It definitely looks like Harman was eagerly awaiting CES 2018 because it went all out releasing audio and smart home products – these include a new Smart Display featuring Google Assistant, a new range of earphones and headphones under its sub-brand, JBL, and a stylish smart speaker. Harman is owned by Samsung, which purchased the company last year for $260 million.
Among the announcements was an all-new Harman Kardon Allure portable smart speaker which is Alexa-integrated (the original Allure was wired), the new Everest line of headphones which are equipped with Google Assistant, a bunch of JBL wired and wireless earphones (whose USP seems to be water/sweat resistance), a re-issue of the vintage JBL L100 speakers, and an all-new range of JBL Bluetooth speakers.
Whew! Let’s take a closer look at the new products, starting with the more relevant ones first.
Harman Kardon Allure Portable Speaker: Features, Price
Voice-controlled devices seem to be all the rage at CES this year and tech giant Harman is getting in on the action too. The Harman Kardon Allure wireless speaker comes equipped with all the features of Alexa, which means you can use it to play music, broadcast messages to connected speakers, place orders for groceries, give you news updates and control smart home devices in your home. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream music from your phone or tablet to it. And given Harman’s audio pedigree, the Allure features two quality 20W speakers and two passive radiators.
The device features a 4-microphone array which supports far-field voice recognition, which means you can bark commands at it from across the room. The HK Allure can go ten hours on a single charge. The product is priced at $200, which is $50 lower than its predecessor.
JBL L100 Classic: Features, Price: Features, Price
The original L-100s were an incredibly popular pair of speakers in the 70s – often referred to as a benchmark in home audio. Of course, times have changed and technology has evolved so much more in the last 40-odd years.
While the new JBL L-100 Classic has all the external features that would give you a surge of nostalgia – it has a Quadrex foam grille and a satin walnut wood veneer finish – under the hood is all of JBL’s new technology. The speaker still features the original 3-way design, but now packs JBL’s new JT025Ti1 1-inch Titanium dome tweeter, new transducers, an acoustically-retuned enclosure, and improved crossover performance.
The speakers will be available in black, orange, or blue (the colour of the foam) and are expected to go on sale by March. And what’s the price of this nostalgia? According to JBL, about $4,000 a pair.
JBL Everest Series Headphones: Features, Price
While headphones with Google Assistant isn’t new (the first to make a debut were the QC35 IIs), it’s finally catching on – Sony, Bose, Google, and now JBL offer them. JBL announced three new wireless headphones under the Everest umbrella at CES 2018 – the JBL Everest 710GA (around-ear), the Everest 310GA (on-ear), and the Everest 110GA (in-ear).
The headphones feature a built-in microphone, so once you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, you can use voice commands to control your music and take calls, access notifications, get news updates, etc. According to JBL, the headphones will offer a battery life of 8 to 25 hours, depending on the model. The headphones also feature a form of fast charging to quickly power them up. You can share music with a second Bluetooth headset thanks to JBL’s ShareMe 2.0 technology.
While the JBL Everest 710GA will be priced at $250, the Everest 310GA will cost $200, and the Everest 110GA will be priced at $100.
AKG N5005: Features, Price
Yet another brand owned by Harman, AKG launched its new AKG N5005 headphones at CES 2018, which would be a part of its Studio on-the-go Series. The high-end headphones (honestly, they’re earphones – not sure why Harman insists on calling earphones headphones) are targeted towards a niche of studio professionals and audiophiles who want high-quality audio playback, even on the move.
The product is a result of AKG’s years of experience in the field of pro sound – the earphones feature AKG’s patented sound filters technology. The headphones come with an interchangeable Bluetooth dongle, with an integrated 3-button remote, in case you want the wireless experience. The device promises up to 8 hours of battery life and will be priced at $1,000.
JBL GO 2, Clip 3, Xtreme 2: Features, Price
The JBL GO 2 is the newest compact Bluetooth speaker in its GO range of Bluetooth speakers. The speaker is a bit curvier than its predecessor and Harman claims it offers richer, clearer sound than before. The speaker has a battery life of about 5 hours and features an IPX7 design which makes it waterproof. The GO 2 also features a microphone so you can answer calls without switching to your phone. It is available in Misty Gray, Seafoam Mint, Lemonade Yellow, Sunkissed Cinnamon, Pearl Champagne, Midnight Black, Deep Sea Blue, Moss Green, Coral Orange, and Ruby Red colours and will be priced at $40 when it goes on sale.
