Review: Harman/Kardon Go + Play portable Bluetooth speaker
4.4Overall Score

Price (RRP): $449.95
Manufacturer: Harman Kardon

Almost ten years ago one of the most prestigious English high fidelity loudspeaker makers did the then unthinkable: it produced a compact, stylish, loudspeaker specifically designed for use with iPods, as evidenced by the built in iPod dock. Aside from anything else, it showed that the limitations to the sound quality from iPods were not so much the iPods, nor the music files they contained, but the speakers that had been used to play them.

Since then the hard disk descendent of the original iPod has disappeared and Bluetooth as taken over from the dock as the delivery mechanism. That original design has evolved, of course, and all manner of prestigious hifi brands have joined in.

Including Harman Kardon (generally styled by the company as Harman/Kardon). Establishing 64 years ago, the company has an astonishing record of firsts. These days its parent company, Harman International Industries, owns all manner of famous brands and has itself recently been acquired by Samsung.

It’s entry into the high quality Bluetooth speaker stakes is the Harman Kardon’s Go + Play portable Bluetooth speaker.

Features

This is a stylish and fairly large portable Bluetooth speaker. Portable because it has within in a 22.2Wh battery so it need not be tethered to a power point. Bluetooth because, well, it supports Bluetooth version 4.1.

As far as I can work out, the Bluetooth audio support is limited to the standard SBC audio codec, not the higher performance aptX or AAC ones (aptX is supported by many higher end Android phones and AAC by many iOS devices).* It also has a 3.5mm analogue input, so you can plug in any audio device which doesn’t happen to support Bluetooth (or just something that you want to connect temporarily without going to the trouble of pairing it).

By fairly large, I mean a decent 418mm wide, 212mm tall and 192mm deep, and it weighs something close to 3.5 kilograms. It looks a little like a flattened segment from the top of an egg, except that the very top has been replaced by a curved, brushed metal bar that acts as a carry handle. The main body is available in black or white.

Contained inside are two 90mm bass drivers and two 20mm tweeters. Each of the four drivers has its own individual 25 watt amplifier. That’s 25 watts when the power is plugged in. The output is apparently reduced when on battery to, of course, increase battery life. What it’s reduced to isn’t stated.

Which is rated at up to eight hours, with appropriate caveats about usage. Charge time is rated at three hours.

In addition to accepting music streaming, the unit can pair with a phone for hands free operation, with twin microphones and processing to eliminate background noise.

Harman Kardon says that signal to noise ratio is 80 decibels, A-weighted (ie. noise is effectively inaudible), while the frequency response runs from 50 hertz to 20,000 hertz at -6dB (that’s one of the output levels which are traditionally considered to define audibility).

Performance

The Bluetooth connection was extremely solid. I normally have a Bluetooth speaker paired with my Surface Pro 4, and for reasons which have always been unclear, the connection would last sometimes for a couple of days, or sometimes for a few hours, but always eventually fail. That is, the devices would remain paired, but would be disconnect. Depending on the device – or on the time of day or the whim of the gods – I’d have to do something like cycle through the inputs back to Bluetooth, or click connect again on the computer to re-establish the connection.

But not with this one. It remained connected. I took the Surface Pro 4 away for a week, came back and the connection was re-established automatically. Not once did it fall out.