When we first heard about an external aerial for the PURE Highway, we were dead excited. Why? Because we'd tried an in-car DAB receiver before, with a mounted external aerial installed. The result was rock-solid reception, even in fringe areas. The theory behind it is simple: you get 360° unobstructed reception from the network of DAB transmitters.
So we couldn't wait to test this add-on for the Highway: [link=http://www.pure.com/products/accessory.asp?Product=VL-61112]http://www.pure.com/products/accessory.asp?Product=VL-61112[/link]
Selling for £20 at [link=http://www.pureservicecentre.co.uk/]http://www.pureservicecentre.co.uk/[/link], it was potentially a great investment if it meant the end of bubbling and screeching in areas of relatively low signal strength.
The installation of the aerial was pretty much a doddle. The aerial slipped through to the outside of the car via the passenger door. The aerial itself was mounted with the help of a strong magnet, which clutched firmly onto the roof of the car. The passenger door was then slammed shut without a problem.
Let's now discuss the performance in our tests. One word: Wow! Indeed, the robustness of the signal that we'd anticipated proved not to be a disappointment. Areas where we'd normally found the window sticker-mount aerial to struggle to pull in a good enough quality signal, we'd get at least 50% signal strength. To summarise, we'd gained an impressive improvement.
So on a journey where we'd normally be annoyed by the intermittent screeching of audio, it actually became a rather pleasurable experience. Granted, we did experience one small area where we'd driven into where the Switch London multiplex fell apart: but we're also informed by coverage maps that the area is a known problem area, anyway. We just took that as a problem relating to coverage, rather than one relating to performance.
Those of you familiar with the concept of hole-punching and transmitter sites that cause such effects will be disappointed to learn that the effect is still present with the externally mounted aerial. If anything, it's worse, because you now have 360° reception of the offending transmitter. However, this annoyance will just have to be accepted until improvements in the arrangements of multiplex provider sites can be agreed amongst them.
During our testing, we found that we could hear a faint whistle of wind through the seal of the door, where the lead had exited the car. But on the rainy night of our test, we found no water had managed to seep into the car, so we were satisfied.
After our test runs, to prevent vandals from forcefully ripping the aerial off the vehicle and for simple peace of mind, we just lifted off the aerial, and placed it back inside the car. Not a problem! The aerial isn't even something we'd consider taking out of view, since its worth is barely anything to thieves.
With the option of an external aerial, we noticed that this now made the kit entirely portable. In the absence of a semi-permanent stick-on aerial that came with the original kit, you could potentially take the whole lot to use again without too much hassle in say, a second family car, or in a hire car. If you found the time to prepare before a long journey, you could probably make a decent go of tidying all the cables before setting off. Using the external aerial would take, typically, 15 seconds more to set up than with the stick-on one.
So the external magnet-mount aerial is a simple idea that works really well. Any bad points? Not really.. other than maybe finding the lead to be a bit too short. We did find that it wasn't long enough to be able to tuck the lead into the gaps in the dashboard to make it a tidier installation. Other than that, we reckon it's a fantastic accessory that we would recommend to PURE to make it part of future Highway kits, either as an option, or as standard, to demonstrate how DAB was designed to sound on the move.
Related review: [link=http://radiotoday.co.uk/news.php?extend.3009.14]PURE Highway[/link]