iPods are by far the most popular MP3 players on the market. However, iPods and other MP3 players have neglected a very important market, radio listeners. While most MP3 players include an FM radio hardly any of them have an AM radio. C.Crane has long been known to provide top quality AM and FM radios of all shapes and sizes. The CC Witness is their latest, and smallest, offering.
- USB 2.0 Interface
- Built-In Calendar
- Voice Recording in MP3 Format (32Kbps – 256Kbps)
- Alarm Clock
- FM Antenna
- Stereo Earbuds
- USB Charger/Connector Cable Included
- Up to 16GB of external memory
- Built in small 3/8″ stereo speakers
- 2GB onboard memory records/stores 500+ songs at 128kpbs or hundreds of hours of talk at 32kbps
- Stereo recording from FM Band or Mic/Line input.
- Mono voice recordings from built-in microphone
- Fully charged battery yields up to 16 hours of playtime. 8 hours of record time.
- Recharges in about 4 hours
The built-in AM and FM antenna are the highlights of the CC Witness. With the additional benefit of playing MP3 and WMA files you have access to just about all forms of audio entertainment.
The built-in calendar and scheduler are also very important features, with these features you can schedule up to 20 recordings that will start and stop when you want.
With the 2 GB of internal memory you can expect up to 140 hours of recording time depending on the quality setting you have chosen. For example, if you set the record quality at 32kbps you will get about 140 hours, but if you set the quality at 256kbps you will only get about 17.5 hours. However, with the ability to accept an external memory card, you can add up to 16GB of additional storage space.
The black and silver design of the CC Witness gives it a sleek and simple look. The front has a 1.85″ black and white screen, and eleven buttons. The buttons are fairly standard, play, pause, FF and RW. There are also buttons for Record, Menu, and others. The screen is very basic and only shows text, you cannot view pictures or movies with the CC Witness like you can with other MP3 players.
At the top of the right side is the lock switch, volume buttons, speaker, and at the bottom is a reset button.
The left side has Microphone Mic/Line in jack, speaker, and an SD card slot.
The bottom has the USB interface plug, and a headphone/antenna jack. The USB interface is completely custom so if you lose your cable you will have to buy a new one from C.Crane. It would have been more convenient if the CC Witness had a standard USB plug. This way it would be easier to find a replacement cable and it would be possible to share cables with other USB devices and cut down on cable clutter.
Navigating the menus is relatively easy. There are Essentially five menu items AM, FM, Files, Settings, and Timers. They are all fairly self-explanatory. The AM menu activates the AM radio. From here you can press up and down to scroll through any presets you have, press left and right to tune the radio. You can also press the record button to start a recording. The FM menu starts the FM radio and you have exactly the same options as AM.
The Files menu gives you the ability to scan through all the files you have saved on the CC Witness. When you first go into the files menu you are shown a tree style file menu of all the folders on the device. The default folders are AM, FM, Timers, Computer, Mic, and Line. Each folder is used to store a different kind of file. For example, when you manually record an AM radio program it will automatically get put in the AM folder. If you have a timer set to record then the file is put in the timers folder.
The Settings menu has all the configurations that are available on the CC Witness. These settings are broken up into five categories, Play, Record, Sound, Display, and System settings. Under the Play settings you can change things like how the folders are viewed, and how files are played. Under the Record settings you can change the quality of each kind of recording (AM, FM, etc.). Under the Sound setting you can change things like the Equalizer, 3D effects, default volume and more. Under the Display settings you can set the contrast, backlight time and ID3 tag display. Finally system settings are for things like Time and Date, Sleep Times, and Auto off Time.
The Timers menu is where you can setup timers for recording radio programs or playing files, review previously set timers, and turn all the timers on and off. Setting a timer is fairly easy, all you have to do is set things like the on and off status (Off, Record and Play), memory location (external or internal), source (AM, FM, Mic, and Line), the station (if the source is AM or FM), Days (you can select a specific date or one or more days of the week), and finally you set the start and stop times. After you click save you are done and unless you turn the recording off it will run and record your show. The only things you need to worry about are if you are listening to a different program when the timer starts it will interrupt your program and switch to the recording station. Also, you can only have one recording going at a time.
