Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro review: Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro

The Go + Play Micro has a fair number of features for a portable speaker system, but they're not the features we typically think of. There's no AM or FM radio, and no EQ adjustment beyond the capabilities included on your iPod or iPhone. Instead, you get features such as composite video output and a USB pass-through port for syncing to a computer. These are cool features, certainly, but they don't exactly match up with our notions of mobile audio.

Other features such as the included power adapter and aux audio input are fairly standard and expected. The included remote control--though not as pretty or responsive as its predecessor--does offer the advantage of iPod menu navigation controls, as well as buttons for volume and track skip. Oddly, the remote control doesn't offer a power button.

The back of the Go + Play Micro includes covered ports for a power adapter, USB cable, video output, and aux input.

Some people will be fine with shelling out $400 for the Go + Play Micro purely on the basis of its design. The rest of you probably expect the sound quality to be commensurate with the price.

Rest assured that this is one of the better-sounding portable speakers you can buy for your iPod or iPhone. The dedicated woofer tucked into the bottom of the unit offers extended low range, and the four front-facing tweeters deliver the kind of crisp detail that few competitors can match.

There are some great-sounding competitors, though. In particular, the Altec Lansing Mix thunders over the Go + Play Micro, is priced $100 less, and includes extra features such as FM radio, remote storage, EQ, dual aux inputs, and a dock that can handle cases. It's arguably not as pretty as what Harman Kardon has to offer, but looks can only take you so far.

Really, the most damning criticism of the Go + Play Micro is that it's a boom box that lacks actual boom. With 120 watts of ear-crippling power, the original Go + Play could knock the stink off a pig. After the Micro makeover, the Go + Play now works with half the total wattage, and the sound just isn't what it used to be. We noticed that some of the more sparsely arranged songs we played, such as the meandering percussion of Susana Baca's "Resbalosas" or dark melodies of "Crystalized" by the group XX, cut through a little louder than denser rock songs or electronic, and delivered noticeably punchier low end. This could be a fluke of our perception, or possibly some of the digital signal processing technology Harman Kardon built into the system. The manual states that the Go + Play Micro uses both COE (computer-optimized equalization) and OCT (optimized compression topology) to enhance the sound of incoming audio signals, so perhaps the discrepancy we noticed in perceived volume can be attributed to those intervening technologies.

As far battery performance goes, the manufacturer estimates approximately 18 hours of continuous audio playback from a fresh set of eight C-cell batteries.

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