Category Archives: Reviews

Ivan checks out the Kenwood TH-D74’s mediumwave performance

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan (NO2CW), who writes:

One category of receivers not much talked about are the wideband handhelds. I first owned one of those in 1992 when I paid a ton of money for an AOR-1000. Not only did it cost me a lot but I also ordered it from the UK so it was not subject to the “cellular blocked” rule. Don’t ask me why, it never made any difference in the end.

As a busy shortwave listener at the time I was eager to check out reception as the radio also featured Shorwave coverage and even a BFO (Beat Frequency Oscillator) knob! To sum it up it was a great receiver above 30 mHz but Shortwave and Mediumwave was barely there, with a 15 kHz wide filter and low sensitivity.

Well today I have in my hands a Kenwood TH-D74A – a top of the line handheld triband amateur radio transceiver with Medium Wave and Short Wave coverage. The radio is expensive due to the presence of GPS, D Star and APRS, but those are a features for the radio amateur. What about performance on the low frequencies?

Here is my video of the test which revealed surprising results:

Click here to view on YouTube.

So next time you consider purchasing a new receiver,as you dive into the choice of portables, SDRs, tabletops and classics from eBay you may consider adding this category as well – handhelds with wide band coverage.

Thank you, Ivan!  You’ve inspired me to check out mediumwave performance on a few wideband handy talkies I own: the Yaesu VX-3R, Yaesu FT2DR and the Kenwood TH-F6A. To my knowledge, all three have internal ferrite bars (tiny ones) but I’ve never actually compared their performance with each other. That could be a lot of fun. I also own an AN200 MW loop antenna so this could be an excellent test to see how it pairs with each radio.  I’m especially curious about the wee VX-3R!

Thanks again, Ivan. We always enjoy your videos and posts.

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Mornings with the Panasonic RF-2200

It’s been a busy winter season here at SWLing Post HQ. Many of you might have noticed a slow response time if you’ve tried to contact me. I’m in the midst of a rather involved investment property renovation that’s consumed nearly all of my spare time.

Still, I’m keeping up with the Post and even managing a little one-on-one radio time in the early mornings/late evenings. Indeed, I’ve actually tried to turn my renovation project into an opportunity to play a little radio. The property is unoccupied and very rural, so there’s quite literally no RFI there. Woot!

Since I’ve been spending time evaluating the new CCRadio3 (click here to read my preview), I’ve also had the CCRadio EP Pro, Sony ICF-5500W and the legendary Panasonic RF-2200 nearby for comparison purposes.

All of these radios have their strong points, but the Panny RF-2200 is still the rig I reach for the most. That’s why I listed it as one of my daily drivers.

It also helps that my RF-2200 feels like a brand new unit after Vlado re-capped and cleaned it.

Band-scanning

Band-scanning with the RF-2200 is such a tactile experience. The ‘2200 tuning knob is quality and almost feels like a weighted encoder you’d find on a proper tabletop receiver. The RF-2200 even has fast/slow tuning gears and you can calibrate the dial so easily. Though tuning on the shortwaves feels a little vague, I find mediumwave is incredibly accurate.

Speaking of the dial and logging scale, I think it’s one of the most attractive from the 1970s:

Since I’ve been doing most of my listening around sunrise and sunset, it’s been a lot of fun to fit in a little mediumwave DXing as well. I see why the RF-2200 was one of The Professor‘s favorites.

If you ever find a good deal on a Panasonic RF-2200, don’t hesitate, just grab it!  Occasionally you’ll find one on eBay, but also check your local hamfests and swap meets! That’s where I’ve had the most luck.

If you ever find a ‘2200 for less that $100-125 that’s in decent cosmetic shape, with the original antenna, clean battery contacts, and is in good mechanical shape (meaning the tuning mechanism and dial work as they should), buy it! If there’s an electrical problem, Vlado can fix that. In fact, if your RF-2200 still has the original capacitors, you’d probably want to re-cap it anyway to keep leaky caps from eventually harming the board or internals. Plus, a properly re-capped ‘2200 will play like a new one!

My takeaway?  The RF-2200 is a keeper! I suppose that’s why I even have a spare!

Do you have or would you like an RF-2200? Please comment!


