Jack examines the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Kratoville, who shares the following guest review:

CC Skywave SSB 2: Thoughts and impressions

by Jack Kratoville

I had no intention of purchasing this radio. I already own two of the original Skywaves and, not big into Ham communications, saw little need for the upgrade. But as I was looking at the new SSB 2, my wife walked by and said, “Don’t you already have that one?” I told her it was the updated model and it’s on sale. “You should get it,” she replied. Sometimes it is best to listen to your wife.

My curiosity in the SSB 2 was the “slightly improved” audio and other updated features. It was shipped to my home for $149 complete and I eagerly opened the box. Putting it through the initial paces, I was highly disappointed. Some buttons didn’t work, and the “slightly improved” audio was harsher than the original. It was going back. In a final desperation, I stuck a paper clip in the reset hole and all functions came to life. While I still wasn’t impressed with the overall audio, I would spend more time with it. I’ll address the audio later, but let’s look at what this radio was intended for and how it stacks up to that challenge. This is a communication device, designed specifically for people looking for interesting and far away signals. As far as I can tell, it’s the only radio with “SSB” in its name – so let’s start there.

I have the Digitech AR1780 and the Eton Executive Satellit with SSB capability. I’ve explored both upper and lower sidebands on both. It always seems like too much work; pressing multiple buttons multiple times adding that the Digitech is a notoriously slow scanner. I enjoy them both, but SSB seems like an afterthought. The Skywave SSB 2 is far easier to track down and tune in signals. CCrane includes some tips in the booklet, and I find myself hunting for Ham conversations almost nightly. I haven’t had to attach an external antenna as of yet as I find something without them. If the primary purpose of this radio is to bring a capable SSB portable to your pocket on any adventure, CCrane has scored big. I’m still not a hard core listener, but this radio is very satisfying and I tend to check out the side bands much more frequently.

Next up is the SW band. The SSB2 has a longer antenna and I think it serves well pulling in more distant signals. First thing I noticed is that the SSB2 scans slower than the original Skywave. Perhaps this is due to the ability to detect single side band signals, but I’m not so sure. The original is quite speedy, the SSB 2 seems more normal. The best features are the external antenna options and the hardware provided in the box. Wherever you travel, you can easily hook up an antenna directly into the radio, simply using wire that attaches to the accessories in the box. There is a provided reel antenna, so your options are plentiful. I don’t get any overload, but I’m also not on top of any local signals. I have to say, as a communications device, this radio is designed to please.

Aircraft also benefits from a longer whip and external options. I can just get the feed from my local airport (about 5 miles away). The SSB2 gets the airport weather service clearly. There’s an updated scanner that is perfect for monitoring 2-3 signals at a time. This is a big improvement.

The weather band is one of my favorites and have always enjoyed it on the Pocket and Skywave. Here we have one step forward and one back. I understood why the original Skywave didn’t employ the tone switch on WX. There’s not a lot of dynamic audio here. But the SSB2 does which makes it a bit clearer and certainly louder. Very happy with that update, however when I push the presets on the SSB2, nothing! On the original, pushing 1 through 7 moved you to that WX channel. Now you have to slew through signals using the knob or buttons. Why would they omit this? At my home location, I receive 1, 4 & 7 and would simply press the preset I wanted to hear. Losing this capability makes no sense at all.

AM/MX. This band is always a CCrane strength and the SSB2 will not disappoint. Excellent sensitivity, filtering and scanning options makes this a top tier pocket portable.

FM. Better antenna, better reception. I think it’s a hair more sensitive and selective than the original Skywave, but listening to the FM band leads me into my biggest gripe, the audio.

“Slightly Improved” is a way of saying “don’t expect too much.” At first, I was highly disappointed. Even on “Voice,” the FM band sounded shrill and fatiguing. I almost returned it that first day. I decided that it was better to give time and put it through various paces and locations. Here’s my personal assessment. While audio dynamics is as personal as one’s favorite color, I must start by saying they did make a sizeable effort to improve this radio’s sound – to a degree. Excluding FM, the audio is louder and fuller. I would go as far to say it’s a bigger improvement than they give themselves credit for, especially with SW, SSB and WX. But with FM, they could have trimmed that high end 1-2db and it would have been so much better. U.S. FM signals are overprocessed to begin with and this radio highlights that flaw immensely. (The PL-310et does as well, but with slightly better low end to balance the sound). I’ve brought the radio outside, listened to the non-commercial locals and various low key programming – when the high frequencies are more muted, this model sounds much better than the original. OK, admittedly people are not laying out $160 for this radio to listen to the Zombies, U2 or even Doja Cat, but I don’t think it would have taken much to make this radio audibly more pleasant on all bands.

Where the audio does suffer is at low, low levels. This is not for listening in bed late at night. The improved amplifier has to send more energy to the speaker and that creates a low-level hiss – even when the volume is at zero. This is not a Skywave SSB2 issue, it is an issue with most audio devices trying to pump more into a smaller speaker. Most radios suffer from this to a degree (the original Skywave does not), but some are better than others. The SSB2 is very noticeable.

