Review: Pure Evoke F4 Internet radio

Small internet radio with USB, Bluetooth offers access to over 200,000 stations (June 5th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Pure

Price: $250

The Good

  • Alarm/timer
    - Audio options
    - Ease of operation

The Bad

  • Menu delay
    - Sound break up at higher levels
    - Volume drop at short distances

Home stereo units come in all sorts of sizes: from large combo units that tie into home theater systems to small head units that focus on doing the minimum, there are a lot of options to choose from. Accessory developer Pure has taken the simple, only-what-you-need approach in its latest offering to bring a number of audio options to consumers . The Pure Evoke F4 brings FM and Internet radio to the party, but it also has the added bonus of working with SiriusXM for subscribers. Will simple design and Internet based audio options be enough to pull in consumers looking for a new unit, or will the system merely be another gadget that won't see much use?

The Evoke F4 takes an interesting approach to style, thanks to its "throwback" look. Design cues seem to be taken from radios from a bygone age, taking advantage of the simple controls and minimal design. The Pure Evoke F4 doesn't use a gaudy grill or odd pastel colors, but its look focuses on the speaker and the display. Of course, the radio station display is replaced by something more modern, a 128x64 OLED display. The unit isn't that large either, rivaling a lunchbox at 8.22 x 6.88 x 4.68-inches. It is somewhat heavy for its size at 3.3 pounds though, due to its wood construction and gloss black plastic exterior.

Controls are very simple for the Evoke F4, using a combination of two knobs and several touch-sensitive buttons. The knobs are used for traditional radio actions, such as volume and searching for a station to use. However, they can also be clicked to confirm sections or quickly mute the unit. Both knobs have the same feeling -- a solid click -- when engaged. A total of seven touch-sensitive buttons sit below the display, which includes selections for settings, backward navigation, tags, favorites, recording and power. All of the buttons are quick to respond to actions, leaving operation of the Pure Evoke F4 hassle-free.

The menu the Evoke F4 offers is fairly simple, adding to the easy operation of the device with the controls. Everything is offered in structured windows, and the OLED screen is big enough to keep anything from being obstructed. It can, at times, take a second or so to populate options, or recognize that a user is trying to change the station. Considering the large number of items it tries to load simultaneously, this isn't surprising. Thankfully, stations can at least be filtered down to find stations starting with a specific letter. It also contains smaller details to keep information at hand even when in use, including a wireless signal indicator.

Sound options give users a number of choices that can go quite deep, depending on how the unit is used. The Evoke F4 can be used in a fashion similar to a Bluetooth speaker with an included USB adapter, but it's main function is its operation over Wi-Fi. Thanks to Pure's Connect service, Internet radio is only a few button presses away. Pure says that there are over 20,000 Internet radio stations available through online services, as well as 200,000 on-demand programs and podcasts, including some niche content.

Pure Connect also allows people to listen to, and optionally purchase, a number of albums and songs through the service. Favorited items on the F4 can be seen on the Pure Connect webpage as well, making identifying that new favorite song heard on the radio easier to buy. Audio options are further increased, since the Evoke F4 also has an external antenna for terrestrial radio.

Perhaps the crowning jewel of the bevy of Internet radio options is SiriusXM. Once the Pure Evoke F4 is registered with Pure Connect and a subscriber account for SiriusXM is added, it becomes an option that is immediately available on the radio under the Pure Connect listing. It is navigated just the same as any other Internet radio station the Evoke F4 has access to. As is expected on many SiriusXM-enabled devices, the service makes full use of the F4's display.

If that wasn't enough, users of the radio can also plug in a USB stick to play audio directly. Selecting the option will search for either audio on a network or a USB drive in the deck itself. Users can then select files a number of ways, including by artist, playlist or genre. By being able to plug a storage stick into the device, the Pure Evoke F4 can also record audio from Internet radio. Recordings can be done on-the-fly, or set to begin at certain times. Supported formats for listening include AAC, MP3 and WMA.

Even though there are a number of sound options, the sound quality from the Evoke F4 has some issues. The unit contains a full-range 3.5-inch driver with an output of seven watts RMS. Higher frequencies stand out the most noticeably in most songs, but aren't very bright. On the other hand, the Evoke F4 offers a warm bass sound. However, bass-centric songs like Bjork's "Hunter" distort the sound to an unacceptable degree. In fact, at around 75 percent volume, most music starts to break up. Pure uses Class-D amplification and in-house digital signal processing (DSP) correction and equalization and Class-D amplification.

All this makes the recommended range for listening to the Pure Evoke F4 somewhat short, since it has such a quick drop off the further away someone is. Between the three songs tested at 100 percent source and device volume, recorded dB levels dropped between 14 and 17 percent when the device was moved from one foot way to nine feet away. Pure's Contour i1 Air, by contrast, only saw a change of 11 to 13-percent under the same conditions. That unit did, however, have an audio output of 10 watts RMS through two speakers. It does have a fairly steady curve, with the exception of the 100 percent levels tested on "Hunter."

The loss of volume doesn't necessarily equate to a bad thing for the unit, though. It's size would lend itself well to being used in an office or other indoor environment. It also has two 3.5 mm outputs, one for an additional three-inch driver that Pure sells, and the other for headphones. However, this also means it can be plumbed into other things, such as an existing stereo system. The lack of optical or RCA means it won't be a replacement for a real stereo system, but for lesser needs it'll have good flexibility.

A little bonus on the F4 comes from its alarm and timer functions. Users can set a "kitchen timer" for it, having the device sound an alarm when it reaches the end. As for the alarm feature itself, two separate alarms can be set to a number of specifications. Occurrences can be set from a one-off alarm, or for a weekdays, weekends or single days. Sounds can be set to Pure Connect options, FM radio or a tone; even specific volume levels and snooze times can be set. The snooze is one thing that is particularly neat on the Evoke F4. Rather than hitting a button, Pure took a multi-functional route by incorporating the snooze into the carry handle.

Straight out of the box, the Evoke F4 can only operate when plugged in, but Pure makes a battery so users can take it on the go. The option adds a 8800 mAh battery, which it has a compartment for on the back, and which can power the unit for around 12 hours.

Pure crafted a great little system in the Evoke F4. Considering the staggering number of audio choices -- both physical and through Pure Connect -- that the system can access, it should be something just about anyone can use. Even though there are some sound issues, they are relatively minor at most normal levels of operation. The Evoke F4 won't be a unit that can replace an expensive stereo, but that doesn't mean it will be something that collects dust on the side. From single desk use or patching into something bigger, the unit will add a lot of versatility. The $250 price tag, while not cheap, doesn't seem too steep for everything the Evoke F4 brings to the table.

by Jordan Anderson


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