Frequently when people write about attaching a long wire to a portable shortwave receiver, readers will comment that you need to worry about desensitizing or overloading the receiver or ever harming the front end of the receiver. Clearly that can be a concern.
But recently I noticed something on the CCrane website in the FAQ section that shows clearly that CCrane has thought about and dealt with this consideration:
Q: When using the 2-wire adapter and wire attached, why am I not noticing any improvement on shortwave?
A: To see any difference using the 2-wire adapter you will need to have a wire that is more than 30 feet long (we recommend 60-100’) with a good ground wire. Insulated wire will last longer and should be stranded so it is more flexible. If you do not have a good ground, you are actually inputting noise. If you look at the 2-wire adapter (included) you will see an antenna icon and a ground (G) marking. You need to connect them properly when using an external antenna. When a plug is inserted into the antenna jack of the radio the internal rod antenna is disconnected. (See page 30 of the Instruction manual.)
Let’s get one thing clear from the start: it’s all Ken Reitz’s fault. When the search for the guilty begins, the finger should point squarely at Mr. Reitz.
Who is Ken Reitz? He is the Managing Editor and Publisher of The Spectrum Monitor.
The Spectrum Monitor is a radio hobbyist magazine available only in PDF format and can be read on any device capable of opening a PDF file. It covers virtually aspect of the radio hobby, and you can find it here: https://www.thespectrummonitor.com/ I am a subscriber, and I can heartily recommend it without reservation.
So what is it that Mr. Reitz did that set me off? Short answer: he wrote a really good article entitled “AM DX Antennas: Long Wires and Loops Big and Small.” In it, he mentioned that he could hear, from his location in Virginia, WCBS on 880 in New York City, some 300 miles away. He also mentioned that he could hear, during daylight hours, WGY in Schenectady, NY, about 400 miles distant.
WGY is a local station for me in Troy, NY, but I wondered: Could I hear WCBS in New York City? That’s nearly 150 miles from me. Hmmm.
Next, my Grundig Satellit 800 connected to its 4-foot whip antenna. I could hear WCBS barely, but with a horrible buzzing noise. Switching the Satellit 800 to the horizontal room loop antenna I could hear WCBS better, but the noise was really, really nasty.
One way to preserve domestic tranquility is to hide the MFJ Loop behind a curtain!
Then I connected the MFJ 1886 Receive Loop Antenna. Tah-dah! I could hear WCBS just fine, with some noise in the background, but “armchair copy.” The MFJ loop made a huge difference in the quality and strength of the signal. I also tried the MFJ loop with another radio I have under test (its identity to be revealed in the future) and found, while I couldn’t hear WCBS at all with the radio’s internal antenna, the 1886 made an enormous difference, pulling out a fully copyable signal with noise in the background.
Finally, I tried a couple of my portables. My Tecsun 880 could hear WCBS, but the noise level was high enough to be annoying. Finally, I tried my CCrane Skywave SSB. The Skywave did a better job of pulling the signal out of the noise. I got the same result with the CCrane Skywave SSB2. Both Skywaves were using their internal ferrite antennas. Impressive.
Bottom line, for this very small foray into daytime medium wave DXing, the MFJ-1886 Receive Loop Antenna was a powerful and useful tool, one I can easily recommend. Second, when it comes to portables, the CCrane Skywave SSB (either model) continues to show that it is “The Little Radio That Could.”
If you’ve read the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that the CC Skywave SSB is my choice travel and EDC radio. I prefer it over any other portable I own (and I do have quite a lot) because it’s so insanely useful, efficient, lightweight, compact, and durable.
Me, at Charlotte-Douglas International waiting for a flight to the Winter SWL Fest in 2019.
When I fly, I take only one carry on bag that’s so compact it can fit under the seat in front of me in any type of commercial aircraft.
I firmly believe there is no freedom like one-bag travel. While others are stressing over where to stow luggage, how to carry it all, or why their checked-in luggage didn’t arrive at the destination, I’m cruising through the airport and to my destination unhindered.
The key to successful one-bag travel is only carrying what you need, and focusing on items that are multi-function.
Me? I need a good multi-band radio.
The CC Skywave SSB is the most comprehensive compact portable I own. It’s truly a “Swiss Army Knife” of a receiver. Here are the bands/features I appreciate:
AM/Mediumwave (9/10 kHz steps selectable)
FM broadcast (with expanded FM range when in 9 kHz step mode)
AIR band (to listen to Air Traffic Control and Air comms)
Weather Radio with alert (this functions brilliantly in the US and Canada)
A proper clock and alarm (that can display in 24 hour time!)
It uses two common AA batteries that can even be internally-recharged if NiMH
It even has a squelch feature for scanning, say, the AIR band
Folks who are regular readers of my posts here have already figured out that I am a big fan of the CCrane Skywave SSB. It is easily the most versatile radio I own, receiving AM (medium wave), FM, shortwave, HF single sideband, NOAA weather stations with alert, and scannable civilian VHF frequencies, and I have written enthusiastically about it here on multiple occasions.
I think of the Skywave SSB as my “anti-boredom machine.” It’s small enough to slide into a shirt or jacket pocket pocket or tuck into any pack. Get stuck waiting in line, whip out the Skywave SSB, plug in a pair of ear buds, and listen to whatever is available.
So when I noticed that a new version of the Skywave SSB – the Skywave SSB 2 – appeared on the first page of the C.Crane 2023 catalog, I was delighted that the folks at C.Crane decided to send one to me. The SSB 2 includes all the goodies of the original, plus a handful of incremental improvements; upgrades include a micro-USB port for external power or charging NiMH batteries, a slightly better speaker, and longer feet on the bottom for better stability.
But the improvement that really makes me grin is a two-fer: first, the inclusion of an external antenna socket on the side of the SSB 2, and, second, the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor for shortwave, which is a 2-wire to mono plug adaptor that plugs right into the external antenna socket. This allows a long wire antenna to be easily hooked up to the SSB 2, and it works like crazy.
Attaching a long wire to the SSB 2 is now really easy. Attach your long wire to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor (you’ll need a small gauge screwdriver; the screws are really small). Next, plug the adaptor into the external antenna socket. You’re done!
I attached a 45-foot end-fed antenna to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor while listening to some hams chatting on 80-meters and found that it delivered an impressive improvement to the signal-to-noise ratio. And when I wanting to hit the road, it was a simple of unplugging the adaptor so the adaptor and wire antenna combo would be waiting when I came back.
The SSB 2 includes a number of useful accessories: the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor, a portable 23-foot CC Shortwave Reel antenna, CC Ear Buds (very comfortable), and a faux leather carrying case (if packing the SSB 2 in your luggage, be sure to press the LOCK button, otherwise you find yourself with a singing suitcase or backpack.).
Bottom line: with the introduction of the Skywave SSB 2, CCrane has taken an excellent, versatile radio and make it even better. Highly recommended for all-round use, but especially as a travel and/or emergency radio.
Note: Jessica from CCrane sent me the following note regarding the SSB 2.
Please note: When using headphones or earbuds there is an easily discernable, but not loud “pop” when switching bands and on memory presets on airband. There is no pop when using the speakers. It will take time to find the hardware and software remedy. It will not be corrected on this first shipment but we are working it and expect it to be reduced on future shipments. The new Skywave SSB-2 was up for a price rise October 2022 but we’re keeping it at $169.99 for now.
For more of my musing regarding the CCrane Skywave SSB, please consult: