The Harman Kardon Go + Play Wireless Is A Great Sounding Boombox That Is Hard To Recommend [Review]

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Go + Play Wireless by Harman Kardon
Category: Bluetooth Speakers
Works With: Any iOS Device, Bluetooth
Price: $399.95

These days, small, pocketable Bluetooth speakers are de rigeur, but what about the veritable boombox of 80’s yore? What for the man for whom Beats are not enough, but must march across the subway platform with as big a driver as possible pulsating against is ear?

Harman Kardon’s Go + Play Wireless is for the person who wants more oomph than a Jambox, and doesn’t care if it takes up more space as a consequence. It’s for the guy who loves the boombox aesthetic, and thinks all of these pocketable speakers are losing the plot. It’s a beautiful Bluetooth boombox that looks just as good in the living room as it does blasting tunes while camping or at the beach, but a few strange design decisions might make it a tough sell to some, especially at the price.

The Good

I’ve never reviewed a Harman Kardon product that let me down when it came to either sound or looks, and the Go + Play Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is no exception.

Sonically, there’s a lot to recommend the Go + Play. For one, it’s going to outjam any Jambox you care to throw against it in a head-to-head. It packs four drivers — two large Ridge drivers with front and rear vents paired with two smaller aluminum-domed Atlas tweeters — and then juices them up with 90 watts of amplification. The result is that this is a loud, bassy beast of a system. It sounds pretty great, especially for bassier music, and can not only fill small and large rooms with some great sounding tunes, but is also a perfect system to bring to an outdoor party or picnic. We’re especially impressed by the lack of distortion: you can really crank the Go + Play up without a lot of distortion.

Designwise, the Harman Kardon Go + Play looks as great as you’d expect. If Jony Ive designed a boombox, it might well look like this. Sleek and stealth like a Mac Pro, the Go + Play features a polished aluminum handle to haul it around with, and big rubbery buttons up top for Bluetooth pairing, power on and volume control. Speaking of Bluetooth, the Go + Play Wireless has some fantastic range — we got upwards of 50 feet away from our system before we started hearing dropped packets. And we were appreciative of the ability to charge your iPhone from the built-in USB port.

So what’s not to like?

The Not-So-Good

Here’s our major knock against the Go + Play Wireless: like the boomboxes that have inspired it, it uses 8 D cell batteries instead of a built-in, rechargeable battery packet. That’s right, D cells! Those giant batteries that you keep in your bug out kit just in case the apocalypse is nigh! And not just one or two D cells: the Go + Play Wireless requires eight to operate without being plugged in.

It’s ridiculous. Not only do they add maybe ten pounds of weight to the device, but they don’t last long. For ten dollars worth of batteries, you’ll get roughly ten hours of battery life out of your Go + Wireless. It’s wasteful and expensive to run this thing wirelessly… and not only that, but you have to unscrew the Go + Play Wireless to slot the batteries in. So even if you think to yourself, “Well, at least if the Go + Play Wireless runs out of juice on the road, I can just plug in more batteries”… nope! Not unless you have a screwdriver too.

Then there’s there price. The Go + Play Wireless retails for $399.95. That’s a lot of money to drop on a Bluetooth speaker that runs off of D cells. The sound is much better than you’d get from a Jambox, but a Jambox is smaller, more portable, and rechargeable. This is a hard system to recommend at that price.

Conclusion

The Harman Kardon Go + Play Wireless sounds great and looks great, but if you intend to use it wirelessly, it will chew through expensive D cell batteries like Tic Tacs. If what you want is a great sounding boombox to take around with you, size and weight and expense be damned, the Go + Play Wireless might be for you, but it’s a pretty hard system to recommend to pretty much anyone else, no matter how good it looks or sounds.



go_play_wireless_black_lifestyle_02Name: : Go = Play Wireless
The Good: Fantastic design, looks great, sounds great.
The Bad: “Wireless” means D-cell batteries. Extremely expensive.
The Verdict A great speaker that is still hard to recommend.
Buy from: Harman Kardon

Cult of Mac rating: Good

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  • jjmatt

    Wow! What were they thinking? 8 D batteries? $400? Needing a freight dolly to make it portable? I will be sticking with my Mighty Dwarf BlueII Bluetooth vibration speaker. Rechargeable, about the size of a baseball, and it turns my whole desk INTO the speaker. It is also about $100 at most places.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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