Category Archives: New Products

The Sangean ATS-909X2 has landed

This morning, I took delivery of an ATS-909X2 that Sangean dispatched for me to evaluate. I’ll be writing a review of this radio for an upcoming issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

I won’t lie: this is a handsome radio.

I know some SWLs dislike the front panel tuning dial, but I like it. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite radios: the Sony ICF-SW55:

I also love the ‘909X2’s large display and intelligent backlighting.

I’ve just started setting up the ‘909X2: inputting local time, setting DST, changing the format to 24 hours, and learning my way around manual and direct-entry tuning.

The manual appears to be very comprehensive and I plan to go through it page by page because this radio actually has quite a lot of settings/configurations.

SWLing Post contributor, DanH has had his ATS-909X2 for quite a while and I expect he’ll be updating us on his findings when he has time. Also, I understand Dave Zantow has been evaluating this radio and should also be sharing his thoughts soon. We’ll provide updates when available.

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A new Belka-DX DSP Speaker from Mobimax

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Markku (VA3MK), who shares a link to this new Belka-DX speaker option from Mobimax:

This speaker option is similar to the one we featured a few months ago, but keeps the larger 2200 mAh battery pack and has fold-out legs. The compromise is the case will be a bit thicker/deeper than the speaker option without the larger battery and fold-out feet.

We’re talking about a pretty small radio, though, so I think this will be another great option for the excellent little Belka-DX.

I will plan to check out one of these in the near future.

Thank you for the tip, Markku!

Click here to check out this product at Mobimax.

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W2ENY: New military handset and other accessories for the Mission RGO One

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don, who notes that W2ENY has developed a full suite of products for the Mission RGO ONE (click here to read our review of the RGO One).

Don notes that W2ENY is producing a military handset, desk mic, headset with boom mic, and PTT cable.

Click here to check out these products at W2ENY.com.

Thanks for the tip, Don!

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Reviewing a pilot C.Crane CC Wifi 3 and taking a closer look at radio station aggregators

In January 2021, C.Crane announced the latest addition to their radio line-up: the C.Crane CC WiFi-3.

C.Crane was one of the first radio manufacturers that embraced the world of Internet radio with their CC WiFi product line.

The WiFi-3 is the latest iteration and offers the following upgrades over previous models:

  • This radio uses the Skytune radio station aggregator
  • Faster boot-up, connection, and response times
  • Can be powered from a common USB source or the supplied AC adapter
  • Enhanced audio EQ settings
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Ability to add station streams manually

Before we dig into the CC WiFi-3, however, let’s first take a step back and talk about the current state of WiFi radios in general. This is an important consideration with any WiFi radio purchase these days.

WiFi radios: the pros and cons

Those of us who like WiFi radios appreciate a dedicated device that gives us the tactile experience of turning the knobs of a radio. We appreciate the simplicity of a dedicated listening device that doesn’t rely on a connected computer, tablet, or phone. In addition, most WiFi radios like the CC WiFi-3 don’t track your listening activity/habits like many internet radio listening apps and digital assistants do. They also don’t force feed you click-through ads.

But let’s face it: any of us who own Internet or WiFi Radios have had a rough couple of years. While WiFi radios can open the door to tens of thousands of radio stations across the globe, they do have an Achilles’ heel.

 Internet radio station aggregators

WiFi radios are Internet appliances with the ability to stream Internet content, but they’re not endowed with the ability to seek out stations in the wild and import their audio streams. WiFi radios rely on “aggregators,” or online databases of curated links to radio stations.

In the early days of WiFi radio, there were several models of radios on the market that linked to proprietary/niche aggregators, many of which eventually closed down without warning. When a WiFi radio loses its ability to link to an aggregator, it becomes no more than a pricey paperweight, especially if the WiFi radio doesn’t have traditional AM/FM reception as a backup or a back-end means to program radio station stream URLs directly.

Over the past two years, some of the major radio station aggregators have experienced issues that have truly frustrated their users. Most notably:

With this aggravating aggregator history, why would anyone want to invest their money in another WiFi radio? Let’s take a closer look at this new device from C.Crane so you can decide.

The new C.Crane CC WiFi-3

When C.Crane introduced the CC Wifi 3, they acknowledged the inherent issues with WiFi radios and how the Reciva closure affected their customers up-front. Here’s a statement they released:

We were happy to be one of first companies to offer ad-free Internet radio because it allowed anyone to listen to the world without a fee. Fifteen years ago, Ben, the founder of Reciva, had a small staff to create the software and volunteers around the world to help manage the station streams. We are sorry, but Reciva’s software will soon not work anymore. The software would need to be recreated from scratch. Even If this was done, it would not be possible for the existing radios to be compatible with this new type of software. This is the same way Apple and Microsoft might release a new operating system that is not compatible with older hardware.

We are working on a new radio called the CC WiFi-3. We will be testing the first pilot run of the new CC WiFi-3 in January with the first delivery by April if all goes reasonably well. There are still no ads or graphics to annoy you and nobody tracks your habits for advertising offers. It looks almost the same as the previous CC WiFi but has been upgraded in several ways:

  1. It uses a new 3rd party stream provider called Skytune.
  2. You can add your own streams (URLs) yourself so you are somewhat protected if the service fails for any reason.
  3. It is a little easier to use and it has a good built-in equalizer available.
  4. This radio comes with a 2 year limited warranty.

[…]The CC WiFi-3 comes with the risk of losing connection to Skytune’s server if they were to shut down in the future. As we have previously documented in our catalog and on the web: C. Crane has no control over content or the stream provider for Internet radios and cannot be responsible for Internet radio programs or availability.

I love this about C.Crane: they’re honest and transparent with their customers even during a new product release.

In January (2021), C.Crane sent me a pilot run, pre-production CC WiFi-3 for review and a thorough evaluation at no cost to me. Of course, I don’t typically share reviews of pre-production radios, but in this case, I believe the production model should function identically–or perhaps better–than my pilot model. I’m not concerned with variations in receiver sensitivity, selectivity, filtering, AGC, and noise floors as I would with a legacy receiver.

At first blush, the CC Wifi-3 could be mistaken for the CC WiFi-2. Other than the prominent model number, it has an identical form-factor and interface. Inside, though, there have been a number of updates we’ve already mentioned.

Getting started

First thing I did, of course, was connect the CC WiFi-3 to the internet. It was a pretty simple process to go into the settings, have the radio find my WiFi service, and input the network password. If you have a long or complicated password, allow a few minutes to do this as the input method is character-by-character using the main front panel knob.

Once connected, the radio has access to the new Skytune aggregator to search for radio station streams. I’m familiar with Skytune because they are the aggregator also used by my recently reviewed Ocean Digital radio. I like how Skytune organizes their database allowing users to search by by location/region, popularity, genre, etc. I found most of the stations I enjoy in short order.

If Skytune doesn’t have the station you’re looking for, they make it easy to suggest an addition via their website.

Adding presets

Adding Presets couldn’t be any easier. I’ve been using the most simple method: finding a station, then pressing and holding the PRESET button. This will save the radio station to the next available preset with more than 100 slots available.

Directly adding stream URLs

As C.Crane mentioned in their statement, even if the Skytune aggregator were to shut down in the future, the CC WiFi-3 makes it relatively easy to directly add your own streams by logging into the radio from a web browser.

First, make sure you’re using a computing device that is connected to the same WiFi network as the CC WiFi-3.

Secondly, find the IP address of your CC Wifi-3 by pressing the HOME button, then selecting SETTINGS -> INFORMATION -> NETWORK INFORMATION -> IP: (immediately below the signal strength information).

Note the IP address. Mine is currently 172.20.10.5 but yours will likely be a different number.

