Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 Review

Harman Kardon is part of Harman International. In fact, it was the original part set up in 1953 by Messrs Harman and Kardon. It has grown a bit since those early days.

There was a period of time where they went around buying everything musical that moved. They acquired JBL and AKG, just to name two massive acquisitions, and were eventually bought out by Samsung, the South Korean giant. They have though managed to keep part of their operation in the US.

What has happened is that Harman Industries now have the muscle of Samsung to produce new, creative, and quality equipment. Harman Kardon Onyx Studio wireless Bluetooth speaker is one from the Onyx range of speakers systems. So, let’s take a closer look…

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3
Our rating:4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

Overview

Crafted with high-end materials, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 is a full-featured, portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers powerful audio with the iconic Harman Kardon design. You can enjoy music up to five hours of playtime thanks to the rechargeable battery and wirelessly connect two Harman Kardon Wireless

Dual Sound enabled speakers together to elevate your music listening experience. Users will be able to make clear phone calls with the speaker from its built-in microphone, which is powered by noise and echo canceling technology. The exquisite design will enhance the style and compliment any room.

The Build

Well, the design is nothing if not interesting with its fabric-like material finish. At first sight, it looks like a satellite dish at the end of the runway for air traffic control. It is a nice design, but it has its downsides. It is just about portable enough to take with you if you are going out. The embedded handle on the rear allows you to get hold of it.

The circular design, though, does not make it very easy to carry, even in a bag. Outdoor use, we would think, would be rather limited.

Great to look at…

It is not that it is oversized, a round shape such as this really lends it to be used in the home. It is 10.9 inches by 6.4 by 10.2 inches and weighs just 4.5 pounds.

The panel on the front has a simplistic design that is attractive and pleasing to the eye. Completely covered with a protective grille, the only design is the Harman Kardon logo placed discreetly in the center. Because of the design, the build quality is visible.

harman kardon onyx studio 3

Quality build…

It is clear that the speaker has been well-made and assembled with care. There are no rough edges or ill-fitting joints. On the back is the carrying handle, which is not the fold-out kind — just an embedded grip, which is a nice idea.

There is a silver bass radiator and the three input ports. They include a 3.5mm aux input, a micro USB, and power and charging ports. The micro USB is not for charging the speaker, as might be assumed. Neither is it for a phone or other external device connection. The micro USB is only for firmware updates.

Also on the rear are the two feet made of a hard rubber material that are not removable. Another good design point is that the battery is built-in. This saves you the bother of having to plug it in every time.

We will pause here for some thoughts about the battery…

It is built-in as we said and is obviously rechargeable. It is a Lithium-ion battery that will give you only five hours of playtime. We do not find that acceptable if the speaker is considered ‘portable.’ It feels like it is really a unit that needs to be used on mains power. That the addition of a battery is only there to say it has got one.

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 Wireless Speaker System

Perhaps that is a little unfair. But in a world where a lot of speakers run for 12 hours or more, then five hours is quite poor. To recharge, the battery takes five hours as well, and it has no quick charge facility.

The speaker is quite large in size, which can, as we have said, make it awkward to carry. The plus point, though is that it creates a high-performance level. There is the added feature of a built-in microphone for taking calls via its Bluetooth capability.

More on this later…

From a design point of view, it has a few negatives regarding moving it around. But the Harman Kardon onyx speaker gets a big tick from us for its design and appearance. And a big cross for its battery life.


The Sound

As we shall discuss soon, the sound reproduction is very good, and you’re about to learn all about it. But first, what is driving the sound.

There are two woofers and two tweeters enclosed behind that mesh grille. They have a frequency range of 50Hz to 20kHz. When plugged into the mains, they will produce about 60 watts of peak power. If you are using them on battery power, only they will give you about 30 watts.

This is not unusual with speakers that alternate between the battery and mains power. We mention it only to clarify why you may experience a volume loss on battery power.

Excellent natural separation…

There are two 75mm woofers at the top and bottom of the speaker. Because there is so much bottom end capability, the bass is rich and warm. It doesn’t, though, crowd everything else out. The two 20mm tweeters are placed on either side of the logo as you look at it. This produces a good sound effect in terms of natural separation of the frequencies.

The larger size of the unit and its unique shape have benefits to the sound. It allows the speakers to be placed in such a way so as to deliver a wide sound spread — quite a unique feature from a small portable speaker.

So let’s get back to the actual sound reproduction…

Overall it is very good indeed with just a few small issues. That is us just nitpicking a bit, given that this is a portable speaker. The sound is not going to be high-quality.

One of those areas is with the treble. The high frequencies delivered by the tweeters are clear and very accurate. When the volume rises, though, they can get rather bright, especially if it is music with a high-frequency bias. That doesn’t apply to all music just those tracks with a little too much treble in the mix.

