Wi-Fi Radio Primer Part 2: Review of the CC WiFi and Sangean WFR-28

I originally wrote this three-part WiFi radio primer and review series for the April, May and June issues of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.  Each part of this series will be posted with the tag: WiFi Radio Primer. You can read Part 1 by clicking here–I hope you enjoy Part 2 below:


As I mentioned last week in the first of this three-part primer on WiFi radios, I never thought a WiFi radio was something I’d ever acquire.  By “WiFi radios,” of course, I mean Internet radio devices that have the sole purpose and dedicated function of streaming radio audio, and so, as a die-hard ham with a penchant for a well-balanced tuning knob, I just couldn’t see the need for what I thought of as an overly-simple, perhaps even redundant, device.

Indeed, until I began the as a search for the perfect radio for my family and XYL (“ex-young lady,” old ham radio speak for wife), I had used only an app on my smartphone (with headphones), and on tablet PCs connected to amplified speakers, in place of a dedicated WiFi radio. And I was fine with that. Or so I thought…

Fast-forward several months. Now that the XYL and kids have been using WiFi radios for a while, I don’t think they’ll go back. And as for myself? Yes, I’ve crossed that no-return boundary, too. Our whole family’s now joined the WiFi radio club, and the truth is, we’re all enjoying the WiFi’s simplicity and unique benefits.

In Part 1 of our WiFi Radio Primer, we discussed what makes WiFi radios tick––their ability to find radio stations via radio station aggregators. We also discussed the comparative merits of the most dominant aggregators on the market, and took a look at one easy alternative to the WiFi radio, namely, streaming from your smartphone or tablet.

Now we’ll investigate some of my picks from the current market.

WiFi radios: an overview

WiFi radios, by and large, look like traditional radios; they typically have backlit digital displays, front panel buttons to recall memories, and an internal speaker. They function like them, too, in that they play radio stations––but there’s where the resemblance stops. Streaming lnternet audio, and their dependence upon an aggregator to do this, sets them entirely apart.

The market for WiFi radios is actually not as broad and diverse as the shortwave radio market. If you’re seeking a quality device that uses a well-known, properly-curated station aggregator (again, see Part 1 for more on this), you’ll be looking at about a dozen (or so) radios currently on the market.

Here’s a short list of the current market’s most popular WiFi radios. Note that this is by no means a comprehensive list––it’s a curated list of WiFi radios that are in wide use, are relatively simple to operate, have built-in speakers, and that use reliable aggregators. I’ve noted the aggregator in parentheses as well as the average US purchase price.

The Pure Evoke F4 (untested)

The Pure Evoke F4 (untested)


CCrane Company:

Grace Digital



And now, let’s meet our real contenders

After much research and head-scratching, I chose four WiFi radios from the above list: the C.Crane CC WiFi, the Sangean WFR-28, the Grace Digital Mondo and the Amazon Echo.

FYI––and in full disclosure––here’s how I obtain my review radios. To keep my review budget within reason, I contact a supplier and request a loaner unit for review that I may return or purchase afterward; otherwise, I purchase the unit(s) outright. In this case, I purchased the Amazon Echo ($179), Grace Digital Mondo ($150), and rechargeable “D” cells for the WFR-28 ($30), while both C.Crane and Sangean kindly opted to send sample review radios, this being a less expensive route for these retailers. When I receive samples, my policy is to give away those I don’t wish to keep; for those I do decide to keep, I donate the full retail price to Ears To Our World, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which sends self-powered shortwave radios to teachers in off-grid developing world communities.

The decision process, this time, was a particularly difficult one. Every model has its advantages and disadvantages; and there are no “perfect” WiFi radios––at least, none that satisfied all of my stringent requirements:

  • Handy size
  • Intuitive display
  • Dedicated memory buttons on front panel
  • Clear, robust audio
  • External connections
  • An internal rechargeable battery option (for portability)
  • Easy setup
  • Remote control
  • Traditional FM and/or AM radio tuner

Several friends urged me consider the Pure EVOKE F4, which reportedly has excellent audio, a simple interface, and superb customer support. Plus, it’s a sleek little device, and…well, frankly, cute. Many have also touted Pure’s own proprietary aggregator, as well. But I just couldn’t justify purchasing and reviewing a WiFi radio with such a hefty price tag ($225), especially knowing that I would also need to purchase the optional battery pack ($50) for a total performance picture.