Next, open a web browser and in the URL bar, type in the IP address of your CC WiFi-3 radio and press Enter:

Your web browser will then load a page served up by your radio’s CPU (allow time for it to load):

From this page you can add, organize, and label your station presets manually.

The CC WiFi-3 owner’s manual actually gives you hints about how to find URLs for radio stations. There’s certainly an art to it.

First thing I did, in fact, was add one of my favorite AM radio stations (WAIZ) to the WiFi-3 directly by finding their main and backup stream URLs and adding them manually via the presets page. This instantaneously added them to the WiFi-3 presets:

This pleases me to no end because I’ve never been able to play WAIZ from one of my WiFi radios.

From the presets web page you can also control some basic radio functionality like volume up/down, mute on/off, and channel selection.

While this isn’t quite as handy as a dedicated app, I like the fact that I can load this presets page from my phone, tablet, PC, Mac, or Linux box. It’s universal and simple.

Bluetooth

I’m happy C.Crane added Bluetooth to the CC WiFi-3 because it makes this already capable radio even more useful.  As I write this portion of the review, in fact, I’m listening to music from YouTube via my MacBook Air streaming to the CC WiFi-3 via Bluetooth. Handy!

Audio

I prefer the audio from the CC WiFi-3 over previous models. It’s balanced and has hints of bass and treble. It is robust enough to fill a sizeable room with audio.

It isn’t anything that would impress my audiophile brother-in-law because, in the end, the speaker and enclosure are not very large. It does reproduce voice and music with ample fidelity for casual listening, however.

You can tailor the audio with 12 EQ settings included in the WiFi-3 settings menu. I like the Jazz preset.

In addition, the CC WiFi-3 has a line-out and headphone jack that makes it easy to export audio to a component stereo system or amplified speaker system. (Note above the “Not For Resale” label on the back of this pilot/pre-production unit.)

Remote control

The CC WiFi-3 also ships with an excellent full-size remote control. I love how much functionality this remote offers, making it much easier to navigate and control the radio from across the room. I also much prefer the form factor of this remote compared with the small credit card-sized remotes with membrane buttons.

Summary

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here are the notes I made for the CC WiFi-3 pre-production/pilot model:

Pros:

  • Ability to input streaming stations manually via a simple web browser interface
  • Best in class WiFi reception via a dedicated antenna
  • Input power is 5VDC meaning, you can use the supplied USB cable to plug into any USB power source, or you can use the supplied dedicated wall wart power supply. C.Crane includes both.
  • Audio EQ can be tailored
  • Included remote control (full size!)
  • Backed by C.Crane 2 year warranty and 30 day satisfaction guarantee
  • Line out and headphone ports
  • Bluetooth

Cons:

  • No battery power option (Pro: can use a 5VDC USB power bank)
  • Backlit screen is small and can be difficult to read at a distance
  • No dedicated iOS or Android control application (Pro: remote control)
  • As with any WiFi radio, dependent on a station aggregator for easy radio station searches

Should you purchase the CC WiFi-3?

If you’re not intimidated by the “aggregator aggravation” we mentioned early in this article, I would suggest you give the CC WiFi-3 a try. Since the WiFi-3 offers easy, open access to add your station streams manually, you always have a backup if, for instance, the Skytune service  were to unexpectedly close down in the distant future.

For $119.99 US, you’ll be purchasing a radio from a company that takes care of their customers.

Indeed, C.Crane was so upset by the unexpected closure of Reciva, they have offered their existing CC WiFi customers the following options:

This is a one-time offer from C. Crane. This offer will end June 1, 2021.

    1. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is under the 1 year limited warranty, contact us for the available options.
    2. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is no longer under warranty, the CC WiFi-3 is available for half price – $60.00 USD plus shipping. You must fill out the form (click here) and include a picture of your serial number(s). Instructions are included on the form for how to locate your serial number. If you need help with this, please contact us. You will be contacted once we receive our shipment to get payment information and to confirm your address.

