There are some aspects of the Sonos concept that could be emulated by other companies though. A system that operates on a closed or semi-closed network has huge potential benefits in terms of stability and integration. The bar for entry to achieve this is rather lower and a company that has developed a decent operating system could look into tying devices together to create a user experience that feels slicker than making lots of different devices try and work together.
Pure Digital might have started life making digital radios but they have proved to be impressively ambitious in terms of the products they have gone on to develop. As well as increasingly clever radios, they have worked hard to create their own operating and control system complete with streaming services and music on demand. Having done this and created some network capable products, it has been a hop, skip and a jump to the Jongo system you see here. Pure themselves are keen to stress that Jongo is not a Sonos competitor but do these little boxes offer some of the slickness and cohesion that makes the bigger system a winner?
These icons allow you to select and control Jongo units. At the moment, the range consists of two dedicated models with another in the works and Jongo capability being added to some other models in the range. The two dedicated Jongos allow for both standalone operation and integration of an existing system into the network. At the time of writing a third member of the family - the larger T6 speaker- is under development.
The more conventional of the two models is the Jongo S3. This is a self-contained all-in-one speaker system powered by 20 watts of cumulative power. The conventional aspects of the A3 are partnered with some more interesting design decisions too. The S3 splits the twenty watts of output between a single 3.5in upwards firing driver and no less than four three quarter inch mylar drivers placed around the main body of the unit. This is an unusual design decision but is intended to give the A3 a room filling ability that something this small (the A3 is only 13.5cm tall) generally shouldn’t have.
Of course, if you sit down and listen to an S3, having four speakers randomly firing in all directions is going to be an ‘interesting’ device to listen to so Pure has had the presence of mind to fit the A3 with some different sound modes including ‘360 degree stereo’, ‘360 mono’ and a conventional stereo mode. This gives the A3 a degree of flexibility that is welcome. Like some other Pure products, the A3 comes fitted with Pure’s ChargePak battery system which means it can be taken off the mains and moved around.
The other member of the family is slightly less conventional. The A2 is a head unit that is designed to connect with an existing system. The functionality is exactly the same as the S3 but can instead be added to whatever existing equipment you fancy. Pure usefully gives you the choice of analogue and digital outputs so there are few systems you won’t be able to connect it to. The final piece of the system will be the larger T6 speaker that is designed to offer a bit more oomph than the S3 can generate.
At this point, the major deviation from the Sonos and indeed other UPnP devices, is that the Jongo is not a streamer. This is a slightly odd decision to make - other Pure devices are UPnP capable but the Jongos are effectively dependent on the Pure Music app to perform web streaming. Despite the unusual nature of this decision, there are some upsides. The first is that even if you don’t go near Pure’s own streaming services (which are chargeable), the internet radio implementation is absolutely excellent and one of the slickest I’ve seen (and interestingly, slicker than I recall it being with the Sensia I tested). The second is that each Jongo device is equipped with bluetooth that allows for secondary audio streaming. This means that the S3 becomes a useful standalone audio system with daisy chaining as standard while the A2 suddenly starts to look like an interesting alternative to Arcam’s r-Blink- for substantially less money.
The other reason why the Jongo equipment warrants consideration is the styling and functionality. Some Pure designs have been a bit ‘too much of a good thing’ in terms of their design - the Sensia had many nice touches but the overall effect can be a bit much. The Jongo units are much more elegant and look extremely good. There are a choice of colours available - some of which are a little on the lively side - but the black and white of the review samples looked very attractive. The Jongos are made of plastic but the fit and finish is really good. The setup procedure is easy to follow and once up and running, the connection and control is seamless. The volume control of the S3 via the app is a bit sudden - it jumps from the original volume setting to the one you’ve asked for with no ramp in between.
The A2 is different in that it largely adopts the performance traits of the equipment it is connected to. It is effectively transparent over the digital outputs and sounds pretty much like the DAC or device you attach it to. The analogue outputs are impressive too. Pure has actually been a bit of a dark horse in terms of source equipment over the years - their I-20 iPod dock that had both digital to analogue conversion and a digital output remains a bit of a bargain and offers really impressive performance. The A2 is not dissimilar in that it has a clear, fast and accurate sound that manages to tread the fine line between excitement and civility. There are limits to how much you can divine with lossy audio but with the formats it is likely to handle it works well.
There is a sense that both bits of equipment have been voiced to deliver the goods with their largely compressed source material that the Pure Music app generates and there wasn’t much in the vast array of stations that seemed to upset them - although Pure still don’t tell you what the bitrate of a station actually is so a degree of guesswork is required in this. Both the S3 and A2 keep good clarity and detail without ripping poorer material to shreds. The effect with Bluetooth is similar. The S3 sounds very similar to internet radio and connection seemed stable and sufficiently wide ranging to allow you to move around a fair range from the speaker without drop outs. The A2 is similar - it can’t match the (effectively completely bespoke) Bluetooth interface of the Arcam rBlink but for £100, it adds some welcome and flexible functionality to an older amp or AV Receiver.
Above all, the integration between the app and the units is slick and cohesive enough to give some of the same experience that makes Sonos as popular as it is. The interface is well laid out, easy to use and as near to completely stable as to make no odds. The units pair and disconnect over Bluetooth consistently and the user experience is impressively well sorted. At the same time, I do feel that the Jongo feels a little like it isn’t quite the system it could be. Pure has AirPlay and UPnP products in their inventory and deciding to omit them from the Jongo has ensured that while the units work beautifully in a sort of ‘secondary audio’ sense - adding music to rooms that didn’t have it before or functionality to equipment that doesn’t have it as standard - it could be so much more.
- Excellent internet radio performance
- Easy to setup and expand
- Attractive and well built
- Slightly limited by the Pure app as it stands
- S3 limited to sensible volume levels
- Faces competition from more conventional UPnP devices
Pure Jongo A2 and S3 Wireless Multiroom System Review
The Jongo system is a welcome addition to the range of network audio products on the market. Pure has been working on the constituent parts that go into the system for a while now and the Jongo is slick, well designed, attractive and easy to use. Taken for what it is - a peerless internet radio distribution system with optional music on demand and Bluetooth - it achieves its aims brilliantly; allowing you to give an extra suite of functionality to an older AV receiver or piece of audio equipment. The cost that Pure wants for this functionality is also more than reasonable.
At the same time, there is a sense of opportunity lost here. These clever, attractive little components just feel like they could do more if Pure felt so inclined. The addition of either UPnP functionality or even AirPlay could make these well designed boxes even more flexible and appealing. The Jongo range is good as it is but has the potential to be even better going forward. As it is, if you are looking for a smart and compact distributed audio system, this is well worth checking out.
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