Tag Archives: C.Crane

Reviewing a pilot C.Crane CC Wifi 3 and taking a closer look at radio station aggregators

In January 2021, C.Crane announced the latest addition to their radio line-up: the C.Crane CC WiFi-3.

C.Crane was one of the first radio manufacturers that embraced the world of Internet radio with their CC WiFi product line.

The WiFi-3 is the latest iteration and offers the following upgrades over previous models:

  • This radio uses the Skytune radio station aggregator
  • Faster boot-up, connection, and response times
  • Can be powered from a common USB source or the supplied AC adapter
  • Enhanced audio EQ settings
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Ability to add station streams manually

Before we dig into the CC WiFi-3, however, let’s first take a step back and talk about the current state of WiFi radios in general. This is an important consideration with any WiFi radio purchase these days.

WiFi radios: the pros and cons

Those of us who like WiFi radios appreciate a dedicated device that gives us the tactile experience of turning the knobs of a radio. We appreciate the simplicity of a dedicated listening device that doesn’t rely on a connected computer, tablet, or phone. In addition, most WiFi radios like the CC WiFi-3 don’t track your listening activity/habits like many internet radio listening apps and digital assistants do. They also don’t force feed you click-through ads.

But let’s face it: any of us who own Internet or WiFi Radios have had a rough couple of years. While WiFi radios can open the door to tens of thousands of radio stations across the globe, they do have an Achilles’ heel.

 Internet radio station aggregators

WiFi radios are Internet appliances with the ability to stream Internet content, but they’re not endowed with the ability to seek out stations in the wild and import their audio streams. WiFi radios rely on “aggregators,” or online databases of curated links to radio stations.

In the early days of WiFi radio, there were several models of radios on the market that linked to proprietary/niche aggregators, many of which eventually closed down without warning. When a WiFi radio loses its ability to link to an aggregator, it becomes no more than a pricey paperweight, especially if the WiFi radio doesn’t have traditional AM/FM reception as a backup or a back-end means to program radio station stream URLs directly.

Over the past two years, some of the major radio station aggregators have experienced issues that have truly frustrated their users. Most notably:

With this aggravating aggregator history, why would anyone want to invest their money in another WiFi radio? Let’s take a closer look at this new device from C.Crane so you can decide.

The new C.Crane CC WiFi-3

When C.Crane introduced the CC Wifi 3, they acknowledged the inherent issues with WiFi radios and how the Reciva closure affected their customers up-front. Here’s a statement they released:

We were happy to be one of first companies to offer ad-free Internet radio because it allowed anyone to listen to the world without a fee. Fifteen years ago, Ben, the founder of Reciva, had a small staff to create the software and volunteers around the world to help manage the station streams. We are sorry, but Reciva’s software will soon not work anymore. The software would need to be recreated from scratch. Even If this was done, it would not be possible for the existing radios to be compatible with this new type of software. This is the same way Apple and Microsoft might release a new operating system that is not compatible with older hardware.

We are working on a new radio called the CC WiFi-3. We will be testing the first pilot run of the new CC WiFi-3 in January with the first delivery by April if all goes reasonably well. There are still no ads or graphics to annoy you and nobody tracks your habits for advertising offers. It looks almost the same as the previous CC WiFi but has been upgraded in several ways:

  1. It uses a new 3rd party stream provider called Skytune.
  2. You can add your own streams (URLs) yourself so you are somewhat protected if the service fails for any reason.
  3. It is a little easier to use and it has a good built-in equalizer available.
  4. This radio comes with a 2 year limited warranty.

[…]The CC WiFi-3 comes with the risk of losing connection to Skytune’s server if they were to shut down in the future. As we have previously documented in our catalog and on the web: C. Crane has no control over content or the stream provider for Internet radios and cannot be responsible for Internet radio programs or availability.

I love this about C.Crane: they’re honest and transparent with their customers even during a new product release.

In January (2021), C.Crane sent me a pilot run, pre-production CC WiFi-3 for review and a thorough evaluation at no cost to me. Of course, I don’t typically share reviews of pre-production radios, but in this case, I believe the production model should function identically–or perhaps better–than my pilot model. I’m not concerned with variations in receiver sensitivity, selectivity, filtering, AGC, and noise floors as I would with a legacy receiver.

At first blush, the CC Wifi-3 could be mistaken for the CC WiFi-2. Other than the prominent model number, it has an identical form-factor and interface. Inside, though, there have been a number of updates we’ve already mentioned.

Getting started

First thing I did, of course, was connect the CC WiFi-3 to the internet. It was a pretty simple process to go into the settings, have the radio find my WiFi service, and input the network password. If you have a long or complicated password, allow a few minutes to do this as the input method is character-by-character using the main front panel knob.

Once connected, the radio has access to the new Skytune aggregator to search for radio station streams. I’m familiar with Skytune because they are the aggregator also used by my recently reviewed Ocean Digital radio. I like how Skytune organizes their database allowing users to search by by location/region, popularity, genre, etc. I found most of the stations I enjoy in short order.

If Skytune doesn’t have the station you’re looking for, they make it easy to suggest an addition via their website.

Adding presets

Adding Presets couldn’t be any easier. I’ve been using the most simple method: finding a station, then pressing and holding the PRESET button. This will save the radio station to the next available preset with more than 100 slots available.

Directly adding stream URLs

As C.Crane mentioned in their statement, even if the Skytune aggregator were to shut down in the future, the CC WiFi-3 makes it relatively easy to directly add your own streams by logging into the radio from a web browser.

First, make sure you’re using a computing device that is connected to the same WiFi network as the CC WiFi-3.

Secondly, find the IP address of your CC Wifi-3 by pressing the HOME button, then selecting SETTINGS -> INFORMATION -> NETWORK INFORMATION -> IP: (immediately below the signal strength information).

Note the IP address. Mine is currently 172.20.10.5 but yours will likely be a different number.

Next, open a web browser and in the URL bar, type in the IP address of your CC WiFi-3 radio and press Enter:

Your web browser will then load a page served up by your radio’s CPU (allow time for it to load):

From this page you can add, organize, and label your station presets manually.

The CC WiFi-3 owner’s manual actually gives you hints about how to find URLs for radio stations. There’s certainly an art to it.

First thing I did, in fact, was add one of my favorite AM radio stations (WAIZ) to the WiFi-3 directly by finding their main and backup stream URLs and adding them manually via the presets page. This instantaneously added them to the WiFi-3 presets:

This pleases me to no end because I’ve never been able to play WAIZ from one of my WiFi radios.

From the presets web page you can also control some basic radio functionality like volume up/down, mute on/off, and channel selection.

While this isn’t quite as handy as a dedicated app, I like the fact that I can load this presets page from my phone, tablet, PC, Mac, or Linux box. It’s universal and simple.

Bluetooth

I’m happy C.Crane added Bluetooth to the CC WiFi-3 because it makes this already capable radio even more useful.  As I write this portion of the review, in fact, I’m listening to music from YouTube via my MacBook Air streaming to the CC WiFi-3 via Bluetooth. Handy!

Audio

I prefer the audio from the CC WiFi-3 over previous models. It’s balanced and has hints of bass and treble. It is robust enough to fill a sizeable room with audio.

It isn’t anything that would impress my audiophile brother-in-law because, in the end, the speaker and enclosure are not very large. It does reproduce voice and music with ample fidelity for casual listening, however.

You can tailor the audio with 12 EQ settings included in the WiFi-3 settings menu. I like the Jazz preset.

In addition, the CC WiFi-3 has a line-out and headphone jack that makes it easy to export audio to a component stereo system or amplified speaker system. (Note above the “Not For Resale” label on the back of this pilot/pre-production unit.)

Remote control

The CC WiFi-3 also ships with an excellent full-size remote control. I love how much functionality this remote offers, making it much easier to navigate and control the radio from across the room. I also much prefer the form factor of this remote compared with the small credit card-sized remotes with membrane buttons.

Summary

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here are the notes I made for the CC WiFi-3 pre-production/pilot model:

Pros:

  • Ability to input streaming stations manually via a simple web browser interface
  • Best in class WiFi reception via a dedicated antenna
  • Input power is 5VDC meaning, you can use the supplied USB cable to plug into any USB power source, or you can use the supplied dedicated wall wart power supply. C.Crane includes both.
  • Audio EQ can be tailored
  • Included remote control (full size!)
  • Backed by C.Crane 2 year warranty and 30 day satisfaction guarantee
  • Line out and headphone ports
  • Bluetooth

Cons:

  • No battery power option (Pro: can use a 5VDC USB power bank)
  • Backlit screen is small and can be difficult to read at a distance
  • No dedicated iOS or Android control application (Pro: remote control)
  • As with any WiFi radio, dependent on a station aggregator for easy radio station searches

Should you purchase the CC WiFi-3?

If you’re not intimidated by the “aggregator aggravation” we mentioned early in this article, I would suggest you give the CC WiFi-3 a try. Since the WiFi-3 offers easy, open access to add your station streams manually, you always have a backup if, for instance, the Skytune service  were to unexpectedly close down in the distant future.

