Customer Reviews: C. Crane CWTPL CC Witness Plus Digital MP3 Recorder Player with Built-in AM FM Radio
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on March 23, 2013
I waited a couple years to buy this expecting someone (Sony, Apple, whoever) to build something like this a little more reasonably priced. My kids' iPods are on par with the cost of this thing and do 10 times more things. If iPods had an AM tuner I'm sure there would be an app that would render the Witness+ obsolete. Sorry, had to get that little whine off my chest...

I've had this a couple days now so here are my first impressions. The Witness+ is smaller than I thought, about the size of a deck of cards. The user interface is well thought out, it was very easy to program stations into memory and schedule recordings. I have no problems pulling in every station I listen to in my location (about 25 miles from downtown Detroit) on this radio's tuner. It even pulls in smaller stations I didn't know existed. The instructions are very well written. Recording quality is variable, easily changed, and at higher quality levels sounds exactly like live radio.

Hooking the Witness+ up to my computer went without incident, Windows XP recognized the unit immediately. When I first charged the unit and turned it on, I did notice that the AM radio tuner was not working right off the bat, just got screeching noises. I powered it down, flipped it to FM and back to AM and it cleared up after that (not sure the exact steps I took but it works fine now).

I'll update this review if I have anything significant to add or change, but as of now I'm pleased with the quality of the Witness+.
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on February 11, 2013
I purchased the CC Witness+ as a replacement to the Pogo RadioYourWay AM/FM MP3 recorder, which I had owned for several years. I used the Pogo radio to record programming (both AM and FM) and then archive the audio I want to save onto my computer. From day one the RadioYourWay unit had a annoying glitch in recording FM and thereafter downloading the file onto the computer: The resulting audio file had 'artifacts' of random 'squawks' (it did sound like stepping on a rubber duck) that I had to repeatedly clip out of the file in order to make the end result listenable, sometimes as many as five or six artifacts per minute of audio. The AM recorded files had no such issues so I don't know whether it was a problem with the hardware or software with the Pogo unit.

The CC Witness+ that I purchased has no such issues. Both AM and FM recording files download clean into the computer.

I have, however, encountered an issue with compatibility in downloading MP3 files to a computer. When attempting to download from the CC Witness+ to a laptop with Windows 7 Pro, the download takes as long as 30 minutes for a 2 hour MP3 64k clip. Using a laptop with Windows XP Pro, the same download takes less than four minutes. (The RadioYourWay unit I have didn't have that problem either with XP Pro or Win 7 Pro.) With my experience there seems to be a compatability issue with using the CC Witness+ with Windows 7 Pro. Since I do my audio editing with my older laptop I can live with it but users with Windows 7 Pro might want to know that this could be a problem; if anyone has found a way to speed up downloads on Win 7 Pro I'm open to it. It is due to this problem that I only give it four stars instead of five.

In editing the resultant MP3 files downloaded to my computer from the CC Witness+, the audio does seem to record 'louder' (at or near 100% modulation) compared to the older RadioYourWay unit, yet I've not detected any meaningful, annoying distortion in voice recording. At that level I did notice some minor distortion in recording music off the air but I don't know if it was a reception issue or an auto-record level issue. As to reception, it seems that the FM radio in the CC Witness+ does a better job of receiving FM signals than the RadioYourWay and about the same with AM reception, which I thought was remarkably good for such a small unit. If a person wants to attempt capturing AM DX signals it may be well to consider using the CC Witness+ with one of the external antenna units that CC Crane offers.

So far the battery life doesn't seem to be quite as long with the CC Witness+ as with the RadioYourWay but for what I use it for the battery life is still adequate.

If you have used the old Pogo unit, the controls on the CC Witness+ are easy to use. Finding and identifying recorded files is much, much easier with the CC Witness+.

The CC Witness+ as packaged does not come with an AC adapter but does come with the USB patch cord that plugs into your computer so you can connect it to the computer to charge it. The AC adapter that came with the RadioYourWay is 100% compatible with the CC Witness+.

Yes, it has mini-speakers built in but you will get much better audio quality in using earbuds or headphones with the CC Witness+ than using the speakers.

For voice recording (talk shows, broadcasted lectures, etc.) or music where CD quality is not demanded, the CC Witness+ works just fine; for those purposes I would recommended it.
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on August 23, 2013
Well, I wasn't sure if I should post a review on this item since I returned a defective unit and haven't decided whether or not to reorder the item. But I decided to go ahead since I did get to sample the radio for a few hours anyway.

First, I'd say that the interface is not bad, it's fairly intuitive and the FM reception was good; but the AM reception left a lot to be desired. There was quite a bit of static, even with the display function disabled and although I'm only a few miles as the crow flies from multiple radio towers, the signal strength was very dependent on the direction the unit was held. Crane's website promises that their AM ferrite antenna will deliver a much stronger signal, but in my situation I don't know how that's going to help the reception because the broadcast towers are not distant from me. I guess what I'm trying to say is, signal strength isn't my problem, clarity is the issue.

The reason I returned my unit is because upon powering up the unit and switching to the AM Band, the radio would produce a high pitched hum, until you toggled the tuning knob up or down and then back to a frequency with a station. At that point the broadcast was loud and clear (although with the previously mentioned clarity issues). And you could record once you had a station playing on AM. The problem however was with the timers (which is how I wanted to use the radio). The radio is switched off awaiting the activation of a timer, so when it turned itself on to record, the high pitched hum is all that the recording consisted of.

One high point is that tech service at Crane was quick to respond and did tell me quickly to return the "defective" unit. And of course Amazon's return policies make it very easy to return an item, so brownie points to Amazon for that.

At any rate, after my refund is processed I may order another unit and give it another try; perhaps the clarity issues also were created by the same glitch that caused a station signal to hum, until the tuning was adjusted.

I'll adjust this review upward, if I do get another unit and it performs as most of the other owners here have documented.
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on March 23, 2013
We've all been hooked on the DVR. This is a DVR for radio that works great. I like to use it for programs that are on only after midnight or Public Radio broadcasts that I often miss. You can set 20 timers to record blocks of any length. One other neat feature is the ability to change the speed of the playback from .5 of normal to 1.7 of normal, and you can easily define a playback loop. The unit actually turns on during the time it's recording--I found I could either leave the ear buds plugged in or I could lower the volume to zero. Like any new electronic device, there is some quirkiness to the interface but I found it mostly intuitive. I haven't tried the USB interface yet but I fully expect it to function well.
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on December 18, 2013
.I am an am and fm radio fanatic with alot of radio listening on various devices . I am also a music lover and an up to par computer user .So I have a good idea of what to expect here and how to use this.Naturally I purchased this item ;after all it is almost unique in what it offers.and I must say I have not been disappointed.First off the radio is great ,both am and fm. Ignore those reviews complaining the radio "must be in a certain position" (or "next to my pc it won't work"). Of course! ALL radios do that ;they have directional antennas. Especially portable ones. (Only car radios have special non directional capabilities.It would be hard to turn your car to ,say,always face south).Or those geniuses that "discovered"they must turn away from their computers.Wow they really discovered America.Bottom line on reception :although its not like sony's amazing pick up it's not cheap or lousy.It's actually excellent .Even for night time distant station listening.Asfor pc it works w/o a hitch like any other mp3 player .No hitches or glitches .Shows up as a drive and then drag and drop.As for recording there may be some high pitched backround noise but not crippling by any means .They wisely made an option to turn off the screen completely while listening/recording to radio .Use this amazing innovation. It'll enhance the performance.The timer function is astounding, both its highly customizable options and the actual performance.As far as the music soun,for most'll be excellent.If you are a "audiophile" it won't make it though.There is no bass management although ther are pre installed equalizers (rock, jazz etc.)so you might like it after all especially given all the other unique functons this offers,as mentioned. The interface and instructions are simple.The only quirck is that when you dissconnect from.pc it loses it's place where you left off . But it does have bookmark feature so you could do that before you connect .
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on February 25, 2013
This little radio/recorder is everything advertised. Don't expect to set this radio down next to you and listen, it is not designed to be a table top unit. The instructions were in clear English, easy to understand; I’m happy.
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on September 24, 2014
C Crane radios are highly regarded by many and ALL niche radios (including the legendaries like my Panasonic RF2200 and Sony ICF2010) have quirks. It is even common for some great radios to suffer rumored quality control issues when they're new and folks into this game know that a return or two on a brand new design eventually will get you a solid unit later in the production life.

But this radio's rumored issues proved themselves to be real the day the unit showed up and after years in the pipe it appears that the C Crane company isn't interested in fixing them. Mine came pre-package with firmware 1.2, the latest and only firmware update available. It's a real purdy unit and is NOT the size of a deck of cards, it is smaller. It's got the original iPod type of interface. It does not look cheap but it does look retro.. it's a radio so looks don't count that much though,

Quirk: On opening the nice box the unit was completely drained so I plugged in the supplied mini USB cable and connected it to an always on computer. No indicator at all abut it being charging, no little LED or image on the screen or response to pressing the multifunction Play/On button. I gave it a couple of hours and checked again... maybe it was like a dead iPad... dead is dead till it gets some hefty time. Gave it 4 hours. Nothing. Tried using a standard 5volt wall USB phone charger. 2 hours... nothing. Thinking it couldn't actually need a full 8 hour charge for ANY INDICATION of life I pulled out one of my own old fashioned mini USB cables and tried that ... IMMEDIATELY the screen showed an image of a battery with no bars and the word "Charging". Quirk: the company didn't put much QC into the way to get a good first impression or make the unit run. Ok, can live with that. BTW: Neither cable fully seats in the mini USB slot on the bottom of the radio, both stick out showing a few millimeters of metal... livable but a disappointing quirk.

