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

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 GBP40, 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[1], Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)[2] and Sonos One[3], at only GBP100, 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[4] – skip straight to our list of recommendations.

John Lewis Polka, GBP40

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[5].

Acoustic Solutions Wireless Speaker with Alexa (AS1), GBP100

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[6] and the B&O Beoplay M3[7], costing upwards of GBP150 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[8].

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),[9] 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[10].


  1. ^ Apple HomePod (
  2. ^ Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) (
  3. ^ Sonos One (
  4. ^ Best Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers (
  5. ^ John Lewis Polka review (
  6. ^ Sony LF-S50G (
  7. ^ B&O Beoplay M3 (
  8. ^ how to buy the best smart speaker (
  9. ^ Amazon Echo (2nd Gen), (
  10. ^ Acoustic Solutions AS1 review (

Landlords: how much profit could you make by selling your buy-to-let property?

With a raft of taxation and lending changes, there are signs that some landlords are leaving the buy-to-let sector. How much money do they currently stand to make by selling up? Here, we take a look at new research showing the regional differences in how much profit landlords make when they sell their buy-to-let properties.

  • If you’re a landlord and are considering consolidating your portfolio, call Which?

    Mortgage Advisers[1] on 0808 252 7987 for impartial, expert advice on your mortgage options.

Landlord buy-to-let profits

New research by the estate agency group Countrywide has found that landlords made an average of GBP86,851 when selling a rental property in 2017. These findings are based on landlords selling up after an average of 8.7 years of property ownership. While this figure might sound high, it’s less than the GBP92,886 made by the average owner-occupier, with capital gains tax bills eating into buy-to-let profits.

Regional variations

Perhaps unsurprisingly, London investors made the biggest profits, with more than a quarter (28%) doubling their initial investment and average profits clocking in at four times those in the rest of the UK.

This is in stark contrast to North East England, where a quarter of landlords didn’t make any profit at all.

Top local authorities for landlord profits

The picture varies only slightly when we look at local authorities rather than regions. Again, London dominates the list, but there are also places in the top 10 for Maldon in Essex, where landlords enjoy average profits of over GBP100,000, and Pendle in Lancashire (GBP19,525). The lowest percentage profits were found in Selby, North Yorkshire, where investors made GBP9,703 on average.

Rents in London rising most quickly

The average cost of a new let in Great Britain increased by 1.5% in February to GBP954 a month.

For the third month in a row, London rents increased at the fastest speed to reach GBP1,686. Scotland was the only region to see rents drop, with the monthly average now standing at GBP587.

Five changes for landlords in 2018

Landlords face continuing challenges that threaten to eat into their profits in 2018.

  1. Mortgage rates increasing: the Bank of England is likely to increase the base rate[2] soon, and the closure of the Term Funding and Funding for Lending[3] schemes could push up the cost of mortgages.
  2. Tighter lending regulations: portfolio landlords (those with four or more mortgaged properties) face stricter lending criteria[4]. Rather than supplying details of overall profits, landlords must now provide details of every property in their portfolio when applying for further finance.
  3. Mortgage interest tax relief cuts: from April landlords will only be able to offset 50% of their mortgage interest[5] when filing their tax return (currently 75%).

    This figure will steadily decrease until 2020, when it will be replaced by a tax credit worth 20% of mortgage interest.

  4. Landlord licensing: an increasing number of local councils are bringing in additional and selective licensing schemes, with landlords facing big fines if they don’t adhere to the rules. Check out our table to see if you need a licence[6].
  5. Energy efficiency regulations: from April, rented properties will need to have a minimum EPC rating of E[7] – with fines of up to GBP5,000 for those who breach the rules.

You can learn more about the challenges facing landlords in our full story on 12 things buy-to-let landlords need to know in 2018[8].

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which?

Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which?

Money Compare are trading names of Which?

Financial Services Limited.


  1. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (

  2. ^ base rate (
  3. ^ Term Funding and Funding for Lending (
  4. ^ stricter lending criteria (
  5. ^ 50% of their mortgage interest (
  6. ^ Check out our table to see if you need a licence (
  7. ^ minimum EPC rating of E (
  8. ^ 12 things buy-to-let landlords need to know in 2018 (

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