For $119.99 US, you’ll be purchasing a radio from a company that takes care of their customers.

Indeed, C.Crane was so upset by the unexpected closure of Reciva, they have offered their existing CC WiFi customers the following options:

This is a one-time offer from C. Crane. This offer will end June 1, 2021.

    1. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is under the 1 year limited warranty, contact us for the available options.
    2. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is no longer under warranty, the CC WiFi-3 is available for half price – $60.00 USD plus shipping. You must fill out the form (click here) and include a picture of your serial number(s). Instructions are included on the form for how to locate your serial number. If you need help with this, please contact us. You will be contacted once we receive our shipment to get payment information and to confirm your address.

To my knowledge, no other radio manufacturer or retailer has made an offer like this to compensate for the loss of the Reciva service. Kudos to C.Crane for giving their customers options and discounts.

C.Crane expects to have the CC WiFi-3 in stock and shipping in June 2021. We’ll post updates on the SWLing Post when they become available.

Click here to check out the CC WiFi-3 at the C.Crane website.

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New CC WiFi-3: C.Crane offers discount to CC WiFi customers after demise of Reciva aggregator

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who notes the following announcement on C.Crane’s website:

We were happy to be one of first companies to offer ad-free Internet radio because it allowed anyone to listen to the world without a fee. Fifteen years ago, Ben, the founder of Reciva, had a small staff to create the software and volunteers around the world to help manage the station streams. We are sorry, but Reciva’s software will soon not work anymore. The software would need to be recreated from scratch. Even If this was done, it would not be possible for the existing radios to be compatible with this new type of software. This is the same way Apple and Microsoft might release a new operating system that is not compatible with older hardware.

We are working on a new radio called the CC WiFi-3. We will be testing the first pilot run of the new CC WiFi-3 in January with the first delivery by April if all goes reasonably well. There are still no ads or graphics to annoy you and nobody tracks your habits for advertising offers. It looks almost the same as the previous CC WiFi but has been upgraded in several ways:

  1. It uses a new 3rd party stream provider called Skytune.
  2. You can add your own streams (URLs) yourself so you are somewhat protected if the service fails for any reason.
  3. It is a little easier to use and it has a good built-in equalizer available.
  4. This radio comes with a 2 year limited warranty.

Anyone can add a valid stream to Skytune. This makes the platform very different from smart speakers that do track your habits and make recurring income. There is no recurring income for C. Crane just like with Reciva and the CC WiFi. The only income is the initial hardware purchase which includes the use of Skytune’s technology embedded on a chip.

If you feel comfortable going forward please read our offer.

This is a one-time offer from C. Crane. This offer will end June 1, 2021.

  1. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is under the 1 year limited warranty, contact us for the available options.
  2. If you have purchased a CC WiFi and it is no longer under warranty, the CC WiFi-3 is available for half price – $60.00 USD plus shipping. You must fill out the form (click here) and include a picture of your serial number(s). Instructions are included on the form for how to locate your serial number. If you need help with this, please contact us. You will be contacted once we receive our shipment to get payment information and to confirm your address.

The CC WiFi-3 comes with the risk of losing connection to Skytune’s server if they were to shut down in the future. As we have previously documented in our catalog and on the web: C. Crane has no control over content or the stream provider for Internet radios and cannot be responsible for Internet radio programs or availability.

We think the CC WiFi-3 is a remarkable radio for listening to a clear signal from your favorite station and for discovering new stations. You can go to Skytune.com, click on the “Radio” header to be sure they carry your favorite station or host.

Note: Saving your own list of streaming stations for use takes some computer knowledge. Many of your big streamers block or change the URL daily so you cannot save it. As usual, you have C. Crane’s US Based customer service to help you with any questions about the operation of the CC WiFi-3.

A number of us have been frustrated discovering that the Reciva aggregator, which is the backbone for so many WiFi radios, will shut down by the end of April 2021. While I’m sure many of us are now leery of investing in a new WiFi radio, I love how 1.) C.Crane is offering a 50% discount to existing customers and 2.) are being up-front about the risks of WiFi radios relying on aggregator services.

I’ve been using the Skytune service on my Ocean Digital radio and have been very pleased. I’m pleased to hear the new CC WiFi-3 has an option to manually load Internet radio streams if needed.

Thanks, Ron, for sharing this tip!

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A first look at the new C.Crane CCRadio Solar portable self-powered AM/FM/Weather radio

I remember when I first laid hands on a self-powered portable radio. It was the Baygen FPR1 designed by the amazing Trevor Bayliss. The FPR1 was a large portable radio with a black plastic body, large front-facing speaker, and large hand crank on the side. It was a clockwork radio, meaning you’d use the hand crank to wind up an internal spring that would slowly release and provide enough dynamo power to bring the radio to life for a few minutes at a time.

