Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless review: easy Bluetooth speaker setup with great audio

Harman Kardon has been making the Go+Play speakers for a number of years, and this latest incarnation, the Go+Play Wireless brings these classic speakers into the mobile age with wireless Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity.

The Go+Play speakers have always had style on their side, and this latest incarnation is no exception. With its curved base and the long curved aluminium handle running across the top of the speaker, the Go+Play Wireless continues to compliment most rooms.

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Whereas previously the Go+Play would accept an iPod via a dock on the top of the speaker, the new system eschews docks entirely in favour of either Bluetooth or wi-fi. Bluetooth is the way to go here, especially since Apple devices have been packing Bluetooth 4.0 with high quality audio for a couple of years now.

Setting up the Go+Play couldn't be simpler. Simply turn on the speaker and visit Settings>Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad. Choose the Go+Play from the Bluetooth list and it'll connect. Now all audio from your iPhone will bounce through the speaker system. Bluetooth is a universal system so you can also stream audio from Mac OS X or most other wireless devices (Android phones for example). The only downside for Bluetooth is that you can only pair one device at a time, and pairing a different device requires you to power down the speakers and hold the power button to re-enter pairing mode. Also because it's all audio you also get clicks and alerts coming through the speaker, so be careful when you switch from playing audio to going about your usual business (we found it easiest to just tap the large on/off button at the top).

Audio quality is great. It leans (as most speakers these days do) towards the bass end of the tuning spectrum. So dance and electronic music sounds great, classic indie rock less so. But the sound is overall comfortable in any music style with great bass, but good mid-tones and treble.

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If Bluetooth isn't your thing you can use the Harman Kardon Truestream wireless technology along with its True Stream technology to sync via Wi-Fi. When we first connected via Bluetooth the iPhone prompted to download the Harman Kardon Play app from the App Store. This is used to setup and connect to the speakers via wi-fi. We're not really convinced that this is viable, or necessary: Bluetooth is an easier process that seems to work just fine. It's probably added as an AirPlay alternative (because Apple's AirPlay adds considerably to the cost of each unit).

After setting up several Bluetooth and AirPlay systems we've come to the conclusion that Bluetooth is the more practical system (for now). It's far easier to pair a Bluetooth phone (like the iPhone) to a speaker than it is to get a speaker to join a wi-fi network. Although obviously the advantage of AirPlay is that it integrates with all Apple devices attached to the network at once.

So the Go+Play is a chic speaker system that is easy to connect to and offers great audio quality. Anything not to like? Well we were slightly surprised to discover that this is a portable speaker system, but instead of containing a rechargeable battery (like this recently tested Pioneer A3 system) the Go+Play accepts eight D batteries. A coin slot is present underneath that shows the battery compartment. It's been a long time since we've tested a speaker this size that accepts regular batteries, and it feels a little retro to be using D batteries in a speaker. Not to mention it'll cost £10-£15 to power up this speaker system for portable use. But it has a handle and the reliance on batteries can be (at as push) argued for in an outdoor setting.

But that small gripe aside, the Harman Kardon Go+Play is a powerful speaker system with chic styling, great audio and easy wireless connectivity. It's one of the better speaker systems we've tested lately.

OUR VERDICT

The Harman Kardon Go+Play is a great speaker system. It offers high quality audio, easy wireless connectivity, and great volume and bass. The lack of a rechargeable battery or AirPlay sits against it (although we'd take Bluetooth over AirPlay these days). It's still a great looking speaker system too, after all these years, the curved style and solid aluminium handle ensure it sits nicely in the corner of a room, or make it a great for carrying to a party.

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