Tag Archives: C. Crane

Golan’s take on the Digitech AR-1780, XHDATA D-808 and CC Skywave SSB

Digitech AR-1780 (left) and XHDATA D-808 (right)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Golan Klinger, who leaves the following comment regarding the Digitech AR-1780:

I bought my AR1780 from Jaycar when they were first announced because I was too impatient to wait for the Skywave SSB.

It looked good on paper and I was really pleased when I finally tried it out. It turned out to be one of the best travel-sized radios I’ve ever owned.

Being a radio junkie, I did buy the CC Skywave SSB when it was finally released and an XHDATA D-808 when they first offered them at a huge discount. Both are capable radios, the latter being almost identical to the AR1780, but if I had to choose one, I’d take the Digitech. I just love it.

And that’s the thing isn’t it, Golan?  Sometimes our favorite radios just “feel” good.

Like you, I’m a bit of a radio junkie and own all three of these radios. My preference is the CC Skywave SSB closely followed by the AR-1780. I also love the D-808, but although it’s superior to the other two radios in terms of audio and is slightly more sensitive than the AR-1780, I still tend to reach for the other two radios first.

Note that all three of these radios were featured in my “Best of the best” portable radio reviews.

Thanks for sharing, Golan!

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XHDATA D-808 and C.Crane CC Skywave SSB size comparison

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, 13dka, who left the following comment on my post about coastal SWLing:

Nice weather and pics! Hmmm… it wasn’t so obvious to me before but it looks like the Skywave SSB is even smaller than the D-808. Now I’m jealous! ?

I find it pretty amazing is that just a few wavelengths away from the water, the signals seem to be tapering off a bit already, so standing IN the water and holding a portable is certainly getting the absolute best out of the radio. When I moved here (to the coast) I took a portable with a relatively stable station tuned in and drove to my beach listening post with it, then I headed back home right away. It seemed pretty obvious how the proximity to the water gradually improved the signals but of course that was a pretty unscientific test. I should repeat that with an SDR rigged up on the passenger seat and do that a few times in a row.

I’m off now to check how I can get a Skywave SSB to Europe.

It is quite amazing how large bodies of salt water enhance reception! 🙂 Although my home in the mountains has very little RFI, the ground conductivity is poor. Those who live on the coast get much better mileage from their antennas!

Regarding the size of the CC Skywave SSB and XHDATA D-808, based on my measuring tape, the D-808 is about 1.25″ wider, 0.5″ taller and perhaps 0.125″ deeper than the CC Skywave SSB. Here are a few photos:

Not a massive difference in size by any means, but the Skywave SSB is smaller in every dimension. Since I typically do one-bag travel, I always choose the smaller radio. Of course, the D-808 is more affordable than the Skywave SSB and is easier to purchase outside the US.

I don’t know of a C. Crane distributor in Europe.  Perhaps Post readers might comment with suggestions?

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C. Crane Cyber Monday Sale: 10% off all products

I received a promotional email from C. Crane this morning announcing their Cyber Monday Sale of 10% all products in their catalog. While this isn’t an incredibly deep discount, it’s about as low as you’ll ever see C.Crane go.

If you’ve been considering a C. Crane product, this might be the time to order. Make sure you use their coupon code CM18 at checkout!

Click here to shop C.Crane.

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Review Update: CCRadio-EP Pro’s major improvements!

In April, I posted a review of C. Crane’s latest iteration of the much-loved EP series: the C. Crane CCRadio-EP Pro.

Although the new Pro model had the makings of a great, simple DXer-grade receiver, the first production run was plagued with issues that, in the end, prevented me from recommending it to radio enthusiasts and DXers. Frankly speaking, I was quite disappointed.

I evaluated the original CCRadio-EP Pro over the course of several weeks, documenting my findings in detail and sharing them with C. Crane both during the evaluation period and in my full review.

But to C. Crane’s credit––being a company of integrity––they responded to each point of criticism, promising to address the issues in the receiver’s second production run.

Enter the second production run…

About six weeks ago, I took delivery of a second-production-run CCRadio-EP Pro.

The second-run units have actually been shipping for a few months now, but due to nearly two months of travel and a hectic schedule following, my evaluation took longer than I had hoped. And if you’ve been following the SWLing Post for long, you’ll have noticed that I never rush a radio evaluation…and for good reason. Post readers are placing their trust in my review, so I must feel confident it’s as accurate––and as transparent––as I can make it.

Speaking of transparency, by the way, please note that C. Crane provided the initial and second production evaluation units at no cost to me.

What follows is a review of the second-run CCRadio-EP Pro. I would encourage you to read my original review before proceeding, because I am (only) addressing all of the negatives I listed from the previous review.  However, for your convenience, I’ve included quotes from the original here.

