Category Archives: Radios

Guest Post: Bob’s conundrum with the Radio Data System (RDS)

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


A Conundrum with the Radio Data System (RDS),
or Why I Set the Clock Manually

By Bob Colegrove

There’s an old story about a man who owned two watches.  One watch ran but lost a minute every hour.  The other watch didn’t work at all.  He always wore the watch that didn’t work, because as he said, “At least it will have the correct time twice a day.”

First off, a couple of caveats.  This is not a definitive description of the Radio Data System (RDS).  I leave that to much more knowledgeable sources.  One detailed description is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Data_System.  Second, my experience described here is confined to the Eton Elite Executive and the XHDATA/SIHUADON D-808.  Other radios may operate differently.

I have surrounded myself with several multiband travel radios over the past year and enjoy them very much – each for different reasons.  Besides listening, I like to push buttons to see what happens.  The manuals?  At best they occasionally provide a clue.  I read them, eventually filling in the blanks on my own.

XHDATA/SIHUADON D-808

Basic RDS

What is RDS? RDS is a system which enables an FM station to transmit various fields of information such as date, time, call letters, frequency, and program information in text form.  The call letters are useful, but if you have a digital radio, you already know the frequency.  The name of the song and artist are particularly helpful if the DJ won’t tell you.  As for the date and time, well, I’ll get to that.

RDS is an international standard and Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) is the official name used for the U.S. version.  So why don’t we in the States just call it RBDS?  Probably because our radios aren’t made here.

Eton Elite Executive

The XHDATA and Eton allow the user to display four of the several fields comprising the RDS standard.  They each step through the same sequence, indicating a similar or possibly the same demodulator chip.

PS and RT seem to be freeform fields with stations providing whatever information they want to share.  Often the call letters and frequency are contained here, along with program content.  Clock Time (CT) is not displayed per se, but is used to set the radio time, and is included as part of the DATA field.  DATA is important; it has four elements, which should provide the listener with an indication of the call, day, date, and time being received by the radio.  The international RDS standard omits the call letters.

The RDS information transmitted by any given station may not contain all the fields identified above, including the time.  For example, stepping through the fields you may encounter “NO PTY,” “NO PS,” “NO RT,” or “NO DATA.” Consequently, you may tune in to a station broadcasting RDS and wait a long time for the radio clock to synchronize, which it never does.  The display of any content in the DATA field is probably the best clue whether CT is being transmitted.

It is interesting that the Eton is programmed for the US RBDS system, whereas the XDATA follows the international RDS system.  For the international system on the D-808:

  • “DATE” replaces “DATA” in the display.
  • The call letters are omitted from the DATE field.
  • The terms in the PTY field differ; for example, WRBS, 95.1 MHz, the PTY element displays “SOCIAL” instead of “RELIGIOUS MUSIC.”

International PTY RDS term on the XHDATA

US PTY RBDS term on the Eton

The Conundrum

The mischief all began when I got my XHDATA D-808 and tried to program the clock to automatically update using the RDS information off FM stations.  Minutes seem to display correctly, but try as I might, I couldn’t get the hours to register properly.  Then I bought an Eton Elite Executive.  It also has the RDS feature, so I tried again.  It appeared to work OK for a day or so.  Then the hour indication started to misbehave.  In addition to the clock, the Eton allows programming of time zones and day of the week.  I determined that the erroneous indication did not appear to be related to GMT, EST, 12-hour or 24-hour format settings.  In theory, if you try to set your radio to GMT or some other time zone, the RDS time from a local station should override it.

When I tested the radios side-by-side, the DATA field was fraught with problems on both radios.  Several local RDS stations containing CT were monitored.  The whip antenna was extended a tad, as the information may not reliably register with some otherwise clear audio signals.

  • When tuned to the same station, there were occasional inconsistencies between the two radios, presumably receiving the same exact information from the station.

 

  • Sometimes the hour would not advance on the XHDATA after minutes transitioned from 59 to 00.
  • Curiously, both radios might exhibit the correct date and time during the day, then at 1900 EST, several stations on both radios prematurely advance to the next day and date, and the hour would display incorrectly, completely unrelated to local hour.  Minutes may or may not be correct.  1900 EST happens to be 0000 GMT.  Are some station clocks running on GMT?

