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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 SWLís
(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: ďItís an SDR with knobs,
keys, and a display!Ē
Product is in production.
More info:
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NE8C Rating: 5/5 Apr 17, 2014 10:49 Send this review to a friend
A pleasure to operate with just enough hands-on interface.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been enjoying the CR-1 receiver since it first came out. COMMRADIO has been very good about continuously improving the radio's performance and convenience-of-use with easy-to-install software updates over the last year. The CR-1 has now reached a level of performance that compares favorably with the receiver in my Kenwood TS-590 HF transceiver, pulling in most of the same weak signals.
I use the CR-1 mostly to monitor my favorite HF and VHF Ham frequencies when I can't be on the TS-590 or my Kenwood TM-V71 VHS transceiver. The automatic band switching and 'radio-like' interfaces make the CR-1 efficient and easy to operate, minimizing the 'computer feel' of a full-up SDR system (for those of us that prefer to operate real controls instead of a mouse). The CR-1 is a very reliable, high quality value for the price.
WB2KTG Rating: 5/5 Apr 16, 2014 10:20 Send this review to a friend
An Evolutionary Success Story!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been a CR-1 'Owner Operator' for over a year now and find it appropriate to do an update review to outline the changes which have taken place during the past year and the recent evolutionary development, the release to the field of the CR-1a.
My original review was posted on May 14, 2013.

When released during February 2013, the CR-1 was truly a work in process. The receiver was functional, but had numbers of rough edges, numbers of features needing improvement. Through the diligent efforts of the CommRadio team
and the patience and persistence of the 'early adopters' the software bugs were squashed one by one, and the features were honed made fully functional and supplemented.

One of the early complaints was regarding the functioning of the AGC. The time constants were not selected or implemented in a manner which provided easy listening. During CW reception, the AGC decay was too long which produced
a receiver de-sensitization for a few seconds after the signal stopped. This was fixed. The CR-1 now comes with three AGC speeds, Slow - Medium and Fast. The Attack and Decay rates are symmetrical at each speed, and I find them to work
fine for CW, SSB and AM / FM modes under good and also unfavorable conditions.

The tuning knob, when rotated, in addition to changing the frequency produced an audible click in the audio output at each step. I don't know the cause or what was done to correct it, but that problem was solved also.

The numbers of bandwidth filters available for selection has increased dramatically.
Presently there are: CW:500 Hz, 1.0, 1.8, 2.2 & 2.6 kHz; SSB: 1.8, 2.2 & 2.6 kHz
AM: 2.6, 5, 7.5, & 15 kHz; NBFM: 15 & 25 kHz; and FM Broadcast: 200 kHz.
Filter performance has been improved with better shape factor across the board.

The Specified HF Minimum Discernible Signal (MDS) is -130 dBm at 500 Hz bandwidth. That translates to 0.071 microvolts!

Optional software selected Rapid Tune was added, where the tuning knob provides 100 Hz (slow) stepping increment until the knob is continuously rotated a user defined (OFF, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) number of rotations, after which it automatically increases the step size to 1KHz.

Sixty Four memories are available to scan / step through pre-programmed frequencies with adjustable dwell times at each frequency. Eight banks of eight frequencies can be stored and selected. I have one bank set sequentially on the WWV frequencies running in the background continuously to give me an idea of HF propagation conditions.

HF Squelch has been added in addition to the pre-existing VHF / UHF squelch.

I've taken my CR-1 on business trips and vacations, in my checked luggage and my backpack.
It has never failed me or had any hardware or performance issues. My only micro-gripe
is that I have to wrap a turn of insulated wire under the ON/OFF knob to keep the
receiver from turning on while packed, and arriving with a discharged battery. Oh, and
by the way, how many similar radios have built-in, user changeable rechargeable
Li-Ion batteries? It'll run the radio for at least 8 - 10 hours using the internal
speaker, and it now comes free, pre-installed in all radios. It used to cost ~$25.

