There was a time when Harman Kardon was known for its full size high fidelity audio equipment, ranging from receivers and amplifiers to, more recently, home theatre receivers. It racked up several impressive firsts, such as the first wideband stereo tube amplifier and the first stereo cassette recording deck.
Since 2000, Harman Kardon has also dabbled in computer audio. With personal audio emerging as one of the largest segments of the market for audio equipment, firms like Harman Kardon are now trying to play catch up with other companies that are already well established in the field.
The company’s range now includes several portable music systems, computer speakers and wireless portable speakers. The Esquire 2 is part of Harman Kardon’s wireless line, a small black portable speaker that uses Bluetooth to pair with your iOS or Android devices to play music.
The Esquire 2’s box states that it’s a Reddot award winner for design, and it certainly scores in that department. It certainly looks gorgeous, its black grille ringed by a silver aluminium strip and the bottom half finished in matte black. There’s a foldable stand on the bottom that allows the speaker to be placed upright.
The speaker’s controls are simple – four buttons to power the device on or off, switch on the Bluetooth receiver, take calls and switch on or off four mics that can be used for conference calls. Yes, that’s right, the Esquire 2 can be used for making conference calls when paired with a smartphone.
The device uses the Harman “VoiceLogic” noise and echo cancelling technology for 360 degree voice pick up during conference calls. And it worked just fine when I tried it out.
The Esquire 2 uses four sound drivers and its rechargeable battery is rated to deliver eight hours of use with a single charge. Charging is done via a USB cable and the battery packed plenty of life. There were times when I put the Esquire 2 away for days and it still had plenty of battery life when it was switched on.
Pairing the Esquire 2 with iOS and Android devices was easy as pie – just switch on the speaker and its Bluetooth receiver and it always picked up any Bluetooth enabled device within range. Music playback was smooth, with no dropouts during the time I tested the Esquire 2.
The sound? Well, if you’re looking for something that easily pairs with your smartphone and delivers music on the go, this is the device for you. Think the soundtrack for an impromptu party or a sudden picnic, when you’d like some music to go with the outdoors.
If you’re looking for a portable speaker for critical listening, give the Esquire 2 a miss. For a device with a suggested retail price of Rs 19,990, the sound just doesn’t cut it.
There’s plenty of bass but its flabby and one-note and the soundstage is flat and one-dimensional. There is virtually no separation of instruments and the Esquire 2 struggles to keep things under control when the volume on the playback device is turned up to about 2 o’clock. But that’s par for the course for most Bluetooth speakers I’ve heard.
Bottomline – if you’re not finicky about sound quality and want something that’ll pair easily with your smartphone and provide sound that remains in the background, the Esquire 2 is more than good enough.