Google Assistant and voice control make this one smart speaker, but how’s its hi-fi cred? Read our Harman Kardon Citation 500 Review.
PRODUCT Harman Kardon Citation 500
TYPE Active loudspeaker system with wireless streaming
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 374 x 212 x 172mm
• Quoted power output: 200W
• 2x 25mm tweeters
• 2x 131mm mid/ bass drivers
• Streaming: via Google Chromecast; Google Assistant voice control; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2
DISTRIBUTOR Harman Consumer UK
TELEPHONE 0161 2223325
Life with the Citation 500 starts with the Google Home app and though configuration seems to take forever, having Google Chromecast and Assistant at your fingertips does confer certain advantages. Not only does it give access to a wide range of streaming and internet radio services at up to 24-bit/96kHz, Harman claims that Chromecast functionality also permits access to over 300 music services. Google Assistant can operate with a variety of different voice-activated services, depending on subscription and preferences, making this the only true do-it-all speaker in the group. However, without any auxiliary wired inputs, further options are limited to Bluetooth streaming.
Uniquely here, the top of the unit features a small touchscreen. Not only does it have the usual play/pause, volume up/down and skip forward/ backward controls, but also a tiny area for displaying album artwork.
Aside from streaming duties, Google Assistant, like Alexa, can give a range of information, including calendar reminders and traffic and weather updates should you need them. It ain’t hi-fi, but it is handy and it works.
Behind the homely wrap-around fabric grille – available in a choice of grey or black and supplied by Danish company Kvadrat – the driver array consists of two 25mm tweeters and a brace of 131mm mid/bass drivers. Rated power output is a bouncing 200W RMS (total) while the sealed enclosure should help with close-wall proximity placement given the speaker’s reassuringly expensive feeling weight.
But for the extraordinary Devialet offering, the Citation 500 would be the ace of bass so far. In fact, it has enough of the low-frequency stuff to warrant considerable care with placement. On stands clear of walls, you can revel in the quality and extension. Transferred to the coffee table, however, the bottom end can become a little bloated and overpowering – never more so than with the bassy bedrock underpinning God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Interestingly, this isn’t the case with the Reactor, which goes ridiculously deep regardless of placement, presumable because of those ‘implosive’ side-firing drivers. The Harman’s mid and treble don’t fall
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into the shrinking violet category, either. There’s plenty of clarity and sparkle here to balance out the bass but, thankfully, the end result doesn’t sound like woofers and tweeters battling for dominance.
Listening to Thundercat, McDonald and Loggins doing their achingly authentic retro thing on Show You The Way is an unqualified guilty pleasure through the Citation 500, the lovingly crafted, synth-laced, cheesy, yacht rocky affair faithfully rendered in all its glossy, slightly over produced glory without being completely in your face. The Stern and Lorber collaboration is similarly enjoyable, the bright horns ringing out sonorously and Lorber’s electric piano sounding almost luminous.
Only Sad Old Red strikes a slightly negative note with Mick Hucknall’s voice sounding uncharacteristically forward and a little hard edged
A capable allrounder that can do it all with decent sound
- Vivid, up-front sound with plenty of bass
- No wired outputs
- Sometimes sounds edgy