CR-1a: It's a little over a year later, and CommRadio has introduced the evolutionary
offspring of the CR-1, the CR-1a. It's still the same basic radio. The front plate has a different legend to reflect the new nomenclature. The OLED display has changed color from an easy-on-the-eyes Yellow/Green to a more contrasty Orange color. The USB controller, internal to the radio on the circuit card, only one real circuit card, has changed to a device which allows USB IQ, true digital output, and also allows software upgrades to be made as a one step vice two step process like the CR-1.

The RF, DSP, all the rest are exactly the same in both radios. The software images used to upload into the radio are the same. The CR-1 must still be upgraded by installing two 'chunks', the CR-1a can be upgraded by uploading one 'chunk'. The hardware design has matured, the software has matured. There are still enhancements which can always be added to any radio, but I believe the CR-1 / 1a's potential has been realized.

Demonstration, proof-of-concept software is provided with each CR-1a which allows spectral
display on a host PC using FFT routines being executed by the internal DSP (which, at the same time, is performing demodulation as well as all of it's other jobs). The frequency of the CR-1a
can also be commanded by the host PC over the USB port. The real magic will occur when third parties produce PC based application for the CR-1a, similar to Spectra-Vue for the SDR-IQ family of SDR's. Then we'll be able to have all the functionality we want,in the shack, or while hiking in the mountains.

Thank You CommRadio, Thank You Don!

W8RMV Rating: 1/5 Jan 26, 2014 06:15 Send this review to a friend
Quality not there...  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
When I received my CR1 (DSP FW1819 Early July 2013) I have noticed these issues:
- As soon as I try to connect an external speaker, the receiver goes deaf RF wise. AF is still fine.
- Every time I tune even incrementally, there is a popping noise while stepping up or down. Unacceptable.
- Loud popping noise when someone keys their mic on SSB. Very disturbing.
- AGC really desensitizes the radio on static crashes
- Most of the cover screws were boogered up with sharp edges on them
- A smudge on the Amoled display inside the radio

ie- quite a few initial quality & functional issues.

Unit was returned & CommRadio fixed the ext. speaker jack issue by adding filters & replaced many of the screws. And Universal Radio stood by me & extended the return date to help insure was happy. The F/W issued late in August, 2013 has improved the AGC to the point that the radio works pretty good. AGC could stand some further improvement, but it is about 90% there. No F/W updates have happened since 8/13.

But this January, 2014, my radio began having major issues again. Many internal self generated noises with & without antennas connected. Something went very bad again! The CR1 was useless to me. Waste of lot of money. I lost faith in the radio & the company. Iíll buy a Tecsun PL-880 for my portable at ľ the cost. See my company review on Eham Community forum to get the rest of the story.
W5RST Rating: 5/5 Nov 5, 2013 10:50 Send this review to a friend
Very enjoyable for SW listening  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is not meant to be an exhaustive review by any means but just some of my first impressions after using the CR-1, which I have now owned for about three months.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the CR-1. The fit and finish are very professional, and the construction very sturdy. Operation of the radio doesn't rely upon having the manual in hand; in fact, I've hardly looked it. Contrast that to some of the newer Yaesu or Icom radios that have a steep learning curve. I'm not crazy about the memories layout, but I'm getting used to it. The gold standard for a memories menu in a portable radio, for me at least, is the Eton E1 with its detailed and intuitive display. Of course, the E1 has 4X the screen space, too. The CR-1 display is crisp with high visibility even in direct sunlight. So, given the relatively small amount of screen real estate, the CR-1 is quite nice.

The audio is very pleasing, which is somewhat surprising given the small speaker. I tuned to our local classical music FM station, and the sound was warm and full. Comparing it to my Yaesu FT-817, which also receives FM BCB, the CR-1 had a much nicer sound. The Yaesu is more sensitive at FM, however, being able to pull in a distant station with a rubber duck that the CR-1 couldn't hear with the same antenna. The FT-817 was also more sensitive on 2M and 440 MHz, tooÖ maybe not too surprising since the Yaesu is optimized for these ham bands. The playing field got more level when I went to the SW bands. The CR-1 reception of my local 2M repeaters was fine and also with good audio. I heard no distortion or other issues.

On the shortwave bands, the CR-1 held its own against the Yaesu FT-817, the Eton E1, and my various older shortwave radios. In fact, just about anything the FT-817 or Eton could hear the CR-1 could hear. There were only few times when there were crowded signals that the Yaesu won out thanks to a 300 Hz Collins filter and passband tuning (PBT) to dodge QRM. I am pretty ignorant of what could or couldn't be added to the CR-1 in terms of new features through software updates, but PBT would be a very nice addition if possible. CommRadio could reclaim the memory used for the Morse decoder and use that, as far as I am concerned: it works pretty marginally even on W1AW code bulletins. I did find it interesting that the noise floor S-meter reading was about the same on the two radios if the preamp was ON on the Yaesu. Generally, I leave the FT-817 preamp off if I am below 15 MHz since it mainly increases the noise and degrades the AGC function without really increasing readability of signals. Perhaps a switchable preamp or attenuator on the CR-1 also could go on the feature list. The DSP algorithm used by CommRadio works very well at reducing QRN, particularly when listening to AM or SSB voice. I didn't notice any AGC problems when listening to a strong SW broadcast station like Radio Romania or Radio Australia or a local AM station. Again, I was very pleased with the audio and the filter options.

So, my initial impressions are positive. My feeling about this radio is somewhat the same as I feel when I buy a new piece of software: I expect updates, improvements, and new features. You can't say that about a traditional shortwave radio. That feature places the CR-1 in the category of some of the newer ham transceivers by Elecraft and Ten Tec where the product is an evolving platform. I think that the CR-1 has mainly started out on the right foot, and I encourage CommRadio to emulate those two companies I just mentioned who are well-known for their customer service and support. If they follow through in a similar fashion, I think that the CR-1 could be the first in a line of successful receivers. If Eham allowed fractional ratings, I would give this radio a 4.6.
WS9T Rating: 2/5 Oct 2, 2013 11:09 Send this review to a friend
Too expensive  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
For its size it is great, and even the internal speaker is not all bad. I played the CR-1 through an ElectroVoice 15" speaker box and would give the audioa C+. It does not the full range of my IC-746 PRO with bass and treble control in the receive. Then most communications receivers do not do well on music. Yes I know about IF Bandwidth.

On the bad side it has cotton in its ears and noise on weak signals. On AM my old FRG-7 does a far, far better job. I wish now I had not spent the $$$ 650.00.

If one wants to buy they should consider the cotton in the ears, price, and noise versus extreme amount of coverage, size, and fun to use.

SHORTWAVER Rating: 5/5 Sep 27, 2013 18:30 Send this review to a friend
Exactly what I needed  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I was looking for a "real" radio that could be easily ported around. The Icom R75 and Alinco RX-8T were on my short list, though they got pushed back when I saw the announcement for the CR-1 on the RR forums. Following the reviews and feedback for a few months, I felt it was a perfect time for me to purchase.

I like the radio for many reasons, but a few important ones are; it's made in USA, the company makes available firmware updates for free, its small size, an OLED display that looks great in many different lighting conditions, and its built in lithium-ion battery. The radio is also very sensitive and has a low noise floor. The case feels substantial and has a solid build.

I feel like I've invested in a radio that, with updates, will continue to improve upon its already good operation.

N3OJD Rating: 5/5 Sep 10, 2013 14:46 Send this review to a friend
Beautifully designed SW radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
For background, Iím someone aged in his mid-60ís who has been collecting and trading many shortwave and communications receivers for more than fifty years. Iíve owned high end Collins, Hammarlund, Hallicrafters, lots of Japanese HF rigs, and many military receivers. Iíve had the CR-1 just a few days so these are first impressions.

Overall, Iím very impressed.

I love the ergonomics and the shape and size, which of course is a very personal thing, but I was able to quickly and easily use 95% of the radioís functions out of the box without consulting the manual and that speaks volumes for the skill of the radioís designers. Entrance to the menus was quite intuitive and gave easy access to the functionality that I was looking for. The menus are context sensitive and that seemed to work well.

The quality of the SSB audio is as good as or better than most new mid-price ham rigs. I love that because I spend a lot of time cruising the ham bands. Understand that I was using a powered speaker through the headphone jack as the built-in speaker is kind of tinny and weak. Use of headphones provided good audio as well. The audio on the FM broadcast band is not as good as on the HF bands but certainly listenable, again through a recommended external powered speaker or headphones.

A word on the VHF sensitivity: Thereís a separate bnc VHF antenna jack on the back of the CR-1. When I plugged my HF antenna (an inverted-V dipole) into the VHF antenna jack, the radio seemed to be completely deaf on VHF. However when I connected my attic-mounted discone to the VHF antenna jack, sensitivity was quite acceptable. I could listen to my local NOAA weather and FM broadcast stations. While the makers donít publish any sensitivity figures, Iíd assume that theyíre just okay on VHF. So if youíre planning on making use of this as a VHF radio, make sure that youíve got a decent antenna for it. A whip on the back of the radio ainít gonna cut it.

Sensitivity of the CR-1 on HF was excellent. I put it next to my Kenwood TS-590 and a Collins 75S-3 and it did as well as they did in most situations, especially the ham bands.

On shortwave broadcast stations, the CR-1 was close to the TS-590 in terms of audio quality, again using headphones or external powered speaker on the CR-1. That is to say that the CR-1 is a very good SWL radio for shortwave broadcastÖ and that leads me to my wish list.

In many situations on the shortwave broadcast bands, where you have a fairly weak AM signal, the CR-1 does a great job at ECSS, listening to AM in the sideband mode. In many cases with a weak AM signal the use of the sideband mode makes the audio much clearer than listening in the AM mode. The only thing is that because youíre using SSB the bandwidth is by default limited to 2.6 KHz. Iíd love to be able to crank it up to 15KHz like you can in the AM mode. Perhaps that will come with the next software upgrade. We can only hope.

Thatís all for now except to say that so far Iím loving the CR-1 and find it to be a good value.

SM4MI Rating: 5/5 Aug 29, 2013 12:09 Send this review to a friend
5/5  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After upgrade of software will AGC work fine.
It is a nice little receiver. My feeling is that
the radio is about 150 USD to expensive.
W3OWL Rating: 1/5 Aug 29, 2013 05:26 Send this review to a friend
Needs Help  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After only five days, I returned my CR-1 for a refund. While cute, small, and seemingly built well, this unit doesn't really offer anything unique in the general coverage market. Since the manufacturer is offering free "upgrades" every few weeks to enhance performance, it still underperforms most anything on the market. The limited vhf/uhf coverage performs even worse than even the cheapest scanner. How many other $600 radios do you own which require continual "upgrades" in order to work properly?
VO1JA Rating: 4/5 Aug 27, 2013 15:42 Send this review to a friend
I like it!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is a good start, and the dropbox programming updates are excellent. There are, however, a few issues. The front panel buttons are too close together, and hopping back and forth in and out of the menu takes a bit of getting use to. Reception on MW is poor at best. Having said that, it is an excellent hf and vhf receiver, and it really is portable. The long wire antenna with the 1/8 plug is useless, and the case is subject to some hand capacitance. It is also subject to picking up noise from the laptop, or, to be more precise, the laptop battery charger.
The computer programming (it is, after all, a software defined radio) needs more improvement. And hopefully the updates will continue.
Except for the medium bands, it compares favorably with the Sony ICF 2010 on my desk, and weighs about one quarter the weight of the old Sony. I would recommend it as a portable radio, but, like others have already suggested, I too am looking forward to more improvements.
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