|BRAND||Sonos One||Harman Kardon Allure||Amazon Echo|
|WEIGHT||4.1 lbs (1.85 kg)||5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)||2.1 lbs (954 g)|
|POWER||Plugged in||Plugged in||Plugged in|
|NETWORK||WiFi||WiFi/ Bluetooth||WiFi/ Bluetooth|
|CONNECTIONS||Power Adapter||Power Adapter||Power Adapter|
|FEATURES||APP EXPERIENCE||Sonos Controller||HK Alexa||Amazon Alexa|
Hey everyone, this is Ian, tech reviewer with JimsReviewRoom. We’ve been preaching here that 2018 will be the year for voice activation. With Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri in almost every piece of tech these days, it’s only a matter of time until microphones and displays will be built into the ceiling or walls of every new house on the market. Here, I have the Harman Kardon Allure, a Bluetooth speaker with Alexa built-in. Its retail price is $249, though currently, it’s on sale for $199 through our Amazon Affiliate links up above – click on those links and you’ll get the most updated prices in real time, you never know when the price might drop even further.
Starting off with the physical design, maybe my favorite design of a smart speaker to date, Harman Kardon did not phone in on the Allure. The top half of the speaker is surrounded by crystal clear plastic that, while smudge-prone, looks absolutely premium – it’s thick and solid, and doesn’t flex or feel like it might crack or shatter under normal conditions. The bottom half of the speaker is wrapped in a gorgeous aluminum metal grate atop the central drivers. With a diagonal cut pattern slightly resembling the look of carbon fiber, the Allure is an extremely design-conscious speaker. Between the two section is a glossy plastic separator with the Harmon Kardon logo that buttons up the speaker as a cohesive, attractive unit.
Flipping to the bottom, you have the exposed bass radiator. I pressed on it firmly and it didn’t give way or feel too fragile. Also here are the speaker’s feet with a non-slip coating to ensure the Allure is stable. Giving it several decent shoves, the speaker didn’t tip at all, so those of you with pets, small children, or are even just clumsy don’t need to worry at all if this is on the coffee table or bookshelf. Along with the radiator, there are three other drivers spread evenly throughout the lower portion of the speaker every 120 degrees, providing a 360-degree sound no matter where you – or the speaker – are located in the room. Finally, I did want to mention its size and weight. The speaker is quite heavy, especially for its size. Coming in at 5 and a half pounds, or 2.5 kilograms, it’s hefty, but at just over 7 and a half inches tall, the weight makes it feel valuable and compact, rather than overly bulky.
Moving on to the controls, the speaker is based on the Alexa platform and has similar controls built in. The buttons up top are all touch-sensitive, with no clicky or tactile sensation. They weren’t super intuitive at first, I often was holding or tapping the volume controls and wasn’t sure of the best way to control it, but eventually found it to function best as a slider. Much like the Echo or Echo dot, as you increase the volume, a circular LED illuminates around the edges. Muting the mic is done on the bottom of the control area and illuminates the internal LED’s red.
Finally, you can turn on Bluetooth connections by pressing the small logo on the back middle of the speaker – a little hidden, I didn’t even see it the first time, but it does help make the top look more minimalist. I’ll get more into that in a second.
Now, I did notice there’s no NFC, or near-field communication, for quick pairing it to your phone. There’s also no 3.5mm port for physical connections. While I generally appreciate these extras, I found myself never really missing their presence due to Alexa, as well as the straightforward HK Alexa app used to connect and setup the speaker.
Behind the plastic is an inset light cylinder which glows and revolves as you play music or interact with Alexa. I really love any speaker that uses light along with its music, and the Allure is no exception. The soft, pulsating blue-gray light is calming and serves more as an ambiance builder, rather than a centerpiece. I did wish you could alter the colors or opt to change it to a more exciting or colorful light spectrum, similar to the Pulse 3 from JBL, just to bring out some more vibrancy, or match it to a specific room’s color scheme, but overall its still a visually enjoyable LED show.
Speaking of which, Bluetooth range worked perfectly, with a flawless connection throughout the entire office. If you’re out of WiFi range, you can use the Allure solely as a Bluetooth speaker, though it does require WiFi for Alexa capabilities, things like Spotify, Pandora, Tunein won’t work if you’re not connected.
Along with that, there are a few other limitations here. Unlike with the Amazon Echo, there are no multi-room capabilities with the Allure… No playing a song in one room and having the song continue in another. Along with that, voice calls don’t play through the speaker. There are four microphones, which I’m just about to touch on, but when you receive a call, it doesn’t come through the Allure and instead defaults to your cell phone.
With an array of 4 far-field microphones built into the unit, the Allure is extremely capable of hearing commands no matter where you are. I placed the speaker at one end of the office and walked all the way to the back of the studio, and the Allure never had any difficulty hearing my voice, even at normal to slightly above-normal speaking tones – and that was at a distance of 40 feet.
A common occurrence with the Amazon Echo speaker here in the office, is that when playing music at about 70 percent volume, she has a lot of difficulty hearing your commands, you basically have to walk right up to the speaker, or even pause the music by hand. With the Allure, at 70 percent volume, I was able to control the speaker by voice at up to 20 feet. Sometimes, I had to get near shouting, but with loud music playing, it’s a pretty impressive response. A final thing to keep in mind, if you’re playing audio solely through a Bluetooth connection, you won’t be able to use voice commands to skip tracks – only through Alexa apps like Amazon Music.
Finally, and perhaps most important for a speaker – the sound review. I have to say, the audio on the Allure is pretty darn great. While not a head-to-head comparison, more of a reference point, the JBL Xtreme, Bose Revolve Plus, even the Sony XB40 don’t quite match the musical performance of Harman Kardon’s speaker. Jumping from Sly & The Family Stone to David Bowie to Coolio, the Allure really nailed the performance in all genres.
It offers cleaner bass that can easily fill up a large room without droning. There is some detail lost at max volume, but you rarely won’t need to go over 70 percent volume. With the downward facing subwoofer on the underside of the speaker, you really get the audible, deep thump bass heads crave without distortion. The mid-range is brighter and airier than the bass, with a forward sound that provides an excellent experience in every genre I tested. There’s a lot of openness to the sound that allows for individual instruments and voices to flourish. Clean and detailed highs created an accurate, bright sound that I really appreciated never brought any ear-tinging or ringing, so you shouldn’t have any listening fatigue, even on marathon sessions. One Saturday, I played the speaker for the better part of 12 hours and it provided a reliable, even listening experience throughout the whole day.
One last thing worth mentioning, for those of you planning on using this to watch movies or videos on your phone, there is a bad audio delay. Mouths move way ahead of when you hear the sound, and it can be pretty distracting. I tested it out on both YouTube and Netflix and had the problem.
I love the audio signature for this price, and feel it is the best Alexa-enabled speaker out there. From its supremely classy design, to the subtle lightshow, to the powerful, loud musical experience, I feel you will not be disappointed. If you want clean bass, forward mids, and detailed highs in the nicest available package, but don’t need portability or a 3.5mm port, this speaker is for you.