CC Skywave SSB Update: C. Crane addresses issues with first production run

Earlier this year, I posted a review of the CC Skywave SSB: C. Crane’s latest ultra-compact travel AM/FM/WX/AIR/shortwave radio.

If you’ve been following this little radio, you might remember that early first production models had issuesindeed, all six production units I tested had issues–that prevented me from releasing my full review before the end of 2017.

The main problem that plagued my first production run units was a background audio whine/tone. Here’s the description from my full review:

Upon careful listening, I discovered the production unit had a faint, internally-generated whine on some of the shortwave bands; when tuned to marginal signals, this whine manifested in the form of variable background noise. Between signals it was audible as a faint background whine, hardly noticeable. With that said, the whine was most notable while tuning––since the Skywave SSB mutes between frequency changes, the whine was most conspicuous during audio recovery between steps.

I later discovered that part of the problem was related to an alignment issue that C. Crane had to address in-house on their first production inventory.

Second production run evaluation

A few weeks ago, C. Crane sent me one of the first CC Skywave SSB units from their second production.

Due to my hectic schedule after almost two months of travel in Canada, I’ve only gotten around to checking the new unit this past week.

I put the CC Skywave SSB on the air and carefully tested it across the bands.

Fixed: No more whine!

I’m very pleased to report that this unit shows no signs of the internally-generated noises that plagued all six of my first production run units!

In fact, the second production unit’s performance is identical to that of the pre-production CC Skywave SSB which I’ve so admired. I’ve compared the units side-by-side and would not be able to tell them apart if it weren’t for a silk-screen error on the back of the pre-production unit.

I can now recommend the CC Skywave SSB without hesitation. If you’d like to know more about this radio, check out my full review by clicking here.

You can purchase the CC Skywave SSB from the following retailers:

Next Up…

C. Crane also sent me a second production run CCRadio-EP Pro. If you recall from my review, this model also had several issues that prevented me from recommending it–primarily: muting between frequencies, images, fixed 10 kHz steps on mediumwave, and an inaccurate analog dial.

I’ll start evaluating the EP Pro this week and report back soon. Bookmark  to follow updates.

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Radio enthusiasts receive images from the Longjiang-2 in lunar orbit

Image received by astronomer Cees Bassa (@cgbassa) using the Dwingeloo Telescoop

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF) who shares the following story from The Planetary Society:

Earlier this week, on October 10, radio amateurs all around the world worked together to get the Chinese Longjiang-2 spacecraft to take an image of the Earth and the far side of the Moon. Radio commands were generated by MingChuan Wei in China, transmitted to the spacecraft by Reinhard Kuehn in Germany after which they were received by the spacecraft in lunar orbit. In turn, the spacecraft transmitted the image back to Earth, where it was picked up by radio amateurs in Germany, Latvia, North America and the Netherlands.

Since June this year, the Chinese Longjiang-2 (also known as DSLWP-B) microsatellite has been orbiting the Moon. The satellite is aimed at studying radio emissions from stars and galaxies at very long wavelength radio waves (wavelengths of 1 to 30 meters). These radio waves are otherwise blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere, while the lunar environment offers protection from Earth-based and human-made radio interference. Longjiang-2 was launched to the Moon together with an identical twin, Longjiang-1 (DSLWP-A), together acting as a radio interferometer to detect and study the very long wavelength radio waves by flying in formation in lunar orbit.

Besides the scientific instruments, both Longjiang satellites carry a VHF/UHF amateur radio transmitter and receiver (a transceiver) built and operated by the Harbin Institute of Technology (in Chinese). The Longjiang-2 transceiver also includes an onboard student camera, nicknamed the Inory Eye. The Harbin team built on experience gained with the Earth-orbiting LilacSat-1 and LilacSat-2 nanosatellites, which allow radio amateurs to receive satellite telemetry, relay messages and command and download images taken with an onboard camera.

While receiving signals from satellites in low Earth orbit requires only relatively simple antennas, doing so for satellites in orbit around the Moon (a thousand times more distant), is much harder. To this end Longjiang-1 and 2 transmit signals in two low data-rate, error-resistant, modes; one using digital modulation (GMSK) at 250 bits per second, while the other mode (JT4G) switches between four closely spaced frequencies to send 4.375 symbols per second. This latter mode was developed by Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist Joe Taylor and is designed for radio amateurs to relay messages at very low signal strengths, typically when bouncing them off the surface of the Moon.

[M]any radio amateurs have been able to receive transmissions from Longjiang-2. Usually, the transceiver is powered on for 2-hour sessions at a time, during which GMSK telemetry is transmitted in 16-second bursts every 5 minutes. After some testing sessions in early June, the JT4G mode was activated, with 50 second transmissions every 10 minutes.

Specialized open source software written by MingChuan Wei and the Harbin team enables radio amateurs to decode telemetry as well as image data and upload it to the Harbin website.

The JT4G mode has allowed radio amateurs with small yagi antennas to detect signals from Longjiang-2 (using custom software written by Daniel Estévez).[…]

Click here to read the full article at The Planetary Society.

