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Life of the party

Big on sound The Harman Kardon Go + Play   | Photo Credit: mail

In order to adapt to ever-changing portable audio needs, the Bluetooth speaker section on most audio manufacturers’ portfolio has been expanding. We’ve seen the small, super-portable varieties, the travel-friendly ones with features like waterproofing and the ones that display some added spunk with pulsing lights and electric colours. Harman-Kardon, who have a decent range of portable speakers sold under the JBL name, occasionally venture into making a portable themselves, and the result is the Go + Play.

It’s a big name for a big speaker, as the Play stretches the definition of what we call portable. In a time when hardware is engineered to become smaller than conceived possible, the Play stands out for its boombox-like proportions and substantial weight (3.4kg!). If the JBL Go was the Millennium Falcon, the Play would be closer to a Star Destroyer.

So what does all this bulk hide? Some very powerful audio hardware. The Play comes with a pair of 90mm woofers positioned front and rear and a couple of 20mm tweeters, meaning that even the subtle wake-up chime that emanates from it when powered on may cause loosely-balanced cutlery to rattle. There isn’t much else going on on the hardware side of things, with the large black mass of the speaker broken up on top by a shiny silver handle to help out in weightlifting situations. Set a little in front of the handle are five buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, volume up and down and play/pause. Five white LEDs right under the handle indicate the level of charge remaining in the battery.

The Go + Play, unlike its preceding model, does come with an inbuilt rechargeable battery, which, despite its estimated 4,000 plus mAh capacity, charges up reasonably quickly. But what it gains in the battery department it does lose out on in the spec sheet. For something this large and expesnive, the Play does not offer much more features-wise than the super-inexpensive Go. The only connectivity options are Bluetooth 4.1 and a 3.5mm aux port, with no NFC or WiFi here. The aux port is hidden under a flap on the back of the device, along with USB and microUSB ports and a port for the power adapter.

On to the more important question, how does it sound? It’s hard to find complaints here. We threw everything from soft South Indian melodies to a dash of hard rock and heavy metal at the Play and it blasted out the tunes without much effort. The speaker gets so loud that it is hard to turn it up beyond 60 per cent volume on heavier tracks, without risking the neighbours calling the cops, which is a feat in itself, as portable speakers often struggle in the loudness department. Another area where the Play scores over its brethren is the clarity; even when driving heavily-orchestrated tracks at high volumes, the sound remains distortion-free, and the powerful speaker set-up ensures that even relatively low frequencies register accurately. This combination makes it a good pick for people with a wide variety of musical tastes, as the Play holds its own pretty much anywhere in the spectrum.

Whether it is a worthy purchase, however, is a tougher question to answer. Priced at around the Rs.25,000 mark, the Play would appeal to a very select category of people. It lacks a long feature list to justify the price, and it is only portable if you have a four-wheeler at your disposal, have a pillion rider along solely for carrying it, or don’t mind lugging along your audio in hand on public transport for some added retro cred. As a portable solution or value-for-money proposition, the Play is hard to recommend, but as a powerful wireless audio device that can be moved around a single location and is guaranteed to produce enough output for a large group, it fits the bill.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 10:41:53 AM |

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