CCrane SW Radio, The Retro Look With the Performance Brush

March 5, 2011

Hello Again!

 

Had this radio for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been able to put it through its paces.

 

I’m impressed, yet another product to recommend to anyone who’s serious about DX radio listening whether that be on the AM, FM or SW bands.

 

This radio reminds one of a 70s short wave set, the tuning dial, the large round pointer type dials to select the bands, the knobs to control volume, bass, treble and RF gain, the switches on the sides to control DX/Local sensitivity etc, its a 70s look with a 21st century technology factor, despite its analogue feel and look the CCrane SW radio boasts a micro processor to control its many functions which include pinpoint accurate PLL synthesis tuning.

 

Though the analogue tuning dial feels like an old fashioned radio dial to turn its far from being one, the digital circuitry within the radio monitors the turning of the dial thus tunes the radio accordingly, speed of the tuning and step can be changed, an incredibly useful feature for a radio of this type as it enables one to get from points A to B in a band quickly.

 

Shortwave is divided into 3 bands and each cover 10MHZ except SW1 which covers from 1710MHZ up to 10MHZ, the other bands follow on from this, SW2 from 10-20MHZ and SW3 from 20-30MHZ

 

Sensitivity of the radio is utterly superb on all 3 SW bands, so much so that you may find you have to reduce the RF gain or turn the sensitivity from DX to local.

 

Now for a point to look out for, the external antenna switch only works on SW and FM bands, its disabled for the AM band and that’s a pity, I would have dearly loved to connect my CCrane Tuneable Twin Coil ferrite antenna directly to the set but this is not possible, only way of using this antenna with the CC SW radio is by using the coupling ferrite stick, perhaps CCrane have a reason for disabling the external antenna for AM but I’ve not seen this in a shortwave set of the kind I’m writing about here before, I can only hope that CCrane add the use of the external antenna terminals in the AM band in an upcoming or replacement model of CC SW radio if there ever is one.

 

When turning the tuning dial you hear an audible “click” as the radio steps from one frequency to another, these clicks become faster or slower depending on the speed the tuning dial is turned, some people may find this clicking noise an annoyance though I had no trouble with it, I actually consider these audible clicks a useful aid, at least you know the frequency is changing and you can keep a mental note of the changes.  If you use the line out jacks of the radio with a Hi-Fi system or external speakers then audible clicks are muted and stepping between frequency’s with the tuning dial is smooth, just like the behaviour you’d expect from an analogue tuning dial of a radio.  Also note that when the step up and down buttons of the radio are used that audio isn’t muted so when one of the step buttons is held down to put the radio in “Seek” mode you will hear each station through the line out jacks as the radio tunes past it to find a strong signal it can lock on to, a handy feature but would like to see an option to disable the mute on the internal speaker.

 

Performance on the AM band as you’d expect with a CCrane radio is first class and I venture to say that its better than the CCrane EP radio which I wrote about some time back, I can easily overload the CCrane EP set but not the CCrane SW radio, perhaps this is due to better circuitry being used.

 

I like the addition of the narrow/wide band filter which brings the quality of an AM or SW broadcast to life and enables good reception of weaker stations closer to stronger one’s.

 

Like the CCrane EP the CCrane SW uses CCrane’s Twin Coil antenna system which is very affective when looking out for those long distant stations.

 

Amplifier is excellent, one can get quite a loud volume out of the set with little or no distortion.

 

I haven’t had much time to play with FM yet though all indications from the little testing I’ve done are very positive indeed.

 

The radio can be powered from several different sources , from the supplied AC mains adapter or from 2 different sets of batteries, 1 set of Size D – flashlight – batteries or 1 set of AA type penlight batteries, the radio can be switched between battery sets which is an incredibly useful feature giving the CC SW radio versatility unheard of in a radio of this class.  Add to this the built-in charging circuit for rechargeable batteries and you’re on a winning combination of features and functionality if you’re planning to travel anywhere with this radio amongst your luggage.

