Harman Kardon Classic review: Harman Kardon Classic

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The Good The Harman Kardon Classic headphones have a unique, sleek design with excellent fit and finish and impressive sound quality. They also fold flat (a nice carrying case is included) and have a detachable cable and an Apple-friendly inline remote and microphone that makes them a good companion for iOS mobile devices.

The Bad The headphones are fairly pricey, and the inline remote and microphone won't work with many non-Apple smartphones and tablets.

The Bottom Line The Harman Kardon Classic on-ear headphones combine impressive design and excellent sound quality to create a very enticing headphone set for a comparatively fair price.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Harman Kardon has recently made a big push into the headphone space with a number of new models, including the Classic (or CL for short), a set that retails for $199.95 and may be the best of the bunch.

This is an on-ear model that has a very distinct design, with a modern take on an old-school double headband and square earcups that harken back a little to the Bowers & Wilkins P3 and P5 headphones. The top portion of the headband is made of metal. Here's what's interesting: Harman includes two sizes of that metal piece and you can easily swap one band in for another, depending on the size of your head.

I personally don't have a very big head (at least I didn't think so), so I went with the default Small band. The headphones were fairly comfortable but didn't feel great, especially over longer listening sessions, so I looked at the instructions and swapped in the XL band. It definitely made a significant difference. And while I can't say these are the most comfortable headphones I've tried, they're comfy. Just not supercomfy. Of course, comfort level varies from head to head, but a couple of editors I passed them off to for a test run felt similarly.

The Classics' on-ear design passively seals out ambient sound. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's worth noting that they did create a tight seal on my ears and managed to shut out a lot of ambient noise. In other words, while this isn't an active noise-cancellation model, the Classic does passively block out a good amount of sound, and it doesn't leak sound either.

As far as extra features go, you get an Apple-friendly inline remote and microphone. With Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod), you can use the Classic as a headset for making calls. Call quality was good in my test calls. Using the inline remote, you can raise and lower volume, skip tracks forward and back, and pause/play your music. Those features will be more miss than hit for non-Apple smartphones, so take that into consideration if you're an Android user (the microphone and some of the remote features may work with certain Android models, but they aren't supported and don't usually work).

The headphones fold flat and come with a nice carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones don't fold up, but they do fold flat -- and by flat, I mean really flat. While the included carrying case is fairly large in terms of height and width, since the headphones fold so flat there isn't much depth to the package. It stows away nicely in a laptop bag or backpack, or potentially your suitcase.