Tag Archives: C.Crane

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

Spread the radio love

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.

Spread the radio love

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.

Spread the radio love

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.

Spread the radio love

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:

Spread the radio love

Pacific Island Results from Gary DeBock’s Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

Clearing the southern coastline of Maui en route to the Big Island. (Photo by Gary DeBock)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and intrepid Ultralight DXer, Gary DeBock, who shares this DXpedition summary with recordings:


Kona, Hawaii DXpedition– Pacific Island Results

by Gary DeBock

From December 17-20 a Mini-DXpedition was conducted in Kona, Hawaii with a 5 inch (13cm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna and a 7.5 inch (19cm) loopstick C.Crane Skywave Ultralight radio.

The FSL antenna was a new type designed to easily pass through TSA security checkpoints at airports, and provide inductive coupling gain roughly similar to that of a 4 foot air core box loop. South Pacific island reception was generally good from 0630-0800 UTC daily, but usually became problematic after that when powerful Asian stations tended to drown out the exotic Pacific island stations as sunset progressed over Japan, Korea and China. By 0900 daily only the most powerful Pacific island stations on 621, 846, 1098 and 1440 had much of a chance of surviving the Asian signal onslaught, and even some of those were drowned out. During a similar visit to Kona, Hawaii with identical gear in April (DXing at the same motel) the Pacific island stations were generally stronger, and had no co-channel competition from the Asians from 0800-1030 UTC. As such the South Pacific results during this trip were slightly down from April, although there were still plenty of strong signals to record.

The new 846-Kiribati on Christmas Island was a star performer as the strongest island DU station, with local-like signals shortly after the Hawaiian sunset each evening. Despite this it had an intermittent transmitter cutout issue, with the signal failing to transmit at odd intervals (including one stretch with six signal dropouts within one minute, as documented in an MP3 linked below). In addition 846-Christmas Island’s programming had a variable time delay with that of distant 1440-Kiribati in Tarawa, with both a 19-second and 35 second time delay noted. This may be related to the transmitter cutout issue, with the time delay changing after a major dropout. DXers looking for a parallel with 1440 should keep this programming quirk in mind. Although both 846 and 1440-Kiribati signed off at the usual 0936 UTC time on the first couple days of the trip, they had both switched to a 1009 UTC sign off on the last couple of days. Whether this is a permanent programming change is unknown, but the loud 1000 Hz audio tone is still being broadcast before power is cut, resulting in a very easy way to distinguish the stations at sign off time (even in heavy domestic QRM).

846 and 1440 weren’t the only exotic DU’s with transmitter issues. 621-Tuvalu came down with distorted audio on December 18th, a problem which got worse and worse on the remaining two days. By the last day it was sounding very garbled, making a bizarre combination with 621-Voice of Korea’s buzzing Japanese service transmitter. Whether 621-Tuvalu has repaired its garbled audio is also unknown.

540-2AP was somewhat weaker than it was in April, while 558-Radio Fiji One was MIA during the entire trip (probably because of Asian QRM). Efforts were made to track down 630-Cook Islands but only a weak UnID was recorded. 801-Guam was possibly received during a Pyongyang BS/ Jammer fade, but 990-Fiji Gold was given a golden knockout by 990-Honolulu. 1017-Tonga showed up for a couple of good recordings, but got slammed by Asian co-channels after 0830. Efforts to track down 1035-Solomons ran into heavy 1040-Honolulu splatter, while 1098-Marshalls became the only Pacific island station to have stronger signals than in April. Its overwhelming signals after 0700 daily were one of the bright spots in Pacific island reception. Finally the new 1611-DWNX in Mindanao, Philippines was received at a strong level at 0855 on December 19th, apparently with a major boost from sunset skip propagation.

540 2AP Apia, Samoa, 5 kW Christian worship music at a good level through the T-storms at 0751 on 12-17, but not nearly as strong as in April:

Click here to download audio.

621 R. Tuvalu Funafuti, Tuvalu, 5 kW This station had very strong signals until around 0800 on most evenings, when it usually began to be pestered by Asian QRM (China, N. Korea and NHK1). It also came down with a garbled audio issue on December 18th, which continued to get progressively worse until I left Hawaii. Sign off time is still around 1006, but by that time it ran the gauntlet of powerful Asian co-channels during the December propagation.
Local employment offers read by the usual lady announcer at an S9 level at 0750 on 12-18. This was the last undistorted audio signal recorded from the station during this trip; after this the audio went “south”:

Click here to download audio.

Guest speaker in Japanese-accented English, followed by local island-type music at 0835 on 12-18– the first sign of audio distortion:

Click here to download audio.

Full Radio Tuvalu sign off routine at 1003 on 12-18, but with China QRM initially. Tuvalu’s signal prevails during the national anthem, but the audio distortion is quite noticeable. The carrier apparently stays on for over a minute after the audio stops:

Click here to download audio.

630 UnID While trying for the Cook islands (Rarotonga) I came across this weak Christmas music with English speech at 0742 on 12-17, although this could just as easily be a west coast domestic station playing the “exotic” to fool a hopeful DXer. Walt says this station is a notorious underperformer:

Click here to download audio.

801 UnID (Guam?) Apparent Christian female vocal music received during Pyongyang BS/ Jammer fade at 0931 on 12-18, but no definite ID clues:

Click here to download audio.

846 R. Kiribati Christmas Island, 10 kW This newly rejuvenated station had awesome signals, and was overall the strongest Pacific island station received. Of all the Pacific island DU’s it faded in at the earliest time after sunset, and maintained its strength even during strong Asian propagation — as long as it managed to transmit without its signal dropping out. Unfortunately this seemed to be a pretty common occurrence while I was in Kona. Island-type music at typical S9 strength at 0735 on 12-18:

Click here to download audio.

This segment at 0620 UTC on December 17th features 6 signal dropouts within one minute:

Click here to download audio.

This segment at 0944 UTC on December 18th is even worse– 9 dropouts in 90 seconds:

Click here to download audio.

After a prolonged 846 transmitter dropout it seemed like the programming time delay between the distant 1440-Kiribati on Tarawa Island and the new 846-Kiribati on Christmas Island would change. On December 17th I recorded two different time delays– 19 seconds, as in the following recording (the MP3 starts out on 846 at 0635, switches to 1440 at the 1:02 point, then switches back to 846 at the 1:34 point, with a 19-second time delay evident between the 1440 and 846 programming (846 lags behind):

Click here to download audio.

Later on the same evening there was a 36 second time delay between 1440 and 846, with this MP3 starting off on 1440 at 0645, and switching to 846 at the 11 second point:

Click here to download audio.

1017 A3Z Nuku’alofa, Tonga, 10 kW Female native language speech at a very good level at 0858 on 12-19:

Click here to download audio.

Somewhat weaker through the T-storms on 12-17 at 0734:

Click here to download audio.

1098 R. Marshalls (V7AB) Majuro, Marshall Islands, 25 kW This station was very strong in Kona with its island music every night, and rarely had any Asian co-channels.
S9 Island music and native language speech (and possible ID) across the 0700 TOH on 12-17:

Click here to download audio.

Equally strong island music and native speech at 0813 on 12-18:

Click here to download audio.

1440 R. Kiribati Bairiki, Tarawa, 10 KW Somewhat weaker than its rejuvenated 846-Christmas Island parallel (which has variable programming delay times, as explained above), this home transmitter could hold down the frequency until around 0800 every night, after which it was usually hammered by JOWF in Sapporo. Despite this it often put up a good fight until its new sign off time of 1009, and it continues to use the loud 1000 Hz tone right before the power is cut (an awesome aid for DXers hoping to ID the station through heavy QRM).

Typical island language speech and strength level at 0830 on 12-18, just as it is starting to get jumbled by JOWF (a Japanese female “Sapporo desu” ID is at 25 seconds):

Click here to download audio.

Full sign off routine at 1005 on 12-19, including the National Anthem and the 1000 Hz tone before the power is cut. The tone gets through the JOWF QRM like a DXer’s dream:

Click here to download audio.

1611 DWNX Naga City, Mindanao, Philippines, 10 kW (Thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura, Satoshi Miyauchi and Mauno Ritola for ID help) Received at 0855 on 12-19, this station was a mystery until the Japanese friends matched the advertising format with that of a new, unlisted station which just came on the air in the Philippines. The propagation apparently got a major boost during sunset at the transmitter:

Click here to download audio.

73 and Good DX,
Gary DeBock (DXing at the Royal Kona Motel with a 7.5″ loopstick C.Crane Skywave Ultralight+
5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna.

Demo video of the “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna:

Click here to view demo on YouTube.


Thank you for sharing your Hawaiian DXpedition with us, Gary! Your mediumwave DX catches with modest equipment reminds us all that when HF propagation is poor, there is still so much signal hunting below 2 MHz!

Interested in Ultralight DX? Check out archived posts in our Ultralight DX category.

Spread the radio love

Disappointment when the power comes back on

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, for sharing this column from The Athens News. I’m sure many of us relate to Dennis E. Powell (note this is only an excerpt):

If you lose power at just the right time, it can enrichen your life

This is being written last Monday night.

Several hours after the storms of earlier in the day passed, the sun shining, the birds singing, and all apparently right with the world, the electricity went out. Because there is no cellular telephone service in my part of the county, this necessitated a drive much of the way to Athens to register a report with the power company. The power company’s outage report line is the first entry in my cellular phonebook.

[…]The evening was (and as I write this, is) cool, with a bit of wind passing through the open windows, so there was no panic, as there is when the power disappears in the dead of winter or in the 100-degree summer – both of which I have experienced. But there was no fire to build, no need to think of a reason to drive to town for a few hours in some place air-conditioned.

Instead, I remembered that just a few days ago I had pushed the battery-charge button on one of a couple shortwave radios I have around here, this one a decade-old C. Crane CC Radio SW. It has a big speaker and a pleasant sound, though it’s not the sort of radio you get to dig faint signals out of the mud. It is just right for such an evening as this. So I brought it to the living room, extended its built-in antenna, and fired it up.

Shortwave radio is like Forest Gump’s mama’s box of chocolates, and that’s part of its appeal. Poking around the dial I find some Ohio shortwave amateurs putting on a bit of a panel show, passing the mic metaphorically from one to another. Because they are shortwave amateurs, all they talk about was their shortwave equipment.

The power is out all over the neighborhood, so there is not a single static scratch, no 60-Hz whine of interference. And the ionosphere seems stable, no fading in and out of signals.

Heading up the dial, I find a station in accented but easily understood English. I have to listen for a while before I learn that I am listening to Radio Romania International. That broadcast ended, so I retune and find a cranky man and a cranky woman who are discussing how awful things are and how the only thing you can count on is gold.

Moving along, I find an impassioned man with a deep Southern accent. He, too, is discussing how awful things are – and how they soon will be especially awful for those who put their trust in gold or other things of this world.

There is a broadcast from somewhere – from the accents I’d guess the Caribbean or Africa – that features a man and woman talking spiritedly and sweetly about English idioms.

Now I’m listening to the Argentine national shortwave service, which had a talk program in English though they’ve switched to Argentine music.

[…]I do hope the power comes back. Just not tonight. Tomorrow, maybe. Or the next day.

(Note: Just as I set this to email itself eventually to the Athens NEWS, minutes after I was done writing, the power came back on. And it really was a little disappointing.)

Read this full story via The Athens News online…

Spread the radio love