RDS content obviously requires some attention at the station.  In the end, they are responsible for the information going out.  In fairness, with all that goes on in a studio and limited staffing, RDS content may not be a priority.  As an example:

  • Call letters in the DATA field for local WMZQ read KZQK, which is not assigned.

Conclusions

There are two main factors which may impinge on the accuracy of a radio clock when set automatically by the RDS:

  • Accuracy depends on the station transmitting it correctly.
    • With RDS set to the AUTO mode, there is a good chance that the clock will be updated repeatedly as the radio is tuned among various stations – not necessarily to the correct time.
      • For the Eton, the clock would reset each time when changing stations between WTOP (correct time) and WPRS (incorrect time).
      • For the XHDATA, the clock would reset each time when changing stations between WTOP (correct minutes) and WPRS (incorrect minutes).  In both cases, the displayed hour remained 00.
    • There is still the unexplained premature update of day and date by some stations observed on both radios.
  • Correct time depends on the radio’s RDS demodulator to interpret the incoming data.

Trivial?  Perhaps, but you may want to reconsider and program the clock manually, particularly if you depend on the alarm function of the radio to get to work on time.

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Michael compares the Choyong LC90 Export and Chinese Versions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Ye (BD4AAQ), for the following guest post:


Twins, Yet Each One Unique – A Comparison of the Worldwide Version of LC90 with its Chinese Counterpart

by Michael Ye (BD4AAQ)

The export version of the LC90 is now available in the market [affiliate link]. Previously, we examined the Chinese version, which has been in the China market since early 2023. Instead of a review of the export version, this article will focus on the similarities and differences between the two LC90 versions – the version that has just started to be distributed outside China and the version that is already being sold in China. A link to my previous article can be found by clicking here.

One thing to note is the name of the manufacturer. In my previous review, I used Chaoyuan, the “pinyin” phonetic of the Chinese characters of the name of the company. As it turned out, the westernised spelling that the company uses is Choyong, or Choyong Electronics.

The LC90, a hybrid radio that combines the Internet radio with the traditional radio, is a bold move and seems to be well-received by shortwave listeners and beyond. Let’s explore what these two versions of the same model have to offer.

Appearance

The two versions of the radio look the same in appearance. However, upon closer inspection, you will notice the language on the buttons differs. The export version has all the buttons labeled in English, while the buttons of the Chinese version have a mixture of Chinese and English.

Traditional Radio

I do not find differences between the FM, MW and SW features of the two versions. Both versions have the specifications as follows: FM: 64-108 MHz, MW: 522-1710 kHz and SW: 2.3-26.10 MHz. Shortwave performance remains excellent. However, for the export version, you could toggle the MW tuning step between 9 kHz and 10 kHz, and the FM tuning step as well, through the setup (gearbox) button, but it does not seem possible to change any tuning step on the Chinese version – this seems to be a matter of software upgrade and so is not really an issue.

On both versions, press MW again to enter LW (153-279 kHz).

Internet Radio

In terms of the stations that can be heard, the Internet radio exhibits significant differences from that of the Chinese version. The Chinese version is designed to exclusively feature Chinese language stations (and a few English language stations) in China. If we were to liken the Chinese Internet radio to a closed system such as iOS, it would be stable, reliable but restrictive. In contrast, the export version could be compared to Android, offering more open, inclusive and customisable user experience.

On the export version, the MENU button provides access to the main menu, which begins with the six continents (excluding Antarctica) and allows users to navigate to the desired country and then select a specific station. Additionally, shortcut keys are available for direct access to MUSIC, PODCAST, NEWS, TAG and LANG (languages).

TAG and LANG for Ai1 and Ai2 Buttons

On the Chinese version, two buttons, Ai1 and Ai2, serve as voice assistants. Activate and speak to them and the radio directly plays the content (Ai1) or displays search results for users to choose from (Ai2). They come in handy when you look for a specific item, for instance the title of a song or a talk show. On the export version, however, the voice assistants have been removed and replaced with shortcuts TAG and LANG.

Add Your Own Stations

The Chinese version has about 1000 Chinese Internet stations built-in. On the worldwide version of the radio, there is a vast number of Internet stations available, literally tens of thousands of them, in different languages, and from different corners of the world. The number is updated from time to time. And that is not all. A really cool feature is the ability to add stations of your choice and it is easy to do with the help of a mobile phone. Unfortunately, this feature for adding your own stations is not available in the Chinese version.

Nano SIM card

The Chinese version comes with a built-in nano SIM card that is prepaid and provides Internet data. To continue using it, simply add credit to the card. In contrast, the export version does not include a prepaid, data-enabled SIM card for the user. Still, the user can use a WI-FI connection or purchase a 4G nano SIM card to insert into the device’s slot.

Some Features Not Discussed Previously

Both versions have the following features:

  • Keyboard backlight;
  • IPS LCD with backlight;
  • Type-C charging cable supplied;
  • TF card supported (to store and play your own music); and
  • Bluetooth for the radio to serve as a Bluetooth speaker.

The integration of high-tech gadgets and advanced devices into our daily routines has become indispensable in this age of the Internet. It is essential to adapt to the ever-evolving nature of the times.

Bottom Line

The Choyong LC90 is an exceptional radio that combines traditional radio features with modern Internet capabilities. It is available in both domestic and worldwide versions. The revolutionary design of the LC90 allows for excellent overall performance in both over-the-air radio reception and online streaming/podcasting.

There is no difference in traditional radio reception and performance between the domestic and worldwide versions of the LC90. However, the Internet features are drastically different, as the worldwide version serves audiences around the world, while the Chinese version is dedicated to the audience in China.

Overall, the Choyong LC90 offers a unique combination of traditional radio and modern Internet capabilities, making it a versatile and high-performing device for radio enthusiasts and music lovers.

Wish List

Is SSB decoding necessary? Well, it depends. The radio primarily caters to broadcast listeners, but both hardcore amateur radio hobbyists and general listeners may find it appealing. While adding SSB decoding can enhance its functionality, it will increase costs and may require additional space, considering it already combines two radios in one device.

There are two switches, the red button (upper right) and the volume/sleep knob (lower right side). Is it really necessary to have both?

On the export version, the “network error” message may occasionally pop up, and the radio would become quiet until human intervention steps in. Is it feasible for the radio to automatically resume play after the network error is cleared?

For some users, the antenna jack is a bit too close to the tuning knob. In most situations, this proximity does not impact the radio’s operation. However, if you need to connect an antenna using a connector, you may encounter difficulty or even find it impossible to plug it in.

Click here to check out the Choyong LC90 (export version) on Amazon.com.

Note that this Amazon link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you. Thank you!

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GE Superadio: Purchasing Used Models for Restoration and a New Groups.io Discussion

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and supporter, Chuck Rippel (K8HU), who shared the following comment on this post regarding his excellent Superadio restoration services. I wanted Chuck’s comment to get more visibility, so I am reposting it here (hope you don’t mind, Chuck!).

Chuck comments:

A number of folks have written, asking if I have any radios to sell. Every now and again, there is a model 1 or model 2 (they are electrically identical) that I offer for sale.

However, there is a better approach to obtaining a restored SR-1 or 2. Go up on E-Bay and look for a nice GE SR and have the seller ship it to me after you purchase it. Make SURE the seller encloses a note with your purchase with your name and contact information so I know to whom the radio belongs.

This one caught my eye and would be a worthy candidate for restoration and to add to a collection:

https://ebay.us/Mx7VEW

[Note: the eBay Partnership link above supports the SWLing Post at no cost to the buyer]

It’s also an excellent example of a decent SR being sold 2nd hand.

Couple things to watch for:

Shipping charges in excess of $20. Save for coast to coast or a rural area, $20 is about the reasonable limit. Many of the radios are picked up by people wandering through estate sales, thrift shops, garage sales, etc…. who have no idea what they are buying. Many see “GE Super Radio” and put it on E-Bay simply because the radio carries the “Super Radio” label. I would guess that is why there are so many Super Radio model 3’s on E-Bay. Those were made by RCA with a GE label printed on them but their performance is sub-par to the model 1 or 2.

