When we first heard Pure’s Sirocco 550 micro system back in September 2011, we admired the breadth of its functionality while bemoaning its lack of audio excitement.
Since then its price has dropped from £350 to below £300, and at least two similarly specified (and priced) competitors have arrived. So now seems an ideal time to assess whether a useful price-cut can make a product sound a bit more invigorating.
First, let’s recap. A CD player, DAB, FM and internet radio capability, integrated wi-fi for streaming from UPnP-compatible storage devices, integrated iPod/iPhone dock, USB socket, a brace of line-level inputs and a composite video output ensure the Pure is, as the motor trade likes to say, fully loaded.
Controls are a mish-mash
The remote control is useable, though the fascia controls are a bit of a mish-mash, and the stand-mounting, two-way speakers (rear-ported but forgiving of position) are solidly (if unspectacularly) built and finished.
The USB port can deal with MP3 and WMA files only; an iPod adds Apple Lossless and WAV capability, and the Pure can handle these formats when streaming too – but uncompressed formats like FLAC are off the menu.
The Sirocco exhibits pretty distinct differences in the sound it makes depending on the source you’re using.
Least satisfactory is the CD drive: a copy of Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas sounds somewhat confined and short of detail, with little of the spacious lugubriousness of the recording described convincingly.
The voice, deeper than ever with age, lacks texture, and the top of the frequency range can be coarse and rattly in extremis.
Best via iPod and streaming
Things look up a bit with a switch to an Apple Lossless file of Fleet Foxes’ Someone You’d Admire via the iPod dock. There’s greater openness to the soundstage, though it’s still short of the dimensions the Pioneer X-MH70 can muster, and detail levels – particularly through the midrange – improve too.
Low frequencies remain a little vague at the leading edge of notes, though, and the unarguable excitement-shortfall we heard last year is in evidence too.
Streamed content brings us more of the same: reasonable poise from the midrange upwards, a touch of uncertainty below, and an overriding impression of a system that is nigh-on impossible to rouse out of its slightly pedestrian, slightly matter-of-fact sonic signature.
Nonetheless, the Sirocco 550 has sufficient merit for its not-inconsiderable price cut to edge it up towards four stars – or at least it would have, if Pioneer hadn’t shown up with its X-HM70 and demonstrated that full-on functionality needn’t be at the expense of sonic enjoyment.
Which unfortunately leaves this Pure pretty much back where it started.