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Harman Kardon’s SoundSticks Wireless Speakers: “Belong in a museum!”

“Belong in a museum!”
“Belong in a museum!”
Brian Hart

Harman Kardon’s SoundSticks Wireless Speakers

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

The article’s subtitle is a line borrowed from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" regarding a bejeweled artifact that is expropriated for a private collection. Interestingly enough, this week’s reviewed product resembles the crystal skull featured in the fourth Indiana Jones feature; yet, unlike that film’s plot, the SoundSticks Wireless Speakers are not pure nonsense.

In 1997, this author purchased his first 2.1 set of computer speakers from Harman Kardon. The aforementioned model functioned acoustically; but, the design was representative of the era – tan, cinderblock-sized speakers.

In the interim, Harman Kardon has completely changed their focus regarding design, as demonstrated by the SoundSticks Wireless Speakers ($229.95). This product includes two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. All three elements are completely transparent polycarbonate, thereby, allowing one to be awestruck by their 360 degrees of beauty (i.e., especially with the routing of cables and the visibility of the circuit boards).

Each satellite speaker (or stick) houses four, 1’ transducers that are stacked vertically. The speaker’s black, doughnut-shaped base uniquely allows one up to 90 degrees of lean. The included subwoofer is downward firing and has a 6’ driver. Moreover, a white LED illuminates the interior of the sub’s enclosure and indicates that the system is powered “on.” Importantly, the speaker’s cables were not overlooked and have a braided, silver texture.

Both wired and wireless set up of this 2.1 system was straightforward. Wired installation consisted of connecting both speaker’s cables as well as the AC adapter to the subwoofer. Additionally, these SoundSticks include a 5’ long, 1/8’ (3.5mm) stereo cable that connects to a standard headphone input. With an iPhone 5 and Mac Mini, Bluetooth connectivity was as easy as selecting the speakers from a list of wireless devices.

Near the base on the right satellite speaker are two, touch sensitive buttons for volume control. Analogously, the subwoofer features a volume knob that doubles as a power switch when depressed.

While the SoundSticks Wireless Speakers have impressive stats, such as a frequency range of 44Hz to 20kHz as well as 40 watts of amplification, the audio lacked liveliness. Even increasingly the volume and adjusting the sub’s bass did not improve this lackluster quality regarding the vocals. Nonetheless, in terms of Bluetooth connectivity, these speakers expertly maintained a wireless connection throughout testing.

Harman Kardon’s tagline is “beautiful sound” and the SoundSticks Wireless Speakers are definitely the most beautiful 2.1 speakers in production. The previous statement is substantiated with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) housing an earlier version of Harman Kardon’s SoundSticks Speakers in their New York collection. The alluring design of these speakers eclipses its aural performance; yet, functionality should be at least equal to (or greater than) form for a product to be practical.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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