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PURE Digital has established itself as one of the leading brands of digital radio. We've previously been impressed by the company's kitchen-radio designs and also by its hi-fi separates unit, the PURE DRX-702ES.
The DMX-50 is effectively an amalgamation of these two types of system. It calls on PURE's expertise both in small speaker-cabinet design, and in higher-end digital-to-analogue conversion circuitry. The DMX-50 also represents a new direction for PURE because it integrates a CD player and a 40W RMS amplifier.
We've previously levelled criticism at DAB broadcasts because of their inherently low bit rate, and this remains the case. So, how does the DMX-50 fare as an all-purpose mini system, and can it offset the deficiencies of UK DAB broadcasts?
Despite appearances, the PURE Digital DMX-50 is not a micro separates system. The chassis is designed to give the appearance that the tuner, CD and amplifier chassis are physically discrete, but in fact they're a single inseparable unit. This saves on interconnecting wiring and makes the DMX-50 perfect for casual listening in a living room or bedroom.
The speaker units either side of the main chassis are exactly the same height as the central unit and sit perfectly flush against the sides of the hi-fi. PURE has bundled long speaker cables that allow you to position the speakers several metres away from each other. If you have special wiring requirements, the bindings on the speakers and the main unit are the clip type, making it easy to use your own wires.
We would have preferred the more sturdy screw-type bindings for the speaker wire, but these are increasingly rare on entry-level mini systems. In most cases, you'll be using low-gauge wire and only setting up the system once, so the clip bindings more than suffice.
The front of the unit is attractively styled and could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive system. Clever cost savings from the integration of all three components in the hi-fi mean that PURE has been able to use a high-quality finish on the DMX-50. This won't look out of place on the bookcase of an MP or trainee litigation lawyer.
Steering clear of the love it/hate it aesthetic of The Bug, PURE has opted for a more refined, traditional approach to the DMX-50. The fascia adopts the basic layout of all hi-fi systems. A large volume knob dominates the front panel, and a smaller tuning control sits in the top right-hand corner.
The display on the DMX-50 is its greatest triumph. It's clear and bright, and highly legible in both sunshine and pitch darkness. There'll be no midnight tumbles into the bookcase when the DMX is on lighthouse duty.
If you've used a DAB before, you'll have few problems with the tuning system on the PURE Digital DMX-50. It's an automatic tuner that activates itself when the radio is first switched on. Provided the external aerial is properly attached, the DMX-50 will automatically seek out all available DAB broadcasts and list them on the LCD. The tuning speed was snappy and first-time users will have little problem getting the radio to a stage where it can play.
The DAB aerial on the DMX-50 is a T type. This is not ideal in areas of low reception, but you can easily replace it with a more powerful aerial, or route the existing one across the room in an arrangement that improves signal strength.
The most interesting feature on the DAB tuner in this mini system is the pause and rewind feature. PURE's DRX-702ES did not have this ability, so the DMX-50 is one of the few ways to listen to live DAB in a non-linear fashion through higher-quality speakers. PURE calls this technology 'ReVu', and it also lets you record radio to a removable SD card placed in the slot on the front of the unit.
Both FM (with RDS) and DAB transmissions can be received on the integrated tuner. Station and programming information is displayed on the DMX-50's screen. This includes RadioText, RDS and standard DAB station information -- this gives you supplementary information about the current broadcast, for example, the name of the artist and a short biography.
You can play back MP3 files on the DMX-50 from both SD cards inserted into the front of the unit, or a standard CD of MP3s placed in the CD tray. Even if you've arranged your MP3s in folders, the system doesn't have a problem playing them.
If you have other stereo equipment -- such as an iPod or Zen Vision:M MP3 player -- you can use the auxiliary phono connectors on the rear of the unit to amplify the sound. You'll need a 3.5mm to stereo phono lead (not bundled) to run between the MP3 player and the rear of the DMX-50.
Firmware updates can be uploaded via the USB port -- these are periodically available from PURE and may be used to tweak the interface on the DMX, correct bugs or add new features. Most users are probably unlikely to ever use this feature, but if a problem is discovered with the software on the DMX, this offers an easy fix without returning the unit to a specialist.
As with all the digital radios we've tested, the PURE Digital DMX-50 can suffer from reception problems in difficult environments. This means it's important to bear the unit's placement in mind when you first set up the radio.
Anyone who lives in London is unlikely to have many problems tuning into a reliable signal, but even in built-up regions, with very strong digital broadcasts, the DAB signal can be lost depending on the listening situation.
Unlike analogue broadcasts, which generate interference patterns in areas of poor reception, digital broadcasts simply stop altogether. This gives DAB an all-or-nothing behaviour. We had no problems whatsoever with DMX-50 in our tests, but you should bear in mind that you may need to run the bundled aerial across the room to get a signal. In our case, we ran it along a bookshelf. This gave crystal-clear reception, and within the limitations of the DAB format, the DMX performed excellently.
Sound from the bundled speakers is very good for such a compact unit. Though PURE has kept to a tight component budget, the results are acoustically very good. You'll improve the sound coming if you place the hi-fi on a solid surface to minimise unwanted vibrations, but even on a bookshelf the DMX-50 does well at producing room-filling sound.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide