Harman Kardon HKTS 20 5.1 Channel Speakers Review

Features, Specifications and Function

Harman Kardon Speakers
Harman Kardon Speakers. Amazon

Shopping for loudspeakers can be tough. Many times the speakers that sound the best aren't always the ones that look the best. If you are looking a speaker system to complement your HDTV, DVD and/or Blu-ray Disc player, check out the stylish, compact, and affordable, Harman Kardon HKTS 20 5.1 Channel Speaker System. The system consists of a compact center channel speaker, four compact satellite speakers, and an 8-inch subwoofer.

For a closer look, check out my supplementary Photo Gallery.

Harman Kardon HKTS 20 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Specifications

Here are the features and specifications of the Center Channel Speaker:

  1. Frequency Response: 130 Hz - 20k Hz.
  2. Sensitivity: 86 dB (represents how loud the speaker is at a distance of one meter with an input of one watt).
  3. Impedance: 8 ohms. (can be used with amplifiers that have 8 ohm speaker connections)
  4. Voice-matched with dual 3-inch midrange and 3/4-inch-dome tweeter.
  5. Power Handling: 10-120 watts RMS
  6. Crossover Frequency: 3.5k Hz (represents the point where signal higher than 3.5k Hz are sent to the tweeter).
  7. Weight: 3.2 lb.
  8. Dimensions: Center 4-11/32 (H) x 10-11/32 (W) x 3-15/32 (D) inches.
  9. Mounting options: On a counter, On a wall.
  10. Finish Options: Black Lacquer

Here are the features and specifications of the Satellite Speakers:

  1. Frequency Response: 130 Hz - 20k Hz (average response range for compact speakers of this size).
  1. Sensitivity: 86 dB (represents how loud the speaker is at a distance of one meter with an input of one watt).
  2. Impedance: 8 ohms (can be used with amplifiers that have 8-ohm speaker connections).
  3. Drivers: Woofer/Midrange 3-inches, Tweeter 1/2-inch. All speakers video shielded.
  4. Power Handling: 10-80 watts RMS
  1. Crossover Frequency: 3.5k Hz (represents the point where signal higher than 3.5k Hz are sent to the tweeter).
  2. Weight: 2.1 lb each.
  3. 8-1/2 (H) x 4-11/32 (W) x 3-15/32 (D) inches.
  4. Mounting options: On a counter, On a wall.
  5. Finish Options: Black Lacquer

Here are the features and specifications of the Powered Subwoofer:

  1. Sealed Enclosure Design with 8-inch Driver.
  2. Frequency Response: 45 Hz - 140 Hz (LFE - Low-Frequency Effects).
  3. Power Output: 200 watts RMS (Continuous Power).
  4. Phase: Switchable to Normal (0) or Reverse (180 degrees) - synchronizes in-out motion of sub speaker with in-out motion of other speakers in system.
  5. Bass Boost: +3 dB at 60 Hz Switchable On/Off.
  6. Connections: 1 set of stereo RCA Line inputs, 1 RCA LFE input, AC power receptacle.
  7. Power On/Off: Two-way toggle (off/standby).
  8. Dimensions: 13 29/32" H x 10 1/2" W x 10 1/2" D.
  9. Weight: 19.8 lbs.
  10. Finish: Black Lacquer

Audio Performance Review - Center Channel Speaker

Whether listening to low or high volume levels, I found that the center speaker reproduced good distortion-free sound. The quality of both movie dialog and music vocals were more than acceptable, but the center speaker did exhibit slight lack of depth and some high-frequency drop-off.

I would have preferred the employment of a larger center channel speaker, but taking into consideration the compact size of the speaker, the center channel speaker provided with the HKTS 20 does the job.

Audio Performance Review - Satellite Speakers

For movies and another video programming, the satellite speakers assigned to the left, right, and surround channels delivered a wide surround sound image, but in a similar manner as the center channel, some of the distinct details in surround effects (glass breaking, footsteps, leaves, the wind, motions of objects they travel between speakers) seemed to be slightly subdued.

With Dolby and DTS-related movie soundtracks, the satellite speakers did a great job of dispersing the surround image, but the precise location of fine sound details wasn't as distinct as on the comparison system. Also, I found that the satellite speakers are somewhat subdued with piano and other acoustical musical instruments. 

Specific criticisms aside, the sound reproduction of the satellite speakers was not distorted and they provided a more than acceptable surround sound movie experience and contributed to an acceptable music listening experience.

Audio Performance Review - Powered Subwoofer

Despite its compact size, the subwoofer had more than adequate power output for the system.

I found the subwoofer to be a good match for the rest of the speakers, as well as providing strong bass output, but the texture of the bass response was not as tight or distinct as on the comparison system, tending more towards the "boomy" side at it lowest reproduced frequencies, especially when engaging the Bass Boost function.  

In addition, although the HKTS 20's subwoofer provided a good bass response in most music recordings played, it also tended towards the "boomy" side in some recordings with prominent bass. One remedy is to make sure that the Bass Boost function is turned off.

5 Things I Liked

  1. Despite some criticisms, for its design and price point, the HKTS 20 does provide a good listening experience. Even though the center and satellite speakers are very compact, they can fill an average size room (in this case a 13x15 foot space) with a satisfying sound.
  1. The HKTS 20 is easy to set up and use. Since both the satellite speakers and subwoofer are small, they are easy to place and connect to your home theater receiver.
  2. Variety of speaker mounting options. The satellite speakers can be placed on a shelf or mounted on a wall. Since the subwoofer employs a down-firing design, you don't have to place it in the open. However, be careful not to damage the down-firing speaker cone as you move the subwoofer to find the best location.
  3. All needed speaker wire, as well as both a subwoofer and 12-volt trigger cable, are provided. In addition, all the hardware needed for wall mounting the speakers are provided.
  4. The HKTS 20 is very affordable. At a suggested price of $799, this system a good value, especially for novice users, those desiring a system that sounds good without taking up a lot of space, or those looking for a system for a second room.

4 Things I Didn't Like

  1. Vocals reproduced by the center channel speaker sounded restrained and lacked some depth, reducing their intended impact somewhat.
  2. Although the subwoofer provides plenty of low frequency power output, the bass response is not as tight or distinct as I would have preferred.
  3. The subwoofer has LFE and Line audio inputs only, no standard high level speaker connections provided.
  4. The speaker connections and speaker mounts do not fit well with thicker gauge speaker wire. The provided speaker wire works best with the system as far as set-up goes, but it would be great to have better ability to use thicker gauge speaker wire, if desired by the user.

    Final Take

    Although I would, by no means, consider this a true audiophile speaker system, I found that the Harman Kardon HKTS 20 5.1 Channel Speaker System provided an overall good surround sound listening experience for movies and stereo/surround listening experience that many consumers will appreciate for the price. Harman Kardon has delivered a stylish and affordable speaker system for a more mainstream user who may also be concerned about size and affordability.

    The Harman Kardon HKTS 20 is definitely worth a look and a listen.

    For full details on setting up the system, you can also download the User Manual.

    Additional Hardware Used in This Review

    Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705 (set for 5.1 channel operating mode for this review).

    Source Components: OPPO Digital BDP-83 and Sony BD-PS350 Blu-ray Disc Players and OPPO DV-980H DVD Player Note: The OPPO BDP-83 and DV-980H were also used to play SACD and DVD-Audio discs.

    CD-only Player sources included: Technics SL-PD888 and Denon DCM-370 5-disc CD Changers.

    Loudspeaker System used for comparison: EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

    TV/Monitor: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor.

    Level checks made using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

    Additional Software Used in This Review

    Blu-ray Discs used included scenes from the following: Across The Universe, Avatar, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Hairspray, Iron Man, Red Cliff (U.S. Theatrical Version), Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, The Dark KnightTropic ThunderTransporter 3, and UP.

    Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Moulin Rouge, and U571.

    CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells and Uncorked, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

    DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible.

    SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

    Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.