Having owned a DAB radio in the home for a few years prior to purchasing the Pure Highway I had become hooked on BBC 6music, the crystal clear quality of both talksport and Radio 5 along with some of the other DAB exclusive stations.
As I'm not particularly a fan of any of the other BBC or local commercial stations morning or drive time shows my journeys to and from work were starting to get repetitive as I slowly worked through my CD collection from A-Z!
When I first heard about the Pure Highway I was sceptical as although DAB has worked perfectly at my last three addresses I continue to hear complaints about reception quality so was dubious as to how well this would work in a car.
When the unit first arrived I installed in into my car - it's fairly straight forward as aerial is simply a sticker which attaches to the windscreen and a suction mount holds the radio unit itself. Power is taken from the in-car cigarette lighter so there is no particular expertise required to set the radio up. A press of the auto tune button later and it has scanned the DAB airwaves for digital stations and FM bands for a free frequency to broadcast to you current car radio. The FM frequency is displayed which I tuned my radio to and then...very little! My fears were at first proving to be correct - DAB reception will struggle while on the move.
A few phone calls to the point of purchase later, performing various testing to ensure I hadn't received a faulty unit and it was agreed I could either give up and return the unit or purchase an additional £20 external aerial to magnet mount to my car roof. I took the gamble with the extra aerial which I was assured provided 50% better reception. It arrived, I mounted it with ease and tried the autotune button again...Result! It worked first time.
Still a little cautious of how well it would maintain a single while driving I tried not to get too excited but since then I've travelled the length and breadth of the country with no signal drop out at all. The only minor issue I do have is when travelling into an area that has an FM station broadcasting on the same frequency as my DAB as the station always overpowers my poor DABs transmitter and I have to retune (not while driving, of course!).
The unit itself is straightforward to use after its installed. A scroll wheel spins left and right to change the channel and is pushed in to select. There are at 8 (I believe) pre-sets to use for easy access to your favourite stations and sound quality is always just as good in not better than any FM/AM broadcast.
Depending on the size and shape of your car the installation can result in a few wires being draped around the inside carriage but I'm sure it would be possible to turn this into a neat arrangement with some thought in most vehicles. Depending on where the radio is windscreen mounted it can also be impossible to use while driving - unlike the in-car stereo, in my C-Max I find I have to stretch to reach the DAB unit which means I have to pull over if I want to change the channel and I don't have a passenger.
I have been a keen user of DAB radio since I was bought a Pure Bug several years ago, but had never been able to try it in the car. DAB is terrific for me as I get a lot more choice of what to listen to. I particularly like classic rock, and this is well catered for via the digital airwaves. For me a DAB in car product needs to be neat, easy to install and effective, as well as straightforward to use. I'm not interested in attempting complicated tuning exercises when driving for obvious reasons. DAB is good for this-it is very easy to find the station you want.
The unit is a convenient size, with a dial and display on the front and eight buttons on the top. These buttons are for menu, pause, rewind, quick scan, and four memory buttons. There are 20 memories in all. These are very easy to store-you simply select your station, then select your memory (using a combination of button and dial for memories 5-20) and hold the relevant memory button in until it is stored. Access is then simple, though personally I avoid using the dial while driving.
Installation is simple. The quick scan button finds an unused frequency in the fm broadcast band, you then find the corresponding frequency on your in car radio and you're ready to go. There is also an aerial supplied which sticks to the windscreen-the wire needs to be fed to the receiver. This has been effective enough for me, but it is definitely dodgy in a town centre. At some point I will buy an external mag-mount antenna. There is a windscreen mount for the unit with a suction cup to secure it.
I bought mine as a refurbished unit from eBay at a significantly reduced price (approx. £35). The suction cup mount had been used before, and broke fairly quickly. Two unsuccessful repairs later I fastened the mount to a cupholder with a self-tapping screw. My car is old and I don't mind the odd hole. This has ended up neater for me-I always feel that windscreens are for looking through, not sticking stuff to. The unit is secured to the mount using a magnet and a metal disc on the back of the receiver. The metal disc has also come unstuck from the back of the receiver, but it's an easy fix to glue it back on. I don't mind any of this overmuch with it being a refurb unit, but I'd be unhappy if I'd paid full price.
In use you get access to a scary number of radio stations using the dial to find and the centre button to select. It tunes reasonably quickly, and gives good sound quality. You do have to be aware that there can be interference from external fm stations-this can be an issue, and for this reason I would prefer to have some sort of wired connection which allows use of the external aerial for DAB reception. There is a line out connection, but this is designed for headphone use and automatically uses the headphone lead as an antenna. I think an external antenna would possibly help with the interference issue, but it is definitely worth taking the time to find a free fm channel with space around it if possible.
The display is clear and easy to read, and shows time, station name, signal strength and has a scrolling section for information broadcast by the station. It is also illuminated in a pleasant green colour. The unit has two modes of operation. The first is an in-car receiver, powered by a lead which plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. The second is as a battery powered portable receiver. I have used it this way a little, and the receiver works well in the house. This does make it a versatile unit, though it is significantly bigger than a mobile phone or iPod, so it is more awkward to carry around. However this is a useful plus and makes the unit good value (even at full price) when compared to a stand alone portable DAB receiver. Not a main use, but a good plus point.
In use it is good, but mine often needs to be disconnected and reconnected to persuade it to work. This is worse in cold weather, and may be linked to the power lead. Other than that I' ve been satisfied with the Pure Highway. It is easy to use, and has certainly changed my listening habits. It's great to get some decent music via Planet Rock rather than the usual tedious chart stuff, and Test Match Special is far superior in audio quality to the analogue alternative.
It is a neat package, and despite some minor niggles (possibly due to it being a refurbished unit) I am very satisfied with the use I've had from this over the past year.
##Updated - 13/10/10 - see note at bottom##
The Pure Highway is a Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) tuner that has been designed for use in a car. Installation is simple and needs no wiring into the vehicle dash as the Pure Highway "broadcasts" the received DAB channel over a low power FM transmitter so that it can be picked up by your own car stereo. In the box as well as the main Pure Highway unit is an in-car power adaptor (plugs into the cigarette lighter socket), windscreen aerial and flexible mount. More about the aerial in a minute.
Okay why bother with DAB when you could make do with the existing FM or LW, after all their are more than enough channels already? Good point and well made. In fact the overcrowding of the air waves is the reason our TVs will be going digital by 2012. The same is also being muted for analogue radio, the timeframe for the switching off of FM could be as soon as 2015. Okay but that is five years away I hear you say. Tough crowd.
Another feature of DAB is that you can listen to channels that are not available on FM, now this can get a bit confusing. The easy area are the national BBC DAB channels are available across the country on the same frequency. Now we start getting a bit more confusing, local BBC radio stations are available on local DAB transmitters. As for commercial radio it gets quite complicated, some stations are national and on the same frequency across the country (e.g. the new name for Virgin radio, Absolute Radio, falls into this category), other stations are semi-national but can be on different frequencies as you move from one transmitter to another (or not at all). Such an example is XFM predominantly a London and Manchester FM station it is available on many DAB transmitters but not all and the frequency varies from one to another. Then finally you have commercial local DAB stations and these, as the name suggests, are available only on local transmitters.
So the above should be super clear? No? How about clear as mud then? Okay to sort out this mess I suggest checking out the following link:
To be honest it doesn't really matter about this confusion because with DAB you don't manually tune stations you scan automatically. Once the scan completes the stations are all named and sorted alphabetically.
##############Other Perceived Benefits of DAB############
- Efficient use of the available radio frequencies, means more stations can be broadcast and appeal to smaller more specific audiences
- No hissing or crackling, you either receive the station or you don't. In my experience this element seems oversold as DAB can "bubble" when signal strength is low
- DAB can be paused or rewound by saving the broadcast on the device, bit like Sky Plus
- Reception quality in theory should be better but broadcasters seem to have a tendency to cram more stations into a frequency channel by dropping the bit-rate, this means the sound can be worse than FM and in some case mono only
#################Pure the Manufacturer###############
Pure have made a name for themselves producing DAB devices, they are often first to market with new devices as well as cutting edge styling. Pure have a range of devices to satisfy different usage such as portable, bedside, in-car radios, boom boxes and mini Hi-Fi's
It is about time I got back to the specifics of the item being reviewed. The Pure Highway is aimed specifically at the in-car market and is designed to be easily installed.