Finally, if you have a SR-1 or 2 you’d like me to work on, drop a note and I’ll send you back a 2 page FAQ. It outlines what will be done, how to ship it and pricing which includes a couple of options from which to choose. Please read and understand the FAQ before shipping. If you decide to send it, please do it promptly and let me know it’s coming. I ask you to include your POC information with the radio and that’s best done on a word processor or note pad then printed. Sometimes, handwritten script is a bit difficult to read.

I’ve gotten radios with no return address or POC sent from a UPS store, (who does that go back to?). There are a few options from which to choose and I strongly recommend 1, having Conformal Coating applied to the solder side of the PCB’s. Solder is hydroscopic and can absorb moisture over time and we won’t get into battery acid. My conformal coating is similar to the “MFP” process used on certain mil-spec electronics save that unlike MFP, I only apply coating to the solder side of the board. A board treated to MFP has both sides coated.

Ok, now a general question:

I created a Groups.io page where those interested in the 2 GE Super Radios can share their experiences. The initial invitations went out, give it a couple days but if you did not get one and are interested, drop me a note. My e-mail address is in several location on this blog [including in this post].

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Soldersmoke: Mattia Zamana’s Amazing Direct Conversion Receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and Soldersmoke host, Bill Meara, who shares the following from the Soldersmoke blog:

Mattia Zamana’s Amazing Direct Conversion Receiver

Thanks to Ed KC8SBV for sending me this awesome video. It looks like Mattia built this receiver way back in 1995. The tuning indicator is very cool, and I had not seen a similar indicator before (could this be a way for us to escape the clutches of the San Jian counters or the Arduinos?) The Italian ham magazine articles are great, and you can follow the rig description even if you can’t read the Italian. The pictures in in the attached drive are also very good.

I have been in touch with Mattia via YouTube: He reports that he has done other electronic projects, but he considers this to be the most interesting. He does not have a ham license — he has a Shortwave Listener license. His father was a ham: I3ZQG.

This is one of the rare cases in which the builder should — I think — be issued his ham licence purely on the basis of this build. [Continue reading for details about this direct conversion receiver…]

Readers, if you haven’t already, you should bookmark the Soldersmoke website and listen to the Soldersmoke podcast!

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The Sony ICF-SW800: A Most Unusual Sony Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:


A Most Unusual Sony Radio

By Bill Hemphill WD9EQD

Over the years, I have owned many of the various Sony shortwave radios.  From analog to digital, I would buy the latest and sell my current radio.  For the past few years, I have been using mainly Tecsun radios and didn’t own any Sony radios anymore.   This changed last year.  I got the urge to acquire a few of the Sony’s that I remember so fondly.  Over several months I bought off eBay four ICF-2010 (one of which works), two ICF-SW100 (one of which works), four ICF-SW1 (none of which works).  After spending way too much money just to acquire two working Sony radios, I started realizing that any Sony radio was probably going to need re-capping – a chore which I am not skilled at.  I could have saved money by just paying the high price for a radio that had already been completely re-capped and working.

During the many hours spent watching eBay, I would occasionally come across a Sony radio that I was not familiar with – the Sony ICF-SW800.  This is a very unusual radio in that it has only two bands – FM and SW.  And the SW band only covers 3.7 to 17.9 MHz  It also has these small credit card size pre-programmed memory cards.  I ended up buying a couple of the radios just to learn what was going on with the memory cards.

The radio is very plain and simple.  Dull black plastic, telescoping antenna, nice flip out tilt stand on the back, very small LCD display that shows time when off or in stand-by and band (FM or SW), frequency and card Preset memory number when card is inserted.  Following are photos of front of radio, without and with card inserted:

Removing the battery cover reveals a storage area for the cards when not in use:

The cards are slid into the slot on the right of the radio.  There is a plastic cover over the keyboard.  This cover is touch sensitive. The plastic has imbedded in it small dots which can detect which part of the screen is being touched.  Without a card inserted, you can select the band (SW EXEC or FM EXEC) and directly enter a frequency using the 0-9 keypad.  Or you can use the manual +/- tune keys.

I had originally thought that the memory cards must be storing the memories in circuitry within the cards.  When I got the first radio and looked at the cards I was really surprised to see that they were just cardboard cards – no circuity.  So how was the radio knowing which card was inserted and what was stored in the memory.

The radio comes with four double side cards. Three of the cards are for the memories while the fourth is a card used to set the clock.  Following are photos of the “L” series cards:

As you can see some cards are pre-programmed for Radio Stations and some are Free Memories for you to program your own station.  But since the memories are NOT stored on the cards, how does the radio know which card is inserted and which memory on the card is selected?

Each card has one or two white tabs on the left of the card.  There are three possible tab locations.  A review of the service manual and the wiring diagram shows that the locations of these tabs make up a binary code for 1 to 7.  (only 7 is needed since the clock card is single sided while the other three cards are double sided)  The clock card has all three white tabs and is thus seven (Tab 1 = 1, Tab 2 = 2 and tab 3 =4 for 1+2+4 = 7).  Then each of the other cards are 1 thru 6 depending on the tab locations.  The radio has infrared leds along with sensors.  By shining a LED light onto the card, the radio can sense which card is inserted and then reference the correct ten memory locations in the storage..

The memories are stored in an EEPROM chip soldered into the radio.  Depending on where the radio was purchased, a different set of memories would be pre-programmed into the chip in the radio.  An associated set of memory cards would be provided with the radio.  There were at least the following different set of memories manufactured with associated card sets as follows:

Area 5/AE7 Austria:

  • (Card Series “I”)
    • Card 1:  Austrian Radio 1/Austrian Radio 2
    • Card 2:  Omnibus 1/Omnibus 2
    • Card 3:  Free Memories 1/Free Memories 2

Area 3/AE7 Swiss:

  • Card 1:  Omnibus 1/Omnibus 2
  • Card 2:  Omnibus 3/Free Memories 1
  • Card 3:  Free Memories 2/Free Memories 3

Area AE6 Germany:

  • (Card Series “A”)
    • Card 1:  Deutsche Welle/Omnibus 1
    • Card 2:  Omnibus 2/Free Memories 1
    • Card 3:  Free Memories 2/Free Memories 3

Area 2/AE7: Scandinavia:

  • Card 1:  Danmarks Radio/Norsk Rikskringkasting
  • Card 2:  Sveriges Radio/ Yleis Radio
  • Card 3:  BBC/Free Memories

Area 6/AE7 Portugal:

Area 7/AE7 Europe:

  • (Card Series “N”)
    • Card 1:  BBC/VOA
    • Card 2:  Free Memories 1/Free Memories 2
    • Card 3:  Free Memories 3/Free Memories 4

Area 7/AE7 International Sales Division in Europe:

  • Card 1:  BBC/Omnibus FM
  • Card 2:  Free Memories
  • Card 3:  BBC/Omnibus SW

Area US United States:

  • (Card Series “L”)
    • Card 1:  Deutsche Welle/Radio Moscow
    • Card 2:  Voice of America 1/Voice of America 2
    • Card 3:  BBC/Free Memories

Area UK United Knigdom:

  • (Card Series “B”)
    • Card 1:  BBC (FM)/Omnibus (FM)
    • Card 2:  BBC World Service/Omnibus (SW)
    • Card 3:  Free Memories 1/Free Memories 2

It should be noted that even though a memory is preprogrammed (in the chip), you could re-program the memory using the “WRITE” feature on the card.  Most of the cards just show memory location 0-9 with no indication of the frequency.  Some cards do indicate the radio station but not the frequency.  For example, Card Series “A”, Deutsche Welle has DW 0 thru DW 9 on the card:

In the packing material that came with my US version, there is a small fold out piece of paper that lists the Memory Presets for each card along with the preset frequency, broadcast time and coverage area:

There is no way to know from the outside of the radio which memory chip was pre-programmed at the factory.  The model number does not differentiate between the regions.   If the back cover of the radio is removed, then there is a printed sticker on the circuit board denoting which region the radio is for.

For example, one of my radios has a sticker with “E” on it to denote that it for the Europe market:

At this point, Sony was trying to market to people who just wanted to listen to their favorite station, be it FM or SW.  Thus a simple to use. pre-programed radio.  Never mind the fact that radio stations may change frequencies, or even disappear entirely.   At least the ICF-SW800 allowed the user to re-program all the memories.

Sony also made two other radios that used the cards for memory.

The first was the ICR-SW700.  This was a two band receiver covering MW and SW.

The second radio was the ICF-M500 which was made for the Japanese market.  This radio was FM/AM two band radio:

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CCrane’s new C. Crane CC Skywave 2 . . . and the OODA loop

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

A software glitch at a power station, a tree branch rubbing against a transformer, a geophysical incident, a weather event, even a civil society misadventure . . . It doesn’t take much for things to rapidly go to blazes. So what do you need when Really Bad Things happen?

Back in the 1970s, Colonel John Boyd, an air warfare strategist, came up with the idea of the OODA loop. Originally designed for air combat, the OODA stands for: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In other words, see what’s going on, understand how it relates to your situation, figure out what to do, then do it.  OODA . . . got it?

So when really bad stuff happens, once you get clear of immediate physical danger (if any), you (or me or anyone involved) need to do your OODA loop: see what’s going on, understand how it relates to your situation, figure out what to do, then do it.

And to execute your OODA loop, you need information, right?

Soooo, when the lights are out, the internet is down, and maybe cell phones aren’t working, you need an emergency radio to find out what’s going on. Rob, W4ZNG, endured three weeks without electricity on the Mississippi gulf coast as a result of Katrina. In Rob’s case, during Katrina, all of the local broadcasters were wiped out. There was a local low-power FM broadcaster who got permission to increase power to 1,000 watts and was broadcasting where to get food and water. There was a New Orleans AM station that was on the air, but all of its coverage was “New Orleans-centric.” After a few days, some local FM broadcaster, working together, cobbled together a station that they put on the air and began broadcasting news. Rob also began DXing AM stations at night to get additional news. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say radio was Rob’s lifeline to what was going on.

So, at the most basic level, an emergency radio needs to receive AM and FM stations. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you also want NOAA weather radio channels, and, if things are really horrible, the ability to receiver shortwave radio might be useful.

Recently I had a look at an excellent candidate for an emergency radio.  CCrane has brought out a new and improved version of their super-versatile pocket-sized Skywave radio, and they sent me one for review without charge.

The new radio, the CC Skywave 2, covers FM from 87.5-108.0 MHz, AM from 520-1710 kHz, National Weather Radio Channels 1-7, air band from 118-137 MHz, and shortwave from 2300 to 26100 kHz. Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, the Skywave 2 measures 3 inches high, 4.75 inches wide, and 1.1 inches deep and weighs about five and one-half ounces before you insert 2 AA batteries. (It can also be run off an optional CCrane power adaptor that can charge optional NiMH batteries. The manual warns: DO NOT USE LITHIUM BATTERIES).

According to CCrane, improvements to the Skywave 2 include a new micro-USB connector for external power and battery charging, a better speaker with slightly more amplification, circuit noise reduction, long feet for better stability, and a socket for plugging in an optional wire antenna adaptor available from CCrane.

I found the Skywave 2 really easy to operate. At the simplest level, select a band, then press one of the up or down buttons, and the Skywave 2 will scan to the next strong station. There is also an ATS (automatic tuning system) that programs all receivable AM, FM, or shortwave stations to memory buttons. Just select the band you want (AM, FM, or shortwave), press the ATS button, and the ATS system will scan the entire band and automatically set all available stations in sequence 1-10. If there are more than 10 stations are available, then the remaining stations will be stored on the next memory page and so forth. Each band has its own set of memories.

Everything is clearly labeled, and a gold label above a button indicates that if you press and hold that button, the function labeled in gold will be activated. If you want to directly enter a frequency (once you have selected the band you want), you must press the FREQ button first, then punch in the numbers. Otherwise, pressing any of the number buttons will activate the memory assigned to that number. To store a station in memory, press and hold any number button for two seconds.

Although I have no equipment for formally measuring things like ultimate receiver sensitivity, I found the performance on all bands to be typical of what I have come to expect of CCrane radios: excellent.

