you password protect your channel.
- Once Zello is running create yourself a channel (Tools -> Create Channel) call it what you want, others will be able to search for it by name but you can password your channel if you wish to use it just for yourself or a small number of you.
- Connect up your scanner using your Audio cable.
- Set your squelch to cut out the background noise you hear when not receiving anything.
- At this point I recommend listening to your scanner through your PC speakers, you will need to adjust the line in/microphone level to a point where you can hear the speech clearly, if it distorts then you need to turn the output level down on your scanner or turn the input level down on your PC. It will take a bit of playing about but it should be possible, most of the time it will need turning down due to distortion especially if your are using “mic in” instead of “line in” on your PC and some soundcards have things like “Audio Boost” on by default.
- Once you have done this you need to set your channel to VOX (Tools -> Options -> VOX) by clicking the “Turn on VOX for handsfree” checkbox.
- You will then need to set your Activation Threshold to a level when VOX is activated each time the scanner springs into life, mine happens to work at -49 dB but it will depend entirely on your equipment and settings. It is easier to do this by moving the Options Box so you can see Zello running, Towards the bottom there should be a red light next to the padlock to show VOX is on, then a green light to its left, when VOX is set correctly this should go red when your scanner receives something and release to green when finished, just remember when you adjust your threshold settings to click apply then watch the lights to see if it activates and releases correctly
- You now need to set up another user account for the device you wish to use to listen to your channel on (You can not use the same account or it will log your PC out) I think you may need a separate email address if I remember correctly but just sign up for gmail or hotmail if you do not have a second email address, it is not that important to have access to it in future unless you forget your login details.
- Login to Zello on your device and search for your channel by name (Do not mistake this for searching for the username of the account on your PC and adding it as a contact, that is a different thing and not required)
- Once you have added the channel and it is turned on you need to set your Trigger & Relaxation times. This assumes that your VOX settings are correct and the channel is opening when your scanner hears someone speaking and closing when they have finished speaking. Listen to your scanner on your Zello device to do this.
- The Trigger time is the time at the beginning of the message. If it cuts off the beginning of the message increase the time, if there is a long pause before the message begins then decrease the trigger time. (I have my Trigger time set to 1500 for example but it will depend entirely on your equipment and settings)
- The Relaxation time is the time at the end of the message. Adjust this in the same manner to make sure you don’t miss the end of every message or have a long pause at the end of every message. (I have my Relaxation Time set to 900 for example but it will depend entirely on your equipment and settings)
You should now be successfully set up.
There are some Zello channels in the UK for certain areas or airports, some are password free and some are password protected. The Channel search feature on Zello can sometimes be temperamental so if you don’t know the exact channel name you may have trouble finding it. It can also be difficult to track down the owner of a channel, unfortunately although Zello now shows the Channel owners username there are no contact details so it isnt that helpful if you are trying to ask for permission to listen or for a password, so it is better to find details of channels through local spotter groups, word of mouth and social media.
Depending on your phone and your vehicle you may be able to listen to a Zello channel through your car stereo if your device is connected by Bluetooth, different cars handle bluetooth in different ways so some setups work better than others.
You can use Zello to replay messages which is a great feature when you did not quite catch what was said. To do this look at the channel history of messages.
If you leave your scanner on 24/7 make sure you turn off the channel and sign out on your mobile. Last thing you want is someone calling on the wrong frequency or a burst of interference waking you up at 2am (I speak from experience)
Have you set once up? We would love to hear from you and find out how your using it, you can use our contact us page here.