Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Review

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers under $150 on the market.

There’s a bunch of reasons to buy Onyx Studio 4 – rich, powerful, and balanced sound, amazing design (one of the most elegant speakers on the market), Bluetooth connectivity, great connection quality, multi-host (connect up to 2 phones simultaneously) and daisy chaining features (connect up to 100 speakers together), built-in battery, built-in microphone, HK Connect app.



Unfortunately, it’s not all that great. Most of our complaints are related to battery durability (this beautiful speaker needs some stronger battery) and build quality. This speaker is made of premium materials and looks/feels expensive but it’s not rugged enough and it’s not the best choice if you need an outdoor Bluetooth speaker. You can use it outdoors since it’s portable/battery-operated but it’s not rugged enough. If you need something rugged and waterproof, you should look elsewhere.

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

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UPSIDES

  • Great sound quality, very balanced sound
  • Elegant design
  • Portable
  • Can be paired with up to 100 Onyx 4 speakers
  • Speakerphone feature

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Not waterproof, not rugged
  • Weak battery (short playtime)

 
VERDICT

If you are looking for the most elegant and best sounding portable Bluetooth speaker under $150, you won’t find a better choice than Onyx Studio 4.

Official video – Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4

What’s in the box?

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 comes in a premium-looking box along with a charging adapter (2 wall adapters for EU and US market), user manual, and 1-year warranty. Hard carrying case is not included and you have to buy it separately. The speaker has one 3.5mm input but the audio cable is also not included.

Specs

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Diameter11 inches
Depth6.3 inches (including 2 undetachable feet)
Weight4.6lb
DRIVERS
Woofers75mm x2
Tweeters20mm x2
Passive radiatorYes, x1
ENCLOSURE TYPEPassive radiator
BATTERY
Typeli-ion, rechargeable
Capacity3,000mAh
PlaytimeUp to 7 hours (at 50% volume)
Recharge time5 hours
OTHER POWERING OPTIONSDC input
CONNECTIONSBluetooth, AUX input
BLUETOOTH DETAILS
Version4.2
Supported Bluetooth profilesA2DP, HSP, AVRCP
NFCNo
Multi-hostYes (2 devices connected simultaneously to the speaker)
Bluetooth rangeUp to 33ft (without obstacles)
Daisy chainingYes, up to 100 HK speakers
Multi-hostYes
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response50Hz-20,000kHz
Peak output power60W (plugged in), 30W (on battery)
ADDITIONAL FEATURESHK Connect + app, Siri or Google Now integration


Design

Harman Kardon has truly perfected the designing process. All the Bluetooth speakers made by this famous manufacturer look incredibly elegant and Onyx Studio 4 is the perfect example. This speaker comes in three colors (black, blue, and white) and we couldn’t decide which one is the most beautiful. They all look very attractive.

Onyx Studio 4 in three colors

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is available in three colors

The whole front panel is covered with a fabric grille that protects the drivers. There’s a simple harman/kardon logo on the grille.

Onyx Studio 4 Front panel

Picture 1 – Front panel (with the fabric grille)

The grille is removable (but it doesn’t come off easily). You can use the speaker with or without the grille, depending on your taste. The grille has a protective purpose so you might want to leave it on, especially if you are going to use the speaker outdoors.

Onyx Studio 4 without the fabric grille

Picture 2 – Front panel (without the fabric grille)

On the rear panel, you will see the carrying handle at the top, the bass reflex port in the middle, and input ports at the bottom. There are also two undetachable feet that provide stability.

Rear panel

Picture 3 – Rear panel

Studio 4 features 3 input ports – micro USB port (for service purposes and firmware upgrade), AUX (3.5mm) input, and DC input.

Rear panel inputs

Picture 4 – Rear panel inputs

All the control buttons are on the top, along the rim. There are 6 nice-looking backlit buttons – Bluetooth, Connect+ button, volume buttons (+ and -), handsfree button (you can use it to answer/end calls, play/pause the music, or activate Siri/Google Now), and power button.

Control panel

Picture 5 – Control panel

Features

Onyx Studio 4 is made of premium materials and you can really fell that by holding the speaker. It’s kind of heavy and it looks quite sturdy. It is completely made of plastic but it’s very thick and very hard plastic. Still, the speaker is not waterproof (it’s not IPX certified) and it’s not shockproof so it’s not the best speaker for outdoor use. It’s more of a desktop speaker.  

