Design: A Unique and Stylish Look
The appearance of the Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4 speakers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly distinctive and cutting-edge. If you’re still reading, I’m assuming you’re on the side of loving it.
While the overall design hasn’t changed much since the previous generation, the build quality is still outstanding. The enclosures are made of durable translucent plastic, and the two desktop speaker towers boast four 1.4″ full-range transducers on their fronts. As for the subwoofer, it’s encased in a sizable plastic dome that matches the quality of the desktop speakers. The visible 5.25″ subwoofer is highlighted by a white LED light, which also indicates the volume levels. Speaking of volume, the touch controls for adjusting it are conveniently located on the front of the subwoofer, flanking the Harman Kardon logo.
Some reviews criticize the lack of volume controls on the speakers themselves, but since your smartphone can manage that, it’s not a major issue for most people. The subwoofer houses the power button, Bluetooth connection button, and various ports, including connections for the left and right speakers, an AUX port, a MicroUSB port for servicing, and four other ports.
Performance: Exceptional Audio Quality
When it comes to audio performance, the Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4 speakers truly shine. They deliver a perfect balance of high-frequency clarity and deep sub-bass, making them ideal for all types of content, whether it’s movies, music, YouTube videos, or video chats. Even at maximum volumes, the speakers remain distortion-free, thanks to skillfully executed digital signal processing (DSP) that preserves the drivers without sacrificing the lows. The sound signature of these speakers is characterized by strong bass and crystal-clear audio.
To showcase the SoundSticks 4’s overall sound quality, let’s take Bill Callahan’s “Drover” as an example. With this track, you’ll notice how the subwoofer adds depth to the drums, making them sound powerful and robust. Callahan’s vocals also benefit from the low-mid richness, creating a distinct separation between the percussion and the vocals. Unlike other speakers where the bass tends to muddy the sound, the SoundSticks 4 provide a clear, organic, and sharp audio experience. Additionally, these speakers offer impressive stereo separation, thanks to their hardwired connections and included velcro straps for cable organization. This makes them a great choice for anyone who appreciates the true stereo sound that most music is recorded and mixed in.
Interestingly, the Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4 was designed to be placed on your desk rather than on the floor. The left and right speakers have no controls and are meant to sit at the sides, while the subwoofer, with its front and rear controls, takes center stage. The front of the subwoofer features two raised white buttons for volume adjustment, which can also be conveniently controlled from your computer. The power and Bluetooth connect buttons are located at the back.
To emphasize this tabletop-centric design, the subwoofer’s LEDs emit a different glow when the volume is changed, the speakers are turned on, or they are connected to a Bluetooth device. It’s clear that Harman/Kardon wants you to appreciate the visual appeal of the speakers, which you might miss if the subwoofer is hidden away on the floor under your desk.
Final Thoughts: Premium Design and Superior Performance
The Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4 live up to the legacy of their predecessors, combining premium design with exceptional audio performance. While the price may seem a bit steep considering the lack of an app and bundled accessories, the sound quality more than compensates for it. In the same price range, you can also consider the $399 Klipsch R-41PM and the $399 Audioengine HD3 as alternatives.
However, if you’re looking for an extraordinary visual appeal, genuine stereo separation, and powerful sub-bass presence, the SoundSticks 4 are the clear winner, even though they may currently be difficult to find. And if these options are beyond your budget, the $40 Creative Pebble Plus is worth considering. While it may not match the performance of the others, it still offers good value for the price.
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