The Sonus-1XT has a relatively small display with room for two lines of information. The first line normally shows the station name. Pressing the Info button rotates the second line through eight options: date and time, programme type, multiplex name, channel, mode, signal quality, scrolling text and a big clock that fills both lines. Most of this information is dull and geeky, so you'll probably opt for date and time. You might also be interested in the scrolling text, which displays additional information such as song titles. However, it flashes on and off while jerking across the screen in a disconcertingly disjointed manner, so we found it annoying.
Still, living with the Sonus-1XT is primarily an aural experience. Tap the SnoozeHandle and it'll tell you that, "The time is five-thirty-three pm." Tap it twice and it'll recite your alarm settings. PURE provides an audio manual on CD as well as the printed one, making all the features easily accessible to partially sighted and blind radio users.
The Sonus-1XT uses a real recorded voice, rather than a synthesised one, and ships with a female voice that we found very pleasant. Additional voices will be available over the Internet. The amount of speech is also customisable. The iVOX button on the front panel enables you to turn it on or off, or you can delve into the menu and set it to Time only, Stations only, Time/stations or Speech Disabled.
The downside of using recorded voices is that the radio's vocabulary is limited. It knows the names of all the current stations and can talk you through all its settings, but it doesn't have enough words to cover the scrolling text. If you really want to hear this information, it'll read it out letter by letter. We expect you'll get about halfway through Tee See Aitch Ay Eye Kay Oh Vee Ess Kay Why before you tell it to shut up.
The Sonus-1XT is also a fully featured clock radio, with two alarms that can be set independently. Both can operate daily or be set for weekdays, weekends, Saturdays or Sundays. You can wake to a specific station or a tone and it's smart enough to switch to the tone if your chosen station isn't broadcasting when the alarm is due to sound. The tone alarm is quiet initially, but increases in volume as you attempt to ignore it. Slapping the handle activates the snooze function, which can be set to anything from five to 59 minutes.
Alarm settings and radio customisation are adjusted using the menu system, which is operated using the Tune knob. We were able to change the settings without reading the manual, but we weren't always sure whether we were supposed to be twisting or pressing. Using two separate controls might have made the menus easier to use.
The Sonus doesn't have any built-in recording features, but it does have record timers that can be used to make it turn on, switch to a particular station and play for a specified period. It also has Digital Out and Stereo Out sockets, so you can connect it a recording device with a synchro-record facility or a timer of its own.
The sound from the Sonus-1XT is clean and clear. Listening to speech without the usual hiss and crackle is pure pleasure. When we lined it up with similarly priced DAB radios and listened to music, we found very few differences. Some people preferred the Roberts Gemini 11, but others liked the Sonus-1XT better, claiming it was more flattering to modern pop. If you're primarily interested in music, you'll probably want to get the add-on speaker and listen in stereo.
The Sonus-1XT uses Volume Equalisation Technology (VET) to keep the volume constant across stations. It is supposed to subtly adjust the relative loudness of your favourite stations over time, so you can switch between them without touching the volume knob. We attempted to test this feature, but all we can say is that the adjustments are indeed subtle.
Edited by Michael Parsons
Additional editing by Nick Hide