The growth of the portable speaker would not have been possible without Bluetooth. And products like the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 just wouldn’t exist.
Bluetooth was technically not “invented” since the science was always there. We just had to learn how to harness it and use it. That honor went to a Dutchman working for a Swedish company, Ericsson, in 1994.
It didn’t take long for the possibilities of its use to arrive in the consumer world. Bluetooth speakers followed very quickly. This speaker from Harman Kardon, the Onyx Studio 4, is one of a long line of speakers now available.
Who Is Harman Kardon?
First founded in 1953, within three years, they had begun to establish themselves as respected producers of quality Hi-Fi equipment. Today they’re part of the Harman International Group who are themselves owned by South Korean giant, Samsung.
They still have their respected position in the world of high-fidelity. Their consumer product range extends to items for the home and the car.
So, let’s find out all about it in our in-depth Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Review…
Are you looking for a portable speaker to carry with you to the pool or the beach? If so, then this is not going to be the one. There isn’t much that could be described as portable about this Bluetooth speaker. But there are some other excellent features it does have, even if portability isn’t one of them.
This is a follow up to the Onyx Studio 3 speaker. To be honest, there isn’t a great deal of difference between them. However, the small changes that have been made are for the better.
Extended battery life, up from five to seven hours, is one improvement, as is the upgrade to Bluetooth 4.2 on the Onyx 4. There is also integration with the HK app, which is not available on the Onyx 3, and you can link up to 100 compatible speakers. Though we are not sure why you would want to do that?
It isn’t tiny…
In fact, it’s quite large and is not that lightweight either. As we said, portability is not one of its assets. You won’t be holding this under your arm as you go out. But you will be able to take it into any room in the house and get great music.
It is a speaker with quite a few talking points. So, let’s get on with it…
As we just said, it is not a small speaker. It measures 13.00 by 12.50 by 8.50 inches and weighs 7.2 pounds. Therefore, it is an in-house speaker and is going to be best used on a shelf.
It is made from a decent quality plastic and has rubber feet to keep it stable on flat surfaces. The rubber also helps to absorb the bass vibrating on a hard surface. On the rear of the speaker is an indented carrying handle in case you do need to take it to another room or maybe outside for a barbecue.
However, if you do take it outside, please be aware this speaker has no water-resistant rating. It is not going to react well to splashing and especially light rain.
Good battery life…
It has a Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery. This is claimed by Harman Kardon to give you up to eight hours of playtime. They might not be giving it the credit it deserves.
Some tests list the battery life at 10.5 hours at reasonable volume levels. Quite a bit extra. A full recharge from empty will take you about five hours.
Enough in the Battery?
Some have criticized the battery life. However, considering that this is really a speaker to use at home, you will probably use it with a mains supply. Battery life, therefore, becomes irrelevant in that scenario.
However, there might be times when you might need to use the battery. If so, ten and a half hours is longer than the average garden barbecue or get together at home.
There is also a built-in microphone, as well as various features, including voice logic and noise cancellation. We will discuss those in a later section.
One last thing…
Let us ‘cut to the chase’ with this speaker. The build quality is good, and the battery life, if you need it, is more than adequate.
But it’s the way it looks. It has a great design that is going to grace any room. Looking like a satellite dish, it certainly makes a statement. It really is quite plain and simple, but still very, very impressive.
The six basic controls are located on the top of the speaker. There are volume up and down buttons, speakerphone, Bluetooth connection, and Connect plus. There is also a power-on button. The Bluetooth and power button are both backlit.
There is a micro-USB port that is, rather surprisingly, not used for charging the speaker. Its only function is for firmware updates.
The 3.5mm input allows you to use them as an aux speaker if you wish. The final input port is for charging.
This is what potential buyers will be most interested in. It is one thing looking good and being easy to use. But what does it sound like?
The numbers look good…
It has a frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz and a signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB. And features two 75mm drivers and two 20mm tweeters. Performance is good with a rated power of 4 x 15W in mains mode. Or at 4 x 7.5W when using the batteries.
With its larger size, it will give you a deep, resonant bass. But not only is it isn’t only going to give you great sounding bass, but the mids and highs are also almost as good. And while the bass is prominent, it never overpowers the other frequencies.
The deep stuff…
You get the feeling this speaker was built with depth in mind. If you are someone that likes their bass prominent, you will like this speaker; you are going to get plenty of it. However, it was not designed to crank the volume up to its max with bass-heavy music. It will distort at higher levels.
With other genres, you can go up to around 90% of its volume capability. After that, you may start to get a little distortion.
When you have a speaker that has a great bass sound, then the highs need to be good. If not, they can be overwhelmed and lose their impact.
Not with this speaker; the highs are sparkling and bright to bring the music to life. It is fair to say that they can be a bit harsh with some music where the high frequencies are overdone. Generally, though, the sound is excellent at the top end.
And in the middle?
The mids can be any area of some disappointment with some speakers. Manufacturers often scoop the mids to lower levels. And yet, it is here that you will find the vocals, the drums, and other critical elements of the music.
Thankfully again, these are given some attention. The mids can be clearly heard, which bodes well for a variety of genres. If you like your orchestral music, this speaker is going to be for you.
A sound rating?
Judging by the quality of sound, it is an impressive speaker. A wide soundstage, a defined and accurate bass, crisp and clear highs, and a solid, prominent mid-range. No frequency ranges overpowering each other here. An overall great sound.
If you really crank it up to almost its full volume, the perfectionist in you will hear a little distortion. Most people will happily live with that, even if they notice it at all.
What makes the difference, though, is that the bass is clearly a defining feature. But it never crowds out anything above it.
An easy nine out of ten for the sound quality.
We think it is fair to say that the connections are okay. Not staggering, but this speaker’s connections offer just about everything you will need.
Bluetooth 4.2 is faster than the 4.1 of its predecessor and offers better reliability in data transmission. Music can be streamed easily to give you access to your favorite sites.
Plus, you can connect up to two devices at the same time.
Options like Siri and Google are available with just the press of a button. There is an HK Connect app where configurations can be made to set up voice assistants as you like them.
Calls can be accepted via the built-in mic that has noise cancellation and voice logic. All designed to give you clear and interruption-free communication.
Via the HK Connect app, you can also set it to connect to up to 100 compatible speakers.
Pros And Cons Of Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
- A good looking, well-made speaker.
- Great sound quality.
- Volume levels that easily fill an average size room.
- Access to Voice assistants.
- More than adequate battery life.
- It is quite large and not really a portable speaker.
- Has no weather-proofing, so not really for outdoor use.
Need More Superb Audio Or Wireless Equipment?
If so, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Computer Speakers, the Best Internet Radio Reviews, the Best Bluetooth Beanies Review, and the Best Portable CD Players Review currently on the market.
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Review Final Thoughts
If there were any negative issues with this speaker, they disappear very quickly because the sound is so good. And if you are looking for a speaker that will fill your home with sound, this is it.
As we mentioned, the battery life is adequate for most functions outside (as long as it isn’t raining). But used inside, it hardly matters anyway. And it is versatile and will perform anywhere. The ability to access smart functions is also an added benefit and a useful one.
The icing on the cake…
There is something we haven’t mentioned yet, which really adds the final clincher for us. The price point. Yes, there are some good Bluetooth speakers around. But not many at this price.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 punches way above its weight, and it won’t disappoint. At this price point, you will find it hard to find something better.
Until next time, happy listening.