The Bug Too is the successor to the very successful Bug. While some find the design more ugly than quirky, there's no doubt that its distinctive looks have earned the Bug an iconic status among DABs. Perhaps it's fitting that such an odd looking gadget should be the flagship for DAB, since digital radio itself is a medium that has, like the Bug, polarised opinion and inspired controversy.
Though the new Bug retains the chassis of the old, it improves on its predecessor in several key areas. The Bug Too adds an electronic programme guide (EPG) and 20 alarms (ideal for those who have trouble getting up in the morning unless at least 20 alarms are set at consecutive five-minute intervals).
The EPG is invaluable if you want to listen to specific radio shows without throwing yourself at the mercy of schedulers. The Bug Too will quietly record the shows you like to SD card and let you listen back to them when you've got time. It's essentially the TiVo or Sky+ system for DAB radio.
Many users of the original Bug insist that the oddly shaped chassis is a design classic, but can the Bug's new features win over those who flinched from its pleading electronic eyes the first time around?
The Bug Too is the DAB radio equivalent of Chris Morris's Shoreditch caricature Nathan Barley. The chassis is trendy in an annoyingly brazen, crude way. It's knowingly cool to the point of being uncool. Like a city trader on a Sinclair C5, you're not sure whether it's irony or stupidity, but at least it's something different. The verdict here is open -- you decide.
The large LCD on the end of the Bug's metal umbilical gives a bright and clear visual indication of the station you're listening to. It's a blue and white display with 122x32-dot graphics. On the abdomen there's an array of navigation buttons, which let you scroll through menu options.
The rear of the unit sports a dizzying array of inputs and outputs, including power, USB, digital optical out, headphones, line out and aux in. There's also an SD card slot for use when recording to removable SD cards.
If you've used a DAB before, you'll be familiar with the tuning system on the Bug Too. As with all the DABs we've tested, an automatic tuner activates itself when the radio is first switched on.
Extending the telescopic aerial on the back of the Bug Too can improve reception, although we had no problems leaving the aerial retracted. The Bug automatically locked onto available DAB broadcasts and listed them. Tuning speed on the Bug is as snappy as we've seen from other DAB radios. First-time users will have no problem at all getting the Bug Too to a point where they can enjoy DAB.
The Bug uses PURE's 'ReVu' to pause and rewind live DAB broadcasts. You can rewind live radio a maximum of 30 minutes into the past, using the 'ReVu dial'. You also have the option of recording songs or entire radio programmes to an SD card. A 2GB card can contain approximately 30 hours of broadcasts.
When you're out on the mean streets and want to record a programme at home, there's a timed-record option. Using the Bug's EPG you can select the programme you want to record, and hit the Record key. The recorded show will play back on the Bug, but you could conceivably take it with you on a mobile device that supports playback from SD cards.
The Bug tuned into both FM (with RDS) and DAB transmissions. Station and programming information is displayed on the Bug's face. The Bug can show RadioText, RDS and standard DAB station information (extra details about the current broadcast. This includes things like the name of the current artist and a short biography).
The Bug is a stereo DAB with full Band III reception capable of decoding stations broadcast at a maximum of 384Kbps (not that need that since most UK broadcasts barely scrape 128Kbps).
Audio outputs on the Bug include a 3.5 mm headphone socket and optical (S/PDIF) Toslink connector. This means you could connect the Bug to a digital amplifier or MiniDisc recorder.
If PURE releases firmware updates for the Bug, these can be uploaded via the USB port. Very occasionally DAB companies do release updates, which can be used to tweak the interface, correct bugs or add new features. Most users can ignore this feature, but if a problem is discovered with the software on the Bug, this could provide a quick repair.
As with all the digital radios we've tested, the Bug occasionally suffers from reception problems in some places. Londoners are unlikely to have problems tuning into a strong signal, but as you move outside areas of good reception, you may find that you have to be more careful about how you orientate the aerial.
As reception quality decreases, old analogue broadcasts suffer interference which gradually gets more severe, but digital broadcasts simply stop altogether. This gives DAB an all-or-nothing reaction to bad reception. We didn't have any big reception problems with the Bug even with the aerial retracted, but you should bear in mind that some environments may be less forgiving.
Though DAB music broadcasts always leave a little to be desired on account of the low bitrates, the Bug coped well. We were happy to listen to some broadcasts as background music while doing other things.
The EPG system is particularly appealing and gives you an advanced recording system similar to the Sky+ system. We loved this, using it to record a selection of Radio 4 shows.
The Bug Too may not be a huge cosmetic or sonic enhancement to the previous iteration of this DAB, but it backs up the Bug's well-established, all-round good reputation with an extremely useful EPG.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield