Harman Kardon Go + Play
FOR Open and warm; loads of bass; detailed and dynamic AGAINST May not suit those who crave delicacy and agility
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