This is a review of the new AR1500 continuous coverage handheld
scanner from AOR. Consider this review to be preliminary, since
it was conducted on a unit I had available over a weekend and
does not reflect long-term usage. In this review, I will be comparing
the AR1500 to the AR1000 and the Radio Shack PRO-43, two other
scanners I am very familiar with (I am the author of the Guide
to the AR1000).
There are three versions of the AR1500 known at this time. The
original AR1500 was released and available in Japan, the UK, and
Europe in mid 1992 and was known simply as the AR1500. A later
revision to this scanner appeared in late 1992, called the AR1500E.
This model differs from the earlier model by including a cascade
filter at 58.075 MHz IF to improve selectivity, a DC input protection
diode to guard against reverse polarity connection, additional
buffering in the microprocessor to protect against software crashes
when scanning an empty bank, and a reset switch in the battery
A new revision, called the AR1500EX, will be available on Feb.
9, 1993 only in the UK. It contains a substantial redesign of
the PC boards and logic circuits. The RF board has been completely
redone. In addition, the BNC connector has been reinforced. The
unit is supposed to have better selectivity and better handling
of strong signals.
This review was conducted on an AR1500E that was imported in the
US from ACE Communications. My thanks go to Glenn Cohen of Scanner's
Unlimited for the loan of this unit for testing.
The AR1500 is a very feature-laden scanning receiver. It's main
The AR1500 is a fairly small scanner, much smaller than the AR1000
and about the same size as the PRO-43. It is about 1/2 inch taller
than the AR900. Both the buttons and the display are smaller than
the AR1000, as is the speaker.
There is a trend with current scanners to make them smaller, but
there seems to be diminishing returns in this endeavor. The AR1500
is small enough to be a problem for some people. For someone with
large hands, the small buttons may create difficulties in programming.
There are also many controls crammed on the top of the scanner
(see below). In particular, it is quite difficult to turn the
unit on and off and adjust the volume because the On/Off/volume
knob is crammed in between the BNC connector and the Squelch/BFO
knob. This makes if very difficult to get your fingers around
the On/Off knob to turn it.
Other negative side-effects of the small size are the smaller,
lower-fidelity speaker, and the smaller battery pack, reducing
The top of the unit contains a number of knobs and switches. You'll
find the BNC connector, an On/Off/Volume knob, a ganged BFO/Squelch
knob, a tuning knob, a BFO button, a 10 db attenuator button,
and earphone jack, and a pushbutton switch for keylock.
The display and the keyboard are the same as the AR1000, although
some of the keys are in different positions (e.g. BANK and INC
are reversed on the AR1500 and INC is now called STEP).
Sound quality is good and the unit can be turned to full volume
without distortion, but the speaker doesn't give the same high-fidelity
sound as is found on the AR1000.
The AR1500 in the US comes with its built-in nicad pack, a AAA
battery holder, a rubber ducky antenna, a 5 meter wire antenna
with a BNC connector on one end for HF reception, a cigarette
lighter adapter, and AC charger, a soft case and a single ear
Note that the AC charger is not designed to operate the unit but
to simply charge the batteries while the unit is turned off. If
you want to use the scanner while plugged in (which you will,
since the battery life is short), you will have to purchase a
separate AC adaptor. The Radio Shack 12 VDC 500 mA adapter (CAT
No. 273-1652B) works fine for this. (One user reports that ACE
is now providing a higher-power AC adaptor)
The AR1500 operates essentially the same as the AR1000. This is
to say that it uses a somewhat cumbersome programming scheme.
Users of the Uniden BearCat series of scanners and the Radio Shack/GRE
PRO series of scanners will find the AR1500 operations to be tedious.
Of more concern is that the operation of the AR1500 was modified
slightly-in some cases to handle the new search and store feature
and in others to simply "improve" the operations. However,
many of the special tricks and shortcuts that were possible on
the AR1000 (and described in the Guide to the AR1000) no
longer work on the AR1500. While learning how to use the AR1500
is not all that difficult, it requires more time than most scanners
and more consultation with the user documentation.
An interesting difference between the AR1500 and the AR1000 is
that every keystroke you enter on the AR1500 generates an audible
beep for feedback. This capability is also found on some of the
Fairmate versions of the AR1000 (i.e. the HP100 and HP200). On
the AR1000, there is no keystroke beep.
The AR1500, as supplied in the United States, comes with a 19
page user's manual. This manual briefly describes the keys, the
controls, and the basic operations, but doesn't go into much detail
about how to take advantage of the power of this scanner. In addition,
there are some serious errors in the documentation, particularly
in the examples. As stated above, the Guide to the AR1000,
while covering all the basic operations of the AR1500 (minus the
BFO and search and store feature), addresses many tricks and shortcuts
that are not applicable to the AR1500. As a result, the Guide
to the AR1000 is not primarily recommended to owners of the
The user's manual for the AR1500 available in Australia and New
Zealand is better and the manual produced by AOR Ltd. in the UK
is the best.
The following characteristics are based on my subjective analysis
during usage and not on laboratory tests. They may be specific
to my location (San Francisco Bay area).
The AR1500 is a quite sensitive receiver. It proved to be more
sensitive than the AR1000 but less sensitive than the PRO-43.
It easily broke squelch on a signal that the AR1000 could only
hear with the squelch opened manually. Both units were using identical
DA900 rubber duckies.
Like the AR1000, the AR1500 can pick up SW and MW signals when
attached to an appropriate long-wire antenna. While you wouldn't
buy this unit as your primary shortwave receiver, it can pick
up strong SW signals nicely (subject to signal fading) and the
AR1500 can easily decode SSB signals.
The AR1500 seems to have about the same intermod problems as the
AR1000. My unit got periodic FM radio broadcast interference all
across its frequency range. While it wasn't as bad as the Icom
R1 is rumored to be, it was noticeable.
The AR1500 is supposed to be triple-converted, but I noticed images
in the 800 MHz range. I picked up cellular phone conversations
on the local government frequency of 812.2125 MHz. This was the
only frequency I noticed images on. The AR1000 doesn't do this.
The AR1500 puts out a fair amount of RFI. It stopped the PRO-43 from scanning at a distance of over 4 feet. If you are using this scanner near other scanners, you might have a problem.
The AR1500 comes with a custom 5 AA cell molded nicad pack. The
pack is removable, but there is no way to charge the pack while
out of the scanner. The scanner also comes with a battery holder
that will take 4 AAA alkaline or nicad batteries. I wasn't able
to do a battery test on this unit but the custom nicad pack battery
life is said to be about 4 hours. The AAA battery pack life is
supposed to only be about 2 hours.
Charging time is approximately 15 hours and you are warned not
to overcharge the nicad pack.
Battery life and maintenance seems to be the biggest problems
with this unit. It will not be very useful in the field if you
run out of juice in a few hours. And, unfortunately, you can't
be charging one pack while you are using another.
One of the more intriguing features of the AR1500 is the ability
to decode SSB. The AR1500 includes a BFO that you can use to tune
in upper or lower side-band signals. There are a number of limitations
to this feature, however.
I had hoped that you could simply program in a number of utility
stations and scan them in SSB. However there are a couple of things
that make this impossible. First, the squelch control on the AR1500
is as squirrelly as it is on the AR1000. The squelch setting is
different for different bands, and in the SW region it is practically
useless. You cannot squelch out many frequencies, even if they
don't appear to have an active signal or carrier. Therefore, you
can't really scan these frequencies.
The second problem has to do with the resolution of the AR1500.
The finest tuning increment you can select is 5 KHz. You use the
BFO to tune between the 5 KHz limitations. So, for example, if
you wanted to pick up 8989 KHz, you would have to enter 8990 and
then tune down to 8989 with the BFO. Of course, the setting on
the BFO would be different for this station than it would for
7613 (you'd have to enter 7610 or 7615 and tune in between with
the BFO). What this means is even if you could scan SW stations,
the BFO would be set at a different location for each station.
While I didn't try this with CB, presumably you could enter all
40 CB channels, set the BFO to USB and scan all the USB CB channels.
Then, just by turning the BFO a bit, you could scan all the LSB
The unit I tested also put out an extremely high-pitched whine
while tuning in the SW bands.
Search and Store
The search and store feature provides a way to automatically take
active channels that you find during a search and plug them into
scan channels. The search and store feature on the AR1500 is pretty
limited in its capability and usefulness. This is somewhat frustrating,
especially since all of the capabilities are built into the AR1500
to have made this a much more useful feature.
Whenever you search with search bank 9, every channel it stops
on is automatically plugged into the next succeeding scan channel
in scan bank 9. The first signal goes into channel 900, then 901,
etc until you fill up all 100 channels in scan bank 9. When you
reach channel 999, the unit starts over with channel 900 again.
The way you would use this is to start searching and then later
simply scan, using scan bank 9. The problem with this feature
in the AR1500 is that it stores anything it stops on during a
search. It will store open carriers, data channels, static, and
any other kind of signals. The biggest problem, however, is that
it stores the same frequencies over and over again.
This could have been eliminated and the search and store feature
could have been made to be much more useful had AOR simply combined
the search frequency lockout feature with the search and store
feature. This way, as soon as the scanner stopped on an active
frequency during a search, the frequency would be stored in scan
bank 9 and be locked out of search bank 9. Then, an active frequency
would only be stored once. In addition, the scanner wouldn't
have to needlessly stop on channels you have already stored, making
it more likely that you could catch the elusive signals in the
range you are searching. Then, when you scan bank 9, you'd get
all the frequencies found during your search with no repetition.
Alas, it wasn't implemented this way, so, IMHO, the search and
store feature is quite a bit less useful.
In addition, the search and store feature only stores the mode
as AM or FM. If you are searching in WFM mode, the channels get
stored as FM mode, not WFM mode.
The AR1500 is an amazing piece of engineering, cramming incredible
functionality into a very small package. Unfortunately, the small
size itself may be more of a minus than a plus. It makes the unit
harder to operate and gives it a considerably shorter battery
life. In addition, the designers of the AR1500 didn't fix many
of the idiosyncratic problems of the AR1000 when they designed
this new scanner.
While the AR1500 is more sensitive than the AR1000, you lose 100
scan channels and one search bank to the dedicated function of
the auto search and store--a feature which may not be of great
value to most users.
You also get SSB reception, but this feature generally can't be
used in scanning mode. This makes SSB reception a single station
feature. Since the AR1500 isn't designed as a primary shortwave
receiver, this feature should be considered a bonus, not a main
Unless you have a specific and demanding need for SSB reception,
it seems hard to justify the additional expense of an AR1500 over
an AR1000, especially considering its difficulty of operation
due to its small size and its short battery life.
The AR1500 has the same intermod and squelch adjustment problems
as the AR1000. In fact, the AR1500 manual from ACE carries this
disclaimer in the warranty:
"We do not warrant that the operation of the unit will be
uninterrupted or error free."
If you want a continuous coverage scanner and don't have a pressing
need for SSB reception, buy an AR1000.