Tag Archives: C. Crane

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.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

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.

 

Spread the radio love

C. Crane Updates the CCRadio-EP Pro

Many thanks to reviewer Jay Allen for sharing the news that a significantly updated version of the CCRadio-EP Pro is now available:

C. Crane CC-EP Pro AM/FM Analog-tuned Radio

The update eliminates the “false signal peaks” (images) of the EP Pro, a tuning anomaly that was widely criticized at introduction of this model. In addition, a 9/10 kHz tuning step switch has been added, and Jay also reports that reception performance is improved on the high band of medium wave.

Check out the full details in Jay’s post above!

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

 

Spread the radio love

Sunset DX on Gary DeBock’s Cook Islands DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes from his Cook Islands Ultralight DXpedition:


Sunset on the Cook Islands

Aitutaki Sunset DX

Aitutaki in the Cook Islands had some dazzling sunsets, and [my wife] loved to take sunset pictures with her new phone. Of course, I participated as well. As a result, sunset DXing was pretty rare while on the trip, although 7 USA mainland stations crashed the Kiwi sunset skip DXing sessions later in the evening around 0700 UTC. None of the usual Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-San Francisco TP-DXing pest stations made it to the South Pacific, though– and I didn’t miss them a bit! 

610 KEAR San Francisco, California (5 kW at 4,610 miles/ 7,419 km) “Family Radio for the West Coast,” Christian religious format received at fair level at 0835 UTC on 4-12:

Click here to download audio.

640 KFI Los Angeles, California (50 kW at 4,570 miles/ 7,355 km) Strong (S9) level with commercial ads at 0633 UTC on 4-12:

Click here to download audio.

1070 KNX Los Angeles, California (50 kW at 4.570 miles/ 7,355 km) Powerful (S7) level with “1070 Newsradio” ID at 3 seconds, followed by national news at 0730 UTC on 4-10:

Click here to download audio.

1160 KSL Salt Lake City, Utah (50 kw at 5,144 miles/ 8,278 km) Powerful (S7) level with weather and station ID at 33 seconds, followed by public service ads at 0901 UTC on 4-12:

Click here to download audio.

1170 KFAQ Tulsa, Oklahoma (50 kW at 5,642 miles/ 9,080 km) Strong signal over apparent DU English co-channel with “Coast-to-Coast” ID at 44 seconds; thanks to Richard Allen for confirming the broadcast of the program on the station at 0845 UTC on 4-12:

Click here to download audio.

1430 KMRB San Gabriel, California (9.8 kW at 4,577 miles/ 7,366 km) Cantonese Chinese format at S7 level with commercial ads at 0830 UTC on 4-12:

Click here to download audio.

1640 KDIA Vallejo, California (10 kW at 4,633 miles/ 7,456 km) “1640-KDIA” ID at 6 seconds with Christian religious format at S5 level at 0807 UTC on 4-10:

Click here to download audio.


Thank you for sharing, Gary!  Your enthusiasm for MW DX is infectious!

Spread the radio love

A full report from Gary DeBock’s Cook Islands (Aitutaki) Ultralight DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes from his Cook Islands Ultralight DXpedition:


“Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna – Lagoon beach DXing setup photo

Checking out transoceanic DX propagation at an exotic ocean beach site can provide the hobby thrill of a lifetime– if a DXer is lucky enough to choose the ideal time, place and gear to make the chase. All of these fell into place in an amazing way during a 5-day trip to Aitutaki Island (2600 miles due south of Hawaii) with Ultralight radio gear, resulting in the reception of MW stations in India, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Cambodia– all at over 6,800 miles.

Because of extensive QRM from Australia and New Zealand the total number of Asian stations received was limited, but it was definitely a case of quality over quantity. Phenomenal gray line propagation around sunrise shut down Japanese signals almost completely, but boosted up those from the exotic countries in east and south Asia. Korean station reception was limited to the big guns, which was also primarily true for Chinese signals. Except for the ANZ pest QRM, the conditions seemed custom-designed for a west coast DXer to go after the exotic stations which rarely– if ever– show up in BC, Washington or Oregon (even though the Cook Islands’ distance to them is greater).

7.5 inch loopstick C.Crane Skywave SSB Ultralight

Ocean beach propagation at sunrise was strong enough to bring in both 693-Bangladesh and 1431-Mongolia at S9 levels almost every morning on my Ultralight gear, and allow both 657-AIR and 918-Cambodia to break through ANZ QRM on April 12th. No doubt many more of these exotic stations could have been logged except for Australian QRM on 576, 594, 872, 883 and 1566, but this only added to the thrill of the chase. The overall results were exceptional for a DXer using only a 7.5 inch loopstick Ultralight radio and 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL– all designed to fit within hand-carry luggage, and easily pass through airport security inspections. Thanks very much to Alokesh Gupta, Hiroyuki Okamura, Jari Lehtinen, Chuck Hutton and Bruce Portzer, who all assisted in the identification of these stations!

657 All India Radio Kolkata, India, 200 kW (8,075 miles/ 12,995 km) Recorded by accident during a sunrise check of the Korean big guns at 1641 on April 12, reception of this longest-distance station went unnoticed until file review after return to the States. The female speaker (in the Bengali language) is the third station in the recording, after the female vocal music from Pyongyang BS and the Irish-accented male preacher from NZ’s Star network. Her speech peaks around 40 to 50 seconds into the recording. The isolation of the Star network at the 55 second point was done by the Ultralight’s loopstick, not by the propagation. Thanks to Alokesh Gupta for the language and station identification:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

657 Pyongyang BS Pyongyang, N. Korea, 1500 kW Like most east Asian signals the N.K. big gun sounded pretty anemic in the Cook Islands. Its female vocal music at 1641 on April 12th shared the frequency with NZ’s Star network (Irish-accented preacher) and AIR’s female Bengali speaker:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

693 Bangladesh Betar Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1000 kW (7,960 miles/ 12,810 km) Probably the biggest surprise of the DXpedition, with S9 signal peaks on 4 out of 5 sunrise sessions. Frequently snarling with the Oz pest 3AW, it usually managed a few minutes on top of the frequency each morning from 1630-1700 UTC. Exotic South Asian music was the usual format, and was very easy to distinguish from the talk-oriented format of 3AW (and other Oz co-channels). This first appearance at 1652 on 4-10 featured a “Bangladesh Betar” ID by a male speaker at 8 seconds into the recording (thanks to Chuck Hutton for listening):

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

This was followed by a lot of exotic music until 3AW claimed the frequency just before the 1700 TOH:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

The next day (4-11) the exotic station was back with S9 peaks, including this typical music and female speaker at 1625:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

The exotic music from Bangladesh was in an S9 snarl with 3AW (and another Oz pest) from 1659 throughout the 1700 TOH on April 11th:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

774 JOUB Akita, Japan, 500 kW Oddly enough, this was the only Japanese signal making it to the island during the entire trip. Mixing with a goofy-sounding 3LO announcer at 1613 on 4-11, the Japanese female speech concerns a “doobutsuen” (a “zoo” in Japanese, similar to what the frequency sounded like with the 3LO announcer):

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

819 KCBS Pyongyang, N. Korea, 500 kW The N.K. big gun managed a potent signal for its 3+1 pips across its “TOH” at 1630 on 4-12 but never could shake off RNZ’s Tauranga transmitter:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

909 CNR6 Quanzhou, China, 300 kW Strong signal with CNR ID (1:08) and Mandarin speech by male and female announcers. NZ’s Star network was apparently off the air at the time, since it was a real blaster when transmitting:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

918 RNK Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 600 kW (6823 miles/ 10,981 km) Breaking through the Shandong and Oz QRM at an ideal time to dominate the frequency, its sign off transmission with the National Anthem peaked just before the 1700 TOH on April 12. Female speech in the Khmer language and exotic music are featured just before the anthem (thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura and Jari Lehtinen for listening, and identifying the National Anthem):

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

Chuck Hutton’s improved audio file of the same reception (thanks):

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

918 Shandong RGD Synchros (Multiple) The dominant Asian signal on the frequency, it rarely allowed Cambodia to sneak through. Here it is with female Mandarin speech at 1647 on 4-11:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

Shandong RGD’s transmitters were poorly synchronized, resulting in the two-tone time pips at the 1700 TOH on 4-12 (during Cambodia’s National Anthem at 1:40, in the MP3 linked below). Although actually from two different transmitters, the sound effect sounds similar to that of a “cuckoo clock,” resulting in some initial confusion about their source:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

972 HLCA Dangjin, S. Korea, 1500 kW The South Korean big gun played the part on most mornings, including this S9+ Korean female speech at 1631 on 4-12:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

981 CNR1 Synchros Changchun/ Nanchang, China, 200 kW/ 200 kW The first of three CNR1 frequencies which usually produced strong signals, this music // 1377 was received at 1624 on 4-12:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

1377 CNR1 Synchros (Various) Overall this was not only the strongest Chinese frequency on the band, but was the strongest Asian station on the band as well. Awesome S9+ signals were typical each morning, as with this male speech and music at 1622 on 4-12:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

Another potent signal from this Chinese blaster at 1640 on 4-12:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

1431 Mongolia (Relay Station) Choibalsan, Mongolia, 500 kW This station was easy to receive on the first attempt, with very little competition on the frequency. It typically managed an S9 signal after 1630 daily with the BBC’s Korean service, which seemed to be broadcast during the peak sunrise enhancement time in Aitutaki’s ocean-boosted propagation. Here is BBC’s Korean male announcer at an S9 level at 1632 on 4-11, with the BBC interval signal at 47 seconds into the recording:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

The Mongolian relay program prior to 1630 was also in Korean, with this female Korean speech at 1627 on 4-11:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

1566 HLAZ Jeju, S. Korea, 250 kW A very poor signal was typical during this trip, with the Chinese service barely showing up under 3NE and two other DU English stations (probably 4GM and Norfolk Island). Whenever 3NE was in a fade it had a chance, since other two co-channels were running very low power. Here is the latter situation, with the weak Chinese barely audible under the DU English snarl at 1641 on 4-12:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

1593 CNR1 Changzhou, China, 600 kW This was another Chinese blaster, with S9 signals typical every morning. Here it was at 1641 on 4-12 with male Chinese speech and music at 1377:

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

73 and Good DX,

Gary DeBock (DXing in Aitutaki, Cook Islands)


Amazing, Gary! Thank you for taking us along on your excellent Ultralight DXpedition. With a modest portable radio and a little antenna ingenuity, you’re enjoying some outstanding DX! You’re living proof of the point I was trying to make in a post yesterday!

Thanks again, Gary, and good DX! 

Spread the radio love