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Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Review

The most inexpensive way to get a good speaker that you can move from room to room
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $450 List | $124 at Amazon
Pros:  Relatively inexpensive (street price), can be moved from room to room
Cons:  Sound not quite as high-caliber as other models
Manufacturer:   Harman Kardon
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Feb 20, 2018
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OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • Sound Quality - 40% 6
  • User Friendliness - 20% 5
  • Volume - 20% 5
  • Connectivity - 20% 6

Our Verdict

While it doesn't sound quite as good as the other speakers we tested, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is still able to belt out a decently melodious tune at a much lower price. It also offers a very cost effective solution to providing a multi-room speaker system: it can just be unplugged and toted around the room with you. Sure, you can't have music playing in multiple rooms at once, but if you just want good sound that can easily follow you from the kitchen, to the living room, to the bedroom, the Studio 4 can get you there for a budget price. That's something none of our other speakers can accomplish.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $450 List
$124.00 at Amazon
$500 List
$499.00 at Amazon
$400 List
$299.00 at Amazon
$399 List
$399 at Amazon
$259 List
$199.00 at Amazon
Star Rating
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Pros Relatively inexpensive (street price), can be moved from room to roomExcellent sound quality, great volume, easy multi-speaker management, AirPlay compatableExcellent Sound, Great volume, relatively compact, many connection optionsGreat sound quality, great volume, battery powered, easy to connect/control multiple speakersGreat sound quality, compact, loud, multiple connection options
Cons Sound not quite as high-caliber as other modelsExpensive, somewhat large, no BluetoothExpensive, multi-speaker management leaves a bit to be desiredExpensive, somewhat heavy to move around when used in battery modeSlightly pricier than some comparable models
Bottom Line The most inexpensive way to get a good speaker that you can move from room to roomProvides the best-sounding base for a multi-speaker systemThe best sounding speaker we've tested, but asks a high priceIf you’ve ever wanted to bring one of your Sonos speakers outside with you, this is what you’ve been waiting forImpressive bass and good overall sound in a compact and versatile package
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Rating Categories Harman Kardon Onyx... Sonos PLAY:5 Bose Home Speaker... Sonos Move Bose Home Speaker...
Sound Quality (40%)
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6
10
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9
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User Friendliness (20%)
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Volume (20%)
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Connectivity (20%)
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Specs Harman Kardon Onyx... Sonos PLAY:5 Bose Home Speaker... Sonos Move Bose Home Speaker...
Smart Home Compatability None Alexa, Google Home Alexa, Google Home Alexa, Google Home Alexa, Google Home
Bluetooth Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Inputs Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux, Charging port, Micro-USB WiFi, Ethernet, 3.5mm Aux, AirPlay Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay Bluetooth, WiFi, AirPlay Bluetooth, Micro-USB, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay
Dimensions 10.9" x 10.2" x 6.3" 14.3" x 8" x 6" 4.3" x 6.7" x 8" 9.4" x 4.9" x 6.2" 4" x 5.6" x 6.3"
Weight (lb) 4.55 14 1.8 6.61 2.09
Warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited 1 year limited

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 provides good performance in a battery powered package that can easily be moved around your home. If you're tired of wearing headphones while you cook and clean, this speaker is an inexpensive way to fill your home with sound.


Performance Comparison


The Studio 4 was the lowest scorer in our testing. However, its low price and functionality still make it a good deal.

We used a number of different tests to determine those scores. You can read about how the Studio 4 faired in all those tests below.

Sound Quality


The Studio 4 sounds good, but not quite as good as the models that don't bother with an internal battery and opt for staying tethered to a wall socket.


The Studio 4 lacks some depth and clarity when compared to its wired competition. This means the bass isn't quite as powerful and the music lacks some of that crystal definition that denotes truly high-quality sound. If you're looking for a refined listening experience, this isn't the speaker for you (if you're looking for such an experience in a smaller, less expensive speaker check out the Bose SoundTouch 10). If you're fine with a speaker that sounds pretty good instead of superb, you'll be more than satisfied with the Studio 4.

User Friendliness


The combination of a simple Bluetooth connection but lack of any special features earned the Studio 4 an average user friendliness score, that was at the back of the pack when compared to the other models we tested.


The Studio 4 uses a simple Bluetooth connection, which makes connecting pretty much any Bluetooth enabled devices quite easy. Its internal battery also lets you move the unit around without having to deal with power cables. It cannot be hooked up to a WiFi network, so you won't be able to stream music directly from the internet, you'll need a Bluetooth device as an intermediary. The HK Connect app will let you link multiple speakers together, but if you want to go that route both Sonos and Bose offer much better systems. The Studio 4 does not include a remote control.

The Studio 4 can easily be moved and used around the house  thanks to its internal battery.
The Studio 4 can easily be moved and used around the house, thanks to its internal battery.

Volume


The Studio 4's volume is quite impressive given the fact that you can easily carry it around, and it is even louder than some of the smaller speakers we tested that rely solely on a wall socket for power.


The Studio 4, like all of the speakers we tested, had no trouble filling our 600 square foot testing room with sound. However, it would struggle a bit more than the larger, wall socket powered speakers if you filled that room up with people. Still, we think it would be plenty loud enough for most parties, and with the battery can follow that party out to the porch to watch the sunset.

Connectivity


The Studio 4 offers a Bluetooth connection along with a 3.5mm audio jack. You can also link multiple speakers together with the HK Connect app, but the speaker isn't really optimized for being part of a multi-speaker system. This amounts to all of the connectivity most users need, but without any bells and whistles.


Value


Let's get one thing straight: the Studio 4 is not worth its $450 list price. However, that list price seems to be a bit of a gimmick, as most online retailers sell the speaker more in the neighborhood of $160. At that price the Studio 4, with its decent sound and ability to quickly be moved from room to room, becomes a great value. If you don't care about having a battery powered speaker you can get better sound quality from the likes of the Bose SoundTouch 10 for just a bit more.

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

Conclusion


The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is an interesting speaker that uses an internal battery to facilitate moving it from room to room. If you want what is effectively a multi-room speaker system at a low price this is a great way to go.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata