Harman kardon Stories January 14, 2015

Review: Harman Kardon’s Soho Wireless is a luxury alternative to Beats’ Solo 2 on-ear headphones

I wasn’t a fan of Harman Kardon’s Soho headphones when they debuted a year ago, but the reason was unusual: they were seriously uncomfortable. Soho was a much smaller, wired version of Harman’s gigantic Bluetooth wireless headphone BT, notably using relatively tiny 30mm speakers instead of the 40mm drivers found in BT and many rivals, including Beats’ Solo 2 and Solo 2 Wireless. Something was off during Solo’s design or manufacturing process, because its steel headband felt like a vise on my head, an issue I hadn’t previously encountered while testing hundreds of other headphones.

Believe it or not, I’m glad that Harman didn’t give up on Soho, because the latest version Soho Wireless ($250) actually fixes most of its predecessor’s flaws. It’s a sharp-looking headset, and though it continues to use anemic 30mm audio drivers, Soho Wireless is markedly smaller and more comfortable than before. As the name suggests, it’s now capable of operating in a fully wireless mode using Bluetooth 3.0, with a usable range well in excess of the standard’s 33-foot minimum. And Harman has upgraded the design and materials a little, apart from including a simpler soft carrying case rather than a larger, heavier box.

The two biggest changes in Soho Wireless’s design are tweaks to the headband and the on-ear drivers. Although the new headband could still benefit from padding under its leather wrapping, Harman has thankfully revised the shape to feel natural rather than vise-like on your head–a critical improvement that makes Soho Wireless actually wearable.

The speakers are now behind cushioned leather rather than fabric, which lets this version of Soho surpass the luxury of Bowers & Wilkins’ P3 rather than just matching it. If anything, Soho Wireless is gentle on the ears even after you properly adjust the pull-down arms, which permits a little ambient noise to leak in—you don’t get the ear seal of Beats’ Solo 2, but there isn’t obvious audio leaking out at regular volumes, either.

Harman has also made a couple of changes to Soho’s cabling and controls. On Soho Wireless, the included 3.5mm audio cable is purely optional—slim, fabric-jacketed, and lacking an in-line remote control. The only integrated button is found underneath the right earcup, doubling as a power and Bluetooth pairing control. A similarly-sized box with a USB icon hides a micro-USB port, connectable to an included fabric USB cable to recharge Soho Wireless’s 400mAh battery, for which Harman’s web site, packaging, and manual oddly provide no estimate of run time. When asked, a Harman representative noted that Soho Wireless offers 9 hours of playback after 2 hours of recharging, which isn’t bad at all, but falls a bit short of the 12 hours promised by Beats’ Solo 2 Wireless.

Track controls are hidden on the outside of the right earcup. To change, pause, or play tracks, you now tap or swipe your finger against the flat leather surface using gestures helpfully indicated inside Soho Wireless’s box. When the gestures work, they work, but all it takes is a slight miss of the hidden touch surface and you’ll find yourself re-tapping or re-swiping. Once again, this feature is better than having no integrated controls, but less than ideal.

Sonically, Soho Wireless is a middle-of-the-road performer for its price. As the 30mm drivers inside are atypically small, there are points during listening when they seem to be straining to reproduce the frequency range–notably the bass–of larger headphones such as Solo 2. Head to head, they’re pretty close to Solo 2, roughly mimicking the Beats model’s so-so highs, fine midrange and good mid-bass, but the lowest notes aren’t as punchy or obvious.

We preferred Soho Wireless’s sound in wired mode, as a hint of buzz can be heard in the headphones when they’re operating wirelessly, but the difference isn’t profound. Additionally, a microphone is hidden underneath the right earcup, delivering only OK sound quality relative to the iPhones’ built-in mic system when you need to make phone calls.

The key thing that will make Soho Wireless a viable alternative to somewhat comparable alternatives from Beats, Bowers & Wilkins and others is the aesthetic it delivers for $250. Harman’s choice of chrome and leather is luxurious and mature, giving users the choice between Beats’ more expensive, all-plastic design or something that looks and feels executive-class at a lower price. On the other hand, you’ll compromise somewhat on audio quality, which may or may not be important to you. Soho Wireless is a big step in the right direction for Harman, but definitely not the last stage in the evolution of its wireless headphones.

Read more of my reviews here, as well as our premium headphone guide, and some of my personal top headphone picks.

