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Pure Highway 400 Review

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • £129.99
At some point in the not-too-distant future analogue radio will be switched off. There's no set date yet - the UK government said it wouldn't consider it until DAB matches FM coverage, which it now has done, reaching 90 percent of UK households.


That means that now is a good time to start thinking about getting a DAB radio in your car. There are two main options, aside from buying a new car with a DAB radio already fitted. First, you could replace the entire CD / radio unit itself but this is difficult in most cars and can be a costly exercise.

Enter Pure's Highway 400. It's designed to make it easy to upgrade your existing head unit so you can listen to digital radio stations, of which there are far more than you'll find on FM.

PRICE
You can buy a Highway 400 from Amazon for £124.99. You might be able to find a standard-shape car stereo for similar money, but it's likely you'll need wiring and fascia adaptors to make it fit in most cars, and this takes the price up considerably, especially if you have to pay for installation as well.

As long as your car stereo has a standard headphone-style auxiliary input, you can easily install the Highway 400 yourself. In fact, even if your car doesn't have one you can still use it as the Highway can broadcast the DAB signal on FM (87.6MHz) so you can tune in your car stereo this way. It's clearly not the way to get the best audio quality, though.

If you also want to have hands-free phone calls, you'll want the Highway 600 which costs £149.99 from Amazon and includes a microphone.

FEATURES AND DESIGN
Everything you need is included in the box: the DAB receiver, an adhesive antenna, a long cable for power and routing the audio to your aux input and a wireless control unit.

Unless you read it carefully, the manual doesn't provide adequate warning that you shouldn't install the aerial on your windscreen if it has heating wires or UV filters, but either of these will interfere with the signal.
The included cable isn't really long enough to reach the rear window: there's just enough to route it around the front door and attach it to a (non-opening) side window.

Also in the box is a USB power adaptor which fits into your car's 12V accessory socket and helpfully has a second port for powering a satnav or charging your phone. It's designed to minimise interference, so Pure recommends using it rather than a USB socket your car may already have.

The DAB receiver box has a large adhesive pad for sticking to a window, and there's a magnetic tail which should be fed above the headliner and stuck to your car's roof for better signal. This is tricky in some cars, but it's only really for areas with particularly weak DAB signal.

Fortunately, you don't have to run any wires to the control box as this is powered by a pair of AAA batteries and is completely wireless.

The LED display looks quite old-fashioned, like the car stereos from the 1990s, but it does the job and - because it's an OLED screen rather than LCD - it's easy to see at night. It also has a light sensor and adjusts brightness automatically.

You get a sticky mount for the display: you just need to find a place that's relatively smooth and flat on which to mount the pad.

Then it's simply a case of switching your existing stereo to the line input, or tuning its FM radio to 87.6MHz (note that you have to change the audio output through the settings if you want to use the FM method).

When you first use it, the Highway will scan for DAB stations. There are scores of them (over 500 in total) so you'll immediately have access to talk radio and music that you didn't previously.

The main control is the dial in the centre which scrolls through the stations - there are no frequencies to remember with digital radio.

You can save 20 of your favourites as presets, just like all car stereos. The only gripe is that the buttons are all packed together and it's easy to press the wrong one, or press two at a time.

Reception and signal quality will depend on your car and whether you can install the antenna 'properly', so it's worth reading the online manual before buying. But when it works, audio quality is excellent.

In areas with strong signal strength, the Highway works brilliantly, but in rural areas, you'll notice more dropouts than in cars which have a DAB radio factory fitted. At least, that's my experience.

Bluetooth & App
The Highway 400 also has built-in Bluetooth. If your car stereo doesn't already have this, it's handy as it allows you to stream music from your phone and listen over the car speakers. And if your phone or music app supports it, you can even use the display and dial to browse the library and control music playback.

There's also an optional app: Pure Go. This adds a few extra features, including the ability to use your phone's assistant when you press the remote control's microphone button. It also has a 'Go' button which uses you phone's mic to listen to the song currently playing, recognise it and add it your streaming service's playlist.

It also lets you stream Spotify (you need a Premium subscription to do so)  after jumping through a few hoops to link the two accounts (you need to create a Pure account to use the app).

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