Pros / This speaker has a simple setup and is ready to use right out of the box.
Cons / The sound quality wasn't as clear as other speakers in our review.
Verdict / This attractive speaker can be a good choice for those who prefer listening to bass-heavy music.
If our rankings were based solely on style points, the Harman Kardon Aura would be among the best wi-fi speakers in our lineup. The speaker looks like something from outer space with its domed glass encasing funneling in toward the center of the speaker. It's sleek and stylish, and really doesn't resemble a speaker at all – which makes it that much more intriguing. The Aura might be stylish, but it doesn't sport sound quality to match.
For our listening tests, we played an array of musical genres such as electronic dance music, jazz and metal. During our testing, the Aura didn't have a problem producing bass. In fact, the bass was the most prominent aspect in any song. As we listened, the bass tended to overpower the other tones, often making the overall tonal quality unclear and muddy. When we compared speakers to one another, the Aura sounded like we had placed a box over it. It sounded concealed and lacked the clarity of the best speakers we reviewed, including the Sonos PLAY:5. Songs with a lot of vocals, or trebly instruments such as the guitar, didn't sound great, but music with lots of bass – à la electronic dance music – sounded best on this speaker.
You can stream music from your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth or connect to the Aura using Apple Airplay for wireless lossless audio streaming. This is done by downloading the Harman Kardon Remote application on your smartphone and following the steps to connect your device to Airplay. Compared to some of the other speaker setup processes, this is fairly painless and only takes a few steps to complete.
The mobile application itself isn't that useful. Using the app, you can adjust the volume of your speaker and add songs from the library on your phone. That is about it. Other mobile apps we reviewed sync all your internet music streaming accounts together and allow you to access them all within the application. Some also allow you to set sleep timers and adjust the equalization within the application. All of these things are missing on the Harman Kardon app.
There is a 3.5 mm input located on the back of the Aura. You can use this to plug in devices that don't have Bluetooth or Airplay, or it can serve as a backup option if your Bluetooth is not working properly.
Harman Kardon offers a one-year warranty on this speaker. You can also contact the manufacturer via email and by telephone if you have any questions about the Aura.
The Harman Kardon Aura is a sleek wireless speaker that produces strong bass. We weren't partial to listening to acoustic or jazz music on this speaker, as it doesn’t have the treble clarity to make that type of music sound crisp. It mostly shined during heavy bass-driven music. Overall, its sound quality isn't as impressive as its physical appearance.