A slick design and interface, and it pumps out plenty of noise, but consider two cheaper speakers instead
- Stylish design
- Great sound quality
- A touch overpriced
Harman Kardon is one of the biggest names in audio and it’s gazing at the smart speaker world with hunger in its eyes. The Citation is its smart speaker brand, based around Google Assistant, and there are already eight products in its range – from the Citation One at £180 to the Citation Tower pair for a cheeky £2,200.
Harman Kardon Citation 300 review: Price
The Citation 300 on test here may seem cheap by comparison with that top-end model, but there’s no hiding from the fact that £350 is a lot for a single speaker. If you want to pair two for a traditional stereo setup, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise that’s £700. What’s more, Harman Kardon really wants you to buy several Citations to create a multi-room system in the Sonos tradition.
Harman Kardon Citation 300 review: Features
As with all the Citation range, the 300 includes Chromecast, which means this can do anything a Chromecast device can do. Setup is the straightforward affair we’ve come to expect from Chromecast devices: load up the Google Home app, add the device and then follow the prompts – you don’t even need to enter your Wi-Fi password as it detects it automatically from your phone. Or you can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and simply stream music and podcasts to it directly.
The crisp colour touchscreen is perfect for showing track details, which might be useful if you’re listening to Spotify and wondering exactly who’s playing, but after a week of using the Citation 300 I started to wonder what the point of it really was. This is a speaker you’ll either be controlling by voice or through your phone, and I rarely looked at the display. In fact, I only touched the Citation 300 if I needed to tweak the volume, with two touch-sensitive controls just below the display. While you can use the screen to skip tracks, I tended to revert to my phone.
As this is a Chromecast device with a colour screen, Google Home offers the chance to view Netflix and YouTube through it. I can’t think of a single scenario where I’d choose to view either service on the 300, simply because the screen is so small and it’s perched on top of the speaker: not the most natural place to gaze.
There are four subtle coloured dots that appear on the front of the Citation, and these are arguably more useful than the screen: issue the command “Okay Google” and the dots come alive to show it’s detecting voices. I found it very effective at understanding my commands, too; I can’t think of any occasion where it misunderstood what I was saying.
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Harman Kardon Citation 300 review: Design
I also like the Citation’s design. Yes, it’s big compared to an Amazon Echo or the Google Home Mini, but the woven finish blends in well with both traditional homes and the type you see in Habitat brochures. Besides, you need the big chassis to contain the twin 20mm tweeters and 89mm woofers. It should be no surprise that the Citation 300 packs a powerful punch, easily enough to fill a modest living room.
Assessed as an out-and-out speaker, it has weaknesses. I’m currently testing a pair of Ruark MK2 MX1 Bluetooth speakers, and they’re far better at recreating a soundstage for classical music such as a violin sonata – unless you place your head directly in front of the Citation 300, the strings lose clarity and merge together. Perhaps that’s why Harman Kardon is so keen for people to buy two.
Switch to a more modern piece of music – I’m listening to Kiss by Prince as I type this – and the 300 regains its poise. Those 89mm woofers add plenty of bass but don’t drown out Prince’s distinctive vocals. It proved equally adept at handling the complex intro to Hazy Shade of Winter. In short, while audiophiles might pick at the quality on offer here, most people will be extremely happy with the audio the Citation 300 produces.
Harman Kardon Citation 300 review: Verdict
This is a stylish smart speaker and a match for Sonos when it comes to sound quality, meaning my only question mark is over its price: in particular, are you overpaying for the sake of a screen that will be rarely used? The Sonos One and Citation 100, both of which cost around half the price, offer better value – and, combined, deliver true stereo too.