To my knowledge, no other radio manufacturer or retailer has made an offer like this to compensate for the loss of the Reciva service. Kudos to C.Crane for giving their customers options and discounts.

C.Crane expects to have the CC WiFi-3 in stock and shipping in June 2021. We’ll post updates on the SWLing Post when they become available.

Click here to check out the CC WiFi-3 at the C.Crane website.

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Dan provides an update to his Sangean ATS-909X2 first impressions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following update to his first impressions of the Sangean ATS-909X2:


Update: Sangean ATS-909X2 First Impressions

by DanH

Sangean USA will offer a free software update to customers who have purchased the first USA mass production version of Sangean ATS-909X2. These radios are equipped with software VER-070. This is the same 909X2 version that I purchased last week and used for my “First Impressions” article. The software update to VER-073 will feature various bug fixes. Software VER-073 will be included with the ATS-909X2 shipment arriving at Sangean USA in March, 2021. These bug fixes are of a technical nature and beyond my ability to describe at this writing.

Sangean USA will offer 909X2 VER-070 owners a software update to VER-073 if they want it and as soon as Sangean USA receives the necessary update device from Sangean Headquarters.

So far, I have noticed no software bugs in 909X2 operation but like everyone else I am still new at using this radio. I hope to start entering saved shortwave station entries from my 909Xs into the 909X2 this week. In other notes, AIR band is working very well with my local international airport some 20 miles away. I also did a test on the 909X2 external antenna jack and confirmed that plugging an external antenna into this jack will disconnect the built-in ferrite bar antenna for MW and the telescopic whip for SW.

To display the 909X2 software version:

1. power up the radio
2. press and hold the INFO button for two seconds
3. turn the tuning dial until VER XXX appears on the display
4. to clear this information wait 10 seconds or hit the C button

Further details will follow as they develop.

May your shortwave listening be good and the geomagnetic field quiet.

DanH


Thank you for the update, Dan! 

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Dan’s first impressions of the new Sangean ATS-909X2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following guest post:


Sangean ATS-909X2 First Impressions

by DanH

A few hours spent tuning a new radio are enough to make me feel confident that I know most of the new features and how to use them. Then several days, weeks or months later I discover overlooked features and I figure out new ways to operate the radio. Sometimes I actually read the operating instructions again. Understand that I received my new Sangean ATS-909X2 only three days ago so this early report is hardly a comprehensive review nor was it intended as such. At this point I’m looking mostly at shortwave and medium wave performance.

My first experience with the new Sangean ATS-909X2 was online at the Amazon shopping site. On December 16, 2020 I pre-ordered the radio for US $459.99 (list price). The radio didn’t ship and the prices dropped a couple of times. Each time I cancelled the order before it shipped and ordered it again at the lower price. In the end I ordered my 909X2 for $297.95 and paid for it with credit card bonus points and a little more that I had on my Amazon gift card.

The 909X2 arrived on Friday afternoon, February 19. I devoted the first 24 hours to tuning around on SW and a little MW only. I deliberately made no videos at this time and devoted my radio time to exploring the bands. The latest addition to the ATS-909 series is a well thought out evolution of the radio and much more than a 909X with a cosmetic facelift. The 909X2 retains the excellent speaker sound of its predecessor, the tuning knob is unchanged from late production 909X, the solid build quality remains the same as does the general layout, performance, size and weight. SSB audio for the 909X2 remains at a lower level than for AM, like 909X. I don’t like having to turn the radio volume up for ECSS or SSB. Like 909X, the new radio excels with external antennas and is not easily overloaded by a lot of wire antenna.