Harman kardon Stories January 5, 2015

9to5Toys Last Call: OtterBox iPhone 6/Plus cases $22+, MEElectronics headphones $11+, VIZIO 4K 55″ $1000, more

Keep up with the best gear and deals on the web by signing up for the brand new 9to5Toys Newsletter. Also, be sure to check us out on: TwitterRSS FeedFacebookGoogle+ and Safari push notifications.

Today’s can’t miss deals:

Last Call Updates:

OtterBox iPhone 6/Plus cases in multiple styles and colors from $22 Prime shipped

Amazon Gold Boxup to 67% off select MEElectronics fitness and fashion headphones

VIZIO Smart 240Hz LED HDTVs: 55-inch 4K UHDTV $1,000 (Reg. $1,400), 50-inch $500 (Reg. $700)

Review: SmartThings offers an open and flexible home automation experience with a few caveats

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Harman kardon Stories December 6, 2014

not me

I reviewed two portable Bluetooth speakerphone options earlier this year: The Philips WeCall ($145) vs. Logitech P710e ($125) . Both are square and have internal batteries and make conference calling easy. But for their ~$150 price tag, I wondered if you could get more portability and style without sacrificing sound quality.

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini Black (3D View) 02

The answer to those questions is the Harman Kardon Esquire line of portable speakerphones. Below, I take a look at the Esquire Mini which retails for $149.99 and can be found as low as $145 at Amazon or $135 at World Wide Stereoexpand full story

Harman kardon Stories November 13, 2014

9to5Toys Lunch Break: Canon laser printer $100, PNY 256GB flash drive $70, Harman NI in-ear headphones $19, more

Be sure to follow 9to5Toys to keep up with the best gear and deals on the web: TwitterRSS FeedFacebookGoogle+ and Safari push notifications.

Today’s can’t miss deals:

Canon Laser imageCLASS AiO wireless monochrome printer $100 shipped (orig. $495) at Amazon

PNY Turbo 256GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive $70 shipped (orig. $130) at MacMall

Harman Kardon NI in-ear headphones: $19 AC shipped (Reg. $100)

Small States – DODOcase uses old world craftsmanship to protect your modern devices, giveaways & 20% off promo code

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Black Friday:

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Harman kardon Stories October 15, 2014

9to5Toys Last Call: Seagate 3TB Desktop HDD $90, Beats gear (refurb) up to 75% off, Epson printer w/ AirPrint from $35, more

Be sure to follow 9to5Toys to keep up with the best gear and deals on the web: TwitterRSS FeedFacebookGoogle+ and Safari push notifications.

Today’s can’t miss deals:

Last Call Updates:

Seagate Backup Plus 3TB USB 3.0 Desktop External Hard Drive $90 shipped (orig. $140)

Beats by Dre Headphone Recert Blowout, up to 75% off: Solos: $79, Mixr Pro DJ/Studio $109, Wireless $129 and Pros $159, Pill Speakers $140

Epson XP-410 Small-in-One printer w/ AirPrint $35 shipped w/ .edu ($60 w/o)

PSA: you may be overpaying for bundled iOS apps/games

Google Chromecast $28 Prime shipped or less from Staples stores (Reg. $35) + free Hulu Plus/Google Play offers

Small States: Waterfield Designs has the perfect bag for all of your gadgets, giveaway worth $329

Other new deals:

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iPhone 6/Plus deals, accessories, and more:

Harman kardon Stories November 20, 2013

9to5Toys Last Call: SLXtreme iPhone case giveaway, Belkin Thunderstorm iPad theater $130+, Logitech Bluetooth headset $21, more

Be sure to follow 9to5Toys to keep up with the best gear and deals on the web: Twitter, RSS Feed, Facebook, Google+

Today’s can’t miss deals:

Giveaway: SnowLizard SLXtreme iPhone 4/4s solar powered, waterproof case ($130 value)

Belkin Thunderstorm iPad home theater speaker case 30-pin $130, Lightning $150 (Reg. $200)

Logitech Bluetooth over-ear headphones+noise cancelling mic: $21

Game/App Deals: Angry Birds SW (Mac) $2, Deus Ex Human Revolution (Mac) 75% off, iOS freebiesmore

Stack Social is offering up a very solid Black Friday Bundle this week.  11 great apps for $49.99, chance to win an iPad, and no lines to wait in. Get in there now.

Other great deals from today:

The best deals that are still alive:

Black Friday:

New product announcements & reviews:

  • PlayStation 4 launches tonight at midnight, reviews from around the web
  • The best gets better: reVOLT 12W + 12W Dual USB Car Charger for iPod, iPhone and iPad $30 shipped

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