This is fascinating, Eric!  Thank you for sharing. It would be amazing fun to grab one of these Lunar signals! Anyone up to the task?

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NHK WORLD-JAPAN changes reception report contact address

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Lilian Putina, who shares the following message from NHK World-Japan:

Dear Listeners of NHK WORLD-JAPAN Radio services,

Thank you very much for listening to NHK WORLD-JAPAN Radio services.

We are writing to notify you that the NHK WORLD-JAPAN e-mail address (nhkworld@nhk.jp) will be unavailable from October 20. Replies to this e-mail address will not be received/reviewed.

Hereafter, please send your reception reports/messages via “Contact us” form on each language website.

For English and Japanese services, please send via “Contact Us” form at https://www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/contact/

We appreciate your cooperation, and hope you will continue to enjoy NHK WORLD-JAPAN.

Regards,
NHK WORLD-JAPAN
http://www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

Thanks for sharing this tip, Lilian!

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Will the cost of radios increase for US consumers?

In the past few months, I’ve received a number of questions from our readers in the United States regarding the potential for radio prices to increase.

Why could prices increase?  Keeping in mind, I’m no expert in this field (seriously–!) I understand there are at least three factors that could influence prices:

China

As of today, almost all portable shortwave radios on the market are made in China. In fact, I can’t think of a single portable broadcast receiver that isn’t made in China although I’m sure there are some made in other parts of the world.

Tariffs

This year, the US administration has placed tariffs on a long list of consumer electronics produced in China and elsewhere–the list could grow.  Radio receivers could fall into some of the affected product categories. Click here to read the full current list (PDF). Some ham radio retailers have notified their customers to expect price increases (BridgeCom Systems comes to mind).

Postage

The US plans to withdraw from an international postal treaty that has allowed Chinese companies to ship small packages to the United States at discounted rates. If this withdraw were to happen, it’s my understanding it would primarily affect direct postal shipments that are now prevalent from sellers on eBay, Amazon.com, Alibaba and similar.  This might mean either the end of “free shipping” from China-based retailers who’ve relied on inexpensive ePacket shipments, or product prices might increase to compensate for the added expense. This shouldn’t directly affect the price of parcel carriers like UPS, DHL or FedEx.

So what’s the takeaway?

In general, sure…I would expect radio prices to increase.

I don’t think it’s a time to panic as there are a lot of market forces at play here. I would personally anticipate price increases anywhere from 10 to  25 percent.

If you’ve been considering one of the pricier full-featured portables, you might nudge yourself in the direction of ordering one in the near future rather than later. (Note: Your friendly radio enabler suggests you use this as an excuse to grab another set! Go get it!). 🙂

Again, I’m not panicking. So far, I haven’t noticed any significant changes in pricing at the major online retailers. When price increases hit the streets, I doubt they’ll be steep enough to discourage us from buying the occasional radio.

One more thing…

I’ll admit that I’ve been reluctant to bring up this topic on the SWLing Post as it’s politically-charged. So keep in mind…

This is a website where we celebrate our love of all things radio, not a space for name-calling, trolling, or heated back-and-forth littered with vulgar language. Our moderators do their best to pluck those comments when they manage to make it through our comment filters. If you’re looking for an outlet to do those things, the web is chock-full of sites that will indulge you.

Over the years, many of you have written and thanked me for providing a safe haven from the drama that’s so prevalent on otherwise wonderful websites. You’re most welcome.

Keep in mind: the SWLing Post is my refuge, too, and I’m keeping it that way!

Thank you all for understanding.

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Joseph Hovsepian: Montreal’s “Radio Doctor”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Scott Gamble and Bill Mead who both share the following story via the CBC News:

Joseph Hovsepian says he is part of the last generation that knows how to repair electronics

Joseph Hovsepian has been repairing? radios for so long that he claims that he can sometimes smell the problem.

“When I pick up a radio, I turn it on or I plug it in and the way it smells, the way it sounds or doesn’t sound, the way it crackles and fades away, all these things are recorded in my brain and I know exactly how to start and how to fix it,” he said.

Since 1960, Hovsepian has been fixing radios, turntables and other electronic gadgets from his Parc Ave. repair shop.

The 79-year-old sees himself as part of the last generation of people trained in the art of repair.

“We have lost the ability to touch things, fix things, repair them and feel good for doing it,” he said.

For almost his entire life, Hovsepian has been tinkering with radios. He built a crystal radio when he was 12, and his first tube radio at 15.

[…]He believes that today’s electronics lack the warmth that the old radios offered. Hovsepian said smartphones look dead to him compared to old technology.

“Even the sound of the old radios, a little scratch here, a little scratch there…This is radio.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at CBC News.

This is a charming story and I think Post readers can certainly understand why radio seems to be in a class of its own. I feel very fortunate that I’m friends with two people who repair radios for others, my buddy Charlie (W4MEC) and Vlado (N3CZ). Both are kind enough to show me the ropes as they troubleshoot problem sets.

Post readers: Do you live somewhere with a radio repair shop? Have any readers ever visited Mr. Hovsepian’s shop in Mile End? Please comment!

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