Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 8 Review Bluetooth Speaker Shaped Like Saturn

Monday, August 14, 2023


The Harman Kardon (HK) Onyx Studio 8 speaker stands as a visual and auditory masterpiece with a distinctive outer handle design that orbits around the speaker much like Saturn's iconic ring system!

The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 8 is a bold testament to fusion of artistry and technology. It transcends being merely an audio device, transforming into an elegant and refined complement to any living area. Its unique planet-inspired design coupled with the practicality of a ring handle, which also functions as a secure base and convenient grip for transport, sets it apart in a league of its own. The handle's construction involves anodized aluminum, enhancing both aesthetics and durability. Crafted from recycled plastic, the speaker body aligns with sustainability efforts, while the speaker grille is composed of recycled polyester fabric, showcasing the brand's eco-conscious approach.

Located at the rear of the Onyx Studio 8 speaker, you will encounter a rubberized cover discreetly concealing the AUX and AC ports. Additionally, a USB-C port is present, albeit reserved solely for service purposes. On the speaker's underside, substantial rubber feet have been thoughtfully integrated to ensure robust stability, effectively preventing any undesired sliding.

Adorning the top surface of the speaker, a circular LED light takes center stage, flanked by five tactile buttons with a rubbery texture. These buttons, designed for intuitive control, encompass functions such as play/pause, track navigation, volume adjustment, voice assistant activation, and call management (answering and ending calls). Situated towards the lower front section, an anodized aluminum badge proudly displays the brand identity. When considering the physical dimensions, the Onyx Studio 8 stands at a height of 27cm, width of 37cm, and body diameter of 32cm.

Inside the Onyx Studio 8 speaker's chassis lies an assembly featuring a 120mm woofer, coupled with two 20mm tweeters and two passive radiators. This configuration shares commonality with the JBL Boombox 3 Wifi, encompassing the internal battery and AC power module as well. Consequently, this intricate setup bestows upon you the flexibility to indulge in your music repertoire either through the speaker's internal battery or by connecting it to a mains power source.

In the realm of technical specifications, the Onyx Studio 8 shines brightly. On paper, its volume output is a tad higher (~104dB) when connected to AC power in contrast to the ~101dB achievable through battery power alone. In real world application though, the speaker actually sounds louder and delivers the most bass via battery power, which is a great selling point for the Onyx Studio 8 as you don't have to be tethered to an AC outlet to get the best audio performance.

When it comes to transportation, the Onyx Studio 8 encounters a slight challenge due to its ring handle design, which renders the speaker somewhat cumbersome to fit inside a bag. Concerning overall portability, the handle facilitates comfortable carrying, despite the fact that the lower side of the handle lacks rubberized texture; however, its smooth surface still ensures easy hand grip. Worth noting is the speaker's weight, which stands at 3.5kg.

Unlike most Bluetooth speakers that can be recharged using a USB-C cable, the Onyx Studio 8 has a different approach. It doesn't use USB-C for charging; instead, it needs to be plugged into a power outlet using a specific figure 8 power cord. The USB-C port next to the power plug isn't for charging your device—it's for technical purposes. You'll notice a light that tells you about the battery. If the battery is running low, the light blinks in a red color. When you're charging the speaker, the light stays on steadily, and it turns off when the battery is fully charged. The battery takes around 5 hours to fully charge with 7.5 hours of playback. Unfortunately, there's no quick charging support. Interestingly, you can keep listening to your music or other audio (whether connected through Bluetooth or a wired connection) while the speaker is recharging.

The way the sound comes out is absolutely fantastic. The Onyx Studio 8 is versatile enough to play many types of music, from classical pieces to songs with deep bass like electronic beats. The way the sound is designed has high notes that stretch out and deep bass that's carefully shaped. This means the bass is both strong and clear across different bass levels, including the very low sounds, middle-range bass, and upper bass. As a result, the audio feels warm and lively, with a clear and distinct deep bass that doesn't mix up with the midrange sounds like vocals and instruments.

Setting up the Onyx Studio 8 is easy via wired (Aux) connection or Bluetooth connection, enabling audio playback from a phone and even a TV. The Onyx Studio 8 is also compatible with bluetooth-enabled TVs, although latency is noticeable due to lacking aptX HD low latency codec. As far as Bluetooth headsets, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 8 isn't compatible. You can link up with another Onyx Studio 8 to deliver stereo sound but you cannot connect the Onyx Studio 8 to other Onyx Studio speakers such as the Onyx Studio 7, 6, or 5. The HK Onyx Studio 8 can only connect with another HK Onyx Studio 8.

Another thing that the Onyx Studio 8 has is a feature called "self-tuning." This feature is meant to work in a way similar to how bigger speakers use a digital system to adjust the sound automatically when you move the speaker to different rooms. It's like the Adaptive Audio feature on the JBL Boombox 3 Wifi. However, there's a slight difference. The self-tuning feature on the Onyx Studio 8 doesn't seem to work as well. This could be because the speaker is smaller and has limitations on how much it can adjust the sound because of its size and the drivers it uses.

There are a couple of notable drawbacks to the Onyx Studio 8. First, it's not compatible with older Onyx Studio models, which means you can't mix and match them for a varied multi-speaker setup. Also, unlike some older Onyx Studio models that had two woofers, the Onyx Studio 8 has only one. This could affect stereo sound quality. However, the positive side is that you can still pair two Onyx Studio 8 speakers together to improve the stereo sound experience.

To sum up, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 8 offers outstanding sound quality coupled with an elegant appearance. You have the option to wirelessly pair two speakers to create a broader audio experience. However, keep in mind that its limited compatibility with other Onyx Studio models restricts your ability to mix and match. The Onyx Studio 8 proves itself as a valuable investment for individuals seeking a speaker that seamlessly combines practicality, aesthetics, and remarkable audio performance. Its commitment to sustainability is also an attractive feature for environmentally conscious buyers, with packaging made from FSC-certified paper and soy ink. Speaking of packaging, it's worth noting that the light-colored packaging with white fonts doesn't provide enough contrast, making the text difficult to read. Using black font instead of white would have greatly improved readability.

Potential deal breakers
  • It isn't waterproof
  • Doesn't support bluetooth headset connectivity
  • No EQ app support
  • Not compatible with other Onyx Studio models
  • Not a portable speaker Awkward to carry around when traveling
  • Digital room correction
  • No party mode
  • No AAC codec support
  • Bluetooth indicator light stays lit up after connection
  • No quick charge support
  • No USB-C charging
  • Auxiliary (Aux) latency
  • Lacking stereo imaging

Selling points
  • 2 year warranty
  • Eco friendly materials
  • Battery power and mains power
  • Compatible with bluetooth-enabled TV
  • Compatible with mobile phones, tablets, and laptops
  • Passthrough audio whilst charging
  • 50W RMS
  • Audible beep when cranking volume to max
  • Supports absolute bluetooth volume
  • Internal battery for untethered power
  • Mains cord for charging (no power brick)
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Built-in mic for making calls
  • Sculpted sound profile
  • Not compatible with previous Onyx models
  • Can connect to another Onyx Studio 8 via TWS mode
  • Available in three different colors
  • Sleak grab handle
Accessories included in the box are a 2 meter long AC power cord. You can buy the Onyx Studio 8 from Harman and Kardon, as well as amazon when it becomes available. 

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