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C Crane CCRANE SKYWAVE w/SSB

KA7EII

Newbie
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Jan 23, 2011
Messages
1
Location
Sandy, Utah
Just got the CCrane Skywave SSB

Just got my new CCrane Skywave SSB radio. Same size as my wife's CCrane Skywave. AM, FM, WX and Airband all work just as well on the Skywave SSB as the regular Skywave.
So far, I am very satisfied with the SSB reception on the new Skywave SSB. It has one strange quirk - when you press the SSB button, it takes about 3 to 4 seconds to go into SSB mode. Five dashes appear on the display during this wait. After that, it is great. I enjoy aeronautical communications and I get good reception of San Francisco radio and aircraft flying between the west coast and Hawaii. This is on the built in whip antenna. Also been tuning through the ham bands and it does a nice job. There is an extra 0.5 KHz bandwidth on SSB mode so it is possible to do some casual CW listening. I like how the "Band" button works on shortwave. When in AM mode, it cycles through the shortwave broadcasting bands. In the SSB mode, it cycles through the ham radio bands. It even selects LSB on 160-30 meters and USB on 20 through 10.
The only other receiver I have to compare it with (other than my wife's Skywave) is my 18-year old Sangean ATS-909. The '909 is a bit more sensitive on MW AM broadcast band but selectivity is as good or better on the Skywave SSB. FM sensitivity is great and the FM selectivity of the Skywave SSB beats the '909 hands down. Using the built in whip antennas, the Skywave SSB is more sensitive than the '909. Haven't tried the included roll-up antenna on the Skywave SSB yet. Having a squelch is really nice for monitoring the VHF Airband. One thing the Skywave SSB does that the regular Skywave does not do - you can scan 10 VHF Airband frequencies on the Skywave SSB.
So far, I am very satisfied with this new, tiny shortwave receiver.
 

W9OHM

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Sep 8, 2017
Messages
10
Location
Crystal Lake,Il
Nice review. I live in a condo with the usual antenna restrictions so I enjoy just sitting on the patio and tuning around on my Skywave. Based on your comments I will probably uograde. Thanks for the info, very helpful.
 

Boombox

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Sep 2, 2012
Messages
822
Sounds like a pretty good radio. DSP IF chip technology has really helped the hobby.
 

Haley

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May 28, 2005
Messages
1,075
My wife got me the Skywave SSB for Christmas! Just playing around with it (whip antenna only), this little receiver is REALLY sensitive.If anyone were really wanting a do all , very small package emergency radio this fits the bill perfect.

AM/FM are better than my Tecsun 880 (it almost pains me to write that). I am listening to AM stations 300-400 miles away with almost full bars at 11am. It has VERY good rejection of adjacent signals also.

Messing around with SW again VERY good, beating both the Tecsun 380 and 880. Many weak signals coming in on it at 2-3 bars more strength. SSB is just as good----through all the bands, picking up plenty of HAM operators, utility signals.

The weather bands from location, are the same as my 396xt (my best for weather dx). I compared it to most of the scanners in my signature line, just so people have an idea. The 396 and Skywave are receiving 4 different stations. The airband , what can I say , as good as my uniden 125. I am directly underneath the flight paths of KC-MSP-CHI centers, I hear many conversations. It is slower than normal today----kind of expect that though for Christmas day.

The only negative's I see (and it's very minor) is the same lag that KE7II mentions above----but it's not that bad. Of course the speaker is a bit tinny----but that is too be expected, this radio is pretty much pocket size. Anyway , maybe this will help someone out who is on the fence if they want to buy it or not.

It is an impressive radio for it's size. Merry Christmas everyone!
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
Messages
2,604
It's a year later than the original op's post, but I just got mine and am overjoyed - finally someone got it right.

I was so impressed with the CCrane Pocket and original Skywave, that I decided to pop for the SSB version. No, it will not replace my desktop, but it is the only ssb capable dsp driven radio in this form factor that didn't make me laugh.

Quick notes:
Like the original Skywave, the way CCrane implements the common SiLabs dsp chips just sound the best. Most of the other manufacturers leave me with a "digital hangover", but not so with CCrane.

CCrane and even the respected Jay Allen reviews may tend to downplay the high-fidelity side. Far from it. Sure, the front speaker lacks bass, but what IS produced is fully articulate, and due to the way CCrane implements the dsp and audio amp, it has plenty of super fast transient response. In practical terms, this means for a bedside setup, you may actually turn the audio lower, yet still hear all the detail you need without shrieking. If one isn't used to a fast accurate transient response from a small speaker, similar to a high-end speaker setup coming out of a palm-sized box, then the brain may make a knee-jerk decision. :)

Headphones / earbuds: The supplied buds are ok for comms and general music. But the dsp audio output - again the way ccrane utilizes the SiLabs chipset compared to other dsp radios I've had - is superior. I actually prefer the inexpensive Sennheiser MX-365 earbuds (with pads ON) which have a fuller more accurate response for long FM stereo broadcast listening.

AND, it has enough output to drive low-impedance phones like my classic AKG K240's, along with Sennheiser studio monitor cans with great fidelity. If a defect in audio is to be found, I'll find it with those - but the Skywave / SSB hides nothing, nor reveals any major flaws. I can get lost for hours doing the hi-fi thing.

Contesting comm phones, like my RadioSport RS-20's also have no issue with the Skywave / ssb.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are good budget earphones / buds out there, but yes if you DO spend a bit more, you WILL hear a difference that the ccrane is actually capable of reproducing. But I understand the need not to go as far as I would from an unbelievable marketing aspect.

No "digital hangover" either. I can't do more than about 15 minutes on my Tecsun PL-880.

SSB is just awesome so far. Stability is fantastic. Although yeah, there is chuffing when using the vfo knob for fast and slow, but when using fine tuning there is none. Very nice.

SSB AGC:
The big killer that makes preceding dsp driven ssb pocket radios a joke was how they handled RF/AF agc during large swings of signal strength. FINALLY, CCrane got this to be usable! Although not perfect, I didn't just toss it back on the drawer with disgust. I never thought I'd see the day, but they did a fine job with AGC. Yeah, sure SSB and CW has a tad bit of fast-attack overshoot, but it is totally tolerable for this form factor.

I suppose hat's off to the engineers who got a chip designed for steady-state / slow fade signals to handle fast attack of higher strength of ssb and cw signals. It isn't that good that you could just transplant the circuit into a desktop receiver, but again in this form factor, the CCrane got it right.

Fine-Tune: If anything, I kind of wish that when storing a ssb memory, it would also remember the fine-tune position. Not a deal breaker.

Airband - the addition of memory scanning is very welcome and fast enough for comfortable use. The light does stay illuminated during scans, and I'd prefer it to time out. Again, not a deal breaker. Somebody probably likes it that way. Of course a usable squelch is appreciated.

Soft-mutes when changing bands, turning the rig on and off etc are especially welcomed during headphone use.

I could go on forever, (anyone reading my Pocket or Skywave reviewes is already aware of my rambling), but the last word for me would be to answer the common question:

"Is the Skywave SSB really worth almost twice what the original Skywave is priced at if you truly need ssb?"

YES IT IS.
 
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hertzian

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May 28, 2009
Messages
2,604
Found a minor issue

Hmmm ... discovered that if you toggle between ssb with a "voice" response set, and go back to an FM memory channel that was set for "music", the radio will set the fm memory back to voice by default.

Easy enough to fix, but I was thinking I was going nuts for awhile resetting my fm memories for music.

I'll report this to CCrane. And no, I'm not sending it back for something this dinky and easy to fix. I can't part with it at this point! :)

At the very least it proves I'm not a CCrane shill....

*** UPDATE *** Problem is new user PEBKAC situation. :)

What may >>look<< like an issue really isn't. Since the fix is to either hit your memory # again, (or manually change the music/voice setting), it made me realize that I was more or less in "VFO MODE" when toggling between modes.

Nothing to see here. Ignore the man behind the curtain....
 
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Boombox

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Sep 2, 2012
Messages
822
RE: Earbuds: I've found that a lot of the cheaper, dollar store sets are much better than the name brands, or even ones that come with phones. More bass response, smoother sound.
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
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Surprisingly there are good ones to be found, but they all need testing. The biggest mistake for those who use the old-school slip-in buds, is not using the foam pads. They are not just for comfort, but affect the overall frequency response.

Example - initially, the Sennheiser MX-365's were kinda-sorta' ok, but once you put the foam pads on, it developed a whole new character, so much so that I heartily recommend them as an inexpensive pair that has real fidelity.

Headphones are a whole different world.

One test that the oem buds from CCrane don't pass is the peaks for "voice optimization" and general music. I don't really know about that. If they say so.

BUT, from a listening-fatigue standpoint for music, those same voice-optimized peaks make woodwinds like clarinets, oboe's, recorders, etc etc bore a hole straight through your brain when listening to classical music.

Those brain-drilling peaks with woodwinds are how I can immediately tell if a pair is not worthy of your time, and especially hearing long term.

But no, the dollar-store buds don't do the CCrane radios justice. To *me*, that is a marketing gimmick gone wrong. But I understand, as any trip through the head-fi or other stereo forums opens up a whole new world of attack-vectors from those who don't have any measuring equipment to back up any claims (good or bad).
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
Messages
2,604
Quick indicator you might want to upgrade your buds / phones:

If you listen to one of your local FM music stations, but can only do so with the tone set to "voice", then you have a problem. Assuming of course that your station hasn't screwed around with it's compressor / companding really poorly. The Skywave frequency response is truly beautiful all the way up into the high end of the spectrum.

The CCrane's, from the Pocket to Skywave's, but especially the Skywaves, are high-fidelity gear in sheep's clothing.

So don't tell anyone - put that pair of $600 earbuds or headphones on it, and listen to what the SiLabs chips, along with the audio amp, are truly capable of. I'm fortunate that I can use my local classical station, KUSC as a reference. I didn't even *like* classical, until I got a CCrane with the Silabs chipset. Now that I can hear ALL of the detail, I quite like it. But it takes more than dollar-store buds to do so. I tried with the Tecsun PL-880, which also uses the Silabs chips, but lost interest. I guess I'm one of those freaks who can hear the differences among manufacturers touting the same circuitry - and it usually takes a few hours to decide, but eventually there is some engineering in a CCrane that ends up at the finish line without hurting my ears, or boring me to death. :)

But back to SSB - I prefer to use more accurate buds / phones without any "voice optimized" peaks, and use the bandwidth and music / voice tone control do the work. This is what allows me to listen for 12 or more hours at a stretch with no headache listener fatigue.
 
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Boombox

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Sep 2, 2012
Messages
822
The Sony earbuds I paid around $15-$20 for a year ago are shrill.

The Dollar Store ones I got three years ago are mellow and have bass response.

As for headphones, I haven't tried the name brands, but the cheaper ones seem to vary, but usually have pretty good bass response. My best pair, an old Radio Shack pro pair, became unrepairable due to the flimsy wire they use in the headphone cables. Oh well.
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
Messages
2,604
Most definitely each pair must be tested - even those within the same family. Check out a long-winded thread here about my testing of some:

https://forums.radioreference.com/home-audio-theater/374518-earbud-shootout-sennheiser-mx-170-365-585-a.html

Skywave vs Skywave / SSB on fm stereo notes:

I can't do any A/B testing fast enough, and honestly my ears aren't that great to detect if there are any sonic differences between the regular Skywave and the Skywave / SSB model.

However, I think the SSB model improves upon the low-level audio mute gating when listening to classical, and having long unmodulated pauses between pieces, or things like low level musical intros or exits that seem to emanate from consciousness (or a totally unmodulated signal). For 99.9% of the population, they wouldn't notice, but for critical classical listening, I noticed the mute gates kicking in and out on them - again nearing the level of consciousness.

But so far, the SSB model seems to hang in there longer during those extremely low level periods without activating the mute gates. I can't say 100% certain, as it will take more listening to say it with total confidence.

This is not an issue for 99.999% of the world, but it does demonstrate the incredible dynamic range that makes me go gaga for these little boxes.

I'm also hearing something interesting that I've never heard on KUSC before with the CCran'es and the MX-365 buds: Again, at the upper reaches of my consciousness, I think the station may have tweaked their 20khz pilot carrier, or have some interaction with the HD radio side going on. I can just *barely* hear that pilot with the Skywave, and it didn't seem to be there before.

Silabs themselves has some great FM broadcasting info, but better break out your calculator:

https://www.silabs.com/Marcom Documents/Resources/FMTutorial.pdf

So what does this have to do with SSB - yeah, maybe not much, BUT if you are the .0001% of critical FM classical listeners, it does indeed seem that CCrane impoved on the mute gating just a little bit with the SSB model. :)
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
Messages
2,604
SSB whip new and improved!

I say this in jest - the improvement will be in the eye of the beholder. :)

The original Skywave measures about 20 inches from mounting screw to tip, whereas the Skywave SSB measure 22.5 inches from screw to tip.

Ok, we can get nerd-tastic about how that may be more efficient for the low end of airband, vs the high end of airband with the original Skywave. Or maybe haul in some dx with the extra 2 inches.

Or perhaps it provides a better short-whip setup for the Silabs chip requirements themselves.

At any rate, the new 2.5 inch extension is thin like a pin, and prone to being broken easily, therefore I don't extend the last section with this model just to get some added strength. So I kind of defeated the purpose of this improvement and now both my Skwave and SSB model have whips exactly the same length in use.

I kid ccrane - just had to throw this out there in case any review tried to hinge on some world shattering improvement here. :)
 

Haley

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May 28, 2005
Messages
1,075
I say this in jest - the improvement will be in the eye of the beholder. :)

The original Skywave measures about 20 inches from mounting screw to tip, whereas the Skywave SSB measure 22.5 inches from screw to tip.

Ok, we can get nerd-tastic about how that may be more efficient for the low end of airband, vs the high end of airband with the original Skywave. Or maybe haul in some dx with the extra 2 inches.

Or perhaps it provides a better short-whip setup for the Silabs chip requirements themselves.

At any rate, the new 2.5 inch extension is thin like a pin, and prone to being broken easily, therefore I don't extend the last section with this model just to get some added strength. So I kind of defeated the purpose of this improvement and now both my Skwave and SSB model have whips exactly the same length in use.

I kid ccrane - just had to throw this out there in case any review tried to hinge on some world shattering improvement here. :)



I have had mine for about a year-----a GREAT radio. Probably the best portable I have, even beats the 880 not in sound quality, but that's to be expected. As for the antenna, my last section has been bent at a 45 degree angle since about 2 days after I got it. Hertzian's advice about not extending it is right on the money.
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
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Heh, the last pin-thin section on my Tecsun 880 is the same way! That's how I learned to be really careful. :)

Not a huge issue I suppose, but I think the slightly smaller whip was the way to go.

Aside from the PL880 being a different form factor, I can't go back to using headphones / buds with it now that I'm spoiled by the CCranes - even the Pocket. Despite using a Silabs chipset, which indeed raises rf-performance from a standard analog set, the Tecsun headphone audio still sounds *analog* to me - that is slightly smeary, slow and um, boring. Hi-fi nuts will understand. :)

I think that it is the sum of the engineering, not just focusing on the Silabs chip in it entirety is what sets the CCrane's apart. For SSB hf use, that really adds up - rf frequency stability, AF frequency stability and clarity, and probably the best rf/af/if agc I've heard in this dinky form factor. Not desktop quality - my 1995 designed Target HF3 has better ssb / cw agc, but we're comparing apples to oranges now.

If one is still hanging on to a Grundig/Eton G6 Buzz Aldrin, don't hang on any longer. It's an entirely different world with the Skywave SSB. Sorry Buzz.
 
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pjxii

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Dec 8, 2017
Messages
185
Location
Naples Florida USA
This radio sounds like a winner, so I was curious about a few things and just read the manual on CCranes's website.

I was going to ask you guys how it does on longwave but the manual says it doesn't tune lower than 520 kHz (guess I still need my Panasonic RF-B65).

It says it has five bandwidth filters in AM mode and six for SSB, but it doesn't state the actual bandwidths, just mentioning about 1 kHz for AM instead of the default 6 kHz for AM in crowded conditions and that 3 kHz is the default SSB filter. Any clue what the actual bandwidths are?

With the good reviews from this forum (people who's opinion I trust) I think I'll pick one up.

Regarding the thin top section of the antenna, I pretty much never extend whips all the way for that very reason, too easy to damage unless its really beefy like the Sony ICF-6800W. And on earbuds: I've found that some which are great for FM music are not good for shortwave and vice-versa. I bought a pair years ago for my iPhone which had a small push to talk button which turned out to be fantastic for SW listening on my old Kaito 1103 (which I no longer have, BAD ergonomics). Paid $25 but don't remeber the brand. Trying out super cheap ones is not a bad idea, only a couple of bucks and you might get lucky.
 

ka3jjz

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There's a guy on another thread looking to put an external antenna on the radio, but at least from the pix on the website, it appears there's no external antenna jack on it. Is that true?

He's complaining about poor sensitivity - it's always possible that he got a bad radio....Mike
 

hertzian

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May 28, 2009
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Mabye I can help. Keep in mind this is a palm-size radio for the most part.

I was going to ask you guys how it does on longwave but the manual says it doesn't tune lower than 520 kHz (guess I still need my Panasonic RF-B65).
Nope - no longwave.

It says it has five bandwidth filters in AM mode and six for SSB, but it doesn't state the actual bandwidths, just mentioning about 1 kHz for AM instead of the default 6 kHz for AM in crowded conditions and that 3 kHz is the default SSB filter. Any clue what the actual bandwidths are?
AM / SW / AIR:
6 / 4 / 3 / 2 / 1

SSB (usable on AM BCB as well):
4 / 3 / 2.2 / 1.2 / 1 / 0.5

Whether these will actually be usable or not is up to you. SSB I listen to 3 or maybe 2.2. Then I also toggle between Music and Voice when using the various bandwidths for some more options. Ie, you may prefer a 2.2 with Music, rather than 3 with Voice.

Having those bandwidth available on airband is a true pleasure. I pop between 4 or 3 for most airband listening. I do have to crank the volume up a tad on airband.

Regarding the thin top section of the antenna, I pretty much never extend whips all the way for that very reason, too easy to damage unless its really beefy like the Sony ICF-6800W.
It isn't a major big deal - I have plenty of sensitivity with just the very pin-thin section not fully extended. Makes it the same size as the non-ssb skywave. If one is rough on whips, and only wants to listen to AM / FM, then the whip-less "Pocket" might be a better choice. I actually resort to that when I'm not using the Skywaves in a more or less stationary fashion.

BUT, I McGyvered the large whip from my PL880 onto a Skywave - no major improvement, but now a lot of bulk, top heavy, and frequently it just hinged over from it's own weight. Put back the sufficient oem whip. :)

And on earbuds: I've found that some which are great for FM music are not good for shortwave and vice-versa. I bought a pair years ago for my iPhone which had a small push to talk button which turned out to be fantastic for SW listening on my old Kaito 1103 (which I no longer have, BAD ergonomics). Paid $25 but don't remeber the brand. Trying out super cheap ones is not a bad idea, only a couple of bucks and you might get lucky.
I have very mixed feelings about that. Essentially I feel that "voice tuned" (aka poor frequency specs) earbuds are not good for long-term listening. I actually prefer more accurate frequency response, and let the *filters* do the job instead. Without a lot of talk, I can actually dx better with the higher quality headsets, mainly because I haven't ripped them off my head in an hour. :)

Note too that the audio output is pretty beefy at 1/2 watt, and even drives low impedance headsets, like my classic AKG's. Or my contest-specific phones like the RadioSport RS-20's.

I didn't think putting quality ear-gear on my head with these 'Cranes would truly be beneficial. I freaked out when my total goof test expecting them to be a joke turned out to be far different.

Everybody has their own likes, but hands down I kinda' wished that CCrane would have coupled with Sennheiser and thrown in their inexpensive MX-365 old school buds (and insisting that the pads be on for fidelity). But they kind of take a different outlook than I, and kinda push the "voice optimized" thing. Too bad, because I think many owners don't realize what the radio is truly capable of.
 
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hertzian

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May 28, 2009
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Re: the external antenna (or lack thereof) and claims of poor sensitivity:

It isn't really necessary for this palm-sized unit, but it does come with the 23-foot reel-up type that you can clip on to the end as standard included accessory. Supposedly there is a little capacitor inline to make it more low-frequency resonant, and mine has an encapsulated bulge a few inches down when you reel it out. I suppose that's the cap.

Most importantly, I think they are protecting the ground-plane from noise, which is what helps give it some great dynamic range (well as much as a palm sized unit can do).

You'll notice that the headphone jack has a plastic surround, and I believe this is part of a physical and electrical ground decoupling.

But what does that mean? It means that when I hold the radio in my hand, and when I've got the antenna situated just right to avoid noise fields (or multipath on FM etc), when I use the headphones, they don't suddenly change the directivity and make me struggle to find "just the right position" all over again.

That's something they could probably never explain in their marketing, but is something I was tickled pink to find when I first tested it.

There's a lot of seemingly small little touches with the 'Cranes that show me that some radio lovin' engineers aren't being totally ignored by the marketing department. :)

So to me, the purposeful lack of an external antenna jack for the typical use of this form factor, protecting the grounds etc etc is smart thinking, rather than lack of a feature.

Basically if one wants to use an external antenna, it's time for a different form factor radio.

Lack of sensitivity? Far from it - I think that some complaints might actually be from those expecting the shortwave bands to be alive when propogation doesn't support it, or expecting the palm-sized radio to behave like an Icom R8600 behind a 130 foot dipole. :)
 
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