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Stan compares the C. Crane CCRadio3 with the CCRadio2E

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Stan Horzepa (WA1LOU), who shares the following post originally published on his blog:

I bought a first-production-run C.Crane CCRadio3 AM/FM/WX/2-Meter receiver after reading K4SWL’s preview on his blog, The SWLing Post.

I already own the highly-regarded C.Crane CCRadio 2E Enhanced, which I reviewed here five years ago, so I decided to compare the two on the AM, FM and weather bands. Before comparing the two radios, I recalibrated the antennas of both radios, then with the radios sitting side-by-side, I tuned each radio through each band channel-by-channel

My findings follow.

On the AM band, the 3 captured signals faster than the 2E.

Occasionally, signals were stronger on the 3 than on the 2E and vice versa, but most of the time, the signal strength was the same on both radios. So I conclude that the sensitivity of the two radios are the same.

I tried the 3’s new Bluetooth function before reading the manual. I just pressed the Bluetooth button to access the Bluetooth mode and my iPhone and MacBook Pro found the 3 without pressing the radio’s Pair button, as instructed by the manual.

In conclusion, the differences I found between the 3 and the 2E were (1) the 3’s ability to capture AM signals was noticeably faster than the 2E and (2) the addition of the Bluetooth function in the 3.

I did not notice any other performance enhancements. I was hoping that the 3 might be more sensitive than the 2E (not that the 2E is not sensitive — it certainly is!), but I’d say that the 3 and 2E Enhanced are about equal sensitivity-wise, as well as selectivity-wise.

Believe it or not moments… During the comparison, I was very surprised that on two occasions (on 820 and 1500 kHz), each radio simultaneously received different stations while tuned to the same frequency!

Click here to check out Stan’s blog.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts after comparing the two receivers, Stan! I think this supports the idea that if one owns the CCRadio2E and doesn’t need Bluetooth functionality, there’s no real reason to upgrade to the CCRadio3. With that said, and as I think you found Stan, the Bluetooth functionality in the CCRadio3 is excellent. It must be one of the best Bluetooth receivers I’ve tested and as you point out, it’s also very easy to engage and use.

Thanks again!

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Preview: The C. Crane CCRadio3 AM/FM/WX and 2 Meter receiver

In early January 2019, C. Crane sent me a pre-production unit of their latest radio for evaluation: the C. Crane CCRadio3.

Since I received the CCradio3, I’ve had it on the air and have been evaluating it in real-life listening conditions, searching for any potential quirks that C. Crane should address before a full production run of the radio hits the market.

Yesterday, C. Crane announced the CCRadio3 in their email newsletter:

So now, finally, I can break my silence to inform you all about this latest iteration of the venerable CCRadio. And, indeed, I have a lot to tell…

CCRadio3 Preview

What follows is a preview of the CCRadio3 based on my time with the pre-production unit. I will not refer to this as a “review” of the CCRadio3, since this is a pre-production unit.  I’ll obtain a first production run unit when available and post a full review at that time.

In the meantime…here are some of my impressions based on the pre-production unit, organized by feature.

Bluetooth

What’s new with the CCRadio3? The major upgrade is the addition of Bluetooth connectivity. In fact, that’s the only obvious upgrade other than the fact you can now toggle between AM/FM band rather than scroll through all the bands on one band button.

With Bluetooth connectivity, you can pair with your smart phone, tablet, laptop, PC or any other Bluetooth device, and use the CCRadio3 as your Bluetooth speaker.

How many radios do you know that include simple operation instructions on the chassis? Very simple.

The pairing is incredibly simple and Bluetooth connectivity most impressive. I find that no matter where I go in my house, the CCRadio3 maintains a solid Bluetooth connection with my iPhone. Most of my other Bluetooth devices will lose connectivity if I put a couple walls between my iPhone and the receiver, but not the CCRadio3.

Audio

The internal speaker on the CCRadio3 provides room-filling audio with clear, rich fidelity. The separate bass and treble controls do help tailor the sound based on the audio source. It reproduces music brilliantly in FM and Bluetooth modes.

2 Meter Ham Radio Band

One unique feature of the CCRadio series is 2 meter ham band reception. This is a great way to monitor local amateur radio repeater traffic.

In truth, I’ve spent comparatively little time with the CCRadio3 on 2 meters thus far, having focused instead on the AM/FM and WX bands, but I have verified that I can receive local repeaters and the squelch functionality is quite effective.

I’ll spend more time on this band in my upcoming full review.

Weather Radio (WX) Band

The CCRadio3 can receive all seven NOAA/Environment Canada radio frequencies.

And here’s something that really surprised me: this pre-production CCRadio3 has the best weather radio reception of any radio I’ve ever tested to date. Normally, at my home, I can receive two NOAA stations with the average weather radio. The best of my weather radio receivers might hear a total of three. The CCRadio3, with antenna fully-extended, can receive five NOAA stations! I can almost WX DX with this rig!

I’m so pleased C. Crane places an emphasis on WX band performance. Their CC Skywave and CC Skywave SSB also have best-in-class weather radio reception.

Like the CCRadio2E, the grab handle is built into the back of the radio.

The CCRadio3 uses four D cells for battery operation which should yield about 120 hours of AM broadcast listening at moderate volume.

FM

Thus far I’m very pleased with FM performance. I’ve noted that the CCRadio3 receives all of my local and distant benchmark stations with ease. I believe it would certainly be an FM benchmark receiver. As I mentioned earlier, audio fidelity is excellent via the internal speaker.

AM/Mediumwave

I consider the CCradio3’s predecessor––the CCRadio2E––to be one of the finest AM broadcasting listening portables currently in production. I’ll admit that when I heard the CCRadio3 added Bluetooth, I feared somehow that would equate to possible noise somewhere in the audio chain…Fortunately, this fear was entirely unfounded. In fact, looking at the CCRadio3 announcement, I note that C. Crane took this concern seriously:

“The CCRadio 3 is one of the few high-performance radios with Bluetooth® that has no detectable noise and some of the best reception available.”

When I first turned on the CCRadio3 and tuned to the AM band, I did what I always do when testing mediumwave performance: In the early morning, as the sun was rising (i.e., grey line propagation), I tried to pull my benchmark station––WAIZ, a 1,000 watt station about 95 miles away as the crow flies––out of the muddle. The CCRadio3 was able to do it; in fact, I could hear the station’s morning crew doing their “Wacky Wake-Up” shenanigans. Turning the radio body, I also gathered, rather quickly, that the CCRadio3’s Twin Coil Ferrite Bar antenna does an excellent job of nulling out unwanted stations.

An impressive start of the evaluation.

Comparing the CCRadio3 with Panny RF-2200

Looking around SWLing Post HQ, I picked up my recently re-capped and refurbished Panasonic RF-2200. I wanted to see how the CCRadio3 would stack up against what I consider one the finest AM broadcast portables ever produced…

I’ve tested the CCRadio3 and ‘2200 at various locations––in the morning, midday, and at night––and can say that not only does the CCRadio3 give the RF-2200 a run for its money, but it even outperforms the RF-2200 at times, in terms of weak station intelligibility.

In fact, I think the CCRadio3 may possibly have a very slight edge on the RF-2200 in terms of sensitivity, as well.

However, note that there are two factors that make this comparison a tough call:

  • First of all, I find that the RF-2200’s AGC is smoother than that of the CCRadio3––the peaks and dips in audio are not as strong when listening through AM flutter. Most of the time, this makes it a little easier for me to discern weak signal audio. I believe the CCRadio3’s AGC and soft mute may be making the troughs in AGC a little deeper, as well. It would be amazing if C. Crane could allow users to disable soft mute like recent Sangean models have.
  • Secondly, the RF-2200 has two AM bandwidth settings: narrow and wide. I almost always use the RF-2200 with the wide bandwidth setting. I find the narrow filter is a little too narrow unless I need it to block an adjacent signal.  In general, I use wider AM filter settings than many DXers because I find that the filter between my ears does a better job of discerning signals with a little more audio information.

The CCRadio3 has only one bandwidth. I’m guessing––based purely on my listening experience––that it’s 4 to 6 kHz in width.  (I’ll try to confirm this with C. Crane).   Obviously this is narrower than the RF-2200’s wide filter. In side-by-side comparisons, the RF-2200’s AM fidelity therefore sounds much richer, especially when music is involved.

That this is so really shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Radio3 and its predecessors were designed around spoken word intelligibility––in other words, making it easy for the listener to understand what’s being said. And, frankly, it works. Most of the time, I find that the CCRadio3 does a better job of making weak signals “pop” out of the static. It’s a little easier catching weak signal station IDs with the CCRadio3, even if you have to listen through a more active AGC/soft mute tug.

So…is the CCRadio3 (at least, this pre-production unit) better than the RF-2200 at weak signal DXing? In some respects, yes. In others, not quite. Yet the fact that it can even compare with the RF-2200 speaks volumes…no pun intended. I would have never guessed that it would have a sensitivity edge on the RF-2200.

Of course, the CCRadio3 has both AM antenna and ground terminals.

I made a few early afternoon videos comparing the CCRadio3 with the RF-2200. In the first video, I’m tuned to a station approximately 20-25 miles away. You’ll note how the RF-2200’s audio fidelity, with the wide filter engaged, is hard to match:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the second video, I’m tuned to 1290 AM (WHKY), a 50,000 watt station about 95 miles away. [Note that I erroneously give an inaccurate mileage figure in this video; not sure what I was thinking!  Sorry about that, folks.]

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the third video, I’m tuned to 630 AM (WAIZ), again, a 1000 watt station about 100 miles away. As you can imagine, it’s very weak and both radios struggle to receive any intelligible audio through the ocean waves of fluttering radio jumble. [Again, please ignore the distance I give in the video; this station is actually a little over 95 miles away.]

Click here to view on YouTube.

I also did a late afternoon comparison video around sunset using one of my favorite AM radio stations ever: CFZM in Toronto–about 980 miles distant. Here’s the video:

Click here to view on YouTube. 

In these video comparisons, the radios are nearly side-by-side.  I found this had little to no effect on reception. When comparing these radios off camera, I had them spaced at least 40″ apart and always, of course, oriented the antennas identically.

Conclusion

Again, this is merely a preview of the pre-production unit of the CCRadio3. I thought I’d touch on reception and a few of the key points that might help some of the CCRadio3’s early adopters make a purchase decision. I have yet to do testing with headphones or external antennas and still wish to compare it with even more radios, to make my review as thorough as I’d like.

And I’m really looking forward to reviewing the production unit of the CCRadio3, because this pre-production receiver has certainly surpassed my expectations!

This latest iteration of the CCRadio should remain king of AM radio reception, compared with any other portable radio currently in production.

C. Crane has announced that they have a very limited number of first-production-run units available for order right now.  If you order one, use the coupon code CC3B19 at checkout, so that, as the above ad suggests, you can snag it for $179.00–$20 off the future retail price. I suspect this first run will sell out fast.

Click here to check out the CCRadio3 product/order page.

Eager for the full review of the C. Crane CCRadio3? Stay tuned!


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Book Review: “Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Kolesar, who shares the following review:

Just finished another excellent read: Hilmes and Loviglio’s collection “Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio.”

Very little scholarship exists about the cultural impact of radio in America, and this volume explores the history highlights (long partial list): the initial fight over the nature of broadcasting in the 1920s and 30s (educational vs. commercial), stratification of programming and channels with regards to representation of women, people of color, and gays during the Depression, WWII, and the pre-televison era, the discovery of the teenage market in the 1950s that led to the Top 40 format, the commerical Underground radio movement of the 60s, the creation of NPR and the associated decimation of student-run university stations, the rise of commercial (in everything but name) religious broadcasting and and its corrupting effects on the religious experience and political discourse, the 1980s male-dominated talk radio genre as an effort to roll back feminism, the 1996 Telecom bill and the creation of LPFM and the proliferation of pirate radio as responses to it, and finally, the digital radio future and its public service obligations.

For those who love the medium, this is a great reminder of why we work in it, how it’s succeeded and yet failed to live up to its potential, and what the future may hold as new technologies enter the audio landscape.

Thanks, Dave—sounds like this collection spans a wide variety of radio cultural histories. I did some searching and found that, of course it’s on Amazon.com, but also available used on a number of sites including Barnes and Noble.

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