Product review: Harman Kardon Go + Play Bluetooth speaker


When the Harman Kardon Go + Play first arrived in store, we were pretty eager to try it out. That’s not particularly unusual in a business with so many shiny new products to play with, but the Go + Play had one very specific feature we were keen to test…

With Bluetooth speakers very much commonplace these days, few come out with anything other than the standard feature count, and for the most part this isn’t a problem. Smaller speakers generally have a built-in battery, something that larger models forego, (mainly due to their higher power output and larger size making a battery either fairly redundant or just unnecessary). You see where we’re going with this? That’s right – the Harman Kardon Go + Play is one of the few Bluetooth speakers out there that’s not only big enough to kick out huge sound, but also truly portable once its internal battery is fully charged. Sound interesting? Let’s see what else it can do…

Harman Kardon have certainly got the looks right with the Go + Play. Its substantial cabinet, which weighs a reasonable 3.4kg. It’s made portable by a neat looking arched handle that is ideally matched to the Go + Play’s simple curves. It’s not covered in any embellishments nor plastered with visual bells and whistles, but that’s certainly to its credit. Harman Kardon has aimed for “timeless” and getting it just about spot on.

As mentioned, the Go + Play’s modus operandi is Bluetooth playback, and this is its sole means of wireless connectivity. Shunning AirPlay and DLNA means that it potentially loses a few points against some rivals, but it does help to keep costs down. It also means that no downloading of separate control apps is required, and that’s always a plus in our book. A 3.5mm socket is equipped for non-wireless listening, while a rear USB socket allows mobile devices to piggy-back the Go + Play for charging on the go.

Under the tidy looking grille is a pair of stereo speakers, each one utilising a drive-unit and tweeter, similar to a pair of “proper” hi-fi speakers. With 25 Watts of amplification to each of these channels, plenty of power is on tap to make sure that volume and, most importantly, headroom are not an issue. After a full charge the Harman’ is good for around 8 hours of playback at a decent volume; more than adequate, in fact I’d go as far as to say “impressive” for a device of this size. If you really need to kick out serious volume, Harman Kardon’s Wireless Dual Sound mode allows two Go + Plays to connect together wirelessly, doubling your power output.

bodyPlayback this time round was via the Tidal app over Bluetooth, which was found quickly and offered a solid connection. We always like to test out how well this type of speaker performs in the lower frequencies, and there are few better tracks for the job than Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock. A reggae-rap track from 2005, the hefty bassline that holds the track together sounds brilliant when done properly, and slightly, er, flatulent when not! The Go + Play easily fell into the former category; its bass performance thick and deep, but without any nasty overhang, definitely amongst the best we’d heard for the type of speaker. Not only was it substantial, the bass didn’t intrude on the other parts of the track – with Marley’s distinct vocal easy to follow and other intricacies in the beat easy to pick out, too.

The same was true for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!’s eponymous debut album. Admittedly not a great recording, the record is still a fun and engaging listen, albeit one that can sound a bit harsh on some systems. The Harman Kardon’s party-animal-vibe didn’t really care one way or the other, enthusiastically pelting out The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth, making it sound as enjoyable as the track deserves. The harshly recorded vocals stood out possibly a little bit more than they should, but again, the album isn’t the best from a production point of view & the Harman is fairly boisterous in its presentation. “Boisterous” pretty nicely sums up the Go + Play all round. It colours sound in a way that makes songs get up and go, and given its portable, outdoor, party piece nature, that’s certainly not a bad thing. Especially when dealing with streamed music, which can sometimes lose a little bit of resolution due to heavily compressing the digital tracks. When we played music quietly it still gave the same energetic performance, and everyone who listened agreed that it was a strong character trait to exhibit. It might not necessarily be one for those who love to kick back and relax whilst listening, but it’ll put a smile on the face of anyone who wants to play air guitar or drum along whether outdoor or in. Nice one!

To find out more about the Harmon Kardon Go +Play, click here.

Author: Chris, Liverpool store