After a nice (but sometimes bumpy) start with the Citation series Harman Kardon presents new Citation speakers. For example, this Citation MultiBeam 700, a 500-euro mini soundbar with voice control, Chromecast and an enveloping display.
Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 700
Harman Kardon launched the Citation family last year, consisting of a series of wireless speakers with Chromecast multiroom via Google Home, and built-in microphone that allows you to use the Google Assistant address. Another characteristic was a modern design that took into account Scandinavian living trends, mainly through the use of a beautiful fabric from trendy textile manufacturer Kvadrat to envelop the devices. In 2020, Harman Kardon will further expand the family by releasing even more Citation products. An eye-catcher in 2020 is the Citation MultiBeam 700 soundbar that we are looking at in this review. It is the second soundbar with a Citation label, after the large Citation Bar that we reviewed earlier . The MultiBeam 700 is a completely different thing: much more compact, much cheaper (499 euros instead of 999 euros) and equipped with an intriguing surround mode. Hence the name MultiBeam, a marketing term that promises a space-filling representation. Especially that price tag appeals, because for 500 euros the Multibeam 700 offers some interesting things.
Nice to see
In terms of design, the MultiBeam 700 is not a break in style with the previous Citation devices. Positive, because this means that this soundbar may not be out of place in your modern, sleek interior. Apart from the audio qualities of the Citation speakers, it cannot be denied that Harman Kardon really did his best to create devices that match the living trends of today. All Citation speakers boast soft, rounded lines and are largely covered with textile. And not just any fabric, but a material from Kvadrat, a Danish textile manufacturer that supplies countless furniture manufacturers in the upper segment. Every Kvadrat fabric has a name and reference, but we're not sure which fabrics Harman Kardon uses here. In any case, you have the choice between two color versions: a black with dark gray thread and a light gray with dark threads.
Meanwhile, several other audio companies have also discovered Kvadrat, so their materials now adorn many audio devices. You can find a Kvadrat fabric for example with the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Stage or the Samsung HW-Q800T .
The Citation Multibeam 700 does not look so 'technological', making it less of a disturbing element in your interior. Of course it remains a soundbar, but if you can neatly hide the cables you get something that is visually less noticeable when it is parked on a piece of furniture in front of your TV. Thanks to the modest height of 6.5 cm, you will be able to place the Citation MultiBeam 700 in front of most TVs without the screen being partially covered.
You can also place the Harman Kardon soundbar on the wall. That is not that difficult to do, but we think the result is less successful. Like the many new soundbars with Atmos speakers above, you mount it with the narrow back against the wall. As a result, the Citation MultiBeam 700 protrudes, just like a bookshelf. If you have just done your best to mount your television as close to the wall as possible, it is disappointing. With Atmos soundbars we understand that it has to be because otherwise the parent speakers do not function, but with this device that argument does not apply.
The Multibeam 700 presents itself as a dark or light gray bar, depending on the color version you choose. At the top, the uniform design is only broken by a small elongated touch screen. The same display is also found on most Citation speakers, and you use it to operate the soundbar and to choose functions such as the three adjustable presets. There are no further buttons on the device. In itself it is a smart idea to centralize everything with a touchscreen and it keeps the design sober and sleek, but in practice it does not work very well. That is not due to the screen itself: it is a beautiful thing and responds well. When you're at the soundbar, you can use it perfectly to take care of things. The problem is that you are rarely at your soundbar. The device is located at the TV screen and you are in the seat. That distance of two or three meters makes the screen useless quickly.
In terms of operation, that is not so bad. Harman Kardon provides a decent remote with which you can operate almost all functions and the remote control of the TV is sufficient to adjust the volume. You should only really see the screen if you adjust the configuration (for example, add a subwoofer) and to capture the presets. Less is that because of its placement you can not really read the screen properly when you sit down. When you change sound modes, adjust bass or turn surround mode on / off, you don't get any visible feedback about that. That is a pity.
Easy to set up
Like more and more sound bars, the Multibeam 700 comes without an Ethernet connection. That is not a disaster, because we suspect that most people do not want an extra cable to their TV cabinet. So you have to use Wi-Fi. Setting up is very easy, just because you choose to configure via Google Home. After installing this app on your phone or tablet (don't forget to turn on Bluetooth), stand near the soundbar. In the Home app, you may immediately see a message that a new device has been found. After going through a step-by-step plan, the MultiBeam 700 is connected to your wireless network and you can start using it. Setting it up is very simple – and would be even easier if during the Google roadmap you don't bother with all kinds of extra questions. Not a Google user? You can easily set up the Citation Multibeam 700 via the WiFi settings of an iPhone or iPad. You will see the Harman Kardon soundbar appear, after which you can easily pass on the password of your wireless network.
