The clue to the Chronos' purpose lies in its Greek namesake. The ancient God Chronos was responsible for the passing of time, and so the Chronos DAB is a bedside radio with alarm clock functions. Its name may be Greek, but its design skips a few centuries back to Egypt. The unusual quasi-pyramidal chassis earned the Chronos the moniker "the DABmuda triangle" among the reviewers here at CNET.
PURE Digital has proved its mettle with a series of impressive kitchen DAB radios, such as the Evoke-3 and the One. We've been consistently impressed by the build quality and performance of the company's designs. But can a bedside radio as small as the Chronos deliver decent DAB reception given the limitations of its form?
The only puzzling thing about the Chronos is PURE Digital's decision to include a manual for the device -- it really doesn't need one. As DABs go, this was the easiest we've set up in months. Plug in the power supply (battery power is not an option) and the Chronos automatically configures itself for you. Negotiating the controls on the top of the radio is elementary. Buttons are clear and bright, easy for sleepy fingers to locate.
The aerial is pre-attached in the form of a trailing strand of wire. This can be positioned neatly behind your bedroom cabinet, or trailed nonchalantly across the counter top like a strand of spaghetti. It's possible you may have to manipulate the wire to get optimum reception, but we had no problems with it in our test environment. Aerials like this have been standard fare for bedside FM radios for many years now, and although they're a little unsightly, they're a lot less intrusive than a full-blown retractable. It's strange that this wire aerial works so well, we haven't seen anything but telescopic aerials on the other DABs we've reviewed.
Tuning speed on the Chronos seemed to match what we've seen from the much heartier PURE Digital Evoke-3, and it trounced the tuning speed of the separates systems we've looked at. Everything is ready to go after just a few seconds.
The first thing the Chronos does when it's switched on is to automatically set the date and time -- presumably from the DAB feed. This means you can skip the annoying process of figuring out how to manipulate the controls on the radio to set the time. This is the bane of most radio alarm clock owners. Another advantage of the Chronos system is that if you accidentally unplug your alarm clock, or experience a power cut, the Chronos won't flash 00:00 like most alarm clock radios. Instead, the radio quietly sets itself to local time again. Ingenious.
Sound quality from the built-in speaker is fair. Clarity and tone was certainly comparable to what we hear each morning from our ageing FM alarm clock. Plugging in headphones demonstrated something rather impressive: the Chronos doesn't sound too far off what you'd expect from a dedicated professional unit like the Sony ST-SDB900. This isn't hugely surprising given that the weakest link in the DAB chain at the moment is not the receivers, but the quality of the transmissions.
There's a slight lack of warmth to the tone, but who in their right mind is an audiophile at 7am? For half-awake-listening the Chronos more than suffices.
Wonderfully, you can set the alarm on the Chronos to wake you up during weekdays but let you peacefully slumber at the weekends. There's even the option to set four independent alarms with different preferences on each day. If you're lucky enough to start later on certain days, you can pre-programme the Chronos to match your lifestyle and then never feel compelled to fiddle with it again.
No provision for battery operation makes the Chronos a static device designed to stay rooted to your bedside table. You could plausibly take the Chronos on holiday, but not all European countries use the same DAB frequencies as we do in the UK.
The Chronos has no fall back to FM or AM transmissions -- it's DAB or nothing. For this reason you'll want to make sure that the DAB reception in your area is good enough for the radio to lock to a strong signal. Anything less and you'll curse the thing for all eternity.
Remember that the room you use the Chronos in will need to be served well by a DAB transmitter to pick up radio using a small aerial -- it might be worth checking this with a friend's DAB. Londoners and other major city-dwellers can be fairly confident of good reception, but rural areas occasionally suffer from poor coverage.
Bedside radio alarm clocks are the least glamourous objects imaginable, ranking alongside disposable razors or rubber bands in the thrill stakes. It's a small miracle, then, that PURE Digital has nudged the Chronos into territory that a more pliant reviewer might call sexy. You may pay a premium for what's on offer here, but many users will earn it right back in hassle-free operation. Since your alarm clock is going to be the first thing you lay eyes on most mornings, maybe it's worth buying something attractive?
It's interesting that of all the DABs we've tested at CNET, the Chronos seems the most logical use of the DAB signal. While we've consistently bemoaned the poor bit rate of DAB for concentrated listening, for applications like this, where simplicity and convenience are far more important than audio fidelity, the digital format shines.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield