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Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless review

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod, iPod Accessories, iPod Docks and Speakers, iPod touch, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews, Speakers and Headphones

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Provides: 2.1 stereo wired and wireless audio reproduction
Developer: Harman/Kardon
Minimum Requirements: Audio device with 1/8″ stereo or Bluetooth output
Price: $229.00
Availability: Now

The first time I reviewed a set of Harman/Kardon speakers, it was the original SoundSticks USB Speaker System back in August of 2000. As a testament to their quality and durability, those speakers are still in use, hooked up to my mom’s Mac mini. She may not fully appreciate the sound and design, but it says something that after all the computer speaker systems I’ve reviewed in the past 12 years, I’ve found no reason to switch her over to anything else.

Unfortunately for my mom, she won’t be getting the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless anytime soon; I’ll be holding onto these for quite some time.

Those who have owned or even seen the SoundSticks before will notice that little has changed. The satellites are still two clear, rounded tubes with four speakers in each, and the subwoofer is still a clear jellyfish-like contraption that’s too cool looking to be dumped on the floor under your desk. You’d think the clear design would be outdated at this point (it made sense sitting next to the old CRT iMacs), but I’m really having a hard time picturing the SoundSticks any other way.

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless

The two 10W satellite speakers sit above a heavy, black ring that can be placed directly underneath for straight display or flipped behind so you can angle the speakers back (a more logical choice). Each “stick” stands a little over 10″ high and contains four 1″ transducers that kick out sound as clear as the speaker cabinets themselves. The right speaker also contains touch sensitives buttons for adjusting the volumes.

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless

If I had to make a complaint, it would be that these provide no feedback as to the volume level. There’s also no headphone output, so you’ll need to unplug them from your computer in order to switch to headphones.

The 20W subwoofer also measures just over 10″ high and is just over 9″ in diameter. It has a separate volume knob for bass adjustment, which is powered by a 6″ downfiring transducer. No matter at what level I set the subwoofer (or the speakers), there was no rattling, no audio hiss…nothing but clear, clean, Harman/Kardon sound. The satellites could be tweaked for better support for high range reproduction, so music playback isn’t perfect (I especially noticed this when playing classical music), but the SoundSticks are all over movies and games.

Of course, there’s the wireless to consider, as well. Pairing the SoundSticks is a simple matter of telling your Bluetooth enabled to device to find them, as they automatically enter pairing mode when on. When the connection is made, a blue LED on the subwoofer will light up, and you’re all set (another reason to keep the subwoofer up on your desk). I found the Bluetooth audio to be nearly indistinguishable from that coming directly through the Mac; no pauses, pops or delays. And although you likely won’t need much range for a desktop computer speaker system, you should also have no trouble moving your Bluetooth audio source around the house.

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless

At $230, you’re paying a premium for the wireless capabilities; you can get the same design and audio quality without wireless in the $170 SoundSticks III. I’d be tempted to just point you in that direction, but considering so many devices are Bluetooth ready these days, do you want to cut them off from such a great sound system? Perhaps, if your speakers are relegated to a room you rarely use. But if that room is also used for viewing movies or playing games on your iPad, for entertaining groups with your iPod touch’s playlists, or for whatever uses you find for Bluetooth audio, the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless will give you clean, room-filling sound with the right technology to keep them in use for the next dozen years.

Appletell Rating:
Harman Kardon Soundsticks Wireless review

Buy the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks Wireless Speaker System

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  • Sameer

    Hi, I wanted to buy these but have a Question I cannot find the answer to. Hope you can help.

    Harman Kardon claims to use TrueStream technology to stream sound over bluetooth.
    Bluetooth in general transmits audio over A2DP, which uses a substandard compression technology. MP3 files in particular can suffer because of this because they are decompressed from a lossy MP3 format and then compressed again for Bluetooth A2DP.
    In what way does HArmans’ TrueStream technology overcome this.
    There are other technologies like Aptx which use a different compression algorithm other than A2DP but the streaming device needs to be APTX complaint for that. Harman does not have any such hardware of software requirement. Then how do they guarantee high quality bluetooth streaming. I cannot find any technical documentation for TrueStream either. I am worried if this is just a marketing gimmick. Please share your experience in case u tried playing mp3 audio(192-320 Kbps) over TrueStream.

    • Oliver

      I have a problem playing streaming from an iPad mini to the Harman Kardon wireless soundstick. The initial pairing is ok but just playing three to four tracks, the streaming stop and have to switch off the woofer and on to continue playing which is cumbersome. Streaming other music players like blackberry phone is fine,the problem is iPad . Kindly share your experience

  • Nirvas

    Having bought it yesterday, why the sound sometimes switch off by my iphone still playing.
    So I have changed into fresh one at shop, however the problem is still exist. Please help me to fix it.

  • Joon Choi

    I get exactly the same experience. Form my iPhone, it plays ok for a few songs and then the sound from Harmon stops. When I check my iPhone, it says it’s still playing through Harmon, but I cannot hear anything. I have to disconnect my bluethooth from my iPhone or switch off and on my Harmon.. Then it happens again after a few songs. This has been happening for a while at least a few months.

  • Anders

    My Harman/Kardon is not working anymore.. I listened to some music in relatively low volume, and then the volume went 95 % down… I can slightly hear the bass now if I turn it all the way up.. I went to the shop where it was bought, and when they tried it, it worked! When I got home, it worked for a little while, but after a couple of days, the volume went down again.. PLEASE HELP,

    It would be highly appreciated!
    Thanks in advance!

  • Aaron

    Hi,
    Like others on here I have purchased the Harman Kardon Soundsticks iii Wireless and am having the issue of it stopping playing via the speakers and yet my iPhone says it is still connected and playing. Have any of you had any luck to finding a solution to this?

    Also, I noticed Sameer you said you could connect your iPad Mini, I have an iPad 2 and have no luck at all even finding the speakers……I do not have a Mac but I have tried connecting my Windows 7 Professional laptop via bluetooth with no success, has anyone else had any luck doing this or even tried?

    I have a support call in with the Australian distributor and am waiting for them to call me back, if I get any news on a solution I will let you know :)

    P.S. I am just updating my iPad 2 to iOS 7, hoping that it may make a difference and get it connecting to the speakers….if that has a positive effect I will let you know also.

    Thanks in Advance for any thoughts.

    AP

  • danny

    I got the same problem with my iphone 5S and ipad air..both running in IOS7.04…how can i solve it?