Harman Kardon One Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Harman Kardon is one the best-known brands in American consumer technology. Whether it’s for the home or auto, it’s an earned level of respect after decades of business. I first heard of Harman Kardon as a child when my father purchased one of their renowned solid state stereo receivers. Now that we’re a more mobile society, they have a footprint in the headphones and mobile speaker space. Whether it’s audio/video receivers, speakers, or headphones, they battle in a competitive landscape. So how does the HK One Bluetooth portable speaker stack up? Let’s take a closer look in this Harman Kardon One speaker review.
• Handsome aluminum grill design
• Solid construction
• Power rating of 2 x 6W
• HTC Connect technology
• Comes with carrying case
• Lack of color options
• Not water resistant
• Small 2000mAh lithium-ion battery
• Poor battery life ≤ 5 hours
• $200 price tag
HK One Design and Features
The HK One is a fine looking speaker. First off the design.
A dark, gray aluminum grill covers the HK One on top, front, and rear. A “harman/kardon” logo is placed dead center on the front. The grill pattern is covered end-to-end with a zigzagging grid to disperse sound. Not only does this addition enhance the speaker’s grip, but it also causes the aesthetic to be more dynamic and robust. The speaker’s underside is solid aluminum. Edges are beveled revealing a bright aluminum finish. Directly underneath the grill is a lighter gray material.
Be careful with the speaker. As it’s shaped like a brick, it too will sink like a brick if you drop it in water. It does not float
A black, rubbery material adorns the sides. On the left side, there are five buttons: Power, Decrease Volume, Increase Volume, Bluetooth, and Speakerphone. On the right, there are Aux and mini-HDMI jacks along with the LED indication for the battery. Play time is approximately five hours on a full charge, around two hours at maximum volume. Charging time was slightly more than two hours. Charging the battery is handled via the aforementioned mini-HDMI jack. Should you want to listen to music or a podcast via a cabled connection, that’s what the Aux port is for. The one issue to be mindful of is that fingerprints shine on the rubber material.
The speaker has overall dimensions of 68.2 x 68.7 x 180 mm (2.68″ x 2.71″ x 6.09″) While not a perfect rectangle; it’s only 0.5 mm off. Not enough for the human eye to notice the difference. The HK One weighs in at 2.06 lbs.
- Bluetooth® core version: 3.0
- Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.5, HFP V1.6, HSP V1.2
- Bluetooth® transmitter power: 0–4dBm
- Bluetooth® transmitter frequency range: 2.402–2.480GHz
- Bluetooth® transmitter modulation: GFSK, π/4-DQPSK, 8DPSK
What’s In The Box?
- HK One Speaker
- USB Charging Cable
- USB Adapter
Audio Performance & Playlist
• Lana Del Rey – Born To Die, Paradise
• Emeli Sandé – Our Version of Events
• Ellie Goulding – Halcyon
• 30 Second To Mars – 30 Seconds To Mars
• John Coltrane – The Ultimate Blue Train
• Rush – Clockwork Angels
As we often state here at Beantown, when reviewing speakers and headphones, the most important performance factor is the quality of sound. Using the playlist above, the HK One was tested across a broad range of music. Songs within each album were sampled against comparable $200 speakers selected from my collection. The results were most surprising, and not kind to the reviewed speaker.
It’s a sad moment when the only positive thing you can write about a product, in this case, a speaker, is its ability to deliver strong vocals. Upon reviewing the HK One against ten albums, I can definitively say that this speaker directs much of its sound to vocals, a bit too much to be exact. I’m not sure why it’s designed this way or even how the engineers at Harman Kardon would release a speaker without more of a balanced sound profile. The downside to that statement is that while strong, the vocals don’t come across the way I wish to hear them. While I liked Lana Del Rey’s vocal reproduction on Paradise, I wasn’t all that impressed. The same is said for Lady Gaga and Ellie Goulding.
When the HK One was compared song-to-song against the Libratone One Click, the latter delivered superior sound quality across all the sampled artists. The HK One underperformed against other $200 speakers. Bass drum and guitar sounds were almost non-existent with the HK One. Other drum sounds were flat. At this point, I thought there might be something wrong with my HK One. So I turned to the internet, comparing my findings against that of others. Upon reading over 30 reviews, the consensus was that the HK One was deficient in producing bass sounds. A $200 speaker that has 12W of total power shouldn’t be weak in this area.
At the maximum volume setting, the music sounds messy. For example, the jam sessions on Clockwork Angels were not pleasant to listen to. I can’t make such a statement with the Libratone One Click. I stood in different spots in my 300 ft² entertainment room, as well as adjacent rooms, and the sound quality did not improve. What I heard across the 100 Hz – 20 kHz spectrum was not ideal.
Adding insult to injury was the HK One’s poor battery life. Not to be repetitive, but a $200 speaker shouldn’t have a small 2000 mAh lithium-ion battery. It should have a battery with twice the capacity. The HK One has an overall battery life of close to 5 hours. At the maximum volume setting, it only yields a paltry 2 hours of life.
In our testing, we had high hopes for the HK One. On the one hand, the HK One is a handsome speaker with an appealing design. It takes up a small footprint on a desk. On the other hand, the sound quality and battery life are disappointing for a speaker at its price point.
Harman Kardon has a handful of other speakers on the market like the Go+Play and the Onyx. And with CES2017 around the corner, we should see some new products available in early 2017. Maybe they’ll have the right speaker at the right price point for you.
What do you think of this Harman Kardon One speaker review? Do you agree or disagree with our verdict? Let us know in the comment section below or via social media. We’re eager to hear your thoughts.
FTC Disclosure: Harman Kardon did not provide Beantown LLC with a speaker sample for review purposes. This writer’s opinion is 100% his own and not a paid product ambassador.
All photographs are the copyrighted property of Beantown LLC © 2016.