Initial impressions of the CCrane Skywave SSB

Jock Elliott

There’s a tendency, on viewing the CCrane Skywave SSB for the first time, to say something like, “Awwww, it’s so cute!” It measures just 3 inches high by 5 inches wide by about an inch thick and weighs just ounces. It’s so small that it will actually slide into the chest pocket of one of my flannel shirts with a bit of room to spare. It seems, well, almost toy-like.

A thought comes to mind: can something so small actually perform well? Further, it ought to perform well for the price, right?

Jay of calls the Skywave SSB “the Swiss Army Knife of radio,” and the moniker fits: it covers FM 87.5 – 108.0 Mhz, AM 520-1710 kHz, WX channels 1-7, AIR 118-137 MHz, and SW 1711-29999 kHz.

But despite its diminutive size, the CCrane Skywave SSB is a serious radio. It does everything advertised on the box; it does them pretty darn well, and in my mind so far at least, it’s worth the money.

What I really enjoy about the Skywave SSB is that it is small enough to hold in my lap and cruise the bands to what’s out there, and it is simply great fun.

I found some happy surprises.

(11. In the wee hours of the morning, I was tuning through the MW AM band with both the Skywave SSB and the 2E (both on their internal antennas), found a barely audible station, and found that I could actually hear it better with the Skywave SSB because of the selection of bandwidths that I could access on the SSB. Note: I am not asserting that the SSB will outperform the 2E in all circumstances, but it’s nice to know that it did in at least this one instance.

(22. The WX (NOAA weather channel) performance appears to be as good on the Skywave SSB as on the 2E. There is also a weather radio alert function that is easy to engage.

(33. The SSB has a scan feature that works on AM, FM, SW bands, and even works for scanning the ham bands in SSB mode. If you scan the HF frequencies in AM mode, the radio will jump from one international shortwave band to another. If you scan in SSB mode, the radio jumps from one international ham band to another and automatically switches from USB to LSB as appropriate.

(44. At first, I thought the Skywave SSB might be relatively deaf on the ham bands, but then I checked the ham bands with my Grundig Satellit 800 and heard nothing there as well. So I hooked up the reel-up shortwave antenna that comes with the Skywave SSB, clipping it to the SSB’s whip antenna, and was soon happily listening to hams chatting on the 40 meters band.

Further, the ergonomics of the SSB are pretty darn good, and the manual is clear, well written, and obviously written by someone who actually enjoys radios and gives a hoot about the user.

Interestingly, the Skywave SSB treats single-sideband as a separate band. Right below the display it says: AM, FM, WX, AIR, SW, SSB. There is a separate button to engage SSB mode (there is a tiny LED that lights when SSB is active) and yet another button to select LSB/USB. If you want to fine-tune the signal, there is another button, with light, for that.

There is also a one-page “Quickstart Guide for SSB” that I think is just terrific, and the introduction to the manual provides a very brief overview of some of the things you might be able to hear while using the Skywave SSB. Well done, CCrane!

Years ago, I had a conversation with Tom Kneitel, editor of PopComm. He said he saw his job as “10 percent telling people how to do something, and 90 percent selling the romance of doing it at all.”

There is a lot more that could be said about the Skywave SSB, and I certainly recommend radiojayallen’s review:

My initial impression is that the CCrane Skywave SSB is really enjoyable tool for engaging “the romance” of scanning the airwaves.

Before you comment, realize this is an initial impression and not intended to be an exhaustive review.



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