Harman Kardon GLA-55 review
Some speakers are designed to blend discreetly into your environment. Not so the Harman Kardon GLA-55, whose multi-faceted-diamond looks are crying for attention.
Each speaker is based on a traditional two-way driver design, comprising a concave metal 52mm mid-bass driver and metal-domed tweeter, shoehorned into a totally transparent case. The tweeters carry chromed bars to discourage idle prodding of the delicate domes. And built into the case are the system’s amplifiers, hidden away in the base plate.
You connect the speakers to a computer or iPod via a 3.5mm stereo jack plug in the right-hand speaker. Electrical power also comes into this master speaker from a laptop-style power supply. As well as the usual volume control on your music player, there are touch-sensitive ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons on the right speaker, sat between drive units.
The GLA-55 speakers not only look but feel like no traditional hi-fi speaker. They are incredibly dense and seem non-resonant. The absence of wood cabinet and parallel internal walls means they don’t look like hi-fi box speakers at all. In fact, the crazy shape with faceted external sides and curved interior should reduce the usual resonances that can cloud sound.
Sound quality is impressive. Despite their modest size – by the standards of regular hi-fi loudspeakers, rather than iPod docks – the GLA-55 speakers sound much bigger and fuller than you might expect.
There’s no proper subterranean bass of course, and in music with little bass content they could sound a little clinical. A retro valve amp sound is not in the GLA-55’s repertoire. But they can do well-paced dance and pop very well, never sounding strained or stressed even when propelling bass from their long-throw drivers.
At around £700 the GLA-55 speakers sit at the high-end for iPod audio. The money buys something of an artwork in the speakers’ unique design alone, but there’s also some smart acoustic engineering at work here. A combination of powerful amplification, clever DSP and very solid, irregular-sided cabinets mean the sound can even surpass traditional hi-fi amplifiers and loudspeakers systems of a similar price too.