The JBL Clip 3 got its name because of its design – the idea was that it could be clipped anywhere to play music, highlighting its portability. JBL has given the design an overhaul with an actual carabiner, but as you can see, it still stays true to its name. The new Clip 3 is also waterproof, like the GO 2, and unlike the previous version, the clip will be the same colour as the speaker. The Clip 3 has also changed its fabric to a newer durable rubber one. New colours have also been introduced – the speaker will now come in Dusty Pink, Steel White, and Ocean Blue colours. The wireless speaker will come with a battery life of ten hours and will be priced at $60.
JBL also introduced a newer version of its popular JBL Xtreme Bluetooth speaker – the Xtreme 2. The device, which will be priced at $300, features a few minor cosmetic changes and will now be available in Midnight Black, Forest Green, and Ocean Blue colours. The Xtreme 2 looks a bit beefier than its outgoing variant and now comes with better drivers and passive radiators, according to Harman. The battery has been upgraded as well, and now offers up to 15 hours of playback time. You can also charge your phone via its USB port.
The Xtreme 2 also has a cute new feature – a bottle opener, which is attached to the strap. Two users can connect to the speaker simultaneously, and thanks to JBL Connect+, you can sync the Xtreme 2 with up to a hundred JBL Connect+ compatible speakers. The JBL Xtreme 2, like the other JBL speakers launched at CES 2018, is IPX7 certified which means it can survive a quick dip in the pool.
JBL Endurance Series Wired and Wireless Headphones: Features, Price
The company also launched a bunch of headphones under its Endurance series, namely the Endurance RUN, the Endurance SPRINT, the Endurance JUMP and the Endurance DIVE. As the names suggest, JBL kept highly specific activities in mind while naming these earphones (I wonder if they have an Endurance MUNCH for tech reporters). The earphones may look incredibly similar to our layman eyes, but JBL expects athletes to have a more discerning eye and see the differences between them.
The wired Endurance RUN is the most basic of the lot – it comes with an IPX5 rating for sweat and water resistance, and it can be worn both in-ear and over the ear by runners. The SPRINT, on the other hand, offers a wireless design and can be paired with any smartphone via Bluetooth. The Endurance JUMP is also wireless and has a cool feature – it has sensors that will detect when the headphones come off and automatically pause your music for you. And lastly, the DIVE – these headphones can be worn while swimming but we’re not entirely sure if you can go deep sea diving with these, though JBL has named it like it should. We’ll wait until we get our hands on a test model before we let you do that. The USP of the DIVE headphones is that it comes with 1GB of internal storage, so you can continue using it even if your smartphone isn’t around.
The SPRINT, RUN, and DIVE follow the IPX7 design philosophy which means they will survive your sweaty workout, and you can even wash them under the faucet after. The new range will be priced between $20 to $90 when it goes on sale.
JBL Reflect Headphones: Features, Price
JBL introduced two new headphones at CES 2018 that will be a part of its Reflect Series, which targets fitness enthusiasts and athletes – the Reflect Mini 2 and the Reflect Contour 2. The in-ear wireless headphones have a sturdy construction and are IPX5 certified for sweat resistance. The headphones also come with reflective cables for added visibility for motorists, in case you decide to go running after dark.The Contour 2 comes with an additional hook that goes over your ear to prevent them from falling off your ears if you’re training hard. The headphones offer a 10-hour battery life and also come with a microphone so you can receive calls on the go.
The JBL Reflect Mini 2 will be available in Black, Lime Green, Teal, and Blue colours whereas the JBL Contour 2 will be available in Black, Lime Green, White, and Blue colour options. Both the headphones will be priced at $100 and should be available for sale by March.
JBL was not the only one to launch a huge variety of wired and wireless earphones and headphones, as Sony and Audio Technica too launched a spanking new range of audio products. Read more about Audio Technica’s new lineup here.