Pure, the market leader in internet radios in the UK, has just announced its British invasion of the US will begin with the launch of three models on July 1.
The subsidiary of chipmaker Imagination Technologies, in which Apple and Intel have a combined 27 per cent stake, gave me the US version of its Evoke Flow model to try out and its performance and features suggest Pure can give established players Logitech, Roku, Livio and Grace a run for their money in America.
The Evoke has a classic portable radio design and an appealing piano-black finish. It proved easy to set up, connecting to my wireless network without a hitch and allowing me to find internet radio stations with a few turns of a knob and then pushing it to select them.
There is an even easier set up through Pure’s dedicated website, thelounge.com. Once the radio is registered with it, stations can be found and added much more quickly through the browser interface and automatically transferred to the menu system on the radio.
Favourite podcasts can also be added, as well as a replay Listen Again feature for popular shows and even natural background sounds such as babbling brooks and jungle noises.
Installing media server software on my PC also allowed me to access my digital music collection on the radio.
The Evoke has a bright auto-dimming OLED screen, FM radio, 10 station presets, a headphone socket, a 3.5mm input to play an iPod/MP3 player through its good-quality speakers and an alarm and timer.
On the down side, the alarm can only be set to wake up to FM radio or a tone and the display does not give information other than about the station’s identity and genre.
While the UK version of the Evoke is also a DAB digital radio, the US version does not have its equivalent – HD Radio, although Pure argues that most of the stations available on HD Radio are also available over the internet.
More seriously, the Evoke’s design is portable – with its attractive chrome handle it is crying out to be picked up and taken from room to room – but it comes with a mains connection and no battery.
A chargepack is available for $60, but US buyers would expect a battery to be included in the $230 retail price, rather than as an accessory costing extra. Those happy to have the radio sitting in one place might prefer a wired ethernet connection, but they will have to pay another $60 for a dongle that enables one.
I did find myself listening to internet radio a lot more with the Evoke, setting up the BBC’s range of radio stations, listening to my favourite podcasts, a replay of Radio 4′s Today programme and listening to my favourite NPR station – KCRW in Los Angeles.
If the battery was included, I would be very tempted to buy one either for myself or a fellow British ex-pat – one of Pure’s first marketing efforts will be through the British Chamber of Commerce in the US. US buyers should equally appreciate listening to home-town stations from the other side of the country or the world.
Its other two models available on July 1 are the $250 Oasis Flow – a ruggedised model which does have a chargepack included – and the $140 Siesta Flow, which has a slim bedside radio design.
Later in the year, Pure plans to release two more models – the $450 Sirocco 550, an 80w Micro Hi-Fi with internet radio, iPod dock and CD player, and the $350 Sensia, a colour touchscreen model that includes apps and the details of stations and music being played that was previously lacking.
The Sensia may find itself competing with the $200 Sony Dash just released, although its 30W RMS stereo sound should be superior to the Dash’s speakers.
Rather like eReaders, most of the current internet radios are pretty much single-function devices and are unlikely to become mainstream products at existing prices. Pure’s DAB radios have come down dramatically in price over the years in the UK and internet radios should follow suit over time.
For book lovers and big radio fans though, both specialised eReaders and internet radios have their appeal and can be worth their premium prices for the design, features and experience.
While many will be happy enough with a docked Apple device and some downloaded radio apps, Pure should find a ready market among nostalgic audiophiles and connoisseurs of the airwaves.