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20-year-old design lives on in Harmon Kardon’s $300 Aura Studio 3 speaker

Wireless speakers that offer an extra-wide soundstage, like Apple’s $299 HomePod and Amazon’s $200 Echo Studio, are becoming increasingly popular as people look to get the most audio bang for their buck from a single speaker. Now buyers have another choice when it comes to expansive sound: Harmon Kardon’s $300 Aura Studio 3 Bluetooth speaker is now available for pre-order and is expected to start shipping July 1.

Harmon Kardon Aura Studio 3
Harmon Kardon

The Aura Studio 3 is the third generation of Harmon Kardon’s transparent-domed wireless speaker, which uses a design the company has been refining ever since it debuted as the bass module enclosure for its Apple iMac companion Soundsticks speakers in 2000.

Previous versions of the Aura speaker have looked visually similar to the Aura Studio 3, but the latest model is a departure from the past in a few notable ways. Older Aura models included an LED light source to provide a visual element along with the music, but the Aura Studio 3 uses an “elegant ripple effect,” which makes the light display more dynamic.

It’s also considerably more powerful than its predecessors. Previous versions used a pair of 15-watt amplifiers to power six circularly arranged midrange drivers (for the 360-degree sound field), while the down-firing woofer was equipped with a 30-watt amp. The Aura Studio 3 uses a similar midrange configuration, but its woofer is now powered by a 100-watt amp, which should give the speaker a much better presence and low-end kick.

However, it’s not all upside for the Aura Studio 3: unlike previous versions, it can’t be used as a speakerphone for making calls.

Perhaps the most surprising omission considering the Aura Studio 3’s price is the lack of Wi-Fi. Virtually all other wireless speakers at this price — and even some previous Aura models — have the option of Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a requirement for voice assistant functionality. It’s also the only way to stream higher-quality music to a wireless speaker.

While some companies, including Harmon Kardon’s sister brand JBL, have been working on providing multi-speaker support via Bluetooth, Harmon Kardon makes no mention of this possibility with the Aura Studio 3’s specs.

Given these considerable drawbacks and the Aura Studio 3’s steep price, it will have to offer truly exceptional sound in order to compete.

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