Alexa seems to be in everything nowadays: speakers, mobile phones, and even Big Mouth Billy Bass Fish. But when a heritage audio company like Pure decides to bring Alexa to the world of portable radio, do the worlds of old and new go together?
The Pure StreamR is a portable Bluetooth speaker for taking music streaming, DAB+ radio and FM on the go – and the smaller sibling of the Pure DiscovR smart speaker. Together, the new range marks a step forward for the company as it embraces new technologies, with some design quirks that really help these speakers stand out from the average Amazon Echo.
We tested out the Pure StreamR and can say it’s certainly got the audio chops, even if the voice capability in the smaller of the two wireless speakers isn’t quite as developed as we’d hope.
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Price and availability
The Pure StreamR Bluetooth speaker retails at £169, and is available at John Lewis in the UK, with plans to roll out to Europe in the coming months.
Design and features
The team at Pure have done a brilliant job of putting their own spin on modern speaker design, opting for a curved cube shape that looks both stylish and practical – in both charcoal and stone gray coloring.
The most eye-catching part of the new speaker range is the pop-up section at the top of the speaker, which elevates the audio drivers out of the main body, adding an inch to the height and revealing a scrolling text display for the names of tracks, artists and radio stations.
Want to turn that damn thing off? You can push this section back into the shell of the speaker, cutting off the audio and disconnecting from your phone. It needs a harder push than we expected, but is weighty enough to keep the feeling of well-made hardware, and gives some pleasing analogue functionality beyond the odd button.
The upper side of the StreamR has two buttons for volume controls, one for moving between radio stations (or Spotify playlists), and a source button for changing inputs.
You can stream music over Bluetooth, connect a source device with a 3.5mm cable, and listen to DAB+ digital radio or more traditional FM.
The analogue cable even twins up as a radio antennae, which wraps around the lower half of the StreamR like a little belt – making for a brilliant use of space that bundles various kinds of functionality together. At the rear of the speaker you'll also find a Bluetooth pairing button, and a sync button for refreshing your radio stations (to improve the connection).
There are also four preset buttons for your favorite radio stations. It’s a shame not to be able to add Spotify playlists and the like, but Pure has saved more of those premium features for the Pure DiscovR, which we’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks.
You’ll need to add the speaker to the Pure Home app (iOS / Android) on your phone, and link up with an Amazon account to start using Alexa. Once set up it’s pretty ease to use: we found the speaker would regularly disconnect from the app, though this would only really affect the capabilities of Alexa – which we didn’t find much use for.
The voice control is hold-to-speak, meaning you need to press on the Pure logo (the ‘conch’ button) for Alexa to hear your command. Considering how straightforward the volume and source buttons are, and how you need to link up with your smartphone for music streaming anyway, needing to use a physical button defeats the point of a convenient, hands-free smart assistant.
These voice command features are again more advanced in the DiscovR model, but it doesn’t seem like Alexa really has much to offer in the Pure StreamR.
Pure has a long history of manufacturing quality audio products, and the Pure StreamR does not disappoint in terms of sound.
The speaker packs in a single tweeter in the raised part of the body, with a two-inch subwoofer in the base. The raised section also creates a funnel of air underneath the drivers, giving a pleasing resonance to the sound and a firmer bass than you might expect for the size.
What’s most impressive is how well the audio detail holds up at higher volumes. Listening to God’s Favorite Customer by Father John Misty, the track’s gorgeous vocals were out in full force, the track’s steady percussion aptly handled by the StreamR’s subwoofer.
This is a speaker designed with radio in mind, and the Pure StreamR is equally at home with chat shows and talking heads as it is with pop bangers or slow country rock.
There are a lot of Bluetooth speakers that settle for tinny audio, and the faithfully-recreated sound in the StreamR shows that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s not a quiet speaker either – unless you want it to be. It can really belt out sound for its compact size, and we were happily wandering our flat with the StreamR’s audio calling out to us from the other room.
As an Alexa speaker, the £169 StreamR is closest in price to the Amazon Echo Plus (£139), though the StreamR packs in FM and DAB+ radio while matching Amazon’s speaker in terms of sound quality.
The Echo Plus technically goes louder, with bigger bass, but the sound isn't quite as controlled, and you'll find the audio on the StreamR more faithful to the tracks you're listening to.
The Pure StreamR looks to bridge the company’s radio heritage with a modern form factor and the beginnings of voice control, to appeal to a wide audience across generations.
This speaker can certainly deliver on sound, with a detailed and controlled output that holds up right to the StreamR’s max volume – and the StreamR’s innovative design choices really do stand out in a bloated market.
It’s the smart capabilities, however, that caused us frustration. Alexa doesn’t quite feel at home, with hesitant hold-to-speak voice functionality that simply doesn’t add much value in a portable speaker.
With a more fleshed-out offering in the £229 Pure DiscovR, and a cheaper, waterproof speaker (the £119 Pure StreamR Splash) for outdoor use coming later in the year, the StreamR may end up being lost in the middle. But for those after a well-made and stylish Bluetooth speaker, one that can offer both wireless streaming and FM / DAB+ radio, this may be just what you need.
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