In a nutshell?  C. Crane listened to my list of concerns, and I’m very pleased!

Muting between frequencies?

 

From my first production run review:

[M]echanically-tuned DSP radios, like the new CCRadio-EP Pro, may look like analog sets, but inside, they’re entirely digital. And one drawback to all of the mechanically-tuned DSP radios I’ve tested so far is a tendency to mute between frequencies. With each 10 kHz frequency step, you’ll hear a short audio mute. If you tune across the dial quickly, audio mutes until you land on a frequency.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has significantly decreased the amount of muting between frequencies. Indeed, even on the AM band (which was most affected in the first production run), muting no longer distracts me from the experience of band scanning.

Unlike an analog receiver, if you tune quickly across the band, the EP Pro essentially mutes audio completely.  This is common with analog-tuned DSP receivers. This is still the case with the second production run unit, but this does not concern me, as I rarely move quickly across the bands while hunting weak signals.

Imaging?

From my first production run review:

Crane actually includes a note about weak images which you might find below and/or above your target signal. Weak images are an unfortunate reality of the CCRadio-EP Pro; they’re prevalent on both AM and FM.

On the initial production receiver, here’s how you might experience the images by way of example: let’s say you’re tuning to a strong local AM station on 630 kHz, noting that the EP Pro has 10 kHz tuning increments. As you tune to 630 kHz, you’ll hear the station on 620 kHz, though it won’t be as strong as it is on 630 kHz. Then if you tune to 640 kHz, you’ll likely hear a weaker image of the station there, as well. In my experience, images are present on both sides of the target station if the station is strong. If it’s a weak station, you might only hear it, say, 10 kHz lower but not above (or vise versa).

As you might imagine, this poses a problem for the weak signal AM broadcast band DXer.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has eliminated the false peaks around signals. This was a major negative from the original review. Now, as you tune across the bands, it feels more fluid, and when you hear a station you can be confident you’re actually on frequency as it seamlessly “locks” into place.

Well done, C. Crane!

Inaccurate dial?

At the top end of the band, the EP Pro tuned to 1600 kHz

From the first production run review:

I’ve also discovered that, on my unit, the top half of the AM dial is inaccurate. I estimate that the slide rule dial is off by about 40-50 kHz at the top end of the band. It’s much more accurate below 1,200 kHz, however.

I’m pleased to report that the dial on this second production run unit is now as accurate as any analog radio. I tested frequency accuracy across the entire AM/FM bands, and can reliably find stations. Another major negative C. Crane fixed!

Audio “pop” with power on?

From the first production run review:

[A]ny time you turn on the CCRadio-EP Pro, you’ll hear an audio “pop.” This is happening when power is applied to the audio amplifier. The pop is not soft, but fairly audible, and is present even if you turn the volume down all the way. The audio pop is prevalent via both the internal speaker and when using headphones. Fortunately, it’s much less pronounced via headphones.  While not a major negative, I find it a bit annoying, and don’t doubt that other listeners will, too.

C. Crane has managed to minimize–not eliminate–the audio pop. It’s much improved over the first production run unit. I think I would still make note of it in the “cons” section if this were my first review of the radio, but it’s truly a very minor complaint at this point.

AM frequency steps limited to 10 kHz?

Note the new 9/10 kHz switch below the AM Antenna switch

From the first production run review:

My initial production run EP Pro is limited to 10 kHz frequency steps. This radio is primarily marketed to North America where 10 kHz increments are standard. Of course, if you’re trying to use the EP Pro to snag Transatlantic or Transpacific DX, you’ll miss the ability to tune between those broad 10 kHz steps. But, again, due to the imaging mention above, I think the CCRadio-EP Pro is simply not suited for DXing.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has added a switch that allows the listener to toggle between 9 and 10 kHz AM steps! This was an essential upgrade for those of us planning to use the CCRadio-EP Pro outside North America, or for those of us attempting to chase signals from across the ocean. Very nice, C. Crane!

Conclusion

To their credit, C. Crane has addressed all of the major negatives I listed in my review of the first production run units.

And as a result, I can now recommend the CCRadio-EP Pro with confidence.

I should add that during the course of this evaluation, I spent some valuable time on the mediumwave/AM broadcast band and have been very impressed with the EP Pro’s sensitivity and selectivity. The AGC can cope with weak signals quite well; I noted none of the soft muting which plagues a number of other DSP receivers. And the Twin Coil Ferrite tuning can substantially improve reception of weak signals––don’t ignore that control on the right side of the radio! Very useful.

With renewed confidence in the EP Pro, when I have time this fall or winter, I plan to take it to the field and pit it against my beloved (and recently re-capped!) Panasonic RF-2200. I’m beginning to think it might be a real competitor. We will see.

