HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone Audio

01
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The HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone with Accessories
A Photo of the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone with Accessories. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

As part of my job covering the home theater beat, I have the chance to check out and review a lot of audio and video products. The majority of those opportunities arise either as a result of my own requests, as well as being contacted by manufacturers as a result of new product announcements or trade show follow-ups. However, on occasion, something will just show up at my door without any advance notice.

Needless to say, I was surprised when the doorbell rang and the delivery person handed me a box from Sprint. I don't cover the Cell Phone product category, but upon opening the box, I was presented with the newly released HTC One M8 - Harman Kardon Edition smartphone/bluetooth speaker package.

Upon reading the cover letter provided in the box from Sprint, and doing a cursory examination of both the phone and speaker, I realized that this was something that could tie-in with my home theater coverage, so I have spent the past few weeks working with this package.

However, for the purpose of my review, I will be focusing on the how the HTC One M8 Smartphone - Harman Kardon Edition works with the provided Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Bluetooth speaker, as well as how the phone can work with other devices in a home theater setup.

The other home theater components I assembled to assist in this review included:

Onkyo TX-SR705 Home Theater Receiver (used in Stereo and 5.1 channel modes)

EMP TEK Impression Series 5.1 Channel Speaker System.

OPPO BDP-103 and BDP-103D Blu-ray Disc Players.

AWOX StriimLINK Home Stereo Streaming Adapter (on review loan)

HTC One M8 Smartphone - Harman Kardon Edition Overview

To get started, is a look at the HTC One M8 Smartphone portion of the package, which is shown in the above photo  (I will get to the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Bluetooth speaker later in this review).

Starting from left to right is a USB cable/Power Supply/Charger, a set of Harman Kardon Premium AE earbuds (with extra earbud covers inside the bag on the bottom left).

Next, in the back is the HTC One M8 User Guide, and the actual phone.

Moving to right of the phone is a brochure explaining the audio capabilities of the phone, as well as additional documentation regarding the phone's use.

Finally, on the right side, is a recycling envelope that can used for you old phone or can be save for the time when you might need to dispose or trade-in the HTC One M8..

02
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Start Up Screens

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone Start Up Screens
A Photo of the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone Start-Up Screens. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown in the above photo is a multi-view look at the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone's start up and home screens.

The main features and specifications of this phone include:

1. Network: Sprint 4G LTE (Sprint Spark enhanced)

2. Operating System: Android 4.4

3. Screen: 5-inch Super LCD 3 Plus touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 (1080p) display resolution. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 surface.

4. Processing Speed: 2.3 GHz GHZ Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801, quad-core processor.

5. Memory: 32GB Internal (24GB user accessible), UP to 64GB external via MicroSDXC Card (review phone came with an 8GB card).

6. Cameras: Front 5MP with LED powered flash, Rear 4MP, HD Video Capture (up to 1080p)

7. Built-in Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, MHL, and IR blaster for TV and home theater remote control use.

8. Video Features: Camera video recording and playback. Access to video streaming apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Crackle, etc...

9. Audio Features:

HTC Boom Sound - Incorporates dual front facing speakers, built-in amps, and frequency balancing software to provide the best listening experience when listening to music using the phone's built-in speaker system.

Clari-Fi - Harman Kardon's audio processing technology that restores the audio quality of compressed digital music files for a more natural, clean sound, with restored dynamic range.

HD Audio - Hi-Res audio listening provided by HD Tracks, BMG, and Sony. Allows downloading of hi-res audio mastered music tracks and album with up to 192Kz/24bit sampling rates.

LiveStage - Provides a better listening experience when using headphones (widens the sound stage but narrows dynamic range slightly).

Next Radio - Listen to local FM radio on your smartphone.

Spotify - Music streaming service.

10. Additional Capabilities: DLNA, can also function as a Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot, as well as an infrared remote control via built-in IR blaster and HTC TV App.

11. Connections: Power, micro USB (MHL compatible with optional micro USB-to-HDMI adapter - compare prices), 3.5mm Headphone jack (can also be used an output for connection to self-powered speakers) or external stereo or home theater receiver (optional 3.5mm to RCA adapter cable required for that purpose).

12. Included Accessories: AC power adapter/Charger, Harman Kardon premium earbuds, Harman Kardon Onyx Studio bluetooth speaker.

For a detailed listing of the features and specifications of the HTC One M8 phone, refer to: GSM Arena

03
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Pre-Loaded Apps

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone - Pre-Loaded Apps
Multi-view photo of Pre-Loaded Apps on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown above is a look at all the pre-loaded apps that were provided on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition review sample that was sent to me (click on the image for a larger view).

From the audio and video standpoint, the apps of interest (from left to right) are the Camera (image one), Media Share, Music, Next Radio (image 2), Play Movies and TV, Play Music, and Spotify (image 3), TV and YouTube (image 4).

04
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Spotify and Next Radio Apps

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone - Spotify and Next Radio Apps
Multi-view photo of the Spotify and Next Radio Apps on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown on this page is a look at how the Spotify and NextRadio Apps appear on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition.

For those not familiar with Spotify, it is a music streaming service that offers both a free and subscription tiers. If you opt for the free tier, there will be periodic ads between songs or groups of songs. If you opt for the non-ad premium tier, the subscription rate is $9.99 per month. There is also a non-ad student discount rate available for $4.99 per month.

The NextRadio app, which is shown in the center and right photo, allows you to listen to local over-the-air FM radio stations, there is no subscription fee. A complete station guide listing is provided (see photo on the right), and station logs, song and album/track details are also provided. You can also call-in or text the radio station directly to communicate any comments you might have.

In order to receive radio stations, you must have a set of earbuds/headphones, or an audio cable connected to an external audio system. The reason for this is that the earphone or audio cable functions as the receiving antenna - pretty clever. The only downside is that even if you want to listen to stations on your phone's speakers, instead of earphones, you still need the earphones plugged in to receive the stations.

Also, NextRadio does not ouput audio via Bluetooth, so you can't wirelessly stream your stations to a Bluetooth speaker or other type of Bluetooth-enabled receiving and playback device. On the other hand, you can use NextRadio without being connected to the internet as you are receiving the stations directly, just like a portable radio.

05
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - ClariFi, HD Audio, LiveStage Apps

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone - ClariFi, HD Audio, and LiveStage Apps
Multi-view photo of the ClariFi, HD Audio, and LiveStage Apps on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown on this page are the apps available on the M8 Harman Kardon Edition when you click on the Music apps icon.

The three apps include ClariFi, HD Audio, and LiveStage. The other three photos show the pre-loaded music tracks in each app provided for this review.

Clari-Fi is designed to provide enhanced playback of digital music files (such as MP3's) using additional processing that restores the missing information when streamed files are normally compressed.

HD Audio is designed to provide access to hi-res audio mastered music track and album downloads with up to 192KHz/24bit sampling rates.

The LiveStage App is intended to provide a better listening experience when using headphones.

When listening to the pre-loaded tracks provided, I noticed a slight improvement in audio quality on the uncompressed HD Audio tracks vs compressed MP3 type tracks. However, overall, whether listening using the provided Harman Kardon earphones, or streaming via Bluetooth or WiFi to my home theater system via an AWOX StriimLINK Home Stereo Streaming Adapter, or DLNA-enabled OPPO Digital 103/103D Blu-ray disc players, the result wasn't as good as listening to physical media (CDs).

The inclusion of Clar-fi, HD Audio, and LiveStage into the M8 does provide some enhancement, as well as convenience, for listening on the go, but at home, I definitely prefer listening to a good "old fashion" physical CD, SACD, or DVD-Audio Disc - if I have the same title in my library.

It is also important to point out that due to their larger file size, HD Audio tracks, unlike MP3 files, cannot be streamed, they must be downloaded - which means a limitation on how downloaded tracks or albums you can store on the memory card you use with the HTC One M8.

