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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Harman Kardon Soho Wireless review:

A travel-friendly on-ear wireless headphone with a swanky, compact design

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The Good The Harman Kardon Soho Wireless is a compact, on-ear Bluetooth headphone that features excellent build quality, very good sound for Bluetooth and touch-sensitive controls. It also folds flat to fit in a nice carrying case that's travel-friendly.

The Bad It's fairly expensive at $250; it doesn't sound quite as good or fit as comfortably as the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth.

The Bottom Line Harman Kardon's well-built and compact Soho Wireless is a solid on-ear Bluetooth headphone that doesn't quite surpass competing models from Bose and Beats.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.3 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Sound 7.0
  • Value 7.0

At first glance, the Soho Wireless Bluetooth headphone looks very similar to its wired siblings, the Soho-I (iOS) and Soho-A (Android), which were released in 2014 and now cost $200, down $50 from their initial launch price. I didn't love that headphone, but I thought its compact on-ear design was interesting and was curious to see what Harman did with the this follow-up model, which lists for $250 (£230, AU$310) and comes in brown, black and white.

Well, in the conversion to wireless, Harman has made some small but significant design improvements, including moving from cloth covers for the earpads to leather ones. You also get a much better new soft carrying case -- the headphones fold flat into it, creating a compact, travel-friendly package.

In terms of build quality, these guys have a swanky, premium feel to them, with some sturdy metal parts mixed in. I found them comfortable to wear, though they will jostle around a bit if you move your head from side to side quickly. And it's also worth mentioning that their small, square earcup design may not appeal to everyone's tastes.

The headphones feature a sturdy design and new leather-covered earcups. Sarah Tew/CNET

They do offer reasonably good noise isolation despite their small size. However, some competing models such as Bose's SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth and the Beats Solo 2 Wireless offer a bit better noise isolation. Also, the Bose is a more comfortable headphone, though not as compact. (The Beats Solo 2 Wireless fits tighter and some people complain about it "pinching" their ears).

As far as features go, you get NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it, as well as AptX support ( AptX allegedly improves the sound quality of Bluetooth streaming, but that's debatable). You can also listen in wired mode if your battery dies, and there's a built-in microphone for making cell-phone calls (call quality was decent enough, but the Bose performs a little better as a headset). I'm still trying to confirm what exactly the battery rating is, but it seems to be well over 10 hours, because I didn't have to recharge after a week of using them on my commute to and from work.

A touch sensor that allows you to control playback and answer calls is built into the right earcup. Sarah Tew/CNET

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