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While some products struggle to hammer out a niche for themselves, the PURE Oasis is all brawn. There's no mistaking this for what it is: a romper-stomping, reinforced-metal, panic room of a digital radio. Nothing short of nuclear war could pound its way through this chassis. Builders or anyone who works outdoors in extreme weather conditions should enjoy it -- the radio is tested to IP64 standards for water and dust resistance.
Although it's by far the most durable DAB we've tested, you'd expect sound quality on a mono-speakered radio to be unimpressive. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the audio quality on the £119 Oasis. It can't hope to match a well-specced stereo DAB, but if you're looking for a smart compromise in hazardous working environments, there's little to top this for ruggedness and fidelity. It might be a hefty investment, but we feel its durability will make it good value.
There's a certain elegance to the Oasis despite its boxy looks. The emphasis here is on quality more than style, but the radio is far from ugly. It's overwhelmingly large for a basic DAB radio, and exceptionally heavy, but the clinical white and silver finish gives it an appealing, military look -- you can imagine these being stock issue to army troops. The extremely durable chassis is constructed, in part, from cast aluminium with a shot-blasted finish. This aluminium frame runs around the edges and corners of the radio, protecting it at the most vulnerable points of impact. The rest of the Oasis is finished in a heavy-duty plastic that feels like the stuff they make riot shields out of.
Given the extra weight the aluminium frame and hard-wearing plastic add to the Oasis, you might be forgiven for thinking PURE has gone too far in bolstering the radio's structure against damage. Some may find that buying a cheaper, lighter and more expendable DAB radio and replacing it when it breaks is a more practical option. However, if you work in a single hazardous location for extended periods, the issue of weight becomes less important. One thing's for sure with the Oasis: it's likely to outlive you -- a rare quality to find in today's consumer electronics. This radio has been built the way your grandfather claims things once were.
Controls on the Oasis are clearly labelled and simple to operate. The conventional rotary tuning and volume controls will be familiar to any radio user. All the controls on the radio are encapsulated in a grippy rubber coating, which presumably lessens the risk of moisture seeping into the openings they make in the chassis. The Oasis is relatively impervious to wet or paint-covered fingers as well as fairly severe weather conditions. We'd draw the line at submerging this DAB -- it's not completely waterproof -- but a torrential downpour, dropped brick, or toppled paint can won't even make it raise an eyebrow. Our one criticism of the design is the LCD which, though acceptable, is too small to view from any real distance -- on top of a stepladder, for example.
The front of the radio also includes a set of four station preset buttons, a power button and a large speaker grill. The speaker is defended against sharp objects by a perforated grill drilled straight into the radio's thick outer shell -- nothing is going to get through this. On the side of the radio there's sockets, covered by bendy rubber plugs, for headphones, aux in, USB and a 9V DC power supply.
Interestingly, the aerial on the Oasis is of the detachable screw-in type. It's rubber and has an extreme tolerance to bending. We folded it back on itself to 180 degrees and it returned to a vaguely vertical position almost immediately. The aerial can be stowed in an indentation on the back of the radio during transport. If you're a radio ham, you could feasibly rig a much bigger aerial into the threaded socket on the top of the chassis -- you'd have to be pretty hardcore, though.
As with most DABs, setup on the Oasis was painless. As soon as the radio was switched on it auto-tuned itself to all available digital radio stations and displayed their names on the built-in LCD. Pressing the Info button cycles through all the available information about a specific station, while the Menu button gives you some basic options like switching off the LCD backlight.
The Oasis can tune into all Band III broadcasts, meaning that every DAB station in the UK can be received on the radio at a quality of up to 256kbps. The autotuner on the radio is relatively fast compared to other DABs we've tested, but you're unlikely to need to retune the radio very often during its lifetime.
One of the most impressive features on the Oasis is its battery life, which stands at an impressive 15 hours. When you pick up the DAB it's easy to tell where this extra battery power is being drawn from -- the radio is pregnant with ChargePAK power cells, which make it notably heavy to lug around. When you do finally run the internal battery flat, the radio will take a 9V power supply that powers the device while charging the internal cells.
If you have an existing iPod, CD or MiniDisc player, you can connect this to the Oasis for amplification using the aux-in connector on the side of the radio. There's also a USB connection, which doesn't transfer music, but will let you update the firmware on the Oasis if PURE introduces new revisions of the internal software.
Despite our reticence over mono-speakered DABs, we've been impressed with other mono devices before, not least the Roberts Gemini 10. The Oasis has a more modern tone than the less expensive Gemini, and reproduces digital radio with an uncoloured and crisp approach. Listening to Tied Up Too Tight by Hard Fi revealed an acceptable low-end for a small speaker. The high end had a typically trebly sound that made it impossible to confuse the source for anything but radio. However, our overall impression was good. Especially impressive was PURE's decision to volume-limit the amplifier to within its ability to drive the internal speaker. This means there is absolutely no clipping, even at the highest volume. This will increase the lifetime of the radio as well as avoid the nasty distortion common on most radios when the volume is maxed-out.
Listening to a play on BBC Radio 4, the Oasis demonstrated excellent sonic characteristics. Voices were clean and rounded, with no distortion even at maximum volume. The background sound effects came alive even though the Oasis is monophonic, and we were surprised by how good a mostly plastic chassis can sound with such a small speaker cone. If you're looking for a rugged radio that is also one of the best-sounding mono units out there, the Oasis is, like its namesake, a pleasure to pass the hours by.
Edited by Michael Parsons
Additional editing by Nick Hide