The Evoke-3 is the latest iteration of PURE's Evoke series of kitchen radios. It offers a number of improvements over the Evoke-2XT, including new filters on the custom-designed speaker drivers, a slick EPG (Electronic Program Guide) and an improved battery life.
We've reviewed several PURE DAB radios in the past, and without exception we've had pretty good experiences with them. PURE has nailed the receiver stages in their units -- for quality of reception the Evoke series has an impressive reputation behind them. The Evoke-2XT was a strong performer, but can the Evoke-3, reviewed here, continue this tradition?
The styling of the Evoke-3 didn't immediately appeal to our tastes, but at least it's fairly anonymous. Faux-wood veneer wraps around the outer surfaces, with what looks like an Ikea wardrobe handle fixed to the top. The front is an inoffensive silver-grey with three main controls in its centre: Volume, ReVu and tune.
The large LCD on the front panel gives a bright and obvious visual indication of what station you're listening to. Beneath this, there's an array of navigation buttons, which make a pleasant clicking noise when pressed.
The two handles on the top of the unit are actually a SnoozeHandleTM. When tapped, this will put the Evoke-3 into snooze mode to give you that few extra minutes of vital sleep.
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 a large detachable panel which reveals a battery compartment for an unfathomable number of batteries (6x C-cells).
DAB aficionados will be familiar with the tuning system on the PURE Digital DMX-50. As with all DABs, an automatic tuner activates itself when the radio is first switched on.
Once we'd extended the telescopic aerial on the back of the radio, the Evoke-3 automatically sought out all available DAB broadcasts and listed them. Tuning speed on the Evoke-3 is as snappy as we've seen from other DAB radios. First-time users will have little problem getting the Evoke to a point where they can enjoy DAB.
The Evoke-3 uses what PURE is calling '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.
If you're out of the house and want to record a programme, there's a timed-record option. Using the Evoke's EPG you can select the programme you want to record, and hit the 'Record' key. This is such a brilliant feature that we'd gladly spend an hour singing its praises -- more on it later, though. The recorded show will play back on the Evoke-3 itself, or on the move using a portable player like the PURE PocketDAB 2000.
The Evoke-3 will receive FM (with RDS) and DAB transmissions. Station and programming information is displayed on the LCD screen. This includes RadioText, RDS and standard DAB station information (supplementary information about the current broadcast, for example, the name of the artist and a short biography).
You can play back MP3 files on the Evoke-3 via SD cards inserted into the front of the unit. This DAB has no problem dealing with MP3s in folders.
If you have other stereo equipment -- such as an iPod or Sony NW-E507 MP3 player -- you can use the auxiliary 3.5mm connector on the rear of the unit to amplify the sound. You'll need a 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead (not bundled) to run between the MP3 player and the rear of the Evoke-3.
If PURE releases firmware updates for the Evoke-3, 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 Evoke, this may provide a quick repair.
As with all the digital radios we've tested, the Evoke-3 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 discerning over aerial placement.
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 Evoke-3 even with the aerial retracted, but you should bear in mind that some environments may be less forgiving. Check with friends to see what DAB reception is like in your area.
The Evoke-3 sounds impressive in action. The bass-reflex port on the underside of the radio gives everything a slightly warmer tone than a closed unit would. Listening to Radio 4, the Evoke gave an especially refined performance -- it was comfortable and unstrained, ideal for extended listening. Listening to Radio 1, the Evoke was similarly impressive.
Though DAB music broadcasts always leave a little to be desired on account of the low bitrates, the Evoke coped well. We were happy to listen to some broadcasts as background music while doing other things. Concentrated listening will reveal a slightly muddied low-end, but how much of this is simply down to the broadcasters rather than the radio is difficult to assess.
What really makes the Evoke-3 an enticing choice is the built-in EPG. Although this took a few minutes to get going, the EPG gives you an advanced recording system similar to the Sky Plus system. We loved this, using it to record a selection of Radio 4 shows we then listened to on the way home from work. Selecting shows to record is a simple scroll and click action -- PURE couldn't have made this easier.
The Evoke-3 may not break any thrilling new ground, but PURE has successfully honed their already excellent 2XT to come up with an extremely capable and enjoyable kitchen DAB.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield