James Stanbury

See other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury

It may not be all-round perfect, but if you need a portable Bluetooth speaker with superb sound quality, Pure Voca is one of the best, says our expert

Overview

How do you store your music, so that you can take it with you on your caravan holidays? Once upon a time people used audio cassettes and players, then came the Sony Walkman (can it really be that Sony launched its portable revolution as long ago as 1979?), and of course CDs, ghetto blasters and MP3 players. When packing for holidays we once had to take stacks of CDs in CD pouches that meant you could leave the CD case at home. Then on our return home we could never seem to reunite all the music CDs with the right cases.

Thankfully technology has moved on in a very helpful way, with gadgets and devices becoming ever smaller and lighter – ideal for caravanning. We've gathered up a good selection of the latest portable wireless Bluetooth speakers for testing at Practical Caravan recently. We've been comparing them against each other for such things as sound quality, whether there's distortion at high volume, clarity at low volume, and ease of use. We've given extra points to speakers that are compatible with the most devices, whether that's your smartphone, tablet, laptop or MP3 player. Some can be connected either wirelessly via Bluetooth or using microUSB leads to the music playing device. One or two of the speakers we tested can also work as stand-alone music systems, having a card slot and all the controls of a music player.

You can read our selection of portable Bluetooth speaker reviews here, complete with star ratings. For instance, we tested the the Creative Sound Blaster Free, at £59.99, and the Speedlink XILU, at £22.49. We tried out the Vibe Mushroom, at just £10, which comes in a choice of blue or red.

Some of them have better sound quality than others, of course, so this is the main factor in our star rating verdict. We also look for great value for money, and with these products the prices vary from £10 to £129.99. We judged products on the overall power of each speaker and we were impressed most by speakers that would play for most of the day before needing to be recharged. We liked speakers with more than one charging method, via both a USB lead and using a dedicated mains charger. 

In this review we'll focus on the Pure Voca portable Bluetooth speaker, costing £79.95 as tested. 

Apart from Edifier’s Prisma Encore, complete with its separate speakers and subwoofer, the Pure Voca portable Bluetooth speaker definitely has the best sound quality of all the other speakers we tested. Plenty get close – such as Edifier’s Bric Connect, Speedlink’s Portajoy and Denon’s Envaya Mini – but the Pure Voca speaker has that special something that just gives it the edge on sound quality.

In other ways, this British-designed unit is no-nonsense. Input is by Bluetooth or auxiliary cable, and you get up to 10 hours of play between charges. Having just a mains charger is unusual, but it saves having to power up a laptop or tablet to charge the device via USB. Then again, it restricts use if you venture off-grid for any length of time.

Technical specs

Playing time10 hours between charges
Music inputWireless Bluetooth or auxiliary cable
Integrated microphoneFor hands-free phone calls

Verdict

The Pure Voca portable Bluetooth speaker is worth consideration on the grounds of sound quality alone. Just a few points let it down in our test, such as the fact that you will have to be on electric hook-up in order to recharge the speaker during caravan holidays. The price seems a bit steep compared to some worthy rivals, so we've given the Pura Voca a three-star rating. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Ace sound quality
  • Connects via Bluetooth or a lead
  • 10 hours of play between charges
  • Shape and rubber base keep it stable

Cons

  • Mains charger, not USB
  • High price compared to its equals
  • No NFC (Near Field Communication)
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