If you are considering upgrading your speakers or maybe buying for the first time, these two brands will be recommended to you. These are two of the most well-known speaker names you come across. But which should you choose?
Harman Kardon vs Bose is a choice that is worth some consideration. So, let’s make the decision easier by taking a look at both. First, let’s find out a bit more about both companies.
Bose are predominantly known for their audio equipment, which is of a good standard. They were founded in Massachusetts in 1964 by Amar Bose. The main shareholders of Bose these days are MIT, although they exercise no governance over the business.
They have based their business on home audio and video, headphones, and consumer sound systems. They also are involved with commercial sound systems. And, they still have their headquarters in Massachusetts and employ about 7000 people.
Like Bose, a US audio manufacturer, they started before Bose, being founded in 1953 by Sidney Harman and Bernard Kardon. In some ways not as well known as Bose in the consumer world. But they have several firsts to their name.
They gave us one of the first stereo receivers, and in 1970, the first stereo cassette recording deck with Dolby B. In 1969, they made a major acquisition purchasing one of the best speaker manufacturers, JBL. This is significant, as we shall see later. These days they are a part of the South Korean Samsung Electronics group.
That is a brief description of both Bose and Harman Kardon. In this article, we are not reviewing specific products in a like-for-like situation. Therefore, I am going to look at the performance and associated features in a comparative way without being too product-specific.
Both have a durable quality in their build, and both use a majority of plastic for the casings and fittings. In both cases, though, that plastic is quite substantial. Both manufacture portable speakers, which can be considered reasonably secure when they are being carried around.
You should not have any problems with either manufacturer’s products. If you like a bit of variety when choosing your speakers, then you will find more with Harman Kardon than Bose. They tend to offer more variation in the design of their casings.
There are a couple of differences between Haman Kardon and Bose speakers in the design strategies.
Bose has two colors, black and black. If you are lucky, then you might find a white option, but I wouldn’t say they were prevalent. Harman Kardon usually has about five colors to choose from, especially with their portable options. This makes it easier to find a color to fit with your decor.
The majority of Bose speakers have a solid plastic or light metal speaker grille. The Harman Kardon speakers tend to have a cloth material covering the grilles. There is a case for assuming that the solid speaker grilles will be more secure. On portable speakers, this could be the case. But, if the speakers are not being moved around, then there is no real benefit.
In that case, it will come down to how they look. In my opinion, Harman Kardon wins that battle. A cloth speaker grille tends to look better and more attractive than the plastic version. But that is a personal preference.
While we are mentioning how portable the units can be, let’s just consider that. It will depend, of course, on which unit you choose. The range is slightly larger with Bose than Harman Kardon, so you may have a little more choice.
Both manufacturers offer a range of sizes, but generally speaking, the Bose speakers tend to be a little smaller. They have a cylindrical and slim design making them easy to carry by hand.
However, the Harman Kardon speakers will usually have a carrying handle. The handles add to the portability, so in design terms, for carrying with you, Harman Kardon wins.
Pairing And Connections
It is standard these days for speakers, portable or otherwise, to have Bluetooth compatibility. Both brands have simple and easy-to-use pairing functions. Both manufacturers provide multi-pairing functions, although the Bose option is a little more time-consuming to activate.
This will allow you to connect up to more than one device at the same time. On Pairing, there is nothing between them. However, not all Harman Kardon speakers have a WiFi connection, which some may see as a negative. Some also do not have a 3.5mm connection.
Both Bose and Harman Kardon produce products that have speakerphones. Also functions for Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant voice assistants.
There isn’t much to choose between them in terms of battery life. They will both give you between six and eight hours on a full charge.
The battery life does depend on how you use the speakers. Playing at a high volume for a lengthy period will reduce the time available. And it goes without saying that the more you use it, the quicker it will need to be recharged or new batteries fitted.
With Bose, you can expect to get a full recharge in about four hours. Harman Kardon will take a little longer at five hours. Of course, this only applies to portable speakers. If they are used at home, battery recharging isn’t a consideration.
Once more, there is very little to choose between the two manufacturers. Hardon Karman speakers are generally easy to use with controls and buttons placed on top and near to each other. Bose is usually similar.
The differences in what you might call the control efficiency are only really evident between each company’s products.
The Sound Quality
There are a couple of notable differences in this area. And the quality of the sound should probably be at the top of the list for requirements.
Surround Sound versus Directional
You will find that the sound quality of Bose speakers offers more in the way of the surround sound experience. Harman Kardon tends to have a more directional sound. This will have its biggest effect on how you are using the speakers you intend to buy.
If you are buying a portable speaker, then the surround sound experience is not that important. A more directional sound will be a better bet. Inside the home is a different thing. That is where surround sound will have more impact.
It Won’t Be Cinema Time
However, if you are expecting surround sound as you can get from a home cinema system, that is not going to happen. You will get a kind of 360-degree experience, but certainly not what you will get from full surround sound. What you tend to get is a sound that is not affected by where you are in relation to the speaker.
Harman Kardon does have this facility on their more upmarket speakers. But, they probably consider it not so important in portable speakers.
So How Do They Sound?
The most noticeable difference you will pick up on when listening to similar speakers from each manufacturer is the low-end. With speakers like these, you measure the bass from a viewpoint of both quantity and quality. By that, I mean the volume the speaker can handle and how accurate the reproduction is.
Bose portable speakers usually employ downward-pointing radiators to give the speaker a little more depth. They do have that effect but do not match the average Harman Kardon speaker.
You will also find some Harman Kardon speakers with a subwoofer built-in to add even more bottom-end. For a portable speaker, this is important. The high and mid frequencies will always be heard; it is the bass that needs a boost sometimes. It will get that with Harman Kardon.
The Price Point
So, let’s cut to the chase and talk about how much you will pay. We have been comparing notes on two of the largest manufacturers of audio products. They both have a lot of product ranges.
The average prices can only be judged by comparing like-for-like. If you take the Bose Soundlink range and compare them to the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio range, then Bose is more expensive. That does seem to be the norm through the various ranges. Bose does seem to be more expensive.
Of course, buying the very high-end Harman Kardon will be more expensive than the cheapest Bose, but we are trying to address like-for-like. Generally speaking, the Harman Kardon range is going to cost you less.
Some Extra Considerations
Given that some Harman Kardon speaker grilles have a cloth covering, Bose is going to hold up better if it rains. But then I suppose you probably aren’t going to use a portable speaker in the rain. Used indoors, it is not a relative consideration. But they do handle water or moisture better.
Bose speakers do tend to take up less room and are slightly smaller in their design. If you have a space problem, that might be a consideration.
Harman Kardon VS Bose – Quick Summary
Where is Bose better?
- Has a slightly better battery life and a shorter recharge period.
- Extra connections.
- If used indoors offers a 360-degree sound experience.
- Will be more waterproof if needed.
Where is Harman Kardon Better?
- Better portability with a carrying handle.
- More choice in product color and design options.
- The sound has more bottom end and is much richer with more depth.
- Better value for money.
Here are two examples of each of the company’s portable speakers we mentioned earlier.
- Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
- Bose SoundLink Revolve (Series II) Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 7 Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker
- Bose SoundLink Revolve+ (Series II) Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Good Rather Than Very Good
Some Bose speakers are decent-sounding; that is a fact. And there are many worse products you will come across. But they are not the highest quality. And the price points of some of them lead you to believe they should be.
Let’s Return to JBL
Earlier I mentioned that in 1969 Harman Kardon acquired respected speaker manufacturer JBL. This is important because that technology is used in Harman Kardon products. That may be a reason why the low-frequency sound is produced so well because of the quality of the drivers.
There tends to be no such quality in the Bose speakers. The Bose sound that is so popular in some quarters is created by electronics rather than a good amp and excellent speakers. But they do get a decent sound. It is just cheaper to do it that way, yet their prices are still high.
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Harman Kardon VS Bose – Conclusion
It can be difficult to compare companies rather than products. But, there are a couple of issues that we ought to consider. Bose, and a lot of their adherents, of which there are many, consider they belong in the high-end range. In my opinion, they don’t.
The same can be said of Harman Kardon, but they don’t market themselves as such as Bose does. The Bose marketing department has done a good job of convincing consumers they are better than they actually are.
If I had to choose between them, it would be Harman Kardon with no question. Good sound, nice build and easily portable, an option of colors and they are cheaper.
Until next time, happy listening.