Up for my first quick review is the Sangean CL-100 AM / FM-RBDS / Hazard Alert NOAA Weather radio and alarm clock.
When you first hold the unit, it feels quite solid and the rubber buttons operate very nicely. The MENU button allows access to everything from the time and alarms but also a strong set of customization features navigation by the arrow and SELECT buttons.
Of course, the primary purpose of this radio is to receive NOAA weather broadcasts and play audible alerts with triggered from one of 7 weather frequencies. The display will show the alert, such as SEVERE T-STORM WARNING, and illuminate a corresponding alert LED.
(I’ll add an alert photo later when I have one.)
In common with higher-end weather radios, the CM-100 features S.A.M.E. which allows you to enter up to 25 FIPS location codes. This will limit alerts only to the area(s) you select.
You can also program which alerts to broadcast or ignore. You might use this to turn off a specific watch but leave the alert on for the warning. This feature brings up the first user-interface irritation. In this menu page, the character size is huge and thus must scroll. The regular size print would be much better here. To know whether you are looking at a “Severe T-Storm Warning” or a “Severe T-Storm Watch”, you must wait for it to scroll but it takes so long that the menu times out returning you to the main screen. You can figure it out, and this is a “set it once and forget it” thing, so it’s not a huge problem, but I thought I would mention it.
Weather radio reception seems good. I am able to pick up transmitters for other areas with reasonable clarity. For those in fringe areas, an external antenna connection is provided.
As for FM performance, I will give it a above average rating. In my area, it pulls in local and fringe stations well. I give it a solid performance. The tuner operations in 0.1 MHz increments and also receives RBDS messages.
AM performance is good, as well. My area is rather challenging for DX testing so if I can pick up selected states 500 to 750 miles away at night, I consider that good. Another solid performance.
One irritation for the tuner is that when you turn the radio on or, more importantly, tune into a new frequency, the audio output drops to zero and ramps back up over the course of about five seconds. Yes, five seconds! Audio can be heard in about in about a second and you can then decide whether to move on to the next frequency, but I will say the delay is very irritating. I wished that could be defeated or the delay cut significantly when changing frequencies without affecting the ramp-up for the alarm clock functions.
Speaking of the alarm clock functions, the menus allow you to pick the usual time plus which days of the week to trigger plus you can pick the station and volume. This almost makes it the perfect alarm clock.
Alarm 1 and 2 are selected by a physical switch on the side of the unit with on-screen confirmation. I actually like the switch being mechanical because it can be set by feel even when you don’t feel like fiddling with a piece of electronics.
One thing that I cannot show you here easily is the fact that the sound quality was an unexpected surprise. For one thing, the ‘Tone Settings’ menu actually reveals true Bass and Treble controls.
The Sangean has a single 1 watt 3 inch speaker. For its size, volume range is good, vocals are clear and fidelity is quite respectable. It’s actually a very listenable radio, in fact this one of my most listenable radios.
Side funny. While typing this, I’ve been listening the computer generated weather for about 45 minutes and it hasn’t hurt my ears. No, it doesn’t make the computer sound like Sean Connery, but again, it is very listenable.
Let me put it this way, the sound quality is good that I now have a CM-100 at the office dedicated for weather alerts, one at my desk for streaming Slacker from my BlackBerry 9930, one at my bed side plus one I keep for a battery powered travel clock radio / powered speaker.
When travelling, I have a CM-100 my travel bag to use in hotel rooms for my alarm clock and again playing audio from my BlackBerry phone, my BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and also from my laptop. I have even used it as a powered speaker for playing a video in a meeting with twelve people. Everyone was able to hear the presentation clearly.
Battery life from 4 AA alkaline batteries isn’t too bad when the weather alerts are turned off often exceeding a month. Now turn the weather alerts switch on and the batteries only last a couple of days. Normally I leave the weather alert off in hotel rooms except when conditions warrant for which I carry the power adapter in my bag of goodies.
I will point out one minor quibble. When the back light is on, legibility is good, but when off, the display is often very hard to read due to the reversed polarizer on the LCD. A polarizer yielding dark text on a light background would have been a better choice for this. Tip: The best way to turn on the back light for night viewing is to press the round SELECT button.
The back of the CM-100 has the expected power input, stereo headphones, the aforementioned aux input, a trigger for an external alert as well as an AM and FM / Weather antenna connection.
Physically, the unit is 7.16″ wide, 5.19″ from the front to back and 2.49″ tall. The display is a 64 x 128 pixel LCD.
Power is via 4 AA batteries or a 6 volt 400 mA DC power supply. The CM-100 does not have built-in NiCad or NiMH charging capabilities.
Simply put, the Sangean CL-100 makes my Recommended List.
- Full feature NOAA radio section including antenna inputs, SAME and selective alerts
- Good AM, FM, Weather receiption
- Pleasing, listenable audio quality
- Auxillary input
- Menu driven user interface
- Polarity of the back light
- Slow audio ramp-up in the tuner
- Minor user-interface design choices
Sangean International site link: http://www.sangean.com/
Sangean CL-100 USA site link: http://www.sangean.com/products/product.asp?mid=84&cid=12
Sangean CL-100 Flyer link: http://www.sangean.com/support/download_content.asp?did=289