The John Lewis Spectrum is a bare-bones DAB/FM radio encased in a soft-touch rubberised material and available in black, white and teal. At £35 it’s incredibly affordable, and when we tested it back in 2013 it was an undeniable Best Buy.
Since then John Lewis has taken it on and off sale, sometimes for extended periods of time. But now it’s back again and the department store is calling it the ‘third-generation’ Spectrum radio on its website. Although it looks the same on the surface, we wanted to see if anything has changed underneath, so we brought it back into the lab for retesting.
It still costs the same but, looks and price aside, there are a number of differences between the 2013 model and the 2017 version. However, this wasn’t the only surprise in our recent batch of 18 digital and DAB radios, which ranged from a £20 basic Sainsbury’s radio to a £500 Roberts radio with all the bells and whistles. Read on to find out about the latest FM, internet and DAB radios we’ve tested.
Make sure you tune in to a top-performing radio by reading our latest digital radio reviews.
New digital radios on test
John Lewis Spectrum
This is the second time we’ve tested this basic FM/DAB radio. It’s a bestseller for the department store brand and it was a Best Buy radio in 2013. It’s certainly a no-frills model, with very little in the way of features such as presets or alarms. Will it win us over again with its sound quality and ease of use? Read our full John Lewis Spectrum radio review to find out how well this £35 radio performed.
VQ Retro Mk II
This large, vintage-style table-top radio is an update of VQ’s popular Retro Radio, which we also tested in 2013. It costs £100 and is available in a range of bright colours and fun prints, some created by British interior designer Emma Bridgewater. It can stream songs from Bluetooth-enabled devices or those with a 3.5mm aux-in socket, and it also has an Apple Lightning dock. But what matters most is the sound this radio puts out and whether it’s pleasant to listen to. Head to our full VQ Retro Mk II review for our complete verdict.
Roberts Stream 65i
This radio is at the top end of Roberts’ range and it costs an eye-watering £500. But as well as playing FM, DAB and internet radio, this device has a one-touch instant record button for the radio and it can digitise your CD collection. It’s Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream songs from tablets, laptops and smartphones, and Spotify users should note that you can access the popular music subscription service through it. With so much on offer, we wanted to see if this radio is truly worth its premium price tag. Our full Roberts Stream 65i review reveals how it scored in our independent tests.
When taking this radio out of the box, we were thoroughly impressed with its solid build. Sony has a good reputation when it comes to audio products, although it’s not often that a new Sony radio is launched, so we were curious to see how this futuristic-looking device performs. It costs £150 and it can also be used as a wireless speaker thanks to the in-built Bluetooth and rechargeable batteries. The manufacturer claims the battery will last for 25 hours on a full charge, but of course we had to check this out for ourselves. Find out how well this radio functions by reading our full Sony XDR-V1BTD review.
Pure Siesta S2
The Siesta S2 is the latest alarm-clock radio from Pure and it looks very similar to its predecessor the Siesta Rise. The Siesta Rise is undoubtedly the best alarm clock radio we’ve ever tested and it wowed our listening panel and our lab experts with its excellent sound quality and ease of use. Did the Siesta S2 perform just as well or even succeed our expectations? See whether this alarm clock radio will be suitable for a spot on your bedside table by reading our full Pure Siesta S2 review.
Best digital radios
We’ve tested internet, FM and DAB radios across the full price range, from £17 to £500, and our lab results prove there’s no direct link between price and quality. The cheapest Best Buy costs just £40, while we’ve seen disappointing radios in the lab being sold on the high street for £400.
All our recommendations are based purely on how digital radios fare in our independent tests. Price is not taken into account at all. As well as replicating your experience in terms of setting it up and using it, we test the aerial reception and examine what features the radio has.
We also enlist a panel of five audio experts who listen to each radio and give their verdict. We play a selection of tracks, including jazz, classical, pop and spoken word. As many radios now double up as speakers, we also test how it sounds when playing audio over Bluetooth or through a 3.5mm aux in.
Head to our best radios of 2017 guide to find out our most up-to-date radio recommendations.