They say there are only a few stories out there, and every story teller just repeats them in their own way. It seems the same holds true for wireless audio — there are only a few ways to go. And the most popular story these days for wireless speakers is the multi-room speaker format pioneered by Sonos. Like Samsung, LG, Bose, and many others before it, Harman Kardon today jumped into the multi-room speaker game with its two new Omni speakers, the Omni 10, and the Omni 20.
Following the Sonos roadmap, the sleek new bulbs of sound communicate through a proprietary central app for iOS and Android. The speakers can access your music catalog, or Internet radio apps via Wi-Fi to play separately, or in tandem throughout the home, with zero latency. Speakers can be linked for stereo playback, and Harman Kardon claims future updates will allow for larger speaker configurations, such as 5.1 surround. Each of the speakers also incorporate Bluetooth technology, allowing you to connect even when there’s no network in sight.
HK also claims that “custom applications can be added to extend functionality,” with an open programming interface that will allow users to leverage third party apps. Just what kind of features those apps would incorporate is anyone’s guess, but it’s an intriguing concept: Open source in the hands of creative developers can make for some fun features.
The system already includes some interesting options, including party mode, which autostarts all speakers on your system, as well as a feature which cycles all songs playing on the speakers so you can pick your favorite. The link button on top of each speaker will automatically connect to whatever music is playing over the app, allowing easy switching of speakers from room to room.
As for performance, Harman Kardon has an edge on many multi-room speaker systems, allowing support for hi-res audio files at up to 24 bit/96kHz resolution — most speakers, Sonos included, top out at 16 bit/44.1 kHz, or CD quality audio. If the speakers sound anything like HK’s satellite shaped Onyx studio (of which they bear a slight resemblance) they could be a very enticing addition to the multi-room speaker landscape. The Omni 10 packs dual 20 watt drivers, while the Omni 20 has four 15 watt drivers.
Along with the two speakers, the company has also launched a wireless adaptor for those who want the same wireless functionality on their current setup, called the Harman Kardon Adapt. The company claims that, due to its hi-res capabilities, the Adapt is the first of its kind.
Harman Kardon hasn’t yet announced specific release dates for the system yet, but they are slated for release in late October. The Omni 10 will be priced at $200, the Omni 20 at $300, and the Adapt will sell for $130. We’ll update this story as more details surface, so stay tuned.
Update 9/04/2014 at 1:00pm PST: This story has been updated to include manufacturer confirmation of the driver wattage and number in both the Omni 10 and Omni 20 speakers.