Tag Archives: C.Crane CC Skywave

NOAA Weather Radio Review: three excellent choices under $90

The Midland WR120 weather radio.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jim T, who writes with the following inquiry:

Wondering if you can give me some guidance re: NOAA weather radios.

We’re looking to be better prepared for disasters, bad weather etc. and have narrowed our radio candidates to CC Crane, Sangean and Kaito.

AM/FM would be nice, hand cranking and solar as well, but just want to get NOAA alerts should we have an earthquake here in the NW. Willing to spend $50-100 for something quality with relevant features to it. Your thoughts would be appreciated!

Thanks for your message, Jim. There are dozens of inexpensive weather radio models on the market, but I know a few good options based on my personal experience.

Note that all of these radios work in both the US (via NOAA) and Canada (via Environment Canada)–both countries have been using the S.A.M.E. (Specific Area Message Encoding) weather alert system since 2004.

The Midland WR120: A dedicated weather radio

If you’re looking for a weather radio to plug in and continuously monitor weather alerts through the S.A.M.E. system, I recommend a dedicated weather radio like theMidland WR120. These radios don’t typically have AM/FM functions, but are entirely devoted to the seven weather radio frequencies in the US and Canada (162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz). They plug into mains power and the better ones have battery backup in case of power outages.

I have family that own the Midland WR120. They’ve used it for years and it’s worked flawlessly. Once you set up the radio with your preferred NOAA frequency and SAME alert regions, it will alarm and automatically play NOAA weather radio alerts when they’re issued for your area.  My family use this for tornado and storm alerts.

The Midland WR120 uses three AA alkaline cells for emergency power back-up. It’s very much a “set it and forget it” radio and, in my opinion, a bargain at $29.99.

As with any SAME alert radio, be aware that sometimes the alarm can be annoying. Depending on where you live and how the alert system is set up, you might get notifications for isolated weather events on the other side of your county–the S.A.M.E. system cannot pinpoint your neighborhood.

Still, I believe S.A.M.E. notifications are worth any extra inconvenience, especially if you live in an area prone to sudden storms and earthquakes.

Purchase options:

C. Crane CC Skywave: A portable shortwave radio with excellent NOAA weather reception

The C.Crane CC Skywave

If you’re looking for a battery powered radio to use during emergencies that has much more than NOAA weather radio, I’d recommend the C.Crane CC Skywave. Not only is it a full-fledged AM/FM/Shortwave and Air band radio, but it has exceptional NOAA weather radio reception with a weather alert function. The CC Skywave is a great radio to take on travels or keep in the home in case of an emergency. It’ll operate for ages on a set of two AA batteries, though I always keep a pack of four on standby just in case.

You can read a thorough review of the CC Skywave by clicking here. Note that C. Crane is also taking orders for their new CC Skywave SSB which is an upgraded version of the original CC Skywave and includes SSB mode, but costs $80 more than the original.

Purchase options:

C. Crane CC Solar Observer: A self-powered AM/FM NOAA weather radio

There are a number of self-powered NOAA weather radios out there, but frankly, many are very cheap and the mechanical action of the hand crank are prone to fail early.

I believe one of the best is the CC Solar Observer by C. Crane. It’s durable, and can also run on three AA cells, and is an overall great radio in terms of sensitivity on AM/FM as well. Unique in the world of self-powered radios, it also has a backlit display (which can be turned off or on)–a fantastic feature if the power is out.

Like other self-powered analog radios, the CC Solar Observer has no S.A.M.E. alert functionality.

Purchase options:

One more option: Eton self-powered weather radios

The Eton FRX5 sport weather alert, a digital display and futuristic design.

I would also encourage you to check out the wide selection of self-powered weather radios through Eton Corporation.

Many are digital and even have S.A.M.E. weather alerts. I haven’t commented on performance since I haven’t personally tested the 2016 and later models.

Eton typically packs a lot of features in their self-powered radios–having manufactured them for well over a decade, they’ve implemented iterative improvements along the way.

I have tested previous models extensively.

I particularly like the Eton FRX5 although being a digital radio, you get less play time per hand-powered crank–that’s why I prefer analog self-powered radios. The CC Solar Observer, for example, will yield roughly 40 minutes of listening time (at moderate volume levels) on 2-4 minutes of cranking.

Still, if charged fully in advance, I’m sure the FRX5 will play for hours. Note that using S.A.M.E. functionality in standby mode will deplete batteries more quickly.

Click here to view Eton’s full Red Cross radio line on the Eton Corporation website.

Any other recommendations?

Post readers, if I’ve omitted a worthy receiver, please comment with your recommendation.

I hope this helps with your decision, Jim! Thanks for the question!

CC Skywave Special Offer

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who notes that C. Crane is shipping a free AC Adapter with their CC Skywave portable (see image above). The total package price is $89.99.

Note that this is for the original CC Skywave, which I think is a brilliant little radio and one of my favorite travel companions. Note, too, that all CC Skywave models include a set of CC Buds–the best earphones any manufacturer includes with a radio.

This promotion does not include shipping, which adds an additional $12.99 to the total price.

If you have no need for the AC Adapter, you can purchase the CC Skywave for $89.99 from Amazon.com with free shipping. Personally, I never use AC adapters with portables–I only use batteries to power the radio. If you want an adapter though, the deal via C. Crane will save you a few dollars.

Click here to view this sale at C. Crane.

To be clear, this deal is for the original CC Skywave. The new CC Skywave SSB should start shipping in early November. At $169.99, it costs almost double the price of the original CC Skywave. If SSB mode isn’t important to you, you might jump on this original CC Skywave.

The C. Crane Skywave SSB: A sneak peek!

Tuesday afternoon, I took a number of portable radios to the field: the Tecsun S-8800, Tecsun PL-880, Digitech AR-1780, C. Crane CC Skywave and the new C. Crane CC Skywave SSB.

Last week, I received a pilot run (pre-production) CC Skywave SSB from C. Crane to test and provide feedback. My unit, of course, is still subject to cosmetic changes and engineering tweaks.

Since this is not a final iteration of the product, I won’t comment or review performance other than to say that if you like the original CC Skywave, you should love the new CC Skywave SSB.

C. Crane has kindly given me permission to post a few preview photos.

CC Skywave SSB Photos

First thing you’ll notice is that the CC Skywave SSB is essentially identical to its predecessor in size and shape.

Indeed, the CC Skywave SSB fits the original Skywave’s carry case perfectly. If you’ve purchased a custom protective case–like this one— for the original Skywave, it’ll fit the CC Skywave SSB like a glove.   As you can see above, the front panel design has changed, though. The CC Skywave SSB accommodates four additional function buttons and sports a re-designed speaker grill (similar to the CC Pocket Radio).  Nice touch! C. Crane thought to use that little piece of real estate behind the backstand.

As many of you know, I’m a one-bag-traveler-kind-of-guy who never leaves home without a shortwave radio. On one bag travels, of course, I only carry one full-featured portable. Space is too precious to carry two.

Listening to the 2016 BBC Midwinter Broadcast to Antarctica while traveling in Canada with the CC Skywave.

The original CC Skywave has pretty much been my go-to travel radio since it was released. I’ve taken it everywhere.

I’ve also taken the amazing Sony ICF-SW100 and the full-featured Grundig G6 (which even includes the AIR band) on trips when I wanted access to single sideband mode–something the original CC Skywave lacked. (Note that both of these radios are now discontinued.)

But when traveling in North America or by air, I really appreciate the Skywave’s excellent NOAA weather radio and access to aviation frequencies on the AIR band. Very handy features for the traveler who likes to stay informed.

By adding single sideband mode to an already capable ultra-compact travel radio, C. Crane has created a welcome radio traveling companion indeed.

Video: Daytime mediumwave shootout with the Tecsun S-8800

The Tecsun S-8800

About a week ago, I received a re-engineered version of the Tecsun S-8800 from Anna at the excellent online retailer, Anon-Co.

If you recall, I evaluated an early production unit of the S-8800 in February and while putting it through the paces, I discovered loud, warbling DSP birdies throughout the mediumwave and shortwave bands. Tecsun, to their credit, pulled the S-8800 from production to address the issue.

My schedule last week made it impossible to carve out the dedicated time I needed to begin an S-8800 evaluation.

Yesterday, however, I spent the afternoon with my family at Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway (6,000′ ASL) and a completely RFI-free zone. I brought the Tecsun S-8800 and a few other portables along for the ride–namely the Digitech AR-1780, the C.Crane CC Skywave and the Panasonic RF-2200.

