Fans of AM radio have largely been left out in the cold by MP3 player manufacturers. The excuses are many, but the main reason most device makers avoid the feature is due to the relatively large space required of an AM antenna, thus inhibiting the overall compactness of the final product. PoGo Products briefly came to the rescue with a line of AM-friendly MP3 players, but the company ceased production of the line after only a few years. Filling the void is the C. Crane Witness AM/FM MP3 Player, a basic radio-cum-MP3 player reminiscent of the Radio YourWay LX. Even with its throwback design and monochrome display, the Witness will cost you a pretty penny--$229.95 for 2GB--but AM radio fans have little other choice, and will likely be plenty pleased with the features on offer.
True to its AM radio roots, the CC Witness player has a simple, utilitarian design that feels sturdy in the hand. The case is matte black with a metallic sheen and silver trim wrapping around the edges. The right side offers up a dedicated volume rocker and hold switch, while a look at the left reveals a built-in mic, a line-in port, and an SD-card expansion slot--a necessity, given the paltry 2GB onboard storage. Two external speakers live on either side of the device as well, while a boatload of shiny plastic buttons deck out the front of the device. There are dedicated keys for accessing the menu, stepping back through functions, adjusting the play speed, setting A/B looping, recording, editing, and playing/pausing. A four-way control pad surrounding the play/pause button allows for hassle-free navigation through the extremely basic menus.
There's not much to the CC Witness's screen. It's only 1.8-inches diagonally, which is small, given that the player measures nearly 4 inches tall, 2.2 inches wide, and over half-an-inch thick. It's also monochrome, so you won't be seeing any album art or photos here. On the plus side, you can see the font quite clearly without the backlight engaged, and the menu options are simple: AM, FM, Files, Settings, and Timers. Music--accepted in MP3 format only--is organized into folders under the File menu. There's also a Playlist folder here, although even after reading the manual, it is unclear what it is for--M3U playlists transferred through drag and drop or Windows Media Player did not appear on the device. Also odd: You have to switch views in the settings menu depending on how you want to listen to music. The folder view lets you listen to albums in a folder, while the file view will allow you to play all your music straight through (there is a random option, also). It's definitely not the most intuitive way to listen to MP3s.