HARMAN KARDON Soundsticks
I have just got a new set of speakers for my PC, this will be a written blog post review and you can also check out our full visual review & sound quality demonstration in the video below. In the video I unbox the speakers & show you exactly what to expect in the box. While I’m doing that there have been 4 or 5 versions of these speakers and these are the latest ones and there are two versions available currently so I will explain the differences between all the models. Then I explain what they are and what they are not. Lastly I set them up show you how they contect & give you a demo of the sound quality , a comparison hopefully in a way that will translate to video.
There have been a number of versions of the harmon kardon soundsticks, they were first unveiled and launched in around the year 2000 and it was a collaborative project between Apple & Harman Kardon who back then codeveloped several speaker systems for apple computers.
Now from what I can make out back then – Apple launched the isub not the soundsticks, it was just the subwoofer it didn’t have the two satalite sticks and it was available as an accessory for Apple desktop computers at the time – it was a USB subwoofer so it improved bass but also with compatible Apple computers at the time it adjusted the computers other internal or external speakers frequency range so they didn’t have to handle the bass, the internal speakers didn’t overlap with the sub and it increased their volume, so it increased overall sound quality beyond just adding more bass – it was very clever.
The iSub was an award winning design, the jelly fish shaped sub speaker which is still used with the soundstick system. The Apple iSub is in the permanent collection of the museum of modern art & design in New York , I haven’t been to see them but from what I can see on line it is the apple & harmon kardon isub from 2000 not the soundsticks with the 2 satalite speakers as you see it today.
I think Apple computers were changing quite rapidly at the time in terms of design, technology, compatibility and the operating systems – a few years later the isub was replaced in Apple’s offereing by the soundsticks which is far simpler in terms of compatibility and eventually the newer Apple computers no longer supported the iSub.
And here is where I think things got confusing for people even at the time, at the same or around the time Apple launched the iSub Harmon Kardon launched the sounsticks which are basically certainly aesthetically the iSub with 2 satalite speakers and originally also with USB input like the iSub, a single USB from the sub which in turn powered the satilite speakers.
You can still read articles & forum posts from the time and people were struggling to figure out what was compatible with what. What the iSub did was very clever but it had limited compatibility compared to the sounstick set up which although designed to work with Mac’s people were using with PC’s.
So then a few years later the iSub is dropped and the soundstick stytem is also replaced by the soundsticks ii in around 2004. So what was the difference between the orginals & the 2s? overall design and athletics very little changed really just technical & compatibility updates. The originals were designed to work with computers via usb, mainly macs but they did work with most pcs one way or another. The soundstick 2s instead of connecting via usb now had a 3.5mm stereo conection just like the current models and just as you would find on headphones so basically any device you could plug headphones into could use the system and they had volume controls on one of the satalites now so you could control them and mute them indepenadtly of the input device.
Then in 2010 the soundstick ii are superceded by the Harman Kardon soundsticks iii which again have very little changed in terms of design, they have improved audio cable, a removable and replacable input cable increasing compatibility and the feet of the salalites are now black not silver which are appantly small changes to make them more in keeping with current Apple computer designs.
And the model I have purchased is the latest and so now the 5th incartantion if you include the iSub – the soundsticks wireless – they are effectively the same as the soundsticks 3 but with Bluetooth connectivity. You can connect devices by both the 3.5mm jack as with the Soundsticks iii or via bluetooth the power light turned to white from blue & it has a blue light which comes on if connected via Bluetooth.
I want to discuss what the speakers are and more importantly are not. Firstly they are an amazing looking design and clear plastic goes with anything. They were designed as computer speakers to sit on a desktop and elevate your multimedia experience by improving the quality of sound from in buit speakers you would normally find on desktop screens or buit into laptops.
They suggest you put the sub on the floor under your desk but firstly unless you have a tiny desk or drill holes in it the cables to the satalite speakers which are not removable and fixed in legth are simply not long enough, but no matter I have positioned mine on my desk because why would you want to hide something under your desk that is considered so well designed it is on display in New York’s design museum?
They do exactly what they were designed to do. You want them to sit unobtrusively next to your computer be it a desktop or a laptop, and if you sit the satalites on your desk and point them at you they sound great. The linear design and limited power does mean that they are very directional though. To get the best from them they need to be pointing directly at you and even angled correctly towards you.
Adjust the base
So that leads me to what they are not. They are great for watching youtube vlogs & videos and movies they give way more depth to the soundtrack than virtually any in built computer speakers and you can adjust the base on the sub to get a real kick but they are not earth shattering home cinema speakers.
They are great for listening to music, the radio or podcasts and as an iPod dock at your desk, but they will not fill a room large enough to dance in with amazingly loud & high quality audio, if you want to throw a party your going to need some floorstanding speakers not these little desktop satellites.
I would highly recommend these as computer speakers, they look amazing, they sound fantastic and they are a size & design that works well in conjuction with a computer on a desk.
If your looking for audio quality for music production I think at this price point your money will go a lot furher in the headphone market than with loudspeakers of any description and if you want dance floor filling power your going to require something considerably larger & in much larger cabinets.
Ive watched a few youtube vlogs & a movie using them and they a in a different league to my Apple MacBooks in built speakers, they give a real depth to the background noise and music and real contrast between that & the dialogue so if your using a laptop they are going to be a very significant improvement for you –and on my PC which is what I purchased them for to replace some basic and very inexpensive speakers again they are a big improvement and they look cool.