I honestly feel CCrane put in a big effort trying to please their core base with multiple adjustments to this radio. The screen light is better dispersed. When you shut the unit off, it gives you the time before the light extinguishes. Switching on and off or between bands, the audio fades up and down – better than unexpected loudness. The tuning knob is vastly improved with satisfying clicks and no jumping over frequencies. The volume knob is stiffer with less play. The buttons are better, and the adjusted layout is extremely intuitive. I’m not a huge fan of the current style, but it makes sense. CCrane designed this radio to be more in line with the CC Pocket, giving their portable lineup familiarity between models. I’d prefer the page and memory numbers to remain on screen, but it’s extraneous information. I don’t listen through the earbuds, but they are working on whatever clicking problems occur when switching between bands.

No radio will ever be perfect nor please everyone, but I remain a fan of CCrane. For Ham and SW enthusiasts on the go, this radio is worth your consideration. You can buy cheaper, but you will only get what you pay for. My original Skywave, purchased in 2015, continues working like it did brand new and remains my #1 travel companion. Well, number two behind my wife.

Click here to check out the Skywave line at C.Crane.

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12 thoughts on “Jack examines the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

  1. Not Chicken Little

    The CountyComm GP-7 SSB also had SSB in its name, and there are probably others.

    I have the original CCrane Skywave without SSB. It’s a good little radio but I couldn’t see paying so much more just to have SSB since I already have many other radios which do have it!

  2. Donald Ball

    Jack have you pressed the 1 and 2 buttons together to see how flattening the audio does. I wonder if this will help with the shrillness from the internal speaker

    1. Jack K

      That’s how you adjusted the tone on the original Skywave. Now a long press of the Page button switches from Music to Voice (tone) choices. It’s definitely on the less shrill Voice. Another improvement – one button better than two!

  3. John davidson

    Is there external speaker jack or just the headphone jack. Either way try hooking up a external speaker and see how the audio sounds. I have a few of those radio shack mini mono amplifiers. It has a in jack and you can listen to amps speaker or use out jack and it disconnects the internal speaker and lets you connect a speaker powered up by it’s amp. I use for testing microphones and speakers. It doesn’t seem to care about impedance from input or output. The early used 9v battery only but later models has external power in jack. It has own filter so no ac hum. I found that the old speakers from a am/fm 8 track stereo systems sound real good hooked to the amp. I prefer the old THRUSTERS speakers with the passive radiators . They really sound good on old tube receivers.

  4. Joe K

    Hi Jack,
    I’ve had my SSB2 for a couple of days now and find your comments very educational. I also noticed the AGC slow and sometimes missing lower signal stations. Using good earphones or buds makes a huge difference in audio in my humble opinion. Overall I’m liking this little radio more as I get used to it. My experience is based on comparing it to my old RS DX-398 I’ve owned since late 90’s.

  5. Lars

    Thanks for a great review Jack! Ironically I am leaving on a sorte next weekend. I bring a radio with me always. The foreign guys always want me to leave them with the radios. No way. Especially my Sony’s and CCranes. Well, guess what…I followed Thomas’ link for the fun of it over to CCrane. They had the original (no ssb, which I won’t need for my assignment) as one of their orphans! $78! Full CCrane tech support with it as usual. I need it within 5 days, so Fedex will make a few bucks extra this week. But I will now have a Skywave to take along. I do use it in my work, but that’s as much as I can tell ya. This year is was a GE Superadio ii (mod by Chuck Rippel, thanks to him and Thomas) and now a Skywave. If it’s analog, the US market always had THE BEST. Which is a lot like our country. Doing our best to keep it at peace and free. 3’s to all o’ youse! Lars

  6. Bob Colegrove

    Thank you, Jack for your thoughtful review. I am new to C.Crane and the Skywave SSB 2 as well. I am not a traveler anymore, but this radio is still something I want to carry with me around the yard, house, porch, etc. It seems to do everything quite well.

    Regarding audio quality, I have read a few criticisms and feel this is somewhat unfair. What is it, a 1-inch, 2-inch speaker? No, it’s not a Bose. I did notice the hiss in the audio amplifier with the sound turned down. It’s not noticeable at normal listening levels. I did not notice this using a good set of Sennheiser phones.

    I do like the push knob fine/coarse tuning arrangement, but note to Crane, please remove the detents as you turn the knob. Slew tuning is tough enough with short, stubby, arthritic fingers.

    One other con if I may. The AGC seems to be quite slow. In order to overcome local noise, I use very narrow-band loop antennas to DX MW and SW. These must be re-peaked every few kHz, and the AGC can’t keep up with the antenna tuning process.

    Looking at the SSB 2 beside my 60-pound Hammarlund SP-600, it’s truly amazing what has been packed into this little box.

  7. Brian


    Many thanks for sharing your impressions; they’re quite helpful.

    Can you offer any information about the firmware and hardware versions of your SSB 2? Where did you buy it–you’re certain your unit is a full retail version? As I recall, C.Crane began selling early batches–betas?–of the SSB 2 around Christmas 2022. You mentioned the clicking sound that’s audible via earphones. I for one am inclined to wait until C.Crane gets it fixed.

  8. Hank

    Good review with admirable attention to detail.

    He mentions the Tecsun PL 310.

    Would someone with both
    Skywave SSB2 and Tecsun PL 330 hands on experience
    chime in with comparisons,
    in particular with AM MW station adjacent strong channel inference minimizing technique
    such as LSB/USB or Sync ?

    1. TomL

      I also would love to see a shootout between those two, especially SSB (Ham) and also ECSS (broadcast). I think the AGC is flawed in the Tecsun PL330 and annoyingly distorts the audio on initial voice modulation or strong fading. Could not find a video on this particular comparison.


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