The FRP1 had a very utilitarian feel to it and was incredibly basic.

After the introduction of the FRP1, radio manufacturers jumped on self-powered radio technology and we’ve seen many different designs and iterations on the market for nearly two decades.

Introducing the C.Crane CCRadio Solar

Back in October 2020, C.Crane sent me a pre-production sample of the CCRadio Solar to evaluate. This was before C.Crane had published their new print catalog that features the CCRadio Solar on the cover, so I really had no idea what to expect. I assumed it might be a refreshed version of the CC Solar Observer.

Man…was I wrong!

Most self-powered radios these days either look like a flashlight, a portable analog radio, or they sport “high tech” styling (like the FRX3).

I can honestly say that the CCRadio Solar is the first self-powered radio that my wife actually welcomed into our kitchen!

 

This is a huge.

Out of all of the radios I’ve owned or tested over the years, my wife only tolerated their temporary presence in our living spaces.

There have been a few notable exceptions:

The CCRadio Solar’s design is very simple and clean.

The radio body measures 6″ x 3″ x 2.25″ and weighs about one pound. It’s easy to hold in your hand, but is also incredibly stable on a surface due to its low center of gravity, flat base, and UV-resistant rubber perimeter/jacket. (Note that the rubber jacket is in no way associated with rubberized coatings found on legacy portables that could break down over time and become sticky.)

I can place the CCRadio Solar in a window sill and not worry about it getting accidently knocked off.

On the top of the radio, there’s a large built-in solar panel, power button, flashlight button, and band button (to toggle between FM, AM, and WX radio).

The solar panel is large for a radio of this size.

On the back, you’ll find a fold-out hand crank and battery compartment for the internal Lithium-ion rechargeable battery and optional three AA cells. Yes, this radio can be powered from standard AA batteries!

On the right side of the radio, you’ll find the volume control and a cover that protects the headphones, micro USB charging port, USB power-out port, Aux In port, and a mechanical switch that allows you to toggle between Li-Ion and AA batteries.

On the left side of the radio you’ll find the attachment point for the supplied hand carry strap (I haven’t attached mine), and the built-in LED flashlight.

CCRadio Solar features at a glance

  • Multiple power options:
    • Solar
    • Windup
    • USB
    • AA Batteries
  • Multiple bands
    • AM
    • FM
    • Weather radio with an alert alarm
  • Auxiliary input allows you to use it as an amplified speaker
  • Five one touch memory buttons with a total of 50 presets
  • Clock
  • Alarm
  • Sleep timer
  • Rubber jacket is UV resistant

Impressions

This CCRadio Solar is a pre-production model and it’s my personal policy to not comment in detail about performance as this model comes from a very limited pilot production run.

Here’s what I can say…

This is one of the first solar radios I’ve ever used that actually works as a daily driver.

Since I took delivery of the CCRadio Solar, it’s primarily lived on our kitchen window sill. This window faces due south, so the CCRadio Solar gets ample opportunity to take advantage of solar charging.

I like to listen to the news when I cook, so the CCRadio Solar gets daily use. I’ve used it to listen to both my local NPR station and my “benchmark” distant NPR station on FM. I’ve also programmed a preset for my favorite daytime AM station which is a good 25 miles from my home.

This prototype, at least, shows promise in terms of its ability to receive distant stations with a great deal of stability.

Solar chops

Last week, I realized that I’ve never had to charge the CCRadio Solar via the micro USB port. I’ve been using it since October for up to a couple hours a day–the solar gain from our kitchen window has easily kept the battery topped off!

I wanted to test this further, so a few days ago I moved the CCRadio Solar to another south-facing window in our living room area. I hooked it up to our SiriusXM receiver via the CCRadio Solar’s AUX IN port. (FYI: when you insert an AUX IN source, the radio automatically switches to auxiliary input.)  This SiriusXM receiver is typically paired with my CCRadio3 and plays a variety of stations throughout the day for hours at a time–sometimes from early in the morning until the early evening.

The CCRadio Solar has been doing a brilliant job of playing all day long just on solar power and at a volume level that is room-filling, though not too loud to be distracting. Most impressive!

I should mention here that the built-in speaker provides (surprisingly) pleasant room-filling audio. The audio isn’t as robust as, say, my CCRadio3 or KLH–obviously–but it’s good enough that my wife has suggested we start using the CCRadio Solar as the speaker for our SiriusXM receiver because it’s powered by the sun instead of the power grid. I’m in agreement with her: it works.