 

So some final thoughts before I close this part of my review of the CC SW.  Those who expect coverage of the LW – Long Wave band are going to be disappointed as there’s none.

 

The radio doesn’t support the reception of SSB/CW transmissions though with the IF out connector on the back of the set perhaps you could connect the radio to a computer running suitable software to decode these transmissions.

 

The radio doesn’t have a keypad so entry of direct frequency’s is impossible, the only way to get to a frequency quickly is to have it preset into one of the memory locations, yep a bit of a pain but something I can live with.

 

At under $130.00 you’re picking up both an incredible bargain and a most worth while treat if you’re into radio listening not to mention a very well built and solid product.

 

More on the CC SW Radio in the coming weeks, I’ll look at the radios many functions which include dual-time settings, alarm function etc.

 

 

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CCrane Twin Coil Tuneable Antenna Part 03

February 18, 2011

For the test detailed in this article I used an old Onkyo Hi-Fi tuner from the 70s, an excellent looking and well built beast boasting high performance but then again that’s what all Onkyo products are about aren’t they?

 

This tuner is different from the Yamaha tuner in the Surround-Sound receiver I described in the previous article because it has a built-in ferrite antenna as well as connections for an external antenna so the CCrane system was therefore tested in 2 different ways to see which yielded best results, one test was with the CCrane system directly connected to the external antenna connections and the other was using the ferrite stick coupler for an induction connection.

 

Results with the CCrane system connected to the tuner directly through the terminals were good but would have been better I suspect if I had a way of isolating the built-in antenna of the tuner, certainly passable.

 

Results using the ferrite stick coupler for an induction connection to the built-in ferrite antenna of the tuner were far better and this would be the way I’d recommend connection.  One could just about say that the designers of this particular Onkyo tuner I had new the CCrane ferrite stick coupler existed more than 30 years ago when the tuner was made, the ferrite antenna of the Onkyo tuner slides out from the back of the unit on a tray and the ferrite stick coupler fits very nicely behind the Onkyio’s antenna on the tray.

 

When receiving signals from the external antenna connections I found that noise was boosted nearly as much as the signal strength and this was nowhere near as bad using the coupler.

 

 

CCRane Twin Coil Antenna Part 02

February 16, 2011

As promised here are the results of the second test I did yesterday with the CCrane Twin Coil Antenna system.

 

In my previous entry on this topic I detailed how I connected the antenna system to a CCrane EP radio, for this test I connected the antenna to a Yamaha RX-v520 surround-sound receiver.

 

The tuner of this receiver normally uses a loop antenna, quality of tuner is excellent and sensitivity is quite reasonable though I felt sure it could be improved upon with the connection of the CCrane antenna.

 

For those with sight problems, make sure you know which connections are for antenna and which are for earth.  For the connection of the Yamaha I used the adapter that plugs into the patch cord of the CCrane antenna, One wire is to go to the antenna terminal and the other to earth, if you get these the wrong way round then reception is impaired and you’ll possibly get a lot of interference so mark one wire of the patch cord adapter with some tape or similar and mark one terminal of your tuner the same way.

 

As I suspected, reception was improved significantly with the antenna connected and after tuning of the antenna to my favourite station had been completed.

 

So if reception was fair with the standard loop aerial for the Yamaha why did I even bother to test the CCrane Antenna? I wanted to see if I could get rid of a lot of interference which is present in the room with the Yamaha, I’m running a computer, network and associated devices here and the loop aerial for the Yamaha and all the other stuff just don’t get on.  By repositioning the CCrane antenna near the window I was able to reduce interference and noise on the AM band for all stations I tuned to.  This interference is generated by switchmode power supplies etc.

 

I tried repositioning the loop aerial however this didn’t work as well as the CCrane Antenna did, perhaps because the CCrane Antenna has a shielded cable between tuner and control box and from control box to antenna.

