The Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless is another sortie into the dock battlefield but, in this AirPlay war, it's bringing a knife to a gunfight
As it goes, most audio docks aren't even docks these days. They're wireless speaker systems. Some still retain a 30-pin or Lightening connector to physically attach an iPhone or iPad but, given there's millions of Android mobiles out there looking to get hooked up too, Bluetooth has become an almost ubiquitous inclusion.
Of course, the problem is that Bluetooth isn't the best solution when it comes to convenience and quality, so many devices out there have joined up with the Apple AirPlay system to help maintain audio standards.
Now, that AirPlay licence costs money but stuck (in price terms) between the superbly portable Big Jambox and the feature-packed (AirPlay included) Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100, the Bluetooth-only Harmon Kardon Go+Play Wireless has lots of impressing to do.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless: Size and build
As you'd expect, the Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless has something of a distinct design. Unlike its Mac-friendly and famous Soundstick range, however, the aesthetic choices for this portable speaker are considerably more grotesque.
Now, that's not to say that it's unattractive. It's just that there's very little subtlety about it and it ends up like a cross between a steam iron and a curling stone.
It's a fairly hefty wedge of a unit at 500 x 230 x 240mm and 4.3kg - a weight that makes it fringe into the territory of not actually being that portable. However, the giant steel handle arcing from end to end of the device is testament that the Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless is indeed supposed to be carried around.
In fact, the more you do so, the more the design begins to make sense. It's essentially a large audio handbag but butch enough in brushed metal and choice of black or white to look right at the side of either sex.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless: Features
Despite looking like a 360-degree speaker box, the 2 x 15W Ridge tweeters and 2 x 30W Atlas woofers only actually face one way. The identical looking grille covers on the rear of the Harman Kardon Go+Play are only there to look pretty and cover up the bass ports, not that they particularly need covering.
You push your audio through this set up by means of either wired or wireless transport. At the rear of the device, covered by some little black rubber flaps, are the only three ports of note.
There's the AC mains power adapter socket, a 3.5mm audio-in connection and a USB slot - the last of which is solely for the purpose of charging an external playback device such as a phone or tablet. Any gadget that you are juicing up or streaming from is held nicely, if not precisely, in place on top of the wireless speaker thanks to the rubberised finish to the top surface.
And that's it. There's nothing more complicated to know. It's a simple device with simple purpose. The only other feature of note is that you can use eight type-D batteries to run the Harmon Kardon Go+Play Wireless when away from the mains. There is no rechargeable Li-ion pack option, and that's a big loss.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless: Streaming
Despite the brand and its affiliation with Apple through popular products championed in the Apple Store, there is no AirPlay compatibility included with the Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless. While that does probably save a few pennies, it also means that you're stuck streaming over Bluetooth unless you use a hard line in.
Again, that's a bit of a shame because Bluetooth is a bit glitchy with the odd dropped note or two from time to time. Fortunately, pairing and set up is easy enough. There are only three buttons on top of this wireless speaker. Two are for the volume and the third, main, central one is to turn the Bluetooth, and therefore the power, on and off.
Once paired, the Go+Play Wireless will remember your device and your device the Go+Play Wireless. So long as both are switched on, the audio will flow.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless: Audio quality
Judging from the appearance and brand name behind this speaker, you might expect the audio to be better. In truth, it's about right for a £279 gadget. You'll get noticeably better results in terms of both tone and consistency if you ditch the Bluetooth streaming in favour of a wired connection.
All the same, the Harmon Kardon Go+Play Wireless didn't knock our socks off for sound in the way we hoped it might. There's also a bit of a disappointment when you realise that the bulk of the sound only comes out of one side, so you do need to make sure it's positioned correctly.
HK has included its Intelligent Equalization system, which balances the sound to make the kind of stereo image that it expects the piece of music demands. This is certainly not a case of all trousers and no mouth, but it's not at any point of listening that you're likely to be wowed by clarity or surprised by detail that you've never heard before.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless: Verdict
The Harmon Kardon Go + Play Wireless is a very decent wireless speaker. The sound you get from it is perfectly good, if not thrilling. It's clear, it's balanced and, if you decide to connect to your smartphone or other device by the 3.5mm cable socket, you'll be pleased with what you get.
The real trouble that this player has is that it's expensive and not very convenient for something that only streams using Bluetooth.
Becoming wireless feels a bit pointless when you've got to keep hooked into the mains for power. Sure, you can use batteries but tearing through eight D-type cells at a time is a dated experience that no one wants. Rechargeable Li-ion or Li-polymer units are the only way to fly in this day and age.
When it comes down to it, the Harmon Kardon Go+Play Wireless doesn't look breathtaking, sound sensational or make itself very useful on the go. It's not that it's bad, it's just that we can't offer a reason to recommend it. Either spend a bit more on something like the Minx 100 or B&W Zeppelin Air for features or spend less on the Jambox for fun.
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless release date: March 2013
Harman Kardon Go+Play Wireless price: £279