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C. Crane Wi-Fi Radio Review

C Crane Wi-Fi Radio

Disclaimer: This review is my own personal opinion. It is my best effort to tell others how a particular product met my expectations. Comments and rebuttal are welcomed, but you will have to get your own web site to have them published. These comments are made without malice. I purchased this product at retail, just as most would do. No communication regarding this product has been made to the seller.


Introduction

This is my first review. Some of my friends have shown interest in buying an internet or Wi Fi radio. They knew that I had purchased recently and have come to me for information and opinions. Radio streaming has been around on the internet for quite a few years now. These stand alone devices have been around for several years, but still are new to a lot.

I will start this review with a few facts and opinions on internet streaming in general, and then get into the nitty gritty of the C C WiFi Radio.

General Statements about WiFi Streaming Radio

First, to be able to stream WiFi radio, you need several things. First you need a broadband internet connection, such as via cable or dsl. A router, either wireless or wired is also needed. This is where your WiFi radio gets it's information.

WiFi radios use bandwidth during streaming. Some internet providers are becoming very stingy on what their customers are allowed to use during their normal service. It's called "Service With An Eyedropper". To calculate the bandwidth, I used an online streaming calculator. If you are streaming at 64 Kbps every day for an hour, in a month you will chew up 864 Kbps. That can be rounded to 1GB transfer per month. Not to be wasteful, I try to pick a stream that is closest to me with the lowest bandwidth. This is especially true if I am using the sound to fall asleep. Waste not, want not.

The next thing to note is that most of these radios are never turned completely off. They maintain that internet connection 24/7. It is expected that I will pay around $10 per year more in electric costs for the pleasure of the internet connection. If you don't mind waiting a couple of minutes for your radio to be ready, you can unplug the power supply or otherwise remove power from it. I consider myself an electrical cheapskate (actually according to my "friends", I am a cheapskate in every way). But this is a cost of operating a WiFi radio.

Now an important note. All these radios depend on a "gateway server" to provide the connection transaction between the service offering the stream (say a radio station) and your WiFi radio. There are different business models. Some are via paid subscription (bad), and some are free (good). Some radios even offer multiple gateways. You should investigate to see which one is for you. The maker of the radio you want to buy should have this information. You can then visit the web sites to see what is available and for how much.

The C C WiFi Radio uses reciva.com as their gateway. Several other radio models use Reciva too. As I understand it, Reciva sells the radio manufacturers a firmware module that allows connection and use of their servers. The business model is to sell these to cover their costs and then some, depending on future radio sales to further fund their endeavor. This is the "cemetery business model". :) So, once you buy your radio, there are no further costs assuming Reciva doesn't shutter their servers. Once I learned this, my aim was to buy only a Reciva based radio.

Reciva has an online service that will store your favorite stations. Recently they upgraded their servers to better search and store your streaming selections. Reciva is definitely not a bum steer!

The C Crane WiFi Radio

It took me 9 months to decide that I wanted to buy a WiFi radio and which model to buy. I decided on this one. I am not unhappy with my decision, but knowing what I know now, I might have made another decision. This radio is built to high quality standards. It did take me a little while to get the connection right, but there was nothing wrong with the radio. I actually first connected to a neighbors open router first! Once I put in all the basic information, I was set to go. To me, the operation was obvious and didn't need much manual reading. I always read manuals completely just in case I missed a feature.

The radio stays connected, but once a week or so, it does a reboot and initialization. This takes less than a minute. It is just one of those internet things. Once a station is selected, there is time spent buffering the memory so there is smooth release of the content, even if there is a brief stream delay somewhere.

What I like about this product.

The major thing that tipped the scale in favor of this radio was the 100 memory capacity. While most radios had maybe 4 to 20 station memories, this one has 100. With about 15000 stations available, 100 seemed logical to me. I talk about this more later in this review.

The current price of this radio is $160 plus shipping. Nearly 6 months ago I paid $200 for this (free shipping). But price decreases are typical. At $160, this set is value priced.

I also like buying from C. Crane. While this is my first purchase, they have been known for a long time for their superior service. I think this product has a 1 year warranty. Buying from a place like this is value.

What I don't like about this product.

This may seem long, but I still like this radio a lot. These are more of annoyances than downright hatred. First is the remote control. It is one of those credit card sized with the snap switches. It is hard for me to use and needs deliberate and slow button pushing for the right input. Many of the WiFi radios have this same type of remote. It is logical that this type would be provided, but that doesn't mean that I especially like it. However, since I now use the stored stations from Reciva, I really don't need to use the remote very much.

I don't have to use the memories very often because this radio knows what favorites I have from the Reciva web site. Rather than use the built in memories, I use the favorites already stored. This means that the 100 memories is not as much as a useful feature that I first thought.

Since I use this for my sleep radio, and the radio is next to me, the volumes are very low. Unfortunately at these low volumes, the distortion out of the speaker is quite bad. At normal volumes, the audio is very clean. My work around is to use a set of external computer speakers. Now the audio is perfect. It is just one of those things that affected me.

The most annoying thing about this radio is how the sleep timer works. You have to click through several menus to finally turn on the sleep timer. Since this is something I do every night, it makes me unhappy. I see that other models, have a separate button on the front that will cycle various time lengths. Had I been paying more attention, I would have chosen a different model based on this. Maybe a firmware update could change the power button to a combination power and sleep button. I may buy another one of these radios and use this one in my living room, or even in my computer room.

This radio requires one to be able to see to work most functions, although once set up, a blind person could operate the radio with the remote. The front panel knob and menu selections are for the sighted only. But I think all radios are like this. It is not an issue with me, but it is worth mentioning.

Anything Missing?

Now that you mention it, it would be cool to have a USB jack so that a thumb drive could be plugged in. I could then listen "off line". This is an afterthought and some other radios do have a USB jack built in. On my next radio, I would look for this feature, but not having it would not be a deal breaker.

Conclusions

While my dislike list may have been a little long, I still like this radio. It just didn't fit my lifestyle quite the way as I would have liked. But since everyone is different, if these annoyances don't bother you, I say buy this radio. C Crane also has a wide selection of other quality WiFi Radios.

Update August 2009

One evening recently I tried turning on my radio and there was no connection to the router. After replacing the wifi router, I determined that the radio was no longer working. I checked it by connecting to the wired connection and it worked fine that way.

I called C. Crane and told them what happened. They had me go through a series of tests. My diagnosis was correct. They issued me an RMA and away it went. They called to tell me that they had received the radio and there was indeed a problem with it. They said a new one was going my way. I just received it today, plugged it in and everything was fine. The audio at low volumes is very clean with this replacement radio.

I don't often have problems with my stuff, at least while it is in warranty. It was nice calling C. Crane and finding that the call center was not in India, but actually in the USA. The service was quick and I am once again happily listening to my radio.

Dave