Harmon Kardon Go + Play Review
Hitting the market just above the price sweet spot for high-end iPod speakers, Harman Kardon’s Go + Play iPod speaker system packs plenty of punch in its eye-catching post-modern retro chassis.
It looks vastly different from most home entertainment gadgets. It’s quite charming in its way, evoking distant memories of ’80s boom-boxes while clearly reflecting flying-saucer visions of the future.
The front and rear of the system are defined by the stainless steel curved handle which borders its longest edges, beginning as a foot on the left side and rising in an arc to take position as the opposing foot on the right. The actual body of the device is elliptical when seen from above, but curves with the handle when seen from the front. Stainless steel trim surrounds the extremely powerful stereo speakers, with a set on both front and rear of the device, so you get excellent all-round sound.
At the rear, you’ll see four lower-mounted rubber buttons, which seem to be a design detail until you realise the buttons hide ports for DC power-in; USB; S-Video out and an aux-in port for non-iPods and the shuffle. Just above these ports there’s what turns out to be a touch-reactive secret compartment which conceals and protects the six-button RF remote control, which is curved to fit flush with Go+Play. At the top, two steel screws turn out to be touch-sensitive volume up/down controls, a third is the power switch, and there’s a recessed area where you’ll find the iPod dock. The iPod lies on its back on the top of the product when it is docked and gets recharged in use. You can use Go+Play with mains power or batteries if you’re out-and-about and don’t mind attracting curious glances as you tote the 3.9lb system down your local park. You’ll draw a crowd once you get there – this thing is loud.
The audio output you’ll get from this should attract every anti-smoking noise abatement granny in the park while you smugly sit there blasting out your favourite Rakim number. The system houses two 30W tweeters and two 30W subwoofers. Take the volume high enough and your room will be like a slow-motion disaster movie scene as you desperately try to figure out how to use the beautifully-designed-but-ultimately-frustrating remote control (range, 15-feet). Hint: adjust volume using the buttons at the top of the system.
Navigating your music with the remote is impossible, even if you can figure out how to make it work first time (we couldn’t). With the iPod flat on its back on the top of the unit you have to be more or less directly above it to read which track’s coming up next. The remote isn’t the system’s best point – a three-function on/off and volume controller would have been fine. You have to switch between modes on the remote in order to access some features (such as volume), but the incredibly uninformative user guide doesn’t tell you how it’s done. You need to click the lower left-hand button twice successively to enter different modes. A light glows orange or blue for a millisecond to show which mode you’re in. The remote is this product’s main fault – it’s nowhere near user-friendly enough. It’s secret compartment is a great place to stash stuff, though.
Sounding it out
Sound is excellent. Harman Kardon says this is due to the transducers, along with its proprietary Digital Signal Processing technologies. We say it rocks. Highs are high and detailed; bass is deep and thumping. Sound separation is excellent for an all-in-one, perhaps by virtue of its front and rear speakers this device competes with any mini hi-fi system. The remote, however, will confound everyone, but no-one is likely to complain at what they’re listening to.
The company also sees its system sitting beside a home entertainment system. Patch in audio using the line-in port, and connect the device to your television using an S-Video cable, and you have the best of three worlds: excellent, compact high-quality sound; an iPod dock and the capacity to watch your iPod video on your television. You can also connect Go+Play to your computer for use as a speaker system using the included USB connection, which, naturally, also syncs your iPod.
This device competes at the highest level, and is well worth the relatively high price. It’s a top-class solution from audio experts, who’ve combined eye-catching design with top-notch sound technology to create a system that delivers excellent music playback. The remote’s the only failure, though: it’s a bewildering example of how not to design one. No remote should be less intuitive to navigate than the iPod it serves.