Unlike the Harman Kardon models introduced before, the Soho has got rid of all excess materials, including the company’s trademark adjustable metal headband that allows you to tailor the fit to your own head.
Instead, the stainless steel arms on the side of the headphones taper into the leather headband for a padded experience. It’s fairly light for such a chunky pair of headphones , and I found them to be generally comfortable, although some people may find that the narrow headband doesn’t sit very securely on your head. (If you shake your head back and forth vigorously, the headphones may shift a little) Due to the smaller size of the headphones, they don’t seem to work great for people with larger heads.
Small and luxurious on-ear headphones
A relative newcomer to the headphone market, Harman Kardon has impressed us with its debut models, the CL (Classic), BT (Bluetooth) and NC (noise-canceling). These headphones are a good mix of unique styling, impressive sound and a fairly comfortable fit.
So I had high hopes for Harman Kardon’s latest addition to the line, the Soho , a more compact on-ear model with Harman’s angular square ear cushions in a vintage industrial style. The Harman Kardon Soho I headphones that I am reviewing here are the Apple-friendly version with integrated remote control/microphone. There is also a Soho-A version with a universal inline remote control for other devices.
The Soho-I, which is available in black, white or camel, reminded me of the P3 from Powers & Wilkins. These headphones also have detachable square ear cups (they are magnetic). You remove the ear cup to attach or detach the supplied cable. You can replace the cable if it gets damaged. That’s a plus.
However, I was not so pleased with the hard, fold-out case in which the headphones are. I had the same thing with the case of the B&W P3, but at least with that case you can put the headphones away more easily. Harman Kardon could do better for its entire line and the Soho-I really should have a simpler soft case. The fact is that these headphones are very compact for an on-ear model (you can fold them), so they should come with a case that is just as compact. Instead of looking at Powers & Wilkins, Harmon Kardon should have looked at Bose’s OE2i, which has a perfect case that takes up very little space in a bag.
Considering that the Soho-I has smaller, 30mm drivers (the CL model, for example, has 40mm drivers), the headphones sound better than I expected. Harman Kardon’s headphones are usually well balanced, clear and have a nice bass . The Soho-I headphones continue that trend, but they don’t sound as dynamic and full. That said, I found it to sound slightly better than the Bowers & Wilkins P3. The bass performance of the two models is comparable, but the P3 sounds a bit duller (read: the Soho has a bit more defined bass). However, the P3 headphones are probably a bit more comfortable to wear and fit better for people with a larger head.
It’s also worth noting that the Soho-I headphones don’t attenuate outside noise fantastically . I walked through the streets of Amsterdam with them and the headphones let through quite a bit of sound. So it is not ideal for noisy environments.
Ultimately, the headphones sound good, but with so much competition in the current headphone market, I would have expected a bit more from a pair of headphones that cost +/- € 250. So while they exceeded my expectations in some areas, these headphones don’t perform at the same level as Harman Kardon’s larger headphones (and the CL model is currently discounted online).
Conclusion Harman Kardon Soho
When I first saw the Harman Kardon Soho-I headphones, I was full of anticipation, because the design is cool and I was curious to try out higher-performance on-ear headphones that were relatively compact and hopefully comfortable.
If that’s what you’re looking for, the Soho-I lives up to that on many counts, although the looks certainly won’t appeal to everyone. Now if the Soho-I performed exceptionally well I wouldn’t be so concerned about the design or the case, but now that the sound isn’t exactly impressive (it’s good, but not great, certainly not at this price), the case also more.
In summary: I thought the Soho-I were good headphones , but I didn’t immediately fall in love with them – as I had hoped.
- The pluses: The Harman Kardon Soho-I are stylish, compact on-ear headphones that are relatively comfortable to wear. You can fold it up and it performs well for its size. The cord is detachable and replaceable and the headphones come with an Apple-friendly remote/microphone or universal remote (Soho-A) for making phone calls.
- The Minuses: The hard flip-out case doesn’t fit the compact design of the headphones and is awkward to use. The headphones let through a decent amount of ambient noise and could sound better for €250.
- The bottom line: The Harman Kardon Soho-I headphones appeal if you’re looking for a compact on-ear pair of headphones, but they do have some shortcomings.