Checking out the new C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Folks who are regular readers of my posts here have already figured out that I am a big fan of the CCrane Skywave SSB. It is easily the most versatile radio I own, receiving AM (medium wave), FM, shortwave, HF single sideband, NOAA weather stations with alert, and scannable civilian VHF frequencies, and I have written enthusiastically about it here on multiple occasions.

I think of the Skywave SSB as my “anti-boredom machine.” It’s small enough to slide into a shirt or jacket pocket pocket or tuck into any pack. Get stuck waiting in line, whip out the Skywave SSB, plug in a pair of ear buds, and listen to whatever is available.

So when I noticed that a new version of the Skywave SSB – the Skywave SSB 2 – appeared on the first page of the C.Crane 2023 catalog, I was delighted that the folks at C.Crane decided to send one to me. The SSB 2 includes all the goodies of the original, plus a handful of incremental improvements; upgrades include a micro-USB port for external power or charging NiMH batteries, a slightly better speaker, and longer feet on the bottom for better stability.

But the improvement that really makes me grin is a two-fer: first, the inclusion of an external antenna socket on the side of the SSB 2, and, second, the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor for shortwave, which is a 2-wire to mono plug adaptor that plugs right into the external antenna socket. This allows a long wire antenna to be easily hooked up to the SSB 2, and it works like crazy.

Attaching a long wire to the SSB 2 is now really easy. Attach your long wire to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor (you’ll need a small gauge screwdriver; the screws are really small). Next, plug the adaptor into the external antenna socket. You’re done!

I attached a 45-foot end-fed antenna to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor while listening to some hams chatting on 80-meters and found that it delivered an impressive improvement to the signal-to-noise ratio. And when I wanting to hit the road, it was a simple of unplugging the adaptor so the adaptor and wire antenna combo would be waiting when I came back.

The SSB 2 includes a number of useful accessories: the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor, a portable 23-foot CC Shortwave Reel antenna, CC Ear Buds (very comfortable), and a faux leather carrying case (if packing the SSB 2 in your luggage,  be sure to press the LOCK button, otherwise you find yourself with a singing suitcase or backpack.).

Bottom line: with the introduction of the Skywave SSB 2, CCrane has taken an excellent, versatile radio and make it even better. Highly recommended for all-round use, but especially as a travel and/or emergency radio.

Note: Jessica from CCrane sent me the following note regarding the SSB 2.

Please note:  When using headphones or earbuds there is an easily discernable, but not loud “pop” when switching bands and on memory presets on airband. There is no pop when using the speakers. It will take time to find the hardware and software remedy. It will not be corrected on this first shipment but we are working it and expect it to be reduced on future shipments. The new Skywave SSB-2 was up for a price rise October 2022 but we’re keeping it at $169.99 for now.

For more of my musing regarding the CCrane Skywave SSB, please consult:

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28 thoughts on “Checking out the new C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

    1. Thomas

      Honestly? It isn’t a better choice for me. I like the PL-330, but compared with the Skywave SSB
      – it lacks both NOAA weather radio and the AIR band
      – it also doesn’t feel as sturdy/durable as the CC Skywave SSB
      – the PL-330 doesn’t have a back stand like the Skywave SSB
      – the Skywave SSB uses two common AA batteries and operates for much longer periods of time than the PL-330 does on a BL-5C pack

      Also, in my tests, the sensitivity is also superior on the CC Skywave SSB.

      Both are good radios, but I reach for my Skywave SSB instead of the PL-330 for these reasons. The Skywave SSB costs more and if the things I mention above aren’t important, then the PL-330 is a fine radio. I personally think the Skywave SSB is an ideal travel radio.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
      1. Mike S

        Unfortunately all of the new Tecsun radios seem to be moving to Li-Ion power of some kind; the smaller models (including the now-shipping PL-320; the putative replacement for the PL-310ET) using the low-capacity BL-5C. Hold onto that older hardware ….

        Reply
      2. TomL

        C.Crane Cyber Monday Sale – 10% Off Any Order* – Use CodeCM22 good until Dec. 2 11:59PM Pacific Time. Currently SSB2 is out of stock but one can pre-order. I might just do this!

        Reply
  1. TomL

    I watched the recent YouTube from Todderbert comparing the old version to the new one with actual listening tests. There were only two negatives with the new one 1. A popping noise when pressing certain band/preset buttons, and 2. a light hiss coming from the audio amplifier that should not interfere with most listening except for the very weakest stations in a completely noise-free environment.

    As I recall, a light hiss from an audio amplifier can be fixed with a simple capacitor installed at the speaker terminals, but that would have to be confirmed. Such things have been done in the past.

    He also said that the audio frequency response using headphones is less boomy in the bass and slightly higher in the upper midrange and highs, making for a slightly improved intelligibility.

    If I had to choose between them, I would get the new one. And I do NOT support the Chinese clones who ripped off the technology from C.Crane. Also, if I had to choose between the Eton Executive and the SSB2, I would probably go for the SSB2 since they would sound very similar and have similar performance on MW and SW, including Ham band communications when using ear buds or headphones. The SSB2 seems to be a quality product. I may have to try one to confirm my impressions.

    Reply
    1. Mike S

      Hmmm.

      Interesting though how these two negatives are also reminiscent of criticisms of the XHDATA and Deshibo (Digitech) clones.

      In those radios, the high noise floor is demonstrated to be impedance-dependent and relates to the way in which the CS4863 audio amplifier is interfaced. Proper filtering would incur additional cost as a pre-amp would be needed to offset the volume loss through an effective RC network.

      These models also have noticeable bursts of digi-noise when pressing keys in the keypad; probably there was a muting step in the firmware that was omitted.

      Reply
  2. Timothy P Marecki

    I would be interested in hearing more about this when you get to run the radio through performance tests. I recently bought an Eton Elite Executive portable. It is highly sensitive, but audio quality is terrible. Also, the synchronous detection when used further degrades the sound. So far, my favorite portable has been the Tecsun PL880.

    Reply
    1. Jock Elliott

      Timothy,

      I own the PL880 and enjoy it greatly for “tuning around.” I don’t have any experience with the Eton Elite Executive, so I can’t comment. But when I needed to travel recently, the Skywave, a small scanner, and a pair of headphones went in my pack.

      Cheers, Jock

      Reply
      1. Buddy

        I would like to see this compared to the Retekess TR110, which seems to have close to the same bells and whistles, if not a bit more.

        Reply
        1. Mike S

          Suggest reading the critical reviews of the HanRongDa HRD-747 – of which the Retekess TR110 is but one of a great many OEM rebrands/relabels. Not even in the same clas,s performance-wise, as the models mentioned here.

          Reply
    2. TomL

      Specifically, I would like to see ECSS tests of broadcasters using SSB comparing the new SSB2 and the Eton Executive. I don’t use Sync anymore except on very old equipment that implemented it correctly, the Grundig 800/Drake SW8 and the Lowe HF-150.

      If implemented well, ECSS is the way to go in a portable with DSP chip, Sync is not really needed anymore.

      Reply
  3. James

    What’s so great about this ? A Digitech AR1780 has similar specifications with a better speaker and is far cheaper even taking import costs into account. No mention here of SSB performance and hooking up a longwire to a portable like this is just inviting overload and desense. The front end is no Sangean 909.

    Reply
    1. Jock Elliott

      James,

      If you read the other links with this article, I think you’ll get an idea why I enjoy this radio so much. I did not experience overload or desense with a 45-foot long wire, and it works well on the ham bands for SSB receive. I don’t have any experience with the other radios you mention, so I can’t comment. In addition, the AM, FM, airband, and NOAA weather radio bands on the CCrane SSB 2 work well in my experience. It does many things well, in my opinion.

      Cheers, Jock

      Reply
  4. Rob W4ZNG

    OK, OK, I’m in. Following up on the winner of the Virtual Radio Challenge III (the original Skywave was the chief component there), it looks like I’m upgrading the backpacking radio. The SSB part plus the external antenna plug is too good to pass up. Thanks for the brief review/update, Jock.

    Reply
    1. Jock Elliott

      Rob,

      I don’t think you will be disappointed. Connecting a longer wire to the SSB 2 is like putting a bigger carburetor on a muscle car . . . it turns loose the capabilities of the receiver.

      Cheers, Jock

      Reply
  5. David Elden

    And how much better is the sound with the “slightly better” speaker? I’m guessing not much since you didn’t mention it and you have the previous version to compare. If so that is disappointing because the sound quality from the speaker was a real weakness in the original version (IMHO).
    Dave.

    Reply
    1. Jock Elliott

      Dave,

      Lack of comment on the speaker does NOT mean that it is no big deal; it means that I almost always listen with headphones. I did not do an A/B comparison of the speakers. I wouldn’t be the best person to do that because of an un-correctable hearing deficit. However, I might take a run at comparing the speakers later this week.

      Cheers, Jock

      Reply
    2. K.U.

      Todderbert (the most active radio reviewer I know) commented the following:
      * “Upgraded Speaker, with a Slight Increase in Amplification. No Distortion at High Volumes.”
      * “Speaker is still Tinny Sounding. May be Changed?”

      Reply
    1. Robert Richmond

      You probably would fare even better with a cheap eBay 9:1 balun (more like an unun unless R1 is cut) and a SMA-to-1/8″ cable if deploying a random longwire. “Probably” as I have no idea regarding the impedance characteristics of the radio’s external antenna port.

      Reply
    2. Jock Elliott

      Robert,

      “I wish more portables had something like that!”

      I agree . . . if they can handle the signal, and the SSB 2 clearly seem capable to do that. The CCrane people must have thought about that before they made these changes.

      Cheers, Jock

      Reply

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