Tag Archives: CR-1a

Ray compares his JRC NRD-515 and CommRadio CR-1a


SWLing Post reader, Ray (WB8VDS) recently commented:

“I have continued to run A/B comparisons between my CR-1a and an NRD-515. Digital to Analog competition.

My NRD-515 has been a station favorite for many years. I find the two radios are pretty much equal in terms of performance. Sensitivity between the two are even. The wide range of BW filter options on the CR-1a are a real plus. My 515 has the stock 2.4 mechanical and the 500 hz cw filter.

The CR-1a with the portability, long battery life and internal speaker makes this one awesome receiver. I plan to use this radio when camping and recharging via a small solar panel should be a snap. A small QRP transmitter with T/R switching is the works.

I was really blown away by receiving an email from the president of Comm Radio concerning feedback I left on their website.

Big performance in a small package. 5/5+”

Thanks for your comment, Ray! Wow–The JRC NRD-515 is a classic. It’s great to hear that the CommRadio CR-1a stacks up so well against this benchmark.

Like you, I love the portability of the CR-1/CR-1a line. The internal battery powers it for hours at a time. I’ve hinted to CommRadio that they should design a small companion transmitter for portable QRP–link the two together and that would be one cool piece of kit!

CommRadio CR-1: a superb travel radio

The CommRadio CR-1 in Taos, New Mexico

The CommRadio CR-1 in Taos, New Mexico

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve been on the road for the past three weeks, and have enjoyed some quality radio time in New Mexico and Colorado. While I brought four portables along (the CommRadio CR-1, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, the Tecsun PL-380, and the Tecsun R1212A), when conditions were favorable and I wanted to chase a little DX, I chose the CommRadio CR-1.

I’ve sung the praises of the CR-1 as a great travel radio in the past, when it accompanied me on several shorter trips, but this particular road trip afforded me some quality time with this little rig.

What makes the CR-1 such a great radio for travel?

  • Excellent sensitivity and selectivity
  • Wide frequency coverage (150 kHz – 30.000 MHz, 64.0 – 260.0 MHz, 437.0 – 512.0 MHz)
  • Internal battery powers the CR-1 for hours at a time (meets FAA regulations, too; you can pack it and fly with confidence)
  • Charge or power the radio from a generic phone USB charger or 12 V power supply (indeed, the CR-1 can be powered from a variety of sources–anything from 6-18 Volts)
  • Mil Spec tested and tough
  • Compact footprint; this one is as small as most shortwave portables
  • Lightweight
  • OLED display that works from a variety of viewing angles
  • Resin feet can even be removed if packing space is severely limited
  • Very quick to deploy

The CR-1, hooked up to my Zoom H2N digital recorder,  on the balcony of our Keystone, Colorado condo

One con of the CR-1 is that its front panel function buttons are not backlit. Fortunately, there are only six buttons, so it was easy to commit them to memory: I did so much outdoor nighttime listening, I can now operate the CR-1 in the dark.

Although the CR-1 is basically a tabletop SDR, it reminds me very much of the Palstar R30C I once owned and Lowe receivers I’ve used in the past–simple and effective.

The photo at the top of the post was taken in the back garden of a friends’ home in Taos, NM. Though you can’t see this in the photo, it was hooked up to a Par Electronics EF-SWL wire antenna at the time. It took five or so minutes to hang the EF-SWL in a tree, but took me only a few seconds to pull the CR-1 from a small flight case, plug in the antenna, and have it on the air. I charged the CR-1 prior to the trip so I didn’t even need a power supply. In fact, the internal battery powers the CR-1 long enough, I only charged it perhaps twice on the whole trip.

A flight case I purchased for $3 at a charity store holds the CR-1, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR and the Tecsun PL-380. The case is pretty much bullet proof and protects its contents even if dropped or heavy items placed on top.

A flight case I purchased for $3 at a charity store holds the CR-1, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR and the Tecsun PL-380. This  case is fairly bullet-proof, protecting the contents even if dropped or heavy items are placed on it.

 The CommRadio CR-1a

CommRadio recently introduced the CR-1a, identical to the CR-1 in every respect but with the addition of a USB I/Q output, making it a very capable SDR when connected to a PC–and simplifying the update process to one step (the CR-1 requires two steps).

In conclusion? My appreciation for this rig has grown.  If you’re searching for a capable travel receiver, certainly consider adding the CommRadio CR-1 or the CR-1a to your list of considerations.

CommRadio introduces the CR-1a


Many thanks to Dave Zantow (N9EWO) for apprising me of an update to the CommRadio line: the new CommRadio CR-1a.

Based on information published by CommRadio, it appears that the main difference is a change to the USB hardware which has been improved to provide:

  • Digital I-Q (for third-party SDR developers), and
  • One-step user programming (versus two-step with the CR-1).

Other differences are minor, and primarily cosmetic: for example, the CR-1a OLED display is now amber instead of green. Also, the CR-1a lacks the 1/8” HF antenna jack found on the CR-1 (CommRadio notes that the HF-BNC jack is superior).

Software updates and RF-analog DSP architecture are identical to the original CommRadio CR-1.

To me, the USB update is significant in that it results in the CR-1a’s ability to export IQ data via a USB cable.

This could make the CR-1a a very versatile and portable stand-alone or computer-linked SDR. Better yet, it can even be battery powered: the only SDR I know of with this feature.

For more details, check out CommRadio’s website.