It’s an emergency windup radio with AM, FM, and weather channels, and it includes a LED flashlight on the left side. It can also charge five popular brands of cell phones. The newer version has a solar panel for charging the built-in battery pack.
The CC Observer comes in your choice of three colors—black, green or blue. I purchased the blue model in March 2010. I was favorably impressed after only a few days.
A friend has an Observer radio also and likes it very much. He and I are both fanatical about radio performance. Not just any radio will do. I looked at reviews of several radios before deciding on the CC Observer.
This radio can be powered by three AA batteries or by the dynamo on the right side, which recharges a small built-in three cell battery pack. The radio is said to have 140 hours of battery life on alkaline batteries, 100 hours on NiMH batteries, and 30 hours on the built-in pack. I’ve used both alkaline and NiMH batteries in my radio and prefer the alkalines.
The dynamo does not charge rechargeables you put in the radio. It charges the little built-in three-pack of cells. Reportedly it takes 80 minutes of cranking the dynamo to fully charge this built-in pack. That sounds like forever, but I assume that doesn’t have to be 80 consecutive minutes. Besides, in the absence of electricity or working batteries, why not take all the time needed for a good charge?
An adaptor can be purchased separately, which charges the built-in battery pack in 12 hours. It’s recommended not to leave the radio plugged in continually, unless you disconnect the battery pack, or the battery pack will overcharge. I have successfully charged the radio with a universal transformer for six hours.
As for reception, AM is very good, and so is FM. Both are comparable to a Sangean ATS808 shortwave radio I own. Selectivity on AM and FM is good. In other words, there’s good separation between stations. I believe you’ll be pleased with the performance on both AM and FM. That’s important in the aftermath of a storm when local stations may be off the air, making it necessary to hear stations in outlying areas.
In an urban area, I suspect it will be necessary to pull in the FM antenna to avoid splatter from powerful stations. I live within a few miles of a couple of 100,000 Watt FM stations, and this radio behaves like I expected. No unpleasant surprises, thankfully.
When listening to weather channels, the volume needs to be turned up more than for AM or FM, but sensitivity is decent as compared to a couple of handheld radios I own with weather channel capability. This is not a weather alert radio. You can only listen to NOAA weather stations. Weather frequencies are selected using a channel selector knob on the front of the radio.
I thought the FM was going to be in stereo when listening through headphones, but that’s not the case. I wish there was a tone control switch for FM because it’s loud and rather shrill. I’ve also tried listening through a mono ear plug type earphone, but you’ll get better results using the ear buds that come with the Observer or a set of your own. Of course, the radio’s speaker puts out good audio, so you may not want to use earphones.
The LED flashlight is comparable to an LED flashlight I bought back in 1999 when LED lights weren’t as good as they are today. It’s not the greatest, but not bad as far as I’m concerned. It will do well in the absence of any other light. Putting it on the side of the radio was a good idea because you can carry the radio by its carrying strap on top while shining the light to light your way.
Five adaptors for charging cell phones come with the Observer. It’s said that 90 seconds of charging with the dynamo will allow a few minutes of talk time on a cell phone. I assume a longer winding time will provide a better charge. It’s worth experimenting with, if you’re so inclined, before an emergency makes charging a cell phone necessary.
The Observer is lighter than I expected for its size. The plastic finish has sort of a rubbery feel, perhaps so it won’t slip out of your hands. I’m disappointed that the dynamo crank is made of plastic though. It feels a little flimsier than I was expecting. I guess that’s no surprise because everything’s made from plastic these days. It is an emergency radio after all, and the dynamo likely won’t get much use, unless really necessary.
I believe I made a good purchase, and I can recommend this radio to you. Get your own CC Observer radio by clicking on its name wherever you see it linked in this post.