 

You can find out more about the CCrane Twin Coil Tuneable Antenna at CCrane’s Twin Coil Antenna Page

 

 

CCrane Twin Coil Tuneable Active Antenna

February 15, 2011

I finally got around to playing with this gadget so here are my findings.  I’d be interested to receive comments from other users of this antenna system on how they’ve found it.

 

The antenna was easy to set up and the procedure outlined in the manual was clear and to the point, I had studied the manual before the antenna system had even arrived thanks to the availability of the document on CCrane’s web site, further details will be given toward the end of this post.

 

The system consists of a number of components, some you will use whilst others you won’t and this is due to CCrane designing an antenna system to match all sorts of AM radio.

 

A patch cord links your radio to the control box, how your radio connects to the patch cord depends on what sort of radio you have and its antenna connections.  For example, the CCRane EP radio has spring loaded antenna terminals so you can use the adapter supplied with the patch cord, plug one end of the cord into the adapter socket and connect the 2 wires of the adapter to the antenna terminals of the radio, this is how you would connect most modern-day Hi-Fi AM tuners too!

 

For AM radios without antenna terminals or sockets you would use the ferrite stick coupler, plug the patch cord into the coupler and the other end into the control box, I’ll talk more about the coupler later.

 

Next you plug the twin coil antenna itself into the control box, the twin coil antenna is on a 5 feet long lead so it can be placed a fair distance away from the control box to improve AM reception.

 

Once all connections are made you decide upon your power source for the antenna system and here you have the choice of AC mains through a 9 volt AC power adapter or a 9 volt square battery which fits into the battery compartment on the bottom of the control box, once all connections are made and power is available the system can be turned on, this is done by rotating a small knob on the top of the control box, its like an old transistor volume knob, clicks when turned clockwise, unit is now on and the knob rotates allowing adjustment.

 

When the antenna system is turned on don’t be expecting to hear those far distant signals straight away, the antenna requires tuning and 2 knobs on the top of the controller allow for this.

 

First tune your radio to the desired station you wish to listen to, use the tuning dial on the radio to locate this or adjust the display to tune to the exact frequency.  Now rotate the outer knob on the controller, you’ll gradually hear the signal become stronger so rotate to the optimal point where signal is strongest.

 

Now use the knob in the middle to “Fine Tune”.

 

The first thing I noted when everything was tuned was the clear reception and very noticeable lack of background noise when compared to receiving the same signal with the built-in ferrite antenna of the radio so top marks for the Antenna system there, for my tests I’ve used a CCrane EP radio thus far and I plan to test some more receivers in the future, naturally I’ll be posting my results here.

 

So having directly connected the radio to the antenna system it was time to try the ferrite stick coupler.

 

Now this can be a little tricky and may take some time because you have to locate the coupler as near as is possible to your radios built-in antenna, this is usually mounted near the top of the radio, perhaps more to the rear.  Once you’ve placed the coupler as near as is possible to the radios antenna tune the system as described above and you’ll certainly start noticing a difference in the strength of the signal you’re receiving.

 

The problem with this method is that extra noise is introduced and you can easily overload your radio, that’s what happened when I coupled the CCrane EP this way.  Thankfully the CCrane EP radio has a built-in antenna tuner and that together with the tuning features of the Twin Coil Antenna system illiminated much of the overloading.

 

I’m very pleased with my purchase of this antenna system, tuning it at first took a little patience but once you get the hang of tuning then its second nature, if you can tune a radio then yo u can tune this antenna.

 

You can find out more about the CCrane Twin Coil Antenna system by visiting http://www.ccrane.com/antennas/am-antennas/twin-coil-ferrite-am-antenna.aspx

 

ZOOM H1 ACCESSARIES KIT

January 29, 2011

I received this in the mail on Friday, unfortunately it would appear that the Zoom H1 Audio Recorder accessaries kit cannot be purchased in Australia at this time so I had to go further afield to place my order.

 

If anyone has a Zoom H1 or is planning to purchase what I believe to be one of the best audio recorders us humans have invented thus far then I’d certainly recommend you purchase the accessaries kit with the recorder, its not expensive and you’ll most likely need all the accessaries the kit comes with which include:

  • Zoom H1 Carry Case
  • USB Lead for connection to an AC power adapter or to a computer.
  • Tripod stand for the recorder.
  • Pole which screws onto the back of the H1, looks as though you’re suppose to use the pole to hold the H1 when recording.
  • Windscreen for the H1 when using the recorder outside
  • AC Adapter

 

I dont think I’ve missed anything.

 

The carry case for the recorder is very well made, recorder fits snugly into it.  Case comes with wrist strap and a delcro adjustment should you wish to carry your recorder on a belt.  No holes for input/output sockets, controls of the recorder etc so you’ll have to remove it from the case when recording, makes perfect sense I guess given that you’ll want to mount the recorder on the tripod or the pole.

 

Windscreen is affective, I find I get better results from the built-in microphones of the H1 with the windscreen fitted all the time.

 

I like the tripod, very handy though care will need to be taken to unfold all the legs of the tripod to ensure that it doesn’t over balance.

 

Because I purchased the accessaries kit overseas I got an AC adapter which requires another plug adapter to fit my powerpoint, more nusance than its worth.  Adapters to power the H1 are easy to come by, the power supply for my Apple Iphone does a very good job <smile>.  I would like to see an international AC adapter included as part of the accessaries kit and perhaps some sort of external microphone.  The kit only cost around $30.00 as is and that’s cheap given everything the kit contains so I certainly wouldn’t mind paying a little more for a few extra bits and pieces.

 

 

 

 

Apple TV, a Vision Splendid

January 8, 2011

I bought the Apple TV device at the end of November this year though its taken me a while to get things working.

 

Firstly being blind I needed access to the “Voiceover” facility, in a nutshell this facility reads text which appears on the screen and speaks it in a female voice alongside any audio which may be playing through the Apple TV device.

 

In order to use the Voiceover function one must have the 4.1 or later firmware update and here is where things became rather tricky for me, to get that update which I needed I had to have my Apple TV connected to the Internet and in order to connect to the Internet I found I required sighted assistance to navigate some settings of the Apple TV.

 

Now some blind people have managed to connect the device to the Internet and have written tutorials on this subject, I followed their instruction for connecting and updating Apple TV but for some reason I just couldn’t get the device to connect here, this problem may have been related to a DHCP server issue I had at the time which has now been rectified.

 

I managed to get the Apple TV to an Apple retail store, they connected the device to their network, updated the firmware of the Apple TV and turned Voiceover on, from here on things have been a real breeze.

 

There’s quite a lot to the Apple TV and I’m discovering more as each day goes by so you’re going to see a series of entries in my Blog concerning this device.

 

So what does the Apple TV look like? A small box about 4 inches square with some connections on the back – a Ethernet 100MBPS port, HDMI port, mini USB port for “Support”, a digital optical audio output and a socket for the power lead.

 

The Apple TV comes with a very nice remote control, made of brushed alaminium, quite weighty but nice to hold in the hand.

 

The remote has logical and straight forward controls, the circle of up, down, left and right with an enter key in the middle.  2 buttons below the circle control where you are in the menu system.

 

What does Apple TV do? An amazing number of things and here’s a few examples of what I’ve been using it for.

 

  • Using Itunes or Airfoil on your computer you can stream content to your Apple TV and have it played to you.
  • Using Apple TV you can search for and watch Youtube content.
  • The Apple TV will allow you to listen to radio over the internet.
  • Share your Itunes library or music collection from another Network source and have it played on Apple TV.
  • Watch movies in HD and with surround-sound if you have a capable receiver connected to Apple TV.

 

I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface and I’ll fill you all in on the progress I make in my exploration of Apple TV in subsequent posts of “Apple TV A Vision Splendid”.

 

 

A very Ipad Christmas.

December 29, 2010

I received an Ipad for Christmas and now I know what all the fuss is about.

