The CCrane Skywave SSB absolute first look - part one

CCRANE SSB Skywave 2018 MICRO review

I literally have only had this little radio for one week and I'm that eager to share some of my observations with my readers - observations that are, ahem, growing by the day - and all good stuff!

So here is the thing - this little radio that fits in the palm of the average man sized hand covers AM, FM, SW, Airband, weather channels and has dual SSB mode for the "AM modes" (AM and SW) - which is brilliant.

CCrane Skywave Photo Gallery over here

This particular sample came as a loan from the long-suffering folks at Durham Radio in Ontarion - vendors who are endlessly hearing from me about borrowing this or that for a timely review. So, let's get that plug in: I have bought a lot of stuff from Durham - ham stuff and shortwave stuff, hardware, antennas, parts and accessories, etc. Never a single hiccup. Buy with confidence.

So. Back to the radio. In something so small you would not expect good performance from every feature. After all, it is a tall order to provide everything in a portable... in this case an ultra-portable.

So - in this mini-review (longer one to follow), what did I find? 

My criteria for this little beast (thus far): Side by side with the Eton E1 for at least part of the quick review...

CCranes own spec sheet for this radio - 

  • Stereo headphone jack and fold-out back stand
  • Clock with 12/24 hour format, Alarm
  • Rotary volume knob
  • High quality CC Buds Earphones, radio carry case and CC SW Reel Antenna included
  • Run Time (on batteries):
    ± 70 hours (earbuds)
    ± 60 Hours (built-in speaker)
    (times are approximate)
  • One Year Limited Warranty
  • 10 Aviation Memories can be scanned for activity

Random observations so far: Like most other CCrane products, they feel like they have more heft than you would normally expect - which is to say that they seem solid and well made. Now, all aestetics aside (retro round speaker grill...), alongside my Eton E1 (which is more of a table-top competitor...) the CCrane Skywave SSB is a pretty impressive competitor. 

Out-of-the-box - The CCrane Skywave SSB comes in a pretty compact box (well insulated) with (if I recall...) ear buds and antenna reel and sporty feaux leather carrying case... oh yes and a well written manual worth of anything that Eton or Grundig ever put out. I had some immediate questions on how to operate the SSB features and they were quickly answered.

I do believe that most radios, if you have some background playing with World-band radio that is, should be fairly intuitive and easy to operate. That generally applies with Grundig and Eton radios. Tecsun not so much! The CCrane Skywave SSB was pretty obvious and having a small face plate with a limited amount of power-on functions (as well as power off timer functions...) it was pretty instinctive to operate right out of the gate. 

Anyway - I slapped in 2 AA cells and off to the races. Selecting AM/FM and Weather/SW/Air is something handled by two buttons - and that is immensely helpful. That is a small thing in terms of design that quickly become a payoff for the average user.

With the power on and the AM band selected, I quickly discovered that the sensitivity, for its size, was pretty darn good. I will compare it in my next chapter to some of the other older portables that I have. With AM-SW bandwidths of 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 khz it is dead easy to find the right setting that is right for your particular situation. Side-bar: Having owned and played with radios through the years, I am still astounded that all these features like selectable bandwidth and 1 khz frequency readout are just standard equipment. This is a sure sign that I am getting old!

Anyway, while wandering my neighbourhood by night, during a walk, I noticed the clarity and strength of all my favourite west coast "clear channel" stations - like KGO in san Francisco... clear as a bell and easily audible/listenable on a low volume setting while outdoors. Out of curiousity, I quickly popped up to one of our regional 80-meter band SSB civil defense nets on 3729 khz LSB.

It was easy to dial in and utilize the 10 hz fine tuning for getting the exact right pitch on this fun amateur radio mode. The super fine tuning is also more than adequate if you want to listen to morse code or CW stations! Bonus! Popping by WWV on  5 and 10 mhz were easily audible in my Northwest location - time for a quick check of my watch!

The CCrane Skywave SSB has a channelized weather reception feature on the radio - so no tuning - just stepping through the selections until you hit a local service. Brilliant! The CCrane Skywave SSB also has airband that actually works - it is sensitive and there are settings for air band squelch! That feature I tripped over by accident - you know what they say? Read the manual! FM is plenty sensitive even with the minimum draw on the little whip antenna. I live in quite the saturated FM reception zone but everything was in the right place on the dial with no odd images or unexpected results.

Over the next few days I will flesh out more of my observations on this great little radio.