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Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 Review

Price:   $450 List | $151.68 at Amazon
Pros:  Great Sound quality, impressive volume
Cons:  Very large and heavy, poor battery life
Bottom line:  A good choice if what you really want is a slightly more portable home stereo that is very loud, but definitely not a speaker for traveling
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Harman Kardon

Our Verdict

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 has good sound quality and plenty of volume, but it is so large it really stretches the definition of the word 'portable'. It's great if you want something that you can easily move around your house and is loud enough for a big party in the backyard. However, you probably won't want to carry this 4.5 pound speaker with you to the beach or campsite. Plus, its battery only lasted 4.5 hours in our testing, meaning it's not suitable for long forays away from an outlet. The Bose SoundLink Revolve costs nearly the same (street price) and outperforms the Onyx Studio 3 in every aspect except for maximum volume, so it would work better for most applications. However, the Onyx Studio 3 would definitely be our top choice if you need something really loud that still sounds great.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Wednesday
April 5, 2017

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The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 just barely fits into the portable Bluetooth speaker category. Compared to other Bluetooth speakers it is so large that it is more suited to moving around the house rather than taking with you wherever you go.

Performance Comparison


The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 performed well in some of our tests, but particularly poorly in our portability metric, resulting in a mediocre overall score (as you can see in the table above).

In the following sections we describe how the Onyx Studio 3 performed in all of our individual testing metrics.

Sound Quality


The Onyx Studio 3 earned a high score of 8 in our sound quality testing. With its large size it was able to produce, deep, resonant bass, which wasn't quite as deep but was much clearer than the bass of the JBL Charge 3. It combines this bass with crisp treble and a large dynamic range to create a full sound with a good amount of depth. Occasionally the Onyx Studio 3 would lose some clarity when playing high pitched notes, something at which the Bose SoundLink Revolve was more adept.

If a speaker is large enough to cover your entire face  we think calling it portable might be a bit of a stretch.
If a speaker is large enough to cover your entire face, we think calling it portable might be a bit of a stretch.

Portability


The Onyx Studio 3 was the worst scorer in our portability testing. It earned a 2 out of 10, far off from the top score of 10. At 4.5 pounds the Onyx Studio 3 is almost three times heavier than the next heaviest speaker in our review. It is also quite large (it is essentially a flying saucer with an 11 inch diameter) and either won't fit in or will hog all the space in any backpack or bag. We'd be hard pressed to think of a time we would bring this speaker further afield than the backyard patio. It might make it on a car camping trip, but with just 4.5 hours of battery life it won't make it through very many campfires.

The Onyx Studio 3 does have a nice built-in handle  but it doesn't quite make up for its size and weight.
The Onyx Studio 3 does have a nice built-in handle, but it doesn't quite make up for its size and weight.

Volume


The Onyx Studio 3 was one of the loudest speakers in our testing, sharing the top score of 9 out of 10 with the JBL Charge 3, putting it well ahead of the low score of 4. It is able to retain sound quality at high volumes, and would be able to fill most of an average sized house with sound. This is definitely the speaker we'd choose if we wanted to throw a big party. However, that party would have to be at our house, because we wouldn't want to have to lug the speaker around.

Battery Life


The Onyx Studio 3 was the worst scorer in our battery life testing, earning a score of 3 out of 10. It 3 lasted 4.5 hours on a single charge in our testing lab. To be fair this is right in line with the manufacturer's claim of a 5 hour battery life. Plus, the Onyx Studio 3 is clearly designed to be a semi-portable speaker that would be moved around the house and backyard, and thus never be far from an outlet. However, rules are rules, so we had to give it a low score.


Value


There is a huge discrepancy in the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3's list price and what, at the time of this writing, it is actually selling for at online retailer sites. The list price is a whopping $450, but we often see it selling for just a third of that price. At $450 it is a terrible value as you could get much more capable home stereo systems for a similar cost that are only moderately less portable than the Onyx Studio 3. Additionally, if you're looking for a portable speaker than the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 is a poor value at any price as it most likely won't match up with your expectations. However, if you want a speaker that you can move around the house and can get really loud when you want to, and you find it on sale, the Onyx Studio 3 is a decent value.


Conclusion


The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 3 is portable only in the sense that it has a battery and can operate without a cord, but is most likely much larger than you'd like if you're looking for a portable speaker. If you just want a semi portable speaker for around the house, then the Onyx Studio 3 performs quite well.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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