Following are summary reviews of each radio I tested. These are not comprehensive reviews covering every feature; rather, in these summaries, I focus my analysis on their ability to tune stations, on audio quality, on portability, and simply on general usability.

The C.Crane CC WiFi


I’ve had many C.Crane radios in the past. I love C.Crane products because they’re typically well-designed, effective, and because C.Crane offers excellent customer support.

The CC WiFi radio has been on the market longer than any other WiFi radio reviewed here. When I first unboxed the CC WiFi, I was a little surprised by its diminutive size: it is, perhaps, 30% smaller than I expected (based solely on web images and from the catalog). It comes with a small remote control with blister/membrane style buttons. The front panel on the CC WiFi is very simple: one large knob, six buttons, and a monochrome backlit two-line alpha-numeric display.

The front panel of the CC Wifi is simple and intuitive. The main knob acts as both a selection dial and volume control.

The front panel of the CC Wifi is simple and intuitive. The main knob acts as both a selection dial and volume control.

Setup is fairly easy; the accompanying owner’s manual walks you through the process (another C.Crane strength is their production of good-quality manuals). Once I had set up the radio and registered it with the Reciva aggregator, I was tuning in the world.

The CC WiFi’s plastic chassis feels rather thin––at least, thinner than I would have expected. But the radio is surprisingly lightweight, perhaps as a result of this. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised by the audio from the internal speaker. It provides a full sound and is more than adequate for medium-sized rooms. Bass tones are present, though not especially deep. It’s wonderfully balanced for the spoken word.

All of the external ports are on the rear panel of the CC Wifi and include an ethernet connection, headphone jack, line out jack and power port (7.5 VDC).

All of the external ports are on the rear panel of the CC Wifi and include an ethernet connection, headphone jack, line-out jack and power port (7.5 VDC).

The CC WiFi only has three buttons on the front panel of the radio that act as dedicated memory presets. I wish this number were, at the very least, doubled. With the provided remote control, of course, memory presets are expanded to 99 allocations. Fortunately, you can pretty much operate the CC WiFi’s functions without the remote control (a bonus for those of us who tend to misplace tiny remote controls).

There are a few updates that I think would make the CC WiFi shine:

To help with portability, it would make sense to add a carry handle and capacity for internal rechargeable batteries. The CC WiFi requires a DC power supply to operate; this is a shame because I suspect other listeners, like me, often enjoy radio away from home where there are no main power outlets. The unit is small enough, and lightweight enough, that it would lend itself very well to portability.


Though I’m sure the two-line backlit display was among the best in its class when the CC WiFi was introduced, I now find myself wishing this display could be a bit wider, taller, and (ideally) in color. The display is small enough that if you’re browsing stations with the accompanying remote control, you need to be within a few feet of the radio. If it’s across the room, however, it’s very difficult to navigate.

Additionally, the display width is not sufficient for longer Reciva station names/labels. As an example, I have a folder with local CBC stations from across Canada. Stations are labeled with the town or city name following, for example, “CBC Radio One – Toronto” or “CBC Radio One – Charlottetown.” When I’m browsing the folder of CBC stations, the display merely shows me a long list of “CBC Radio One” stations––which is to say, the truncated display cuts off the city’s name. Of course, I can press the right arrow on the remote to have the station name slowly scroll into view, but this is a cumbersome process when browsing the list. There are, of course, work-arounds for this––I could, for example, create folders for each city, or assign the station to a dedicated memory position––but the then I would have to drill down another level to find my station. “Work” around is the operative term, in either case, .


