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Harman Kardon SB 16 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer Review

Massive sound with a big subwoofer and price tag.

May 7 2012, 12:00am CDT | by

Harman Kardon SB 16 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer Review
 
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Today I'm going to check out the Harman Kardon SB 16 sound bar with wireless subwoofer. This is a high-end sound bar with premium sound and design at a premium price. It packs in all the connectivity you need to get virtual surround sound in a room if you don't have the space for true surround sound solutions. The system is easy to set up and the rear subwoofer needs no wires. Read on for all the details on the Harman Kardon SB 16.

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Harman Kardon SB 16 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer ReviewHarman Kardon SB 16 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer ReviewHarman Kardon SB 16 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer Review

Specifications

The Harman Kardon SB 16 ships with a lightweight sound bar that measures 4 5/16 x 36 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches for the sound bar and the subwoofer is 18 7/8 x 13 3/8 x 13 3/8 inches. The frequency response of the system is 50 Hz to 20 kHz. You can pick up the Harman Kardon SB 16 right now an MSRP of $599.99.

In Use

Harman Kardon has decided to start pushing the SB 16 sound bar system heavily. The system launched back at the beginning of the year and so far we haven't heard a lot from it. The company sent one over for me to check out as part of the big advertising push and the first thing I noticed is that the box it ships in is massive. The box is big enough to fit a complete surround sound system inside, including rear satellite speakers.

Having a huge box isn't really a downside other than when you're trying load the thing in your vehicle or get through your front door to begin with. The system was very well packed with lots of space between the outside of the box and hardware components. What that means is if you're ordering this sound system online the chances of it being damaged in shipment are very slim even if your UPS man is as rough as mine is on packages.

Once you crack open the big outer box, there are two smaller boxes inside. The smaller long box is the sound bar and the larger rectangular box is the subwoofer. After pulling the two boxes out of the large outer box, I ripped open the subwoofer first. The subwoofer is gigantic. If you wanted to put this behind your couch, you had better have a lot of space. The subwoofer is over 18 inches tall and 13 inches square. As you can see in the pictures, the subwoofer takes up a lot of space next to the entertainment center.

The upside to the large cabinet, which is shiny black and very attractive, is that the big subwoofer offers tremendous base. The sound bar on the other hand is small and in the photos it is sitting in front of a 50-inch plasma TV. It's rounded, but has feet on the bottom so it stands firmly in easily the entertainment center so it will fall off or roll. The cool part about this system is that it doesn't require an AV receiver. The sound bar connects directly to your TV if you TV has the correct outputs. The sound bar has an optical input, a coaxial input, and a standard RCA input. It does require its own power supply and on the left you notice wireless code switch that lets you match the wireless cold from the sound bar to the wireless code on the subwoofer. You also see little buttons there for the EQ settings if you have the sound bar on a table or against a wall. There's also a trim switch to control the sound.

There are no connectivity inputs on the subwoofer since it's wireless. You simply set the switch to the same wireless code for the subwoofer that you used on the sound bar. The subwoofer does have its own crossover control and its own volume control. You can also control the subwoofer phase with the flip switch. While the subwoofer doesn't need a wire between the sound bar and the speaker, it does need its own AC outlet.

I connected the system to my TV using the optical output and it worked flawlessly. Set up took all of 30 minutes and I was ready to watch movies. The system is very attractive looking with glossy black, the only real downside is that the subwoofer is so massive, as I mentioned before. If you have the room to the left or right of the entertainment center it might not be a big deal, but if you need to put the subwoofer next to your couch or behind your couch the massive size can be an issue.

Enough about gigantic woofers, we can talk about the sound now. I will say this is easily one of the best sound bars I've ever listened to. You can't pull off true surround sound as you would get with speakers behind you, but it does a good job of pulling off faux surround sound. In fact I would say it does the best job out of any speaker system that I've ever tested for creating surround sound from a 2.1 speaker system.

This is where you'll forgive that massive subwoofer for its size because the bass this thing produces is just insane. This massive subwoofer produces bass that you hear and feel. If you crank this thing all the way up on a movie with explosions and gunshots you will think you are in the middle of a war zone and pictures literally shake on your wall. Neighbors three houses down will know you're watching a movie if you turn the sub all the way up.

I was also impressed at how in sync the sound was with the audio. I tried speaker systems in the past for the sound was just a little bit off from the lips or the explosions on the screen. This can be especially common with lower end systems that use wireless subwoofers. I tried speakers in the past where the sound of the explosion was just a little bit off from the explosion onscreen. That is certainly not the case with the Harman Kardon SB 16. The sound is perfectly in sync with action on the screen.

What may be the biggest issue for many buyers of the system is that the sound bar doesn't include its own remote control. You have to use the remote to your TV to control the volume. That means we press the volume up on your standard TV remote the volume on the SB 16 will increase. This wasn't an issue for me, I actually prefer to use one remote and I have a universal Logitech Harmony one that worked perfectly with the Harman Kardon SB 16. You do have to deactivate the TVs own internal speakers per manufacturer recommendations. You may get messages on the screen depending on how you TV works.

If you tire of messing with remote control, the sound bar does have controls on top allow you to change inputs and control the volume as well as turn the system off. I came away for my time with the Harman Kardon SB 16 very impressed with how clear and accurate sound reproduction was. If you can stomach the nearly $600 price tag for this system, it's easily one of the best on the market.

Verdict

Pros

  • Good looks
  • Top-notch sound
  • Easy install

Cons

  • Huge subwoofer
  • No dedicated remote
  • Expensive
 

Conclusion

In the end I am more than willing to forgive the massive footprint of the Harman Kardon SB 16 subwoofer because it sounds fantastic. You will be hard-pressed to find a better sound bar on the market today. Get more details on the Harman Kardon Site.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/3" rel="author">Shane McGlaun</a>
Leading our review center, Shane McGlaun (Google) knows technology inside out. His extensive experience in testing computer hardware and consumer electronics enable him to effectively qualify new products and trends. If you want us review your product, please contact Shane.
Shane can be contacted directly at shane@i4u.com.

 

 

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