With its see-through dome, gentle glow-y light and curved corners, the new Harman Kardon Aura Bluetooth speaker system looks like something out of an art gallery or maybe even a space museum. To be honest, I wasn’t sure at first if the dome was more about aesthetics than performance. Well, let me be clear: I was so wrong. And I should have known, considering the reputation of this amazing audio company whose systems probably grace any BMW, Mercedez-Benz, Audi or Saab you’ve ever cruised around in.
To be sure, the Aura’s ultra-modern looks definitely complement the excellent, high-end sound. It’s luxury listening here, friends and if you have an audiophile on your holiday list, you may have found the dream gift.
Actually, it’s in that globe-like acoustic chamber that this speaker’s true power lives, giving you clear, full range, omnidirectional (as in, 360-degree) sound. Plus, there’s a low glow of an LED light which emanates from the bottom of the cylinder and that’s just old school cool.
Built-in Bluetooth lets you wirelessly stream music from other smart devices and services like Spotify. This also means your movie playbacks and video game soundtracks are about to go next level. With the volume bumped a bit, you’ll think you’re in some surround-sound theatre with bucket seats, popcorn and everything. And oh, that volume control is neat: just slide your finger along the side, up or down.
Built-in WiFi gives you another option for streaming audio through the Harman-Kardon Aura, especially if you have iOS devices. You can use Apple AirPlay through your home network, or use the optical digital input to connect your flat-screen TV or receiver and boom, you’ve got a home entertainment system in a compact package. The Aura is all about options which makes that single gorgeous dome one powerful system.
If it’s portable sound you’re after, we’ve covered a ton of options, but I’m really digging the Harman Kardon Esquire Mini wireless speaker. It’s about the length of the iPhone 6–so, small–and super slim and lightweight. This is a really high-performance speaker, more so than a lot of the entry-level Bluetooth speakers we recommend. Yet this one comes in a mid-range, reasonable price point at around $149. And as gorgeous as it looks, that ceramic coating on the grille is durable and scratch-resistant so it can hang tough and be more than just just a pretty face.
The size and sound of the Esquire Mini is perfect for travel, your office or bedroom, or even a stylish playroom. And when you add the wrist strap to it, people might mistake it for a sophisticated audio clutch should carrying your music be more important than your lipstick.
You can certainly play the Esquire Mini while it sits flat on a table. But I really like that you can also pop out the tiny but highly functional metal kickstand on the back as well, and prop up your little powerhouse at an angle. Nightstand listening perhaps?
I am super picky when it comes to audio, so I am delighted to have discovered two awesome Harman Kardon wireless speakers that serve up style, substance and really great sound. High grades from me — and my home office dance parties.
The Harman Kardon Aura is available for $399.95 and the Esquire Mini wireless speaker comes in four different colors and goes for $149.95 on Harman Kardon. Thanks to the company for providing units for review.