Over the last year, there have been plenty of Bluetooth speakers landing on the market. Some adopting price as their main selling point, while others adopting quality and all trying to make sure their products include portability as an added feature. Harman Kardon is one of the oldest and most respected audio companies on the market and one who has always looked to offer products which are of a high quality but also not crazy expensive. One of the ways in which Harman Kardon has always approached finding this balance, is by ensuring their products do not contain any unnecessary features. This is an ethos that the company has continued to this day in spite of their products evolving to be more in tune with the market as a whole. Today, we are taking a quick look at one of the company's more recent offerings to the Bluetooth speaker market, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Speaker.
In terms of the specs, the Onyx Studio comes equipped with four active speakers along with dual passive radiators to enhance the bass. The four speakers break down into two 3-inch woofers combined with two 3/4-inch tweeters. Amplification is determined over 4 x 15W channels. The fRequency response tops out at 20 kHz while the bottom end drops to 55 kHz. In terms of the frequency range, the Onyx offers 2402 MHz to 2480 MHz. Impedance is 4 ohms while the Signal-to-Noise ratio comes in at 96 dB. Moving to the battery side of things and the Onyx Studio Comes equipped with a 2,600 mAh battery which is rechargeable and said to offer in the region of 5 hours of continuous playback per charge. Connection is offered by way of Bluetooth 3.0 allowing connection to most Bluetooth enabled devices. Physically, the Onyx Studio comes in at a height of 260 mm, a width of 161 mm and a depth of 280 mm.
Hardware & Design
Straight off the bat, the Onyx Studio utilizes a much more unique form factor, compared to what seems to be the current en vogue form. As such, instead of looking to offer a more compact and squared off design, the Onyx Studio comes with a much more natural speaker-like cylinder design. This to some people might seem a little off-putting but in reality adds to the acoustic nature of the speaker as well as provided a unit which is far more aesthetically pleasing and especially for the audiophiles out there who prefer a more traditional form factor.
Of course, this is a portable design and therefore, the cylinder design does take away from how portable the Onyx Studio is. Although, circular shaped, the Onyx Studio is extremely light and much more than you would expect when looking at the speaker.
Moving more to the actual presentation of the device, and once again highlighting its more traditional form, the Onyx Studio comes with a vented speaker cloth covering the front of the device. In fact, the only visible element from the front is the Harman Kardon logo which is dead center.
Moving to the rim of the device and this is where all the controls come into play. Adopting a more minimal design, the Onyx Studio comes with limited controls compared to other Bluetooth speakers and only offers the on and off standby button, the Bluetooth connection icon and volume up and down controls. The Onyx Studio does not come with start/stop controls or hands-free calling which is slightly disappointing. However, as Harman Kardon are positioning this as a speaker which does not need any additional features, it should not be too surprising that they have opted to forgo what is more commonly thrown in with other manufacturer's offerings.
Moving to the rear of the device and the Onyx Studio is also minimal in this respect with simply the power and micro USB inputs on show. Just above, there is a vent port which helps to further boost the bass.
Lastly, it is worth noting the unit comes with two legs which holds the unit in place when vertically positioned. For those wondering, there were no issues when playing and the unit remain firmly balanced in spite of the bass being pushed. Legs come rubbed ended to further provide increased stability. The legs also doubled offering the option to lay the speaker more horizontal while still maintaining a angled form.
Performance & Battery Life
When it comes to performance, this is a Harman Kardon device. As such, there is a level of expectation that will come into play. In terms of being a Bluetooth speaker, this one does not disappoint with those expectations. The quality of the audio playback was excellent and significantly louder than one might expect from a device like this. Likewise, there was no issues noted when it came to the bass response. Obviously, due to physical properties, the bass quality can only go so low and be so deep. However, the Onyx Studio was able to deal with the bass far more better than what is often encountered with Bluetooth speakers and certainly produced a more natural bass, thanks to the inclusion of the back vent port and twin 3-inch woofers.
This is a portable unit and although works perfectly at home, also seemed to work extremely well as a portable option. The unit comes with a carry handle positioned towards the top of the unit resulting in a much easier method of carrying when not using a case. Not to mention, the 2,600 mAh battery on offer also seemed to easily achieve the five hours of usage claimed by Harmon Kardon.
Also, in terms of connecting, the Onyx Studio is extremely easy to set up and start using. Once powered on via the onboard power button, the unit immediately goes into Bluetooth search mode and then once the Bluetooth feature was opened on the target streaming device, it only took a matter of seconds to identify the Onyx Studio and a matter of a few more seconds to connect. This last point is worth reiterating as some Bluetooth speakers can take time in identifying a tag the device and connection. This was not the case with the Onyx Studio and within seconds was connected. An audible sound is offered from the unit confirming the speaker is on and also when a Bluetooth connection has been established. That said, one negative worth noting is that the Onyx Studio does not come with an auxiliary input and as such, you cannot directly connect a device to the speaker. This does seem to be a stream only speaker.
Overall, the Onyx Studio is an excellent speaker for those looking for a portable but high-quality option. The emphasis Harmon Kardon has placed on being close to a traditional speaker means that form does take precedence over function and therefore, this is not an option for those looking for a more connected type of speaker. There is no hands-free calling and there are limited controls on offer. That said, this is the beauty of the Onyx Studio is this adopts much more of a speaker-only like function. If you want a unit that you can immediately connect to and immediately start playing music at a much higher audio level and quality, then the Onyx Studio is definitely an option to consider.