Sound engineering4 min read . Updated: 28 Jun 2014, 12:02 AM IST
Harman Kardon's new sleek wireless speakers, and Amkette's answer to a movie buff's prayers
Harman Kardon has launched a bunch of speakers as part of its 2014 range—we tested two of the most promising and interesting ones. Amkette has launched a media player that seamlessly plays movies off a hard drive and also adds smart features to your TV.
Harman Kardon NOVA
The age of the rectangular box speaker is over. NOVA has the same design philosophy as Harman Kardon’s translucent SoundStick series of speakers. The hemispherical speakers have been moulded from globes of see-through plastic, allowing a clear view of the vortex design inside.
Between the two speakers, which are connected by a cable, one is the virtual leader, since it has the connectivity ports, volume control, NFC chip and source. You can use Bluetooth or NFC to connect with your smartphone, tablet or laptop. What stands out is the inclusion of the optical audio input, something quite rare in this genre of speakers. The advantage is simple: The NOVA can be a desktop speaker or a wireless speaker for your phone and tablet, and can also be hooked up to a Blu-Ray player or a gaming console.
The NOVA handles a variety of music genres easily. With the Bass Boost function active, the lows are well represented, without ever being too powerful. If at all, the lows sound slightly weak on trance tracks, if the boost feature turned off. Listen to the first 30 seconds of Amy Lee’s single Broken, and you will notice how both speakers are working individually on separate elements of the track, but combine well as a package. Vocals are handled well, as is apparent when you listen to rock music.
The volume goes up five levels in all, with a three-notch volume increase per level. At 60% volume, these speakers sounded very loud, yet retained clarity.
At almost ₹ 25,000, the NOVA is on the expensive side for a wireless speaker. But this little set can pretty well drive the music for a small house party.
Harman Kardon Esquire
The Esquire’s shape is rather unique, with a rounded-off square design, 5.8-inch width and eye-catching pill-perforated grille design. Its leather-backed finish adds to the luxe look. The spine on one side has the 3.5mm AUX jack and 5 LED indicators for battery-charge level.
On the top, the Esquire has seven buttons—pause, play, power, volume up/down, Bluetooth on/off, microphone mute on/off and the call button. The speakerphone feature is what gives the Esquire a massive advantage over its rivals. The sound is clear and loud enough for a small conference room.
Despite its small size, this is indeed a stereo speaker—it differentiates between left-channel and right-channel audio fairly well. The clarity of vocals is fantastic, but since the Esquire doesn’t have a dedicated bass driver, the low frequencies aren’t the most powerful. Most wireless speakers of this size don’t offer a lot of bass anyway, and the Esquire is no different.
Another feature that gives the Esquire a lead over rivals is the chunky power adaptor, which is also a three-USB port hub: You can charge your phone or tablet simultaneously—quite convenient while travelling. In our music playback tests, the battery lasted an impressive seven and a half hours on a single charge with the volume at 60%.
The Esquire is quite expensive for a wireless speaker, but it does pack in a lot of features. Buy this for the usage flexibility it offers.
Amkette Evo TV MC
If you are someone who has a lot of movies and videos saved on a USB drive, you would have possibly felt the need for a device that can hook up to your HDTV via HDMI, with the hard drive connected to it, and play back the video files without hassles. Not everyone has a PC or a laptop to hook up to the TV.
Amkette continues using Android for its media players. We tested the playback capabilities and quality with a variety of standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (720p HD and 1080p HD) files in formats such as AVI, MP4 and MKV, among others. All the files play back without hiccups. From the moment you click OK on the remote on a video file, it takes 1-3 seconds for the playback to begin. By comparison, the WD Live takes 4-5 seconds to play back the same file, and similar times are noticed on the Boxee Box. Upscaling quality is very good, but there are no noise-control filters and frame-rate settings.
The fact that you have 4 USB ports on the device means you can pretty much leave drives plugged in, and not have to bother swapping too often.
The XBMC application on the Evo TV MC is a rather unique feature. However, things are not quite right with the app, at least at the moment. While files are detected quickly and playback doesn’t throw up any issues, there are occasions when the XBMC crashes or the media information doesn’t load. However, Amkette can iron out this niggle with a future software update over the air (OTA).
The motion controller remote’s design is the same as the previous generation’s. It takes some getting used to, but works well once you do. Can work as a standard remote too, but you can put your finger on the sensor at the back panel; to activate motion control.
The advantage of having Android is that it opens the window to an entire ecosystem of apps that can make your TV even smarter when this box is connected. Comes preloaded with a bunch of apps, including Sony Liv, Starsports.com, Saavn and YouTube, among others. There is an app store to download more apps.
The Amkette Evo TV MC, priced at ₹ 5,500, is a very capable device to hook up to the TV. The fairly powerful processor, with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB internal storage for apps, is a big bonus.