With the Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus, the brand that now falls under Samsung is trying to market a very complete soundbar that can be part of a multiroom system. All ingredients are there, but has Harman actually succeeded?
The Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus is part of the new Plus series of the company. It is also a second chance for the Omni series, which got a lot of criticism in the past. For the Omni Plus series, Harman has therefore re-released the available speakers. Earlier we looked at the Harman Kardon Omni 50+ speakers that really liked us because of all the possibilities. Now we look at the soundbar in the new series. All ingredients are available for a good experience.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – design
The Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus is an incredibly wide soundbar of more than 1.1 meters. That is not bad in itself. The soundbar is located in the upper segment, which makes it very likely that you will use it in combination with a high-end television, which may or may not be hanging on the wall. With a height of 103 centimeters you may have a problem: the soundbar may stand in front of the image, so you miss a few centimeters at the bottom and the infrared sensor blocks the remote control.
The latter is not so bad: Harman provides an extension in the box for that sensor, so that it does not have to be an obstacle. However, if you put the soundbar in front of the television on a television set, as we have done, then you run into the problem that you miss the bottom of your screen. Due to the remarkable design of the subwoofer you may also encounter problems. It is the intention that you put it wide, with the speaker towards the living room. But it may be that you just do not have the space for that.
On the narrow top (53 centimeters) are a number of buttons: the volume buttons, the Link button, bluetooth and the controls for source, pause / play and surround sound. It’s always nice when you can control the basic functions of the soundbar without an app or remote control, and the button for activating or not activating the surround sound is also a nice extra. The remote control is large and of course has a lot more buttons and possibilities and is fortunately nice in the hand.
Some buttons on the top also give light. For example, the Link button is constantly green and green light can be seen in the screen of your television (when you place the soundbar in front of the TV, in any case). It is not very striking and you do not always suffer from it, but in dark scenes the light is clearly visible and then it is annoying. We understand that the Link system on a multiroom system must be the same, because that is clearer, but that does not mean that the light can be annoying.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – specifications
The new Harman Kardon soundbar features four 2.25-inch woofers and two 0.75-inch tweeters. When you connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network, there is support for the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. Especially the 5 GHz option is useful, since the other frequency is full in many households and can affect the connection (and ultimately the experience). 5 GHz is as yet less full, so the network can handle it better. It is good to see that Harman has thought of this.
There are a number of connections on the back. For example, there is only one HDMI port with which you can connect the Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus to the television, fortunately with support for audio return channel and hdmi-cec. This makes it possible to use the TV remote control to operate the soundbar (switch on and off and adjust volume). In addition, there is also support for bluetooth and you can count on a stereo analog audio input and an optical digital connection.
Furthermore, we also find a USB connection, but you can only use it for updating the soundbar, unfortunately. So you can not connect a physical USB device to play your music. The soundbar can be connected to your Wi-Fi network (allowing you to listen to music anywhere in the house when you have multiple Omni Plus speakers) and can play music from that network through dlna support. It is also great to see that Harman has added support for Spotify Connect and Google Cast.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – installation
Installing the soundbar yourself is no problem. Harman Kardon supplies all necessary cables and accessories so that you can place the soundbar as you wish. On the cupboard or on the wall, that does not matter that much. The cables that you connect to the back all run through a notch backwards. That is necessary, since you place a bracket for hanging or putting down the soundbar, which almost completely closes the back. It ensures that you have better cable management and that always looks good.
You can connect the Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus via an optical or HDMI cable. Both cables are included. After pairing, you still have to indicate on your TV that the sound goes through external speakers. Moreover, you still have to connect the subwoofer to the soundbar, by means of a simple process. That’s pretty remarkable, since we’ve already tested a lot of soundbars with subwoofer that automate that installation process, but at the bottom of the line that extra step is not a time-consuming operation at all.
Do you want to link the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network? you want to go for multiroom audio, you will have to deal with an extensive installation process. When you start the new app, where Harman has been working with the team behind Uber for the first time, it will help you install the speakers. You connect speaker for speaker to the network; make sure that only one is on. You will be helped step by step through the installation process, so that’s all right.
If you have switched on one speaker, it will jump into search mode. When the Link button flashes slowly, you can link it to your Wi-Fi network. On iOS, this process will be automated (the Wi-Fi password will be shared immediately), but Android users need to take an extra step. The Wi-Fi password must be entered manually. Also no problem, but sometimes you do not know that password by yourself or you do not have it at hand. The iOS app does something smarter with Apple technology.
Before you connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network, you can indicate where that state is. Harman Kardon has a number of rooms (such as the bedroom, the kitchen or the office, but there are many more options available), but you can also design something completely yourself. You can do this by means of different colors (making it easier for you to recognize groups) or by giving a personal name (such as bedroom child 1 or for example a pantry, just to give some examples).
In contrast to the experience that Harman Kardon with the previous generation of speakers offered, this is a much faster and smoother process. You have connected the speaker to the network within seconds and then you can effortlessly use the possibilities offered by the app and the soundbar. Furthermore, it is possible to realize surround sound by, for example, linking two Omni 10 Plus models within the app. Here you can indicate that you want to go for surround sound and get a new installation process.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – in use
The Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus is therefore in a multiroom setup. You can connect the different Omni Plus speakers (Omni 50 Plus, Omni 20 Plus and Omni 10 Plus) to the same network and play the same music via Wi-Fi. Within the app you can then choose different sources, such as the built-in music streaming services Tidal or Deezer. You do not need an additional application for this. When you select the service, you log in and get access to all functions.
