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Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Review

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
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Price:   $450 List | $114 at Amazon
Pros:  Great Sound quality, impressive volume
Cons:  Very large and heavy, poor battery life
Manufacturer:   Harman Kardon
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Feb 18, 2018
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#18 of 21
  • Sound Quality - 40% 8
  • Portability - 25% 2
  • Volume - 20% 9
  • Battery Life - 15% 5

Our Verdict

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 provides much more volume than most other portable Bluetooth speakers, but does so at the expense of portability. Weighing in at 4.5 pounds and taking up about the same amount of space as a basketball, this speaker certainly isn't going to accompany you on very many adventures. What it can do is easily follow you to every room in your house and into your backyard, providing loud and high-quality music as you go. If you're not too worried about volume and just want a portable speaker for your home that sounds great, the Bose SoundLink Revolve sounds a bit better and doesn't cost much more.


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Price $450 List
$114.00 at Amazon
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Pros Great Sound quality, impressive volumeExcellent sound quality, very loud, long battery lifeExcellent sound quality, water resistant, great battery lifeGood overall sound, great volume, great battery life, waterproofGood sound quality, waterproof, long battery life
Cons Very large and heavy, poor battery lifeExpensive, relatively large and heavyExpensive, relatively heavyNot the strongest bass, a bit priceyNot the best sounding nor most portable
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 travelingTop notch sound quality and volume in a somewhat heavy packageThe best portable speaker for audiophilesA good mix of sound qaultiy/volume and durabilityA great balance of sound quality, portability, and price
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Rating Categories Harman Kardon Onyx... Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Sound Quality (40%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
7
Portability (25%)
10
0
2
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Volume (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Battery Life (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Specs Harman Kardon Onyx... Bose Soundlink... Bose SoundLink... UE Boom 3 JBL Flip 5
Dimensions (in x in x in) 10.9" x 10.2" x 6.3" 4.1" x 4.1" x 7.3" 5.97" x 3.24" x 3.24" 2.9" x 2.9" x 7.25" 3.64" x 3.6" x 8.5"
Inputs Charging port, Micro-USB, 3.5mm auxillary input Charging port, Micro-USB, 3.5mm auxillary input 3.5 mm auxiliary input, Micro USB port Micro USB port none
Reported Weight 73 oz 34 oz 24 oz 24 oz 19.04 oz
Measured Weight 72 oz 34 oz 24 oz 22 oz 19 oz
Wireless Range (feet) Not Listed 30 feet 30 feet 150 feet Not Listed
Reported Battery Life (hours) 8 16 12 15 12
Measured Battery Life (hours) 10.5 24 18 24 27
Warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited 2 year limited 1 year limited
Receive Phone Calls Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 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 4 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 4 performed in all of our individual testing metrics.

Sound Quality


The Onyx Studio 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 Studio 4 has a carrying handle  which is convenient for moving it around the house  but you probably won't want to carry it much further than that.
The Studio 4 has a carrying handle, which is convenient for moving it around the house, but you probably won't want to carry it much further than that.

Volume


The Onyx Studio 4 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 4 lasted 10.5 hours in our battery life testing, well longer than the manufacturer's claim of 8 hours, earning it an average score of 5 out of 10. Considering this is a speaker that one would most likely use in or around their home, that feels like more than enough battery life. It is also, conveniently, a good bit longer than the average backyard barbeque.


Value


There is a huge discrepancy in the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4'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 4. Additionally, if you're looking for a portable speaker than the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 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 4 is a decent value.

The Studio 4 and its charging cable.
The Studio 4 and its charging cable.

Conclusion


The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 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 4 performs quite well.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata