C. Crane Skywave SSB 2
When C.Crane first introduced the compact Skywave and Skywave SSB radios I was frankly amazed at what they had accomplished and I described the original SSB model as the “Swiss Army Knife of Portable Radios”. The Skywaves are unique in their band coverage and as far as I know are the only travel-sized radios to cover all the bands they do. For a bit of history, you can read the original reviews here:
C. Crane Skywave: https://radiojayallen.com/c-crane-cc-skywave-radio/
C. Crane Skywave SSB: https://radiojayallen.com/c-crane-cc-skywave-ssb-radio/
Most of this information still applies to the still available original Skywave and the upgraded Skywave SSB 2. The SSB 2 arrives nicely packaged with a handy protective travel pouch, a reel-up SW antenna, a set of CC Earbuds, and a clever Antenna Adapter Plug which allows bare wires to be connected. The Skywave SSB 2 is currently selling (at the end of 2022) for $169.99.
What’s New with the Skywave SSB 2:
Left: Original Skywave SSB – Right: Skywave SSB 2
External SW Antenna Jack: At first glance the new SSB 2 looks almost identical to the original SSB model but there are a few upgrades…perhaps the most important of these is the addition of an external SW antenna jack. Interestingly, the supplied reel-up antenna is not designed to use this jack…as with the previous Skywave SSB model it is designed to clip onto the whip antenna. Why did C. Crane add an antenna jack then provide an antenna which clips to the whip instead? The answer is simple. Clipping the relatively short reel-up antenna to the whip will provide more gain than connecting to the jack, which is designed to handle stronger signals from longer or more ambitious antennas. (Although not widely known this is true for many radios which have more gain and/or a higher impedance at the whip then at the antenna jack). And for this purpose, C. Crane has added a thoughtful accessory…a Wire Terminal Antenna Adapter which allows you to connect two bare wires from an external antenna easily. This is a great little accessory which would work well with many radios and perhaps C. Crane will offer it as a stand-alone accessory…if they do, I will buy a few of them.
The USB jack has been updated from USB Mini to the more modern USB Micro type although USB C would have been a more current choice.
Slightly longer feet make the radio just a tad more stable and tip resistant.
Specifications & Features: The Skywave SSB 2 is a small radio designed with the traveler in mind, yet its band coverage is unique – it covers:
FM: 87.5 – 108.0 MHz (or 76 – 108 MHz when 9 KHz AM tuning steps are selected)
AM: 520 – 1710 KHz with 10K Tuning Steps or 522-1620 KHz with 9K steps
Weather: Channels 1-7 (162.400 – 162-550 MHz)
Air: 118 – 137 MHz with adjustable Squelch
SW: 1711 – 29,999 KHz with 5K/1K Steps/ 10Hz Fine Tuning steps in SSB mode
USB/LSB Mode Button
Power: 2 AA Batteries (not included) or external USB/can recharge NiMH cells
Power Consumption: 30 – 100 mA with headphone or speaker usage
Whip Antenna 21” for all bands except AM which has built-in ferrite rod
Smart non-volatile memories remember settings for each preset
Weather Alert Mode (see text)
Clock with 12/24 Hour modes/Alarm (Wake to Beep or Radio)/Sleep Timer
Tuning via Scan, Direct Entry, Up/Down buttons or Tuning Knob with Fast/Slow setting
ATS Tuning/Auto Memory Storage for all bands except Weather
Memory Page/Tone Button (Music/Voice)
Lock Button disables all controls except Volume
Meter/Stereo Button selects SW Meter bands in standard and SSB modes and sets FM to Stereo or Mono
Flip out Back Stand
1/8” Stereo Headphone Mini Jack
1/8” External SW Antenna Jack
Soft Carry Case
CC Buds Earphones
CC Wire Terminal Adapter
Optional Accessory: USB AC Adapter
Beep Disable (With Power Off press and hold #3 button for 2 seconds)
Bandwidth/Charge Button – AM/SW/Air 5 Bandwidth options – 6 in SSB mode – Any bandwidth can be set as the default. Will charge NiMh batteries when connected to USB power with power off.
Designate Clock or Frequency default while radio is on. (With Power Off press and hold #4 button for 2 seconds).
Dimensions: 3” W x 4.75” H x 1.1” D
Weight: 6.7 oz without batteries
Checking It Out/Performance: Of course, the first thing I did was to put my original Skywave SSB side by side with the new SSB 2 to compare their basic feel and performance and I found that the new model behaves almost identically point for point with the addition of the upgrades listed above. Although these small radios were designed primarily as travel radios, I still feel the addition of the External Antenna Jack is worthwhile for times when I want to use the radio with my better antennas and for that it works very well.
For the size and flexibility this radio offers I feel its performance is excellent. Sure, a larger radio like the CC-2E, CC-3 or EP-Pro are more sensitive on AM and sound like the larger radios they are but they cannot be compared…they are for different uses. The Skywave SSB 2 does some things which many popular larger radios don’t. One good example is scanning flexibility. It can scan the entire SW band continuously or just a selected meter band…this is a great feature I wish all my SW radios had. Being a DSP design, it has multiple bandwidths and great filter characteristics. And while its AM performance is not its strongest suit due to the necessarily small ferrite rod it is quite sensitive on all other bands with no apologies needed for its tiny size.
The NOAA Weather Alert is a potentially life-saving feature but be aware that, as with all battery-operated radios, when the Alert Mode is on the radio is using power to silently listen for alerts so for prolonged use of that mode you should use external power to prevent draining the batteries, or have spares on hand.
As a travel radio the combination of Air Band and NOAA Weather along with traditional AM/FM and SW brings a world of info to your fingertips and for that purpose the Skywave SSB 2 is a great travel companion.
The Price: A few points bear repeating here. One is that there are some overseas radios that are based on C. Crane’s research and development of the original Skywave radios. They can be sold more cheaply for several reasons but one big factor is that they did not have to pay that R&D cost, but they would not have been able to benefit if C. Crane hadn’t footed the bill. I like to support C. Crane because they are one of the few innovators that make several quality products we would not otherwise have available to us. And don’t forget the availability of a US warranty from a company that is responsive to its customers and stands behind its products.
Skywave – Skywave SSB – Skywave SSB 2
One more point is that those overseas models don’t have the NOAA Weather Band which is a US-only service, so the Skywaves remain unique in that respect.
Finally, considering how prices of everything have soared recently it is amazing that C. Crane was able to upgrade their Skywave SSB and (so far) keep the price the same. I also smile when I read that some folks think $169 is a too much to pay for a radio yet they are willing to spend many times that amount for a phone…think about it. I feel the Skywave SSB 2 is a good value as it is unique in the marketplace.
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