Category Archives: Accessories

Backlit keys, headlamps, and radio listening in the dark…

The Digitech AR-1780 has a very tactile button/key arrangement, but it is not backlit.

No less than two readers have contacted me this past week asking if I know of a shortwave portable that has backlit keys. Both of these guys, of course, are simply looking for a digital radio that’s a little easier to use at night in the dark.

Backlit keys would certainly make a lot of sense.

I’m going to look through my inventory of portables when I’m back home, but at the moment I’m drawing a blank. I can’t think of a single portable that has backlit keys, but I’m sure there are some out there in the wild. Can someone jog my memory–?

Readers: Please take a moment to comment with the make/model of any shortwave portables that have backlit keys! It would be nice to have a list to reference.

The indispensable headlamp…

I do quite a bit of portable shortwave listening in the dark. I especially like sitting on my porch at night to catch a little DX, pirate radio activity, or simply listen to one of my favorite broadcasters.  Even though I have much more capable radios in the shack–ones that are connected to large outdoor antennas–I love the simplicity of a potable for band scanning. Portables are especially fun for night time mediumwave DXing.

I also live in a relatively rural and remote area and one of the things I love about living here is the lack of light pollution at night. This also means that if I want to see when walking outside–and avoid walking into a visiting black bear (true story)–I’ll need some sort of flashlight/torch.

I’ve been made fun of before for carrying so many flashlights around (Mark Fahey, I’m looking at you–!), but frankly, these lighting tools have saved my bacon more than once.

I have an array of high-power portable flashlights, but the one I use the most is actually a headlamp. By using a headlamp, both hands are free to do work–especially helpful while tuning a radio.

These days, I never leave home without a headlamp. I always have one packed in my backpack, EDC bag, or luggage. Headlamps used to be heavy, expensive and sometimes used odd battery types. Today, headlamp prices are very reasonable, they’re lightweight, USB rechargeable, and they’ve become incredibly versatile.

The Nitecore NU25

My favorite for performance vs. price is the Nitecore NU25. I’ve had this particular model for three months. The price is approximately $35 depending on the color you choose. It’s very lightweight and, best of all, USB-rechargeable.

The battery life is excellent; I use it all the time, yet I think I’ve only recharged it twice just to make sure the battery was topped-off.

I also like the Nitecore NU25 because it has an array of lighting options:

  • A primary light with up to 360 lumens (4 lighting levels)
  • A 20 lumen high CRI LED which better replicates soft sunlight
  • A 13 lumen red LED with two light levels and a flashing option

For radio listening, I often use the the CRI LED, or the brighter red LED setting which preserves my night vision.

If I’m reading a book, then I use the CRI LED which casts a very wide, comfortable, full spectrum light.

For walking, hiking, or doing DIY projects in the attic/basement, I use the main headlamp light which has a tighter beam and can cast light a significant distance.

The Nitecore NU25 is very compact and easy to take on my one-bag travels. I feel some sense of comfort knowing that if my hotel experiences a loss of power (again, true story) I’ve got a capable, multi-function light in my EDC pack.

Click here to check out the Nitecore NU25 on Amazon (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

There are actually a number of excellent headlamps on the market. Personally, I look for ones that are affordable, rechargeable, lightweight, compact, and have at least an auxiliary red LED (which I find most useful for astronomy). I considered the PETZL Bindi because it’s incredibly lightweight and a friend recommended it, but it lacks lighting options and is pricier than the Nitecore NU25. The PETZL Bindi is an excellent option for runners, however. The PETZL ACTIK CORE also came highly recommended, but it costs almost twice what I paid for the Nitecore NU25.

Of course, if you just want a simple, basic headlamp for SWLing, you can get away with this $15 Foxelli headlamp. It does almost everything the Nitecore does at less than half the cost. In fact, I’m tempted to buy one of these to keep in my truck.

Any headlamp/flashlight recommendations?