Powerful…

With the low frequencies, as you can imagine with two woofers, the sound is powerful without being overwhelming. It is controlled and doesn’t boom, but it is there all the time. Just how it should be. The other sound issue is that going sub-bass, some of the frequencies just aren’t there. Would you expect them to be in a portable speaker? Of course not. Just an observation.


The mid-range is where it really racks up the bonus points. So often overlooked by many manufacturers, they are the area of the sound that carries some important input. The vocals are here, as are the drums and a host of other stuff. But we mention those two specifically because without them you have a problem.

With this speaker, the sound is quite dynamic and clear. They are not crowded out by the bass or shattered by treble. They have a big presence in the overall sound, which is as it should be — more ticked boxes from us.

The Controls

The control panel is located on the top of the unit. In total, there are just five, so it is easy to operate. There are interestingly two buttons for the volume. One for up and one for down. Surprised they couldn’t have combined them, but it’s not a problem. In some ways, it makes volume control easier.

There are speakerphone and Bluetooth buttons and an off/on control. The off/on button and the Bluetooth control are backlit. That is a useful idea, but it’s a shame that they aren’t all lit. They are soft-touch buttons, so they have a nice feel to them. Placing the controls on the perimeter of the speaker has allowed the front to maintain its style and simplistic look.

harman kardon onyx studio 3 review

There are limitations to the controls, though…

Firstly, there is no app, so common today with these applications, to control the EQ settings. There is also not a remote control unit, which we find a little surprising. To perform the functions, you might expect to have on a remote; however, you must use your smartphone.

An activity like play or pausing of songs or changing of tracks must be done on the phone, which in our view, is not an ideal scenario. We would expect the call-answering and associated activity to be the domain of the phone. Control over the music being played though surely is down to the speaker and its controls. Preferably with a remote, so you haven’t got to keep playing with the unit. Not many bonus points in this area we are sad to say.

The Extras

Probably an unfair description to call Bluetooth an extra these days. It is almost a standard necessity. We have already discussed the connection facilities, 3.5mm aux input, etc., so no need to go back over them.

It has Bluetooth 4.1 as standard with the usual 30 feet of range. Music streaming is then made easy, and up to three separate devices may be connected at any one time. It is also compatible with iPhone and iPad and most smartphones and tablets.

harman kardon onyx studio 3 reviews

One significant extra it has got is a microphone that delivers a conferencing facility. This has to be a plus point. With that system comes a noise-canceling facility to ensure calls are clear for both the speaker and listener.


More Speaker Options

Not convinced that these Harman Kardon speakers are for you? No problem, for more options, please check out our reviews of the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Party Speakers, the Best Powered Speakers, the Best In Ceiling Speakers, the Best Studio Monitor Speakers, and the Best Speaker Docks on the market.

You may also be interested in our reviews of the Polk Audio RTI A3, and the Yamaha NS 6490.

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 Bluetooth Speakers Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Superb style and design.
  • Incredible sound quality for the price.
  • Excellent Bluetooth features such as multi-host and pairing an extra speaker.
  • Good quality built-in mic with active noise cancelling.
  • Amazing value for money.

Cons

  • Higher frequencies can get harsh.
  • Battery life could be longer.
  • Takes a long time to recharge.
  • Portable, yet still quite bulky.
  • Not the best for rugged outdoor use.

Conclusion

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio wireless Bluetooth speaker is an interesting product. It is a speaker that has many reasons to recommend it but some nagging issues that prevent us from leaping up and down with excitement.

Let’s deal with the negatives first. Three issues as far as we are concerned…

Sound-wise it is generally good, but the high frequencies at volume can be very harsh. For a gathering, this could be a problem if you want to make the music heard and turn it up.

It is not really what you might refer to as a good portable design. It is a little bulky for carrying around due to its shape. Even though it has a carrying handle on the back. Also, it is not going to be so good outside.

Finally, the battery life…

Five hours in today’s world of battery operated speakers is not even close to being good enough. And we must consider that if you are driving it quite hard, then that number could come down even more. We can only say that if you are pushing it, then you will be at home or somewhere where there will be a mains socket. You will need it.

The lack of a remote control is a slight problem, but only because you have to use your phone for some of the controls.

So the positives, and there are a few…

It does have a very nicely balanced sound at a reasonable volume. The bass is prominent though not too heavy, and the mids clear and precise. The top is fine until you push it too hard. The sound then is good. You also get a decent volume though it will struggle a little outside or in a packed room.

The Bluetooth facility is good and easy to use. Pairing is quick, even to more than one device,

The look and styling are great, and it really does have an appeal about it. It is well-made, and the build quality is very good.

Controls are well-located and efficient and easy to use.

To summarize…

While writing this Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 Review, we hope we have not been too harsh. Harman Kardon are not a top-level speaker manufacturer, but they do make decent products. This we feel, is a good quality value for money products.

Yes, it has things they could improve on, but you have to consider all sides of the argument. In our view, the positives outweigh the negatives. It looks great, sounds good, and is affordable. That makes it ok in our book and makes the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio wireless Bluetooth speaker a good buy.


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