Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5 Review

Harman Kardon released the latest Onyx Studio speaker called Onyx Studio 5 at the end of August of 2018. All the previous versions looked pretty much the same (Onyx Studio 1 to 4) but this one is different. HK has finally accepted some customer suggestions and made some changes.

Harman Kardon decided to stick to the recognizable circular design but they finally removed those undetachable legs from the rear panel (you can find them on all the previous models). Onyx Studio 5 is slightly wider than the previous versions and has a rubberized bottom that is supposed to ensure stability. Besides removing those legs, HK made this speaker even more portable by installing a nice aluminum carrying handle on the top. Also, the control buttons are relocated from the top to the front panel.

Harman Kardon has also changed the driver configuration. The previous models had four drivers (2 woofers + 2 tweeters) and two passive radiators but Onyx 5 has one large 5-inch woofer (compared to 3-inch woofers inside Onyx Studio 4), one tweeter, and (probably) two passive radiators. Based on the driver configuration and size, you can conclude that Onyx Studio 5 delivers much deeper bass and that’s the greatest difference between Onyx Studio 5 and previous Onyx Studio versions. This speaker is meant for bass lovers and really performs the best when some bass heavy music is being played. If you are a bass fan, you are going to love this speaker.



When it comes to bad things, you should know that Onyx Studio 5 is not waterproof or shockproof (no improvements in this area), it doesn’t offer any kind of stereo separation, it can’t be controlled with an app (only control buttons on the front panel), and it can’t be paired with older Onyx Studio speakers (you can only pair wirelessly two Onyx Studio 5 speakers).

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5

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UPSIDES

  • Bass-heavy sound with nicely balanced mids and highs
  • Portable (battery-operated, carrying handle)
  • Bluetooth + AUX connection
  • Multi-host and Dual sound features

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Not waterproof or shockproof
  • You can’t pair Onyx Studio 5 with other speakers from Onyx Studio series
  • No stereo separation
  • Not compatible with any of the HK apps

 
VERDICT

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5, just like all the previous Onyx Studio speakers, looks very elegant and sophisticated. Unlike all the other Onyx Studio speakers, Onyx Studio 5 has kind of bassy sound signature and it’s meant for all the bass lovers. It’s also more portable than the previous Onyx Studio versions. So, to conclude, if you want a great-looking portable Bluetooth speaker with moderately bassy sound and nicely balanced mids and highs, Onyx Studio 5 might be the speaker you’ve been looking for.

What’s in the box?

Like all the Harman Kardon speakers, Onyx Studio 5 comes in an elegant black and white box. Along with the speaker, you will get 1 power adapter and 4 regional power cords (US, UK, EU, AU), user manual, safety sheet, and 2-year warranty card.

Specs

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5 Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Width11.5 inches
Height11.2 inches
Depth5 inches
Weight6.6lb
DRIVERS
Woofers4.7-inch x1
Tweeters1-inch x1
ENCLOSURE TYPESealed
BATTERY
TypeLithium-ion, rechargeable
Capacity3,280mAh
PlaytimeUp to 8 hours (at 50% volume)
Recharge timeUp to 5 hours
OTHER POWERING OPTIONSDC input
CONNECTIONSBluetooth, AUX
BLUETOOTH DETAILS
Bluetooth version4.2
Supported Bluetooth profilesA2DP, AVRCP
NFCNo
Bluetooth rangeUp to 33ft
Multi-hostYes (Connect up to 2 devices simultaneously)
Daisy chainYes (pair up to 2 speakers together for louder sound)
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response50Hz to 20,000Hz
RMS output power40W
SNR80dB
ADDITIONAL FEATURESAluminum handle


Design

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5 looks elegant and sophisticated. It has that recognizable circular shape (like all the Onyx Studio speakers) with a handle on the top. It kind of looks like a purse The speaker is available in three colors – black, blue, and gray.

Onyx Studio 5 in three colors

Picture 1 – Onyx Studio 5 comes in three colors

The whole speaker is wrapped in a premium-looking fabric grille. On the front panel, you will see the Harman Kardon logo at the bottom and control buttons and one LED status indicator at the top.

Front panel

Picture 2 – Front panel

There are 5 control buttons – Bluetooth (pairing) button, 2 volume buttons, power button, and play/pause/skip button. Right under the control buttons, there’s an LED Bluetooth/battery status indicator.