Like 909X, 909X2 occupies an interesting niche in the portable multiband world. It is a little too large and heavy for a travel radio but over the years I have packed it many times in my carry-on bag. Sometimes I am willing to sacrifice extra clothes if it means bringing the best radio. These radios excel on a desk or radio room work station. The radio is big and powerful enough to provide top notch sound for all modes. Late at night I run mine with Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. With 909X2 you get top performance in a small package. It is an over-used metaphor but think of a 1950 – 60’s communications receiver in a small package, plus VHF air band and FM. The speaker audio sounds better for broadcasts than many Amateur rigs.

There are many new features with the 909X2. Instead of charging NiMH batteries like Eneloop in series the 909X2 monitors each cell individually and identifies failing cells for you. SSB resolution is now selectable 10 – 20 Hz, auto-bandwidth control may be used on all bands except SSB on HF. There are many more memory slots available in three separate banks. The LCD has dimmer settings, soft muting is switchable for FM and the keyboard beeper may be shut off! Instead of hidden features the 909X2 has an INFO/MENU button for customizing your operating options.

The new bandwidth choices make a real improvement in LW, MW, SW, FM and VHF airband signal quality especially when adjusted in tandem with the audio tone control. Automatic bandwidth control selects the bandwidth that offers the best signal-to-noise ratio. Now I understand why the 9090X2 shortwave bandwidths are relatively closely-spaced: auto control shifts quickly between multiple bandwidths. Too much space between bandwidths would sound jarring. The auto bandwidth control is most useful during heavy fading and has improved my ability to copy words on poor AM broadcast signals. This feature does add an odd effect to fading signals: the audio tone quality will shift as different bandwidths are selected. This feature is not something that I would leave ON as a default for shortwave listening but it is definitely a welcome tool when needed.

MW performance is as good as the 909X but with improvements made possible with more bandwidth and memory slot availability. I found that 909X2 LW is generally better than 909X with fewer MW images. I am hearing substantially more LW beacons on 909X2. LW activity is very limited here on the US West Coast.

10 Hz SSB resolution means that ECSS is excellent on the 909X. I can tune a shortwave music broadcast on the 909X2 without warble. This was impossible with the 909X 40 Hz resolution.

The 909X sold near US $220 for most of the last five years with a few rare Amazon holiday sales at the $190 level. Then the prices jumped another $30 post-Covid 19, as did prices for other radios in this range.

Is 909X2 worth the additional money right now? I say yes! Mine is a keeper.

I do not believe that there will be significant improvements coming along any time soon. Sangean is a private Taiwanese company with its own factory located in PRC. 20 pre-production units delivered to Europe in January are not the same batch as the retail production units released by Sangean USA this month. Sangean USA has two of the pre-production units. They did not offer these for sale. The first retail production units arrived at Sangean USA in mid-February before the Lunar New Year. If there are significant changes for 909X2 we won’t see those radios for at least another 6 – 8 weeks. I can’t see much need for significant changes anyway.

Believe it or not I have been very busy with the Sangean ATS-909X2 and haven’t tried FM or VHF air band on it yet!

This video is a companion to my first impressions written here. Hearing and seeing video is hard to beat. SW and MW features are shown in real-life reception conditions. I test for the dreaded LCD/hand capacitance internal noise and have a look, listen and comparison for telescopic whip performance. And you will hear DX too, not just Brother Stair. You need to see and watch auto bandwidth control to believe it.

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this, Dan. Very encouraging. We look forward to publishing your updates as you get to know the 909X2 even better! 

Sangean ATS-909X2 Retailers:

All prices are current at time of posting (22 Feb 2021).

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Dan receives his new Sangean ATS-909X2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who writes:

Thomas,

My Sangean ATS-909X2 arrived in excellent condition late this Friday afternoon. I will enjoy a shortwave session with the radio this evening and early next morning. Other than setting the clock to UTC and tuning in XEPPM Radio Educacion in Mexico City I haven’t spent much time with it yet. This 909X2 was purchased from Amazon in the USA and is a retail production model distributed by Sangean USA. I will check-in on Sunday night to share some early impressions.

DanH

Many thanks, Dan! We look forward to your impressions and evaluation!

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