Harman Kardon Citation One Smart Speaker REVIEW
Harman Kardon Citation One Smart Speaker REVIEW
The Citation One is hi-fi manufacturer Harman Kardon’s entry into the portable Bluetooth speaker stakes. PAT PILCHER gave it a hearing.
With every opportunistic tech and hi-fi firm and their dog launching smart speakers, I wondered just how Harman Kardon’s Citation One would stand out from the crowd. It turns out that it batted well above its weight and is a bit of a smarty to boot.
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The Citation One is a handsome looking beast. Its grey cloth-covered tubular design is right on trend and will blend into most homes effortlessly. On its top are two mics and a bunch of discretely marked Mute, Volume and Playback controls. A built-in transformer also means you only need to plug in a power cord – there’s no additional power brick to clutter things up. Size-wise, the Citation One comes in at 188mm tall and is 140mm in diameter. It might not be the smallest smart speaker ever, but finding it a place to live isn’t likely to be a problem either.
Interestingly, your choice of inputs is limited to Google Cast and Bluetooth. There’s no 3.5mm aux jack. There is a USB C port on the bottom rear of the speaker, but that appears to be limited to firmware updates (which can also be done via the Google Home app). On the plus side, there’s a big reset button, which is useful as it could save you from having to find a paperclip. Casting music via my phone was thankfully dead easy.
Firing up some Che Fu from my phone saw the Criterion One pumping out a surprising amount of bass. Given it only has a 20mm tweeter and a 102mm woofer, I was impressed by the scale of its output. For dub and electronica, the Criterion One dished out sound that I’d have expected from a much larger speaker. The room-filling audio I was getting impressed given the size of the speaker it was originating from.
With classical tracks, I found that while bass was plentiful, which was both a blessing and a curse. While percussion in Holst’s Planet Suite impressed, the string parts of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons were sometimes a tad bass-heavy, which was distracting. The silver lining here is that there’s plenty of energy and brightness, and it doesn’t sound brash or fatiguing. Audiobooks also sounded great, thanks to solid midrange which had plenty of presence. It might be a mono speaker, but its sound stage was expansive.
Using Google Assistant is a real bonus. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the Google Assistant is one of the smarter assistants available. Not only does it pick up contextual clues from earlier conversations, but it can also make use of the vast pool of data Google collects. Because of this I could, for instance, ask for and get the commute time to work, based on Google knowing where my place of work was, and what current and projected traffic conditions were.
If there was a gotcha it was this: With it cranked up, it struggled to hear me utter “Hey Google” over the music (or my neighbours yelling at me to turn it down). This wasn’t a problem at more reasonable volume levels.
Being Google-powered, getting set-up via the Home app on my smartphone was both quick and easy. I also liked that I could add the Citation One to other Google Assistant-powered speakers. Doing so allowed me to play the same music in multiple rooms without having to sell a kidney or a firstborn to purchase prohibitively expensive multi-zone music systems.
That this is possible with different brands of Google Assistant-powered speakers is dead handy. Users can mix and match speakers to suit other parts of their home, and they also gain a degree of future-proofing by being able to choose from a range of speakers from different manufacturers.
So, does the Citation One stand out from the smart speaker crowd? Its design might not be terribly distinctive, but that’s a big plus. Most people will want it to blend into the decor of their home. Its output also belies its small size. If music is your thing, you’ll be impressed by its big sound.
Still, its bass can be a bit overpowering, and the ability to adjust its bass via an EQ would be a useful addition (here’s hoping this is addressed in a future firmware update). That said, the Citation One delivers a richer, more engaging sound than many other similarly priced smart speakers, and with it you get all the perks of the Google ecosystem as well.