Review: Harman Kardon Nova Wireless Desktop Speakers

The latest in the Harman Kardon line of aesthetically pleasing home electronics, the Nova are small, powered 2.0 desktop speakers designed for flexibility of use. Each about the size of a cantaloupe, they have 2.5” drivers,1.25” tweeters, and a passive bass radiator. Not only can you connect with an ⅛” jack and optical line, but with Bluetooth and NFC; so no matter what you want to hear, they can connect to it. And for little speakers, they get a surprising amount of volume without distorting. While they are not a substitute for a full receiver-based home theater sound system, they are perfect for an office, small apartment, or bedroom, and can fill any mid-sized room with sound rather comfortably, even in a cocktail party situation.

Out of the box, they are a bit treble heavy, but with an hour or so of burning in, I found they mellowed into a decent sound profile. Although when listening it’s clear they don’t have a separate subwoofer, the bass is far from absent, especially considering the size of the speakers. There is a also a “bass boost” button that gives a little extra oomph if you need it. (To give you an idea, the claimed frequency response on HK’s website is 70Hz – 20KHz, although the manual states 55Hz-20KHz.) Whatever the actual range is, when taking into consideration the footprint and price, the sound is really lovely. The left and right are connected with about 5 feet of cord, and the left speaker is the input for all audio as well as power. When using Bluetooth, they switched easily between my Macbook Pro and iPhone, and are really intuitive in their set up and use. And as one would expect with Harman Kardon, they are stylish and unobtrusive enough to fit in with any decor.

Speaking of style, these are some beautifully designed speakers. The clear chassis reveals the drivers, and are rimmed with either black or white with a fabric grill. The left speaker has the controls which light up and are touch activated rather than pushbutton. The volume control arcs over the curve of the left speaker in a series of lights that glow and dim as you glide your finger over them. The lights also, I found, respond to the volume being adjusted on your mobile device or computer, which is a nice touch. Another nice feature is the power saving sleep mode which goes into effect after the speakers lay idle for a few minutes. Press play on the source material however, and they spring back into action. (Just keep that in mind, because if you forget to disconnect your phone’s wireless connection from the speakers, whatever you call up on YouTube next could be blaring through your home.)

Overall, the Nova are a sweet little set of desktop speakers. I found myself firing them up frequently when I wanted some background music while puttering around the house and didn’t want to deal with remotes, receivers, preamps, and cables. The MSRP is $299, and are available with free 2 day shipping through Harman Kardon’s website. Are there less expensive wireless speakers out there? Sure. But if you are the sort for whom form matters as much as function, none are as small, sleek, and powerful all at once as the Nova.

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