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Harman Kardon vs Bowers Wilkins – Detailed Comparison

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Harman Kardon and Bowers Wilkins are two renowned and well-respected brands in the audio industry and produce high-quality speakers, soundbars, headphones, and subwoofers. 
In this article, we will cover a general overview of both brands, looking specifically at the sound quality, durability, price and so on. 
Of course, each brand has different devices at different price points. However, we will compare them as closely as we can.

Quick History

Harman Kardon Quick History

In 1953, Sidney Harman and Bernard Kardon partnered to establish the Harman Kardon audio equipment company. In 1954, Harman Kardon manufactured the world’s first true receiver system with the production of the Festival D1000 for non-technical users.

After Bernard Kardon left, Harman created a parent brand, Harman International Industries, through which he took on new businesses, including JBL, Soundcraft, Newsweek Magazine, and many others.

Harman Kardon products include stereo receivers and CD players, headphones, home theater, AV receivers, car stereos, and other audio equipment.

Bowers and Wilkins Quick History

Bowers & Wilkins, best known as B&W, is a British manufacturer of consumer and professional loudspeakers and headphones. B&W was founded in 1966 by John Bowers in Worthing, West Sussex, England. They currently have many award-winning loudspeaker designs to their name.

Sound Quality

Harman Kardon Sound Quality

Harman Kardon has done a great job of protecting the brand’s recording technology patents. They have ensured that all audio equipment from the brand produces high-quality audio that is almost as perfect as it was recorded in the studio.

Harman Kardon’s audio devices are targeted at primary consumers but intend to deliver quality. Hence, audio equipment from Harman Kardon provides balanced treble and bass, clear, and clean sounds that make it a better choice all the time.

However, one thing some people might find distressing about Harman Kardon is the fact that they can be bassy. An untuned Harman Kardon speaker has a bit of an overpowering bass effect to it, although you can always re-tune this to the way you would like it.

B & W Sound Quality

B&W puts a lot of money into research and development. This has allowed them to make many audio breakthroughs over the years. B&W devices are noted for delivering pure, natural and detailed sound reproduction. There’s chest-thumping bass and clear mids and highs.

One feature of some B&W speakers is a tweeter separated from the main cabinet, this allows the tweeter to produce an accurate sound that’s unaffected by the subwoofer.

Features

Harman Kardon Features

Harman Kardon is a brand that is focused on delivering the best audio equipment.

There are several modern features on Harman Kardon products which include the multi-pairing feature on most new Harman Kardon speakers.

The feature allows the speaker to connect to multiple devices at once. Harman Kardon’s Automatic Multi-beam Calibration (AMC) in their soundbar adjusts the surround sound to your room set up.

B & W Features

Even though B&W is an older brand, they are still competing with best-in-class modern devices with modern features, like:

  • Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Wired connectivity includes USB, HDMI, optical audio
  • AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth support
  • Bowers & Wilkins Music App, which supports music streaming services including Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Soundcloud and TuneIn
  • Amazon Alexa voice control for hands-free operation

Build Quality

Harman Kardon Build Quality

One thing that is common to Harman Kardon is their impressive build quality. Harman Kardon pays special attention to the design of each product, which includes the components, sound quality, and overall durability.

HKTS 65 home theater speaker system

Their designs differ depending on the brand. For example, those with the JBL logo on them are mostly known for having fewer aesthetics but a powerful body that lasts a long time.

However, those with Harman Kardon directly written on them have a pretty interesting design that is sometimes unorthodox (like the Esquire speaker) but with a weaker structural delivery.

Another addition that is worth noting is that Harman Kardon products are mostly not a great fit for outdoor use. This may be because they are mostly focused on consumer products.

B & W Build Quality

B&W has always been at the forefront in pioneering new techniques that improve the acoustics and durability of their devices. Their devices are enclosed in aluminum or sturdy plastic for a durable and attractive finish.

bowers and wilkins history

B&W patented the use of Kevlar fibers, impregnated with a stiffening resin to provide controlled rigidity and internal damping; and minimize distortion. They currently use their own material, Continuum, for their speaker cones.

Ease Of Use

Harman Kardon Ease Of Use

Harman Kardon products have varied sizes and are mostly waterproof.

These two factors ensure they are easy to carry around and easy to use anywhere. However, the absence of a 3.5mm input port on some of their products makes them a little hard to use, although this is compensated for with Bluetooth connectivity.

Another problem with using some Harman Kardon products is that they focus so much on the design that it affects the non-technical users. An example of this is seen in the design of the Harman Kardon Soundstick 3.

However, the Bluetooth multi-pairing feature in some Harman Kardon speakers improves its usability as it allows you to connect more than one device to the speaker at once.

B&W Ease Of Use

B&W devices are very easy to install and operate. This is made even easier by the company’s support for voice assistants, such as Alexa. The B&W music app allows you to use streaming services on your devices and finetune the sound output to your taste.

Cost

Harman Kardon Cost

An average Harman Kardon JBL Portable bluetooth speaker has a price range of around 40-400 dollars. However, here is a more concise idea of the Harman Kardon products:

  • Headphones from $44 to around $500
  • Earbuds from $40 to $120
  • Soundbar from $150 to $1000
  • Home theaters and surround speakers from about $150 to $1700 (full sound system)

However, there might be a slight difference in this price when getting any of the products. This price difference can be noticed across different regions and dealers.

Although most people buy them because of the delightful sound and quality, some people still feel the Harman Kardon devices are too expensive regardless of what they offer.

B&W Cost

B&W devices usually have midrange prices, though some devices are well into the high-end price range. Their price ranges are given below.

Subwoofers: $900 – $3200

Earbuds/headphones: $320 – $550

Speakers: $500 – $8400

Space Requirements

Harman Kardon Space Requirements

Harman Kardon products are some of the best audio equipment with space efficiency. They have a range of portable devices that can be placed almost anywhere without taking up too much space.

Their home theater systems come with a pretty sleek design, with portable speakers and subwoofers in most cases. An example of this is the HKTS 65 home theater speaker system.

B&W Space Requirements

B&W floorstanders require quite some space in which to operate and are better suited to spacious rooms.

The bookshelf speakers are more versatile and can either be mounted on a stand, fixed to a wall using brackets or placed on a desktop or shelf space. Keep in mind that they all require some free space around them for ventilation.

Remote Controls

Harman Kardon Remote Control

Harman Kardon allows you to easily control and have a relaxing musical experience with the remote control. They have a physical remote control that mostly comes with the soundbars and the home theater system.

However, you can also download the Harman Kardon remote app for Apple, Android, and PC use. The remote allows you to play music and control your Harman Kardon device from anywhere in your house.

B&W Remote Controls

Some B&W devices have their own in-house remote controls but they also support the use of third-party remote controllers. The B&W music app and Alexa allow you to control your speaker from any device on the same WiFi network.

Connectivity Options

B&W Connectivity Options

B&W devices can be connected to each other and to other devices using wired or wireless options. These include Bluetooth, HDMI, WiFi, USB, aux input and a whole range of other options.

Power Range

Harman Kardon Power Range

The power range of most Harman Kardon speakers varies from portable devices to much larger ones. A device such as the Harman Kardon Automotive Mini, with 12 high-performing speakers, has a power range of around 360 watts.

However, in a much smaller device like the Harman Kardon HKTS 15, the power range in the 5.1 speaker system is around 100 watts.

B&W Power Range

The power range for B&W devices varies for different devices, though they all give quite powerful performance, even without the use of amplifiers.

The B&W 607 S2 bookshelf speaker is rated at 100 Watts, while the B&W Zeppelin peaks at 240Watts.

Frequency Response

Harman Kardon Frequency Response

In a Harman Kardon receiver (using the AVR 1610 specs as an example), the frequency range is around 87 MHz to 108 MHz. Interestingly, in another device, such as the portable Onyx Studio 4 speaker, the frequency range is just about 50Hz to 20kHz.

When you need to get a Harman Kardon product, you can request the spec of the particular device to know the frequency response.

B&W Frequency Response

The B&W 606 Speaker has a frequency response range of 52Hz on the low end and 28KHz on the high end, which is simply amazing for a bookshelf speaker. The B&W 804 D4 floorstanding loudspeaker has a vast 20Hz to 35KHz frequency response range.

Conclusion

Harman Kardon is a device you can trust for its quality. This is not just from their marketing, but because they put in the work to make their product stand out. However, you should know that such a quality product can be quite expensive. B&W devices deliver excellent performance at reasonable prices. Though they can be quite costly, you should expect nothing but the best from them.

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