Making a good thing better: The C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

Last month, C.Crane sent me (and the infamous Jock Elliott–read his review here) a pre-production CC Skywave SSB 2 portable shortwave radio.

In full disclosure and to be clear: these pre-production units were sent to us free of charge by C.Crane who is a long-time sponsor of the SWLing Post.

Back in October, I was very pleased to see that C.Crane had updated the CC Skywave SSB to version 2 in their latest product catalog.

If you’ve read the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that the CC Skywave SSB is my choice travel and EDC radio. I prefer it over any other portable I own (and I do have quite a lot) because it’s so insanely useful, efficient, lightweight, compact, and durable.

I’ve taken the CC Skywave SSB and the original CC Skywave on more travels that I could possibly remember.

What’s so great about the Skywave series?

I’m a one-bag traveler.

Me, at Charlotte-Douglas International waiting for a flight to the Winter SWL Fest in 2019.

When I fly, I take only one carry on bag that’s so compact it can fit under the seat in front of me in any type of commercial aircraft.

I firmly believe there is no freedom like one-bag travel. While others are stressing over where to stow luggage, how to carry it all, or why their checked-in luggage didn’t arrive at the destination, I’m cruising through the airport and to my destination unhindered.

The key to successful one-bag travel is only carrying what you need, and focusing on items that are multi-function.

Me? I need a good multi-band radio.

The CC Skywave SSB is the most comprehensive compact portable I own. It’s truly a “Swiss Army Knife” of a receiver. Here are the bands/features I appreciate:

  • AM/Mediumwave (9/10 kHz steps selectable)
  • FM broadcast (with expanded FM range when in 9 kHz step mode)
  • Shortwave
  • AIR band (to listen to Air Traffic Control and Air comms)
  • Weather Radio with alert (this functions brilliantly in the US and Canada)
  • A proper clock and alarm (that can display in 24 hour time!)
  • It uses two common AA batteries that can even be internally-recharged if NiMH
  • It even has a squelch feature for scanning, say, the AIR band

All of this and it’s also one of the best-performing compact radios on the market. It’s a capable radio for portable DXing right out of the box (or you can hot-rod it like Gary DeBock does!).

Side note: the CC Skywave’s weather radio reception is better that any other radio I’ve tested including dedicated weather radios.

What’s in version 2?

C.Crane is all about small improvements to their product line based on customer feedback. Instead of coming out with a new radio design every two years, C.Crane focuses on incremental upgrades to their existing models.

The CC Skywave SSB 2 has a few upgrades:

  • the shortwave external antenna jack can significantly improve SW reception when used with an external antenna (the SSB 2 now even ships with an adapter for long wires)
  • the new micro-USB port (the old one was mini-USB) includes improved in-circuit battery charging for AA NiMH cells
  • a higher quality speaker along with slightly more audio amplification
  • longer feet on the bottom of the radio for better stability

Video overview

I was recently at a state park and brought the CC Skywave SSB 2 along for the ride. Since I had my action camera packed to film a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation for my other blog, QRPer.com, I decided to make a short overview video of the Skywave SSB 2 as well. (If you’re an SWLing Post Patreon supporter, you would have seen this same video a couple weeks ago via Patreon.)

Performance

I’ve compared the pre-production Skywave SSB 2 with my Skywave SSB and they seem identical in performance on the whip antenna and internal ferrite. If you’d like a deeper performance dive, check out my review of the original CC Skywave SSB.

In short: the CC Skywave SSB 2 is an excellent portable shortwave radio.

Note from C.Crane

Jessica with C.Crane sent Jock and me the following note:

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.

If this earphone pop–which is not terribly loud in my opinion–is a deal-breaker for you, then you might wait for a later production run before purchasing. Otherwise, my advice would be to grab one of these at the $169 price while you can.

One extra disclaimer: at time of posting, the CC Skywave SSB 2 first production run is expected to start shipping in as little as three days (December 16, 2022). I normally do not release any sort of review or opinion based on a pre-production radio because I like evaluating the same production models as our readers purchase. In this case, I’m personally okay with sharing my thoughts on a pre-production model since it’s truly the same radio with incremental (non-receive architecture) improvements.

