A Step Closer to the Internet Radio Ideal
     


In a perfect world, Internet radios would access the Web anywhere, seamlessly, just as easily as any AM/FM receiver picks up broadcasts today.

Oasis Flow. ‘I consider it the best buy of the bunch.’
In real life this isn’t possible in 2011. Internet radios need Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections to tune to the Web.

But many manufacturers have been making strides towards the above “Internet radio ideal.” Some have done this by designing receivers that mimic conventional AM/FM user interfaces. Others have tried to simplify the setup and access to Wi-Fi hotspots, or ensured that their radios can run on battery power so that they can be somewhat “portable.”

Pure has added such features to its FM/Internet radios. Based on three models supplied to me for Radio World review — the Oasis Flow, Evoke Flow and Siesta Flow — its efforts have moved Pure products a step closer to the Internet radio ideal, making them worthwhile purchases. This said, all three have shortcomings.

Three models

Pure is well-known to U.K. radio listeners. It is a major maker of European-standard Digital Audio Broadcast receivers. The company’s first DAB receiver, the Evoke-1, came out in 2002. Since then, Pure has diversified to provide a range of Internet, DAB and FM radios. Today, its products are available in the U.S. through www.pure.com/us.

The Oasis Flow (about $215 retail) resembles a white loudspeaker with cast aluminum and black trim, outfitted with an FM/Internet clock radio with programmable presets. It comes with an LCD screen plus a mix of hard and “touchscreen” controls.

About the size of a bookcase loudspeaker, Oasis Flow can tune to FM, podcasts and Internet radio (via Pure Radio’s tuning site www.thelounge.com), and access music files via your home network or input audio from an external music device using its Auxiliary mini-plug port.

(Note: The Ethernet connection requires a Pure Mini USB-Ethernet adaptor to connect to a standard Cat-5 Ethernet plug.)

Evoke Flow. ‘It looks like a stealth version of a standard portable AM/FM receiver.’
The Oasis Flow has a rechargeable ChargePak lithium battery built-in, so that you can disconnect from the radio’s adaptor and go portable. Pure bills the Oasis Flow as being weatherproof, which is why all of its jacks (including headphone) are protected by rubber seals.

The Evoke Flow (about $195) looks like a stealth version of a standard portable AM/FM receiver.

It has the same features as the Oasis Flow, plus a “snooze” function built into its curved metal carrying handle for delaying its clock radio alarm. It has extra outputs to provide a stereo feed out, or to support a second speaker for stereo playback directly from the radio.

Although it has portable radio capabilities, the Evoke does not come with ChargePak included, nor does it have the ability to accept conventional disposable batteries. The ChargePak is available as an optional accessory for $49.95. This is a strange omission by Pure.

The Siesta Flow (about $95) is a small clock radio that employs the same Pure user interface, albeit with a mix of touchscreen controls and standard clock radio buttons. Its Auxiliary In port is on top of the radio, to make connecting an MP3 player easy. The Siesta also has a USB port for plugging in USB accessories such as reading lights and small fans. It is not a portable unit, nor does it have the other inputs offered by the Oasis and Evoke.

Performance

Setting up any of the Pure radios is relatively easy: The system walks you through the process on its LCD screen. Inputting the WEP key for a Wi-Fi network isn’t too hard using the receiver’s tuning dials and buttons. It was hardest on the Siesta, where it had to be done using a small LCD screen and touchscreen buttons only.

The Pure tuning system uses the “drill-down file format” model found on other Internet radios. On the positive side, I found its system easier to understand than those found on other Internet radios.

On the negative, there is no apparent rhyme or reason to when the radio requires you to use either the knobs/buttons or its changeable touchscreeen controls.

Pure’s website The Lounge allows you to set up a custom account and manage your station preferences online, with the results being accessed by your Internet radio. However, I found it just as easy to use the default station menus on the radios.

Siesta Flow. ‘Too similar to a cheap motel radio for my liking.’
Sound quality generally is good. The Oasis Flow has the best overall sound, though it could use a bit more treble. The Evoke Flow sounds bright, like any good AM/FM portable. However, the audio on the Siesta Flow clock radio is thin and tinny. For some reason, Pure put this receiver into as small a package as possible, sacrificing room for better speakers and a larger LCD screen (and controls) in the process.

The Pure radios are adept at finding Wi-Fi connections and holding on to them, with minimal apparent signal dropout. The downside is that not everywhere offers Wi-Fi, especially not in the backwoods where you will have to rely on FM. (Pure’s decision not to include AM is disappointing. I asked Pure about this. A spokesman replied, “Pure decided not to make its radios AM-compatible, as nearly all AM stations are available via Internet radio. Due to the sound quality achieved via Internet radio, the company did not feel there was a need to offer AM twice.”)

Assessment

Pure Radios are not perfect, but they represent progress towards the Internet radio ideal.

I personally have found myself using the Oasis Flow on a regular basis; I consider it the best buy of the bunch. Audio quality, ruggedness and the fact that it comes with a ChargePak while the Evoke does not all factor into this preference. I can take this radio anywhere in and outside of the house and keep listening to my favorite Internet radio station — or music file from my home server. The sound is good, the interface is relatively intuitive and the signal stays tuned in most of the time.

Based on the Internet radios I have tried to date — and I have tried a lot of them over the years — the Oasis Flow is a good choice; the Evoke Flow would be if it had a ChargePak included. As for the Siesta Flow? It is too similar to a cheap motel radio for my liking. Pure would be wise to go back to the drawing board and make something more akin to a Bose Wave radio, even if it costs more.

James Careless is a long-time contributor to Radio World. He wrote about Jeff Littlejohn and Clear Channel’s multiplatform strategy in a recent issue.


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