Harman Kardon combines its expertise in audio with Amazon Alexa for an incredible experience.
Harman Kardon has introduced a couple of smart speakers in the past year, but perhaps the most interesting one is the Harman Kardon Allure. This is an Amazon Alexa speaker that has a really interesting design, not to mention some pretty strong audio quality. Alexa-enabled speakers are not new, many companies have been debuting their own Alexa speakers over the past year or so, and there has been some rather interesting designs at different price points, along with some great sounding speakers – and some that didn’t sound as great. But the Harman Kardon Allure perhaps has the most unique design, and is paired with some incredible bass.
The Harman Kardon Allure has been in our hands for about a month now, and it is really impressive. However, the Harman Kardon Allure is a $249 speaker. That’s $50 more than the Sonos One, which is perhaps its closest competition – on the audio quality front – so is it worth that price? Well let’s find out.
On the specs side of things, Harman Kardon doesn’t give us a ton of information. But we do know that there are three tweeters included, towards the bottom of the Allure, and a woofer that actually faces down. Harman Kardon arranged them this way to put out some powerful bass, but not so powerful that it covers the mids and highs on the Allure. Otherwise, we do know that this is a 60W speaker with a frequency of 40Hz to 20kHz. It is a 360-degree speaker, with far-field microphones included for Alexa, and there are some controls on the top of the speaker, for adjusting the volume, muting Alexa and such.
As mentioned already, the Allure is a very unique looking speaker here. The bottom portion of the speaker is indeed made of metal, and that’s where the sound comes from. The top part is glass, and you can actually see through the speaker. Towards the top, you’ll see a light that pulses to the music. That light is going to be blue when Alexa is not muted (the microphone buttons is right at the front on the top of the Allure). When Alexa is muted, it’ll be read and does not pulse anymore. This is actually really good, because it makes it really easy to tell when Alexa is muted and when she is not – in case you don’t want her always listening.
The top of the Allure has a big button in the center, which is for play/pause. In the front, there is a microphone button for turning off the microphone and then volume controls towards the back. The volume controls actually work as a partial ring, so you can swipe from low to high and vice versa. It’s a pretty cool effect, but be careful as the Allure can get very loud, very quickly. So it might be easier to ask Alexa to adjust the volume for you (Pro tip: make sure you say “percent” when telling Alexa to adjust the volume, otherwise it’ll just go to 100% automatically, and shatter your ear drums).
On the back, you’ll find the power source, which the Allure does need a pretty big power source, and even has a brick it plugs into. There’s also a Bluetooth button back there. A bit odd that Harman decided to put it in the back, where it’s hard to find. But, you will likely never ever use it. During the review period, we never had a reason to use the Bluetooth button. As Alexa was able to play everything we wanted it too, without any issues.
The Allure is a pretty big speaker, bigger than pictures would have you believe, actually. But it is more than worth it. As we’ll talk about a bit in the sound quality section, the Harman Kardon Allure puts out a ton of great sounding audio, which makes the size worth it. The design of the Allure is also good for putting on a shelf in the living room, or even in your office. Since it is a 360-degree speaker, it can still fill the room no matter where it is placed.
Harman Kardon, and its sister brands including JBL and AKG, have a long history of great sounding products. And the Harman Kardon Allure is no different. The Allure has a ton of bass, as mentioned earlier in this review. And that’s due to the woofer facing down, which allows the bass to come out and hit the surface it’s on and come back up. With the three tweeters inside, you’re getting some great sounding mids and highs as well. Of course, to really take advantage of the Allure’s internals, it’s a good idea to play some music that has a ton of bass inside. For instance, we played “Apologize” by One Republic, and the bass isn’t too crazy, but there is a good bass-line in the song, and it would make the table it was sitting on shake. And this was without the speaker being turned all the way up (actually around 25%!). So the bass is really good here.
For most people, you likely won’t need to turn the Allure up past 25% or even 30% volume, as it gets that loud. But if you are having a party, or perhaps using it outside (remember, this is not waterproof), the Allure is going to sound good, even at higher volumes. While a lot of inexpensive speakers will start to sound distorted when the volume is turned up, that’s not the case with the Harman Kardon Allure. It still sounds pretty incredible.
Now, we’ve been singing the praise of the audio quality on the Allure here, throughout this review. But there is one thing that we need to talk about. And that is the fact that you are not able to adjust the EQ on the Allure. So you’re stuck with the levels that are available out-of-the-box. So if you aren’t a big fan of heavy bass, then you may not like the quality of audio from the Allure, since it cannot be changed. This is a bit surprising, since there is an app for the Allure, but it is limited to just setting up the Allure and nothing more.
The main selling point of the Allure, over Harman Kardon’s other speakers, is Alexa. There is Alexa built into the Allure, which means you are able to use it like an Echo or Echo Plus. Where you can give it different commands, like asking for the weather, or asking Alexa to play different music and such. Now there are some things that the Allure can’t do with Alexa, and this isn’t unique to the Allure. These are things that Amazon has kept for its first-party Alexa speakers like the Echo lineup. Which includes texting and calling. Now if you don’t use those features, then this is a great alternative to the Echo.
As with other Alexa speakers, you do need to download the HK Allure Setup app from the Google Play Store to get started with the Allure. It’ll walk you through getting the Allure setup, and connecting it to WiFi, finishing off by connecting it to your Amazon account. Once it is connected to your Amazon account, it will automatically be able to use all of the Alexa skills that are available on your account. There’s no need to download these skills, or sign in once again. This is the case with any Alexa speaker or product, but it’s always important, especially for new Alexa users.
Talking to Alexa on the Allure is the same as talking to Alexa on an Echo. Harman Kardon has the far-field microphones included on the Allure, so Alexa is able to hear you, even over music and such. You don’t have to scream at Alexa, like you might need to with some other Alexa speakers (typically the cheaper ones, like the Eufy Genie). Alexa is pretty good at understanding as well. There’s really no difference here in talking to Alexa, than on an Echo, which is a good thing.
The Harman Kardon Allure is basically an Echo for audiophiles. It works just the same as an Echo, at least on the Alexa side of things. But the main difference here is that the Allure has far better sound quality, it can get much louder, and also looks a bit nicer. It’s hard to talk about things that aren’t so good about the Allure, since there’s nothing really bad about this speaker. It provides some great audio, has Alexa inside, and looks really cool. The only downside here is that it is not portable – meaning there’s no battery built-in. But Harman Kardon has created a portable version of the Allure, but it’s not yet available (it was announced at CES in January and should be available fairly soon). The Harman Kardon Allure is a $250 Alexa speaker, which makes it one of the most expensive ones out there, with only the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST being more expensive at $300. And it is definitely worth that price, if for the audio quality alone.Buy the Harman Kardon AllureBuy the Harman Kardon Allure (HarmanAudio.com)