When you think about high-quality audio equipment at premium prices, quite a few names come to mind. However, when you add the word “elegant” to the mix, the list gets considerably shorter.
Harman Kardon has been in the business of not just making audio equipment that sounds good. But also looks and functions with style and elegance that can only be achieved by sparing no expense. But…
Who Are Harman Kardon?
Founded in 1953, the empire that HK has become since then can only be described as the biggest ever in the audio industry. Many users will say, “I’ve never heard of them,” and throw up names like Sony and Bose or Beats.
Of course, these are all giants in their own right, and all credit to them. But, when you take into account that JBL, AKG, REVEL, Lexicon, Bang & Olufsen Automotive, Infinity, and a string of others are all owned by Harman Kardon. Now you can realize their immense scope and size.
A true luxury brand…
They made many acquisitions in the automotive industry. As a result, the majority of the world’s luxury car stereos are, in one way or another, designed, manufactured, and in some cases, specially fitted by Harman Kardon.
This is a shortlist of automobiles that use Harman Kardon equipment, but there are many more:
- Aston Martin
- Alfa Romeo
- Land Rover
From cars to consumers…
Here is a brand that can safely stand on its reputation and stature within the industry. Therefore, their speakers and earbuds were met with high expectations when announced.
Many users were interested in seeing how their Aura series of speakers will stand out in the modern world of ever-increasing options.
The Aura Studio 3 comes in at around $230, which firmly places it in the premium price range. But does the Aura Studio 3 deliver the kind of audio quality and functionality combined with a flash of style that will justify its price tag? I’ve decided to find out in my in-depth Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 Review.
Design and Build
Users who owned the previous incarnation in the Aura series will be happy to see that the largest complaints from that model were addressed.
The Aura Studio 2 had an open bass port that extended down the middle of the speaker’s dome. This did enhance bass quality a bit. But, it was prone to rattling and ruining the sound when pushed to even moderately high levels. Naturally, it put many buyers off.
Thankfully, the Aura Studio 3 has a nice closed dome design, and it looks great. I’ll get to how it sounds in a bit.
Taking in the look…
The dome itself looks like thick smoked glass. Furthermore, the high-quality plastic feels like it could withstand more than a few knocks and falls. As for the base, where the speakers are housed, the fine mesh grille gives the impression of high-quality fabric.
When this is combined with the neutral grey color, one is hard-pressed to find a room in which the Aura Studio 3 wouldn’t look good. As a result, it’s one of the most stylish Bluetooth speakers you can buy.
Three sturdy legs mean it won’t confuse you as to whether it’s standing properly. And when you do set it down and take a step back, you understand why it won both the 2020 iF Design Award and the 2020 RedDot Design Award.
A small downside…
The five touch controls can be a bit hard to make out. They are only slightly raised and not illuminated in any way. It is easy to miss the lighting control located in the center on the front of the speaker.
The power and Bluetooth pairing controls are located on the back. And the volume controls are located on either side of the light control.
Speaking of the lighting…
The Aura Studio 3 features stunning ambient lighting, and when you first turn it on, you’re greeted by a slowly rising sweep of white light that tells you the speaker has been turned on. Thumbs all the way up to HK for this.
This speaker is not what you might call “jam-packed with features.” There is no companion app, nor any way to customize the sound signature. There is a 3.5mm jack located on the back, so you’re not limited to just Bluetooth. What your money is going toward is design and sound quality.
Ambient Lighting and Sound Quality
Sadly, there is no way to customize the lighting on the Aura Studio 3. Luckily, the display is not totally static.
The control on the front merely turns the lighting on or off. However, it does seem that the higher the volume, the more frequently the speaker will light up. Also, the audio content itself influences the lighting displays.
Power in All Directions
Like its predecessors, the Aura Studio 3 aims to be a 360-degree omnidirectional speaker that can deliver full surround sound. And it does just that. Making it one of the best surround sound Bluetooth speakers on the market.
The base houses six five-watt speakers. Each with a 2-inch driver, equally spaced along the inner edge and facing outwards.
Placed in the middle of the speakers is a 4.5-inch, downward-firing 100-watt subwoofer. Now go back and read that last part again. Yes, that’s what it says. For its size, this has got to be one of the loudest, most powerful Bluetooth speakers money can buy.
This thing will fill up not just your living room but spill over to the neighbors and the old married couple across the street. Seriously, this thing is loud. It’s that simple. The performance doesn’t diminish at high volumes, thanks to the DSP technology built into the Aura Studio 3.
Considering that the Aura Studio 3 is a 130-Watt speaker with a 100-Watt subwoofer, one begins to get an idea of how serious this speaker is about the low-end. The absolute power of the low-end on this speaker results in something that you can feel rather than just hear.
From EDM to heavy metal epics, this speaker will produce a low-end that is solid enough to build anything on. So, if you want the best bass Bluetooth speaker, look no further.
The definition is there as well…
I listened to Wagner symphonies on this speaker. The subtle changes from the extra rows of cellos and double bass instruments can be made out as clearly as on precision headphones.
True, the intense bass capability of this speaker may make it overwhelming at times. That said, it is probably the best-sounding low-end of any Bluetooth speaker.
Mids and Highs
When listening to the material you know well, you will not get the idea that the signature is bass boosted. That’s because it isn’t, and this is good because it makes for a more balanced sound overall.
Thanks to the DSP technology, the mids come alive when you push the volume. Vocals widen, and subtle overtones in the voices become crystal clear. Other background elements that share the same space are also distinct, but not attenuated to the extent of causing unnecessary shimmer to the main vocal.
The highs are equally present, which is surprising considering all that low-end power. But somehow, the separation and distinctiveness of each element, even the smallest details in complicated mixes, remain present and audible.
Directionality and Soundstage
Being a 360-degree omnidirectional speaker, you may expect to be wowed by the sense of stereo width and directionality. And I am happy to say that you will be when listening to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
The listener is fully immersed in the stereo image. And at times, it almost begins to extend into a third dimension thanks to the 360-degree placement of the speakers. Equally immersive is the experience of watching films on the Aura Studio 3.
Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 Review – Pros and Cons
- Excellent sound quality.
- Good build quality.
- Great looking design.
- Closed-dome design.
- Touch controls can be hard to see.
- No companion software.
- No ambient lighting customization.
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Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 Review – Conclusion
The Aura Studio 3 is not a speaker you buy because you need or desperately want a Bluetooth speaker. It’s the one you buy because you want this one and no other will do.
Whether it be its distinctive look and simple design, or its stunning audio quality and sheer power, this is a speaker you either love or hate. But no matter what, you’ll respect its quality once you hear it blast out the opening bars of a bass-heavy tune.
What more is there to say, the Aura Studio 3 is one of the best looking, best built, and best sounding Bluetooth speakers money can buy, and it is absolutely worth every penny. The final score is 8 out of 10.
Until next time, happy listening!