I don’t intend to write much about it here as its all been written before but if you like discovery and you’re able to put some money aside in your piggy bank then an Ipad would certainly be worth saving for.

Having used an Iphone for over a year I’m familiar with the concept of the touch screen however it took me a while to get used to the screen of the Ipad, a bigger area to cover than that of the Iphone.

I plan to get several accessaries for the Ipad including a case but not sure about the camera connecting kit right now, I’m doing research but it would appear that Apple have restricted connectivity in the latest IOS update so various accessaries I had planned to connect to the ipad using this kit may not work now as they did, I know of a case in point where USB keyboards no longer work. I spoke to someone who uses USB headphones with the kit still but he cannot yet verify whether the Microphone of the headphones still works, he’ll do that when he finishes his vacation .

I have the wi-fi-version of the Ipad with 64GB of memory so that ought to keep me going for a while, there was little point in me getting the 3G version as I plan to get a mobile wi-fi device, more on that as it comes to hand .

Audio from the Ipad is excellent, yep even better than that from my Iphone 3GS but that’s to be expected.

Finally, Pages is your perfect word processing app for the Ipad, will Apple develop a version of this stunning tool for the Iphone? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


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CCRane EP Radio

December 24, 2010

Firstly a Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Yes, the CCrane EP Radio was a present from Me to Me and what a wonderful gift this radio would make for anyone interested in listening to AM and FM bands.

 

We’re talking here about a radio that has more positive things going for it than any other radio I’ve ever used, everything from a slim line design to a slim line budget price and that’s only the beginning.

 

First the radio feels like a quality product but that comes as no surprise given that the people who sell the radio are known for their quality to detail when it comes to the products they sell.

 

Unlike previous CCrane radios this one is an analogue rather than a digitally controlled radio and I have nothing against analogue radios whatever, it can of course be argued that radio sets of this type perform better than their digital counterparts as there is no special shielding required to stop interference from the micro processors these sets use, analogue sets are easier to use and so on.

 

The tuning has a wonderful “analogue type” tuning feel when the tuning knob is turned.

 

Tuning is gradual meaning that you can move the dial in small incriments with a decent turn of the knob.  Tuning frequency’s start from 510KHZ-1710KHZ for AM and 87.5-108KHZ for FM but I’m sure the range goes beyond these specs slightly, no complaint there.

 

The radio boasts an antenna tuner, highly useful when you’ve located that distant station, you can optimise the antenna of the radio to null out interference from adjacent stations, optimise the antenna for a better signal etc.

 

The narrow/wide band filter reminds us of just how good an AM station can sound particularly a music station, when set to wide quality is brilliant! you may wish to set the filter to “Narrow” when listening to speech or trying to receive distant stations, previous models of CCrane radio did not have this feature so addition of the filter is a very welcome improvement.

 

The radio has several inputs and outputs, gone is the mains input for power, replaced with a DC 6V input jack which makes far more sense, the radio can be connected to a wider variety of devices including cigarette lighter adapters, solar cell kits, external battery packs etc.  You can connect your Ipod or similar device to the Aux in, quality from a single speaker unit as this radio is, very good.

 

The headphone output is a stereo 3.5MM jack and will output FM stereo broadcasts in stereo if stereo headphones are connected.

 

At the rear of the radio you’ll find various external antenna connections, spring clip type for AM and a f Connector for fm, use the antenna switch to switch between built-in and external aerials, another nice touch.

 

Battery life is excellent! over 300 hours on a set of 4 d alkaline batteries.

 

I ordered my set from CCrane directly in the States at http://www.ccrane.com, I can only hope that a retailer in Australia starts selling these sets as I believe their would be a huge demand once the word gets out and given that Australia is a vast country where distance in radio listening is an issue.

 

Dick Smith Electronics in australia sold a version of the CCrane 1 Radio, it was called the “Outback” radio in australia and boasted a “long-wave” band along with FM and AM bands.  Performance was good for a digital set however the micro processor would interfere with the reception.

