So you’ve heard that the Onyx Studio line of wireless speakers by Harman Kardon is pretty good and you’re wondering which of the older models gives you the best bang for your buck: is it the Studio 2 or the Studio 3?
After all, both of these speakers have received high praise, and more importantly, they both launched with high price tags, but are now available for way less. So let’s take a look and see which wireless speaker is the best pick for you?
The first thing you’ll notice about these speakers (and they’re effectively the same as far as the exterior is concerned) is that they have a very unique design for wireless speakers. They’re rather large and cumbersome, with a roundish body that’s supported by two hind legs. This design may be innovative, but it’s hardly practical, especially since the two legs aren’t enough to hold these speakers in place on anything but a strictly flat surface. Basically what we want to say is that, if these speakers were dogs, they’d be indoor puppies. We know what the wireless in wireless speakers tends to imply a certain dose of portability, but the Onyx Studios aren’t speakers that we can see anyone dragging along for a day at the beach. They’re eligible enough for a quick foray into the backyard, but they generally don’t leave the premises.
Still, we have to commend Harman Kardon on the exterior design, all things considered, since both the Studio 2 and 3 speakers not only look gorgeous but also feel very premium to the touch. The company spared no expenses in choosing only the top quality materials to build these speakers from, and it shows. The textured plastic on the back feels rather robust, as do the front grilles. And speaking of the grilles, these are easily removable on the Studio 2 but stuck fast on the Studio 3. It’s not a large difference, but since the two speakers are largely the same, you can expect most of the differences to be this small.
Beneath the grilles, you are treated to no fewer than four drivers and a passive radiator, with another passive radiator on the back. There are two tweeters and two woofers, each with a rated power of 15 Watts. So overall, the speakers run at 60 Watts, but this is only when using the wired connection. Wirelessly, they cut this in half. We definitely appreciate the flexibility this allows for, and even a rated power of 30 Watts is no small amount for a wireless speaker at all, but…
… the problem is that the battery can’t really support these speakers. The battery life here is just bad. And by bad we mean really bad, horrible even if you like listening to loud music. The industry standard for wireless speakers is eight hours at the very least, so we’re already off to a bad start with the Onyx 2 and 3’s five-hour battery lives. But if you like listening to your music at louder volumes, you’ll burn through the battery way faster, with the speakers not even having enough juice to sustain the music for even half an hour at max volume. With speakers this large, we imagine fitting a larger battery shouldn’t have been an issue, so this definitely feels like a case of manufacturer withholding something from you that should be duly yours.
So unless you don’t mind having to frequently recharge these speakers, even if you listen to them at moderate volumes, they’re great, but if you want a more hassle-free listening experience, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
Still, it isn’t all bad. For example, the Onyx Studio 3 has the dual sound capability, which basically means that if you can pair two of these speakers (which are already stacked full of drivers), for an even better sound. Do note that this feature is not present in the Onyx Studio 2, so if you can see yourself buying a second wireless speaker, you should definitely pick the Studio 3. The Studio 3 also holds the advantage in terms of Bluetooth technology, using the newer Bluetooth 4.1, as opposed to the Studio 2’s Bluetooth 3.0. If you aren’t sure what this entails, we suggest watching this video. And lastly, they both feature a speakerphone with noise and echo cancellation, so you can use the wireless speaker to take calls.
Still, for all their many inconveniences (if not flaws) – like the poor battery life and next to no portability to speak of – there’s no denying that both the Onyx Studio 2 and 3 enjoyed their fair share of success. And anyone who’s heard the speakers in action will realize why. Both of these speakers sound absolutely amazing. In fact, just a single speaker, be it the Onyx Studio 2 or 3, will feel like a full-blown 2.1 configuration despite the lack of a dedicated subwoofer.
The bass, in particular, is way more powerful than you’d expect from a wireless speaker. But most importantly, it never overshadows the other frequencies. And both the mids and the treble are excellent. Having four separate speakers definitely helps, and the frequencies all have a distinct feel to them. In fact, we feel that not even certified audiophiles would have much to complain about as far as just the sound is concerned, which feels very weird saying for a wireless speaker.
Do note, however, that the Onyx Studio 3 is much more convenient to listen to if you intend to take the speaker with you around the house – with the music playing – and maybe even plug it in in the middle of a song. The Studio 2 will go mute every time you plug it in, it will shut down in the middle of the song and you’ll have to restart it to get it working again. But with the Studio 3, there are no such inconveniences, with the speaker transitioning seamlessly between wired and wireless modes on the fly.
So in conclusion, we have to recommend the Onyx Studio 3 over its predecessor. It feels a bit odd, saying that so decisively when the speakers look and sound virtually the same, but while they both share many flaws (most notably the horrendous battery life), the Onyx Studio 3 at least fixes many smaller inconveniences that the Studio 2 suffered from. And if you can see yourself making use of the dual sound feature of the Studio 3, then that way cost-effectiveness lies, for sure! (Do note that both speakers will still be Mono, you’ll need the Studio 4s if you want to pair two speakers for a genuine Stereo sound.)
Now we can’t talk about cost-effectiveness without mentioninh the cost. After all, the reason you’re interested in the Studio 2 and 3 is that you’ve probably found already that the Studio 4 and 5 iterations don’t meet your budget.
Both of these wireless speakers launched at rather high MSRPs, but have since been reduced in price. The Onyx Studio 3 had an MSRP of $450, and even at launch it was worth every penny, so the fact that you can now get it at $250 is just incredible. The Studio 2 is a bit more affordable, generally going for $200, but we definitely think the Studio 3 is still a better pick, since while the Studio 2 does sound genuinely amazing, it will go out of its way to irritate you with every other aspect of its being unless you keep it plugged in at all times.
And once again, if you’re interested in wireless speakers because of their portability, we suggest you forget about both of these and check out this article where we compare the JBL Charge 3 and Flip 4, both of which are much handier for taking with you wherever you go.
James is a self-proclaimed audiophile and tech geek. With his CS degree, 5 years of experience as a software developer and 2 years of experience testing audio devices, James is more than fit to be trusted in this field.