Should you upgrade to the SSB 2?

If you already own the CC Skywave SSB is it worth the upgrade? Unless you feel like you would truly benefit from the upgrades, I don’t think so. Performance-wise, it seems the same to me as its predecessor.

One exception would be for those who want improved performance via the external SW antenna jack. That could very well be worth the upgrade for some.

If you’ve always considered grabbing a CC Skywave SSB, I would recommend this new version. It’s true that it’s one of the pricier ultra-compact portables on the market at $169 US, but it’s also the most feature rich, and useful in my opinion.

I think it’s actually a good value. The original CC Skywave and Skywave SSB have served me so incredibly well, I never reach for my other ultra-compact radios when I hit the road or the skies these days. Indeed, this is why I came so dangerously close to selling my Sony ICF-SW100 earlier this year.

Plus, C.Crane is a solid company, with good customer service, and one of the few manufacturers left who truly support the over-the-air (OTA) radio listener.

Click here to check out the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2 on C.Crane’s website.

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30 thoughts on “Making a good thing better: The C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

  1. John Alley

    Just received my SSB 2 today…!! Amazing little rig so far. Just one question/minor complaint so far. That muting when tuning… anyway to get rid of it? Or is that not possible??
    73 de K4UAE

    Reply
      1. John Alley

        Thanks for the fast reply! And also for the excellent content!!! Hmm, well I’ll run the SSB 2 or a bit and see if it bothers me enough to sell it or I’ll hang onto it.

        Reply
        1. Dave

          OK I just tried entering an order on their site, the country drop down doesn’t always fully populate. If that happens try again, e.g. I was able to enter the details for an address in The Hague and it offered a list of shipping options.
          Dave.

          Reply
          1. 13dka

            I recently contacted them about this (because I wanted to get one of their ferrite antennas) and they replied that they are currently not shipping to the EU and referred me to Amazon.com (which I had checked before and after – no such antennas in stock there).

    1. 13dka

      Some if not most of their radios can be ordered via Amazon.com. Of course they are not meant to be sold to the EU either, so you may have to accept that it comes a 110V power supply that has to replaced by one that works with our more manly EU voltages. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Ken Z

    I’m on my THIRD whip antenna for my original Skywave radio.
    I have NO beefs about the radio other than the flimsy antenna but — to their credit — ccrane stocks and makes buying a replacement whip easy.

    Is the SSB2 better on the ‘flimsy whip’ front?

    Reply
  3. Jazzy Gee

    The radio is for sure awesome. But also, what is that bag?! Adore it and like the idea of one-bag travel, but what about clothes changes etc.? How much can it hold? Where do I get one? :~>

    Reply
    1. Jack K

      I was intrigued by Thomas’ idea of “one-bag” travel, so I gave it a try. My wife and I went to Key West (one week) one bag each. That was fairly easy as shorts and tee shirts don’t take up a lot of room. I wore my long pants down and three hats on my head coming back, BUT we were the only two allowed to stow our bags on the puddle-jumper to Tampa.

      The following year, it was two weeks in Germany March/April. Make sure you have all the socks and underwear you need and we creatively mix & matched layers of clothing.. One carry-on bag each, a large purse and a laptop bag. So, what did we do with the chocolate and stuff we wanted to bring home? They went into our bags wrapped with some clothing. Laundry? That was shipped home via DHL for $50. And here’s the kicker – that box arrive before the postcards we mailed out a week prior!!

      Reply
      1. Thomas Post author

        You, sir, have become an expert level one-bagger when you DHL your extras! I’ve done that so many times and saved a lot of money. When I need supporting material for a presentation, etc. I simply ship it to the destination, then ship it back and it’s always cheaper than paying for an extra bag and you don’t have to lug it. 🙂

        Well done and thanks for sharing!

        Cheers,
        Thomas

        Reply
  4. Aubrey J. Young

    I have the original C.CraneSkywaveSSB I purchased just over a year ago. The radio is my daily user for local stations and SW at night. No issues with the radio in all modes. I imagine the new model will be a quality piece of work as the original.

    AJY

    Reply
  5. Conor

    One think I often wonder – is a radio like this available (for folks outside of North America) but instead of Weather Radio, offering coverage of the VHF Marine Band?

    It is hard/impossible to find radios in a form factor like this with marine band. Obviously scanners etc are available but would be great to have airband, marine and shortwave all in one small package.

    Reply
  6. Frank K4FMH

    This is my nightly driver…am stations mostly. Works exceptionally well for my use case of monitoring am BCB propagation. Well worth the money. I do wish the vfo did not click as I turn it. I like the charge port for the usb charger. This replaced my Tecsun 660 for night time listening!

    Reply
  7. Sam

    I’m still enjoying my C Crane Skywave SSB, but …

    My only quibble with the unit is if using NiMH batteries, the clock will run fast. Over a couple weeks or so, the clock will be many minutes ahead of actual time.

    An aside: I had high hopes for a little reverse TransAtlantic DXing while in Portugal the past few weeks. Man oh man, I thought I lived in an RFI jungle in Washington, D.C.! I logged just two local Portuguese stations the entire time in five different cities. The noise was horrific. And 16th century thick walls didn’t help.

    Reply
  8. Justin

    I also love 95.7 WXRC. I listen to it every day. Such a wonderful variety of music, and I regularly hear stuff I’ve never heard before.

    I listen to it most nights on my C.Crane SW SSB, falling asleep to the classics (or an NC State game). I don’t know if I’ll upgrade, but they are definitely great little radios. I take mine on every trip. I got to listen to the pilot flying my wife and son on a helicopter trip over Myrtle Beach a couple years ago. And hear my cousin’s flight coming in while I waited to pick him up in Greensboro. I love the versatility, and for such a small piece of equipment it’s amazing what it can do.

    As an aside, I’m assuming you were at South Mountain State Park. I’ve been meaning to go there for some time to try out the trout fishing. Stone Mountain usually gets most of my time, however. I’ve read great things about that park (if that is indeed where you were) and it’s certainly on my list of places to visit.

    First time poster here, and a relatively new convert to the world of radio, but I enjoy all of the posts here. Keep up the fantastic work!

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Oh yes, WXRC is the finest classic rock station on the planet!

      The park I was at was Tuttle Educational State Forest near Morganton. Nice little park. South Mountains is wonderful–you’ll love it!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
      1. Mike Bennett

        ….best classic rock station on the Planet..? Q107 Toronto is the BEST !!!
        Zoomer Radio (740 AM) is very popular in Buffalo and Rochester, NY, especially the top 20 songs of different years, each day! Today, it was the TOP 20 for 1963……

        Reply
  9. Leon Webster

    I am curious as to how this radio compares with other small SSB radios. How is it different than the Tecsun PL-330 or the Eton Elite Executive which I currently use as “travel” radios. Would the C.Crane be an upgrade from either of these radios?

    Thanks for any

    Reply
    1. Fabrizio

      I don’t think there is a significant difference with the PL-330, but it does have air-band, weather radio for example if that is useful for you.

      Reply
  10. Jacques Tavernier

    Why on earth did they replace the Mini-USB with a Micto-USB when the new norm is USB-C?
    Micro-USB is the worst connector ever. It makes poor contacts and breaks easily. I’ve busted two of them on my DAB radios. 50 euros to get it fixed each time.

    Reply
    1. Mike in Knoxville

      I actually wondered why, as well. Over the years, I had better luck with mini-USB jacks than micro, though I realize that finding mini plugs in stores (e.g. need a replacement ASAP) is much harder now than it used to be.

      Reply
      1. Jacques Tavernier

        Luckily micro USB is doomed. Some manufacturers have already started shipping receivers with USB-C connectors.
        USB-C is much better as you can plug in the cable either way. No need to look closely at it to see if you have put it the right way.

        Reply
  11. Mike in Knoxville

    This radio is on my short list, to be sure.

    Somewhat comical how the lighting makes it appear you’re wearing jeans with two different colored legs in the photo above.

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply

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