â€œ Ã‰lan offers all the DAB features youÂ’d expect from PURE, including fast autotune, station selection by name, and scrolling text showing track and artist information, news and sports updates. WeÂ’ve also added 16 presets (eight DAB and eight FM) for storing and recalling your favourite stations, a clock display and even a sleep timer. â€ž
WHAT IS DAB?
DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting and it is basically a way to hear more radio stations and to hear them interference free, without hiss and crackle. How good you hear it depends on the number of transmitters in your area and currently only 85% of the population are covered. You also don't have a fiddly dial to twiddle to try and find the right frequency, you select a station by name by pressing a few buttons and it finds it automatically for you.
WHY DO I WANT ONE?
I had been dithering in the purchase of a digital radio for some time. My ex had one that was permanently tuned to TalkSport in the kitchen. If I wanted to listen to something else I need to use the stereo FM radio and fiddle with the aerial which would only grant me reception if I held it in the air whilst balancing on my left leg, extending my right leg by 45 degrees in a north by northwesterly direction (or so it seemed). That in mind, although now single and able to choose my own channels, I had got out of the habit of listening to the radio at home and wondered if this rather expensive purchase would be worth it.
If you have Sky or Freeview you can pick up some of these new stations on your TV but that is not very portable if you want to listen to the radio in the bath for example.
There are some attractive radios out there, such as the wooden Pure Evoke and the trendily retro Roberts' ones that sold for Â£80-100. They looked great but I didn't feel I could justify the cost. The Pure Elan is not as attractive as these and is bigger at 29cm across, 17cm high (with aerial and handle down) and 8cm deep at its widest part. It is also very heavy. It retails for about Â£65-70, but when I saw a half price offer with Nectar's Summer of Rewards for the equivalent of Â£35 worth of Nectar points that swung it once and for all and I ordered it.
THE RADIO ITSELF
The radio and its plug are packaged in a large box with and a slim manual. When I first took it out of the box I noticed how heavy it was (I don't have anything to weigh it on, but boxed it is 3kg) and that it didn't look as bad as in the picture, it had a smart matt silver finish and appears to be quite sturdy and scratch resistant.. There is a small LCD screen on the front with the built in speakers and controls along the top with an extendable aerial.
The radio takes 6 x C type batteries for up to 30 hours of DAB listening or 80 hours of FM. As I have always used the radio from the mains I cannot comment if this is true or not. I plugged the radio into the mains and automatically it searched for stations and within seconds was playing BBC 1 Xtra (the first station on the list). The buttons are self-explanatory and I didn't need to use the manual or Quick Start Guide to get going.
From left the buttons are:
Headphone socket (OK - technically not a button!)
Sleep - there is no alarm facility with this radio but you can go to sleep listening to it for 15, 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes and it will turn itself off. The timer shows up on the LCD screen so you know how long you have set it for.
DAB/FM - Switch between DAB radio and FM. There is a slight time delay every time you select DAB.
Volume +/- - This can go up quite high, supposedly 14 levels but I am quite happy with level 2. The level is shown on the LCD display
Preset Buttons - There are 8 FM and 8 DAB presets with four buttons. You press the button with the arrow (like a Shift key) to access or set stations 5-8. To set a station you just need to press a free preset button for a few seconds.
+/- and select - this allows you to scroll up (+) and down(-) the alphabetical list of stations to find one you fancy, whilst still listening to the current station. When you have found your new choice you just press the Select button and it will play it (with the same slight time delay if you are in DAB). In FM mode you use it to scroll up and down a numerical list as you would on a conventional FM radio but without the lucky guess as to where you are on the dial.
Menu - This changes your setup. For example you can set the LCD backlight to stay on or turn off after 5 seconds. You can also change how the station order comes up when using the +/- keys mentioned above by putting favourite stations at the beginning so you can easily find them. You will also find the Autotune button here if you want to check for newly added stations or manual tune if you want to find the best position for the radio/aerial. (Maybe my days of standing on one-leg are not over).
Info - This is my favourite button, I am always playing with it. On the bottom line of the LCD display below the station name you can choose what info you want displayed. My favourite is Scrolling text which tells you a bit about the station you are listening to and on some stations will tell you the track and artist that is playing, which is always handy. On Virgin FM, for example, you can sometimes get a mini artist biography scrolling past. It is a miracle I manage to leave the house some mornings. Other buttons reveal the program type (pop music, rock music, varied speech) and is handy for stations you are initially unfamiliar with. You can also get the time and date, although the time (received from the digital transmitter, so you know which clocks in the house are now wrong) is permanently displayed anyway. You can also get an accurate signal quality guide out of one hundred. For example 85 or above is good.
WHAT IS THE RECEPTION LIKE?
Straight away I was listening to stations with a signal quality of 97 or above and was thrilled to bits. I can get BBC Essex and most of the London stations but for some reason not Essex FM, even though I live in Essex.
I have found the reception sporadic at times, and I cannot see a reason why this is. I can be listening at 95 or above and then it just disappears for no reason and drops to a signal strength of 17 or something for a few seconds and then back up again. This is obviously frustrating when listening to music but makes spoken word stations unlistenable if it happens several times over a few minutes. Fortunately this is not always a problem and I have researched throughout the internet as to what could be the problem and why I cannot always get a strong signal and there appears to be no real reason or this as I am capable of receiving strong signals, it is just the inconsistency that is a problem, and by its nature DAB should not be affected by atmospheric pressures. Changing station makes very little difference. I can only assume that I am just unfortunate, but whether it is down to my location or this product I don't know.
WHAT YOU CAN LISTEN TO
The amount of extra stations you can get are dependant on where you live. Enter your postcode in this website to get an idea: http://www.ukdigitalradio.com/coverage/search/default.asp
Living in the South East I am probably more fortunate than most and am spending quite a bit of time listening to stations I would not normally have done so. If you have Sky or Freeview some or all of the new stations will be familiar to you. The choice available is quite varied from rock stations to pop stations as well as spoken word stations. There are stations aimed at an Asian audience, a gay audience and world music fans. A lot of stations are advert free (or less than the FM commercial stations) and in some cases DJ free with the emphasis on playing music instead of annoying jingles and daft phone-ins. I have become rather fond of 'chill' (http://www.helpmechill.com/) which plays a variety of instrumental and chillout club tracks from artists such as Moby and Morcheeba. They have no adverts and usually no DJs apart from two evening shows a week.
IS IT WORTH IT?
I really enjoy listening to the radio and have it on most of the time if not watching TV or listening to a specific piece of music. That said I do have a few problems with signal strength which means I can't listen to it at certain times. I really can't see any reason to justify a more expensive purchase and this suits my needs just fine.