Top 5 Car Stereos

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It’s a rite of passage for any first-time driver to upgrade their car stereo, and with the proliferation of mp3s, streaming services and smartphones there’s never been a better time to buy a new car stereo to use with your new smart device.

Whilst car stereos haven’t changed all that much over the past 10 years, it’s safe to say the way we consumer music has. With this in mind it’s now really easy to stream music from your phone onto your car’s stereo, and with our top 5 car stereos you can all do of that and so much more.

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Pioneer MVH-350BT

The long-time car stereo experts Pioneer have recently released the MVH-350BT, which is specifically designed to play music stored on your portable devices for under £150. On the front there’s an illuminated USB and Aux-in gives your iPod, iPhone, or Android smartphone direct connection to your car speakers.

The system is fully Bluetooth-enabled so you can easily make hands-free calls and stream Bluetooth audio from your device, whether it’s iOS or Android.

The MVH-350B’s built-in amplifier is capable of a solid 50-watts across four channels. There are also 2 RCA pre-outs so you can hook up another stereo component, like a subwoofer for some extra kick. The only downside for the Pioneer is the lack of CD playback, which might be a deal breaker for some.

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Pure Highway H240Di

In-car entertainment manufacturer Pure has joined forces with Halfords to develop and manufacture a range of car stereos that will get you streaming music from your iPod or iPhone in no time at all.

The mid-range Highway H240Di costs £129, but for that you do get quite a lot of bang for your buck; it comes with digital DAB radio, traditional FM and AM tuners, and there’s connectivity for iOS devices via USB.

If you’re still using CDs as your main source of music, the head unit is compatible with a range of mediums including CD/CD-R/RW, CD/CD-ROM and MP3 CD/ USB playback. There’s also a clever bookmarking feature, which is perfect for listening to audio books on the commute to work. There’s an AUX input, and enough power to run four 45-watt speakers.

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Pure Highway H260DBi

Pure’s has also released Highway H260DBi, which costs a little bit more, coming in at £149. But for the extra £20 you get full wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling via Bluetooth, and an extra 5-watts across all four channels.

Drivers are able to safely make and receive phone calls via the Bluetooth receiver using the Highway’s controls and an external microphone to ensure the best call quality possible. Finally, you can also customise the button lighting to better suit your dashboard’s internal lighting.

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Parrot Asteroid

Newcomers to the in-car entertainment market Parrot offer the world’s first Android powered car stereo but for the added functionality you should expect to pay around £240.

The Asteroid is capable of running Internet applications and can access geo-location information via 3G and GPS. You can also listen to Internet radio stations and music streaming services too. Basically it’s like a fully-fledged Android tablet but for your car.

The Android-powered system comes with a decent sized 3.2-inch colour screen, which displays your phonebook, menus, music, playlists, album covers and Internet applications.

The Parrot Asteroid is compatible with an array of music sources whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, USB, SD card or Bluetooth wireless streaming. You can also access to your music via voice command; just say the name of the artist and the music will be launched automatically.

The Asteroid comes equipped with an impressive 55-watt MOSFET amplifier, spread across 4 channels. And there are subwoofer and 6xRCA preamp-outputs, too.

Thanks to a new technology called MirrorLink, it is now possible to bring smartphone apps directly to the screen of our car’s stereo. And, the new Sony XAV-601BT is one of the first systems to offer MirrorLink connectivity.

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Sony XAV-601BT

The Sony XAV-601BT is a double-DIN audio-video center for your dashboard, so it’s quite a bit bigger than you standard head unit. There are a number of ways to enjoy music on the system whether it is via Sirius XM or Pandora, via the app control feature. There’s iPod compatibility, as well as Bluetooth, dual USB inputs and CD and DVD playback. The XAV-601BT comes standard with everything you could possibly want – except perhaps GPS navigation, but there is an added option for that too.

