Harman / Kardon’s Bluetooth Over-The-Ear Headphones Are Beautiful, But Better Wired Than Wireless [Review]
Most Bluetooth headphones are ugly. Most Bluetooth headphones are junk. Most Bluetooth headphones make you long for a cord. They are distorted, bass heavy, low-quality piece of junk.
For the most part, not so Harman / Kardon’s over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones. These are Bluetooth headphones worthy in both sound quality and design of the iconic company that not only helped create Hi-Fi, but is, in many non-trivial ways, the Apple of sound.
When we say Harman / Kardon is the Apple of sound, we don’t mean that frivolously. It’s a connection Apple itself has recognized, choosing Harman / Kardon as a joint partner to design the Harman / Kardon iSub 2000 Subwoofer and SoundSticks, one of Apple’s few forays into external speakers. And Harman / Kardon’s high caliber of design has been seen in the wild since the fifties, and has kept the pace in the millenniums even as the competition has slacked.
Consequently, Harman / Kardon’s Bluetooth Over-The-Ear Headphones just look fantastic. Featuring a leather and sandblasted steel design, the cans themselves have an intriguing rectangular shape which not only make these headphones look distinctive, but in my mind a little easier to take on and off.
They are also extremely comfortable, but this needs to be taken with a grain of salt: headphones tend to be either ear-huggingly delightful or excruciating depending upon the vagaries of your phrenologic profile. For me, with a large head, these were some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever owned, and I was able to bliss out in a little bubble of sound for hours at a time while wearing them. They also come with a replacement head band so if you have a smaller head, like my girlfriend, they’re also a good fit. That’s the limit for customization, though: if you don’t have a skull that falls in the two headband profiles, you’re out of luck.
The headphones, which are rather large, come with a nice leather case that you probably won’t use much, but is a nice perk. As for how they sound, while they won’t transport you to audiophile nirvana, but they are nice, with a lovely range of crisp highs and respectable lows. And because of the enclosed mic, you can even use these as a VoIP headset.
There’s a catch, though. That’s using the snazzy passthrough cable, which lets you use Harman / Kardon’s headphones as a regular pair of wired cans. The Bluetooth story is a little worse.
It needs to be said that I’m not an audiophile, but to me, Harman / Kardon’s Bluetooth Over-The-Ear-Headphones are a degraded experience using Bluetooth.
It’s subtle, but comparing test music using Harman / Kardon’s headphones over the eponymous Bluetooth seems muted, as if there was, in between my computer or iPhone and the headphones themselves, some wet paper bag that had somehow interfered in transmission.
Again, the thing to mention here is that it’s subtle. The Bluetooth audio quality will, for most people, be acceptable, and the fact that the headphones are both over-the-ear (and therefore noise isolating), extremely comfortable and wireless without fuss goes a long way towards mitigating this problem. But if you’re an audiophile, the Bluetooth performance is probably going to be disappointing to you, and that’s a problem, because being wireless are these headphones’s bread and butter.
Harman / Kardon’s Bluetooth Over-The-Ear Headphones are beautifully designed and sound good, but sound better when you’re not using the one feature that truly sets them apart. That makes their $249 asking price a pickle when it comes to value: if you want the best sound, you’ll be using them wired, in which case Harman / Kardon sells a “Classic” model of the same cans (minus the microphone) for $50 less. That might be a bettr fit for some, but not us: for sitting at our computer desk during the day, we’d much prefer subtly, subtly degraded sound to constantly tripping over a wire and digging around at the back of our iMac for the headphone jack.