06
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Remote Control App

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone - Remote Control App
Multi-view photo of the Remote Control App on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Another interesting feature provided on the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition is a built-in IR blaster. This makes it possible to use the M8 as a remote control for your TV and other compatible devices, such as a cable box and home theater receiver. The app is linked to a database that allows you easily access the proper remote control code for your devices.

This is done on the M8 via the HTC TV app (formerly referred to as Sense TV). The three photos shown above illustrate the functions provided on the remote control portion of the app.

In addition to the remote control features, the HTC app also provides an onscreen guide, as well as provided a way for you to set up notifications to alert you when specific programs or on-demand videos will be available. Also, social sharing of your favorites is also provided.

Now, it is time to take look at the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Bluetooth speaker that is offered as an option for the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition package.

07
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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker Package

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker Package
Photo of the Harman Kardon Edition Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker Package. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown above is a look at the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Bluetooth speaker package. However, it is important to note that although the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio was provided for this review, it is actually a $99 add-on option to the Sprint HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone package. If not purchased with Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone package, the standalone price of the Onyx Studio is $399.99.

The Onyx Studio includes the following: AC adapter and power cord (the onyx also has its own built-in non-removable, rechargeable battery for portable use), and associated documentation, whicn includes a user guide, Harman Kardon product brovhure, and warranty sheet.

The features of the Onyx Studio include:

Channels: Integrated 4 channel speaker system.

Speaker Drivers: 2 3-inch woofers, 2 3/4-inch tweeters, and 2 passive radiators.

Speaker impedance: 4 ohms

Frequency response (entire system): 60Hz – 20kHz

Amplifier configuration: 4 Bi-amplified speakers (15W to each speaker)

Maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level): 95dB @1m

Bluetooth Specifications: ver 3.0, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.5

Bluetooth Frequency range: 2402MHz – 2480MHz

Bluetooth Transmitter Power: >4dBm

Power requirement: 100 – 240V AC, 50/60 Hz

Power adapter: 19V, 2.0A

Built-in battery: 3.7V, 2600mAh, Cylindrical Lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

Power consumption:38W Maximum < 1W standby

Dimensions (Diameter x W x H): 280mm x 161mm x 260mm

08
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The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker - Multi-View

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - A Multi-view Look at The Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker
Multi-view Photo of the Harman Kardon Edition Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown this page is a multi-view look at the Harman Kardon Edition Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker.

On the top left, is view from the front which shows the speaker grill and illustrates the circular shap of the speaker.

The photo on the top right shows the rear view of the unit, revealing the built-in handle (for portable use) and a Harman Kardon Logo, which also serves as a passive radiator cover.

Moving to the bottom left photo are the provided on-board controls, starting on the far left is the Bluetooth Synch button, in the center are the volume controls, and on the far right is the On/Off power button. There is no remote control provided as any additional control is provided by the Bluetooth source device that is being used to stream music to the Onyx Studio.

Finally, on the bottom right, is another view of the rear of the unit that reveals the micro USB service port, as well as the power receptacle needed to plug the external power adapter. As mentioned previously, there is also an internal rechargable battery.

However, it is also important to note that the Onyx Studio is designed to only play music from compatible Bluetooth source devices (such as smartphone or tablet - in the case of this review, the HTC One M8). There are no additional audio inputs provided, such as a standard USB or analog RCA inputs for connection of other devices, such as flash drives, portable media players, CD player, or other "wired" connection capable source component.

09
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The HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - Review Summary

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition - HTC One M8 and Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker Together
Photo of the HTC One M8 and Onyx Studio Bluetooth Speaker Together. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Review Summary

Having the opportunity to use the Sprint HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition package, I will definitely say that the M8 is an impressive device - it can perform a multitude of tasks (and even makes phone calls!). However, for the purposes of this review, I focused on its audio, video, and remote control capabilities.