The main selling point of this is system is obviously 6.1-inch WVGA TFT touch screen, which is running a pin-sharp 800×480 resolution. The system is also Navigation ready – so you can add an optional TomTom satnav module and external GPS antenna for fast, accurate route planning. Passengers are also able to control the system with the Control App. For all this space-aged functionality expect to pay a not unreasonable £270.

Pure’s Avalon 300R PVR: Hands On Review

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We were excited to learn at this years CES (doesn’t January seem like a long time ago?!) that Pure, one of our favourite audio gadget manufacturers, was branching out into the crowded market of Freeview set top boxes.

So when Avalon 300R Cpmmect was released; like all sensible men we started setting up without too much reference to the instructions. Easy to configure, the auto tune function got the Freeview HD side of things up and running, and apart from a tricky caps lock issue with the wifi password, the network connection was also up and running in double quick time.

Almost immediately, however, the box set about updating itself to the latest software, which once it had run, left the box in standby, mode which I hadn’t been expecting. Once back on, the network connection seemingly was forgotten, but resetting the network connections got everything back on track.

The interface moving from web based content (iPlayer or YouTube) to Freeview was a little clunky, appearing to power the box down and up again (as the tv displayed the “source lost” message), but after a few seconds it was back to the Freeview content.

A little irritation was that when you’ve viewed information on the screen regarding your program, pressing the “back” button removed the info but left a general channel banner, which if you try to remove with the back button, you end up changing channel to the last one selected (exit is the right button to remove the channel banner).

On searching for particular programs, and series linking where applicable, both were easy to use. The auto offer HD when available (a prompt that tells you if you could be watching in better quality) is a useful feature that really does add value.

Another quirky feature which we found strangely addictive (maybe because we hate the thought we’re missing something better on the other side!) was Avalon’s use of picture in picture. If you’re just browsing, you’re given the option to watch what’s on the other channel in a mini screen.

Now, I know you’re thinking picture in picture’s not that innovative, certainly been possible on Humax boxes for some time, but the design of the interface linking to channel browsing is certainly helpful.

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The EPG, or electronic program guide, appears a little cramped, with only 6 channels info showing at any one time, with the rest of the screen pretty much empty, which feels like a waste. There are animations on moving between channels (like flicking pages of a book) which are cute to begin with, but don’t offer any functionality, and leave the interface with a “gimmicky” feel.

As Bill Gates once said, “content is king”, and in the world of Freeview set top boxes, never has that sentiment been more appropriate. With no Netflix, Lovefilm or Now TV (Sky’s “lite” offering for consumers who are commitment phobic (their marketing speak, not ours!)) or even the free ITV or 4OD players, Pure does risk looking restrictive in this respect. Particularly when you consider that the content in these areas is expanding rapidly (Sky now offer Sky Sports via the Now TV platform), and Netflix ever growing library of box sets.

Pure’s entry into the market has two key features that will make it stand out; the Pure music subscription content service and built in wifi connect-ability. The Pure Connect interface was easy to navigate, and while it’s no Apple TV, we were able to get around with no problems. The Connect service, which allows users to either buy tracks or albums for playing on their Pure connected devices, or stream unlimited content for a monthly fee, is well established on the brands audio devices. At present there is no video content available to buy or rent via this service, although Pure say expanding on demand video offerings is an area they are working on.

Overall the lack of on demand providers at present make this entry look quite expensive at GBP349.95 for a 1TB unit, (YouView 1TB box is £50 cheaper; johnlewis.com), but if you’re already a subscriber to the music service, or want to take advantage of the wifi being built in and avoid another trailing wire in the living room, this maybe a great solution for you.

CES Unveiled – Pure Sensia 200D music system

At last night’s CES Unveiled press event, we were given a demonstration of the forthcoming Sensia 200D music system from the guys over at Pure. The 200D is the follow-up to the original Sensia and the primary enhancements are the ability to record audio (such as DAB radio) to an external USB hard drive / memory stick as well as the ability to ‘tag’ and identify a song.