Full points to CCrane for writing a superb manual. In fact, I’ve found that the manuals for all the CCrane radios I have owned or tested have been well-written. I don’t know who is writing those manuals, but a big thumbs-up for clear manuals that are easy to use. The Skywave 2 manual even includes a section on “Hidden Settings” . . . ya gotta love it! Well done.

One other thing deserves mention: the Skywave 2 comes with CC Buds Earphones. I found they fit my ears comfortably and sound great . . . waaay better than the cheap-o earbuds I bought at a big box store.

The bottom line is: the Skywave 2 is a pint-sized powerhouse, and I can easily recommend it for anyone who needs an emergency radio, a travel radio (it has an alarm you can set), a weather radio with alert, or an ultralight MW DXing radio, or who simply wants to have a lot of fun with radio in a small, easy-to-handle package (An aside, listening to air band is pretty entertaining).

I found the performance to be excellent (for the radio’s size) on all bands, comparable to the CCrane Skywave SSB 2 that I own. In addition, with the new model (and the optional adapter), you can now plug in an external long-wire antenna for longer-range reception. That’s just great and could prove really useful.

The chief difference between the Skywave 2 and the Skywave SSB 2 is that the Skywave SSB 2 receives single sideband signals, making it possible for the listener to hear amateur radio and utility signals (like transoceanic flight control) that operate in upper or lower sideband mode. In addition, the SSB 2 includes (as well as the radio, carry case, and ear buds) a shortwave antenna and the CC wire terminal antenna adapter. In addition, the SSB 2 also has some software capabilities not available on the Skywave 2. For example, on the SSB 2, the Automatic Tuning System can also be used on the AIR band, and once AIR band frequencies have been stored, the SSB 2 can scan them. You can find my review of the Skywave SSB 2 here: https://swling.com/blog/2022/11/checking-out-the-new-c-crane-cc-skywave-ssb-2/

To conclude: I sincerely hope you never have to “do” your OODA loop, particularly not when things are going to blazes, but if you do, the CCrane Skywave 2 just might be helpful in getting the information you need. And, in the meantime, it is a very enjoyable radio to use, and I can recommend it without reservation.

Click here to check out the C. Crane CC Skywave 2 at C. Crane.

For more of my musings regarding the CCrane Skywave radios, please consult:

 

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Guest Post: A review of the Chaoyuan LC90 Hybrid Shortwave/4G/Internet Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Ye (BD4AAQ), for the following guest post:


The LC90, a Great Radio Spanning Two Worlds

by Michael Ye (BD4AAQ)

It is an awkward era for radio receivers. Although technology becomes more and more advanced and increasingly sophisticated radios are made, there are fewer and fewer stations to listen to. But hardcore radio hobbyists, mostly hams and shortwave listeners, would not give up the hobby. They continue to look for and enjoy stations among noises in the airwaves. Although Internet radios have been around for a long time, I never thought seriously about them. Perhaps I was stubborn, but in my mind, radios were noises and noises were radios and it’s the stations among the noises that I enjoyed. Receivers without noises were hardly real radios.

Until I got my first full band radio with Internet features. The LC90 was a pleasant surprise, completely changing the way I look at radio receivers. The LC90, or “full band smart Internet radio”, is my first shortwave radio AND Internet radio in one. There may be other radios with Internet features, but I have heard of few receivers that integrate the traditional radio (shortwave in particular) and the Internet. The LC90 was launched in China in early 2023, and quickly became popular among hobbyists thanks to the unique combination. News has been confirmed that the overseas version of the LC90 will be launched later this year. It provides more options for users at a time when shortwave broadcasters continue to shut down transmitters and bid final farewell.

Chaoyuan Company

The manufacturer of the LC90 is Chaoyuan, an electronics company based in Shenzhen, China, known for mobile phone design and Hi-Fi equipment. In recent years they started to design and make radios. And they are serious about the business, too.

The LC90 full band smart Internet radio

The Radio at a Glance

The radio is of regular size. A computer mouse is placed in the picture above, so you have an idea of not only the radio’s looks but also its size. The exact dimensions are 200x122x40mm. Its weight is 640 grams. The radio has a built in 4G SIM card, with 3G prepaid data. You have to add credit to the card in time by scanning a QR code on the screen before the built-in SIM card expires. You can also use your own SIM card by inserting it to a slot at the bottom of the radio. And of course, you could use Wi-Fi at home.