Bluetooth, Network, and MHL Performance

In terms of integration with a home network and Bluetooth capabilities, the M8 work flawlessly with the compatbile devices I had on hand, but on the direct connectivity side of things, I could not get the MHL connection to work properly. However, to be fair, I can't determine at this point if it was failure of the M8, the micro-USB/MHL adapter cable I used, or the MHL input firmware on the OPPO BDP-103/103D Blu-ray disc players I used in that portion of the review.

Video Streaming and Remote Control

Using its Wifi networking capabilities, I was easily able to wirelessly stream video services, such as Netflix and YouTube through both a OPPO network Blu-ray disc players mentioned above, as well as through a Samsung UN-55H6350 Smart TV I had onhand on review loan.

Although the image quality of the streamed content was not as good as the same content streaming directly from the internet by the Blu-ray Disc players and TV, it was adequate. The main quality difference was a more pasty look, as well as some very subtle macroblocking on fast motion scenes when viewed on the large TV screen. However, when viewing on the M8's much smaller 5-inch screen (which is large for a smartphone), the video looked clean and detailed.

Another practical feature is the included IR blaster HTC TV remote control feature. I was easily able to set up the M8 to control the basic functions of both the Samsung TV and my Onkyo home theater receiver with an easy-to-use graphic interface that displayed well on the M8's 5-inch screen. I also found the included Program Guide features of the HTC TV app were an interesting bonus, although I am not sure I would spend the time using it that much - but it is a practical way to find out what is on TV without having to sit down and turn the TV on to find out what is on. Also, if you are away from home and want to make sure you haven't missed your favorite show, the HTC TV app is a great way to check.

Audio Features and Performance

On the audio side of the equation, I will say that I was definitely impressed with built-in "boom sound" supported onboard amplifier/speaker system incorporated into the M8. Audio actually sound very clear and distinct, for such tiny speakers (of course bass was lacking). However, in a pinch, if you don't have earphones handy the onboard speakers do provide an listening option for phone calls and music that is at least intelligible.

As far as the provided Harman Kardon headphones go, they sounded good, and probably better than the standard earbuds you would get with most smartphones, but I can't say that they were better than other similar products. However, if you buy the M8 Harman Kardon Edition, you don't need to go out and by an after market set of earphones to get better listening quality.

Now we come to the Harman Kardon Oynx Studio Bluetooth speaker that was provided for review with this package. I found Onyx Studio an interesting inclusion, at first glance its physical design is similar to the Bang and Olufsen A9, although smaller, in-black, and only two legs, but is definitely not in the same league in terms of sound quality or connection flexibility.

Don't get me wrong, the Oynx Studio did sound good, especially in the bass and midrange frequency range, but the highs, although not distorted, did not have that sparkle that would expect from based on its description.

Also, although the Onyx Studio provides flexible setup options (it can be AC powered, had built-in rechargeable battery, and has built-in handle for portability), it does not provide any additional audio input capabilities, other than Bluetooth. In other words, there is no USB port (other than a service port) for playing back music files from a USB flash drive, and there are not analog 3.65mm or RCA inputs that would allow for the connection of CD player or other non-Bluetooth audio playback device.

As a $99 add-on to the HTC One M8 package, the Onyx Studio is a good deal - but if purchased separately for its regular $399 price - that is a little steep for what you get.

Final Take

Taking all into consideration, if you want the latest in smartphone technology, with a touch of enhanced audio playback capabilities for streamed or downloaded music files (although still not would I would consider true audiophile quality), the Sprint HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition is worth checking out - especially if you are already a Sprint customer looking for an upgrade.

For more details on this phone, in addition to its audio capabilities, check out the Official HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Product Page. For details on contract/purchasing information, check out the Sprint Website or a local Sprint Store.

Also, for additional perspective on other features and functions (personalization, communications, camera, etc...), check out a detailed review of the very similar HTC One M8 (does not feature the same color scheme or some of the audio enhancements included in the Harman Kardon Edition) posted by Android Central.

In addition, check out some useful HTC One M8 battery life saving tips (About.com Cellphones).

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