Pure Highway 400 in-car DAB and Bluetooth music adaptor (2016) review

Published: 25 July 2016

► DAB radio adaptor for cars without DAB
► Install yourself, works via aux-in or FM signal
► Bluetooth streaming and Spotify also supported

Progress, eh? At some point in the indeterminate future (the government hasn’t actually put an exact date on it yet) the good old faithful analogue radio signal is going to be switched off – which means if you own a car without a DAB receiver, there’s a danger you might have to actually start talking to your passengers unless you do something about it.

Some may relish the idea of ripping out their current in-car stereo and fitting a fancy aftermarket unit with a digital radio receiver included. But if you’d prefer to maintain the OEM look or – like me – you already have a fancy (ish) aftermarket unit and don’t really want to replace it, the answer could be an add-on adaptor. Such as this, the £129.99 Pure Highway 400 – which is rather cunningly designed to be a plug-and-play, user-installed solution that includes a number of other useful features.

How easy is it to fit?

Pretty easy. The Highway 400 set-up consists of a receiver that sticks to the windscreen, which you simply plug into a 12v socket using the included power adaptor, and a wireless control box with screen powered by two AAA batteries (included), supposedly good for a year’s use at a time.

2016 Pure Highway 400 DAB review

It’s up to you how neat a job you do of the wires for the receiver – I removed the A-pillar trim and ran them down behind that. Doing this made it straightforward to attach the optional (it’s also included but only recommended that you use it) ‘magnetic grounding tail’ to the metal windscreen surround, with a view to ensuring the best possible signal.

A basic stick-on digital aerial also attaches to the receiver, and glues itself to the windscreen glass, while the included sticky clips help with cable management. Take your time, because all these stick-on items won’t be easy to reposition or remove.

2016 Pure Highway 400 DAB review

There’s also a sticky-backed bracket for the wireless controller, but for me it made sense to just leave this tucked out of sight in the centre console – I’ll mostly just be switching between 6Music and Radio 4 anyway. You can store 20 presets, both DAB and FM.

How does the DAB get to the stereo?

You can either plug the receiver into an aux-in socket via the included attachment or it can broadcast to an unused FM frequency like those iPod adaptors from days of yore. I chose the former, ’cause I heard it was warmer (the signal, I mean, is stronger) – but since my existing Alpine head unit has the aux-in on the back, I had to spend a few extra minutes pulling this out to attach it.

2016 Pure Highway 400 DAB review

Once all wired up, you simply switch on the car, fire up your existing radio, select aux-in as the source, switch on the Pure Highway controller, follow the start-up prompts and choose your radio station from the display. Bingo – it works straight away, and my 25-year-old car starts playing 6Music for the first time.

What else does the Pure Highway 400 do?

Being a clever little gadget, you can also sync it to your phone by Bluetooth. While the 400 doesn’t do phone calls (there is a Highway 600 that can), it does do music streaming – either from what’s already stored on your phone or via Spotify. Download the Pure ‘Go’ app, and you can even tag songs as you hear them for future reference – though after the first 12 months you’ll need to pay an annual subscription fee for the privilege.

So far so good – how’s the reception?

Good in high strength signal areas, but it tends to become a little patchy outside of densely populated areas. While this is true of DAB in general, compared to the OEM-fitted DAB systems that come in most of the modern cars we test at CAR, the Pure drops out much more frequently, and for longer periods of time.

2016 Pure Highway 400 DAB review

Being careful with how you position the receiver can help with this – when I first installed it I failed to heed the instruction’s advice to place it at least 4cm from the metal of the windscreen surround. Moving it further way (the sticky pad on the back of the receiver was reusable, but the aerial had to be discarded – luckily there was a spare in the box) improved reception on my A14 commute, but didn’t clear up the silence elsewhere.

This is largely due to the aerial, I suspect – stick-on DAB aerials have a patchy reputation, and this isn’t a particularly large one – but you may also have better luck if your aux-in socket isn’t buried within the dashboard, surrounded by loads of other electrical wires. Sadly it does not appear that there’s any way to use a different aerial due to the bespoke nature of the Pure receiver’s socket.

Verdict

The Pure Highway 400 is a very neatly designed bit of kit, and it lives up to the company’s claims of easy installation – you can have it up and running in a matter of minutes. The wireless controller is also intuitive and easy to use, and the whole package offers an elegant solution to acquiring a DAB signal.

If you’re looking for a device that offers flawless reception, however, you may have to think about a more comprehensive solution.

2016 Pure Highway 400 DAB review

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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