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John Lewis Carbon review

Smart looks and features, but average sound quality lets it down Tested at £70

Our Verdict

Smart looks and a good list of features, but the Carbon’s sound lets it down

For

  • Big display
  • compact dimensions
  • Apple product docking
  • wide-open sound

Against

  • Lack of focus and tonal shortcomings make for an underwhelming listen

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Smart looks and a good list of features, but the Carbon’s sound lets it down

Pros

  • + Big display
  • + compact dimensions
  • + Apple product docking
  • + wide-open sound

Cons

  • - Lack of focus and tonal shortcomings make for an underwhelming listen

With its compact, chunky looks and great big display, the John Lewis Carbon is less just a radio and more like a pricey bedside alarm clock.

But with a spec-list that includes DAB and FM radio reception along with a dock for iPod or iPhone, it’s an authentic and usefully priced alternative to established products.

The Carbon’s speakers are sited at either end of the cabinet and fire in 180˚ opposition to each other. This makes for a remarkably open but ultimately ill-focused sound that’s rather fuzzy and indistinct around the edges.

No single area of performance is fatally flawed, but a combination of rather splashy high frequencies, a shortage of outright detail in the midrange, and overly forward bass makes for a frustrating listening experience.

On the whole, we can’t help thinking the Carbon looks more appealing than it sounds.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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