I know for a fact that there are some dedicated flashlight/torch enthusiasts in our community who are active members of the excellent Candlepower Forums. I’ve tapped into their knowledge more than once when purchasing flashlights. I hope they’ll chime in and comment with their recommendations!


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Review of the C.Crane CC Buds Solo In-Ear Single Earbud (and a chance to win one!)

A few weeks ago, C. Crane sent me one of their newest radio accessories: the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud.

Here’s the description from the C.Crane product page:

Single Earbud Optimized For Voice

The CC Buds™ Solo single earpiece provides a unique advantage over traditional earbuds because it allows you to interact better with others while listening to radio, podcasts or audiobooks (your boss will love you). The integrated stereo to mono plug works with smartphones, radios, tablets, and most other audio devices.

The Solo can give you a safety advantage when running, biking, or walking because you are more likely to hear if danger approaches. The cable is Kevlar™ reinforced for maximum durability. It is perfect for scanner radio listening. Can work well for law enforcement when greater awareness is needed.

Audio is tuned for superior voice clarity. Included are three silicone and three compressible foam covers––sized small, medium, and large. The small covers usually fits a small ear comfortably. Standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. Cord Length 48″.

At first blush, the idea of a single earpiece smacks of vintage solid-state radios. I’ve a number of classic portables that were designed around a hard-plastic single earpiece–anyone else remember those?

In fact, my Sony ICF-5500W (above) even has a little compartment to house its custom earpiece.

The Sony ICF-550W’s unforgiving 1970s era earpiece.

In my youth, I carried a hard plastic single earpiece with me everywhere, especially at school, because it made listening to the radio and still having some situational awareness possible. [Unfortunately, I was known to listen to the radio during classes…what a renegade I was back then!]

If you, too, used those hard plastic earpieces, I doubt you’d have ever described them as “comfortable.” I never found them even remotely so. Those earpieces were functional, but the audio they produced was tinny and it was always difficult to keep them in my ear.

Think of the CC Buds Solo as the earpiece we all wish we could have had back then!

The Solo includes numerous earpiece options, a carry bag and owner’s manual.

Here are some of the CC Buds Solo pros:

  • The audio quality is superb for spoken word
  • The earpiece is very comfortable (see notes below)
  • The audio plug allows for mono listening on stereo devices (obviously a must in 2019)
  • Features a super-strong Kevlar-reinforced cord
  • Includes a clothing clip that acts as strain relief
  • Ships with a small, soft carry bag

So does the Solo deliver what it promises? Yes, it does.

What I really love is the number of soft silicon and foam earpieces that ship with the Solo: a total of seven options, when including the default earpiece.

If you’ve ever used in-ear earbuds, you’ll understand the importance of swapping out the soft earpieces to a size that best suits your ears––that is, to a size that makes for a comfortable seal.

The Solo might also be useful if your hearing is a bit better in one ear than the other.

Unlike single earpieces of old, it’s actually a pleasure to use the CC Buds Solo earpiece.

Before using the Solo, I would often wear only the right earpiece of my stereo earbuds when I needed to be able to hear the environment around me. This obviously isn’t ideal because the left earpiece would dangle, catch on my shirt or otherwise get in the way, and often lead to jerking out the right earpiece. Not to mention, it led to an awkward muffling (or altogether missing) of some of the sound in that other dangling earbud when stereo sound is split or processed differently for each ear. Clearly, not the best way to listen.

Note the adjustable clothing clip.

Now, when I’m driving, working, or walking, I can use the Solo clipped it to my shirt; it’s a more simple and annoyance-proof solution that allows for greater mobility and permits me to hear all of the intended sound.

I’ve only used the Solo for spoken word; primarily AM/SW broadcast band listening and for listening to podcasts.

These days, while I’ve been at work on a home renovation, podcasts have become an essential part of my day by helping me pass the time while painting, sanding, cleaning, mowing, doing yard work, or carrying out other tedious tasks. A good podcast definitely keeps it fun. The Solo makes podcast listening easy.

