Would you consider it has been 5 years since we noticed a brand-new headphone launch from Harman Kardon? Man, how instances flies. Since being acquired by Samsung again in 2017, the luxurious audio model has been MIA, however lastly determined to point out face at CES 2020 to introduce its latest launch within the true wi-fi area: the Harman Kardon Fly TWS.
These engaging buds sport HK’s signature black and silver coloration scheme, together with a classy and minimalist design that pays homage to the corporate’s fashionable releases of the previous, together with the Soho Wi-fi on-ear headphones. An effort was additionally put into engineering a real soundstage with crisp, detailed audio, which could be personalised by way of a companion app. Sadly, the Fly TWS’ beautiful look and resonant audio aren’t sufficient to cover the buds’ a number of efficiency points.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Value and availability
The Harman Kardon Fly TWS, which initially sells for $149.99, is presently on sale for $129.99 at main on-line retailers like Amazon or straight from Harman Kardon. In the intervening time, the buds solely are available in one coloration: Black.
What’s within the field?
Harman Kardon ships the Fly TWS with a charging case, three pairs of silicone ear suggestions in numerous sizes (Small, Medium, and Giant), a USB-A to USB-C cable, and consumer manuals.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Design
Harman Kardon has a penchant for designing beautiful, deluxe audio merchandise, and the Fly TWS is not any exception. The buds function laborious plastic and rubberized coating, which gives strong grip management to regulate or take away the buds. Nevertheless, the scene-stealer is the leather-based contact panel with an aluminum inlay that exudes sophistication. General, the construct high quality is fashionable and splendid, particularly for sub-luxury (underneath $200) earbuds.
The Fly TWS comes IPX5-certified, so that you get sweat- and water resistant safety. I’d be cautious of getting the leather-based moist as a result of it’s clearly the one element you don’t wish to be ruined or worn down over time. I additionally like how HK positioned magnets on the within of every bud, that method you may join them when positioned on a flat floor.
At 0.2 ounces, the Fly TWS are tremendous light-weight and supply nice consolation for prolonged listening. I wore them for two hours day by day with out feeling any ache or soreness across the concha. The angled sound port permits for seamless insertion into the ear, whereas the silicone ear suggestions produce a decent seal to maintain the buds stabilized when shifting round. Technically, the buds can be utilized for understanding, however I wouldn’t suggest it.
The charging case feels weighty regardless of solely being 2 ounces, however I really like the mix of soft-touch leather-based and plastic that HK employs, hitting that candy spot between refined and durable. This additionally provides the outside a caress-friendly really feel; I discovered myself twiddling with it as a lot as anybody would a fidget spinner.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Contact controls
The management scheme is efficient and sensible, utilizing a number of faucet gestures to carry out totally different actions. The left bud can name out/cancel any digital assistant notifications or allow TalkThru/Ambient Conscious mode by way of swipe or two faucets. The precise is reserved for playback, skip again/ahead monitor, reply/finish calls, and quantity. On-ear detection can be obtainable to mechanically pause music when taking off the buds.
How properly do the controls work? About 50/50. Whereas on-ear detection was very intuitive and the best bud was attentive to virtually each command, the quantity controls had been a multitude. Swiping to boost/decrease quantity would all the time be misinterpreted for play/pause, which turned irritating after a couple of songs, leaving me with little selection however to do it manually on my smartphone. The left bud was even worse and oblivious to the contact. It barely seen faucets or lengthy presses, and swiping to allow the listening modes solely labored as soon as in a blue moon.
I additionally encountered bugs throughout testing. After enjoying a YouTube video and exiting the app, I tapped the best earbud to renew Spotify play and was met with an incessant beeping noise that wouldn’t cease till I unpaired the buds. That’s simply considered one of many bugs.
The digital assistant met expectations, offering nice speech recognition and ease of use. Alexa and Google Assistant are each constructed into the Fly TWS, although you should utilize Siri as properly on iOS/macOS gadgets. Latency is normally a difficulty with Siri on MacBook, however I used to be stunned by how rapidly the buds pulled up Apple’s AI Bot and registered requests. It was enjoyable asking Google Assistant to seize NFL scores on opening day, hands-free, in addition to to open music applications and skim textual content notifications when my smartphone was a number of ft away.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Sound high quality
HK’s monitor file with sound high quality is up there with the likes of Bang & Olufsen and Sony. The Fly TWS is a strong addition to the corporate’s line of respected audio merchandise, delivering a vigorous, bass-rich listening expertise which you could additionally fine-tune on the companion app.
The midrange is pushed to the sonic forefront and provides tracks correct treble illustration. The plucked guitars on The Magnetic Fields’ “You Should Be Out of Your Thoughts” are serene and the distorted vocal layering is reproduced clearly. I cherished how properly mids and highs blended, delivering among the finest separation I’ve heard on a pair of wi-fi earbuds; each instrument was distinctive and properly represented.
The low finish is emphasised to create an lively soundscape excellent for hip-hop and rock tracks. NaS’ “N.Y. State of Thoughts” maintained its boom-bastic vibes with some hard-hitting drum break motion, and the enigmatic piano loop was outstanding over the pounding manufacturing. I additionally turned enamored with the acoustics on Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” because the guitar tone and vocals had been crisp and clear all through the monitor. The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport supplied related efficiency.
Noise isolation is nice too. The place the Beoplay E8 Sport let in plenty of ambient sound, the Fly TWS saved it minimal to high-frequency noises (e.g. sirens, whistles). There have been instances the place I had the buds at mid-level quantity and barely seen my spouse blasting IG movies on her iPhone. I’d even be remiss to not point out the wonderful job these buds did with leakage, limiting the quantity of sound that escaped.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: App and particular options
The Harman Kardon Headphones app is mainly the JBL Headphones app however with a distinct pores and skin. Each share the identical design and options. The excellent news is that the app is consumer pleasant and has loads of personalization, be it the controls or sound output.
Let’s begin with the app’s killer function: the built-in EQ. You possibly can tweak the frequency ranges to create your personal sound profile. It’s easy to make use of, however for many who would possibly discover it too technical, HK has three presets constructed into the app which you could choose: Jazz, Vocal, and Bass. Every one caters to a particular style, however I discovered the default signature lent itself properly to all music alternatives.
Just like the JBL Live 300 TWS, the Fly TWS comes with Ambient Listening and TalkThru modes, every permitting a specific amount of ambient sound to enter the soundstage and listen to what’s taking place round you. The latter is the higher of the 2, bringing the quantity all the way down to about 10%, so you may get pleasure from open, clear conversations with individuals whereas music continues to play within the background. Fact be advised, Ambient Conscious sounded precisely the identical as having it turned off.
Different notable options embrace Discover My Buds and toggle controls for the listening modes and digital assistant, together with an auto-off setting to put the buds in sleep mode when inactive.
Sadly, the app is riddled with bugs. I couldn’t carry out the newest firmware replace with out force-closing the app at the least thrice as a result of connection points. After I did get an opportunity to obtain it, the up to date model introduced newer points. It wasn’t permitting me to allow both listening mode or to avoid wasting the management scheme I arrange for the left earbud.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Battery life and charging case
Harman Kardon charges the buds’ battery life at 6 hours on a full cost. By comparability, that is longer than the AirPods Professional (4.5 hours), however shorter than different luxurious fashions, just like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (7 hours). It’s actually about 5.5 hours when factoring in excessive quantity and listening modes, granted, the playtime is enough for day by day commutes and reasonable listening.
I used the buds for 1.5 hours day by day for almost Four days earlier than tossing them into the charging case. Fast charging is clutch, and one of many extra highly effective charging options within the class, producing 1 hour of playtime on a 10-minute cost.
It’s mainly a rule of thumb at this level that any charging case rated decrease than the AirPods (24 hours) is beneath common. The Fly TWS falls into that class, holding 20 hours complete, which solely provides customers about 2 to three additional fees on the go. That’s high-quality in the event you’re planning on utilizing the buds in the course of the workweek, however it’s not excellent for highway warriors. Additionally, wi-fi charging would have been significantly appreciated.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Name high quality and connectivity
That is considered one of HK’s higher calling headsets. The mics are spectacular and decide up vocals properly whereas blocking a good quantity of ambient sound. My spouse complimented how loud my voice sounded and understood each sentence I spoke. The buds carry out even higher indoors. Just a few of my buddies thought I used to be talking straight into my smartphone and one shopper was stunned by the extent of readability these buds produced throughout our Skype chat.
If solely Bluetooth 5.Zero was as convincing. The expertise doesn’t stay as much as its requirements on the Fly TWS. The preliminary pairing course of could be very irritating and requires a number of makes an attempt to ensure that the product to point out up on the obtainable gadgets record; I spent about 5 minutes attempting to pair the buds to my MacBook Professional and 15 minutes on my Google Pixel 3XL.
Trying to pair via the app wasn’t any higher. As soon as achieved, the buds would immediately re-pair to acknowledged gadgets. Nevertheless, the left bud often dropped connection. Wi-fi vary was quick too, with sound stuttering across the 25-foot mark.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS: Verdict
The Harman Kardon Fly TWS is an attractive buy for anybody who values fancy aesthetics and audio, however provided that it is on sale. These are among the hottest-looking buds on the market and the charging case is simply as engaging regardless of its lower-than-average battery life. Sound is the product’s best attribute, mixing vocals and frequencies fantastically to provide dynamic outcomes. I additionally felt the mics deserve recognition, as they labored surprisingly properly for cellphone calls and digital assistant use.
However there’s no denying that the Fly TWS has a serious bug downside. If it’s not the controls, then it’s the app or points with pairing. You’re sure to spend so much of time troubleshooting to get these buds functioning correctly. On high of that, it’s disappointing to see complete battery life rated decrease than the AirPods, particularly when its sibling model, JBL, has fashions that supply as much as 32 hours.
To look previous these shortcomings could also be asking rather a lot. If it isn’t, and also you’re on the hunt for comparatively reasonably priced wi-fi buds that look nearly as good as they sound, then the Fly TWS may be an appropriate choice.