  • Small size
  • Ethernet connection
  • Line-out audio
  • Headphone jack (on back)
  • Included IR remote control
  • Affordable
  • Audio quite good for size of unit (bass, see con)
  • Extras include:
    • Pandora connect
    • Live365 (now defunct)


  • No battery-power option
  • Thin, “plasticky” feel to chassis, seems less durable
  • Occasional slow connection time to WiFi
  • Internal speaker generates (comparatively) weak bass
  • No EQ for audio
  • Only three memory buttons on front panel
  • No smartphone/tablet app

Overall, I think the CC WiFi is a good value and is currently one of the least expensive WiFi radios using the excellent Reciva aggregator. The CC WiFi has a surprising number of features for its price class. None of the criticisms above are necessarily deal-breakers, but some strategic upgrades to this radio would keep it competitive for many years to come.

The CC Wifi can be purchased from the following retailers:

The Sangean WFR-28


When I first unboxed the Sangean WFR-28, I immediately noticed its design, which bore a striking similarity to other Sangean AM/FM portables like the Sangean PR-D7. The WFR-28 has a glossy hard plastic body that feels robust and durable. The buttons are spaced well across the front panel and have a tactile responsiveness and weight that speaks of quality. There is a dedicated volume rocker button, five memory preset buttons, as well as a dedicated tuning knob and five function buttons.


The WFR-28 also has an easy-to-read square color screen that provides about five lines of text and can display any broadcaster artwork/logos provided. You can access all of the WFR-28’s functions by using the front panel buttons and tuning controls. As with most WiFi radios, doing so is not as enjoyable an experience as with most traditional radios, since you’re using a tuning control to move up or down through selections on a small display.

The Sangean remote control app allows full control of the WFR-28's functions.

The Sangean remote control app allows full control of the WFR-28’s functions.

The Sangean WFR-28 does not ship with a remote; however, if you have an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, you can download a free “remote control” app to control your radio.

I find that this is actually more convenient than with a traditional IR remote, because you can control the radio functions from anywhere within your WiFi network. Not to mention, it’s great to be able to turn the volume up from another room in the house!

What I really appreciate is the ability to browse the full Frontier Silicon database from the app-––so much easier than browsing through the radio’s front panel. I do wish there was a way, however, to add stations to memory allocations via the smartphone app (take note of this for a future app update, Sangean!)

The Sangean remote app even allows you to control the various player modes: Internet Radio, USB, AUX in, and the traditional FM tuner.

If you have a USB memory stick with audio content, you can play it through the WFR-28 via this handy, dedicated USB port on the top of the unit.

If you have a USB memory stick with audio content, you can play it through the WFR-28 via this handy, dedicated USB port on the top of the unit.

Speaking of which, yes, the WFR-28 has a very good FM tuner. I can easily receive one of my benchmark distant-FM stations, and even successfully decode the RDS data––both the remote app, and the radio display FM station information. Nice touch, Sangean!


The WFR-28 doesn’t ship with a battery pack: rather, it takes traditional D cells in either Alkaline or NiMH form. I purchased a four-pack of high-quality, high-capacity NiMH D cells––they’ll set you back $25-30, but are well worth the investment. The WFR-28 will internally recharge the cells when plugged into an outlet. Once fully charged, you’ll have hours upon hours of playtime. I haven’t measured the total playtime after a full charge, but I imagine it to be in excess of 24 hours.


What is the WFR-28 missing? One obvious thing is a carry handle or strap, always useful. Other than that, it really packs a lot for a $122 radio.


  • Good audio fidelity from internal speaker
    • Preset EQ settings
    • Customizable EQ
    • Crisp with noticeable bass tones
  • Affordable
  • One-touch preset buttons (see con)
  • iOS/Android app/remote control
  • Accepts and charges standard NiMH D cells
  • Very good FM receiver/displays RDS information
  • Superb playtime from 4 D cells/batteries
  • USB MP3 playback (MP3 and WMA compatible)
  • Stream Spotify music channels and selections


  • Only five preset buttons
  • No carry handle
  • If unplugged to go portable, radio shuts down and restarts on battery power, rather than remaining on
  • No battery indicator on display
  • On a few occasions the audio has failed after being woken up from standby (turning the radio off, then on again, is the fix for this)
All of the external ports are on the left side (facing) of the radio. The WFR-28 has an auxiliary in, line out, headphone jack and power port (7.5 VDC).

All of the external ports are on the left side (facing) of the radio. The WFR-28 has an auxiliary in, line out, headphone jack and power port (7.5 VDC).

Overall, I believe the Sangean WFR-28 is an excellent WiFi radio; when combined with rechargeable D cells, you have a portable multi-function audio entertainment system that’s simple to use. I should note that I’ve also been pleased with the Frontier Silicon station aggregator, as well; although more simple than other aggregators, FS just happens to provide all of my favorite stations and networks (do check for your faves before you buy).


The Sangean WFR-28 can be purchased from the following retailers:

Stay tuned! In Part 3 of our WiFi Radio Primer, we’ll take a look at two more WiFi radios: the Grace Digital Mondo and the Amazon Echo.

17 thoughts on “Wi-Fi Radio Primer Part 2: Review of the CC WiFi and Sangean WFR-28

  1. A. Black

    In connection with the CC Wifi (Reciva model) and your comments regarding:

    – browsing the station list note that you can do that both on the radio itself and on the Reciva web site. While on the site you can save stations and streams in My Stations and My Streams and then easily browse through those much shorter lists on the radio itself.

    – losing the remote, C Crane will sell you an extra remote or you could buy a programmable remote — I did the latter although I haven’t actually ever lost any remotes — it was more so that I could control mulitiple devices and customize the keys on the remote.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Thanks for your comment and good points.

      For your first point, is there a way to shorten the name tags via Reciva? I found navigating the Reciva site easy enough and saving memories quite easy via the CC WiFi, but I couldn’t find a way to shorten the name tags when browsing them via the CC WiFi display.

      Good point about the remote! C.Crane does a fine job of keeping parts/accessories for all of their products.


      1. A. Black

        I don’t think there is any way to modify the identifying on-screen information for stations but if you browse on the Reciva web site where there are no limitations instead of on the radio itself and just save those of interest to My Stations this would generate a small list for use on the radio so you are going to know right away which is which, largely avoiding the problem.

        Also, if you are like me then after an initial period of time you will settle into a few stations you like and exploration takes a back seat and so is not really an issue. I still listen to stations on a regular non-internet radio too so between those and the stations on the internet radio there are only so many stations one can listen to.

        By the way, this series of yours is very interesting. Thanks for the efforts.

  2. rtc

    The only “problem” with the C.Crane WiFi-1 is the lack of buttons.
    Pressing the On button too long throws you into the menu somewhere as
    does not pressing it long enough and it’s finicky about this…but otherwise
    it’s OK.

  3. Tha Dood

    Back in 2007, I 1st seen the Sangean WFR-20 in the AES catalog, and after reading about what it was, I bought one, then another as a gift to my sister. She loves hers! I love freeing up a computer to listen to streams. What’s nice is if you don’t see the stream from the station you’re looking for, then you go to Reciva.com and request for them to add it, then everyone using Reciva net radios can then benefit from the add-on. Nice to see that wi-fi net radios are finally catching on in North America. Like Mini Disc, it was mainly the rage in Europe and Japan, now it looks like these are finally getting a foot hold in the USA. And, for a much cheaper price as well. Back in 2007 I paid over $350.00 for each WFR-20. They were nice, but slow to respond and ckunky in operation. Still, for their time, and even now, I still like how they free up a computer. OH!!! And they were recommended for use to link on-air radio station for Art Bell’s Midnight In The Desert, before they were able to get a satellite link. So, I guess that I’m not the only one that thinks they are useful, as I’ve used these wi-fi net radios as stream to radio links as well.

  4. Tom Stiles

    Very detailed and informative review. I did a review of a Grace Mondo WiFi radio last year and I felt that it was a winner. I use mine for listening to international broadcast stations as well as scanner radios on the internet. Here is my review if interested. https://youtu.be/hC677AwXBZA

    Another Tom

    1. Thomas Post author

      Great review, Tom! I agree–it’s a great little radio. Fantastic audio!

      My review of the Mondo will be out next Sunday!

      -Yet another Tom. 🙂

  5. Aaron Kuhn

    Thanks Tom for the look at these – I’m surprised these devices aren’t more popular.

    I asked Tom via Twitter why he hadn’t looked at the C Crane WiFi 2 and he stated it had some bad looking reviews.

    Upon trying to find reviews (only place I could find them was directly on the C Crane site) the common complaints seem to be:

    * Stations not available on TuneIn that are on Reciva
    * Very bright display, not good for dark rooms/sleeping
    * Low volume on headphone jack

    Does anyone own a WiFi 2 and could comment on if you like it? I’d much rather have a unit that uses TuneIn as the aggregator due to the podcast feeds integrated on TuneIn, the far superior looking interface to Receiva, and the fact your favorites/stations would be shared between mobile apps and the radio.

  6. Mario

    Nice review Thomas. The Crane was my first Internet radio, price was reasonable and there was nothing not to like about it for the price. Small footprint, good sound from the speaker, small enough to put by the bedside stand, and a copious amount of stations to choose from.

    Same with the Sangean, that was my 2nd WiFi radio, this had the advantage of being portable as it had optional rechargeable batteries. Even though it used another aggregator than Crane’s, it still had thousands of stations to choose from.

    Both radios are outstanding performers.

    A good source of used WiFi, satellite radios and used broadcast radios in general is ShopGoodWill.com.

  7. Tim

    A quick comment on your excellent CC-wifi review.
    I assume you know, but if not…
    The CC-wifi does respond nicely to the Grace App. I regularly access mine which is attached to the CC fm transmitter from the line out. Around the property I can tune in to the fm broadcast and access anything available either on the house server, Reciva, or Pandora. This makes all my radios instant Internet radio tunable with my IOS phone.
    It also allows me to un-mute the radio itself without hunting for the remote, or disturbing the radio itself on its shelf.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Thanks, Tim,

      I do a very similar thing with my SStran AM transmitter–I use the remote app to change channels anywhere within wifi range. It’s great!

      Are you saying, though that you can use the Grace Digital app to remote to the CC Wifi? If so, I had no idea! That would certainly make the unit much more remote-friendly!


  8. Pingback: David recommends the Sangean H201 AM/FM waterproof shower radio | The SWLing Post

  9. John

    I enjoyed reading your reviews, and picked up a WFR-28. It works great, but I have one question for you: did you have any difficulty getting the rechargeable batteries into the compartment?

    I’ve tried two brands (including the EBLs shown in your pic), but they’re too big! I feel like forcing them in, but I’m afraid of damaging the radio! Just wondered if anyone else is experiencing this. If not, what brand fits?

    1. Thomas Post author

      Hi, John,

      I did not have a problem with mine, though–if memory serves–they were a little tight to fit.

      Here are the ones I purchased: http://amzn.to/2opcYsk

      I’ve been very pleased with them as their capacity is excellent.


  10. Marty

    Thomas – excellent reviews. I bought a used WFR-28 off of eBay and am very happy with it. However, I downloaded the iPhone version of the Frontier Silicon app a few times, and can never get it to fully open. Have you heard of anyone else having the same problem? Thanks!

  11. Gary

    I have one of the now discontinued C.Crane wifi radios that is based on Tune-in. (That is my favorite company.) But I end up sleeping at night with an X-M by the bed, because I can get CNN, Fox, and MSNBC to compare the bizarre difference in spin content. I am showing my ignorance, but is it possible to get those stations on either the Sangean, or Grace or other Reciva based radios, even if you have to pay for a subscription to a particular channel like CNN etc.? I think on an iPad you can buy premium channels on Tune-in, like those, but it would be much nicer to have a real solid square box radio by beside instead of having to fiddle with an iPad in the middle of the night, trying to hear something and go back to sleep.


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