AM radio is a very old technology, it does not support stereo broadcasts and it is very susceptible to interference. AM radio has become the home to talk radio, news, weather and other broadcasts that don’t require stereo. Because it is susceptible to interference, it does not get into offices very well and that is where most of its listeners are during the day. So the listeners need a radio that can pick up really good AM reception. The CCRadio plus claims that it has “unsurpassed AM radio reception and audio quality.” We decided to put one to the test and see just how it fairs.
- Large LED Display
- Radio/Tone Alarm
- Weather Alert
- 5-memory preset buttons (with 5 memories per band)
- Display Light
AM Antenna Features
- Twin Coil Ferrite AM Antenna
- AC or 9-volt battery
- Ferrite Stick
- Tuner Control
In The Box
C.Crane sent us a CCRadio and Twin Coil Ferrite™ AM Antenna. When you first open the box for the radio you will be presented with the CCRadio Plus, an AC Power cord and a user manual. If you ordered any other accessories then they will also be included.
The AM antenna has quite a bit more to it. When you open the box you will have a tuner control, antenna element, ferrite stick, 1/8″ Mono to RCA Connector Patchcord, RCA Female Patchcord to, Two Bare Wire Ends, 1″ Piece of Hook and Loop Fastener for ferrite stick, AC Adapter, and 5′ Connection Cable. If you ordered any additional cable then this would also be included.
Setting up the radio is just as easy as setting up the clock radio on your night stand. All you do is press the clock set button and turn the tuner to adjust the hour. You press the clock set button again and turn the tuner to adjust the minutes and finally you press the clock set button again to start the clock. You do not have to set the clock to listen to the radio, but if you want to use the alarm then it is a must. Assigning radio stations is a cinch, all you have to do is hold down one of the 5 buttons on the top for about 3 seconds and the station will be stored. Setting up the alarm and timer is also very easy. Just press the respective buttons and turn the tuner to set the times.
The antenna is quite a bit harder to set up. You first need to find a good place to put the main antenna. You can do this easily by putting batteries in a radio and walking around a room until you get the best reception. This is where you want to place the main antenna. If it is more than 5 feet away you will need to buy an additional length of cable. You can buy 25′ or 50′, you can also combine the two and get 75′ if you are really far away from a good spot, just make sure you don’t get too much because it will get in the way and cause problems. The problems come from the fact that you are not suppose to coil the excess cable because it can cause interference and can reduce the quality of the signal. Anyways, after you have located the spot for the antenna, then you need to hook it up to your radio. There are two ways to attach it. If you have a radio like the CCRadio Plus with an external AM antenna connector then you can directly connect it to that. If not then you can use the Ferrite stick. The hardest part of using the ferrite stick is finding the right place on the radio to put it. You want it as close to the internal AM antenna as possible. You kind of have to rub it around the radio until you find a good spot. Then you get to adjust the tuner to get the best signal possible. You do this by turning the two dials on the top of the tuner. The bottom one is for course adjustments and the top one is for fine adjustments. It helps if you have a signal strength meter so you can watch that to see when it goes up.
Being that this is a radio there is not much to the design. It comes in two colors Black and Silver. It is a simple rectangle with a lot of the same features as a normal radio. It has a single 5″ speaker that has been specifically tuned to Human Voice, this is great for the AM stations. It has 5 large black programmable buttons on the top which you can set to your favorite stations. Each button can be reused for each band, this means you get 5 from AM, 5 for FM and so on. Like most other radios you can use either batteries or plug it in to a standard AC jack. It also has a Stereo headphone jack with volume control and a telescoping antenna for FM radio.
The CCRadio plus also has many features that you don’t find on a standard radio. It has a large LED display that displays a clock, tuner, signal strength, battery life and other things. In addition to picking up FM, the Telescopic whip antenna also picks up TV and Weather Band. Another great feature is the external AM antenna connectors. In case the internal AM antenna is not good enough for your location, you can use an external AM antenna. There is also an AUX in for a cd or tape player and a Line Out without volume control for hooking the CCRadio Plus to a stereo or recorder. There also is a timer activated jack which is for use with a recorder that has a timer activated switch. You would use this switch if you wanted to do a timed recording. It is used in conjunction with the LINE OUT jack. There are two small jacks in the back that you may use for an LED light and a solar charger. You must purchase both of these separately, but they can extend the usefulness of the device when used. If you purchase the LED light it will run off either the batteries or AC power from the radio. The solar charger is a 6V DC Charging Circuit which can be used to charge Ni Cad batteries.
Above the LED display is a small key that lists the bands that you can listen to and the frequencies that each band can receive. For example, it lists FM and under that it shows 87.5 – 108.0 MHz, AM is 520 – 1710 kHz, TV is 2 – 13 Ch and WX (weather) is 162.4 – 162.55 MHz. This is good for knowing what you can expect from the different bands. The only problem is that the weather is actually in channels like TV. So instead of 162.4 – 162.55 MHz, it should say 1 – 7 Ch.
The Weather Alert has its own settings. There is a button located on the top of the radio that cycles through the weather bands settings. You must hold down the button for two seconds to move to a new setting. The first setting is a small flashing alert on the LED screen. If there is a weather alert you will see the icon flash. The second setting will flash a red light on the top of the radio and automatically turn the radio into the weather station when an alert is issued. The third setting is a siren that will sound for up to one minute unless you press a button. When you press that button the siren will turn off and the radio will tune into the weather station.