Studio 4 is very much portable since it has a built-in battery and it’s not too heavy to carry around. So, if you want to use it outdoors, you can. But, be warned that it’s not very rugged and that the battery inside the speaker has the capacity of 3,000mAh. The capacity is not bad but it’s not great either, especially when there are 2 woofers and 2 tweeters inside the speaker that need to be driven.



Onyx Studio 4 features Bluetooth 4.2 with a 33ft Bluetooth range. You can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices (phones/tablets/PCs) at the same time with one Onyx Studio 4 (multi-host feature) and the speaker can memorize up to 8 devices. The speaker lacks NFC quick pairing feature so if you are an Android user, you will have to go through the standard pairing process. Studio 4 also has one AUX input so you can connect non-Bluetooth devices to the speaker.

The speaker has a built-in microphone (speakerphone feature) with some nice software add-ons (voicelogic + echo/noise canceling).

Onyx Studio 4 also features voice-assistant support. You can access Google Now and Siri by long pressing the handsfree/call button. In order to configure/activate this feature, you have to use the HK Connect app which is another nice feature. The speaker can be controlled with this app but most of the users aren’t so happy with this app. We will discuss some app-related issues in the ‘’Performance’’ section.

HK Connect app

Picture 6 – HK Connect app (download it from Google Play or App Store)

Performance

We were mostly happy with this speaker’s performance but there are also some issues that need to be mentioned.

The good things first.

We can’t complain about the Bluetooth connection and sound quality (sound quality will be discussed in the next section).

The Bluetooth connection works without issues – we haven’t experienced any signal loss or cutout within the advertised range. In fact, if you are using some newer phone (like iPhone X) the range will be even larger (up to 50+ft without obstacles). Pairing is simple and it’s the same for Android and iPhone users (no NFC quick pairing feature for Android users). In order to initiate pairing, you will have to press the Bluetooth button (pairing doesn’t start automatically). Multi-host is also a nice feature and works without issues.

Daisy chaining can be problematic, especially if you want your speakers to play the music in stereo mode (there are two modes – stereo and party). In order to do that, you have to use the app. Many people had issues with this feature since it’s not enough to press the Connect+ button on each speaker. Let’s assume that you have 2 Onyx Studio 4 speakers and that you want to pair them together and play the music in stereo mode. Follow these simple steps:



Step 1 – Turn on the first speaker, initiate pairing (press the Bluetooth button) and pair it with your phone. You can stream your music to the first speaker now.

Step 2 – Turn on the other speaker (don’t press the Bluetooth button).

Step 3 – Press the Connect+ button on the first speaker and then press the same button on the other speaker.

Step 4 – Both speakers will play the music in party mode (default settings)

Step 5 – In order to make them play the music in stereo mode, you will have to download and install the HK Connect App.

Step 6 – Open the app and select stereo mode. The speakers should start playing in stereo mode (left and right channels).

The app is poorly rated on Google Play and App Store and users don’t really like it. It’s too basic. You can (have to) use it to select the stereo or party mode or to program the handsfree/call button. You can’t play with the sound signature and adjust the EQ settings through the app.

The battery is not that small (3,000mAh) but there are four drivers inside (+ passive bass radiator) so the playtime is not really great. Harman Kardon claims that you can get 8 hours of playtime but you can actually get less than 7 at 50% volume (less than 4 hours at 100%). This great sounding speaker needs some larger battery.

The built-in mic works flawlessly even if there’s too much noise around you. Kudos to Harman Kardon for that.  

Sound Quality

The sound quality is the most noticeable feature of this speaker. You can hardly get more balanced sound for less than $150.

The bass response is impressive for the speaker of this size. The low frequencies are present and punchy even at low volumes (maybe even slightly boosted).

Mids are dynamic and all the voices are perfectly clear. Lower mid frequencies don’t get overpowered by the bass until you increase the volume above 80%. The distortion becomes noticeable at 90% volume but it’s not too distracting.  

The high frequencies are absolutely sparkling.

All in all, the sound is balanced and without too much bass boost.

The soundstage is surprisingly wide for the speaker of this size.

Stereo separation practically doesn’t exist since all the drivers are close to each other but you can get much better separation if you pair two speakers and play the music in stereo mode.

Onyx Studio 4 can be loud but it’s not louder than some competitors within the same price range (like UE MEGABOOM or Marshal Kilburn).

