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.

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.

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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).


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When we recommend some piece of audio equipment, it’s not because we are under an obligation to do so. It’s because our evaluation and research have shown that certain product deserves to be recommended.

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Hello, my name is James Longman.

I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.

Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.

I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.

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