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Harman Kardon Soho Wireless review: A travel-friendly on-ear wireless headphone with a swanky, compact design

HK's compact Bluetooth headphone isn't cheap, but it is one of the better-sounding on-ear wireless models, with nifty touch controls.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

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.


Harman Kardon Soho Wireless

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.

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

The big extra feature is the touch sensor built into the right earcup. It allows you to advance tracks forward and back and raise and lower volume by simply swiping your finger across the earcup. You can also tap once to pause or answer calls. This is a feature found on even higher end headphones like the Parrot Zik and Zik 2.0 . I sometimes had to swipe a couple of times to advance tracks, but overall the touch controls worked well for me and I came away thinking they were a definite plus.


The Soho Wireless Bluetooth sounds quite good for a Bluetooth headphone. And by that I mean the headphone sounds pretty natural, with clean, fairly well-balanced sound. There's a decent amount of bass but it's not overpowering and the clarity is good.

Yes, you can do better with a wired headphone that costs far less (the Beyerdynamic DTX 350p , for example), but in the realm of Bluetooth headphones, the Soho Wireless performs well -- just not quite as well as Bose's SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth headphone, which also costs $250.

The included carrying case has a magnetic clasp. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Bose has a bit fuller, warmer sound and is a bit more pleasant to listen to overall. The Soho Wireless has a bit more edge to its treble -- you get a touch of sibilance -- so grittier music or poorly recorded tracks can sound a little harsh. On the plus side, well-recorded tracks can sound better.


In the end, I came away liking this wireless version of the Soho a lot more than the wired version. While its fit and style may not be for everybody, it's a very good on-ear Bluetooth headphone. The only problem, of course, is that there's a lot of competition in this price range, particularly from Bose's SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth headphone. This model has better build quality and those nifty touch controls, but the Bose has an advantage in the sound and comfort departments.


Harman Kardon Soho Wireless

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 7Value 7