Pure Highway review: Pure Highway

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall

The Good Improved sound quality over auxiliary. Extra stations. The only in-car digital radio option. FM transmitter is good.

The Bad ...but mitigates DAB+'s sound quality advantage. The only in-car digital radio option. Wires, wires everywhere.

The Bottom Line It's still the only way to get digital radio in the car. Those desiring the extra channels or improved sound quality will love it, if they don't mind the hassle of setting it up every time and have an auxiliary jack in the car.

Design

The main Pure Highway unit sits on its windshield mount via a nifty magnet and two little notches. Despite our initial misgivings about this set-up, it survived the roughest that Sydney's roads had to offer without a single whoopsie moment. We do wish, however, that for the next Highway radio Pure ditches the stiff goose-neck mount for something more compact and flexible.

By far the worst thing about the Highway, though, is the quantity of wires. First, there's the power cable that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. Then there's the antenna cable that runs along the dashboard and has an end-point that adheres itself to the windscreen — this cable can be hidden somewhat if you're willing to pull trim pieces off your car. And then there's the line-out cable — not included in the box — but highly recommended if your car stereo has an auxiliary jack. All up, it's a mess to untangle, set-up, and then take down and stow away before and after every drive.

Pure Highway on car windscreen

Them's a lot of wires!
(Credit: Derek Fung/CNET Australia)

Once set up, the Pure Highway is pretty straightforward to use. Display duties are taken care of by a simple multi-line LCD screen, and browsing stations and menus is taken care of by a jog dial and its central button. Up to 20 station presets can be stored, with the first three easily accessible via dedicated buttons; stations four to 20 rather fussily require the use of the jog dial.

Performance

The Pure Highway does its best work if your car stereo is endowed with an auxiliary jack. Via auxiliary, music stations have sound quality that's just a bit shy of CD standard, but the extra servings of clarity and purer bass are instantly noticeable. AM stations gain the most, with talk radio announcers finally sounding human — well, as human as some of them can get, anyway.

So long as signal strength is decent there's no static and we suffered no reception drop-outs in the CBD catacombs; tunnels, as well as underground and undercover car parking lots are another matter altogether. In all of our review vehicles, except for a Mazda MX-5 with a fibreglass hardtop, reception was consistently rated at 95 to 99 per cent mark. In the Mazda we weren't able to listen to digital radio unless the car was stationary, and even then only some of the time.

Pure Highway antenna

The Pure Highway's antenna adhered to our car's windscreen.
(Credit: Derek Fung/CNET Australia)

For drivers without an auxiliary port, the Pure Highway comes with an FM transmitter and four transmitter presets. As far as FM transmitters go it's pretty good, delivering a strong signal in the suburbs and it was only overwhelmed once or twice in the inner city. It does, though, cut the fidelity advantage over traditional analog FM radio to the point of triviality and also reintroduces static onto the scene.

Other features

Live radio can be paused and resumed, so you'll never have to miss another moment of Kyle Sandilands' pure genius. The unit's line-in port allows the Pure Highway to function as an FM transmitter for MP3 players and it can also be used as an out-of-car personal digital radio, although you'll need to stick in two of your own AA batteries and a pair of headphones.

Conclusion

If you live in one of the five major capital cities, have an aux jack and absolutely must have digital radio in the car, then the Pure Highway is a must have, if only because it's the only in-car digital radio option. Should you have no line-in port, the Pure Highway is only really worth the cash outlay and fussing over wires if you're addicted to a particular digital-only station or having ABC News Radio uninterrupted by parliamentary broadcasts.

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