The penguin loving John Lewis have a budding selection of own-name electrical appliances and this is one of their mid range DAB radios, referred to as the John Lewis Spectrum.
John Lewis definitely understand consumers' desire for appealing design, judging from the way the Spectrum looks and feels. It produces a truly desirable image in its minimal blocky shaping and colour options. It comes in black, white, gunmetal grey, slate grey, teal, azure blue, spearmint green and berry red. The exterior also encompasses ample grip when held because it’s coated in a soft to touch rubber, which gives this lightweight (350g) product a layer of rigidity, making it suited to being used outdoors (cleans easily) and easily able to accompany you throughout the house.
Straight out of the box and either plugged into a wall outlet (uses a micro-USB connection for power) or powered by four not supplied AA batteries, this radio scans for the DAB channels without being requested and completes the task in under a minute. Most definitely the quickest and most breezy DAB scanning process we’ve ever gone through. An optional FM tuner is inbuilt too, but honestly we rarely took advantage of this older facility, as the DAB signal was strong everywhere we used the Spectrum. It didn’t break up when being moved around; we didn’t need to pull the ariel out and the transition from jumping channels takes around three seconds.
Once all the channels are scanned and listed, you’ll either find the control method to select individual channels charming or a slight inconvenience. This is because a twist knob mechanism is used both for changing the volume and channels; a very contrasting method considering this radio's modernist design. But we generally got on with it, mainly because it has a gentle click upon every turn, so you know you’ve chosen a new channel. Also, as the DAB station selection pool is now at 216 stations, but everywhere out of London seems to obtain around 30-40 stations, it makes jumping from one to another much quicker than using button inputs. Nevertheless, it’s definitely slower than using preset buttons for hopping around your favourite stations, and this addition would have been warmly welcomed. So if you listen to a lot of DAB radio, this missing facility may feel like a chore to get around. The LCD screen is backlit and easy to read whilst displaying information in a typical DAB radio scrolling to the left fashion. So things like the station you’re on, the show and the artist and name of the song you’re listening to, are all shown.
You can listen to the John Lewis Spectrum independently through an inbuilt 3.5mm headphone port on the right of the unit or, of course, via the main mono speaker. The quality of this speaker is sufficient for casual listening in the kitchen or whilst planting some shrubs in the garden. Music generally is less exciting to hear through a mono speaker and that isn’t any different here. But when we compare it to other mono radios we’ve listened to, this one touts a body of warmish and more respectable general sound than many. Granted busy musical tracks can on occasion sound confused and if the volume is cranked over three quarters high reverberation can present itself. None-the-less in general we were pleased with the package and definitely rate it highly suitable as a radio that can be left on in the background without considering the quality insulting. One area where we found the Spectrum to shine is in its vocal reproduction; talk shows, for instance, were pleasantly clear to listen to.
In summary, John Lewis have released a very attractive and robust compact DAB radio proposition for listeners who are frequently moving throughout their house or maybe would like to have a facility to listen to stations outdoors via AA batteries. We also researched the current market of similar radios and the Spectrum, at £34.95, appears competitive with other DABs having similar basic features.