Harmon/Kardon SoundSticks

Harmon/Kardon SoundSticks
Company: Harman Multimedia
Estimated Price: $179.95


I was a skeptic. Not one to be influenced by hype, buzz, or spin, I was doubtful these trendy new speakers would be worth half their high price, much less deliver the splendid sound promised in glamorous double-page print advertisements. And the wowzer Harman Multimedia high-bandwidth web site! Well, you can judge that one for yourself, when you’re getting all the specs on their SoundSticks.

Earlier experience with an iSub unit was underwhelming, and I was certainly not knocked out by the performance of either the Cube’s or my iMac DV’s Harman Kardon speakers. I had additional concerns:

  • No treble, bass, or tone controls on the satellite speakers? Annoying.
  • Volume controlled via my computer? A nuisance.
  • USB connection into a computer? Weird.
  • Four tiny “transducer” speakers per channel “tower”? Inadequate.
  • Jellyfish subwoofer and octopus satellites? Fishy.
  • High price? All sizzle and no smoked salmon.INSTALLATION AND SETUP

    Upon delivery of my SoundSticks, beginning with the attractive box and well-designed packaging, I sensed something unusual was entering my life. The two pages in English in the multilingual Setup Guide assisted me in installing the floor base unit and desk top satellites in less then five minutes.

    One feature needs improving: the plug from power adapter into subwoofer has to be aligned precisely for the pins to insert correctly. Be careful! I suggest Harman Kardon redesign this connector, making it more generic and error-free.

    A few Troubleshooting tips cover common symptoms, causes, and solutions. Most important: “SoundSticks requires Mac OS 9.0.4 or higher.” Don’t bother buying these speakers if you’re still running System 7.5.3 on your Performa 600 series, pal.


    Yes! Clean and sharp, clear and directional. Play around with the bass adjustment on the subwoofer to suit your taste, then leave it alone. Old keyboard Macintoshes need to set speaker volume levels from the control strip or the “Speakers” tab on the Sound Control Panel, but new keyboard Macs can change volume directly from those otherwise-worthless keys at the top of the numeric keypad.

    No tone controls? No problem! Download a freeware audio player, and use its equalizer. I’m happy tweaking treble and bass with Casady & Greene’s free SoundJam, and you may use any media player for this purpose, including the infamous RealPlayer. (Visit Version Tracker to locate these free applications.)

    Music, music, MUSIC! Day and night, my iMac DV is cranking out brilliant sounds. Jazz, rock, classical, folk, blues, MP3s, CDs, Internet radio, QuickTime, younameit Iplayit through the SoundSticks. At low volume they deliver even performance, and at their max they are plenty loud with no distortion whatsoever. In comparison to the Monsoon combo reviewed in October, the four identical small speakers (technically they are Odyssey transducers) in each SoundSticks tower reinforce one another for maximum midrange and highrange output with minimum distortion.


    Strange, and elegant. The “jellyfish” subwoofer has a subtle blue illumination, and the “octopus” satellites are sleek and stylish. These tall, narrow speakers have a tiny footprint on my desk, and attract constant comments such as “Whazzat?” and “Howzitsound?” from every passerby. (The SoundSticks were designed by Apple’s industrial design team. Harman’s goal is “to create products that are sonically and visually optimized for the entire line of Apple computers,” and they succeed in every way.)


    Do me an easy favor. Go to Yahoo and do a search on “SoundSticks” for an extensive range of commentary from other reviewers. My favorite, and the most contrary, comes from Louis Pierce, who “was so disappointed with the performance of the speakers I called Apple and Harmon.”

    Then see if you can audition the SoundSticks with your favorite music, preferably on a computer with built-in volume keys. Will you agree with me? I expect so.

    GET ‘EM

    I just checked http://www.outpost.com, and the price has dropped from (originally) $199.95 to $179.95, a ten percent saving. (Editors note: Most mail-order houses have a long back order on this product, with shipping usually in January as of 12/20/2000) If you are an astute shopper you may find them for less $$$, and the price will probably drop again sometime in 2001. Whatever they cost, they are worth every bit of it. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks look great and sound great. If you can live without built-in volume and tone controls, as I can, you’ll soon agree they are worth:

    MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5

    John Nemerovski

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