Control buttons

Picture 3 – Control buttons

The rear panel is also wrapped in that premium fabric. The carrying handle is located on the top and the inputs are at the bottom.

Rear panel

Picture 4 – Rear panel

There are three input ports (AUX input, charging port, and service port for firmware updates). They look exactly the same as the inputs on previous HK Onyx Studio speakers.

Rear panel inputs

Picture 5 – Rear panel inputs

Features

Like all the Onyx Studio speakers and all the other Harman Kardon speakers, Onyx Studio 5 is made of premium materials and looks stunning.

The greatest improvement in comparison to 4 previous Onyx Studio speakers is the carrying handle on the top – it really made the speaker more portable.



Unlike Onyx Studio 4 and older versions, Onyx Studio 5 has only 2 drivers (one woofer and one tweeter). Previous speakers had four drivers (2 woofers and 2 tweeters). The woofer inside the Onyx Studio 5 is also much larger than woofers inside older versions. This difference in driver configuration and size had some effect on sound signature and we will discuss this topic in a separate section.

More from Harman Kardon:

 
Onyx Studio 5 has a built-in Li-ion battery. The capacity is rated at 3,280mAh (slightly stronger than the battery inside Onyx Studio 4) and it can deliver up to 8 hours of playtime at 50% volume. The recharge takes almost 5 hours.

Onyx Studio 5 features Bluetooth 4.2 with a standard 33ft range. You can pair up to two devices (phones, tablets) with the speaker (multi-host feature). Also, you can pair two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together for louder sound (dual sound feature). The speaker doesn’t support NFC quick pairing. This is not a deal breaker if you are an iPhone user. It’s not a deal breaker even if you are an Android user but we have still expected NFC support at this price point.

Unlike the previous Onyx Studio speakers, Onyx Studio 5 doesn’t have a built-in mic (no speakerphone feature).

Also, the speaker doesn’t have a real battery status indicator. That LED light will only blink red when the battery is low but there is no way to know the exact percentage.

Onyx Studio 5 doesn’t have dedicated track buttons (you can play the next track by double-pressing the play button). Studio 5 is not compatible with any of the HK apps.

Performance

We were quite happy with this speaker’s performance and sound quality but we’ve had some complaints regarding the build quality (lack of IPX rating) and battery.

We haven’t encountered any issues with Bluetooth connection. The Bluetooth streaming works flawlessly. We were able to stream music from a 50ft distance (without obstacles) with iPhone X. The pairing process could not be simpler. The multi-host feature also works without issues. If you have two Onyx Studio 5 speakers, you can pair them together for louder sound. Harman Kardon calls this feature dual sound. Dual sound means that both speakers play the same audio – you can’t pair two speakers together and play the music in stereo mode. Also, you can’t pair two different speakers from the Onyx Studio series (for example, you can’t pair Onyx Studio 4 with Onyx Studio 5). You can only pair two Onyx Studio 5 speakers and you can’t pair multiple speakers together.

Pairing two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together

Picture 6 – Pairing two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together (Dual sound feature)

The battery works as advertised but we have really expected stronger battery. All the Onyx Studio speakers sound great but they all have battery issues. Harman Kardon really needs to start using some stronger batteries. Onyx Studio 5 will deliver 7-8 hours at 40-50% volume but only 3 hours at full volume which is not impressive. Stronger battery, like the one inside JBL Extreme (10,000mAh), would make Onyx Studio 5 so much better. That shouldn’t be such a big problem, especially when you know that both Harman Kardon and JBL are part of the same company. Combining HK sound and design with JBL batteries (and waterproof materials) would be a winning combination.

The control buttons are very responsive and easy to use. You don’t even have to go through the manual and learn about different features. It’s extremely simple.

You should also know that Bluetooth connection always has the priority over the AUX connection. If you have two devices connected to the speaker, one wirelessly and the other via AUX cable, you cannot play the music via AUX connection until you pause the Bluetooth streaming.

Sound Quality

Onyx Studio 5 delivers pretty flat frequency response with a bass boost, especially at lower volumes (peak at 50-60Hz). The bass boost is really noticeable but it doesn’t affect the midrange and voices (doesn’t make them muffled). At high volumes, the bass is slightly reduced and the frequency response is even flatter. Compared to other Onyx Studio speakers, Onyx Studio 5 is a bass-heavy speaker. The bass is pronounced but controlled and not overpowering (it still sounds natural).



