Gone are the days where the concept of a sound bar was alien to the masses and restricted only to audiophiles. The reason why many people are acquainted with the concept of a sound bar is mainly because the price for them has dropped drastically over the last couple of years and the market is filled with sound bars from various manufacturers at prices that cater to most budgets. As flat panel HDTVs become common, the popularity of sound bars have also increased. This is because sound bars can add a minimalistic look to one’s room as opposed to a 5.1 channel speaker set while setting up a home theatre system.

Minimalistic design on the entire speaker set

Minimalistic design on the entire speaker set

Harman Kardon, one of the world’s most popular manufacturers in audio equipment have introduced the SB 16 soundbar. This home theatre solution is designed to be a simplistic alternative as compared to the 5.1 channel home theatre system set up as it doesn’t involve complex connections.

Design and Build Quality
The Harman Kardon SB 16 is designed for those who have a flat panel HDTV measuring 42-inches and below. If one has a bigger television, then this may not be the ideal option for them as it will take away the look of the HDTV instead of complementing it. This sound bar measures 110mm x 920mm x 89mm and looks a lot better than most of the others available in the market at this price. It is finished in glossy black which gives it a rich look. However it does attract a fingerprints and can take away the look of the speaker. Essentially, the speaker has a minimalistic design which can appeal to a consumer if they like things that are not too flashy and want an option primarily for performance and not only looks. However, this is by no means a bad looking system. 

An interesting feature of the SB 16 is the subwoofer. We say this not because it comes with a subwoofer as many soundbars in the market come with subs but because the size of this particular subwoofer is a lot larger than something that would come with a sound bar. The subwoofer that comes with it measure around 18-inches high, around 13-inches wide and weighs a whopping 15.4kgs. It is a good thing this needs to be carried around rarely as it is really heavy. However, this subwoofer has a distinct advantage which is not found on most others as it can be connected wirelessly. This reduces the need to have a wire snaking around the ground of one’s home.

Sound quality is really good

Sound quality is really good

Connectivity options for this soundbar are located at the back and these include coaxial, optical and an analog input. The rear also has a toggle switch which acts as a code to connect wirelessly to the subwoofer, which also features the code. There is also the toggle switch for 'Trim' located at the back. The only thing lacking in this speaker system is that it does not come with a remote control. Instead one has to use the buttons on the top of the soundbar for accessing different functions.

Features
The main feature of this speaker system is that it is designed to save on space in one’s home. This is basically a two way sound bar that features dual-drivers, soundbar speaker channels on either side featuring two midrange drivers of 3-inches each and at the extreme ends a .75-inch tweeter. The driver featured on the subwoofer measures at 10-inches and is downward firing. The subwoofer fires at 100W and features a frequency response of 45Hz – 200Hz. The total power output of the speaker set is 150W.

The meshing is designed to allow one to view the drivers

The meshing is designed to allow one to view the drivers

An interesting feature of this sound bar is at the back, there is an option to adjust the 'Trim'. It is recommended to adjust the switch here to anything other than 1 as the sound quality is really soft. Another option at the back is that there is an equalizer mode that can be adjusted to be set to either wall or table. This setting can be adjusted to where the soundbar is placed. The maximum distance one can keep from the soundbar to the subwoofer is 50 feet and this should be fairly sufficient for using in most homes. The subwoofer also features a phase crossover which plays an important part in the smooth transitioning of the sound. Like all soundbars aiming to emulate a surround sound experience, this model uses DSP technology.

Performance
The performance of the soundbar was tested by playing different genres of music and like any other sound bar in the market it aims to deliver a surround sound experience that can compete against 5.1 channel home theatre systems. While testing we paired the Harman Kardon SB 16 up with a Panasonic HDTV and the sound passed well from the television to the speakers. While using the remote control of the television, we could adjust the volume of the speakers. Since the speakers came without a remote, this became an easier option to adjust the volume instead of using the buttons on the control.

Rounded design on the soundbar

Rounded design on the soundbar

We paired the television with our in house Philips Blu-ray player and we played back our test Blu-ray. During action shots, the simulated 3D sound can be heard to an extent but the sound is felt more by those sitting directly in front of the speaker set. It is extremely loud and being paired with a subwoofer this big, nothing else is expected from a brand of this quality. Voices sounded crisp and this helped in the overall video viewing experience.

During music playback we were pleased with the performance and it rendered bass heavy tracks well. The thump and boom of the bass could be felt clearly. While listening to tracks we noticed that the mids were really good as well. However, in songs that had a lot of highs, the output was a bit shrill. We did not like this too much. However, the overall audio playback was really good and there were no major complaints.

Glossy finish on the speaker and subwoofer

Glossy finish on the speaker and subwoofer

Verdict
The Harman Kardon SB 16 is available in India at a MRP of Rs. 34,990. This is a speaker system that is designed primarily for those willing to own a speaker system from a big brand that is at a somewhat affordable price. The SB 16 is not highly priced either with various other manufacturers launching soundbars at this rate. This price point is not just limited to soundbars but a range of 5.1 channel speaker sets as well. This is designed really well and perfectly suited for those owning a television size of 42-inches and below. If anyone is looking out for a soundbar and does not have any budget constraints, then this will be a worthy option.

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