Harmon Kardon Onyx Review – The Full Details

(Last Updated On: October 29, 2015)

Looking like a UFO on its edge, within a halo created by stainless steel stand and carry bar, the Harmon Kardon Onyx is a compact Pandora’s Box of musical delight. Featuring four 15-watt speakers and passive bass radiators, it is designed to deliver high quality audio from any Bluetooth or wireless device.

With music listeners increasingly streaming their collections, that means it can pull sound from any smartphone, most tablets or your PC, without the need for ugly wires. Operating via mains power, or anywhere you like via its built-in 2,500mAh lithium battery, it may look small but packs a decent punch. It can also provide enough volume to keep more genteel parties going with throbbing bass, and also be used in the garden, by the pool or when out in the wild.

Key Features of the Harmon Kardon Onyx

Specs: The Onyx weighs in at 2.4 kilograms and measures a modest 345mm X 222mm X 325mm. Inside are four 15-watt speakers, 2 x 3-inch woofers, 2 x three-quarter-inch tweeters, providing 60 watts of sound with frequency response rated between 55Hz – 20kHz. It can hit 95 decibels at peak output and does so in style.

Compatibility: Compatible with Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, WiFi, DLNA and other radio or audio source, you can connect practically any device to it, and run music from any app. However, with such gorgeous quality available from the Onyx, you really should be looking for lossless, HD audio or other high quality sources to listen to. If you don need to plug an older audio source in, there is a 3.5 mm jack.

Power: Once charged from the provided power lead, the Onyx, which is available in black or white, should play for around five hours in battery mode. Lifting it above most portable speaker systems are the passive bass radiators, encased in an aluminum grill that provide a meaty rumble, whatever audio source you are using.

Around the edge of the Onyx are a few buttons and LED lights to set and indicate various features. Hold the Power button for two seconds to turn it on, and then press the button again to check the power level (it uses the volume indicator to show this).

Connectivity: You can also see if it is set to Bluetooth or WiFi mode, to set it up with an iOS device, you need to plug it in briefly via the USB port on the rear. There’s a Harmon Kardon remote app on most app stores allowing you to control the speaker from your smartphone.

Pros of the Harmon Kardon Onyx Bluetooth Speaker

The first thing worth noting about the Harmon Kardon Onyx is that they are almost universally loved by their owners, with a near 100% five star approval rating on Amazon and the Harmon site. Tech brands can’t buy that kind of love, except possibly Apple, and with that level of support, you know you’re getting a good product.

In use, it does indeed provide very high quality sound, with a crisp, deep bass and well balanced high and mid-range tones. The built-in DSP helps even out streamed music from most sources, and provides a brilliant and clear audio experience when used with high quality audio sources. And, considering the amount of power at its disposal, the Onyx provides a decent battery life for garden events or just moving around the home at around five hours.

And it seems Harmon Kardon is confident in its engineering too, with a lengthy five year warranty for the speakers and a year’s warranty for the electronics. The front grill is replaceable if that gets damaged in any way, and the handle/stand is sturdy enough to see it lugged around happily without causing any problems.

Cons of the Harmon Kardon Onyx Bluetooth Speaker

Whatever your budget, $499 is a lot to pay for a portable speaker, however if you demand that level of quality we’d guess you’re prepared to pay for it. For discounts, check out this listing.

Setting it up is perhaps a little more fiddly than it could be, especially across multiple devices, but once the brief set up period across your PCs and mobile devices is over, it shouldn’t stress you out again.

It does lack a carry case, which some HK products ship with, which is a shame. And, as lighter units are widely available, if the weight is an issue, you might be looking elsewhere. But the heft of the Onyx is really needed to produce that great level of sound, so that’s a trade off you will have to make if you want something a little less weighty.

Final Recommendation – Worth the Expense?

The Harmon Kardon Onyx speaker is a testament to the company’s audio prowess, with a very high quality level of sound performance.

Yes, a lot of that is wasted, if you have a grubby old MP3 collection, but with most music services offering higher quality subscription tiers, if you take advantage of them, you will notice the difference.

Crushing most other single speaker solutions, the Onyx provides powerful audio that can fill a room. It also looks great, whatever device you’re running it from, be it an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.

The Onyx model is a couple of years old, but that’s pretty young in audio terms, however if you are lookign for the latest, then Harmon Kardon recently showed off its new Esquire 2 model at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, which has a sleeker look and a new kickstand, microphones to act as a call station and a larger battery. At $199, that might be more of a temptation, but if you really want kick-ass bass, then stick to the Onyx.

You can see the latest pricing information on the Onyx right here.

Harmon Kardon Onyx

8.4

Treble

8.2/10

Base

9.2/10

Midrange

8.5/10

Design

8.2/10

Value

7.8/10

Pros

  • Five year warranty
  • Rich bass
  • Quality mid range
  • Functional design
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • A on the heavy side
  • Requires a bit more in depth setup than most
  • Pricey, not a budget model

Juan Alexander

Juan is a self-professed sound-nerd and the webmaster / lead author & tester for AllSoundLab. You might literally walk into him on the street because he's tuned out to the world and tuned into his beats...

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