John Lewis Carbon review

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

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

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


  • +

    Big display

  • +

    compact dimensions

  • +

    Apple product docking

  • +

    wide-open sound


  • -

    Lack of focus and tonal shortcomings make for an underwhelming listen

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

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, Reading 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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