The tagging feature utilises Shazam to quickly identify the song you’re listening to and then stores the result in the user’s area of the Pure Lounge (thelounge.com) site. The track can then either be purchased and downloaded, through their tie-up with 7Digital, or simply used to find similar songs or other tracks by the same artist.

In addition to tagging and recording (which works via an instant record button or manually setting a start date/time and duration), the Sensia 200D also provides access to ‘Pure Music’. This is a cloud-based on-demand music service which costs £4.99 per month and keeps any purchases synchronised between your other Pure music systems, your PC/Mac as well as via an Andriod or iOS app.

Sensia users can also use the colour touchscreen to view weather reports or station slideshows (dependant on broadcaster), engage with Twitter and Facebook, keep up to date with selected RSS feeds or view photos stored locally or via Picasa. The unit provides 30W RMS of digital sound and additional features include an input for an iPod/MP3 player; two fully featured alarms; countdown timer; sleep timer and a headphone socket.

The 200D continues to build on its predecessor’s user friendly approach to digital radio and streaming music – a world which can be quite bewildering for newcomers. We felt one area for future improvement would be to provide an EPG (electronic programme guide) for the DAB side of the product – which would make better use of the unit’s new recording ability.

The Sensia 200D Connect will be available in the UK during the first quarter of 2012 with a recommend retail price of £249.99.

Pure Contour 100Di: Punching above its weight

Recently, radio maker Pure unleashed the Contour 100Di, an affordable, compact dock for iPod, iPhone and iPad with integrated digital radio, powerful and detailed audio, a charming revolving dock and a free companion internet radio and music streaming App (available now to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users). Sounds nice, huh? Heard it all before? Right.

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Let us assure you though, that the Contour 100Di is a nifty piece of kit, very nifty. It’s most useful when connected with the free Pure Lounge App, which enables the user to access a good variety of internet radio stations, on-demand content (podcasts and listen again programmes) and your own  sounds, as well as the ability to discover, explore and listen to millions of music tracks via the Pure Music subscription service which will go live in December and be instantly accessible through the aforementioned iPhone App.

Refreshingly, the 100Di punches above its weight with 20W RMS of audio for its compact dimensions and a strong feature set including digital and FM radio; made for iPod and iPhone certification; a slimline remote with neat magnetic remote tidy; two alarms; sleep and snooze timers; an aux-input for connecting an MP3 player; headphone socket.

This baby is part of an expanding Contour family of docks, and fortunately for you more fashionable gadget fiends, it has been designed with contemporary styling (well, the one we’ve got is a nice shade of black, any way…) to look good in any room of the house and the smashing revolving dock feature can be tucked away when the dock isn’t being used.

Interestingly enough, the Contour 100Di is also part of EcoPlus, which means that they are constantly upholding a commitment to the environment – very cool. All Pure products are designed to minimise their environmental impact and manufactured in ethically approved and audited facilities. They have reduced power consumption in operation and standby, use recycled packaging materials, have the smallest possible packaging and components selected to minimise environmental impact. Great stuff.

Contour 100Di is available now for £99.99. Please visit www.pure.com for more information. People interested in the Pure Music subscription service launching in December can register their interest right now at www.thelounge.com/puremusic.

PURE’s EVOKE Mio – Abacus Flower Edition: Chic, simple and environmentally-conscious

The latest example of a fashion designer teaming up with a technology company is the EVOKE Mio – Abacus Flower Edition, a portable FM radio by PURE. PURE’s newest radio has been designed by the internationally renowned designer, Orla Kiely and features her signature stem print.

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The EVOKE Mio – Abacus Flower Edition is the second PURE radio to be designed by Orla Kiely, and follows in the footsteps of the hugely popular PURE EVOKE Mio. Kiely’s second collaboration with PURE mirrors much of her first, in that it features the designer’s signature stem print , mirror chromed handle, walnut veneered cabinet and cream fascia. In fact the only difference between the two radios, is that the Abacus Flower Edition comes in slate grey and is imprinted with flowers, while the EVOKE Mio possesses a front and back embossed with a bright, multi-coloured leaf pattern.

