The brand Harman Kardon comes to mind when you think home theatres and high-end audio systems. They aren't really known for making headphones, but the Harman International Industries already has a brand called AKG under its belt that specialises in the field. So it’s a little odd to see a product such as the Harman Kardon CL being launched here in India, especially when it’s priced high up in the price bracket.
The Harman Kardon CL headphones don’t follow the standard headphone design in the traditional sense. The headband, for example, is made of metal, as are the enclosures holding the drivers for the headphones in place. The headphones themselves are pretty compact, taking very little space, especially when you fold them and put them into a bag.
Even the cables can be detached from the headphones
There’s not much space for adjustment as such for the headband, so they don’t fit very easily on everyone. For that, Harman Kardon has bundled a second headband that's a little longer. Clipping out the cans and the flexible support band from the main frame of the headphones takes seconds.
Large pouch to carry the headphones around
The bands are made of a leather-like material that makes them look like a lifestyle product. In fact, they are specifically designed for Apple’s devices in mind and you can find them on sale on Apple’s site as well. Besides the additional band and manuals, you also get a pouch that you can use to carry the headphones with you.
The Harman Kardon CL headphones are on-ear headphones that sit on your ears rather than around them—like circum-aural headphones. They’re rated to have a frequency range of 16Hz to 20kHZ. The cable used is a 3.5mm one and is detachable from the headphones too. The drivers used are 40mm ones and the headphones have an impedance of 32 Ohms, like most headphones sold in the market. The length of the cable is 1.4m, which is just long enough to reach the back of your PC. Ideally though, you’d be using the Harman Kardon CL headphones with a phone or tablet while travelling. The detachable cable also has a control unit on it, which lets you do the basic media playback controls.
The cable with the volume control module on it
There’s also a built-in microphone so you can use these to make voice calls as well. The buttons are hard and a little difficult to press down, though.
The Harman Kardon CL headphones sound decent, but they’re in no way brilliant. They have a somewhat scooped sound. Bass and mids are somewhat recessed, but there’s a slight emphasis on highs. It’s very clear, especially with tracks with lots of cymbals and crash playing. They seem to sound isolated and more prominent than the rest of the instruments.
Thin, but strong frame on the Harman Kardon CL headphones
In terms of noise isolation, they’re way better than most open headphones. People around you won’t be able to hear what’s playing on the headphones. In terms of comfort, they’re comfortable, but we wish they fit the head better than they do.
The bass is lacking too. The hard punchy beats from the drums in the tracks aren’t very prominent; they feel loose and not as powerful as they should sound. There’s more emphasis on the higher side of the mids, and also the highs. Music in general doesn’t sound too great on these headphones. Sound staging is also narrow and so they don’t feel too comfortable when listening to music. The built-in microphone is pretty decent and the person on the other end can hear you pretty well.
Verdict and Price in India
The Harman Kardon CL can be used for making phone calls as well
If you’re looking for a pair of high-performance headphones, then you’ll find the Harman Kardon CL to be decent, although we think you can find headphones that offer better performance for this kind of price. The Harman Kardon CL headphones sell for Rs. 9,990, which is a tad bit expensive for the kind of features and performance being offered.
Updated 22 May, 2013, 9:02 am IST
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