Radios and Reception - Testing and Tips
Related content: More on antenna reviews | Quality radio reviews
Need to find a good radio? Can't pull in that weak signal? Here is our long term radio and reception test featuring the C. C. Radio and the GE Superadio 3 along with other radios tested by listeners. We evaluate products, features, antennae, and offer tips for better reception. This test started in 1999 and continues to run.
Part One - Introduction, Products & Disclaimer
Part Two - reception problems and product specifications
Part Three - Evaluation
Part Four - Conclusions / Opinions / Update / New antenna test underway
Feedback letters - Your comments and observations. Send yours via email
Product Testing - Part One
Introduction / Products / Disclaimer
Update: In the fall of 2001 C. Crane released an improved version of the CC Radio called the "Plus." This radio is also under testing. In addition we will test the new antenna from C Crane called the "Justice AM Antenna."
One of the topics most often brought up since this site started in 1997 was that of reception, particularly AM radio reception. (more on that in part 2 below) There are numerous websites dedicated to AM radios and reception. Let's face it, I'm no technical genius. The amount of information I don't understand about this subject is more than Stephen Hawkins can comprehend. What I can do is provide a place for the average listener to find information in an easy to understand format. As with much of the archived info I post, this will, in the future, make it easier to answer people's questions on this topic by pointing them here. Testing will take into account many of the problems we here in the Philly area face, terrain, office buildings, crappy new home construction, etc. The point here is not to declare a "winner" between the two but to relate some real world experience and share information. Questions that needs to be addressed ... Is the C C Radio worth the price? How good can a bad signal be improved on? Is the GE radio good enough?
From talking with many people about this I narrowed down this test to just 2 radios. They are easy to get and reasonably priced. Radios below this range are hardly worth mentioning and those costing hundreds of dollars more don't deliver a signal significantly better enough to justify the cost. These 2 radios are targeted directly towards the very people most likely to read this and listen to Talk Radio in the Philadelphia area.
|C Crane Radio - By The C Crane Company - http://www.ccradio.com/ - $159 shipping included.|
New improved model released in the Fall of 2001. This new model is under testing now.
|GE Superadio 3 - General Electric - $49 to $69 depending on dealer and shipping. Available at some department stores, online stores and the C Crane Company. |
As I said above, I am not a technical expert. I will depend on the reader to correct minor details. I gathered info and feedback from multiple sources, source sites listed where applicable. It should be noted that I paid for these radios. My contact with the C Crane Co. started a couple of years ago when I asked them numerous questions on AM reception and their products. Here in Philadelphia many technically challenged listeners have reception problems. The people at C Crane Co. were very helpful. The owner of the company even took the time to make sure I was taken care of and all questions were answered. At that time I bought nothing but did pass along the information to those that had prompted me to inquirer on their behalf. Shortly after that the C Crane Co. listed this website on their links page as a resource for Philadelphia Talk Radio information. Now I wanted these radios for my own use so In December 2000 I again contacted them about purchasing a C.C.Radio for testing. I paid for it since I figured that if it spoiled me I wouldn't want to send it back. They packed up all the background information that does not normally come with the radio and sent it along. I'm glad I paid for their radio, I sure don't want to send it back now. I have no connection at all with General Electric. I paid for that radio as well.
Reception problems and product specifications
Here in the Philadelphia area the challenges to clear reception are many.
Terrain: Stations covered by this website range from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pocono mountains. There is wide open flat farmland and low level areas along the coast and rivers. From there going westward from Philadelphia we have some hilly neighborhoods similar to what you think San Francisco would look like. South of the City it is not so bad, North is developed former farmland and rolling hills. Farther to the north-west we have the mountains where there are wide valley areas populated with smaller towns. All of this adds up to a very wide variety of reception conditions. At some points where the elevation increases the groundwave for AM stations dies out and they are too close for the skywave to kick in ... this is particularly frustrating for some people. Even though they are geographically close to the tower they have more of a problem than people 500 miles away at night.
Construction: It seems that all the steel, concrete and metal siding we have here locally is some evil trick to foil even the best of radios. Some people are lucky enough to be near a window and can pick up their favorite stations that way. Some are less fortunate, they work in windowless buildings or far from a window.
Autos: Most car makers cheap out on the AM specifications for their radios. Even if your radio is of average quality once you start it up the electrical interference distorts weak stations.
Radio testing / Reception feedback
I tested both the GE and C.C. Radio at home and work as well as had several friends contribute their own unique experiences with these radios and others. My home has aluminum siding, a challenge to AM reception and work has plenty of electronic interference.
I think some of the most interesting feedback I got was about hooking up the external AM antennas to these radios. There was a significant edge to the C Crane Radio in that area. ALL the radio had an increase in range but at the outer limits the C.C. Radio excelled. One report was from a listener trying to pick up 950 AM here in Philly. The signal for this station is not great and fades out quickly in the surrounding suburbs. One guy could pick up the station far north in the Lehigh Valley with a C.C.Radio connected to an outdoor antenna. This was simply amazing and If I did not know the source and the show in question I would think he was drinking!
More feedback letters are posted below
Conclusions and Opinions
November 2001 (See update below)
My favorite and why ...
As far as picking between The GE Superadio and the C.C.Radio ... for me it was no contest. The clarity of signal and features makes the C.C. Radio a hands down winner. In some areas the GE radio comes close. The GE 3 is a fine radio and the price is about a third the C.C. Radio but several items swung me over. First when I put on a station I want it to stay locked on that signal. The Digital tuning on the C.C. Radio ensures that. I used both radios an equal amount during the day and with the GE radio I would tweak the knob often and when hunting for a remote station have to go back and forth over an area of the dial I guessed it to be. The C.C. lets you nail the frequency the first time and keeps it there. That alone is worth the expense. On some days / nights with challenging reception conditions I felt like smashing lesser radios (like my old boom box at work) into little tiny pieces with all the static and signal fade. If the C.C. Radio doesn't pick up a station then it isn't available, especially when using an additional antenna.
The GE, hobbyists and the price factor ...
The GE radio, also available through C. Crane, is popular with hobbyists, serious radio enthusiasts, and those on a budget. I would be remiss not to mention that many lesser known radio have an almost cult like following. While they don't quibble with the quality of the C.Crane they do mention the price difference. Certainly that is one major factor in any purchase but I tend to think of it this way ... With ANY type of entertainment we partake in there are sponsors. The C. Crane Co. has been a long time sponsor of many radio shows. Most notably in this area they sponsor the Art Bell show (syndicated) and the Rollye James show. I personally don't have a problem kicking in an extra few bucks on a product that supports what I like to listen to. Think about every time you buy a car, you know they are running ads on just about every type of show, sporting event, etc. You pay for that even if those forms of entertainment hold no interest for you. With this radio you most likely only heard of it through talk radio, a form of entertainment you, by visiting this site, probably enjoy. But even that means nothing if the product is lousy, happily in this case the product is of superior quality.
All radio benefited from the following ...
The external (indoors) antenna helps a great deal for the most difficult reception situations. You can place that near a window if you live or work in a concrete and steel office or apartment building. Those who work in windowless areas have said they ran a cable to the outside and put up an outdoors antenna with great results. More on this to follow, read on ...
Testing Update - Winter 2002 - New antenna and radio testing underway
In the fall of 2001 C.Crane released an improved version of the C.C.Radio. This radio will be evaluated as part of a new antenna test utilizing 2 types of antennae ...
Go to the antenna testing and review page
3/18/01 - My name is Nick Lemonakis and I am one of your Baltimore area readers and I wanted to write and let you know how much I am enjoying the site!
I wanted to chime in here with my 2 cents worth on the CC Radio and the G.E. Superadio III.
