Pure One Flow
Who said internet radios had to be expensive? Not us, and certainly not DAB specialist Pure, which recently expanded its affordable range of One radios with the addition of a web-capable model. The Pure One Flow is a sub-£100 DAB and internet radio that also sports the maker's FlowSongs feature that enables you to buy music direct from your radio.
Although it's price tag puts it firmly in the budget radio sector, the Pure One Flow's black satin-touch finish and silky chrome dials actually make it look pretty slick putting it far ahead of many of its budget rivals when it comes to looks.
It might not have a carrying handle, but the One Flow's lightweight build and compact footprint means that it's truly portable (unlike some other so-called portable radios, that actually turn out to be fairly cumbersome). As you'd expect from an affordable radio like this, the selection of controls on offer is kept to the basics. Along with display, the front of the radio sports a Home button, which takes you back to the audio source screen, and there are also three context-senstive buttons underneath the screen - meaning that they're used to choose the options that appear above them on the display.
On the left is the volume dial which clicks as it's rotated so that you know how many notches you're going through on the volume scale and it can also be pressed inwards to mute the sound - a feature which comes in handy when your phone rings. The right-hand dial is for navigating through onscreen menus and can be pushed in to select your chosen option.
Connections are also kept to a minumum, with the power socket hidden away on the back of the radio, while the right-hand edge is home to a Mini-USB port for software updates or for hooking up the Pure USB Ethernet adaptor. You'll also find a headphone output as well as an auxiliary input for hooking up iPods or other portable music players (although you'll have to supply your own lead as the only wiring in the box is the power cable). On the back of the radio, there's also a removable panel that hides a space where you can house the optional Pure ChargePAK E1 (£34.99). This rechargable battery pack means that you can position the radio pretty much wherever you want, without having to find a spot that's near to a plug point.
Hooking up to internet radio is quick and simple - all you need to do is select The Lounge from the audio sources on the radio menu and the One Flow will then scan for wireless networks - enter your password and you're all done. The Lounge refers to Pure's online radio management service, which will let you browse for radio stations and store them as favourites, among other things such as making podcast playlists and choosing from a library of Pure sounds like rolling thunder or a babbling brook. If you don't want to use this then you can simply skip the registration and search for web radio stations directly from the unit itself. If you don't have a wireless connection, you can also get yourself a Mini USB Ethernet adaptor from Pure for hooking up manually.
Signing up to The Lounge only takes a couple of minutes and you'll be asked for your address details and asked to provide an email address and password. Once signed up, you'll have the option to pay for a FlowSongs subscription for £2.99 a year (although this is currently only availble in the UK as a public beta). Pure offers a free 90-day trial so you can fathom out whether it's the right service for you or not. The idea is that you identify tracks on any radio station and you can then buy them (assuming that you have credit) as high-quality MP3s, directly from your radio.
It's a very simple process - you just hit the Flow button under the screen when listening to a track that you want and the option to buy will then appear on the screen. Once you've purchased a song, you can stream it to your other Pure radios (if you have any) or download it to your computer and as they're DRM-free tracks you can listen to them anywhere, including on an iPad or MP3 player.
As well as connecting to the thousands of available internet radio stations, the One Flow will also let you stream music that's stored on your computer, or any UPnP-compatible network storage device (NAS). Pure recommends that you download its Flowserver software from The Lounge, but you can also use other media servers like Windows Media Player. Setup is very straightforward, and once complete, you simply go to the Media player screen on the radio's display and select the correct server. You can then navigate around the contents using the select dial and press the buttons under the screen to skip backwards or forwards through tracks.
As well as internet radio, the One Flow also has DAB capability as well as an FM tuner for those without a web connection or a decent digital signal. You can also use the One Flow as an alarm clock - in fact you can set two different alarms, which is a handy feature.
Considering that this is a budget model, the sound quality isn't bad at all. Whereas some affordable radios have a tendency to sound rather tinny, the One Flow copes well with most tracks and radio chat. The bass can sound a little muffled as the volume is upped, but it's not a bad performance by any stretch.
The Pure One Flow has an RRP of £99.99, but it's currently selling on Amazon for £91.72 and you can probably find it cheaper still if you shop around.
Don't let the fact that this is a budget option put you off. The silky finish gives it a premium feel and it's a great choice for an internet radio is your wallet isn't overflowing with cash. The internet capability is a big plus point, as is the ability to stream music from your own server. It's all very simple to set up and use, so even technophobes should be able to figure it out.
The audio quality is pretty decent, particularly in comparison with similarly priced rivals, so unless you're (unrealistically) expecting audiophile quality, then you shouldn't be disappointed.