Recently, I was on the hunt for a desktop scanner for my desk at work. I didn’t need anything new or high tech since this would just be for casual listening to the VHF local and wildfire comms, area ham and GMRS repeaters, NOAA, etc. I love old radios, especially Realistic/Radio Shack, so I began hunting for an old RS scanner that I could turn into a little low-budget project and keep an old radio in service. I found a Pro-2021 locally on Craigslist for $20. It powered up and received OK, but the pots were scratchy and it was kinda dingy looking:
I’m definitely not a skilled electrical engineer so finding a scanner in good working order was important. I popped off the cover and an was quite surprised to see that it looked brand new inside. This scanner appears to have been well taken care of, despite a somewhat cosmetically unappealing exterior:
While I had the scanner open, I hit the volume and squelch potentiometers with a tiny bit of Deoxit, and the scratchiness on the output when operating them went away. The volume works smoothly across the range and audio output quality is excellent. A whole lot of elbow grease took take of cleaning up the exterior including the front panel and controls.
The next step was getting a decent antenna for the scanner – a flimsy telescoping back-of-set antenna did not work well for me inside the steel and concrete office building, and height/placement is very limited in a crowded office. In the spirit with keeping the budget low, I dug around my parts bin to see what I could come up with. On hand, I had a NMO bracket mount I ended up not using on my F-150 install. I sanded, primed, and painted the mount black to match the radio:
Almost there! I picked up a Laird A150/450C online for $25, and stopped by a local radio shop for an NMO mount + BNC terminal for $20. All in for $65 at this point for the Pro-2021 mini project. I fastened the antenna mount to the back of the radio like this:
The additional 2 inches of antenna height on this bracket really makes a difference! The coax is terminated with a right angle BNC => Motorola connector. Here is the final result:
It’s not too pretty, but it looks OK on a software developer’s desk! The audio quality and reception is great, I’m hearing distant VHF stations clearly inside my office. This radio will be in use for many more years to come.
One bad crimp job on the BNC terminal later, I finally have the scanner all set up on my desk at work. I had initially brought the radio into work, but soon realized that I did not properly terminate the coax from my antenna mount, and reception was becoming noticeably poor. I ordered one more NMO mount and a BNC connector, re-did the coax with extra care, and now I finally have a working radio for my desk!
I have the audio from the scanner, audio from the laptop next to it, and audio from my phone all feeding into a Behringer Micromix 400 that is sitting on top of the Pro-2021. This allows me to use one pair of headphones for listening to everything while at my desk.