John Lewis Astro DAB Radio Review

Summary:
A great choice if you want a reasonably priced digital radio with Bluetooth, though there are minor issues with tone and volume control.

Buy it online:
See price on JohnLewis.com

The John Lewis Astro is a futuristic-looking digital radio from one of Britain’s best-loved department stores. Available in either black or white, the Astro has FM and DAB/DAB+ radio bands plus Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming.

The Astro is just one in a range of own-brand radios that appear to offer good value for money when compared to similar products from brands such as Pure and Roberts. So how does the John Lewis Astro perform? Let’s find out…

Features

  • FM/DAB/DAB+ radio
  • Save 8 preset stations (4 on FM and 4 on DAB/DAB+)
  • Bluetooth and NFC for streaming audio through the radio’s speaker wirelessly
  • LCD screen
  • 5W speaker
  • Aux-in port
  • Dynamic range compression (DRC) mode
  • Telescopic aerial

Dimensions: 20.7 cm high x 11 cm wide x 13.4 cm deep
Weight:
1.276 kg

Performance and use

The John Lewis Astro is very easy to set up, and you should be listening to your favourite station in no time. The radio has dedicated buttons for preset stations, which makes saving and recalling preset stations quick and straightforward.

The John Lewis Astro is nice and small, and should easily fit in your kitchen, bedroom or living room. The vertical design saves space, as it means the radio has a very small footprint (11 x 13.4 cm). It’s a great size for crowded desks and kitchen countertops.

It’s a great size for crowded desks and kitchen countertops.

The Astro has good reception on both FM and digital radio, and it compares very well with other radios in its price range. As well as regular DAB radio, it also picks up DAB+, which is the newer form of digital radio. This means the Astro is ‘futureproof’ against future changes to how radio is broadcast.

The radio sounds crisp and clear, and can go quite loud if you need it to. The volume knob clicks into predefined volume levels rather than letting you fine-tune the volume. The gap between some of the volume levels seems quite big, so it would be better if the volume could be adjusted more precisely.

If you’re not a fan of bass, you should think twice about buying this radio.

One issue with the Astro is that the tone is rather bassy, and it’s not possible to adjust the bass level. If you’re not a fan of bass, you should think twice about buying this radio. While some people will dislike the Astro’s bassy sound, others will appreciate it—many other small radios sound thin and tinny, so it’s nice to have some warmth to the sound.

The Astro has an optional dynamic range control (DRC) setting, which compresses the range of volumes. This is useful if you’re listening to something like classical music in a noisy kitchen and want to hear the quiet bits of the music without needing to turn the radio up ridiculously loud.

Pros

  • Small and compact
  • Has Bluetooth, unlike radios in this price range
  • Good sound quality
  • Very easy to use
  • Above average DAB reception
  • Good amount of volume
  • Easy to pair a device via Bluetooth
  • Stylish design

Cons

  • No alarm or kitchen timer
  • Volume can’t be fine-tuned
  • Instructions manual is a bit confusing
  • Quite bassy, and the bass level can’t be adjusted

Verdict

The John Lewis Astro radio is a great choice if you want a reasonably priced digital radio with Bluetooth. This radio performs well all-round and has a stylish design that would be ideal for the kitchen.

Where the Astro falls short is in the lack of control you’re given over tone and volume. The tone is too bassy for some people, and can’t be adjusted. The volume control lacks nuance, so the jump from one setting to the next feels too big at times. However, if those don’t sound like major problems to you (and for most people they won’t be), the John Lewis Astro is a fine choice.

Similar radios

The vertical design of the Astro is similar to the Pure Evoke H2, though the H2 has a wood effect finish rather than the more metallic look of the Astro. The H2 is likely to cost you more than the Astro and it doesn’t have Bluetooth, though it does have useful alarm and kitchen timer functions. The model up from the Pure Evoke H2 is the Pure Evoke H3, which has Bluetooth and a colour screen, but is quite a bit more expensive than the John Lewis Astro.

A cheaper alternative from John Lewis is the Spectrum Solo, which is a simpler model than the Astro but still a decent FM/DAB/DAB+ radio.

For some more options see our reviews of the best kitchen radios and the best digital radios under £100.

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