There’s no shortage of smart speakers in today’s home gadget market – even if you often end up having to choose between smarts or sound. But now heritage audio brand Pure has decided to get in on the action, and has set out to prove that it’s possible to have both in one stylish package.
Pure leverages its audio experience to create a thoughtfully-designed smart speaker, one that makes the most of Amazon’s market-leading Alexa voice assistant while delivering an expansive, detailed sound.
As the bigger sibling to the Pure StreamR Bluetooth speaker, the Pure DiscovR offers a fuller – and more expensive – package, but if you’re after a premium smart speaker you won’t do much better than this.
So how does Pure get it so right, and what exactly do you get with this speaker?
Price and availability
The Pure DiscovR smart speaker retails at £229.99 in the UK, and is available exclusively at John Lewis, with plans to roll out to Europe in the coming months. The speaker is available in either graphite and silver finishes – listed at John Lewis as black or white.
Design and features
The Pure DiscovR is one classy smart speaker. Sporting block colors with metal detailing, with an LED rim that flashes vibrant colors when in use, this is one home gadget you won’t be ashamed to have out in full view.
Like the smaller Pure StreamR, the DiscovR appears in a box-like shape when compressed, but the speaker itself can be elevated from within the casing. By pressing down with your hand on the DiscovR’s upper side, you can ‘unlock’ the speaker and allow it to rise about an inch in height.
When the speaker is raised, you’ll be able to see a dotted mesh running around the outside, allowing sound to be pumped out in all directions. We’re told the DiscovR technically makes use of a front-facing speaker, but Pure’s technical wizardry creates the effect of full, 360-degree sound, with little discernible difference when you’re listening from different angles.
The DiscovR also has a 15-hour battery life, meaning you can move it around the house with ease, or even take it outdoors – at the very least, you’ll get a full day’s worth of use before having to plug it back in to charge. You’ll be dependent on Wi-Fi to interact with Alexa, but the DiscovR also functions as a regular Bluetooth speaker when you're out of range of your home internet.
One of the biggest draws of the DiscovR speaker is the colourful light show it can put on. Saying Alexa’s name will bring up Amazon’s iconic blue rim, which is broken up into green, yellow, blue and pink segments when you wave your hand over the speaker to select a button. You’ll also get different colours when switching between sources: blue for Bluetooth, white for Wi-Fi, and yellow for auxiliary output (there’s a 3.5mm cable port at the rear, next to the Bluetooth pairing button and USB-C charging port).
The volume controls are a delight to use, too, with a touch-sensitive circle you track your finger around to turn the volume up or down.
The four preset buttons, meanwhile, don’t just save radio stations or Spotify playlists. You can hold down a preset button and save any voice command uttered to Alexa, which can range from checking the weather or shuffling songs by your favourite artist, to turning on your Philips Hue bulbs or reminding you of definitions you’re trying to commit to memory. It’s an incredibly smart use of Alexa’s – well – smarts, and something we’d love to see more of across the market.
You’re getting the full Alexa experience here too, even if it seems to take a moment longer to process your commands than models in Amazon’s own Echo range of speakers. Be warned though: blasting out music at high volume will likely make your voice inaudible to the DiscovR’s microphone, making it hard for Alexa to hear you (on this point a standard Amazon Echo performed somewhat better).
You're not locked in with other Pure devices either: the DiscovR can link up to any Amazon Echo speakers, or the Apple HomePod over AirPlay 2.
The rubber grip on the bottom of the DiscovR was the only thing that didn’t quite match the build quality elsewhere. When moving the speaker across the kitchen counter we found the edge of the grip tugged slightly off the casing, as if it hadn’t been firmly glued down, although we can’t imagine this being much of an issue.
While the DiscovR can’t match the output of a dedicated soundbar or party amp, the sound quality is phenomenal for such a compact package.
Pure made its name in FM and DAB radios, so it’s no surprise that the stress is on clear and precise sound – ideal for instruments, vocals, and chatty radio presenters. The DiscovR was able to draw out the hushed whispers on the opening of Max Richter’s Sarajevo – something we’d never noticed when playing the track on inferior speakers – while giving the orchestral aria a truly expansive sound.
But there’s also an incredibly solid bass output, aided by the DiscovR’s unique X-SPAN design: by lifting the speaker from its casing, you open up a funnel of air that allows the bass to resonate beneath the downward-facing woofer. The bass is still controlled, and Pure has been careful not to allow it to overpower the audio detail, but it makes the DiscovR perfect as an all-round speaker, equally at home with the moody bass notes of Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino as it is glossy pop vocals.
The Pure DiscovR employs a neat feature called the ‘Mic Drop’, which cuts the sound when you push the speaker back into the casing, and physically disconnects the microphone to stop Alexa from listening – a nice nod to user privacy instead of the usual ‘always-on’ disposition of smart speakers.
When it’s pushed down, you can technically still use the speaker over a Bluetooth connection, but the compressed shape does muffle the bass in its entirety. It makes more sense to just use Alexa’s mute button rather than harming the sound output in the process, but we appreciated knowing that Alexa was cut off just by looking at the speaker.
Other smart speakers to consider
We couldn’t write a smart speaker review without mentioning the Amazon Echo, the voice-controlled cylinder that started it all. If you just want to get Alexa in your home at an affordable price point, the Echo range is a good place to start, whether you want the flagship Amazon Echo, the screen-based Echo Show 5, or the Echo Plus – the last of which offers a slight boost in audio performance, even if it pales compared to the Pure DiscovR.
The Pure StreamR comes in quite a bit cheaper at £169, compared to the £229 DiscovR, though you’ll be getting a smaller soundstage and less Alexa capability at that price. The StreamR does however throw in FM and DAB+ radio in a similarly sleek cube design, so it depends what you’re going to be using the speaker for.
The DiscovR can access internet radio through Alexa, meaning you'll need a Wi-Fi connection rather than using a physical antenna.
The Amazon Echo range is still the market leader for smart speakers – in terms of sales, at least – but for all their hands-free convenience, they’re not speakers you’d look to if you want genuinely high-quality sound.
The Pure DiscovR manages to bundle top-class audio with all of Alexa’s smarts, and the intuitive touch controls to make using it by hand or voice a real pleasure. The voice command presets are a brilliantly useful addition, and something we hope to see more of on other devices.
If you’re on the lookout for a quality smart speaker that delivers on voice control, sound quality, and an innovative design – and with an eye firmly on user privacy – the Pure DiscovR is exactly what you need.
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