Quirk: Rechargeable battery. Granted this is an opinion but still... Why do radio fans still have portable radios from the 90s and 80s and 70s and swear by them and pay big money for them? Because we can use them by putting some batteries in and turning them on. My own RF2200, DX400, ICF2010 for example... none were bought new, all had at least 10 working years on them before I bought them. Why don't folks still swear by their four year old cell phones (my windows mobile phone from 2007 had wifi hotspotting and apps and a keyboard and tethering that Apple took years to catch up to)? Their batteries no longer hold a charge and time has moved on and the companies don't continue to make batteries for the units. Even this battery comes with the clear word from C Crane that if you charge it normally then you will have to send the radio in to replace the battery every 2 or three years. Think they'll be still doing that for you in 2020? I can sell a couple of my vintage radios and get nearly the full amount back because they just work... I'd rather keep a good radio forever, but with a custom rechargeable battery both options are off the table.

Quirk: This is not a sensitive OR selective radio. A guy who wrote a review about his old mother not being able to use it got blasted by some folks who said that this was a DXer's niche radio. It ain't. It just plain is not. I feel bad for that guy because the people who told him he just didn't understand the Witness Plus being made for smartie-pants pros were not on target and I can only guess that they know the name C Crane but don't personally have direct experience with this exact model. The sensitivity fluctuates between dead frequencies and bleed-overloads from nearby stations that oddly aren't picked up on their own frequencies. It is really bad. Truthfully though, that's ok with me, I have a great Sony SRF59 for DXing (that cheap blisterpackaged teeny, tiny analog radio at one tenth the price of the Witness Plus is one of the world's best DXing portables so C Crane can't blame the lack of pickup solely on the Witness being small). Knowing it was small and digital I expected it not to be up to the analog power of the 59 but I did not expect the major amount of bleeding chatter on most every station on both bands on the Witness. Again, selectivity and sensitivity are quirks... some hate bleed and silent fringe signals but some radios just are that way - and other C Crane radio models are blamed for low selectivity and overloading, so I knew if going in - plus, people in less busy radio markets don't know what the fuss it all about. If the core functions of the radio as a recorder for strong local signals are solid then the lack of distance listening would be passable. I almost could have gotten past it but.... you'll see after one last quirk.

Quirk: this is a design issue and it has been mentioned and I thought it was a small thing but it turns out being big: The headphone jack is on the bottom of the unit, not the back, the bottom. Granted this is a tiny radio so standing it up isn't very stable BUT with the tiny AM antenna you have to tune your stations in by turning the unit and - in my experience - if you leave the radio on it's back it is far less tunable than standing up. So... why not just keep the headphone out? You really can't for two reasons: 1) FM reception is pretty darned bad (and I'm in LA with more sticks than most any market) unless you either have headphones plugged in or use the odd little wire plug thing that plugs into the headphone jack. 2) As mentioned by others, when a timer recording starts the radio turns on and plays with volume coming out of the speakers and it is annoying enough to make you plug in earbuds or the FM antenna to make it quiet.

If the radio worked better I could deal with quirks, the timer recording setup is great, easy, no problem to figure out even without the manual. YAY! BUT:

The reception of FM is very twitchy even with the antenna or headphones plugged in. You have to tune in your station then walk around till you get a clear enough signal (even with the antenna) then you have to carefully put the radio down in that sweet spot and hope to god that the few inches difference between where it sounded good and where you put it down didn't mess up the reception. Last night I carefully set to record the overnight BBC World Service on the local Public station (a major watter) and this morning the timers worked flawlessly but the radio lost the carefully set clear reception (static... on FM, seriously, STATIC on FM) made it unlistenable. Really bad. And that was FM, with a 6 foot headphone cable for antenna.

The reception of AM is not great but IF you turn-tune the radio it can be ok. Problems come up though. As noted many times over the years some people get the issue of AM stations starting up with a loud alarm clock type annoying buzz (it's not really a whine, it's like a bad digital feedback). It is loud, drowning out 99% of the radio station and it only happens to me when I turn on the radio directly to an AM station. Once it is on, I just have to dial up or down a step or flip to FM then back and it is gone until the next time I turn the radio on set to AM. But you see the problem, when using a timer, the radio turns itself on directly at the station... so timer recording only gives you a full recording of that noise. Also, because of the delicate tuning of AM, if timer recording DID work and you wanted to record two different stations you'd have problems because each one needs to have the radio physically turned to tune it in.

