CNET First Look
Harman/Kardon SoundSticks IIIThe $170 Soundsticks III speakers offer light cosmetic upgrades (and unfortunately retains a few irritations) from the previous model, but if you're a fan of the iridescent design, this speaker system won't disappoint.
Hi, I'm Justin Yu, Associate Editor here at cnet.com with a quick look at the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks III. The first version of the SoundSticks came out in 2001 around the same time as that translucent Apple iMac G3 and that's the reason why they look so familiar. Both were designed by Apple's lead designer Jonathan Ive and we gave the first and second SoundStick versions with high scores. So, the third deserves equal marks even though not much has changed aside from the price and then some small visual adjustments. There's three parts of the satellite system, two 10-watt satellite speakers, and a 20-watt subwoofer that sits on the floor. Of course, Harman/Kardon retains the clear plastic transparency across the board but this time around they lower the intensity of the blue light inside the sub. So, they aren't quite as distracting as previous models. But, here is where we get to one of our gripes, the bass adjustment knob here doubles a power button but Harman/Kardon put it on the subwoofer itself. So, you have to reach down below your desk to press it every time you want the light to go away. That could get really annoying at night when you're trying to sleep. Anyway, the satellites attached to the open ports on the bottom of the subwoofer and they're wrapped in thick housing for extra protection. There's also an open 1/8-inch jack which means anyone can walk up with a music device like this iPod and play music but we have another complaint here. Though a lot of speaker has these two touch sensitive volume control buttons that are just way too sensitive and they don't give any legible indication of volume level either. So, we've found ourselves accidentally pumping the volume to max on accident a lot. On the next version, we're really hoping that H/K uses a standard 1 through 10 volume knob. Despite some design shortcomings, the SoundSticks continue to draw attention because of their excellent sound quality. The 2.1 speakers resist distortion even at loud volumes and our test tracks came out quite clear and balanced despite a limited frequency response range. So, with little to complaint about audio wise, we recommend these speakers to anyone looking to upgrade their home audio. You can read all the details in our full review on cnet.com but that's gonna do it for me. I'm Justin Yu. These are the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks III and that sounds good to me.