This integrated method provides both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you do not need an extra app for the built-in services and you can control everything from the Harman Kardon app. The disadvantage is that these services can not immediately benefit from the updates that are released by app makers, so you have to deal with an inferior version in some cases. But in general you have little trouble in practice. You can play music just as you expect from the services.
The list of available music streaming services also includes other apps, such as Spotify or Google Play Music. By tapping on you open the music streaming service and you can start streaming. In addition, there is support for Spotify Connect and Google Cast (allowing you to select the speakers from the apps of the services). You also get access to everything that you have stored within those apps, such as your favorite songs, your playlists and more and everything can be played through the Omni speakers.
In addition, you are able to play locally play stored songs from your Android or iOS device. That goes through the Harman Kardon app; you can also play those songs via Wi-Fi. If you have multiple speakers in the house of the same set (the three speaker models mentioned earlier), you can also transfer that music (locally, via WiFi or via bluetooth) to the other speakers. You do this by switching on another speaker in the network and pressing the Link button. Then you will hear a music stream.
One of the most impressive possibilities of this arrangement is that you can play music from a total of five different sources and can throw all of them over your Wi-Fi network: whether that is local, via bluetooth or via wifi. You can send two channels through a music streaming service, as well as a channel through the local storage or through Bluetooth or via the analog connection. And with a press of the Link button you switch channels and you quickly get to the music you want to hear.
You basically do not need the app for this. If you know that your partner in the living room is listening to a LP that is connected via the analog cable, you can listen to the same music in the garage (if you have a speaker there). Curious about what your children listen to via Spotify or Google Play Music? With the press of a button you switch on and you can listen in. In addition, it is possible to combine or disconnect the speakers via the HK Controller application.
Unfortunately Harman Kardon offers few options with regard to tuning the music. Via the supplied remote control it is possible to adjust the volume of the bass and the soundbar, but elsewhere we can not find any possibilities to further adjust the sound. Not in the app and also not on the remote control. There are no sound modes even. Not that these modes are so blissful, but they do shine in their absence and we have no alternative. You always have one sound reproduction.
Furthermore, it is striking that you can not share the sound from the hdmi source with other speakers within the network. For a system that puts itself on the market as wide and easy to use, that is a damper. If you connect the soundbar via an optical cable (which unfortunately can cause lipsync problems), then it will work. Then you indicate in the application that the soundbar is connected and that you want to use it for music. That is not a sacred solution, but it is that the possibility exists.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – audio quality
One one size fits all approach to sound is not always the case best path you can walk as an audio manufacturer, especially when you release a soundbar. The sound does not always match the expectations you have when watching a movie or playing a game. For example, a movie can suddenly fall apart, while a game just hits the room hard. Series and news programs generally sound great, because they usually have little on average (on average) and sound great quickly.
In general you can expect an expensive soundbar device can adapt to what you want to watch, listen to or play. But that is not the case now. However, the system appears to be dynamic enough for a nice evening full of music, since a warm, room-filling sound can be presented. The tones sound bearish and rich and you do not have the idea that you miss something in the view. Conversations in films, series and TV programs always sound clear and understandable.
If you are just a little out of the reach of the subwoofer, which differs from the norm in terms of form, it is virtually absent. It does not help to set it up any harder: if you are not right in front of the woofer, you hardly hear it. Do you have an elongated living room with a clear part for your living room and dining table, then you do not hear that bass as well as you sit at the table. This is really striking, because at other soundbars (equally expensive or slightly cheaper) this problem is absent or at least less noticeable.
Although the sound fortunately generally sounds warm, grounded and dynamic, you notice that not always when you watch a movie. The soundbar may be wide and high, but it may be as if the sound is compact and limited. When you use the built-in surround function (digital, not with extra speakers), the sounds sound even further away and shifted backwards. If you connect two Omni 10 or 20 Plus speakers to the surround soundbar, you will not encounter this problem.
When you play games, make your chest wet. So you can not put the soundbar in a game mode or anything like that, so you use the wide speaker as you have set it for the TV sound. The bass sounds very loud at once, which can produce a thundering sound. So you have to adjust the sub down again and increase after you’re done. There is no further indication that indicates at what level the bass is, so you always have to gamble a bit. And that is not very customer friendly in the long term.
Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus – conclusion
For 899 euros you can certainly expect a lot from a sound system. If you are willing to spend this on a soundbar, you may want to consider other options – but we do not understand that every household is suitable for five, seven or more speakers and a subwoofer. If you want to spend that on the Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus, you have to take a few things into account. So the soundbar is very high, and can block the bottom of the TV, and it is possible that you see the green LED light in the picture.
In addition there are unfortunately very few connections and we would like to, on z A least, an extra hdmi connection. If you connect the soundbar to an HDMI connection on your TV, you immediately lose it. Furthermore, it is not possible to play music from a USB stick or disc, because the USB connection on the back can only be used for updates. Fortunately, there are other connectivity options, so it is not entirely a lost cause. But you can buy a soundbar for convenience, and the USB connection blocks that idea.
We are happy with the sound reproduction of the device, especially when you’re good at it. For busy movies, the sound can sometimes sound a bit messy, but in general it sounds warm, fine and pitched for series, films, TV shows and games. Keep in mind that you only have one sound mode and can not adjust the different tones. You can only adjust the soundbar harder and softer, something that you will probably do constantly when you switch from music to movies and games and back.
You get the Harman Kardon Omni Bar Plus when you have already invested it in the other Omni Plus speakers and want to make full use of the multiroom and networking possibilities. That is because this product is perfectly suited for. Not surprising, of course, because that is what the soundbar is ultimately made for. As a stand-alone soundbar that is a bit disappointing, but if you go all the way for multiroom audio from Harman Kardon, then this soundbar can not be missed in your collection of network speakers.