For a long time I have been recording by connecting the output of my ICF2010 to a computer with a timer recording program. This got a little easier with the purchase of a Tecsun PL660 because the 660 has better timers built in (WOW! I thought I would hate that ugly radio but it is now my main best friend! Better in every way than the legendary Sony). But I wanted to get one package recording and as we all know the Witness Plus is the ONLY game in town. But it didn't work for me.

Y'know, C Crane's try at a "Superadio", the EP, is considered a classic. It bleeds and drifts but it pulls in the stations. I honestly don't know why C Crane hasn't made a full or midsized product with this Excellent Timer system. A bigger unit would be a natural for a real whip antenna for FM and a longer internal rod for AM. More room on the front could offer a nicer interaction than the menu system of the Witness but even if the interface was exactly the same it would be ok because a larger unit would not need so many compromises on the basic RADIO functionality. I don't get it guys, I just don't get it. Folks are willing to pay the high price for this little thing but it doesn't work and the review are mostly negative because they are telling the truth - imagine what we'd pay for a bigger unit that actually worked well! Sign me up for that.

Maybe I just got a non-fixed re-box of the same unit as the previous reviewer who had many of the same problems, maybe your experience will be better from another batch. Usually I read negative reviews but take a chance and end up getting something great and wondering why the complainers are out there, but not this time :(. I have to sadly return my Witness Plus and because it doesn't look like C Crane is putting much into it with fixes or updates I don't know if I'm going to try for a better experience with another unit in the future. If I got another this bad then I know it would taint me on C Crane completely. Their fault, not ours.

2 stars for the excellent 20 timers - I want them this easy and variable for my favorite program recording soooo much. But zero for the unit I got being a useable radio.

>>>Update February 2014: I really really wanted the timer functionality and seeing the other short "it is great" reviews coming up I figured that I must have just gotten a lemon. Went directly to the C Crane site and ordered another one. I put a note in the order page saying that I'd like them to check it before sending because I'd got one before that didn't work. Was excited. It showed up, I unpacked and charged it. Turned it on, set two presets and set two timers. As soon as the first timer turned it on I heard it from across the room. Same exact "digital alarm clock" whine. While it was making the noise I called CCRane and let them hear it over the phone. The nice clerk said that he had one in the showroom and hadn't heard anyone saying it didn't work. He gave me an RMA for a no-problem return. The next day, before sending it back, thinking maybe it was my home location that all my other adios didn't have a similar issue with, I took it to my work about 80 miles away in the Mojave Desert, far from overlapping signals. Same thing. Alas. I am very happy for the folks saying that theirs are working perfectly, I wish my experience were the same.
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on August 5, 2013
I use this every night to record the programs I want to hear but are on later than I care to stay awake.
Fast delivery and works like a charm. A friend recommended I buy one instead of trying to stay awake at night.
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on January 26, 2014
In a nutshell, you program this unit (easy) to record radio programs based on station and time frame for playback whenever. You can indicate days of the week, including weekends, then set it and forget it. I like to pick it up and listen to programs while I'm working in an area that has limited radio reception. You can get the same thing by subscribing directly to various shows (at a cost) and then downloading the programs, but this device will let you record without having to buy a subscription. I did however, buy a 4G card for it as I did run out of room on the internal memory. The internal memory is quite large, but when you record several hours of programming per day, it does run out eventually. Also, the device is much smaller than you would think; two stacked on top of each other face up would just about equal a pack of playing cards. The instructions are comprehensive, and very logical, and the buttons are clearly labeled so that once you try it you can master the programming, erasing and playing easily. There are also several fast forward playback speeds so you can go past the commercials easily. The slowest two or so playback speeds allow you to hear bits and pieces of the program so you can tell when the commercials are over. I use this all the time.
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on September 21, 2014
I purchased a CC Witness radio in January 2012. It functioned OK (although the first one supplied had to be returned as it was defective) but on August 7, 2014 I received a letter from C Crane advising (and I quote)
• “We have had a few battery packs rapidly heat up in the radios and self-destruct”.
• “Do not leave Li-ion batteries charging while you are away”
• “Charge your batteries on a non-combustible surface and not near drapes or other flammable items”
• They also offered to send a onetime replacement battery pack for free (not including shipping).
I decided that I’d rather not have this appliance in my home and asked C Crane about a “buy back” program. They responded that they’d refund me 30% of my purchase price. I paid $160 for the radio and another $50 for a charger (recommended by C Crane). They politely sent me a check for $45 and a store credit for $20. The good news is that I didn’t have a fire—the bad news is that I have neither a recording radio nor $147 I once had.

Unless you are comfortable with the potential overheating / fire hazard I’d recommend not purchasing this product.
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