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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | COMMRADIO CR-1 COMMUNICATIONS RECEIVER Help

COMMRADIO CR-1 COMMUNICATIONS RECEIVER Reviews: 24 Average rating: 4.2/5 MSRP: $$650
Description: The CR-1 is a small, low-power, ruggedly constructed radio
receiver that is finding a niche in the world of SWL’s
(short wave listeners) and amateur radio enthusiasts alike.

The CR-1 is a NEW Software Defined Radio (SDR) from the
designers of miniature wideband signal intelligence
receivers, developed for special-operations units, and
rugged business-jet data-link transceivers.

The CR-1 SDR is independent of a host PC, using embedded
digital signal processing technology providing a degree of
portability and performance previously unavailable to the
radio enthusiast.

As one potential customer noted: “It’s an SDR with knobs,
keys, and a display!”
Product is in production.
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KN4VV Rating: 5/5 Dec 22, 2016 07:51 Send this review to a friend
Big in Small Package  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Don't have much to add beyond what others have said.

I use this radio daily w/ AOR LA400 at easy chair - catching MW broadcasts, checking out the HF bands, VHF and NOAA weather, others have said, the audio on FM bcb is not the best.

The other thing I've noticed is a distinct audio hum when hooked to power - it's faint when hooked to 12v but very distinct when using the usb port. I've tried ferrite ring filter, which didn't make a difference; I don't know if the noise is from the internal charging circuit or if I didn't use the proper filter on the power-in conductor.

Anyway, there's no hum when on battery power, and fortunately, the battery life is much longer than any of my listening sessions (I can usually go multiple sessions before it needs a charge) - a distinct advantage over my FT-817.

Another little quirk for me is the dual use of the push button for power up/down routine and the menu. I'm a bit absent minded and sometimes I push it wanting to access the menu but hold it just long enough to trip it into power down routine....

I gave this a "5" because quirks aside, to have this capability in this form factor (size and almost weightless) is enjoyable.

W9IV Rating: 5/5 Nov 27, 2016 07:55 Send this review to a friend
Nice Compact SDR  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I found this little receiver to be the perfect suitcase radio to take on trips. It works exceedingly well on HF and has surprised me using just a simple long-wire antenna. It has many features that make it so easy to use. I listen to mostly Ham HF and MW bands. It will work best with a good wire or tuned antenna. Whips for VHF/UHF are good. Highly portable and very capable with the right antennas.
N9VEQ Rating: 4/5 Jan 25, 2016 15:02 Send this review to a friend
great feeling radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Was a 2 meter ham operator now listening to shortwave stations listed in Mostly use a Sangean 909x for Short Wave, FM and AM.

Sit CR1a (attached telescoping antenna) next to Sangean 909x (telescoping antenna), listen to Radio Havana Cuba 6000kHz

Feel both radios about same strength receivers. 909x does have GREAT soud
KD8OPI Rating: 4/5 Oct 4, 2015 08:08 Send this review to a friend
A good receiver, but it has some issues.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The CR-1A by Commradio is an interesting product. It is an all mode, self contained SDR receiver (no computer required) covering HF, broadcast AM, broadcast FM (more on this later), VHF and UHF.

I've owned this radio since May 2015 (5 months or so), I've used it with the following antennas: S9 31' vertical antenna with 32 ground radials, a Cushcraft Ma-5B mini beam, a Comet GP-9, an AOR LA-400 magnetic loop antenna, a Grundig AN-200 passive loop (cheapest am loop out there at $20), and a few simple BNC whips antennas.

I've compared this radio to the following:
Elecraft K-3, Yaesu 817-ND, Sony C1Pj ($50 clock radio), and a Sony S10MK2 pocket transistor radio ($12).