The MultiBeam 700 is a mid-range in price and quite compact. We therefore do not expect this device to be equipped with a dozen connections. And indeed, Harman Kardon provides a typical offer: one HDMI-ARC input (for connection to your TV), one optical input (an alternative to connection to your television or to connect a source device) and one analog aux- input (to connect a source, such as a music player or turntable). All very simple and sufficient for most people.
The great mystery
During the step-by-step plan in Google Home, you will see a number of screens related to voice control. Because the MultiBeam 700 is equipped with Chromecast, you can always use the Google Assistant to operate this soundbar (in part). This is also possible with many other devices with Chromecast. It is unusual that the Harman Kardon is equipped with its own microphone. So you don't need a Google Nest Mini or the microphone of your own smartphone to say “Hey Google”; the MultiBeam 700 responds to your commands. The microphone in this soundbar is very good. Even if we asked Google (“Hey Google, stop the music”) in the adjoining room (with gap between the rooms), the soundbar responded correctly.
Unfortunately it sometimes works too well. When watching movies and TV series it happened very occasionally that the sound dropped for a second and four. It was a problem that we could not immediately post. It happened very little before – and that made it completely crazy – when we jumped back in the media it always happened in the exact same place in the content again. Then it dawned: something said in the movie activated the microphone in the MultiBeam 700, which is automatically paired with a solid volume drop. We did not immediately make that link because without thinking in Google Home we had turned off the typical sounds that the Google Assistant makes when it is ready to listen. An anecdotal event? Just checking on support forums shows that more MultiBeam 700 owners experience the same thing. Now this is not a huge problem as you can solve it by turning off the Google Assistant microphone on your remote. Additionally, we suspect that Harman Kardon may be able to fix the problem with a software update. In tests of other Google Assistant soundbars, such as the LG 8YNG or the Sonos Beam, or in the car with Android Auto, we never experienced anything similar, which leads us to suspect that the audio of your content can be converted from the microphone input “deducted.”
Everything via Google
Most sound bars come with their own app in which you manage settings and perhaps choose music to stream. With Citation, Harman Kardon took a different approach – perhaps after the many disappointing experiences with own apps. In terms of streaming and operation, the Google platform is resolutely chosen. This means that you can set up the Multibeam 700 via Google Home and that you can stream audio via Chromecast. In any case, streaming fans will be spoiled, because the cast icon is available in the mobile apps (iOS and Android) of almost all music services. So you can play a song with a tap on this soundbar from Spotify app, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, YouTube Music, Play Music, SoundCloud and more. If you want to play your own music files, you use an app such as Hi-Fi Cast, BubbleUPnP or mConnect Player. Internet radio? TuneIn has casting built in, as do countless other apps. In short, thanks to the Chromecast function you can actually play almost all music in a very easy way. Chromecast also works from iOS devices, but if you prefer a more Apple-oriented approach, you can also stream via AirPlay with the MultiBeam 700. As always with sound bars, you can only stream audio, not video, via Chromecast or AirPlay 2.
You can of course also ask the Google Assistant to play music. Not everyone finds that useful, we find it practical in some circumstances. If you want some background music quickly or know very specifically what you want to hear, it works fine. “Hey Google, play some indie rock,” and it starts to play. Also more complex assignments such as “Play the last album of Lana del Rey” are understood. Note: if you choose music via the Google Assistant, you can only work via Spotify Premium, YouTube Music or Google Play Music. If you have a subscription with Apple Music, you have to make a music choice on your mobile device and you can only control the playback with speech (change volume, pause, skip to the next / previous song). This dichotomy – everything can be done via Chromecast, only a few services via Google Assistant – is really confusing for users.
Both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast allow multiroom use. So you can play music simultaneously on the Citation Multibeam 700 and other compatible speakers. That does not necessarily have to be Harman Kardon Citation speakers, other brands that support one of those two streaming protocols are also welcome.
Via Google Home, multiroom use is somewhat different than with rivals such as Sonos or Bluesound. You don't just quickly drag two or more speakers together in an app to pair them. No, you have to create a group in Home and put the desired speakers in it. That is slightly more cumbersome, for example to properly adjust the volume of all speakers, but also has its advantages. For example, you can easily play music on that group with a voice command. Each speaker also always appears separately, which is easy to operate.
To test the operation, we combined the Citation MultiBeam 700 with the Citation 500 speaker, and both via casting in the Qobuz app and with a voice command music. listened to. We encountered no problems in terms of synchronization; there is no question of a lag or an echo. We found it striking when casting that the Citation 500 started playing a little later than the Multibeam 700.
Adapted to your space
A small soundbar makes a small sound. If you believe that, be ready to be surprised when you hear the MultiBeam 700 in action. We do not fall out of our seats when testing because the surprise effect is somewhat mitigated by previous tests of compact soundbars with burly performance. But still, this Harman Kardon makes a big impression. It is technically a sophisticated device, despite the small size. Due to the textile-covered design, you do not notice that five drivers are provided at the front. On the sides you always see a large opening with a kind of funnel shape that points to the room. These are the marketing peak alarm multibeam drivers that emit sound diagonally to the side so that it can bounce off your wall towards your seat. This is a proven technique that works, but the performance depends on the circumstances. If you don't have a wall on one side (or it's very far away), you don't get reflected sound on this side, just to give an example. You can also not hide the soundbar in a piece of furniture or have it surrounded by books, a Lego construction of your youngest sprout or porcelain figurines that your mother-in-law brought from Austria. Clean up that lot, the MultiBeam 700 wants a TV cabinet for itself. Harman Kardon says the feature works best with walls left and right 1.5 to 4.5 meters away. In our living room this is not the case on the left; that is why we experimented with strategically placing an acoustic panel from our test room. It quickly became clear to us that this had a major impact on sound quality.
Harman Kardon does attempt to address some of those issues with a calibration function. By briefly playing test tones, the soundbar makes a kind of measurement of your room, so that it can adapt the reproduction to the characteristics of the living room. By the way, you have to perform the Multibeam calibration again after every change to the room. Logical.
Big and enveloping
We haven't said much about the included remote so far. Once you are effectively ready to watch TV, you will want to keep it nearby. The remote control of the MultiBeam 700 comes with a number of buttons with which you can adjust the sound to your own taste. Harman Kardon did a good job of that. For example, you can easily add or reduce bass and the surround effect (read: the side speakers) can also be adjusted with its own volume knob. The intention is clearly that you listen and go for something you like best, which in itself is not a bad approach. For example, as mentioned, because of the placement of the screen, you may not be able to see which sound mode you have chosen in your seat. So in practice, you press the sound mode button until you hear something you prefer. Does it turn out afterwards that “Music” sounds better when watching a movie than “Movie” mode? That may be possible. You will also find three preset buttons on the remote. This quickly calls up a favorite playlist or radio station that you have assigned to a specific preset via the touch screen on the soundbar. We ourselves use presets little, but many people like to have them, for example to quickly set up a popular radio station. A plus, therefore.
“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” has long been a favorite test film because of the many scenes with successful surround mixes. Think of the opening scene with the big cargo plane or the attack in the Vienna opera house. But the newer “MI: Fallout” is also a real winner in terms of sound. We jump straight to the epic Paris chase, with Hunt behind the wheel of a truck and then by motorcycle, chased by every police car the producers could knock on the head. When Hunt pulls a police transport into the water with his truck, the MultiBeam 700 rolls with his muscles. The bang booms through the space and the sound of the impact on the water is widely spread in the front of the living room. That broad spread is cleverly done. The music that plays continuously in this scene and sets the mood enormously is very far to the left and right of the screen with certain instruments (such as percussion). The cars that honk their horns as Hunt drives along the wrong direction to the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe really give the impression that you are to your left and right. Is it accurate like when we watch Fallout on our surround setup in the test room? No. But it is convincing, and that is sufficient in many living rooms. We also note that after the chase in Fallout, the drums of the military marching version of the MI theme roll well into the room, like a wall. Whatever the intention, the music plays here without any other sound effects while the secret agents seem to escape with satisfaction. The gunshots that follow in a dramatic peak also echo for a long time through our living room. At the long intro of 'Roma', the Oscar-winning film on Netflix, we are again beautifully enveloped by that expansive soundtrack full of micro-detail sounds (think birds and radios in the background, with city sounds such as calling city hawkers and cars even further away). It is enough to convince you, especially with sound effects at the front of the mix. The extra experience of rear speakers is not real, although those Multibeam speakers provide a large sound image. You can also extend the Multibeam 700 with wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer from the Citation series. Without having tested this, we think that in most rooms the performance without a subwoofer may be sufficient, but rear speakers might be interesting to consider if you like surround and watch a lot of content with surround soundtracks.
frankly also because the sound effects are sometimes louder compared to the dialogues. During later viewing sessions we are therefore more often playing with the bass control and the sound modes to find a little more balance. It is not that the basses sound woolly or long so that the tight reproduction of sound effects is counteracted, something that you encounter with many sound bars (also with separate subwoofer). We also notice a much better, more balanced display after freeing the TV cabinet and dropping (and recalibrating) our panel on the left.
In short, if conditions are right, the MultiBeam 700 really does a great job of watching movies. for this category: powerful, detailed and relatively large. We would even dare to say: better than the more expensive Citation Bar.
The Citation MultiBeam 700 is not only a very handsome, stylish appearance that fits well in an interior due to its compact size. It performs well, thanks to a wide appearance and impressive bass performance. And that without a separate subwoofer. The integration with Google Assistant and streaming via Chromecast and AirPlay 2 also provide very good streaming options. Multiroom is also possible. There are a few negatives, such as the sporadic unwanted response of the microphone, but these do not stand in the way of a good assessment.