Top positive review
84 of 88 people found this helpful
A mostly great DAB radio
on 5 November 2010
I'll start by saying that I like this radio. I needed a new radio to replace my aging FM set and looked at the specs and reviews of many makes and models. I eventually narrowed my search down to Pure and then just needed to select which model. I quite liked the look of the Evoke Flow but it sounded (to me) to have a little too much bass and seemed quite expensive for a mono radio with no tone controls, and quite honestly I don't think I would have used the Internet radio side of it much anyway. None of the Pure single speaker models seem to have any form of bass and treble adjustment, no equaliser presets, not even a simple 'tone' control and so I decided on a stereo model. After nearly settling on the rather expensive Evoke 3 I saw the Elan II on sale for less than half the price of the Evoke 3 and despite the Evoke's extra features (such as the 'record to SD card' and remote control) the Elan seemed to good to ignore. So I bought it!
The Elan II measures about 280 x 160 x 90 mm (without the aerial extended) that's 11 x 6.5 x 3.5 about inches to us older folk. It has a rubberised sort of finish which feels nice but is rather prone to show greasy finger marks. The two main dials are turned aluminium and have a clicky feel as you turn then. The left one adjusts the volume and can be pushed down to mute the sound. Turning the right hand one scrolls through the available stations. Pressing the knob down selects the station. This same knob is also used for scrolling through and selecting options after pressing the 'menu' button. Between the two main knobs is a three line LCD display. This is clear to read in any lighting conditions from bright sunlight to complete darkness, (with the backlight on). The middle line displays the station name and the bottom line shows a scrolling text message as broadcast by the station, for instance details of what track is currently playing. The scrolling text can be stopped at any time by pushing the 'Tuning' knob. The text can then be manually scrolled left or right by turning the knob. This bottom line of text can be changed to show the date, signal strength or signal quality, Unlike some other Pure sets (including the older model Elan) the frequency and multiplex group cannot be displayed, although I don't imagine this will matter to most people. The top line of the display shows the current time and several other settings by means of small icons. (Battery level, volume, signal strength, stereo, FM, DAB etc). Interestingly when I first got the radio the bottom line of the display became a full width volume scale for a few seconds each time the volume was adjusted, but since upgrading to the latest firmware via the internet using the USB connection this feature seems to have gone. I assume this is intentional. The display is backlit. By default it stays lit for a few seconds after any controls are used. If preferred the backlight can be set to be always off or always on via the menus. I would have thought the backlight would automatically revert to switching off after a while when running on battery power, regardless of the setting - but it doesn't. There are two buttons on either side of the display. The two on the left are 'Menu' and 'Bass/Treble' while those on the right are 'ReVu' and 'Alarm/Timer'. Pressing the 'ReVu' button when tuned to a DAB station pauses the broadcast. Pressing it again continues from where you paused (up to a limit of about 10 minutes). While paused you can use the 'Tuning' knob to rewind and fast-forward up and down the 10 minute buffer. This feature is useful for when you don't quite catch something that's said and want to rewind and hear it again, or for short pauses like answering the door or the phone. In a row along the top peak of the radio are six more buttons. The first cycles between DAB, FM and Auxiliary input. The other five are station-preset buttons. Although you can set 25 presets of your choice, only the first four are directly selectable with a single button press. The fifth button selects a list of all stations you have set as presets and you then use the tuning knob to select from the list in the same was as you would from the full station list, the only advantage being that the list is only as long as your list of presets and thus a bit shorter than the full list. Up to 50 presets can be saved. 25 on DAB and 25 on FM. FM reception is as good as any other radio I've had but with the DAB reception being as good as it is I haven't used FM much. On the rear of the radio are four sockets. One for the mains adaptor, and then a group of three together for aux input, headphones and mini USB (for firmware upgrades). I have tried connecting my iPod to the aux input, which works as expected.
I was pleasantly surprised at just how many DAB stations this radio found. FM reception has always been a bit of a problem in our location especially downstairs and I was worried that DAB might not be any better. All the DAB stations it found played just fine and in most cases without having to fully extend the aerial. For the size of the set the sound it produces is, to my mind, excellent. The stereo image is obviously limited somewhat by the closeness of the speakers but it returns a creditable performance. The fact that you have control over bass and treble enables you to tailor the sound depending on whether you are listening to speech or music. One criticism I have in this area is that the volume works in discrete steps and these steps are a bit large at low volume levels, which I have found can make it difficult to get just the level you want when listening late at night in a quiet bedroom.
On the subject of using the set in the bedroom, while it does have alarm functions the set doesn't really make a good bedside radio/alarm. Firstly the alarms are switched off when running on battery power and will only sound if the set is connected to the mains in standby. Although the time is displayed when in standby there is no way of seeing it in the dark as the backlight is off and there is no way of turning it on, not even momentarily. Also, unless you have a very low bedside table the angle of the display means you can't see it anyway. The alarm can be set to 'once only', 'weekdays', 'weekends', 'every day' or to an individual day of the week but as far as I can make out you cannot have it set to go off at one time on weekdays and another on weekends, only one or the other can be set. The alarm can be an increasing bleep tone or can be set to any radio station at any volume regardless of what station/volume you were last using. There is no 'snooze' function. It does have a sleep timer, which will switch the set off after a pre-selected period. It also has a 'kitchen' countdown timer.
One other small grumble I have is regarding the handle, which only moves from being folded down the back of the radio to vertical. It won't move forwards of the vertical. This means that once the aerial is extended you can't fold the handle down out of the way. Conversely if you fold the handle down and then raise the aerial you can't then carry the set around by the handle without first retracting the aerial. Perhaps I'm just being a bit picky here but I would have thought it would have been quite easy to enable the handle to move frontwards as well as backwards.
The Elan II comes with a compact mains adaptor, not much bigger than a standard mains plug. It can be run from six 'C' size batteries or an optional 'chargePAK C6L' rechargeable battery, which sells for around £30. I haven't tried the chargePAK but have found that for occasional use on battery power I get a reasonable life from a set of alkaline 'C' cells. The user manual has 12 pages in English and is reasonably well written. One notable mistake is that one diagram shows the auxiliary input as being the bottom of three sockets, (correct), the other shows the middle socket as being the aux input, (wrong). This could be confusing as both are 3.5mm jack sockets, the middle one being for headphones. If you'd like a look at the user manual it can be downloaded from the Pure web site. (URL not allowed here)
Oh dear, I seem to have rambled on a bit don't I? Anyway, in summary I would say that the Elan II is an excellent radio with good performance and some useful features. If you want a DAB set primarily as a radio alarm then you should probably look at other models such as the Pure Chronos or the Siesta although I personally have no experience of these. Other than that, and despite any criticisms I have made above, I am very pleased with the Elan II and feel I can recommend it. I've given it four stars only because of the limited alarm functionality and the problem with the volume steps at low levels, both of which might not bother you at all.