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April 2, 2014 • Reviews

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio – Power, Quality, & Good Looks

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio

We recently took a first look at the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Wireless Bluetooth speaker system with rechargeable battery. The power, the audio quality, and its sharp looks immediately impressed me. I’ve been using the speaker almost full-time at home since receiving it, and I wanted to do a more complete review. Short version: I love it!

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The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Wireless Bluetooth speaker system with rechargeable battery eschews the boxy, square look so many home audio systems have adopted in favor of a perfectly simple, unassuming black circular design that will immediately draw attention. The clean look of the speakers front is only interrupted by the silver-colored badge with the Harmony Kardon name imprinted on it. The back of the speaker is similarly simple and clean, with a bit of visual interest added thanks to the two silver-colored legs that give the speaker it’s stability.

Onyx Studio

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio: A Speaker for People Who Hate Buttons

This speaker was designed for the person who hates products with complicated button layouts, who doesn’t want to be fiddling with all sorts of knobs, switches and controls. If you are one of those people who simply want to get to your music and start enjoying it, then you are going to love the minimalist design of this system.

Onyx Studio

There are just four buttons on the speaker, and each is as unassuming as unassuming can be. On one side is the power button. Volume up and down buttons sit at the top of the speakers upper edge and the Bluetooth pairing button sits on the other side. There are no other visible controls to be found here. And if this minimal selection of buttons isn’t enough, the placement of each — flush with the curved upper portion of the speaker — makes them all but disappear from view. Unless you are looking for the buttons, you won’t know they are there.

The ports on the back take a similar approach and are few in number; there is the input for the AC adapter and a micro USB port for maintenance updates. That’s about it, so simplicity is the word of the day with this speaker, and the result is something that looks stunning on a table.

If you do want more buttons and a greater ability to control the speaker, then you can always download the Harman Kardon app and use it as a remote to control your music. The app works well, and it lets you control much of the functionality of the speaker without needing to get up and go to it; that’s great, since the speaker doesn’t ship with a remote. But if you don’t want to use the app, then you don’t have to — you can simply pair the speaker to your phone or tablet and stream as you would to any other Bluetooth speaker.

Video Look at the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio

In the Box you will find:

  • 1 HK Onyx Studio Speaker
  • 1 AC Power Adaptor
  • Regional Power Cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety Sheet
  • Warranty Card

Don’t let the simple, clean and understated design of the HK Onyx Studio and the minimal package inclusions fool you. This speaker is an audio beast. Inside the black circle are two 3” woofers, two 3/4” tweeters, and two passive radiators — and all of them are tuned to work together to produce sound that will surprise you. Harman Kardon claims the speaker serves up “Amazing audio performance delivering authentic sound.” Having used it for a few weeks with a wide variety of different styles of music, I have to agree with the use of the word “amazing”. The first time you push the volume up, you too will be surprised… In a good way.

Specifications:

  • Transducers: 2 x 3” woofers, 2 x 3/4” tweeters, 2 x passive radiators
  • Bi-amplification: 4 x 15W
  • Maximum: SPL 95dB @1m
  • Power requirement: 100 – 240V AC, 50/60 Hz
  • Power adaptor: 19V, 2.0A
  • Built-in battery: 3.7V, 2600mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Power consumption 38W Maximum < 1W standby
  • Speaker impedance 4 ohm per speaker
  • Frequency response 60Hz – 20kHz
  • Frequency range 2402MHz – 2480MHz
  • Transmitter power >4dBm
  • Modulation: GFSK/4-DQPSK/8-DPSK
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 3.0 A2DP v1.3 AVRCP v1.5
  • Dimensions: 280mm x 161mm x 260mm

Let me translate all these numbers for you: The HK Onyx Studio is a small speaker that is able to easily fill a small to medium-sized room with impressively clean, bass-filled sound. It even holds its own in a much larger space.

Onyx Studio

One of the key advertising points of this speaker is the inclusion of a lithium-ion battery that allows it run for up to five hours without being plugged into the wall outlet. As I noted in the original video, this isn’t a “portable speaker” so much as it is a “movable one”. This isn’t something you’re going to bring with you on the trip, but the battery means you will be able to bring it out onto the porch or, in my case, bring it down to the dock at the lake house.

I don’t see the battery power as a key selling point, and I can’t see it driving people to this speaker; instead, I view it as a great “value-added” feature that makes an already great speaker an even more attractive option.

Onyx Studio 6

Some may balk the fact that it is a “Bluetooth only” speaker. After all, from an audio perspective Bluetooth certainly isn’t going to stand up to something like Airplay, PlayOn, the wide stream used by the Korus system.

Side note: The aptX codec now lets Bluetooth streaming reach near-CD-quality streaming, but the aptX codec isn’t used here and, besides, Apple products don’t use it. AirPlay uses the Apple Lossless codec so CD-quality files are delivered with no lossy compression and the Korus system’s SKAA wireless audio technology offers the same or better.

But while all this is true, the audio coming from the HK Onyx Studio is, in a word, impressive. It goes to show that when executed with great care and a passion for music, a single speaker can offer great room-filling sound.

Onyx Studio 4

Normally I wouldn’t recommend a Bluetooth speaker to someone who truly cares about their music. After all, Bluetooth is for convenience and travel not home audio enjoyment. That isn’t the situation here. No, in the case of the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio, I can strongly recommend putting this speaker at the top of the list for anyone in the market for a single speaker that will look attractive and offer great sound.

It won’t deliver the stereo separation that you would get with a pair of speakers; it can’t give you the multi-room experience you’ll find with Sonos or Korus; it doesn’t offer the portability of Grain Audio’s PWS (review coming soon), but the HK Onyx Studio will fill a small to medium-size room with amazing sound. It works with any device that has Bluetooth, requires no add-on dongles, and it can move outside with you for the afternoon. The Onyx Studio is priced fairly for all it offers, and it looks good while keeping you surrounded by your tunes. I like this speaker… a lot. Learn more and order here.

MSRP: $399.99

What I Like: Sleek, cool design; Easy to set up; Simple controls; Huge, impressive sound; Offers battery power

What Needs Improvement: Only streaming option is Bluetooth; No wired option; Battery only works for up to 5 hours

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio

 

One Response to " Harman Kardon Onyx Studio – Power, Quality, & Good Looks "

  1. I love the way this one looks; it seems like it could blend in and look great anywhere! =)