- First fit the internal windscreen aerial, it is self-adhesive and should be fitted on the passengers side of the car to avoid blocking the drivers field of vision. The cables can be run down the pillar between the windscreen glass and trim, then along the front of the windscreen between glass and dash.
- Attach the magnetic holding arm to the windscreen. It is a suction affair so the windscreen needs to be dry and clean. Again position it so it doesn't obscure the drivers view. The arm of the holder is bendy but firm so it can be shaped to present the Pure Highway unit in way to ease operation, but not sag whilst driving
- Fit the aerial lead into the socket of the Pure Highway and attach the Pure Highway to the magnetic mount. You can optionally use a 3.5mm jack to connect the Highway to the Aux port of you in-car stereo if you prefer. The 3.5mm jack and optional batteries can allow the Highway to be used as portable device with headphones
- Insert the mini USB connector into the Pure Highway (doubles as a power supply socket and method for updating the firmware from a PC). The other end needs to go into the vehicles 12/24v supply which will be the cigarette lighter
Now everything is installed securely we can go about tuning the device.
- Press the central tune button next to the LCD screen
- Wait for about 60 seconds whilst the Highway scans for DAB stations (the display screen shows a progress bar and incrementing count of stations found)
- After the DAB scan completes the Highway will move on to scan the FM frequency range to detect an unused frequency that won't suffer cross-talk.
- The display on the Pure Highway shows the FM frequency it has determined as appropriate and advises you tune your in-car radio to the FM frequency shown.
You now scroll through the DAB stations the unit has found, you do so by rotating the large control next to the display screen. Once you find a station you like (remember DAB only displays station names you are not re-seeking across the frequency range) you can select the station by pressing the inner part of the circular control or if you want, assign it to a preset button by pressing and holding one of the four preset buttons on the top of the unit. Note this clears the existing preset channels that were set at the factory. The last button of the four allows access to another 16 presets which are accessed via the rotating control dial
First off I found the internal windscreen aerial awful, this maybe because my car had a special windscreen which can significantly attenuate the DAB signal. Before throwing it away I read a few forum posts by others that recommended using an external aerial. I ended up buying an optional external aerial (think it may have been the Pure aerial @ £19) that had a magnetic base and fixed to the external roof of the car, a long lead came into the car. The supplied internal aerial was thrown away. The difference was huge the unit worked with all the stations available in my area (check yours higher up in the review, I have highlighted the link in bold).
The unit is easy to install, although I left it in my centre console rather than bother with the magnetic attaching arm. Reception by the car radio was great and DAB quality overall is good with the external aerial. I listen daily to Absolute FM which is broadcast nationally on the same frequency or XFM which is on two different frequencies as I travel the 40 miles to work. Quality is good and I simply wouldn't be able to listen to them on FM in my area
If you go on a long journey you may have to retune the internal FM transmitter as other radio stations come close to the prviously chosen frequency. It is just a single press of a button called '''quickSCAN'''. Retuning you car radio maybe a bit more of a hassle. As I've explained earlier the number of DAB stations available depends where you live, so if you travel a long distance you may want to or have to retune the DAB stations, again select Menu button on top of the device and scan.
I've really enjoyed the Pure Highway and for <£80 it is has been well worth the money. That is until a few weeks ago when it died and now simply won't come back to life. I've had it around 2 years so it is probably out of warranty, I haven't checked. This is the reason for the '''satisfactory''' rather than '''good''' rating.
* Line-in allows you to connect an external device like an iPod and use the FM transmitter to your car radio
* ReVu; Pure's name for the ability to pause and rewind the DAB station
* Headphone output for portable use (requires 2xAA batteries not included)
* USB upgradable
* Line-out; can feed the Aux port of your stereo rather than use the FM method
* Scrolling text; same as radio text on FM stations but more widely used by DAB stations
N.B sample article published by me on Ciao
##Update - 13/10/10##
Since writing this article I have discovered the problem with the device was related to the in-car, cigarette charger. Replacing this with a USB cable and USB socket in-car cigarette charger means the Pure Highway is once again working. Based on this I upgraded my rating from 3stars to 4 stars and changed the review title.
Additionally two firmware updates have been released by PURE, which improve overall performance. Unfortunately the install on non-Windows XP machines is problematic and I have written a solution at my blog; http://www.lexfordparc.co.uk