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Harman Kardon Soho has only recently entered the headphones market

2/13/2014 11:42:48 AM
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Similar in design and operation to the B&W P3s, these headphones have their own unique acoustic footprint

Ahuge consumer electronics company, Harman Kardon has only recently entered the headphones market, and the Soho is the most affordable model in its small range of cans. Harman Kardon might find itself in hot water with Bowers & Wilkins over the look, which bears uncanny visual similarities to the P3s . They even follow the same design principle of removable ear pads in order to unplug the Y-shaped cable from each cup. Two cables are provided, one a non-gain type, the other with inline control of an Apple iOS or, depending on which version of the Sohos you buy, an Android device. The cable is terminated in a 3.5mm plug with a rubberized collar, which looks like a weak point in terms of protection.

Harman Kardon Soho

Harman Kardon Soho

One difference between the Sohos and the P3s is that the Sohos’ cups rotate through 90° and fold flat, allowing the cans to be stored in the compact plastic case supplied. Harman Kardon ups the ante in the quality stakes too by using leather rather than plastic to encase the headband and for the backing on the cups. It all looks rather sumptuous against the stainless steel hinges, headband and trim. Three finishes are available, black, white and an unusual brown.

Not much information is given about the technology within the enclosures, but the 30mm drivers have a 32ohm impedance and claimed sensitivity of 100dB. Like the P3s, the Sohos extend by sliding smoothly, but firmly, out of the headband and the fit is fairly tight at first on the ears and loose on the head, but after a few minutes the cans seem to settle into place.

Sound quality

At the start of The War Of The Worlds, you can hear Richard Burton’s nervous breath between phrases uncannily clearly, but when he talks his voice doesn’t have the richest, most sonorous quality around as the bass response is fairly muted. When the strings kick in, the top end has good detail, but there’s a slight brightness. The second chapter, Horsell Common And The Heat Ray, reveals plenty of clarity to the top end, but the midrange doesn’t have as much zip and zest with hard edges that are softened and the percussion is a tad opaque. The soundstage isn’t as large as some other models can muster as the cylinder unscrewing feels rather cramped.

Harman Kardon Soho

Harman Kardon Soho

The Sohos have an impressively detailed and open treble response and the solo violin at the start of The Lark Ascendingis enjoyably reproduced, plus there’s a commendable smoothness to the crescendo of the piece. On to my DTS demo with the 24/96 Minus The Bear track Listing, and there isn’t the level of detail you get from say the AKG, Yamaha or Sony cans, but the Sohos serve up a relatively lively and coherent presentation with no obvious deficiencies. They can’t stop the initial piano on Snowed In At Wheeler Street from distorting and Kate Bush’s voice lacks a bit of sumptuousness, but the synth hypnotically resonates to the fore.

Back on to some 24/96 download action with Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved, and again the predominate feeling is of an energetic but slightly softened and restrained sound. The vocals shine through as the drum beats eagerly, but some of the detail in the other instruments is a bit lost. The Sohos aren’t the loudest headphones in the sextet, needing relatively high levels of amplification. Despite shortcomings in the detail retrieval department these are pleasing cans in many other respects including comfort and style.

Harman Kardon Soho

Harman Kardon Soho

On Test

With rectangular supra-aural capsules like those of the B&W, the Soho also offers similar sensitivity at a measured 116.4dB for 1V at 1kHz, and similar impedance too with a range from 32.0ohms at 675Hz to 36.6ohms at 60Hz. Frequency response variations of 0.3dB for 10ohm source impedance and 0.5dB for a 30ohm source are, likewise, negligible. But there the similarities end. Although the Soho’s diffuse-field-corrected frequency response is also peaked up at LF, the peak occurs at around 60Hz and is very much higher – almost 10dB. Hence the Soho’s superior bass extension of 25Hz. Above 1kHz, though, the corrected response is exceptionally flat. Capsule matching error of ±3.7dB is excellent for a headphone and the best in group. Another departure is that the Soho has an inert headband whereas the P3’s wire capsule holders can be heard resonating on pink noise.

 

Specifications

·         Price: $295

·         Product: Harman Kardon Soho

·         Origin: China

·         Type: Closed back, over-ear headphones

·         Weight: 140g

·         30mm dynamic drivers

·         Steel headband with padded leather finish

·         1.2mm straight cable; 1.2m Apple iOS inline remote/microphone cable or 1.2mm universal remote/microphone cable

Verdict

·         Sound quality: 4/5

·         Value for money: 4/5

·         Build quality: 4.5/5

·         Features: 4/5

 

 
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