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Harman Kardon Onyx review

Richard Easton
16 Nov 2014
Harman Kardon Onyx front
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
350
inc VAT

The Onyx looks fantastic, has great sound quality and works over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi

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Specifications

Speakers: 2, RMS power output: 15W, Dock connector: None, Wireless: Bluetooth (SBC, aptX), Wi-Fi (AirPlay, DLNA), Dimensions: 222x345x325mm, Weight: 2.7kg

The Harman Kardon Onyx looks futuristic and space-age thanks to the stainless steel ring that serves as both a convenient carrying handle and a stand. Indeed, we think the ring makes the Onyx look like the planet Saturn. The other materials used to construct the Onyx are also equally luxurious, with real leather enveloping the back and a cloth grill that dominates the front. However, Harman Kardon’s used a rubberised material around the circumference of the speaker, and we found this material picked up a lot of dust and dirt.

There are a number of touch sensitive, illuminated controls on the top of the speaker, and these are used for switching between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes, adjusting the volume and for turning the speakers on and off. The volume controls have five illuminating markings that show both volume levels as well as the status of the speaker's built-in battery. It's possible to slide your finger across the volume markers to adjust the volume, but this proved a little inaccurate. It's easier to use the volume up and down buttons.

On the back of the speakers you'll find a 3.5mm jack for the auxiliary input. There's also a USB port that can be used to charge your devices, which is always useful. We managed just less than five hours of battery life off a single charge. While the speaker is too big to be comfortably taken on the move, having a built-in battery is useful if you find yourself wanting to carry the speaker around the house for short uses. We could easily carry the speaker into the kitchen or out into the garden for some entertainment without having to worry about carrying the AC power adaptor with us.

Putting the speaker into pairing mode simply requires you to hold the Bluetooth button. Alternatively, you could use the NFC contact point on the back for quick-pairing. The Onyx uses can use the higher quality aptX codec for better Bluetooth sound quality if you use a compatible device, which is great.

Connecting to your Wi-Fi network is a bit more involved, but still straightforward. The easiest solution would be to use the WPS pairing button if your router supports WPS, otherwise you'll must connect directly to the speaker’s Wi-Fi connection and then use a web browser to input the Wi-Fi settings of the network you want to join. We had no trouble connecting the Onyx to our network. If you're using an iOS device, it's also possible to share your Wi-Fi details over Bluetooth or USB to the speaker, which is a neat touch.

Once you’ve connected the Onyx to your Wi-Fi network you can then use Apple’s AirPlay to send music to the speaker from Apple devices on the network, such as an iPad or a PC running iTunes. You can also use the Harman Kardon Remote app, which is available for iOS and Android, to play music from your device over Wi-Fi. The app also lets you access any music stored on networked DLNA servers.

The Onyx uses two 3in woofer drivers, two 3/4in tweeters and two passive bass radiators on the back, all of which output the kind of excellent sound you’d associate with Harman Kardon. Detail was rich and crisp, with pretty clear lower frequency sounds, although the Onyx’s sound quality is slightly warm. Vocals had excellent clarity and it was easy to pick out individual instruments in our favourite test tracks. Stereo separation wasn't great due to the close proximity of the speakers but the Onyx was able to fill a room with sound easily. There's a definite sweet spot in terms of sound directly in front of the speaker, however.

Thanks to its built-in battery, the Harman Kardon Onyx is a great, versatile speaker to use around the home. The Onyx produces great sound quality for a speaker of its size and we love its eye-catching design. Its wireless music capabilities are nowhere near as wide-ranging as rival speakers from Pure, Samsung or Sonos, but it excels in its simplicity and was easy to set up.

The Philips Fidelio E2 is similar in that it’s a wireless speaker that lacks any extras such as multiroom support. It’s also worth considering as it provides marginally better sound quality. This is due in part to its two separate speakers that produce a more defined stereo separation. However, if you're looking for an attractive single unit there's much to be said for the Onyx.

Hardware
Speakers2
RMS power output15W
Audio inputs3.5mm stereo
Audio outputsNone
Dock connectorNone
WirelessBluetooth (SBC, aptX), Wi-Fi (AirPlay, DLNA)
NFCYes
App supportiOS, Android
Battery capacity2,500mAh
Dimensions222x345x325mm
Weight2.7kg
Buying information
Price including VAT£350
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Supplierwww.weybridge-audio.co.uk
Detailswww.harmankardon.com
Part codeHKONYXWHTEU