The Competition


Owlee AviaryOwlee Aviary

Owlee Aviary is similar to Onyx Studio 4 but there are some important differences. Aviary is cheaper and it delivers less impressive and quieter sound. If the sound quality is your priority, Studio 4 is a clear winner. They both have speakerphone feature and deliver similar playtime. Aviary features NFC while Studio 4 doesn’t. Owlee Aviary doesn’t support daisy chaining (can’t be paired with another Aviary speaker) while you can pair up to 100 Onyx Studio 4 speakers together. There’s no app for Owlee Aviary while there’s the HK Connect app for Onyx Studio 4.
 


iClever BoostSoundiClever BoostSound

If you need something really cheap that looks similar to Onyx Studio 4, iClever BoostSound might be the best thing for you. You should be aware that iClever BoostSound could never deliver the same sound quality but it’s actually not that bad. iClever looks and feels cheaper (which is not a surprise). The bass is more boosted than on Onyx Studio 4 and. iClever’s playtime is slightly longer (12 hours compared to 7 hours). iClever features micro SD card slot while Studio 4 doesn’t. On the other hand, Studio 4 comes with the app and can be paired with up to 100 Onyx Studio 4 speakers. They both have built-in mics.
 


Harman Kardon Omni 10Harman Kardon Omni 10

Omni 10 is another example of Harman Kardon’s recognizable design. Omni 10 is as stylish as Onyx Studio 4 but it’s inferior in all the other aspects. The sound is rich and balanced, the bass is maybe even punchier than on Studio 4 but the overall sound quality of Onyx Studio 4 is better. Studio 4 features more powerful battery (longer playtime), it comes with the app, it has a greater Bluetooth range and more stable connection, and it can be paired with up to 100 other Studio 4 speakers. Omni 10 is significantly cheaper.


Comparison Table

SpeakerBattery (50% vol.)Power
Onyx Studio 4Up to 7 hours60W/30W on battery
Owlee AviaryUp to 9 hours20W
iClever BoostSoundUp to 12 hours20W
Harman Kardon Omni 10Up to 5 hours60W/30W on battery

Final Thoughts

Onyx Studio 4 is, without any doubt, one of the best sounding speakers under $150 and if you don’t care about those drawbacks we’ve talked about (not waterproof, splash proof, shockproof, it lacks NFC, and it needs stronger battery), you should definitely try it.

Recommended Reading :

 
If you want something cheaper but similar to Onyx Studio 4 (at least when it comes to design), you can choose between Owlee Aviary (better option) and iClever BoostSound (worse option). If you want that recognizable Harman Kardon stylish design but you need something cheaper, you can buy HK Omni 10. Still, these speakers are not better than Onyx Studio 4 and if the sound quality and great design are your priorities, Onyx Studio 4 is the best choice.

Onyx Studio Speakers Compared

Onyx Studio Speakers Compared


20 Comments

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Dilan

      You can connect any Bluetooth-enabled phone or other device to HK4. That includes your Samsung Galaxy S9.

      Your AudiReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, John

      Studio 4 is currently priced at $127. So, assuming that the price range is $100-$150, you can find a few pretty loud speakers in this price range (like UE BOOM 3 or SONY XB40). Still, Studio 4 feels louder and more refined than those speakers. On the other hand, these other speakers have some features that Studio 4 hasn’t (like waterproof coating or party lights). If your main criteria are sound quality and loudness, and you don’t want to spend more than $150, Studio 4 is a great choice.

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Shady Lady

      You could try to reset the speaker (by holding the Bluetooth and + buttons until the speaker turns off). If that doesn’t help, call the HK customer service and ask them to give you a new speaker (if it’s been only a month, they are supposed to replace the broken speaker).

      Hope this helps

      Your AudioReputation Team

      • Shady Lady

        Thank you James….I have another question for you,please help 🙂

        Can this speaker it be charge with a solar portable charger and how?

        Thank you
        Shady Lady

        • AudioReputation Team

          Hi, Shady Lady

          If your portable solar charger has a USB charge-out port, you can use USB to micro USB charging cable to charge Studio 4.

          Hope this helps

          Your AudioReputation Team

  • June Marshall

    Regarding battery life. Outdoors, I just have them plugged into an outlet. Why wasn’t this mentioned as an option in reviews of HK Bluetooth speakers?

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, June

      We are not quite sure that we understand your question. Do you have an outdoor outlet?

      Your AudioReputation Team

  • Peter

    Hi mate,
    These Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 speakers are beautiful on their own but a bloomin nightmare if one makes the mistake of purchasing two (or four).
    Harman Kardon Australia are very secretive and their customer support people go out of their way in hiding contact details for their Head Office in Australia, even Harvey Norman from where I purchased four of these Onyx Studio 4s is “not permitted” to give out contact details of HKs Head office or distributor…

    They (HKs customer relations) even refused to give me (the lawfull consumer) HKs ABN or ACN numbers which is required by law!!

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Peter

      So sorry to hear about your problems 🙁 I’m pretty sure that they are legally obligated to give you the Head Office contact details. That ”we are not permitted to give you any contact details” statement sounds like a bunch of crap.

      If you haven’t tried, you could make the inquiry through the official support page (they are located in Stamford, Connecticut).

      By the way, did you have problems with all 4 speakers? Were you unable to pair them all together or was it some kind of mechanical failure? Even pairing two of these can be tricky. We have tried to explain the pairing procedure in details (you can read the performance section of our review if that’s your problem). I didn’t have the chance to pair multiple speakers but I’m guessing that you just have to repeat the procedure for each speaker (steps 2-4).

      Hope this helps

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • Peter

      True,
      Use the link provided in the above and look at the screenshot of reply email.

      These people want nothing to do with disgruntled customers and are secretive as to their whereabouts because the just do not care.
      See my YouTube videos!

    • Peter

      Hi,
      Yes it happens to all 4 speakers.
      Rather than using these HK lemons as PAPERWEIGHTS one connected them to my Sony Bravia television and the volume cuts out continually when people on television stop talking or quiet times and no volume at all from these speakers when one turns the television volume below 11.
      This is a commoncomplaint on the HK website and the Australian Harvey Norman website comments of these from other unhappy customers.

      Yes the do indeed refuse to divulge their Corporate details EVEN FOR LEGAL REASONS!
      See the screenshot I posted oh the productreview website link (bottom of my review on here).

      One should be vary wary dealing with a company that sells ‘turnover’ fully knowing that their ‘turnover is FAULTY and then have the gall to hide behind Asian call centres rather than facing the music!

  • Zoltan

    Hi James,
    I’m in the market for a nice quality speakers (a pair). As I’m an old school person I still believe in plug in power and wires. These rechargeable things with Bluetooth connection is not my taste. This time I want something very small size for my workbench where I sit all day everyday. Something like studio monitor with built in amp in mini size.
    Quality is first but for a reasonable price.
    What would you recommend?

    Regards
    Zoltan

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Zoli

      We don’t know how small you want them to be. If you are interested in relatively small and compact bookshelf speakers, you could check out these products – Vanatoo Transparent Zero, Fluance Ai40, AudioEngine A5+, Peachtree Audio M25. Out of these 4 speakers, Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers are probably the smallest but they are not exactly affordable (priced at $350). Fluance speakers are the cheapest and they are priced at $200. If you are looking for something even cheaper, you could check out Edifier’s speakers (like Edifier R980T).

      Hope this helps

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Damian

      Your choice depends on your sound taste and intended purpose. JBL Xtreme and Onyx Studio 4 practically come from the same company (JBL is owned by the Harman International and Harman International is owned by Samsung) and they have a lot in common, especially when it comes to connectivity and advanced Bluetooth features (multipoint pairing, connecting 100+ speakers together for louder sound, etc.). They also have similar apps since they are both developed by the same team (JBL Connect app and HK Connect app).

      Still, there are some important differences between these two speakers. First, you have the sound. JBL Xtreme delivers stronger (some would say overwhelming) bass, while Onyx Studio 4 delivers more balanced, clearer, and more detailed sound. If sound is your main concern, Onyx Studio 4 is a better choice.

      On the other hand, JBL Xtreme has a much larger battery (10,000mAh VS 3,000mAh) and delivers much longer playtime (15 hours VS 7 hours). JBL Xtreme features 2 Powerbank ports, while Onyx Studio 4 has none. Also, JBL Xtreme is much more rugged and it’s splashproof (IPX4 certified). Onyx Studio 4 doesn’t feature IPX rating. The battery and rugged design make JBL Xtreme more appropriate for outdoor use. Onyx Studio 4 is technically portable but it doesn’t look like something you should be using outdoors.

      Hope this answers your question

      Your AudioReputation Team

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