The CR-1A is a solidly build radio with a no-nonsense display and a menu driven interface that keeps the knob count at two. The menus are easy to navigate and mostly easy to access. It sits on 4 relatively tall rubber feet to give clearance to the down-firing speaker. Audio quality from the speaker is only fair, but you have options for an external speaker and a headset. The radio comes with two BNC antenna jacks for HF and VHF/UHF. The radio can be powered by an AC/DC wall wart (NOT INCLUDED) or a USB cable (INCLUDED). It has an internal Lithium 3.7 2600 mAh battery that comes installed.

I think the first question you need to ask yourself when you come across this radio, is why do need it? Are you a SW listener? Do yo monitor VHF/UHF ham bands, broadcast AM DX? Do you plan to use this in your shack or take it outside? I think these are key questions you need to consider.

Performance: This really need to be broken down to give the reader an accurate picture.

Sensitivity: This is extremely antenna dependent. The reader out there will see this and say "well of course, tell me something I don't know"; but for this radio I think this consideration is key. There is no internal antenna on the CR-1A, so any listening requires at least one bit of wire hooked up to a BNC jack. In my shack, hooked up to a bevy of large outdoor antennas on HF, the radio is a fine performer. The S9 31' antenna does a nice job as a receiving antenna, with its combined 1000 feet of ground radials and vertical element. Ditto the MA5-B. But this radio struggles when attached to smaller antennas for AM broadcast and HF. For example, attaching this radio to the AN-200 (its a cheap passive AM loop - but it ain't bad) it does no better and sometimes worse than my sony clock radio; and frankly compared to a $12 pocket AM/Fm transistor radio, the pocket AM/FM radio is a better performer at 1/50th the cost on AM/FM broadcast compared to the CR-1A with an AN-200 loop and an FM whip. Going up the antenna food chain, a $500 amplified loop like the AOR LA-400 you begin to see dividends. But, are you going to take $500 active AM loop to accompany your $600 SDR and still call that a portable radio? I don't think so. I've seen videos on youtube with long random wires strung up in trees attached to the Cr-1A that show this set-up works well, and I believe it.

So am I saying that the radio is no better than a $12 Sony radio you can buy at Walmart? No; but if you want to use this radio in an outdoor setting with limited antenna options for AM/FM broadcast radio its not going to perform well for you. Attached to an appropriate HF antenna, a long random wire strung up in trees or some nice loop antennas for AM broadcast the CR-1A is a real performer that equals the performance of my Yaesu 817nd in terms of sensitivity. Less than that, you're better off with a much less expensive quality AM/FM radio for a portable solution on these bands.

Selectivity: I think this is where the radio shines the most. If you consider this radio as a HF, all mode receiver you will put into your shack, you get a bevy of digital filter setting that change per mode that seem to work extremely well. This is an important feature not to be overlooked. Why? There simply aren't that many general communication receivers built anymore at this price point that offer this. Really, the only one left you can buy new is the ICOM R-75, and it has all of ONE filter, you can add more at $150 per filter - but unless you're in love with your R-75 and want it decked out, its really stupid to pay $1000 for an R75 with 3 filters when you get more expanded digital filters with the CR-1A. So 5-stars on this aspect of the radio; even though they are non adjustable the filter widths are well chosen for broadcast, SSB, and CW/digital modes.

Audio performance:

This is not the same as judging the speaker, but I will remark on this. The internal speaker is fine. It fires down, not up, which is weird but not unheard-of. You can hook up a better speaker.

Noise: This is a concern of mine with this product. You cannot turn off the AGC. You can turn it down, but I have yet to see any effect on performance. The result is that there is a lot of noise that actually increases as the gain is automatically turned up in-between speech/signal. So, if you're listening to a broadcast, every time there is a pause or break in the conversation static noise increases dramatically. See this link to a youtube video that demonstrates this unintentionally in an otherwise very favorable comparison with the ICOM R-75 (thought he R-75 has NR on, more on this). Go to 1:17 into the video for a demo, later you can see the operator adjusting the filter width to to try and reduce this noise, he cant - because its not a problem with the filter.

