HARMAN/KARDON AURA STUDIO 3

Design & Construction

Harman/Kardon seems to be ready to take the Bluetooth home speaker market by storm. This year, they updated the iconic Aura Studio 3 with a similar design aesthetic and a refreshed design language. This time, we have a full acrylic top without the pipe in the centre column. In a fully dark room, it provides a diffused type of ambience light that is really soothing to watch. The entire bottom is wrapped with a full fabric which gives off a classy look. However, it is not dustproof or waterproof. In all, it weighs a hefty 3.6kg, much more than the Aura Studio 2. The dark grey transparent glass on the outside do help keep fingerprints to the minimum, although fingerprints marks will still exist. Between the intersection where the acrylic and fabric covers is where you will find all your controls. Looking straight on we first find our lighting on/off button. Towards the sides, you will see the volume buttons. The Bluetooth pairing button is located on the rear left and the power button towards the rear right. Did you notice something is missing? Yes, that’s right. Oddly enough the speaker does not have a play/pause or multi-function button to skip songs which seems to me as a blatant mistake on Harman/Kardon’s part. They had the left and right sides of the speaker totally free of buttons which seems to be a good spot to include both those buttons. Anyways, moving on a single press on the power button will turn on/off the speaker, a single press on the Bluetooth button will enable pairing to a new device and a single press on the lighting button will turn on/off the lighting. There is no way to control how and when the speaker will light up. It is a fixed setting that seems to be somewhat reading what the speaker plays. The louder the volume, the more frequent and brighter the light will appear. Next, there is another mistake of this speaker which is a lack of an app to control the lighting and potentially the various settings of the speaker as well as the sound signature. There is also no way to stereo pair another Aura Studio 3 or Onyx Studio 6. A big disappointment especially since we know that now JBL is under the Harman umbrella, they could have learnt a thing or two from their much more successful counterparts and boost their name. At the rear of the speaker, you will find the port for plug-in power and a 3.5mm audio -in port which is the one right thing that Harman/Kardon did right.


Sound Quality

Moving on to sound quality, the Aura Studio 3 features a 360 degree speaker set-up in which six 40mm transducers directs the mid-range outwards while a 130mm bass driver directs bass against the table. It delivers up to 100W of powerful bass sound and 2 x 15W of mid-range to nicely fill up a medium-sized room at a mere 30% volume. Having a frequency range between 45-20KHz, the bass response is deep, tight and punchy. It never manages to distort or bleed into the mids even if you turn up volume. It hits deep but feels tamed in certain songs where the bass is not as strong. The highs sound a little shallow and some details were missing from the songs I tested it with. The mids, on the other hand, are very crisp and filled with clarity. The instrument separation and soundstage are decent but definitely nowhere near the best I have heard from speakers of this size. However, since there is no app support, there is no equaliser to change the sound signature of the speaker for different genres. Going third-party or simply using your phone's equaliser does alter the sound signature to your preferences if there is a need. Overall, I felt that the sound signature was the best and cleanest in its default setting out of the box without the need to even alter it with any equaliser settings. The sound signature can be best described as being neutral with a slight emphasis to the bass. From my experience, I noticed that you could get a very different sound experience just based off the distance you are to the speaker. If you have the speaker pretty close to you, say on a desk in front of you, you will hear much more mids and highs and feel that there is somehow a lack of bass. Now, if you move further, say a metre away, you start to hear the depth and thump of the bass response and the mids and highs suddenly loses that emphasis. If you are looking to use the Aura Studio 3 as a speakerphone, it does not support it as well. It also does not have Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa integration for your smart home needs. Now as always, let’s jump into a sound quality test to listen to how it sounds. Please use headphones or in-ear headphones to hear a difference.

Connectivity & Portability

In terms of connectivity, Bluetooth 4.2 is offered, still not Bluetooth 5.0 unfortunately in 2020. Harman/Kardon did not disclose the audio codecs used in the speaker, so I cannot confirm which codecs are included. A 3.5mm audio-in port is available for wired use and the speaker will automatically switch input settings when a 3.5mm cable is connected.

Next Generation Wishlist

In the next generation, I hope to see Harman/Kardon include these features to continue to stay relevant to today’s market demand. First, the inclusion of the basic play/pause and skip tracks buttons to control the music on the speaker itself. Second, the inclusion of a speakerphone function. Third, app support for lighting controls, equaliser settings and smart assistant integration with Wi-Fi built in to become a smart speaker.

PROS

  • Clean Sound Signature

  • Iconic Design

  • Ambience Lights

  • 3.5mm audio input

CONS

  • No Equaliser Sound Customisation

  • No Speakerphone Function

  • No Bluetooth 5,0 Support

  • Not Dust or Water Resistant

  • No App Support

  • No Wi-Fi Smart Home Integration

 

The Bottom Line

All in all, the Harman/Kardon Aura Studio 3 is a still that iconic home speaker that stands out with its excellent design and instantly elevates the interior of your home. It will definitely help boost your home’s ambience if you are looking to get a subtle audio-visual immersive listening experience. On the design end, it stands as one of the top choices to choose from but from a technology standpoint, it has a lot of catching-up to do to stay relevant in the years to come. With a clean 360 sound signature, diffused ambient lights as well as easy to use controls. it is worth the buy if the speaker goes on sale.

WE RATE IT!

8.5/10

Other Notable Competitors

BEOPLAY M5
BOSE HOME SPEAKER 500
SONOS PLAY FIVE
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