I had just enough available space on my smart phone to record this one short video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Let’s be clear: comparing any modern radio with the RF-2200 on mediumwave is hardly fair.

For one, the RF-2200 has been out of production for a few decades.

Secondly (what I never finished saying in the video is that) the RF-2200 has a large rotatable ferrite bar antenna that provides excellent gain. The RF-2200 simply wipes the floor with all of my modern portables as their ferrite bar antennas are a fraction of the size.

In other words, the RF-2200 was engineered to rule mediumwave like a boss.

On shortwave, the RF-2200 does a fine job, but isn’t nearly as accurate and stable as modern DSP receivers.

Spoiler alert

Still, as the video indicates, my final review of the Tecsun S-8800 will indicate that it is not a receiver for the serious Mediumwave DXer. It’s been my experience that few shortwave portables are excellent on both HF and MW.

At home, tuned to local station 880 AM.

Of course you can’t tell from the video, but the S-8800 actually sounds brilliant when tuned to a relatively strong/local AM station, but either a lack of sensitivity or internal noise makes MW DXing a challenge.

I spent the better part of two hours yesterday evaluating its daytime MW performance–the video is pretty indicative of my findings. The S-8800 struggles with weak stations, but does a fine job with strong ones. It’s overall audio fidelity almost matches that of the RF-2200 when tuned to a strong broadcast. I’ve yet to test evening MW

The S-8800 still has some birdies on MW, but they’re not the loud warbling kind found on the previous model. Tecsun did properly address this, though in full disclosure, I haven’t fully explored the shortwave bands yet.

Shortwave?

I suspect the S-8800’s performance on shortwave will be much better than mediumwave because the previous S-8800 showed excellent results. As long as sensitivity wasn’t harmed while addressing the DSP birdies, I expect it’ll give the PL-880, PL-680 and Sony ICF-SW7600GR a run for their money.

Still…the lesson learned yesterday?

The Panasonic RF-2200 is the indisputable champion of mediumwave!

UPDATE: Click here to read our full Tecsun S-8800 review.

Digitech AR-1780: unboxing, photos and initial impressions

[UPDATE: Click here to read our full review of the Digitech AR-1780.]

Yesterday, prior to heading out the door for two days of travel, I received the Digitech AR-1780 I ordered ten days ago from an Australian eBay vendor. I’m very pleased with how quickly the order was processed and delivered via the post. The radio arrived in a rugged mail pouch and was double boxed inside.
I’ve had no time to evaluate the radio’s performance yet, but I thought I’d post a few photos I took while unboxing the AR-1780.

There’s not much in the box: just the radio and an owner’s manual. There are no batteries, no charger, and no case or carry bag. That’s okay though as the AR-1780 takes standard AA cells and I have an assortment of bags that can protect it in my suitcase.

The buttons all have a responsive, tactile feel. The hard plastic chassis feels durable.

I really like the dedicated fine tune control on the right side of the radio.  Nice touch! But 7 VDC in? That’s an odd voltage for a power supply. That’s okay by me as I never use wall wart type power supplies due to inherent noise–rechargeable Enloop AA batteries are how I power all of my portables. Bonus! There’s also a dedicated external antenna jack! One odd thing, though, is the AR-1780 breaks the convention of having the volume control on the right side of the radio–it’s on the left instead. Last night, I tuned around the 31 meter band and the AM broadcast band.  I listened to the French language service of Radio Romania International from inside a noisy house–armchair copy.

The AR-1780 has an impressive 7 AM bandwidth settings: 6, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, 1.8 and 1 kHz. My radio defaulted to 2.5 kHz, so you’ll want to widen that to 4 or 6 kHz before listening to most broadcasts.

I really like the display–it’s compact, yet contains quite a lot of info and even has a dedicated line for FM RDS content.

This morning, I took a couple shots of the AR-1780 next to the venerable CC Skywave. The Skywave is slightly smaller in every dimension.

Stay tuned! Though this is a very busy week for me–with travels and total solar eclipse preparations–I plan to put the Digitech AR-1780 through the paces. I’ll try to post updates as I have time.  Follow the tag: Digitech AR-1780