California’s C. Crane (www.ccrane.com) has built a deserved reputation for its commitment to quality radio receivers both in the brands it offers and, more recently, the custom-designed receivers it develops and sells under its CC Radio nameplate.
The company that developed the AM/FM/TV/Weather CCRadio receiver has a similarly-branded shortwave and pocket SW receiver on the market, and has just broken into the Web reception niche with its diminutive CC WiFi Internet Radio.
The company notes on its site: “Well, we couldn’t let the Europeans and Brits have all the glory, so we’ve built a WiFi radio of our own.”
Priced at $214.95, the CC WiFi Internet Radio follows the increasingly popular trend of creating a speaker cabinet enclosure first, then fitting the radio’s electronics, LCD display and control surfaces into it.
In this instance, the CC WiFI’s black plastic cabinet measures 6.5 inches wide by 3.9 high by 3.9 deep. Inside, there is a 2.5 inch full-range dynamic speaker (8 ohms 5 watts) powered by a 1.5 watts RMS amplifier.
Built upon the Reciva Internet Radio control system — using stations downloaded for free from www.reciva.com, then allowing the listener to tune through them based on location, genre and other characteristics — the CC WiFi has a two-line LCD display; a large tuning dial that doubles for volume and acts as a selector when pushed in; and six separate control buttons for Power, “Back” (reversing the last selection made) and other functions.
The chassis has a stereo headset output, a Line Out for feeding external amplified speakers or a home entertainment system and an Ethernet network port for those who prefer to connect their Internet radios by wire rather than via wireless. (This last feature is usually found on more expensive receivers such as the excellent WiFi/FM Tangent Quattro; sold online at C. Crane for $349.95.)
Like other Reciva-based Internet radios, the CC WiFi can also play music files stored on any computer that is connected to the same network. It can be operated by its front surface controls, or an included remote control.
Like Japanese carmakers, C. Crane’s claim to fame lies in making existing radio architectures function better and do more.
The CCRadio Plus portable radio is an example. Its AM radio reception is far superior to virtually all of its competitors, while the radio’s onboard presets make it as convenient to use as a car radio.
The CC WiFi Internet Radio appears to have been built along the same lines. As opposed to the six memory presets offered by the Tangent Quattro, the CC WiFi offers 99. Given the sheer hassle of finding stations using the Reciva system — you have to drill down through various menu levels — being able to store 99 stations is a real boon. With any luck, you will be able to rely on those, rather than having to start afresh after you get beyond the first six.
The CC WiFi’s remote control is more functional than controls provided by many of its competitors. It makes tuning the radio as easy as changing channels on a television. Again, given how clunky the Reciva interface can be, this is a welcome feature.
The manual is detailed, even including pictorial guides to explain how to walk through the Reciva tuning system. (Evidently I am not the only one to find it clunky.)
By itself, the CC WiFi’s sound seems quite adequate for music listening. The 2.5 inch speaker does cover a decent range of frequencies as far as my ear can tell. This said, it is lacking in bass resonance and sometimes one feels as if you are listening to a “miniature” orchestra when tuning to a classical station.
Turn on the Tangent Quattro and the CC WiFi’s audio limitations become apparent. The Quattro’s audio is fuller and deeper, thanks to its larger wooden case, 3 inch top-mounted speaker (the CC WiFi’s speaker is in the front) and 5 watts RMS amplifier.
However the CC WiFi’s audio does not distort even at full volume, and its lightweight plastic enclosure does not impart any tinniness to the sound. When you use headsets, the CC WiFi delivers stereo audio comparable to the Quattro. In fairness, the CC WiFi costs 39 percent less than the Tangent Quattro.
What does concern me, however, is that the radio occasionally emitted a strangled chirping noise while tuned to CBC Radio 2, at which point the audio dropped noticeably before returning to normal. Listening with a pair of stereo headsets, the chirping did not occur but the audio dropouts did.
I did not notice the same problem on the Catalunya musica channel out of Spain, so the problem may have been caused by interruptions in CBC Radio’s streaming audio. This said, the problem did not occur on the Quattro. The difference may be due to how much data each set buffers to offset signal delays over the Web. (During subsequent listening to CBC Radio 2 on the CC WiFi, the dropout problem was gone.)
The problem has not happened with any of my other WiFi radios over the last two years. I have no doubt that it was due to Internet congestion, but apparently the CC WiFi’s buffering capabilities were not sufficient to cope with the problem.
As well, I wish this radio had some form of battery power capability, either rechargeable or replaceable. Without battery power, the CC WiFi might as well be hardwired to a network, because you cannot move it around as you can a Revo Pico WiFi radio with its rechargeable battery.
Problems aside, the CC WiFi receiver is a capable little receiver; one that provides an enjoyable entree into the world of Internet radio. Now if audio quality is a priority for you and you prefer not to use headsets, the Tangent Quattro is a better buy. But if ease of use, memory capacity and the option of connecting either by wire or wireless matters more, choose the CC WiFi.
Don’t forget the price: At $214.95, the CC WiFi Internet Radio is a relative bargain.