Because C.Crane is well known for building radios that get great AM reception, I had high hopes for the CC Witness. So needless to say I was eager to turn it on and try it out. The CC Witness has a very quick boot time of only a couple seconds, so I did not have to wait long before I got to try it out.
The first thing I did after letting it completely charge was to try out the AM radio. At first I was a little surprised because I could hardly hear anything except static. This is not what I expected from a C.Crane product. So I moved around a bit to see if I could get better reception, I was sitting at my desk in front of my computer. As I moved away from my computer I noticed a remarkable difference in the quality of the radio signal. As I moved back to my computer the signal went back to being terrible. I found that I needed to be at least two feet away from my LCD monitors and computer, or else I would get a lot of static. In addition, the AM antenna is directional, so even if I was in a good spot if I turned a different direction I would lose the signal. This made it very difficult to walk around with, because half the time I was facing the wrong direction and I would not hear anything.
The two speakers do a decent job of playing the radio and MP3 files, but a good set of headphones will do a much better job. Also, if you are listening to FM radio the headphones help to boost the signal by acting like an antenna. Unfortunately, AM radio reception does not get the same boost from headphones. If you don’t want to, or cannot wear headphones, the CC Witness comes with an FM antenna that you can plug into the headphone jack. With this antenna plugged in you still get a reception boost and the sound comes from the speakers.
Recording the radio for the most part was uneventful, except for trying to find a position that had optimal signal quality. However, there was one AM station that gave me a particularly strange problem. If I had the quality of the recording set above 64 Kbps, then I would hear a loud high pitched sound during the recording. Because this did not happen on any other station, I don’t have a clue as to what was causing it.
Here is a comparison of how a 32Kbps recording sounds, and just below that is a 64Kbps recording. As you can hear the 64Kbps recording is much clearer. If you can, I recommend that you record at the highest setting possible.
I did not have any problems when recording FM radio, as you can tell from the music file below, FM came through just fine. The quality setting I like for FM is the maximum of 256Kbps, it sounds almost like it came off a CD.
Upgrading the firmware is also easy and straight forward. When you download a firmware update there will be two files, these two files need to be loaded onto your CC Witness. To do this you need to first plug in the CC Witness and copy the YUF file onto the internal storage. Then you unplug the CC Witness and let the file load. Then plug it back in and copy over the FNT file. Again, unplug the CC Witness and let the file load. Once the two files are loaded you are done. Unfortunately, you lose all your settings and recordings when you upgrade your firmware. There is also no way to back them up. If you have a lot of them, you may want to hold off on upgrading the firmware, unless you need the new features or bug fixes they are providing. I also recommend you store as much as possible on an external card. You do need to remove external cards also because they could also get formatted.
Warranty and Support
The warranty on the CC Witness is for only one year. I keep trying to get companies to offer longer warranties, but so far I have not had much luck.
The biggest problem I see with the CC Witness is the price. If you compare the CC Witness against the iPod it does not fair well. The CC Witness costs $229 and you get 2GB of storage and a text only screen. However, for $199 you can get an 8GB iPod which has a color screen and you can view pictures and watch movies. For now the iPod does not have AM, FM (I know there is an add-on), or schedules for recordings, but, if Apple ever added those features it would be a hard sell for the CC Witness. The decision is made even harder because a lot of AM stations are switching to HD radio which is broadcast on FM. If C.Crane could add support for HD Radio it would make the CC Witness a much better value. However, if other MP3 players add support for HD radio and they keep their prices low, then the CC Witness will loose a lot of its appeal.
Despite the above, I really like the CC Witness. I listen to a lot of AM radio so it fits my needs really well. For most people who are looking for a portable AM radio, it will work for them as long as they are within range of the station you want to listen to. I like to take it to my kids sports games and listen to the radio while I am watching their game. It helps to keep me entertained when the kids take a break and when my kids are not playing. For now we are giving the CC Witness the Silver award. This is because of the High price, low quality screen and the low capacity internal memory. If those things can be improved it will certainly warrant a much better award. As always compare prices before purchasing.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|