PURE Digital's Sonus-1XT is a digital radio that talks, not just in the way that all radios talk, but also to provide information about its settings and functions. You can tap it to find out the time or use the voice prompts to tune it with your eyes closed.
The voice feedback makes the Sonus-1XT particularly suitable for anyone with a visual impairment. It also makes the radio fun to interact with, so it shouldn't be seen as a niche product. We found ourselves poking and slapping it gratuitously, just for the pleasure of listening to it speak.
Beyond the novelty of the touch-and-hear interface, the Sonus-1XT is a competent DAB radio with two alarms. It's most at home in the bedroom, where the plain styling and maple veneer enable it to blend in with modern furnishings.
Like many of PURE Digital's radios, the Sonus-1XT packs retro controls into a Scandi-modern box with a maple veneer. If it's making any kind of design statement, it's a polite one: "Excuse me, do you mind if I take up a small corner of your Ikea side table?" It's bland but well finished and seems solidly constructed.
The front panel is divided between the single speaker and a control panel with a discreet blue LCD, two knobs and 11 oval buttons. It's a mono radio, but a matching second speaker is available separately if you want to upgrade to stereo. The auxiliary speaker comes with a 3m cable so you can spread out the speakers -- something you can't do when both speakers are built in to the original unit.
Around the back you'll find a USB connector for software upgrades, an optical digital out, a stereo line out, a headphone socket and an output for the auxiliary speaker. The telescopic aerial extends to 0.7m and is detachable, enabling you to replace it with an outdoor aerial if you live in an area with a weak signal.
The Sonus-1XT is a mains-only radio and is supplied with an AC power adaptor.
To get started, simply extend the aerial, plug in the power cable and press the Standby button. A pleasant female voice says, "Welcome to the PURE Sonus-1XT with iVOX. Autotune in progress, please wait." The lady in the radio then checks the time, sets the clock, finds all the available stations and sorts them into alphabetical order. It's like having a technician come round to configure your radio, except it only takes 15-20 seconds.
Once you've adjusted the volume, you can put your feet up and start listening. To change stations, turn the tuning knob to scroll through the list. When you pause, the station name is announced, and you can select it by pressing the Tuning knob. If you forget to press, the radio keeps broadcasting the previous station. The 'twiddle first, then press to confirm' routine is common to many of the radio's functions.
Ten favourite stations can be stored using the preset buttons. The first five are stored by pressing and holding a preset button for about two seconds. For the second five, you need to press the 'up arrow' button first. Voice prompts confirm your actions and provide advice.Features
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