There are a couple of caveats here:

  • First of all, we’ve been having mostly sunny or partly cloudy days since I started running the radio all day long and
  • secondly, our home is passive solar so our south-facing windows, by design, do not have “Low-E” coatings that block UV rays.

I’m not sure if Low-E coatings affect solar panel performance, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

Summary

If this prototype CCRadio Solar is any indication of how the production units will operate–and, in theory, it should be–I think the CCRadio Solar will become a very popular radio in the C.Crane product line.

At time of posting, there is no product page for the CCRadio Solar on the C.Crane website. When they do add it, it should appear on their Emergency Radios page.

I believe the price is projected to be $99.99 US–which is on the high side of the self-powered radio market–but if the production units function as well as this prototype I think it’ll be worth it.

I believe C.Crane hopes to start shipping the CCRadio Solar sometime in the first quater of 2021. Since we’re still coping with all of the logistics issues of the Covid-19 pandemic, assume that date could change. I’ll continue to provide updates here in the SWLing Post. Just follow the tag: CCRadio Solar

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Radio Deals: C.Crane Cyber Monday Sale

I just received an announcement from C.Crane noting that their Cyber Monday sale discounts everything in their catalog by 10%. If you’ve been considering one of their radios or accessories, today is a great day to pull the trigger. It’s rare that C.Crane discounts are lower than 10%.

Click here to check out C.Crane’s Cyber Monday Sale.

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Matt’s mediumwave audio comparison of the C.Crane Radio 2E and the Potomac Instruments FIM-41

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, who writes:

I did another head-to-head receiver comparison, this time of two MW BCB AM portables: The C.Crane Radio 2/e vs. the Potomac Instruments FIM-41 field intensity meter.

The latter is not intended as a receiver, but rather a test instrument, but it turns out to be the among most sensitive MW receivers I’ve ever used. So I thought it would be interesting to compare its performance with that of a well-regarded modern portable.

Audio Comparison:

Our two contenders with comparable portable radios: the GE Super Radio, Panasonic RF-2200, and Sony ICF-EX5MK2.

Another brilliant audio comparison, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together! I actually believe audio comparisons, as you’ve set them up, are a fantastic way of sharing A/B comparisons.

Click here to check out all of Matt’s receiver audio comparisons.

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Radio Deal: C.Crane Orphans sale

I just received a newsletter from C.Crane noting that they’re having an “Orphan” sale today (17 January 2020).

“Orphans” are C.Crane returns and open box items that have been tested and evaluated by C.Crane. Orphans are sold at a discount and carry a full 60 day warranty. I’ve purchased a number of Orphan items in the past and have never received a dud.

One of the best deals I see in their list of Orphans is the CC Skywave SSB for $119.99–the lowest price I’ve seen for this particular unit.

Click here to check out other C.Crane items.

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The new C.Crane catalog cover

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

SWLing Post readers might enjoy your reporting about the brilliant
cover of the new 2020 C.Crane catalog. Have you seen it? I think
you’d agree it’s brilliant:

Here’s Bob Crane’s message about the cover:

This year our catalog cover is based on one of the most famous TV
commercials of all time. It was the day Apple® announced Macintosh
computers during the 1984 Superbowl. . . the first iPhone® was released in
2007. Now that we are all significantly attached to our brilliant pocket phones,
maybe it’s gone too far? As a tool the Internet is hyper-revolutionary, but the
pace of incoming polar information is intense and beyond anyone’s faculty to
follow. . . radio is far less invasive and does not know who you are.
Radio continues to ring a big bell with a surprising percentage of dedicated
listeners by reaching more people every week than any other media type. We
all need reflective time to rediscover who we are. While a cell phone demands
your focus, the simplicity of radio sparks creativity, regardless of the signal
source. Walking, gardening or any activity that does not require conscious
attention allows you to mentally focus on a specific problem to gain wisdom
and promote insight. We are here to support you in your resistance to
distraction with great radio products . . . including Internet radio. Please peruse
our custom radios and earphones to see if one rings a bell with you.
It has become important to have WiFi available in every corner of your house
and property including a guest house, greenhouse, barn or a garden. While
inexpensive repeaters work in most circumstances, please check out our
extended range WiFi repeaters to create a new WiFi zone up to 1/2 mile away.
. . we love making weak signals strong and bringing radio everywhere YOU
want to go.

Click here to check out the new C.Crane catalog (PDF).

Thank you for sharing this, Ed. I agree–I think this is a brilliant cover! If you’d like to see the 1984 commercial that inspired this design, click here to view on YouTube or watch below:

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