Harman Kardon vs Onkyo Receivers – Which Brand Is Better?

Norvan Martin
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Harman Kardon and Onkyo are two renowned and well-respected brands in the audio industry and produce high-quality receivers, speakers, soundbars, headphones, and subwoofers.

In this article, we will cover a general overview of both brands, looking specifically at 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.

Onkyo receivers and speakers are good options for surround sound on a budget. Onkyo will give you a neutral sound with more power, and more features at a fraction of the price. In addition, Onkyo is easier to use. On the other hand, Harman Kardon offers receivers and speakers a “warm” sonic signature but balanced out-of-the-box; they are great for around-the-house use.

Before you continue, you can check out the comparisons below:

Read on to learn more.

Harman Kardon and Onkyo Receiver Comparison Table

CriteriaHarman KardonOnkyo Receiver
Brand ReputationRenowned for high-quality audio and home entertainment systems.Well-regarded in the audio industry, particularly for receivers and home theater equipment.
Sound QualityKnown for delivering premium sound with a focus on clarity.Emphasizes high-quality audio reproduction and clear sound.
Build Quality/DesignEmphasis on sleek design and premium build quality.Sturdy construction with a focus on functional and ergonomic design.
Product RangeSpecializes in audio systems, speakers, and receivers.Primarily known for a range of audio/video receivers for home theater setups.
PricingPositioned in the mid to high-end price range.Varied pricing, with options available for different budgets.
FeaturesIncludes advanced features such as wireless connectivity and voice control.Feature-rich receivers with various audio processing technologies and connectivity options.

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.

Harman Kardon logo

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.

Onkyo Quick History

Takeshi Godai established the Japanese company Onkyo in 1946. Godai intended to address the gap in delivering satisfactory Japanese-made dynamic speakers.

onkyo logo

The work Onkyo originated from a Japanese word meaning “sound acoustics.”

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 receivers are known for providing a “warm” sonic signature as opposed to the Onkyo. On the other hand, if you like a smoother presentation, or you get listening fatigue after a couple of hours of music, the  Harman Kardon is a good choice.

Note that when choosing an AV receiver, you should consider the speakers in the room as well as the setup. Since Harman Kardon AV receivers already overemphasize the high end, it is a good option for you if your speakers are already extended in the higher registers (especially if they have metal dome or horn tweeters).

Harman Kardon receiver

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.

Onkyo Sound Quality

If you are an audiophile, you want a receiver that can deliver your specific notes as perfectly as possible. The range of AV receivers from Onkyo sound very impressive and complete with incredible functionality and product regardless of your listening environment.

Additionally, Onkyo offers a very neutral sound with a good internal amplifier section. Another consideration is your speakers and room setup. Onkyo is a good choice for you if your speakers are not strong in the highs, or your room is over-damped with lots of carpets, padded chairs, couches, heavy drapes, etc.

Onkyo receiver

When it comes to choosing and paying for the better fidelity unit, putting your money on Onkyo is one of the best decisions for audiophiles. In fact, they offer better sound clarity with more pronounced high frequencies than Harman Kardon.

They have a more well-rounded sound signature that offers more detail; audiophiles refer to it as a more “clinical” sound. The highs, mids, and lows are equally discernable.


Harman Kardon Features

Harman Kardon is a brand that is focused on delivering the best audio equipment. However, feature-wise, they are relatively on par with Onkyo.

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 setup.

Onkyo Features

Many people expect to get a bundle of features in today’s world, especially when paying more for a product. However, the features of an Onkyo receiver are mainly related to the system’s sound.

It has some of the best step-up receivers with features such as:

  • Dirac Live
  • Streaming suite
  • Support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

Build Quality

Harman Kardon Build Quality

One thing that is common to Harman Kardon is its impressive build quality. In fact, they have made some of the most impressive receivers out there in terms of visual appeal; with a cleaner, more modern look. Harman Kardon pays special attention to the design of each product, which includes the components, sound quality, and overall durability.

Harman kardon receiver with DVD

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.

Onkyo Build Quality

People tend to look at their build quality first when buying expensive devices. However, other than looking good, the device should be able to deliver good service over many years. Onkyo is a bit standard as it relates to design, but they are on the cleaner, minimalistic design side.

onkyo receiver design

When it comes to build quality, Onkyo is a bit shaky. Many people complain of their receivers either requiring repair or going dead in less than a year despite the two-year warranty on their devices.

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 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.

Onkyo Ease Of Use

Onkyo receivers are particularly easy to set up. As an excellent performer, the products are made with superb usability and valuable features that make them easily accessible to all users.

The direct source buttons added for ease of control in the absence of a remote further make the Onkyo TX-NR585, for instance, much more user-friendly.


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
  • Soundbars 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.

Onkyo Cost

Onkyo receivers are generally costly. This is most likely attributable to their high-quality build and good sound performance.

  • Speakers: $20 – $6000
  • Receivers: $200 – $3000
  • Amplifiers: $40 – $1000

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.

Onkyo Space Requirements

Generally, Onkyo receivers are a little taller. Although they may not take up much space on your table, they are much taller and broader than many competing receivers in the market.

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 soundbars and a 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.

Onkyo Remote Controls

Onkyo receivers come with remote controls that make them easy to control even from the comfort of a seat. Besides, the remotes are intuitive and easy to use. The wireless remotes are device-specific and can be purchased separately from the device.

On the other hand, the Onkyo remote for Android utilizes the home network to operate wirelessly and deliver several remote control functions to manage your Onkyo hi-fi systems. Besides, the app permits wireless streaming of audio from personal computers and handsets.

Onkyo is, therefore, more advanced when it comes to remote controls and will make your entertainment system easy to navigate.

Connectivity Options

Onkyo Connectivity Options

Onkyo receivers have several connectivity options to take care of the analog and digital features.

They are therefore compatible with older devices and the modern class of devices. Some of the vital connectivity features include:

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.

Onkyo Power Range

Speakers: Up to 24 watts RMS

Receivers: Up to 500 watts

Amplifiers: Up to 240 watts

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.

Onkyo Frequency Response

The frequency response is varied depending on the device. For instance, the speakers have a frequency response of between 50Hz to 20kHz.


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. Although the build quality of Onkyo can be less than desirable, the vintage brand manufactures audiophile-grade sound systems. They are however costly.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin