Review: Pure Evoke Flow radio

Pure brings its core Internet radio to the US. (March 27th, 2011)

Pure is best known in Britain, where it has a reputation for its digital and often Internet-capable radios. The Evoke Flow is one of its early forays into the US and promises simplicity for a country just getting used to Pandora. Will the Evoke Flow’s space age design and thousands of radio channels justify its $230 price tag? Read our Evoke Flow review to find out.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Pure

Price: $230

The Good

  • Retro design.
  • Huge pick of free Internet channels.
  • Good OLED screen.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Local audio streaming.
  • USB for portable devices.

The Bad

  • Merely adequate sound quality.
  • Need to use the web to truly use Internet radio.
  • Lack of US-based media services.
  • Expensive for what you get.
  • Cumbersome FM tuner.
  • Optional battery should really be standard.

Hardware design

The design of the Evoke Flow is akin to the marriage of art deco and much more recent technology. Everything about the device is very shiny and sleek, especially the two borderline nostalgic rotary knobs gracing the front of the unit. The black casing is cute, but is also a magnet for smudges. The front of the Evoke Flow features several at times finicky touch-sensitive buttons, and the two large silver knobs steer volume and channel tuning. The top of the Evoke features the aptly named SnoozeHandle, which primarily delays your alarm clock by a few minutes but also lights up the screen when it's dimmed and, of course, allows you to tote the Evoke Flow from point A to point B.

The unit weighs in at a modest three pounds and features a single three-inch mono driver which is capable of 7W of sustained power; that's modest, but enough for a radio this size. The display on the Evoke Flow is very well done. The large yellow-on-black figures have great contrast, and the 128x64 resolution allows for a substantial amount of information about the stream. Below the screen are three context-sensitive keys that handle basic navigation and menu functionality. Connectivity is simple, but it includes 3.5mm audio inputs and outputs as well as a mini USB connector to take in audio from an iPod or other media player. Wireless connectivity includes both Wi-Fi -- sadly 802.11g, not 802.11n -- and an FM tuner with support for RDS station data.

The Evoke Flow can be made genuinely portable with the optional ChargePAK battery unit; otherwise, it runs on standard AC power. Given the retail price of the Evoke Flow, we'd argue the battery pack should be included.





User experience and audio quality

From a boombox radio of this size one can only expect so much in terms of quality. The three-inch driver provides ample volume and clarity for talk radio and background listening. Despite the price tag suggesting otherwise, the Evoke Flow is anything but audiophile quality, though, with not much bass or pristine high-end reproduction. We also didn't like the somewhat ungainly FM tuning process. The OLED screen, on the other hand is a real winner; thanks to its high contrast, it can be easily read in any lighting situation, even outside under direct sunlight.

Where the Evoke Flow really shines is content, though not necessarily navigating to it. There are currently 17,913 stations offering every genre imaginable. Even big name radio stations, not surprisingly including the BBC and ESPN, are available. Audio quality with the stations is very hit or miss, as you would expect with such a range: top tier stations will have high bitrates and sound as good as the Evoke Flow allows, but others have a low bitrate and wouldn't sound good regardless of the speakers. Finding stations without using the companion website thelounge.com is very difficult, too. On thelounge.com, users can find and sample stations as well as program and bookmark up to 40 favorite stations.



A nice value-add is the Pure Sounds functionality, which turns your Evoke Flow into ambient noise generator. Pure Sounds featuring everything from morning jungle soundtracks to white noise stations and Ferrari engines. The media server functionality is both Mac and PC compatible. While it took us a little time to set up the server for a Windows PC, it worked seamlessly when we were finished.

What American customers are missing is a genuine adaptation of the Evoke Flow to their own market. The ability to buy tracks through FlowSongs is temporarily gone -- it will come to the US through a summer update -- but users also don't get some of the major Internet radio services from the US, such as Pandora, Slacker, or Rdio. The sheer variety of stations helps make up for it, but you won't get the customized content that someone with a Squeezebox Radio or an iOS device with AirPlay and a wireless speaker.



Wrapping up

While we don't actively keep up with the pound to dollar exchange rates, $230 seems steep for what amounts to an elaborate radio. In a world of iPods, Pandora, and satellite radio, paying $230 for an alarm clock with a below average sounding single speaker just seems pricey. If you have an account at an established Internet radio service, you'll likely be happier with a device that caters to that particular solution for your music needs. The Evoke Flow is most appealing to those who like the style and want a genuine FM radio; if you fit that mold, Pure's device is an expensive but chic option.

by Kelcey Lehrich


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