 

This radio worked well for receiving broadcasts in speech but wasn’t too good when it came for music, the CCrane EP is a far better set for listening to music on the AM band, in fact a far better set all round.

 

Price: around $70.00 U.S.

 

 

The Pure One Mini DAB+ Radio

December 9, 2010

A friend of mine has been recommending this DAB+ radio for quite some time so it was with great pleasure! that I purchased and took delivery of one yesterday afternoon.

I had a bit of trouble finding the radio online at a good price, I couldn’t find it listed at the Dick Smith Online store but perhaps I may have missed it.

The ABC Shop sells them however the price is rather high and they don’t seem to stock accessories for the radio, more of that shortly.

Eventually – again thanks to the help of others who did a little research on my part – I was able to track a Pure One Mini radio down at a Dick Smith store not that far from me so if you’re after one look up your nearest Dick Smith store and make sure they have one in stock.

The Pure One Mini it seems comes in multiple colours, Black did me fine though I know I could have bought white.

I purchased the rechargeable battery pack accessary with the radio, the ABC Shop didn’t offer the pack for purchase and if they had? Well I’ll be honest in saying I may have paid the extra $20.00 to have the unit delivered to my door.

So what does the radio look like? A square box of about 4 inches with a speaker covering most of the front of the unit, above the speaker on the right is an extremely small display which can be scrolled.

On the top of the radio are 5 buttons which include a power button, its identified from the other buttons by an indent.

At this time I haven’t worked out all the radios functions so I can only tell you what 2 of the round buttons do, the one ot the right of the power button is a “Band Select” button which toggles the radio between FM and DAB+, the button at the right end is the “Tuning”” button.

On the right-hand side is a panel of 3 sockets and a multi function jog dial. The 3 sockets consist of a stereo headphone output, a stereo line input and a USB socket, I’m assuming this facility is there for updates to the radio in the future.

The jog dial is one of those which clicks as you turn and it can be “pushed” in to select, by default the jog dial controls the volume but if pressed in it scrolls through memories though I have’t been able to access this function yet so I’ll write a follow-up post in the near future.

To tune the radio you press the “tuning” button on the top, turn the jog dial to get to the desired station and press it in, radio is immediately tuned to that station and audio of the new station starts playing. Its a bit of a problem if you don’t have sight as you can’t see the names of the stations on the screen but after a bit of practise you’ll remember where the stations are and thus be able to scroll to them easily, by default the Pure One Mini stores stations in alphabetical order, you can also count the clicks when scrolling which I find useful.

Not sure how many preset memories the set has at this time so that will be a job for sighted assistance to tell me about .

Battery life on the rechargeable battery is about 20 hours, that’s quite impressive for a set as small as this. Volume is extremely good as is sound through the mono in-built speaker.

This model is available in the U.K. as a DAB radio rather than DAB+. I paid $80.00 for the radio which I consider to be very good value for money.


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Ccrane EP Radio

November 18, 2010

You can find this product at http://www.ccrane.com and an audio review at http://www.blindcooltech.com

 

I ordered one of these as a Christmas Present for myself though if you’re in Australia note that the shipping costs are 2 thirds of the value of the radio, this pushes up the price significantly though if the radio performs well here then the price paid will be worth every cent, the radio sells for $69.00 U.S.

 

Its an analogue AM/FM radio with good old analogue controls, in other words it has the great old classic tuning dial.

 

One thing which sets this radio apart from most others is its antenna tuner for the AM band, its well known that most radios are optimised for the centre of the AM band thus stations at or near the centre of the band will get better reception than those at the top or bottom ends, the antenna tuner allows you to tune the antenna thus optimising the radio for best reception to the signal you’re tuned to.  You can connect an external antenna and isolate the built-in aerial with the flick of a switch.

 

The Previous  cCrane radio models were optimised for voice quality audio, this model has a narrow/wide band filter which – when set to wide band – makes music sound quite reasonable.

 

I’ll write more about my experiences with this radio when its received which I hope will be just before Christmas.