The TV stations are nice. If you don’t have access to a portable TV you can use the radio to tune into the local channels 2-13. They match up with what is broadcast on the TV just without the picture. This can be nice to hear local news, weather and traffic announcements.
One other really nice design feature is the lock. When turned on, this will lock all the controls and buttons except the volume, the base and treble controls. This keeps you from accidentally turning it off or tuning it to another station. I found this useful because I would sometimes accidentally bump the tuner dial, and because it is so sensitive, it would change the station.
In case you don’t like the dial tuner on the side, the radio also has an up and
down button on the front that will tune just like the dial.
The AM antenna is a really simple design. The two main components (antenna and tuner) are both black and rectangular. You don’t get a choice of colors like you do with the CCRadio. The antenna itself has two connectors. One is for the extension cord that connects to the tuner and the other is a ground port where you can ground the antenna by hooking it to something that goes into the ground. Grounding it is only useful if you have the antenna mounted outside.
The tuner control has a couple more connectors and two dials. The connectors are for the extension cable from the antenna, a power cable and an output to the radio. The two dials are for tuning the antenna. The bottom dial is an on/off switch and course tuning dial. The top dial is for fine tuning.
The biggest test as far a performance goes is the AM reception. C.Crane makes the claim that this radio has the most powerful AM antenna in a radio its size. So I put it to the test. Since this radio will most likely be used indoors in an office setting that is where I tested it. I also tested another radio (Phillips AZ1210) that I have so that I can compare them. With the Phillips I could not pick up any reception at all. The CCRadio Plus was not much better. I made some sound recording for the CCRadio and Philips radio click on them to hear what they sounded like without the antenna. I tried moving both radios around in my office but because I was not right next to a window I was unable to get any good reception.
Because I also had the AM antenna, I wanted to test this antenna as well. I found a good spot (by a window) and stretched out my cord. After hooking it up I placed the ferrite stick on the CCRadio and tuned it in. The signal meter shot all the way to the top and the reception went really clear. I was very happy and I could only detect very small distortions. Since I was using the ferrite stick I easily switched over and tried it on the Phillips stereo and the results were the same, very clear reception. Here are some sound recording for the CCRadio and Philips radio click on them to here what they sounded like with the antenna. I also hooked the external antenna to the external AM antenna connectors on the CCRadio to see if it made a difference. The audio quality stayed the same, but I noticed that the signal meter dropped to the level it was without the antenna. I could only guess that this is because the external AM connectors bypass the internal antenna which reports the signal strength.
Throughout the day I found that the signal changed and so I had to make small adjustments to the tuner. I also noticed that as more and more people came into work and started turning on their computers that the reception dropped steadily. The signal strength was still at the highest setting but there was a lot of static. I later came to notice that if the guy in the office next to me turned on his 21″ CRT monitor, then the reception would drop dramatically. I had to find a different path for my cable that did not go near his monitor. The problem I had is that I had 50′ of cable and I only needed about 25′ so I had to find a place for the extra 25′ without looping it. If you loop the cable then it could cancel out the signal and leave you with a bad signal. I highly recommend that you measure the path from a window to your desk and then order the cord according to that.
The next test is the battery life. C.Crane claims that you can get over 250 hours of continuous life out of 4 “D” batteries. My test was a little different than the one performed by the manafacturer. First of all, I did not leave mine on all the time, I only listened to it for 8 hours a day. I also used headphones and not the speaker while the radio was on. The CCRadio performed exceptionally well, even better than I expected. I was able to get about 822 hours and 19 minutes out of this radio with batteries. This included 323 hours and 44 minutes of use and 498 hours and 35 minutes of standby. Keep in mind that I did use headphones, and I am assuming that headphones use less power than the speaker. So if you use the speaker, you can probably expect to get less battery life.
I would like to offer a few suggestions for both the radio and AM antenna that I think will make this a much better product. First, I really think that the radio needs stereo speakers. I know that this is marketed as an AM radio, but with TV and FM capabilities it would benefit greatly from another speaker. Also, instead of a generic external AM antenna connecter on the radio, it would have been nice to have a simple RCA plug that would fit the AM antenna. That way you don’t have to mess with the connector or ferrite stick. In addition it would be nice if the external AM antenna connector correctly showed the signal strength on the LCD display — this would help greatly with tuning the AM antenna.
Some suggestions for the AM antenna would be, it really needs a lock on the tuner so that if you bump it you don’t loose your tuning. It would also be nice if you could split the cable from the tuner or the antenna so that it could go to different radios. If C.Crane sold tuners by themselves, then several people could share the same antenna and be listening to different stations. The cable definitely needs extra insulation/shielding. It is very susceptible to interference from electronic devices and with 25 to 75 feet of cable you are fairly likely to run past some electronics. One last thing for the Antenna, it would be nice if they would use a standard size wall plug and build the brick portion into the tuner, that way you don’t loose a space on your power strip.
If you are in the market for a great radio with lots of great features including TV and weather stations and excellent battery life then the CCRadio is an excellent choice. If you already have a radio and you are looking for better reception then you should be just fine with the AM antenna. With the AM antenna, and messing with the position and length of the extension cord, I was able to get some excellent reception. Either way you choose you won’t go wrong and you will enjoy your purchase for a very long time.
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