Published on April 19th, 2014 | by Greg0
Harmon Kardon Nova: Wireless Speakers That Make You Go Ooh
Few audio products have had such a long lifespan as the classic SoundSticks. Every Apple fan has seen them- or had them- the transparent set of speakers that looked clear as glass but sounded pretty great. The model and style continues to be upgraded, but one of the only downsides to the 2.1 system was the fact that it had (an needed) an external subwoofer. Today, we’ve got a new twist on the formula, taking some of the design cues and adding plenty of bells, whistles, and offering better bass without the need for that sub.
The Harman Kardon Nova 2.0 Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Speaker System is a serious set of spheres. The clear plastic is still there, but highlighting a futuristic jet-engine turbine-like inner core. We liked the polished aluminum accent and clever touch-sensitive but tactile buttons, visible without standing out, a nice change from so many of the hidden buttons that have you playing “find the controls” or accidentally pressing the wrong ones. However, they still can be a bit sensitive. With Bluetooth support and NFC technology, you can tap your supported phone and instantly pair, or simply use any smartphone or device with Bluetooth to stream wirelessly. Everything, from the packaging to the globes themselves, screams sleek.
These do take up a lot more space on your desk than the SoundSticks, and they aren’t really portable though. They’re perfect conversation pieces, though, with far more presence than many 2.0 systems, suitable for bookshelf use, sitting on a bedroom table, or even using as part of your home entertainment system (mostly for music rather than cinema). There is a cute rubber stand of sorts, and the tilt of the speakers makes them easy to place. Analog 3.5 mm inputs are provided, but more unusual is the optical input, a nice bonus that we put to good use. At 40 watts of power, this isn’t a party box, but can belt out some tunes thanks to dual drivers, a 2.5-inch midrange cone and a 1.25-inch tweeter. Lest you think the package is somehow magically completely wireless, as with every system we’ve seen or tried you will need to string a wire between the speakers themselves, as well as supply them with power via the included cable.
Beyond the cool form factor and stylish design, the audio performance is great, but not quite as impressive as we wanted to hear for the price. They are quite good for their size, though, and offer a pretty solid amount of bass considering the passive radiators and materials (wood tends to add resonance, as you might expect, these sound a little less analog and more synthetic, better for modern than classical music in general). We never were transported with these, though they performed more than admirably on any rock or pop track we tried, and even the pretty tough new Highasakite song Soldiers sounded big, brash, and bold with clear vocals and a nice mid. Compared to other recent options, like the Luna Eclipse, they feel slightly classier and more compact but at a higher price and with a bit less richness to the sound. Of course, the Focal XS Wireless set is even pricier still, and we did like the white and black options that the Harmon Kardon Nova 2.0 brought to the table. Available now online and in stores for around $300, and perfect for anyone with a taste for modern looks.