It would be nice if there was a way to turn off the AGC and have a manual gain control. Could this happen in a firmware update? I don't know.

FM Broadcast: Frankly, its horrible. This radio sounds terrible on standard FM broadcast stations. SO bad, its unlistenable. Really, its that bad. In an emergency or if you don't have a $5 portable radio you could copy information from a broadcaster; and thats about it. I called Commradio about this issue, thinking I had a defective unit. It was politely explained to me, and I do mean politely, that the processor in this radio simply cant handle broadcast FM bandwidth. It is included as a feature, but the manufacturer has some regrets about including this as a selling point, it is more of an experimental feature. I was offered my money back if this was an issue for me, it's not as I have a million radios that I can listen to FM and it has no real bearing on my hobby. Still, someone who buys this radio thinking they are getting a solid FM broadcast listening platform needs to know that they are not. This is one area where unequivocally you are better off with a $10 Walmart radio.

Narrow FM: Its perfectly fine on VHF/UHF/NOAA. This is a real plus. Most comparable communications receivers do not offer this, so this is a bonus compared to a competitor such as the ICOM R-75. But there are some issues with how you listen to VHF/UHF I will cover in memory.

Memory: I think that in HF and AM, memory features are not important, as one can typically tune as quickly to a station as you can with accessing the memory features on this and most other radios. But, I think for VHF/UHF memory is very important, and I think the CR-1A does OK here. You can store 64 memories, but can only "scan" or step through 8 at a time. Its not bad, I wish you could step through more at a time though.

DSP/noise reduction: There is none. It is a fine SRD, but it lacks NR circuitry. Is this a drawback? Well, yes in the sense that there is no way to control the noise in the AGC otherwise aside from "squelch" which in HF is kind of a bad option. What I have found is that paring this radio with a DSP speaker does wonders - but costs $200 more.

Summary: The CR-1A is a quality product that offers excellent sensitivity and selectivity with either large, base antenna systems or long-wire antennas on AM and HF and standard whips on VHF/UHF excluding broadcast FM. As a dedicated base HF receiver, it does well and overall I think it makes more sense to buy the Cr-1A than an ICOM R-75 based upon its filter selections and for the most part ease of operation and size. As a "portable" it struggles to match the performance on AM broadcast with radios 1/10th its price without an elaborate antenna. FM broadcast reception is useless. It receives VHF/UHF well, with capable memory stepping. Finally, the lack of the ability to turn off the AGC and adjust your gain by hand makes this radio more noisy than it needs to be. The problem can be fixed using an external NR set up, but again adds expense.

Who should buy this radio: The serious hobbyist with a solid shack who wants a dedicated receiver on HF. My plan is to use this as a dedicated PSK reporter receiver. I did not go into it in detail, but with a good antenna system and computer hook-up this little guy does a bang-up job in digimodes.

Who should not buy this radio: The person who wants an easy, portable, HF/SW/Am/FM receiver. There are better options that re much less expensive. Its memory set up makes this radio an inefficient scanner of VHF/UHF repeaters

Final thoughts: I think a licensed operator should think carefully before purchasing this product and realize what their getting. If you want a dedicated receiver or are interested in this technology as a hobbyist, go for it if you have the means. But, to be 100% frank, I found the performance of this radio on HF no better than that of my Yaesu FT-817nd; the only exception being better selectivity on CW with the filters. The Yaesu FT-817nd is otherwise just as capable on receive, and with a $120 filter dose well on CW and digital modes. The 817 is superior for monitoring VHF/UHF repeaters which it can scan or you can scan manually more easily than on the CR-1A. Properly set up (i.e. AGC on, but the gain turned down a bit manually), the 817 does not have the noise problems that the CR-1A has. The 817 also has proper FM broadcast reception; and it has a transmitter (duh) so you can actually get in there and participate. Finally, the FT-817 costs only $20 more than the CR-1A; so if you only were going to buy ONE PORTABLE radio for general coverage HF receive, FM/VHF/UHF receive, you may want to think hard between the $599 CR-1A and the $619 Yaesu FT-817.

KB2RSK Rating: 5/5 Jan 10, 2015 11:14 Send this review to a friend
Great Receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just received my CR1-A
I am using an OCF 80 thru 6 meter dipole for HF receive and a Dis cone antenna for the VHF and UHF.
So far my reviews are the receive has a very low noise floor level, which is comfortable for listening to those hard to tune in SW stations and DX radio Operators.
I am happy with the design and performance and the suggesting of updated firmware in the future.
WN6F Rating: 4/5 Nov 2, 2014 03:51 Send this review to a friend
Small size - great performance  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I'm using the CR1a with firmware 9913.

I got it mostly for portable use, and was surprised at the performance considering how little power it draws.

Using a 12v supply, I measured 300ma when running and charging the internal li-ion battery, and when that is fully charged, only 75ma in use. WOW!

I like being able to run and charge from the 5V usb input too, as well as the 6-18v input. Solar power is incredibly easy especially with the 5v usb input - I just use a folding Anker 14w panel that has a built-in 5v regulator, although I could probably get away with the 8-watt panel. Although charging from the 6-18v input is faster, the 5v usb is a bit more convenient from the typical folding solar panel with built-in regulator.

For long term use, yes I could use a small sealed agm, but instead chose to use a lightweight Shorai LFX12 lifepo4 powersports battery. Got about 38 hours out of it before reaching 12.8v, which is not wise to discharge much further below. I drag a small Fluke multimeter with me to keep an eye on the voltage. Maybe in the future, battery voltage could be measured and displayed by the rig itself.

Small size, plenty of ways to low-power it, good performance with the ability for future updates, not dependent upon a computer, etc all made this a worthy tool for the shack and field.
N5ACM Rating: 5/5 Aug 28, 2014 18:30 Send this review to a friend
Impressive, Easy to Operate, SDR Receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Picked up a demo CR-1 from HRO and couldn't be happier.

The unit was in excellent condition. I updated DSP and Firmware to latest version without a hitch. The radio has excellent RX on HF Ham bands in all modes while using a good antenna. MW sensitivity seems to be outstanding, I am able to pick up weak stations that give my other rigs some trouble amazingly well.

It also seems to do fine on VHF air band, NOAA and other VHF line of sight signals just fine using a Comet BNC-W100RX whip antenna.

The best attributes besides core RX performance are the small footprint and extremely intuitive operation. I removed the large feet and replaced them with a set of stick on bumpers from the hardware store. There seems to be no degradation in volume using the 1/4 inch feet vs the stock 1 inch versions. The menus and minimal controls work beautifully together. It is a simple and elegant interface, and I don't find the controls difficult to access at all.

The radio was purchased as a travel receiver to tune through Ham/SWL bands and access known VHF frequencies. It is not a scanner, but will step through frequencies within a band. Up to the user to touch the tuning knob to tune back to the active frequency. The stepping rate can be specified to the user's preferences. It is also extremely straightforward to store favorite frequencies, and the radio will step through those as well.

All things considered, it is an easy to operate, small travel or desktop radio. By far the handiest platform I own and perfect to take on trips when you just want to listen. I find it has become the "go to" RX for quick listening. No need to fire up power supplies, tune or configure antenna feeds, connect laptops or fight the corresponding tangle of cabling for SDR operation. It is so easy to just turn this little guy on with a whip or long wire and enjoy the simplicity.

It takes the clutter and complexity out of the equation, while simultanously performing well.

As always, a good, well located antenna will dictate performance, but when using the CR-1, I find myself wishing all radios were as easy to deal with.
AKSWL Rating: 5/5 Aug 14, 2014 17:30 Send this review to a friend
Just perfect !  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As an active SWL from 65  and former general class amateur  (64-90) I have had numerous receivers in my QTH starting from Pennsylvania to Anchorage, Alaska and now  Idaho
From my first super regen Lafayette Explorer-Air (which I still own) to various Collins receivers; 51s1, 51J4, Cubic 3030, Racal 6790, and way too many Japanese receivers, Icom R-70 71a, R-75, Kenwood’s; 2000-5000’s,  Yaesu FRG’s, Palstar  R30 and 30A’s
All worked well with varying degrees of performance, So I've had lots of receiver experience from less expensive kits to 10K government professional HF receivers.

Then along comes this little big footed radio the;   CR1/CR1a

All I can say is WOW!  First thing I noticed was the extremely low noise floor, then the auto band/mode changing internal AA battery works for at least 8 hours before recharge.   Easy to interpret menu driven selections by one knob! Easy tuning, great amber display (I have a CR1a) 
 I listen to utility USB and copy USCG aircraft on the east coast and various vessels/aircraft on USCG  freqs.

  I am using a 65 end fed LW across my roof peak with a 9:1 balun, RG-58x feed line here at 2800 feet above Boise, Idaho in the foothills. in a planned community with no above ground utilities for QRM.

A great receiver for space short SWL’s or hams. Great on trips or Dx’peditions.
no PBT, DSP, noise blanker, just not needed. Great number of memories divided into 8 pages. You can “step” through each memory but not all the pages at one time, so you select each page to step through the saved frequencies. Mode, BW and AGC is saved into parameters for recall. VHF-UHF works well with local repeaters coming in well.
but I have not programmed frequencies into the bands as most Public safety has moved to P25 700 mhz here in SW Idaho.

Just a very well-designed tiny receiver with surprising rich sound (remember those BIG FEET) no spurious mixing spurs that I can find tuning the various bands. Now looking to use a solar charger to recharge the internal AA lithium Ion battery. 


John/ Boise Idaho
Good Dx'inhg with the CR1/CR1a
K3UBD Rating: 5/5 May 9, 2014 07:56 Send this review to a friend
COULD NOT BE MORE PLEASED  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
First of all, I had no intention whatsoever of purchasing a stand alone, solid state receiver. I'm old school (Collins, Drake, Central Electronics, etc.) and except for my mobile rigs in the 4Runner, I had planned to stay that way. That was until Ron at HRO in San Diego demoed the CR1 by CommRadio. Blew my socks off!! To have an SDR without the need for a computer to control it, turned out to be a blessing. I bought the unit not so much for the specs, although they are truly outstanding, but for the application. This receiver has been installed in the SUV as a stand alone, totally portable, self-contained, backup/monitor. It's small size and built-ins (battery, speaker) provide a go anywhere, highly sensitive and selective receiver. Of course if one wants an outboard speaker or external battery or ac supply, the unit will accommodate these. The last thing I'll say about any receiver/transmitter is it's all about the antenna. Great radio....bad antenna....lousy performance. Great radio.....great antenna.... great performance. The CR1 is just such a GREAT radio. Customer Service is outstanding!! When the designer of the CR1 sends an e-mail on a Sunday afternoon to answer a question concerning downloadable updates, I'm impressed. Got a great radio and a great company to stand behind it.
K0IVK Rating: 5/5 May 3, 2014 08:47 Send this review to a friend
Great stand alone SDR RX  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I've been into SDR since the first Soft Rock 40 came out. I was happy to hear about an SDR that needed no PC and was battery powered. I bought mine 2nd hand in December 2013 from a ham in St. Louis. It is serial #0112 and has DSP v.1892 and PIC v 1883. I think it is well designed and well built. I've never had any complaints. I did experience the hum some others mentioned, but that turned out to be my Ameritron remote coax switch control voltage, which is on the coax. There is some bleed through on the 500 Hz CW filter with strong signals near by, but the later firmware may solve that.
The CR-1 is a fantastic little RX.
Thanks CommRadio !!
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