The PURE Contour is an FM and digital radio that can also connect to thousands of Internet radio stations. It looks funky too, with a pop-out iPod dock, domed design, and touch-sensitive buttons. It's not cheap, though, at around £200, so is it worth the beans?
Black hole sun
The Contour's design reminds us of the sun appearing over the horizon, except that it's black and not a ball of fusion and light. It's also quite chunky, and one of the tallest digital radios we've ever seen.
From a styling point of view, we think it's a success. Our only minor gripe is the LCD display. It's functional, but it's tricky to tell what it's showing from a normal standing height -- you'll have to bend down.
On the back, there's a headphone socket and an auxiliary input. There's also a long, extendable aerial. If the radio's near a window, you may not need this, but it can help you to get a clear DAB signal. The Contour's Wi-Fi connectivity is handled by a separate internal aerial.
DAB, FM and Internet radio
Many people aren't enamoured with DAB. After all, it's not as widely available as FM and the quality can, at times, be less than optimal. That said, we use it in London with virtually no problems and the sound quality isn't a huge issue, especially given the way FM sounds without a good, strong signal. Indeed, in our Southwark office, the FM reception is zero, but we get great DAB reception.
If FM and digital radio don't suit you, you can just use the Internet radio functionality. You can access thousands of worldwide radio stations on the Contour, including many from British providers. It's slightly trickier to find what you're looking for than it is when using DAB, but there's far more choice. The quality of both content and audio is variable, but there are some real gems out there.
Another benefit of using the Internet radio is that you can take advantage of the PURE Lounge software. This lets you organise and store your stations using a standard PC browser, with your choices then being fed back to the radio. Likewise, any favourites set on the radio itself are saved in your Lounge account, giving you an unlimited number of Wi-Fi presets.
Podcasts are handled well -- you can choose them on a computer and then listen to them on the device itself. We did notice one annoying bug, though. If you lose the Wi-Fi connection during listening, the Contour doesn't seem to resume podcasts when it reconnects. This is even more annoying seeing as you can't skip through them.
Go with the FlowSongs
The Contour uses PURE's FlowSongs music-discovery technology, which works like Shazam does on a smart phone. If you hear an unfamiliar song that you like, you can press a button and the FlowSongs feature will identify the tune, artist and album for you. The radio will then also give you the option to buy the track for between 79p and £1.29, and you can transfer the track to any of your other devices via the Lounge.
One problem is that, after an initial trial period of 90 days, you'll have to pay £2.99 a year to use the FlowSongs service. That's not very much, but it's enough of a barrier to prevent people using it. Another problem is that digital radio stations already tell you the name of the song that's currently playing. Still, FlowSongs might be useful for people who use FM radio.
We don't care for the controls on the front and top of the Contour. They're touch-sensitive, but we found them to be quite unresponsive.
When scrolling through the menus, we were frustrated by the lack of speed. We aren't sure whether this is due to a shortcoming of the controls or of the software, but the whole system lacks the responsiveness we expect.
We also found that, to extract the iPod dock, we had to hold the top of the radio to stabilise it. This sometimes led to us pressing the volume controls or the power button accidentally. Understandably, this proves quite annoying.
The remote is okay, but it doesn't really simplify anything. It's handy having a set of buttons to access common features quickly, but you'll still need to get hands-on with the radio and its menu system to change some settings.
It's not without its flaws, but the PURE Contour still has plenty to recommend it, including terrific sound quality and a handy music-discovery service. If you can afford it and can tolerate its slightly sluggish interface, we think it'll become a valued fixture in your abode.
Edited by Charles Kloet