The balance between mids and highs is almost perfect. The voices are clear and crisp.

The sound stays undistorted even at full volume.

Onyx Studio 5 performs better and delivers fuller and richer sound than some large and more expensive speakers like JBL Boombox. Compared to Boombox, Onyx Studio 5 delivers more natural and detailed sound but it’s definitely not louder than JBL Boombox and it doesn’t offer better stereo separation.

The worst thing about the sound is the fact that there is practically no stereo separation. Even if you connect two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together, you won’t get stereo experience since there is no stereo mode (only dual sound).

The Competition


Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4

Onyx Studio 4 is the predecessor of Onyx Studio 5. Studio 4 is cheaper, it’s equally elegant but less portable because of the undetachable legs on the back. The batteries have similar capacities (3,000mAh battery inside Studio 4 compared to 3,280mAh inside Studio 5) and they offer similar playtime. They both deliver pretty balanced sound but Studio 5 has punchier and stronger bass. Onyx Studio 4 features a built-in microphone and it supports Siri and Google Now while Onyx Studio 5 doesn’t. You can pair only two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together and get louder (not stereo) sound. On the other hand, you can pair up to 100 Connect+ compatible speakers with Onyx Studio 4 (they don’t have to be Onyx Studio 4 speakers – you can pair any JBL or Harman Kardon speaker that supports Connect+ with Onyx Studio 4). If you connect 2 Onyx Studio 4 speakers together, you can choose between party and stereo mode. In the end, Onyx Studio 4 comes with the HK Connect app while there is no app for Onyx Studio 5.


Vifa OsloVifa Oslo

Vifa Oslo is more expensive than Onyx Studio 5. It’s very elegant and sophisticated but we can’t really say that it looks better than Studio 5. It’s the matter of taste. They both deliver impressive and balanced sound but Onyx Studio 5 delivers much stronger bass while Vifa offers slightly better stereo separation. Vifa is slightly louder. They both feature Bluetooth and AUX inputs and deliver similar playtime. Vifa doesn’t support daisy chaining while you can pair two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together and get a louder sound. Vifa supports NFC quick pairing and aptX low latency codec while Studio 5 doesn’t.

 


 

JBL Xtreme

JBL Xtreme

JBL Xtreme and Onyx Studio 5 are priced the same on Amazon. Each of these speakers has its advantages and disadvantages. Studio 5 looks more sophisticated and delivers richer, fuller, and more balanced sound than JBL Xtreme. On the other hand, JBL Xtreme is more suitable for outdoor use – it’s more rugged and splash proof (IPX4 certified). It features much stronger battery (10,000mAh) and delivers much longer playtime (up to 15 hours at 50% volume). Xtreme also has a built-in microphone (speakerphone feature) while Onyx Studio 5 doesn’t. You can pair only two Onyx Studio 5 speakers together and get louder (but not stereo sound) while you can pair multiple JBL Xtreme speakers together and if you pair two speakers together you can choose between party and stereo modes. Xtreme also features two USB powerbank ports and you can use them to charge two phones simultaneously while listening to music. To conclude, if the sound and design are your only priorities, Onyx Studio 5 is a clear winner. If you care about other features too, you should check out JBL Xtreme.


Comparison Table

SpeakerBattery (50% vol.)Rugged/Waterproof
HK Onyx Studio 57- 8 hoursNo/No
HK Onyx Studio 46-7 hoursNo/No
Vifa Oslo6-7 hoursNo/No
JBL XtremeUp to 15 hoursYes/Yes (IPX4)


Final Thoughts

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5 is a sophisticated portable Bluetooth speaker. It sounds even better than it looks. Compared to older Onyx Studio speakers, Studio 5 delivers much stronger and punchier bass. If you are a bass fan but you care about mids and highs, too and you don’t want them distorted or muffled, Onyx Studio 5 is a great choice. You should be aware that Studio 5 is not very rugged, it’s not waterproof, and it looks too precious for outdoor use.

If you want something equally stylish but cheaper and with a more balanced sound (and less bass), you can buy the predecessor – HK Onyx Studio 4.

Vifa Oslo is much more expensive and equally sophisticated. It has some advantages over Onyx Studio 5 but they both deliver great sound.

JBL Xtreme doesn’t deliver as good sound as Onyx Studio 5 but it’s more suitable for outdoor use (IPX4 certified, rugged, stronger battery, powerbank charging ports).

Onyx Studio Speakers Compared

Onyx Studio Speakers Compared


15 Comments

  • Steve

    Thanks for the thorough review, James. I’m trying to pair the OS5 with a Sony PS-LX310BT turntable, but not having any luck at all. The turntable supposedly features “easy Bluetooth connectivity”. Any tips for making the connection?

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Steve

      This is supposed to be a fairly easy task. We didn’t have the chance to test the PS-LX310BT turntable but, based on what we’ve seen and heard, this thing is supposed to work with any Bluetooth-enabled speaker. You should just set the output selector on your turntable to PHONO, press the Bluetooth pairing button on the turntable, press the pairing button on your speaker, and they are supposed to pair with each other automatically.

      Hope this helps

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Lori

      In our experience, HK Onyx Studio 5 will turn off automatically if it doesn’t detect a Bluetooth device to pair with for 30 minutes. On the other hand, it will not turn off automatically if it’s paired with some Bluetooth device and there’s no music for 30 minutes.

      However, if the device you are using to stream the music to the speaker (phone, iPad, player, etc.) has some kind of auto-off mechanism (if it’s programmed to disable the Bluetooth connection automatically after, let’s say, 15min of inactivity), your device will be disconnected after that period of inactivity and, 30min after that, the speaker will turn off (because there’s no Bluetooth device the speaker could pair with).

      Hope this doesn’t sound confusing

      Your AudioReputation Team

  • Lori

    Wish it turned itself off after a set duration of inactivity. Actually, I just purchased (wow sounds awesome) and there’s no mention of it in any of the (lacking) “manuals”. I mean it’s in my bedroom and my Thierry David album finished. I don’t want to get up lol but I also don’t want my alarm to go off through it either!

    • AudioReputation Team

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Lori. We are glad you like the speaker. And thanks for updating your impressions and for your tips.

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Debra

      The answer to your question is no. HK Onyx Studio 5 is not backward compatible with the previous Onyx Studio versions and cannot be paired with Onyx Studio 3 (or any other Onyx Studio speaker).

      Your AudioReputation Team

  • BobA

    I have the OSII and the complaint use to be that there was too much bass! I was offered the OSIII, received it then sent it back and asked for a OSII back! They lessened the bass on the OSIII. Are you sure the bass is more than the OSII? I can attest to the bass on the OSII, just play “Never Let Me Down ” Again” remix by Depeche Mode. In any case, loved the OS line. The fact they they have waited this long (OS-V) to offer pairing. and the dismal batteries provided with their speakers (JBL same problem) has made me an end of the line HK and JBL buyer.

    I have purchased a pair OontZ Ultra 3 BT speakers for $70 shipped from Amazon, and they pair with each other in dual stereo mode and stereo mode. They can also be paired with the OontZ 3XL Ultra (?), I have them sitting in front of me. The sound from these two small speakers is AMAZING! They do not touch the HKs but they sound amazing for their size. Paired = 28 watts of output, but they sound louder than that with little distortion. I play them at 75% and that can be too loud! Great reviews here!

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, BobA

      Thanks for sharing your impressions about OS speaker line. We didn’t know that HK can do custom tuning – that’s an interesting fact. Also, we didn’t know that Ultra 3 and Ultra 3XL are compatible for pairing. Thanks for that info, too.

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • AudioReputation Team

      Hi, Joanne

      HK Onyx Studio 5 is supposed to be compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices, just like any Bluetooth speaker. Bluetooth technology is universal and it’s backward compatible. The fact that HK Onyx Studio 5 features Bluetooth 4.2 and your iPhone 6 features Bluetooth 4.0 should not be an issue. The problem could be either in your speaker or in your phone, but it’s not a compatibility issue.

      Your AudioReputation Team

    • Lori

      I found with my iPhone that I had to turn the blue tooth on my phone off then back on before it would pair. If that fails you ask a teenager to help you!

      • AudioReputation Team

        Thanks for the suggestion Lori. Pairing with iPhone 6 should not be an issue but who knows. Your tip might work.

        Your AudioReputation Team

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