Although the radio is a combination of the traditional radio and the Internet, it is very ingeniously designed and does not put off the user with too many bells and whistles – you could press the tuning button to change the shortwave band and the fine tuning button to change the band width. The tuning button also serves as an “enter” key. These are clever designs that effectively save extra buttons. I have not seen a similar design in other radios.

For those who do not read Chinese, the upper five buttons are, roughly, “Configure”, “Timer”, “Setup”, “History” and “Favorites”. The four buttons on the left: “Confirm”, “Stations”, “News” and “Menu”. The four buttons on the right: “Back”, “Sequence”, “Rewind” and “Fast Forward”. The button with a globe says “Internet”.

The radio has excellent audio quality, rich bass, with a well-balanced frequency response. It is powered by two 18650 rechargeable lithium batteries. The radio has no back stand.

Traditional Radio

All three modes (or bands) are available, FM, MW and SW, as shown in the three buttons on the upper right (to get LW just press MW again). The FM band covers 64-108MHz, which includes Japan’s FM band. During the FMDX season you could have stations from Japan and other countries to explore. The SW band covers 2300-26100KHz, continuous, almost the entire shortwave band, more than enough for broadcast listening. The antenna jack works for all three modes (or bands).

Excellent Shortwave Performance

As a shortwave listener of many years, I am most interested in the radio’s performance in shortwave reception. Well, it is indeed very good in terms of sensitivity, selectivity and audio quality, with no compromise although the radio has an Internet section which requires additional space and resources.

When you use the radio indoor, reception could be poor and you can insert an external antenna to the antenna jack. Unfortunately, I cannot connect my AOR LA400 loop antenna to it as the antenna jack is too close to the tuning knob and so there is not sufficient space for the plug (see picture). Generally, a 3.5mm plug with a wire should work well if you extend the wire outside.

The external antenna jack

If there is a disappointment, its shortwave reception does not decode SSB signals. If the user is not a ham radio hobbyist, SSB reception may not be really needed anyway and the buttons, circuits and space can be saved accordingly.

Fair FM Reception

FM reception is good, but there is no obvious improvement of reception when an external plug is inserted in the antenna jack.

Mediocre MW Work

Reception on the lower bands, e.g., the medium wave band, is always a challenge in cities. It is not surprising that medium wave performance of the LC90 is mediocre at best. I don’t do much MW DXing but nowadays for each MW frequency there is almost always an FM frequency. Let’s face it – we should perhaps forget about medium wave reception in cities where there is excessive low band EMI.

However, if you go outdoor with the radio, medium wave reception can still be a lot of fun. And, contrary to FM reception, an external antenna significantly improves its performance!

Internet Radio

Admit it or not, the best days of traditional radio are gone, and while we continue to have fun on the old time radio, we should not hesitate to embrace newer technologies such as the Internet. By launching the LC90 and combining the two, Chaoyuan has made a significant move.

The Internet radio is an integrator of many online stations on the Internet, and more. It is completely different from the traditional radio which receives radio signals transmitted on air. The Internet radio, which relies on the Internet, provides much better audio quality, no noise, customizable and replay-able.

If you want to kill time and look for signals from noises, turn to shortwave and enjoy DXing. If you feel like listening to solid content or enjoying noise-free music, the Internet radio is there for you. This Internet radio integrates major web stations in China and on that basis the user can further select and configure their own favorites. Among apps that are built-in is Ximalaya FM, the leading audio platform in China. Due to requirements of policies and regulations in China, the user does not have much discretion to include foreign stations in the radio. However, Chaoyuan has indicated that they are working in an effort to secure authorizations from Spotify, Alexa and Pandora which they hope could be incorporated in the overseas version of the LC90. The future overseas version is expected to give the user more discretion to include online stations of their own choice.

A closer look at the display of the Internet Radio

Two buttons, Ai1 and Ai2, are voice assistants. Activate and speak to them and the radio directly plays the content (Ai1) or displays their findings for you to choose from (Ai2).

Finally, this is a radio with the most accurate time. There is no need to set the time for it, as it is based on the Internet.

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