First I agree with all of the comments regarding the Super III it is not as good as it predecessors. The Super III has better audio and great selectivity on AM. The FM selectivity is poor however. The Baltimore/Washington area is home to some very directional FM WQSR- 105.7) Baltimore and WJZW-105.9 in Woodbridge, Va (Washington D.C.). I cannot get the Woodbrige, Va station on my Superadio III. I could however pick the adjacent station signal @105.9 on the Super II When I had it in the 80's. The sound is much better on the Superadio III but what they've sacrificed in this effort was sensitivity and selectivity of course all this depends on the reception conditions in a given area. Having said that it's still a good buy and I have 2 sets. I found them at a great price 39.50 mail order from Bennett Brothers of Chicago Ill.(1-800-621-2626).
I also have 2 CC Crane radios and very pleased with them. The downside on the CC Radio is that if you are near a strong local AM station you may get an image of that signal on a nearby frequency. My second model has an external FM antenna jack I had the C.Crane Co. install for me as I wanted to see how it would perform. Due to my location I had to install RF notch filters to compensate for strong local interference from WQSR(105.7) It's not their fault they just have a highly directional signal. The CC Radio performed badly on FM with the notch filters but improved when I took the filters off. When I did that those adjacent stations came in. I was also able to pick up all of the Philly FM's exceptions were those that were co-channel WBEB is one, WPLY is another. Those stations are co-channel with WWDC-FM and WBIG-FM 101.1 and 100.3(Washington) in that order. Those stations came in when conditions were such that they blew out the D.C. stations.
I hope this info helps your readers.
I recently purchased the Henry Kloss Model 88 Radio. This is kind of a junior version of the Bose Radio. The AM section is awful but the FM section is one of the best I've owned. It does those adjacent stations including those from Philly. Conditions vary of course but this is an excellent FM set I got it locally but it is sold mail order from Cambridge Audio out of Mass(1-800-for hifi.
I wanted to add one more bit of information. I recently contacted GE Thomson in Indianapolis and was told that they we can look forward to a digital version of the GE SUPERADIO @some point---I can't wait!
Follow up - I experimented with the CC Radio again and it actually works with the RF filters. What I did was put the filter on the floor connected by a 6 and1/2ft cable and tightened up the tuning a little and both the Henry Kloss Model 88 Radio and the CC work very well. It's good enough for me I'm happy as I am now maximizing use of the FM Yagi.
1/25/01 - (Scott) My initial impression of the C.Crane Radio is that it's convenient (digital, TV and weather bands, clock radio), but it's overpriced for the performance. I find the sound to be adequate on AM and weather, but decidedly lacking on FM. I understand that C.Crane markets the radio as optimized for AM, but the GE Superadio sounds better overall for less than half the price. The FM performance on the C.Crane is unremarkable. The AM is quite good, though it just edges out the GE Superadio which is also excellent on AM (adjacent channel AM reception is better on the C.Crane - the digital fine tuning helps here). The $60 Superadio has the benefit of a fine FM section as well.
From Wilmington Delaware,
I have an older Panasonic radio in our condo kitchen and the reception beyond Wilmington, Newark, Chester County, Philadelphia and immediate suburbs is very poor!!!
I pick-up NY radio on our cars, both Toyotas, a '97 and a '98---during the
day the reception is VERY GOOD especially WOR, WCBS. WFAN and WABC can be heard without any problem, but not as much clarity as the first two mentioned. When darkness arrives reception is POOR---fades in and out.
I work part-time for Matt Slap Subaru in Newark driving new Subarus on dealer trades throughout MD, PA, DE and South/Central NJ and the AM radio reception is very good---Subaru radios are very powerful----I might add I can also pick-up Baltimore radio--WCBM, WBAL etc very well.
Some images in this report are taken from the C. Crane website and optimized for our use.
Dave Skalish contributed technical assistance to this report.
Scott Tilde contributed background information.