Whilst the Irish fashion designer assures us that stylistically the two radios “contrast well” and will the functional and down to earth designs will “complement any home interior”, internally there are little differences.

The EVOKE Mio – Abacus Flower Edition, likes its predecessor, features both FM and digital radio and an input for a MPS player and iPod. Thanks to support for the optional ChargePAK that allows up to 24 hours of portable listening between charges, this boldly designed radio can be taken outside the home and would act as a ‘colourful’ addition to picnics and barbeques.

The Abacus Flower Edition – yes I couldn’t be bothered writing its full name – features an alarm, kitchen timer and 30 pre-sets. In possessing textSCAN and Intellitext, information can be stored and browsed through at a later date scrolling text can be paused and controlled.

In-keeping with PURE’s commitment to looking after the environment, its latest radio has received a recommendation by the Energy Saving Trust and is part of the EcoPlus, meaning it’s reduced power consumption , use of recycled materials, and smallest possible packaging, minimises its environmental impact on the planet.

This chic and environmentally-conscious radio costs £149.99 and will be available exclusively at John Lewis from the end of August.

Pure i-20: Sound and vision from a PURE-ly simple dock

PURE has come up with a stylish iPod Dock so that you can play all the tunes on your music player through your hi-fi or AV system, as well as video through your TV.

The i-20 is a good-looking piece of black and steel kit that will take up minimal space, and allows you to use your existing speakers to deliver high-quality sound (through its Digital to Analogue Converter) for high-bit-rate compressed or uncompressed iPod tracks or radio.

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Unusually, it also offers video outputs so that any video stored on your iPod or iPhone can be viewed on a TV – it supports popular video formats including component, S-Video and composite. And to cut down on wires and chargers, the PURE i-20 charges your iPhone or iPod while it’s docked. A remote control is also supplied for easy control and navigation.

Anyone who is fed up with fiddling around with any new piece of kit to get it working well will be glad to know that PURE’s i-20 should offer a pretty painless solution. Unless you have a lot to spend, most available systems require you to stream your music or connecting a hi-fi without its own dock to the iPod using the 3.5mm jack. This method results in the sound getting squeezed.

Instead, uses PURE Clearsound digital end-to-end technology to produce its digital audio outputs, so that sound is not compromised when connected to a quality digital amplifier or hi-fi system. For its analogue output, the i-20 uses its Cirrus 4353 hi-fi quality DAC and high-precision low-jitter clock to deliver true hi-fi audio performance levels.

The PURE i-20 is stamped with Apple’s ‘made for iPhone’ and ‘Made for iPod’, which we guess means it’s got Steve Jobs’ seal of approval.

The PURE i-20 costs £74.99. For more go to www.pure.com

PURE Twilight dawn simulator and alarm clock: Mood awakening

Being rudely awakened by the dreaded alarm clock blasting out to all of sundry may be an affliction of the past. Thanks to PURE Twilight, a digital alarm clock that formulates the perfect atmosphere for emerging from a great night’s sleep feeling refreshed, energized and ready to tackle any challenge the day might offer.

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PURE – one of the world leaders in producing radios – claim Twilight is the world’s first combined dawn simulator and digital radio. The alarm clock’s unique comforting powers can aid a restful night’s sleep for adults, children and babies. This multi-aiding alarm clock gently purrs soothing lullabies to help lull a baby to sleep, whilst adults can use Twilight as an atmospheric reading light, to help relax at bedtime. Different mood light modes can also be set, such as ‘Ocean’, whose calming hues of blues and green resonate an ocean scene, ‘Rainbow’, which softly rotates through the colours of the rainbow, and ‘Fire’, which flickers passionately from red to orange. Once slumber-seekers feel hazily relaxed, they can turn the light off with ease by pressing Twilight’s touch-sensitive glass dome.
On waking, Twilight can be programmed to several different alarm setting, including FM radio, digital radio or an authentic tone, such as a cockerel crowing, church bells chiming and wind chimes whistling.

