There was a time when DABs were for the sociocultural elite, a badge of entry into a world of triple-laminated kitchen worktops and Habitat spice racks. With the One, PURE Digital has taken this formerly luxury item and turned it into something accessible for all -- a Volkswagen for the radio-loving proletariat. This is the first sub-£50 kitchen DAB we've reviewed, and PURE has worked a small miracle keeping the cost down.
The biggest shock with the One is its colour scheme -- it's available in a garish pink. More reasonable shoppers will opt for the safety of the alternative colours, black and white. But when something looks this dramatic in pink, who can resist?
The big sacrifice you're making if you opt for the One is the general build quality. It feels solid enough, but at the same time completely devoid of internals. We didn't stoop to cracking it open, but we suspect that inside the plastic chassis there's little more circuitry than the average musical birthday card. This is a seriously light package. Still, it's not weight that counts, but usability and sound quality. Can the PURE One hope to match its fully grown competition?
We've said it already, but this needs emphasis: the PURE One is light. It's a snack box of Frosties light; a paperback novel light. Be careful when you place this on the kitchen worktop that the breeze you create from opening the dishwasher door too enthusiastically doesn't send the whole radio see-sawing across the room like a leaf. We jest of course, but compared to something like the PURE Digital Evoke-3, the One is insubstantial. This is no bad thing -- the Evoke-3 is a monster.
Our review model came in a relatively sedate white, making it vaguely reminiscent of a piece of hospital equipment. A retractable aerial conceals itself in a recessed groove on the top of the chassis and telescopes out to improve reception.
The front panel is clear and uncluttered, with a large chrome tuning/volume control surrounded by buttons to activate the radio's main functions. To the left of this there's a mono speaker covered by a perforated grill that's part of the chassis moulding. PURE's designers seem to have lost interest when they got to the back of the unit, and there's a standard-looking battery compartment, which takes six C-size batteries.
On the right-hand side of the DAB, there's a USB port (used to update the firmware, should that ever be required) and a standard 3.5mm headphone socket.
If you've set up a DAB before, you'll have no problems with the tuning system on the PURE Digital One. Either way, it's essentially impossible to get this wrong. The automatic tuner inside the One activates itself when the radio is first switched on.
Provided the external aerial is extended and well-positioned, the One will automatically seek out all Band III (ie UK standard) 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.
As you'd guess from the price, the One is completely no-frills. This is not to say that is it under-featured though -- in fact it puts many FM radios to shame. Although the joy of an electronic programme guide (as seen on the Evoke-3) is notably absent, this would have been expensive to implement and there's no recording function to use it with anyway.
Both FM and DAB transmissions can be received on the integrated tuner. Station and programming information is displayed on the One's screen. This includes RadioText, RDS and standard DAB station information, which gives you supplementary information about the current broadcast, for example the name of the artist and a short biography, or news updates.
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 One, 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 One, this offers an easy fix without returning the unit.
As with all the digital radios we've tested, the PURE One sometimes encounters 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 any real difficulty 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 flavour. We didn't have any problems with the One in our London-based tests. It gave crystal-clear, crackle-free reception.
Sound from the internal speaker is good for such a small, ostensibly hollow chassis. PURE has eked a great deal from a tight component budget. The results are easily on a par with most current kitchen radios. Indeed, once kitchen radios get a bit of dried pasta and some cake mixture stuck on them, sophisticated tests for acoustic accuracy become increasingly moot.
If you're looking to venture into the world of digital radio, but aren't sure about local reception, the One lets you dip your feet in the DAB stream without financially crippling you. If it turns out you do have bad reception, you can always revert back to FM without that horrid feeling that you've wasted your money. In short, the One is a great entry-level DAB for the reluctant adopter of new technology, and a fine performer in the kitchen or garden shed.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide