For a while now I’ve been a quiet fan of Pure audio equipment – I own a Pure Tempus-1 S radio alarm clock hooked up to a second speaker and a proprietary iPhone dock so I can listen to stereo internet streams in bed.
The Jongo S3 on the other hand is just one of many units available in Pure’s wireless multi-room speaker family. It originally cost £170 but quickly fell in price; as of 2014 you can pick one up for around £100 online.
The speaker comes in a variety of spritely colours and hooks up to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections. The big draw is that it lets you play music from any device – tablet, smartphone, laptop, you name it. Its rechargeable battery claims to last for up to 15 hours and aims to appeal to home users, but also travellers too. I imagined taking this thing with me on weekend camping trips or short hotel stays, so I was eager to take one for a test drive on behalf of MacFormat, using the Pure Connect app for iOS which features a music store and an ‘intelligent’ music streaming service.
With Sonos churning out increasingly impressive-sounding multi-room audio products, Pure was never going to just sit back and listen. The Jongo S3 is but one in an emerging family of ‘truly wireless’ battery-and-mains powered speakers from the company and courts a livelier type of listener.
The cloth-covered unit is compact and feels solid, and at 1.25kg is light and small enough to carry around the house in one hand. Pure has packed in a 20W amp, a high-frequency driver on each of its four sides and an upward-firing mid-bass driver on the top. The front edge houses volume and mute controls, and a power button that changes colour depending on the mode. An auxiliary input, power port and a USB port to fit the supplied external Bluetooth dongle all sit on the rear, along with Wi-Fi and audio mode buttons and a non-lit LCD display for audio setup information.
Connecting your iOS device to the speaker over Bluetooth A2DP is easy enough, while the Wi-Fi option also connects over WPS (check your router supports it), but it’s here that Jongo’s limitations become obvious. There’s no AirPlay support and no way to connect to a Mac or hi-fi; connection through the Pure Connect iOS app is your only option. And while the app provides a portal to your device’s iTunes library, it’s a revenue-driven interface mired by in-your-face album recommendations and over-enthusiasm for the subscriber-only streaming service.
Sound-wise the Jongo S3 doesn’t disappoint, but nor does it surprise. At low volume the vintage vocoders of Random Access Memories were faithfully reproduced, as were the woodwind and orchestral flourishes. Turn things up though and distortion is never far behind. The size of the unit also limits Pure’s efforts at spatial equalisation, making the different audio profiles hard to distinguish between, even in mid-size rooms.
It’s perhaps harsh to dwell on audio quality however; with portability comes compromise. But it wouldn’t have besmirched Pure to offer a truer freedom to the listener by leaving the OS interfacing to Apple.