Similar to the majority of PURE’s bedside radios, Twilight comes equipped with a PowerPort, which enables users to plug in USB accessories, often solving the problem of inadequate power points within close proximity to the bed. Twilight also an auxiliary input for an MP3 Player or an iPod.

With the increasing energy needs Western consumers are demanding from the world, any technological gadget that produces efficient energy is irrefutably positive. Being the most “efficient energy product of its kind”, PURE’s Twilight not only wakes users calmly and serenely, but having the knowledge that their new radio/alarm clock uses as little energy output as a 45W incandescent light bulb, will aid feelings of virtue, righteousness and calm.

With today’s hectic, gadget-reliant lifestyles, owning an environmentally-friendly, tranquil-invoking and calm-enhancing gadget is likely to be a breath of fresh air. Consequently PURE’s Twilight, retailing at a reasonable £129.99, may be the perfect Christmas gift for all our stressed-out, sleep-deprived loved-ones out there.

Revolutions in radio technology: PURE Flowsongs and Logitech Squeezebox

Since its beginnings in the early 1800s, radio has been one of the more important technological devices. From helping keep soldiers’ morale up in World War Two, to keeping emergency services in contact with one another, radio, for decades, has provided societies with simple yet accurate communication and entertainment.

In recent years, radio has made prolific advancements, so much so that there is no way of telling where radio technology will lead to next. Latestgadgets looks at the best in contemporary radio technology.

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FlowSongs, a unique cloud-based music service, by PURE
When it comes to innovation in the world of music and radio, the world-leading radio makers PURE, may well have embarked on something major, with the creation of FlowSongs. The first of a range of new services that will be available to Pure’s internet-connected digital radios, FlowSongs enables users to tag tracks playing on any music station and purchase them directly from any PURE radio with Flow technology built in. How? We ask. Users have to register their Flow radio on The Lounge and open an account. They can then purchase tracks, which are individually priced, usually between 79p and 1.49, which are then stored in their Lounge account and can be streamed from any PURE radio with Flow technology.

With this ground-breaking technology the days of listening to a song on the radio and wishing you owned it may be over. As Will Page, chief economist at PRS for Music commented about FlowSongs, “You hear it, like it, and now you can buy it.”

Logitech Squeezebox Radio
With 802.11g of wireless tech squeezed into its compact body, the Logitech Squeezebox Radio is surely worthy of being mentioned on a best of radio feature. Providing an infinite musical playlist, the Logitech Squeezebox is completely indiscriminating of musical styles and tastes.

Whether your penchant is ripping tracks from your own CDs, or buying music from online services, this dandy device allows you to browse, organise and play an unbounded digital music collection.

And that’s just for starters. From talk radio, mainstream pop to the unconventional and underground, you can literally listen to thousands of free internet radio stations with the Squeezebox. You can also hook the Squeezebox up to an MP3 player and will support just about any format available, including AAC, FLAC, WAV and Lossless – quite a performance for something so compact.

PURE Sensia Radio – Putting radio in touch with social media
You either love it or hate, but you’ve got to admit, one of the biggest technological advances of the 21st century is the rise of social media. You’ve also got to hand it to PURE – as once again the British company is holding the fort in pioneering radio technology – with the launching of the Sensia.

The Sensia not only brings social media to radio but also touchscreen, boasting a 5.7 inch colour touchscreen interface that enables users to access social networking sites. Sensia, which has an distinctive egg-shape resemblance, has two 30 watts speakers, connects to thousands of internet radio stations, runs PURE’s Lounge internet radio, enables users to view photos on Gogle’s picture sharing service Picassa and sports a Facebook and Twitter app.

On top of FM, DAB and internet radio and media streaming, users can connect the Sensia into an iPod, MP3, CD, or MiniDisk player – radio surely at its most revolutionary.