Your Next Smart Speaker
Harman Kardon is a very well-known audio brand, building everything from luxury home speakers to car stereo components. They’ve ventured from home WiFi-enabled speakers to full-fledged smart-speakers, implementing Google’s Home operating system. The Citation One combines H/K’s long-term audio expertise with Google’s home-automation capacity. And I’d venture to say you’ll be hard pressed to find a speaker at its price point that beats it.
About My Preferences: Heads up, I’m a person! As such, these words are my opinion, and they are tinged by my personal preferences. While I try to mitigate this as much as possible during my review process, I’d be lying if I said my biases are completely erased. So for you, my readers, keep this in mind:
- My ideal sound signature would be one with competent sub-bass, a textured mid-bass, a slightly warm midrange, and an extended treble.
- I have mild treble sensitivity.
Source: The Citation One was tested in the following configurations:
- LG V40 -> 5Ghz WiFi Network -> Speaker
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
- Wireless Network: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)
- Signal-To-Noise Ratio: >80dB
- Supported Audio Formats: HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), FLAC, Opus
- Output Power: 40W RMS
- Transducer: 1 x 20mm Tweeter, 1 x 89mm Woofer
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 140 x 188x 140 mm
- Weight: 2 kg (4.4lb)
The One has a V-shaped sound signature featuring and emphasized treble, emphasized bass, and recessed warm midrange.
I found the Citation One’s treble to be reasonable, if not exceptional. I was able to pick up on a decent amount of detail from my music. However, the One did occasionally blend some textures away and drop fine and subtle incidentals. That said, I did quite enjoy the upper-register’s tone. While it doesn’t extend super far, it respects the segments of the treble that it reaches. The high-hats within In One Ear sounded natural, as did the cheers from the crowd in Show Me How to Live. I was also glad to hear that the Citation One did not exhibit any sibilance or sharpness when playing back poorly mastered songs such as Satisfy.
The Citation One’s midrange is warm and recessed — fairly standard for mainstream-aimed devices such as this. It articulated the majority of the midrange components of my test songs with adequate precision, but ultimately didn’t wow me. Tonal accuracy was again adequate. While I was very impressed with it over songs with drier mastering such as Flagpole Sitta, I was occasionally surprised at the lack of transparency in the midrange when the mastering of the song was warmer. If the Citation One’s midrange had been pushed a little further upwards and reduced in warmth, it would resolve the majority of my nit-picks with the device’s sound quality.
If there’s one element of the Citation One’s sound signature that I feel got the most attention, it’s the bass. This speaker does bass, and it does it well. From articulation the robust bass lines of Moth to the filthy drops of Gold Dust, I was impressed by the tonal variety that the Citation One was capable of producing. While it did smooth out some texture in War Pigs during the very busy components of the song, it was a subtle flaw that took a while to notice. I was impressed with bass extension over In For The Kill as well. The Citation One didn’t even flinch. Full articulation of this song is rare in smart-speakers, as most don’t have the necessary power to get through it without flattening out.
The Citation One is built very well. Every inch of its chassis is constructed from a either a well-finished brushed metal or a tough multi-toned cloth. It has a nice weight to it as well, lending to its fit-and-finish. The top of the device features a number of capacitive buttons hidden underneath the top metal panel. You can mute the device, turn on Bluetooth Mode, increase the volume, decrease the volume, and manual engage listening mode. There’s also two bores for the microphone array.
The One’s fit and finish, as I mentioned earlier, is respectable. From the chromed edge of the top panel, to the smooth and reflective Harman/Kardon badge emblazoned on the front of the device, I couldn’t help but appreciate the quiet aesthetic mastery that has been put to use in the development of this device.
The Citation One implements Google Assistant. It is capable of taking full advantage of Google Assistant to help you plan your day, answer your questions, play music, and fulfill a wide variety of other commands. In this way, the Citation One is a great addition to the Android Ecosystem as it offers an impressive level of service-level integration with many of the core apps that Google offers.
The Citation One is designed to be used primarily on WiFi — after all, you need it to even set the device up — so its nice that it supports modern connectivity standards such 802.11ac. It even supports Bluetooth connectivity. And once you’ve gotten it all set up, you can take advantage of the over 300 streaming services that are natively supported by the Citation One. From Spotify to Pandora to Tidal, if you have an account it will likely be compatible. And for any service that isn’t natively compatible, you can simply stream your audio to the Citation One through its built-in Chromecast through the Google Home app — I’ve actually taken advantage of that to stream audio that was stored locally on my phone to the One. It would’ve been awesome if the Citation One had a video-out port to allow you to use it as an actual full-fledged Chromecast , but that’s a lot to ask for from a mere smart speaker.
I was impressed with the Citation One’s ability to recognize my voice. Even when a loud fan was in use in the same room, I was able to reliably get the Citation One’s attention when I needed its services. Further, I never ran into speed or processing issues when streaming high-quality FLAC files to it from my device, even when using a very basic router. Clearly Harman/Kardon used a good wireless adapter and antenna with the Citation One.
The Citation One is an excellent smart-speaker for the audio layman. It has a consumer-friendly sound signature, easy setup process, fine aesthetic design, and luxurious build quality. For the price I can easily recommend it to anyone looking to buy their first smart speaker or upgrade their old one!
As always, happy listening!