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Are new wireless speakers from John Lewis and Argos any good?

We've review a temptingly priced John Lewis stereo speaker and an entry-level Argos smart speaker with Alexa voice assistant in our latest tests

After releasing a number of speaker-like radios, John Lewis has now released a dedicated speaker. And Argos has gone one step further by getting in on the smart-speaker trend with its own-brand cylindrical speaker with Amazon’s Alexa voice control built in, at a much lower price than most comparable rivals. But are either of them a Best Buy or Don’t Buy?

At only £40, the John Lewis Polka is for those looking for an entry-level speaker with stereo sound and contemporary looks. Its small size means you’ll easily find space for it and it has a useful handle for carrying it around the house. It’s portable, too, so you can take it out into the garden or for a trip to the park.

Meanwhile, Argos’s own-brand Acoustic Solutions Wireless Speaker with Alexa (AS1) is exactly what it says. Following the cylindrical design common to the new wave of smart speakers, such as the Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) and Sonos One, at only £100, the AS1 dramatically undercuts both the Sonos One and Apple HomePod and serves as a similarly priced alternative to the Amazon Echo (2nd Gen). The included Alexa voice assistant allows you to control your music hands-free from across the room and also allows you to ask your speaker questions, such as what the weather will be like today or for news and traffic updates.

See what we thought of these new retailer wireless speakers by clicking on the links to our full reviews below.

Best Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers – skip straight to our list of recommendations.

John Lewis Polka, £40

John Lewis claims this modern-styled portable Bluetooth wireless stereo speaker will add ‘zest and dynamism’ to your music collection. It allows you to play your music collection wirelessly from your smartphone or other Bluetooth device, and also has an aux-in port, so you can plug in your music via a wired connection as well.

Simply power it on and it will search for devices to connect with. Tap on the Polka in the Bluetooth menu on your device and you’re ready to go – and you only have to do this once. From then on, just press the Bluetooth button to connect automatically when in range.

It has a built-in rechargeable battery that John Lewis claims will last for a full eight hours – our tests reveal whether the battery really lasts this long or even exceeds it.

Could this be the ideal purse-saving wireless speaker for your home? Find out in our John Lewis Polka review.

Acoustic Solutions Wireless Speaker with Alexa (AS1), £100

Smart speakers are occupying an increasingly big space on the wireless speaker scene, with seemingly every wireless speaker brand looking set to add voice assistants to their speakers, so you can control them hands-free with just your voice.

However, they can be very expensive, with music-focussed smart speakers, such as the Sony LF-S50G and the B&O Beoplay M3, costing upwards of £150 if you’re lucky, and often far more.

Argos’ Acoustic Solutions brand aims to solve this, giving retail customers who are interested in seeing what a smart speaker has to offer a cheaper entry-level alternative. You can find out more about these devices and what they can do in our guide to how to buy the best smart speaker.

The Argos model gives you the same deep access to Alexa – through ‘skills’ (like apps on your smartphone) you can use your smart speaker for a whole variety of things, from simply playing and pausing music, and asking for a song to be played, to setting kitchen timers and asking it to remind you to do things at a later date. You can even order things from Amazon directly through the speaker without having to get out your PC or smartphone.

The AS1’s cylindrical design helps to distribute sound evenly throughout the room and, unlike the Amazon Echo (2nd Gen), it also allows you to connect your music collection to it via a wired connection – useful if your laptop doesn’t support Bluetooth or you have a flakey Bluetooth connection.

Has Argos brought a worthy reasonably priced smart speaker to the high street? We give our verdict in our Acoustic Solutions AS1 review.

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