The AOR AR1500

Continuous-coverage handheld scanning receiver with SSB


Howard Bornstein

© 1/25/93

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 compartment.

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 features are:


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 operation time.


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 earphone.

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.

User's Manual

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 AR1500.

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.

Battery Life

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.

SSB Operations

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 CB channels.

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 selling point.

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."

Bottom Line:

If you want a continuous coverage scanner and don't have a pressing need for SSB reception, buy an AR1000.

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