And of course, the Solo is also a great solution for listening to audio books, too.

I’ll admit, when I first saw the product announcement for the CC Buds Solo, I was curious if there’d still be a market for a mono earpiece. I suppose I proved it, myself, as I have found it quite useful when I don’t need the total isolation or stereo sound from two in-ear earbuds.

Well played, C.Crane!

Click here to check out the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud at C.Crane.

Win a CC Buds Solo!

C.Crane kindly sent me two samples of the CC Buds Solo at no cost to me. I’ve used one for evaluation purposes and C.Crane is kindly allowing me to give the other away to a lucky SWLing Post reader.

Here’s how you can enter our Solo giveaway!

As I mentioned, I consume a lot of podcasts these days. Here are just a few you might want to check out:

What are your favorite podcasts or radio shows?

Please leave a comment with some of your favorite podcasts or radio shows for a chance to win! Next Tuesday (July 30, 2019) I’ll pick a winner at random from the comments section and ship them a brand new CC Buds Solo single earpiece courtesy of C.Crane!

Click here to leave your comment!

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Dennis approves of the Hermitshell Case for CC Skywave radios

 

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who notes that after seeing a number of posts about radio cases, he thought he’d share a link to the case he uses for the C. Crane CC Skywave SSB.

It’s the Hermitshell Travel Case and it fits both the CC Skywave SSB and original CC Skywave.

Thanks for sharing, Dennis. This case is well-loved by Skywave owners! Note that this case fits the Skywave series like a glove and only has enough extra room for a set of earphones and/or perhaps a wire antenna.

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

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SDRplay RSP1A Metal Case Upgrade in-stock again

A number of SWLing Post readers have asked about the metal case upgrade for the SDRplay RSP1A. It has been out-of-stock for several months. I just learned via Mike Ladd on Facebook, that the case is back in stock and shipping via eBay.  He also noted that it will soon be available via Amazon.com. The price is $24.95 shipped via eBay.

Click here to view on eBay.

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Kev-Flex Stealth Kevlar Antenna Wire: an incredibly durable wire for field radio

My good friend David Cripe (NMOS) has recently informed me about a new product he’s offering to the radio community via his eBay store: Kev-Flex Stealth Kevlar Antenna Wire. Kev-Flex looks like a superb option for field antennas of all stripes especially since it has an incredibly high tensile strength. It’s available in 75′ bundles, but Dave can also cut custom lengths. NM0S is also a trusted retailer in the ham radio world, so you can purchase with confidence.

Here’s the product description and link:

Kev-Flex is a unique antenna wire manufactured exclusively for NM0S Electronics. The lightweight center core of the wire is made from Kevlar fiber, giving the wire its incredible strength. The Kevlar core is wrapped with six tinned strands of 30 AWG copper. The effective surface of the wire creates an effective skin area capable of handling well over 100W.

The cable is protected from the elements by a coating of UV-resistant black polyethylene. With a total diameter of only 1/16″ (incl. insulation) and a weight of just 16 feet per ounce, the tensile strength 125 lbs allows lengthy unsupported horizontal runs. Kev-Flex is ideal for extremely long LW-antennas and Beverages and is great for balloon or kite-supported antennas. Its low weight and high break-load makes it most suitable for SOTA activations and other field operations.

The outer insulation makes the wire kink-resistant, and its slippery finish makes it ideal for stealth antennas that must be passed through trees or other obstacles without snagging.

This antenna wire is sold in 75 foot long bundles, which is enough for a 40M dipole or EFHW. Two 75 foot bundles would make a great 80M dipole. Custom lengths are available on request.

Specification

– Kevlar fiber core wrapped with six 30 AWG copper strands
– Weather-proof black polyethylene (PE) insulation, 1/16″ O.D.
– Weight: 16 feet per ounce
– Breaking-load: 125 lbs
– Velocity factor 0.97

Click here to view on eBay.

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