I would encourage you to also check out Guy Atkins’ recent evaluation of the EP Pro. I’m in agreement with his assessment, which leads me to believe quality control is also consistent in the production run. Good news all around. I’m very happy that C. Crane fixed early production run issues with both the CCRadio-EP Pro and the CC Skywave SSB. Well done!  I’m so glad C. Crane paid attention.

You can purchase the CCRadio-EP Pro from the following retailers:

How to identify a second (or later) production run unit

I know I’m going to receive emails and comments about how to tell if one has a first or second production EP Pro. The answer is very simple…

If your unit has a 9/10 kHz step switch on the back (see photo directly above) then you have a second production run unit or later.  

While the first production run EP Pro will please most average radio listeners, I couldn’t recommend it for the level of radio enthusiast and DXer who spends time reading reviews on the SWLing Post.

If you plan to purchase the CCRadio-EP Pro this year, I would encourage you to check with the retailer to make sure you’re getting a unit from the second production run or later.


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Updated and Original Versions of the CCRadio-EP Pro Briefly Compared

Remember the American television game show To Tell The Truth? This very long-running show challenged four celebrity guests and viewers to identify the real “central character” in the midst of two impostors.I was reminded of this game show when attempting to tell the difference between the original and recently updated versions of C. Crane’s CCRadio-EP Pro receiver when viewing the front panels. If there’s a difference, I can’t spot it! You need to turn around the radios to see the new EP-Pro’s key feature: switchable 9 kHz/10 kHz tuning steps.

The only clue to the newest version of the CCRadio-EP Pro is the 9/10 kHz tuning switch on the back panel.

I recently met with a good friend and radio hobbyist from Oregon to compare a few selected portable radios, FSL (Ferrite Sleeve Loop) antennas, and the newest low-noise Wellbrook ALA100LN module that was introduced just a few weeks ago. I was particularly interested in a head-to-head match-up of my friend’s original EP-Pro versus my newly arrived EP-Pro (9 kHz/10 kHz steps) version.

I’m looking forward to Thomas’ usual thorough review of the new CCRadio-EP Pro, but I want to offer a few observations of medium wave tuning after my time with the two models:

  • On very weak daytime MW signals, the radios are equally sensitive except on higher frequencies where the new model excels to a moderate degree. It’s enough of an advantage to make the difference between catching an ID or not on a low, DX-level signal.
  • The new EP-Pro feels more accurate–and simply more enjoyable–to tune, thanks to the elimination of false “peaks” surrounding the main signal. This is a BIG plus for the new radio, and frankly the CCRadio-EP should have performed this way from the start. Kudos to C. Crane for correcting this problem, but I can understand why the original version was brought to market with the odd tuning quirk. It isn’t a deal breaker for most non-DXing purchasers.
  • I could not find an instance of soft muting on either radio. I listened for a while to signals barely above the noise floor, and never did audio “cut in and out” suddenly, a clue to soft muting. Both receivers are very useful for chasing weak MW stations…but the new version is highly preferred for ease of tuning because of the lack of false audio peaks.
  • With the tuning working way it should, medium wave channels “snap” in and out as you slowly tune. This took a little getting used to, but after a while I began to appreciate the sense of exactness with the newest CCRadio-EP Pro.
  • Fast excursions up or down the band (either radio) will blank the audio, recovering when you stop tuning or slow down. I believe this is simply a case of exceeding the AGC’s recovery time, not soft muting. It’s easy to live with, but granted the effect is not one of smoothness as found on traditional, non-DSP analog receivers. Successful DXing takes a slower approach anyway when scanning the band; casual listeners may be more annoyed by either version of the radio if they are used to very quick knob-cranking.
  • The Twin Coil Ferrite “AM Fine Tuning” control works well on both units, and gives significant gain to weak signals on either extremity of the band. I love this feature; it makes digging out the weak ones a lot more fun!

So, should you buy the newest CCRadio-EP Pro with the 9 kHz/10 kHz steps?

  • If you already own a CCRadio-EP Pro and are fine with the false tuning peaks and have no desire for the 9 kHz MW step option–keep your radio! Only on high band does the new model have a sensitivity edge. Especially don’t make the jump if you’re a casual listener and listen only to a handful of local stations, or a single distant station.
  • If you do not own a CCRadio-EP Pro yet, but are in the market, definitely buy the newest version. Be aware that you can only be assured of getting the newest model if you purchase directly from C. Crane. Amazon does not yet carry the newest version according to some reports.
  • If you’re a radio junkie and just have to have both…go ahead…we understand!

I also made a short video comparison of the new EP Pro versus the top-ranked Panasonic RF-2200 on medium wave:

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

 

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