Tag Archives: Shortwave Portables

The CC Skywave SSB: Is C.Crane developing a Holy Grail travel radio?

Earlier today, intrepid SWLing Post contributor, Cap Tux, spotted an interesting link on Google when he searched for “C.Crane Skywave SSB”:

Turns out, it’s a product sheet for a new C.Crane radio: the CC Skywave SSB. Ther is no mention of this radio on C.Crane’s website yet. Here’s a screenshot:

Yes, C.Crane has obviously listened to our feedback and has developed a version of the Skywave with SSB mode–! Based on the product sheet, the CC Skywave SSB has all of the features of the original Skywave as well. That’s a plus because I love the NOAA weather radio functionality and the aviation band, especially when traveling.

If the Skywave SSB performs well, and the price point is decent, I think it might become one of the most popular shortwave portables currently on the market.

Why?

Well, for one, I’m a huge fan of the original CC Skywave (check out my review from 2014). It’s compact, feature-rich and has brilliant performance for a very compact travel radio. It’s a brilliant piece of kit for us one-bag travellers. The only glaring omission with the original Skywave was SSB mode, but at the time I believe DSP chips simply couldn’t implement this functionality.

Similarity to the Digitech AR-1780?

The Digitech AR-1780

In terms of size, the side-mounted encoder and some key placement, the CC Skywave SSB resembles the Digitech AR-1780 I ordered yesterday. The overall chassis design and display, however, are quite different.

I wouldn’t be surprised if both the AR-1780 and the Skywave SSB are built on the same DSP chip.

Will they have similar performance? I doubt it.

If you recall, when the original CC Skywave was first announced, we radio geeks noticed a striking resemblance to the Digitech AR-1733. Fortunately, the Skywave was far superior in terms of performance. I made the following note in my Skywave review:

“But I was concerned a few months ago when I noted the similarity between the CC Skywave and the poorly-reviewed Digitech AR1733, sold in Australia/New Zealand by Jaycar.

Fortunately, it’s clear that C. Crane noticed the shortcomings of the AR1733 and has modified the Skywave’s design and firmware accordingly, which may account for the delayed roll-out of the CC Skywave. Obviously, the Skywave’s ACG circuit has been tweaked to cope with medium wave and shortwave listening, since a poor ACG circuit is one of the shortcomings of the AR1733. But, if so, wow…what a tweak.”

I know the crew at C.Crane and I can confirm that they do their own product development. Their team consists of proper radio enthusiasts and ham radio operators who work directly the engineers. This is why C.Crane never releases products with serious receiver flaws like other manufacturers have in the past.

A CC Skywave SSB review?

 

You bet!

As soon as I can get my hands on the CC Skywave SSB, I’ll share updates here on the SWLing Post. Just follow the tag: CC Skywave SSB.

You might have noticed that my expectations are pretty high for the CC Skywave SSB, so I hope I’m not disappointed when I do the review.

In the past decade, there have been very few full-featured, ultra-compact travel radios with SSB introduced to the market. There is, of course, the CountyComm GP5-SSB, but it lacks a direct entry keypad, aviation coverage and NOAA weather radio. There is also the discontinued Grundig G6, but it too lacks NOAA weather radio and SSB operation was pretty basic (let’s not forget the G6 was also a “sticky radio”).

The CC Skywave SSB could be a Holy Grail travel radio, if it lives up to expectations.

At this point, of course, I have no idea when this little radio will hit the market. We can assume, though, that C.Crane will do their best to ship it prior to the 2017 Christmas shopping season.

Stay tuned! And thanks for the tip, Cap!

Swiss Army Knife radios: Dave plugs the discontinued Kaito KA1121

On the topic of “Swiss Army Knife” shortwave portables, many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who adds:

Since the KA1121 was referenced in a comment on your blog today, [my review is] now located at: http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/de1121.html

Sadly the set is no longer manufactured either as the Kaito KA1121 or the Degen DE1121 (the actual manufacture version) and has not been in sometime.

Near impossible to find one on the used market properly working now. But I must say it’s STILL as close as one can come to from a Swiss army knife portable SW radio even today, so be it a bit weird to operate and understand.

Makes decent off air 128 kbps recordings and in actual MP3 format. Dual conversion, excellent selectivity, 2 bandwidth filters and fairly decent SSB. Dynamic range not too shabby either. Alpha tags on memories that are PC programmable via a formatted text file.

Caveats are a very poor reliability record (2 of my test samples over the years have gone to radio heaven / parts), the strange MP3 unit battery (this likes to totally fail, especially if abused) and oh we can’t forget the sticky cabinet syndrome and that has hit all of them by now.

In our case we carefully removed this goo with 91% isopropyl alcohol and little elbow grease. We still have 2 in active use at our QTH and “still” love them bugs and all.

73 and many thanks
Dave Zantow N9EWO

Thank you, Dave!  Yes, the ‘1121 is also a choice radio for many Shortwave Archive contributors. Indeed, one of our contributors has snagged fantastic DX off of her DE1121. Click here to browse her recordings.

I created an eBay search for the DE1121/KA1121 some time ago, thinking I would snag one if it popped up. Turns out, you’re right about scarcity, Dave–at the moment, there are only two units, both of which are missing the MP3 bit. Of course, as with anything else on eBay, new units could pop up at any time.

Click here to search eBay for the Kaito KA1121 and Degen DE1121.

David seeks a feature-packed “Swiss Army Knife” portable

The CC Skywave

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David, who writes with the following inquiry:

I really enjoy the SWLing site. It’s great and you guys have such good reviews and information!

I’m looking for a radio and one thing I have not seen on the site is a “features” type breakdown when you could limit the radios by the features you’re looking for. Maybe I missed it???

I’m looking for a portable radio (option to run on batteries, rechargeable, etc.) that has SW/AM/FM and the NOAA bands (perk if it has SAME) and has an Aux In so I can play music from my phone/whatever on it.

This will be a radio that I can take camping, to parks, have in the car for trips, gatherings, etc. I’d like it to have enough speaker that music is enjoyable, but not such a large form factor that it’s impossible/silly to lug around when needed.

Does such a thing exist!? Any recommendations? Thanks so much.

Good questions, David! I like your suggestion about a master feature list for comparing portables. If I have the time someday, I might try to put something like this together (else, perhaps, a Post contributor can volunteer for the job?).

To answer your question…

You’re certainly looking for a “Swiss Army Knife” of a radio. The only model that comes to mind is the C.Crane CC Skywave. I published a full review of the Skywave a couple years ago and can whole-heartedly recommend it. (Click here to browse our archive of Skywave posts.)

The C.Crane CC Skywave

The Skywave ticks every box on your feature list–it is even capable of SAME weather alerts! It’s also an excellent performer and my favorite compact travel radio that’s currently in production.

The only item missing on the Skywave is an audio AUX-in port, but I can’t think of any other radio on the market that comes closer to meeting your wish list than the Skywave.

SWLing Post readers: Perhaps you can help? Please comment if you can recommend a portable that meets all of David’s criteria. I may very well have overlooked a model. Obviously, the two features that make this search more challenging are weather radio and an an AUX-in port. Please comment with your suggestions!

Shortwave portables that are PC-programmable?

Tecsun-PL-680-MW

SWLing Post reader, Mark, recently contact me with the following question:

“What portable shortwave radios under $300 have an option to have their memories programmed using a computer?”

I replied to Mark that I can’t think of a single shortwave portable that can be programmed via computer–at least, not a “typical” portable radio like a Sony, Sangean, Tecsun, Degen, or Redsun.

Yaesu-VX-3R

The Yaesu VX-3R HT tuned to the AM broadcast band.

I may be wrong, however, so please comment if you can help Mark identify a model.

I am aware of portable wideband communications receivers/transceivers that cover the shortwave bands: handhelds like the Icom-IC-R6, Icom IC-R20, Yaesu VX-3R, AOR AR8200 Mark III B and Kenwood TH-F6A.

Wideband handhelds are more akin to a scanner, though, and typically shortwave sensitivity is simply not on par with a dedicated shortwave portable. The AOR AR8200 Mark III B  ($700+) and discontinued Icom IC-R20  may be a couple of exceptions.

Please comment if you can help Mark with his quest.

The new Sangean ATS-405 shortwave portable

Sangean-ATS-405[UPDATE: Click here for a full review of the Sangean ATS-405]

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Hyde, who reports that Sangean has a new travel radio on the market: the Sangean ATS-405.

Aaron writes:

“While looking around the internet today, I came across a new DSP shortwave radio called the Sangean ATS 405. The 405 looks a lot like its 404 predecessor except that it includes 3 bandwidths, 148 memories, a squelch control and comes along with some other interesting features.”

The ATS-405 came as very much a (welcome) surprise to me as Sangean hasn’t introduced a new shortwave radio in years. This radio is obviously based on a DSP chip and has three selectable bandwidths–I hope its AGC circuit is well suited for weak DX. I am a little disappointed the ATS-405 doesn’t have a tuning wheel. Still, I hope this will be a winner.

The ATS-405 owner’s manual (download here) lists the following features:

  • Full shortwave 14 meter bands
  • Five tuning methods-direct frequency access, auto scan, manual tuning, memory recall and rotary tuning
  • ATS (Auto Tuning System)-auto scan and preset stations
  • Shortwave meter band selection
  • 148 station presets
  • 2 alarm timers by buzzer and radio
  • Real time clock
  • Adjustable sleep timer
  • Tone control (Music/Normal/News)
  • 1 kHz fine tuning
  • Squelch function adjusts the receiving threshold and eliminate weak transmissions
  • Easy to read LCD display with backlight
  • Eco-friendly recharging function with LED indicator
  • Stereo/mono switch

I will plan to purchase an ATS-405 in the near future and review it in due time. Please comment with your impressions if you’ve purchased one!

The Sangean ATS-405 is available from the following sellers from $89.00 to 95.00 US:

Many thanks agin, Aaron, for the tip!