Har­man Kar­don Go + Play

FOR Open and warm; loads of bass; de­tailed and dy­namic AGAINST May not suit those who crave del­i­cacy and agility

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Sel­dom has a prod­uct name sounded more like the ti­tle of a Lady­bird chil­dren’s book. The prob­lem is, the Har­man Kar­don Go + Play is not only a pow­er­ful wire­less speaker, it's also built like a ket­tle bell.

Portable and ver­sa­tile

You’d ex­pect power from a unit so wideset, boast­ing front and rear-fir­ing 9cm woofers as well as a pair of for­ward-fac­ing 2cm tweet­ers. When the Go + Play is plugged into the wall, each speaker can be pushed to 25W.

What you may not ex­pect, how­ever, is for it to be so portable. You prob­a­bly aren’t go­ing to be car­ry­ing the Go + Play around in your duf­fle bag, but its recharge­able bat­tery is ca­pa­ble of up to eight hours of play­back and it can juice up your phone or tablet via USB, mak­ing it ideal for that sum­mer gar­den party.

In fact, we gave its pre­de­ces­sor four stars when we tested it in 2013. How­ever, back then it stretched the def­i­ni­tion of portable some­what, re­quir­ing a whop­ping eight D-cell bat­ter­ies.

Sim­ple but ef­fec­tive

Al­though it’s mildly dis­ap­point­ing to dis­cover it has no wi-fi or Bluetooth Aptx com­pat­i­bil­ity, there is a 3.5mm jack for when a reg­u­lar Bluetooth con­nec­tion is not enough. You can con­nect any pair of Har­man Kar­don Wire­less Dual Sound speak­ers to it, too.

The ad­van­tage of hav­ing so few fea­tures is how sim­ple it is to set up. Press the Bluetooth button, pair your device and it’ll pick it up when both are turned on. Sounds like a given, but test as many wire­less speak­ers as we have and you’ll know things aren’t al­ways so straight­for­ward.

Strong on de­tail

Open­ing up Ti­dal, we head for Manch­ester Or­ches­tra’s Hope al­bum, which the Go + Play eats up like a weight-watcher at break­fast. These types of ar­range­ments, slen­der in their in­stru­men­ta­tion yet rich in tex­ture, are ren­dered whole­sale, re­gard­less of vol­ume.

That isn’t to say the Go + Play is un­able to dis­pense mu­sic with de­tail, del­i­cacy or nuance. Andy Hull’s voice is tinged with vul­ner­a­bil­ity, de­spite his oth­er­wise bold de­liv­ery, and dy­nam­i­cally the Go + Play is well within its com­fort zone, ten­derly track­ing each song.

When you ar­rive at Trees, things be­come more in­ter­est­ing still. The depth of the bass fre­quen­cies re­cov­ered from those or­gan ped­als is ex­tra­or­di­nary. Not only be­cause the Go + Play can reach so low but be­cause it doesn’t muck up the rest of the mix. Pi­ano and strings have room to breathe, and none of Hull’s vo­cal is hid­den.

The bass may be marginally over­pow­er­ing, es­pe­cially if you’re plac­ing the speaker on a rick­ety ta­ble or up against the wall, but it doesn’t skew the bal­ance un­nec­es­sar­ily. That re­mains the case when we try The Blood Broth­ers’ al­bum …Burn, Pi­ano Is­land,

Burn. The weight is still present in the bass and drums, but Har­man Kar­don hasn’t al­lowed the tre­ble to be smoothed, keep­ing the record’s un­ruly fe­roc­ity claw­ing at the bars of its cage.

Ex­pan­sive and pow­er­ful

That en­ergy is also a prod­uct of great tim­ing. If you split hairs, there are speak­ers at this price that are more light-footed, but you’d be sac­ri­fic­ing the Go + Play’s mus­cle that gives mu­sic such im­pe­tus.

In that sense, does the Go + Play have a nat­u­ral com­peti­tor? Pos­si­bly, in the shape of the portable, boom-box-style Au­dio Pro Ad­don T3. How­ever, at two thirds of the price of this Har­man Kar­don, that is aimed at a dif­fer­ent mar­ket.

The T3 is more del­i­cate, the Go + Play more ex­pan­sive and much more pow­er­ful. It comes down to bud­get, space and how much mus­cle you feel is nec­es­sary. In terms of pure tal­ent, though, it’s more or less a dead heat.

Pow­er­ful bass and eight-hour play­back make Go + Play great for par­ties

Go + Play fea­tures a de­cent choice of connections be­hind its panel cover

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