harman/kardon’s first wireless headphones strike a chord.
harman/kardon is a household name around the world for their high-end home theatre systems and other audio solutions. This year marks their first foray into the world of portable audio, and they have launched four headphones; two in-ear and two over-the-ear. One of the latter is the harman/kardon BT, their wireless Bluetooth headset.
Harman have entered this market by positioning their new headphones as premium gear, with a price that matches. Thankfully the price is not just a markup of the brand name, but the build and audio quality actually lives up to what you’d expect from them.
The harman/kardon BT looks like a very serious pair of cans, with the matt silver and black finish, along with the earcups themselves having a rectangular shape. The headphones certainly have a suave design, but let’s see how practical they are.
So the harman/kardon BT comes with a USB charge cable, a 2.5 to 3.5mm audio cable for when the internal battery dies, plus an extra metal headband for those who find the stock headband small. The angular shape of the plugs adds to the premium feel of the whole package.
The earcups themselves swivel 170° in one direction adding to the flexibility of their usage. The large design with the soft padding is great for some sound isolation and comfortable prolonged usage. Add to this that the harman/kardon BT are very light, and you’ve got a great combination for long journeys. Plus the battery, close to maximum volume, lasts anywhere between 11 to 13 hours, and you’ve got a great combination of comfort and portability.
The left earcup houses the BT pairing button and charging port (bottom), the media playback controls (back) and the mic (front). Using them is extremely easy. Simply hold the BT button and your Android or Apple device should be able to pick it up. Simply pair and you’re good to go.
The media playback buttons are also very convenient and easy to use by feel (when you’re wearing them) and work flawlessly. Hit the lowest or highest volume levels and there’s a beeping sound to indicate that you’ve hit the limit. The only bad thing is that the control buttons don’t work if you have the audio cable plugged in; playback options work directly from the device.
As for the sound quality, I was pretty impressed overall. Mid-levels and vocal tracks are very clear, while instrumental tracks played with a nice rich feedback. Bass was decent, neither muddy nor underwhelming. On the high end everything was crystal clear, even at high volumes.
My only real concern is that during phone calls, the person on the other line never heard me without a slight hiss and a mild echo, although the latter was admittedly rare. I’ve tried this on both iPhones and Android smartphones, on both sides, and the result is always the same. It is a quality concern, and for the price I didn’t expect a problem as basic as this, but it’s there, at least in our test unit.
At the end of the day the harman/kardon BT don’t provide great sound isolation, something you’ll notice in crowded areas, nor is the phone call (on the receiver’s end) as clear as expected. These are two flaws that may or may not be serious depending on the way you’re planning to use them.
However, if you’re looking for an easy to use pair of wireless headphones that are comfortable and have great battery life, in addition to having great audio, then you’d be hard pressed to find something as stylish and well built in this price range. harman/kardon’s first outing is surely remarkable, but not without flaws.