At the recent CES show I was taken into a private room where I saw the Sonos system compared to the new Harman Hardon offering. The difference in sound was significant.
The Harman Kardon system was clearer and one could hear additional instruments.
Called the Omni family of wireless audio products the new range includes the Omni Bar which is a 2.1 soundbar that comes with its own wireless subwoofer. The big news is that the soundbar and subwoofer is set to be half the price of the Sonos offering while delivering what appears to be superior sound. Also impressive was the Harman Kardon software for managing the distribution of sound in the home.
Currently the Sonos soundbar is selling at JB Hi Fi for $1097, the subwoofer is also $1097. The Harman Kardon soundbar and speaker is set to sell for $1,200 combined.
The Harman Kardon Omni system also includes the Omni 10 and 20 speakers plus a wireless adapter.
The Omni Bar connects to a TV through standard optical or HDMI connections, but it also hooks up to your home Wi-Fi network. It’s controlled and configured using Harman Kardon’s own Controller App.
Used as part of an Omni system, the Bar allows you to stream the same audio (including TV audio) to the rest of the Omni speakers in your set-up. As with the rest of the Omni family, the bar also supports playback of 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution audio files.
The Omni Bar’s wireless subwoofer comes with its own floor stand, but there’s also the option for wall-mounting and Harman claims it’s even compact enough to be hidden under a sofa or chair.
Harman Kardon has also announced that its Omni wireless music system is going to be made compatible with Tidal, Qobuz, Tunein, Rhapsody and Juke music streaming services. All of the new additions are expected to be made available in April 2015.
While I was at the private Harman Kardon viewing I bumped into rock legend and Pono CEO Neil Young he is set to work with the US Company on the development of his high res audio technology found in his Pono high res music payer.
Young said that Pono wouldn’t be making hardware for much longer, but would instead offer licensing deals to third-party companies with Harman Kardon tipped to be one of those Companies.
When asked whether he wanted to continue building hardware, Young replied, “Not really. This is just so people can see what can be done. I would welcome the chance to have another company make this player.”
Pono would then offer technology and branding to the company. “It can say ‘certified Pono’ or it can say ‘branded Pono’. Those are two things we offer, and neither of them are expensive.” So, for a nominal fee, a company can enlist Pono’s technical expertise. Rather than making hardware, Young suggested that Pono would prefer to concentrate on sourcing music for and running its online store of Hi-Res Audio downloads.
Harman executives told me that they are working with Pono to developer a Hi-Res Audio system for automobiles.
Harman CEO Dinesh Paliwal said, “We are excited to collaborate with Mr Young and the team at Pono Music to expand their reach into the car and let people hear music as the artist intended.”
Harman Kardon sound is found in BMW cars.